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NAB 2008: Avid Introduces New Editors, Better Format Support

Las Vegas -- Nonlinear editing supplier Avid Technology -- which wasn’t exhibiting on the 2008 NAB Show floor here but was demonstrating its products in the nearby Renaissance Las Vegas Hotel -- introduced a new line of nonlinear editors aimed at the broadcast and professional market that promises better performance and, more important, better compatibility with file-based camera formats like Sony’s XDCAM HD and Panasonic’s P2 HD.

The new lineup includes next-generation versions of Avid’s Media Composer, NewsCutter (version 7.0) and Symphony (version 3.0) software, as well as new hardware configurations, Mojo DX and Nitris DX, that offer improved processing of video and effects that should speed the editing process.

“It’s an improvement in our underlying processing and effects architecture,” director of product marketing Patrick McLean said.

Avid’s hardware is using new multicore processors and a new graphics card from Nvidia, and it improved the speed of its PCI Express bus interface from 400 megabits per second to 10 gigabits per second. The goal is to eliminate the lag time in responsiveness that users often experience when editing HD material.

The new editors offer real-time output of all major standard-definition and HD formats, which eliminates the need for rendering with the Avid DNxHD codec, which has data rates of 145 mbps or 220 mbps.

The new editors offer improved codec and file-based format support, addressing a complaint from many broadcast customers that Avid wasn’t supporting a full file-based work flow with new HD-acquisition formats.

Avid said it will deliver native support for “Thin Raster” formats (i.e., less than full 1920 x 1080) resolution including DVCPRO HD and XDCAM HD, with real-time output with multiple streams of HD, and native editing support for AVC-I, which will be supported in 50-mbps and 100-mbps formats, via the same Avid workflow as currently used for the P2/DVCPRO HD formats.

The vendor added that it will also support Sony XDCAM-EX’s format, and it was showing beta software at NAB that supports Sony’s new 50-mbps 4:2:2 XDCAM HD camcorders. It said the new editors will also support JVC’s 23.976p and 25p HDV codecs.

“We realize that rendering is not an acceptable part of the work flow,” McLean said. “With this architecture, we’ve embraced all of the camera formats as native formats.”

The new HD editing systems are expected to be available during the second quarter of 2008.

All Media Composer and NewsCutter systems will offer the same software tool set across their respective configurations, with additional capabilities coming from different hardware options. The options include Media Composer software for $2,495; the hardware-based Media Composer Mojo DX system for $9,995; the full-featured Media Composer Nitris DX for $14,995; and the high-end Symphony Nitris DX for $35,995.

Of particular interest to broadcasters, there are three configurations of NewsCutter news-editing software: a software-only option for $4,995; the hardware-based NewsCutter Mojo DX, which offers real-time multiformat playback and effects, standard digital SD and HD I/O (input/output) and an eight-core HP xw8600 workstation, for $19,995; and the full-featured NewsCutter Nitris DX, with Avid DNxHD encode and decode, which is priced at $24,995.

Avid’s new CEO, Gary Greenfield, and executive vice president and general manager Kirk Arnold have been conducting a whirlwind tour of customer meetings in the weeks heading into NAB and said they have received positive feedback on the new product line. But they both acknowledged that continued improvement in both product development and customer support will be required to turn around Avid, which once enjoyed a dominant position in news editing but has lost significant market share in recent years to lower-priced systems like Apple’s Final Cut Pro and Thomson’s Edius.

“We do appreciate that this is a marathon and not a sprint,” Arnold said.

Customers and vendors who spoke with B&C here said they like what they are hearing from Avid’s new management team, particularly in regard to providing better compatibility with the wide range of compression formats used in the television industry today. But they also said Avid still has much work to do, such as meeting the shipping timetables it announced at NAB, in order to regain its former footing.

“They’re saying all the right things, which is in stark contrast to the old regime,” NBC Universal chief technology officer Darren Feher said. “But what’s the feasibility of all of this?”

For complete coverage of the 2008 NAB Show, click here.