Sorry about dropping from sight for the last couple of weeks, but when the day-job calls, it calls with a vengeance. I also apologize for the lack of photos, but I just didn’t think to do screengrabs at all the right times. Bad editor! No doughnut!
As I was saying…
Once I got the nVidia Quadro 4800 card and all of Adobe Creative Suite CS5 installed, it was time to edit. Let me say right up front here that one of the unconsidered disadvantages of review software (and, truly, of most software these days) is the appalling lack of documentation. Yeah, I know you are supposed to look into the online Help apps, but when I did I got the strong sense that the CS5 Help is not finished – in fact, not nearly finished.
But anyway, I fired up Premiere Pro and loaded a sample hi-def project provided by nVidia, using four streams of P2 footage. All four shots were color-corrected, and three were squeezed and/or in motion over the fourth. I don’t suppose I have to tell you that they played flawlessly – no jittering or stuttering on playback at all. I figured I would raise the stakes by adding two graphic titles, both in motion (provided by Premiere Pro’s built-in Motion menu.) Again, played fine. I decided to place an SD cutout of a toaster (don’t ask why I have that) on top of all this, zooming it in and out and rotating it several times. Not a wimper. In fact, when I opened up the Windows 7 task manager and clicked the Performance tab, I was very surprised to see the eight cores were only operating in the 30% range, with plenty of overhead.
Of course, this could be a setup, right? Maybe the demo was optimized in some way. To check, I took the four separate clips and dropped them into a multi-camera timeline, a mode I work in often. Played great – I could switch from camera to camera as fast as I liked with no stuttering at all. Maybe it’s the P2 footage. Is the system optimized for P2? Well, one of the first real projects I had to do on the nVidia/CS5 combo was a four-camera choir concert video. It was shot in HDV, with one camera recording to tape, two others recording to Focus Enhancements Firestore drives, and a fourth accent shot of a piano keyboard recorded on a GoPro Hero camera, recording to MP4 files. Again, once all the shots were on the timeline, they all played back easily, even with some really aggressive color correction on the GoPro. Using the Multi-Camera window was perfect, with no lag at all. In fact, the lack of lag has been one of the nicest surprises of this switch. When I was editing with the Matrox RT.X2, there was always a tiny yet perceptible lag between hitting the space bar and playback start – and even worse, a similar 12-frame lag when you tried to stop the timeline. I get no sense of this with the nVidia/CS5 combo.
So far, so good, but the transition hasn’t been perfect. As I mentioned above, my previous Premiere Pro accelerator card was the Matrox RT.X2. To get the best performance from that system, I would record onto Firestore drives in the native Matrox codec, which creates .AVI files that don’t need their accompanying .WAV audio files. Well, guess what – this new system doesn’t know anything about the Matrox codec, and just plays video when you drop a clip into a timeline. And as Murphy’s Law would have it, a client asked me to revisit and update several older Premiere Pro projects that were created with the RT.X2. Because of the codec mismatch, all the video showed up, but none of the audio. And to make matters worse, I had renamed the files in the clip bin to reflect my own scene/take/Firestore number metadata schema. Discovering the original clip names and relinking them with their audio files is a task I never want to go through again. (Going forward, I shouldn’t have to.)
The other thing I really miss is having a dedicated video output from the computer to a video monitor. There seems to be some controversy about this one, though. nVidia press contacts say the only way to use a second monitor for the Program output is to tear the Program monitor off the Premiere Pro program and maximize it on the second monitor (and if you do this, do not forget to SAVE YOUR WORKSPACE so you can call it back again easily.) My 2nd monitor is an LG CRT HDTV, which is being fed HDMI from one of the nVidia’s DisplayPort jacks, through a DisplayPort-to-HDMI adapter. When I do the tear-off trick, the Program monitor never quite fills the frame properly, with transport buttons and such keeping the video from being true full-raster (and truth be told, the video looks really crummy this way.) On the other hand, my buddy Lyn Norstad at LNA Associates says that his nVidia/Adobe system does do full-raster playback to a DisplayPort-equipped monitor. Maybe that is the missing link, although I don’t have a DP-equipped monitor to test it on now. And some reports floating around the Web infer that the Matrox MXO-2 outboard box can provide a program output. I hope to get to test that someday soon.
But really, if you have any experience with editing in Premiere Pro before CS5 – especially in 32-bit environment – you owe it to yourself to give the nVidia/CS5/64-bit setup a go. And it’s not just new new feeling of responsiveness, speed and stability in editing – you see it in other places as well. Encoding a timeline to Windows Media used to be a three-times-realtime affair; with the new system encoding to .WMV is about one-third realtime. Yes, it is just that fast.
Coming next time – more kinds of clips for more kinds of projects, and why I won’t be using After Effects to do scan&pan anymore.
NVIDIA sent me a Quadro 4800 card on extended loan to evaluate its performance with a review copy of Adobe Creative Suite 5 and report on my findings to other users, for good or ill… and I’m going to call them as I see them. I paid for the HP Z800 out of my own pocket.
How does Adam make those cool blue boxes??