The Pro box, although just an IO device, does bring a few very welcome features, as well as just analogue composite and S-video capture. It can bring in video from component sources, although only at standard definition. It also offers digital audio input and output, with both optical and coaxial connections. The box even includes a FireWire connection, which supports both DV and HDV so you don’t need built-in IEEE1394 on your editing PC. To streamline optical disc production, you can also use this to capture DV straight to DivX, as well as MPEG-1 and 2. When HDV editing, the Pro box can be used to down-convert HD to SD and output it over the analogue connections, so you can preview output on a standard monitor. The Pro version of Liquid included with the box also enables DivX support thoughout the application, allowing you to edit in this format. You can now edit WMV9 natively as well.
However, many of Liquid 7’s most compelling features are not new with this version. The Multicam tool also arrived with version 6. This allows you to synchronise up to 16 clips from different cameras in a live event shoot together, and switch between them whilst previewing all of them at once. Since version 6, Liquid has also incorporated powerful DVD authoring tools, which use the TitleDeko titler interface for design and offer plenty of interactivity control. You’re unlikely to need a third-party authoring tool, as TitleDeko is one of the best titlers around, and is a great environment for DVD menu design as well.
And so we come to editing performance. There are three types of filter included with Liquid – classic, GPU and CPU. The classic ones are mostly still included for backwards compatibility with earlier versions of the software, and aren’t hardware accelerated. The CPU and GPU effects, however, are rendered in real time. The two overlap, so you can mix and match to get the most out of your system. We found that with DV, our dual Opteron 246 test system was more than capable of playing back four streams of DV in real time. Even with a filter on each clip, performance was acceptable if no longer entirely real time. With HDV, however, Liquid baulked beyond two layers, and adding filters slowed it down significantly. But considering all of this is performed in software, this means the software-only version of Liquid gives you a very productive workflow for the money – and the faster your PC, the more you’ll get.
Many of the enhancements of 7.1 over 7.0 will seem pretty opaque to the average user, apart from the myriad bugfixes, of course. The new features are not as major as the proper HDV support added in Liquid 6.1. However, you can now output Flash Video, iPod and PSP files using the Export to File function. Version 7.1 now also supports XDCAM sources, Canon’s XL-H1, and going back out to tape on JVC ProHD devices – useful to some, but not to many. The performance with the Multicam system has been noticeably improved as well, in particular its responsiveness to actions like scrubbing the timeline.