Liquid 7 already included 60 new real-time filters compared to its predecessor, all of them potentially rendered in real time. Of these, 56 were borrowed from the Commotion compositing software. So these include a number of wacky options like particle effects, blurs and distortions as well as lots of different types of keying filters. The Lighting filter lets you adjust brightness for foreground and background separately, which is useful for fixing flat-looking video clips. But on a more everyday level, there’s an image stabiliser, although this doesn’t have any user-configurable parameters. The new real-time White Balance is excellent, though, and includes one-click correction using an eyedropper. The Linear Time Warp is also pretty incredible, giving you graph-based control over playback speed. You can continually vary the clip speed over its duration. However, it’s only real-time with DV, and only if you don’t use the continual variability.
Alongside the 7.1 update, you now also get Magic Bullet Looks for Liquid. These include 55 excellent filter presets for creating the appearance of different types of film treatment. Magic Bullet has a great reputation in video editing, and its filters have been used by MTV and in Hollywood movies such as Jackass. However, we found Magic Bullet Looks would not render in real time, even with DV clips on our dual Opteron 246 test system.
Avid Liquid 7.1 is a rather different beast than Matrox’s RT.X2, particularly in software-only form. The Liquid rendering engine is undoubtedly powerful with DV, but it struggles a bit with HDV, even on a relatively powerful dual-processor workstation. In contrast, whilst the Matrox RT.X2 does need powerful hardware, you get very capable HDV editing in return. So in this respect, you get what you pay for with the more expensive Matrox product.
On the other hand, Liquid is a complete package. With Liquid’s extremely strong built-in DVD authoring, small production houses or serious end users have everything they need for taking their productions from tape to disc in one package. We’ve even seen professionals use Liquid for its authoring abilities alone. So whereas Matrox’s RT.X2 leaves you to obtain third-party DVD authoring, Avid Liquid 7.1 offers much better value, although the premium for the Pro breakout box is a little steep.