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Capturing the components
If you’re a current Matrox RT.X100 user, the first thing you’ll notice about using the RT.X2 is the absence of MediaTools. This excellent little utility has now been usurped by the capture abilities of Adobe Premiere Pro 2, which is included with the RT.X2. We missed a few of MediaTools’ features, such as the ability to scan a tape to provide an automatic batch capture list from which you can select only the clips you want. But Premiere Pro 2 has scene detection for both DV and HDV, and we found it did a perfectly acceptable job of automating the capture process. Alternatively, you can set in and out points for a manual batch capture. The RT.X2 will also capture DVCAM and DVPRO over FireWire.
There’s a break-out box with a full selection of analogue capture inputs as well. Cream of the crop is the component input and output, on top of the more usual S-video and composite connections, plus RCA audio.
The component capabilities beat any card in its class, as you can capture from high-definition (HD) as well as standard-definition (SD) sources. Canopus’s EDIUS NX has component output only, and AJA’s component capture cards such as the Xena LH www.aja.com only offer uncompressed capture and don’t include either Premiere Pro 2 or any additional real-time editing capabilities. Avid’s Liquid Pro 7.1 also offers component capture, but from SD sources only.
When capturing from an analogue source, the RT.X2 can encode SD as DV/DVCAM, DVCPRO or its own proprietary MPEG-2 I-frame format from 10 to 25Mbits/sec. With HD, only MPEG-2 I-frame capture is possible, but the data rates can be up to 100Mbits/sec. This will potentially provide much better image quality than HDV anyway as it uses 4:2:2 rather than 4:2:0 colour sampling, so this one feature alone could win the RT.X2 friends amongst those who have analogue high definition sources to capture from.
Another killer feature is the DVI connection on the card itself, which broadens the options for a video monitor greatly, particularly as the RT.X2 can down-convert HD on the fly. Whatever source you’re editing, you can preview the results on a regular TV, via component output, or through DVI. The latter can be used with a DVI-based consumer HDTV (or an HDMI-based one using a converter), or you can hook up a regular PC monitor. For optimum results, this will need to have a 1,920 x 1,200 resolution, but we found down converting enabled us to output to a 17in 1,280 x 1,024 TFT without a problem. With 1,920 x 1,200 widescreens retailing for as little as £700, such as Dell’s 2407WFP, the DVI connection will save you having to buy an expensive HD studio monitor. This feature can also be used with the bundled WYSIWYG plug-ins for After Effects 5-7, Photoshop 7 to CS2, Autodesk 3dsmax 7 and 8, Combustion 4, eyeon Digital Fusion 4 and 5, and Newtek LightWave 3D 7 to 8.5. The WYSWYG controller allows you to preview your output from these applications full screen on your DVI monitor, whilst still working on your regular screen.