Matrox MX02 Speeds Practical Illusions Workflow
By Steve Oakley
The ability to handle all the new formats that are coming out these days is critical to getting work done in modern post. At Practical Illusions, we’re working with just about every format imaginable, and while we’ve been shooting everything in HD for the last five years, we still have to deliver SD to local TV stations, and deal with occasional SD tapes. Matrox’s MXO2 I/O devices have helped us to meet those needs.
Steve Oakley in the studio.
We rely a lot on the MXO2 Rack capture card with Matrox’s MAX encoding technology in our main edit room. By using Matrox’s color calibration tools, we can adjust the HDMI output so it’s always correct on different monitors. Since we still have to deliver in SD, the MXO2’s ability to do the downconversion and send SD out at the same time is a critical time saver. We don’t have to waste time using software to scale down an HD project to SD. Instead, the MXO2’s pristine hardware scaler does the job in real time. The MXO2 lets us output in whatever format we need — 4:3 centercut, 16:9 letterbox, or native. We still have a single CRT monitor for viewing SD that we can wheel around between rooms to check for things like reversed fields and overall quality. The Y/C outputs of the MXO2 Rack feed our HDV/DV VTR for making the SD DV dubs for the TV stations needing that format.
We also appreciate the eight audio outputs on the MXO2 Rack. It’s set up for full-time 5.1 SRS monitoring from the first six outputs. We’ve set up the last two for stereo monitoring. This makes different audio mixing situations much easy to handle.
Another of our MXO2s is also a great time saver. It’s connected to a MacBook Pro in the main edit room for capturing standard-definition tape content and feeding ProRes 422 conversions directly to our NAS system. This allows us to capture tape content while the main system does other work.
The MAX option for H.264 encoding with our MXO2 is also a big time saver. As a huge amount of our work goes to the Web, the time savings realized with this are very significant. We’re making 480, 720, and 1080 versions of most of our edited programs for client Web sites, YouTube, and Vimeo. Client-hosted versions are usually “clean” editions, while videos going to public Websites have logos or bugs added. Being able to encode all these different versions quickly is very important, especially when changes come in and you have to redo all of the versions. Not only is MAX fast, it also provides very high quality encoding. We especially like the noise reduction feature added in the last release. If you try noise reduction on software-only encodes, your time to complete work goes through the roof, but the Matrox MAX encoder runs through things at full speed.
The MAX encoder also supports a variety of different profiles for various other uses, such as Blu-ray and iPhone.
Oakley is the founder of Practical Illusions.