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Review: A Look at Cinewave 4 for OSX Jaguar

September, 2003

by Walter Biscardi
d' Arte Media Creations, Buford, Georgia USA

© 2003, Walter Biscardi and All rights reserved.


Article Focus:
Walter Biscardi is a leader in both the Final Cut Pro and Pinnacle CinéWave forum communities at where Cow members have long appreciated his friendly and insightful input. In this article, Walter explores the new powers found in Pinnacle's CinéWave 4. Walter is a longtime user of CinéWave, having used it in many projects in his studio where he serves a long list of corporate and broadcast clients. How does the new CinéWave meet his demands and expectations, along with those of his clients? Walter takes CinéWave 4 out for a demanding ride and gives Cow members his verdict as a user whose own investment is behind his opinions. This is no editorial done by a trade journalist with a unit for review, these are the words of a guy whose own investment and decisions either makes or breaks his company's future. See what he thinks of CinéWave after owning one for quite some time and growing with the system as it has developed...

Welcome to the age of Final Cut Pro 4! "Wow, it's got uncompressed codecs and RT Extreme so I don't even need a capture card anymore!" Well, you might think that until you get ahold of the CinéWave 4 system.

Pinnacle has taken the proverbial bar and raised it ten-fold in the world of post production: From image quality to production workflow to real-time interoperability, CinéWave 4 delivers on the promise of Final Cut Pro as a professional Post Production standard.

For those of you who are already familiar with the CinéWave product, jump on down to Can't We All Just Get Along? For the rest of you, here's a brief history lesson. (Pay attention, there will be a test!)

The Basics
First off, just what IS the CinéWave? There seems to be come confusion out there as to just what this thing is. Is it a converter box like the Canopus? Is it just software? Is it just like that iO thing? CinéWave is a three-part system combining software and hardware.

Part one is the TARGA Cine Engine. This is a 64-bit PCI card that installs inside your PowerMac and features two digital tether connections, more on those shortly. The processing engine allows 8/16bit or 8bit RGBA (RGB+Alpha) native processing in real-time. The card also features HD and SD on the same card, no need to tie up two PCI slots. The card is updated with each release of the CinéWave software.

Part two is the CinéWave Software. The software basically plugs inside of Final Cut Pro and gives you additional Capture, Sequence and Video Processing options within FCP. You will also find a CinéWave Control Panel in the OS 10 System Preferences tab. Here you set up the actual CinéWave hardware to input/output of your video and audio along with Genlock. If you purchased the RT Pro option, you would enter your registration key in this panel as well. Depending on the version of CinéWave you purchase, you can get over 40 real-time effects and filters in 8, 10 and 16bit SD, and HD enters the real-time arena with the addition of Pan and Scan RT with CinéWave 4. The base CinéWave Classic RT features some 21 RT effects and filters including the 2 Way Color Corrector.

Part three is the Breakout Box. This is the device which connects your tape decks to the TARGA Cine Engine for video/audio input/ouput (or I/O) Depending on your source and record decks, you have options as to what type of breakbox you will need/want for your system. As of this writing, there are 5 options for breakout boxes: Pro Analog, Pro Digital (SDI), Pro Digital Plus, Pro Digital & Analog, Pro HD Digital (HD-SDI). These BOB's simply snap into the tethers on the back of the TARGA Cine Engine.

IO. and then some! (or my friend BOB)
Now remember I said the Cine Engine has two digital tether connections? That means you can have two breakout boxes connected to the system at any time and they both work together. Whatever the format, whatever input/output combination you need, CinéWave has the answer. For all you folks hopping on the 24fps train, Pinnacle throws in some real-time 3:2 pulldown for 24 > 30fps conversion should you go that route.

Cool feature alert! All outputs are hot at all times on the CinéWave BOB's. This is true for both HD and SD. In one pass, you can lay out an HD master and simultaneously lay out a letterboxed SD version in SDI, Component and Composite. In a day to day editing situation, this is a feature that really helps improve efficiency when it comes to mastering and making client copies. Nothing has to be patched, routed or whatever, the signals just come straight from the original source into the record device.

For sheer flexibility, you can't beat the Pro Digital and Analog BOB, it's the Swiss Army Knife of Analog and Digital I/O. SDI, Component, Composite, S-Video, Analog Audio, AES/EBU Audio, TDIF Audio, Unbalanced Audio all in the one BOB. Just plug in an HD BOB on Tether 2 and you're ready for whatever walks in the door. Here's a full detail from the Pinnacle website on what each BOB offers and remember, you can connect two of these at a time to your system.

Pro Analog:

  • Video - Analog Composite, Component, S-Video, Ref In (BNC)
  • Audio ­ Analog Unbalanced ­10 dB(RCA), Balanced +4 dB (XLR), Pro Digital (SDI)

Pro Digital (SDI):

  • Serial Digital interface (SMPTE 259M) resolution at 10-bits with embedded audio @ 20-bit/48khz.

Pro Digital Plus:

  • I/O for uncompressed standard definition SDI video
  • Supports up to 4 channels AES/EBU audio.
  • Supports monitoring of analog composite video and RCA unbalanced audio.

Pro Digital & Analog:

  • Video ­ Composite, Component, S-Video, Analog 10 bit, SDI
  • Audio ­ 4 in / 6 out analog Balanced Audio, 4 in / 4 out AES/EBU audio @ 20-bit/48 khz, 2 in / 2 out S-PDIF digital audio, 2 in / 2 out Unbalanced Audio, 8 in / 8 out TDIF digital audio, SDI embedded audio @ 20-bit/48 khz

Pro HD Digital (HD-SDI):

  • HD SDI with embedded audio @ 20-bit/48 khz.
  • Supports 1080i/30, 1080i/29.97, 1080p/24, true 1080p/23.98
  • Limited support for 720p.

Of course beyond all of these, you can also use the Firewire input on the back of the Mac for bringing in your DV, DVCAM, DV50, etc So essentially there's almost no limit to the amount of Video/Audio I/O with a CinéWave system.

Can't we all just get along?

With Final Cut Pro 3 and CinéWave 3, we essentially had two editing systems. For DV editing, CinéWave was basically ignored and FCP handled all the work. Only by capturing and editing with TARGA codecs could we take advantage of CinéWave. Well Apple and Pinnacle seemed to have "found the love" because CinéWave can handle as much of the workload as you desire.

Photo-JPEG, DV, 8bit, 10bit, 16bit uncompressed can all co-exist in the same timeline with no rendering. Offline, online, whatever, it all plays together and it really works. Pinnacle has even incorporated the Apple codecs through the CinéWave hardware so we can now capture to DV and Photo-JPEG codecs through the BOB's. What does this mean? Well it really opens up a much more efficient workflow for just about any type of editing situation.

You don't have to juggle timelines and codecs depending on what type of footage you have. Let's see, we'll make a DV timeline and cut all that material together, then we'll just move that timeline into the YUV-16 timeline and just render the DV footage once. Nope, just plop the DV footage into a TARGA timeline and away you go.

Let's take a look at a typical "old way" of working with CinéWave 3. CineOffline was not exactly the best offline codec in the world, so many of us took to using the DV codec as our offline codec of choice. It's very clean and the file sizes are very small. So I would typically take my S-Video out of the Beta Deck and run it through my DSR-11 so it would be converted to Firewire. Then I needed to hook up my video monitor to the DSR-11 so we could view the offline edit. When the offline was completed, I would recapture all the footage using the Targa YUV or YUV 16 footage via SDI. Then switch my video monitor back to Component to view my final edit.

Here's the "new way" of doing things with CinéWave 4. Leave my beta deck hooked up via SDI in on the Pro D&A BOB, set my Capture Settings to TARGA Cine NTSC YUV to DV and voila. I'm now capturing DV files via the CinéWave BOB. Set up a Targa YUV Sequence and edit with that DV footage in the timeline and all of this is output to my monitor via Component from the CinéWave BOB. Then just recapture into TARGA YUV or YUV 16 for my final.

What about DV or DVCAM files that you want to capture via Firewire direct from a device like the DSR-11? Go ahead and use the standard DV Capture Settings that Apple provides. Then set up a TARGA YUV or YUV 16 Sequence and start editing. Now you're editing with DV files, yet you can use uncompressed 8bit, 10bit and 16bit graphics without all the artifacts and aliasing usually associated with the DV codec. You can also add Targa 8bit and 16bit video clips as well. As we all know, DV video looks very good, it's the graphics that generally bring it down. With CinéWave and realtime processing of 8bit,10bit,16bit material with DV, this is no longer an issue.

A little sidenote: This DV with uncompressed graphics options has been a really nice addition to our workflow since the DV files are so small. I can capture a tremendous amount of footage and for some of the corporate projects we do, the DV codec is just fine. As I said, DV footage is very good. Add realtime playback, realtime effects, uncompressed graphics and you have a very high quality video with very little storage space.

What's the catch? Really, there's only one catch, you need to work in TARGA Sequences to take full advantage of all the features CinéWave has to offer. If you want to work in a DV Sequence, then Apple's RT Extreme will be limit of RT you will get and your video won't play out to a monitor via the CinéWave BOB's. Also, TARGA files will NOT playback in realtime in a DV Sequence. But with all the RT available from CinéWave and uncompressed graphics, why would you work in a DV timeline?


Promises, promises

Ok, so we're up to the moment of truth. Software is installed and does CinéWave 4 really do all the things that Pinnacle promised back at NAB? Well,.. no. Actually Pinnacle ADDED features that were not announced in April. When was the last time you heard that from a company? Sorry to disappoint you, but we threw in some more features that you weren't expecting. Alrighty then!

As if we didn't have enough formats to play with in realtime, DV50 support has been added. Watch your titles dance around in real-time in LiveType. Create that perfect John Williams score in Soundtrack with real-time video out. Support for up to 5 uncompressed real-time tracks. (3 video, 2 graphics with alpha channels.)

And finally, the real jaw-dropper for me, real-time support of the Animation codec. Oh yeah baby! Create After Effects comps or animations with alpha channels and just drop them into a TARGA Sequence. No rendering required, just hit play and away you go.

Some truly great surprises for me as I worked with the software have included the greatly improved Genlock. Genlock was a bit flaky in Cine 3.0 with the Ref-In option temperamental at best. Genlock is now very solid and if my reference device is not turned on when the system is firing up, CinéWave let's me know by throwing up interference on the NTSC monitor. I turn on the Genlock device and all is well.

Log and Capture times have improved as well. Launching the L&C in Cine 3 could be trying at times as the Genlock issue seemed to slow down the entire procedure. The improved Genlock has turned Log and Capture into a smooth process again.

If you really want to work in DV, FCP's operation with the CinéWave enabled has been greatly improved. No longer do you need to disable the CinéWave drivers to speed up performance in DV.

Speed remapping is real-time and keyframable in full uncompressed. Truly a lot of fun to play with.

But does it all work? Yeah, it does. it really does. Believe me, I was very skeptical when I saw the laundry list of features in the Press Releases.


Real-Time, all the time even in HD

Ok, so we've talking about real-time through-out this article. Remember, there is Apple's own RT Extreme which uses the CPU to create real-time effects for DV footage. Then there is the TARGA Cine Engine which creates real-time effects for 8bit, 10bit and 16bit footage. The two work hand in hand and that's where you just get this tremendous power of Final Cut Pro and CinéWave. All formats working together in real-time in one timeline.

Notice I said 8bit, 10bit AND 16bit? In Cine 3 we had a trade off. We had all the RT we wanted so long as we stayed in an 8bit timeline. Once we were ready to master and setup a 16bit timeline, everything had to be rendered. Not anymore. Go ahead and capture to TARGA YUV16 and edit in a YUV16 timeline. All the RT still works. All the format interoperability still works.

In addition, CinéWave's RT filters and effects are stackable and keyframable in real-time. Keep in mind that RT is completely dependent on the speed of your system. The faster your system, the more RAM, the faster your SCSI drives, the less fragmented the drives are, etc. all play a role in how much RT you will get and how well that RT will be sustained in day to day operation. Keep your drives clean and keep your system maintained for the best possible operation.

My favorite real-time feature continues to be the CinéWave ChromaKey. It's gorgeous and it's real-time. This has actually allowed us to add Chroma Key to projects where maybe we wouldn't have because the renders were so long and tedious. Now it's just plop in the video, do a couple of mouse clicks and there it is. It's a beautiful thing and always impresses the clients.

Oh and one more thing. CinéWave 4 introduces real-time for HDTV. RT Pan and Scan is fully keyframable and perfect for HD output to SD. Remember, with the HD BOB and a Standard-Def BOB attached to your CinéWave, you can output HD and SD simultaneously. So if we can do Pan and Scan with the G4, what will happen when the G5's hit? I guess we'll have to keep our eyes peeled on the Pinnacle website to find out.

What kind of real-time do you get with the various flavors of CinéWave? As of this writing, here are the CinéWave packages:

CinéWave Classic RT
This is primarily designed for folks who already own Final Cut Pro and Commotion Pro or After Effects. Classic RT includes the TARGE Cine Engine, over 20 RT uncompressed effects for Final Cut Pro, and a self-contained application called CineAcquire. CineAcquire is a deck and device control app that allows the user to grab still frames, do batch captures or record to tape from within Commotion Pro, After Effects or as a stand alone app. RT features within FCP include:

  • Transitions:
    *Cross Dissolve
    *Cross Iris
    *Diamond Iris
    *Rectangle Iris
    *Point Iris
    *Oval Iris
    *Star Iris
    *Push Slide
    *V Wipe
    *Center Wipe
    *Clock Wipe
    *Edge Wipe
  • Image Control:
    *Brightness & Contrast
    *Color Balance
    *Proc Amp
    *Gamma Correction
  • Color Correction:
    *Color Corrector 2-way


CinéWave RT
CinéWave RT includes all the features of Classic RT but also includes Final Cut Pro and Commotion Pro and Knoll Light Factory. Commotion Pro is an outstanding compositing tool and the Knoll Light Factory takes lens flares and light effects to another level.

CinéWave RT Pro
CinéWave RT Pro includes all the features of CinéWave RT and adds a ton of additional RT effects and filters including:

  • Color Correction:
    *3-Way Color Corrector
    *Desaturate Highlights
    *Desaturate Lows
    *RGB Balance
  • Motion Effects:
    *Crop, Scale, Center and Anchor Points
    *Still Image Graphics with Alpha
    *3D Titles
    *Color Mattes
    *Custom Gradients
  • Keys:
    *CinéWave Chroma (with Spill Suppression)


Let's wrap this up

By now you can figure out that I'm more than pleased with CinéWave 4.0. Pinnacle has delivered on its promises; no, actually they have exceeded their promises and have now put us on par with just about any NLE system on the market. From the quality of the image to the flexibility of the system, I just don't see any comparison at this price point. In fact, I think Andrew Baum from Pinnacle says it best, "You could spend ten times the money, but you are not going to find anything close to this scalability and flexibility."

Flexibility. That's the true key to Final Cut Pro. From offlining on a laptop to finishing a feature film in HDTV we have more flexibility than editing systems costing $100,000 or more.

Flexibility is also the key to longevity. G5's are upon us and in the not too distant future we should have dual 3ghz systems in our midst. So what does this mean for CinéWave? I think it points to a very bright future. CinéWave 4 shows us that Apple and Pinnacle can work together and make a very strong Final Cut Pro product even stronger. As the machines get faster, I think we can look to see more and more real-time filters come into the uncompressed world. And with the addition of RT Pan and Scan, I would expect CinéWave to really propel Final Cut Pro into the world of real-time HD post-production. Now won't THAT be something?

After 13 years in the business, cutting in the linear world, CMX world, NLE world, I honestly feel that Final Cut Pro 4.0 / CinéWave 4.0 is the best editing system I have worked on, period. If you are serious about working in uncompressed and want the ultimate flexibility in formats and real-time functionality, CinéWave should be in your toolbox.

Walter Biscardi, Jr.
Creative Director
d'Arte media creations
Creative Cow Final Cut Pro, CinéWave and Atlanta FCPUG Forum Host

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