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If you are really serious about editing video, then RTMac is a must-have device. It consists of a hardware card that attaches to a breakout box – a device with various audio and video connections. The hardware card takes care of analogue-video capture, and more importantly the effects acceleration.
The most compelling reason for buying RTMac is for its real-time effects capabilities. While the breakout box has analogue-video connections, most people will be using DV which is captured though the Mac’s built-in FireWire ports. If you need only analogue to DV capture, then the Formac Studio (See Macworld, June) would suffice. The card supports a monitor output, which allows you to have a dual monitor set-up if you have a spare screen lying around. This is very helpful when using an application like Final Cut Pro – with extra room for windows, you can always see what is going on.
To use the RTMac at all, you will need Final Cut Pro 2, and that isn’t included in the £699 price – it’s an extra £680. This is irritating, as the PC equivalent comes with Adobe Premiere and a fistful of other software – the Mac version comes with nothing but drivers.
If you do have the latest version of FCP, RTMac will enable dozens of transitions and motion effects.
It might shave only off thirty seconds here and there, but waiting for rendering effects cuts on creativity. You’re less likely to try new things, or change things that don’t quite work if you have to wait around for the results. Instant effects let you keep the rhythm of editing, and help you produce better results faster.
The RTMac also lets you work with up to three layers in real time, meaning you can have two video channels and a graphics channel in real time. If it can’t render your work in real time, it will show an approximation of the final rendered effect.
There are some things that can’t be done in real time; motion blur, for example, needs to be rendered. But, you should be able to use any motion effect together with any transition at the same time. That isn’t to say you can’t do more complex effects, just not in real time. When an effect is too complex to render in real time, a red line appears in the render status bar. You can simply choose the highlighted sequence and render as you need to.
The cost of editing video professionally has plummeted. Now you can use your Mac to do broadcast-quality television or movie work. While Final Cut Pro is an exceptionally powerful piece of software, you can’t afford to be drumming your fingers waiting for effects to render when clients are watching. RTMac is the solution to that problem.
It would be nice if Matrox had included FCP, but even when buying it separately, the solution should pay for itself in a professional environment. If you want to use a Mac in an edit suite, the RTMac offers the right features, and will reduce those pauses that slow rendering inflicts on the editor.