Serious Magic DV Rack test and review

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Serious Magic DV Rack

Nobody wants to lug heavy racks of expensive video equipment into the field. Serious Magic's DV Rack software is designed to replace all of it for a fraction of the price, weight and power consumption. We put it through its paces to see how good it really is

One of the main concerns for TV broadcasters and filmmakers venturing into the field is what equipment to take. Nobody wants the responsibility and burden of carrying heavy and very expensive equipment into, say, a hostile environment such as a war zone - it's just not practical.
In a newsgathering situation, footage must often be edited and sent back to the newsroom as soon as possible to meet the deadline. Such footage is sent back via satellite using a dedicated satellite truck manned by an engineer. It's this person's job to monitor the incoming and outgoing content, and make sure the video and audio quality is the best possible. This is currently done using thousands of pounds worth of hardware monitoring and processing equipment in the truck.
USA-based Serious Magic may have come up with an attractive software alternative - DV Rack, pitched at £375 (inc VAT). This is a Windows program for DV video monitoring, production and evaluation, and reckoned to replace such monitoring hardware. It also boasts a 'Best of NAB 2004' award from the National Association of Broadcasters.
The software offers ten tools within a professional-looking virtual 19in equipment rack. There's a broadcast video monitor, plus a waveform, vectorscope and video analyser for checking a live or recorded video signal's levels; an audio spectrum analyser; a digital video recorder (DVR); a still-image capture tool (DV Grabber); the Shot Clock timer; a DV video and audio quality monitor; and the SureShot camera-calibration wizard with camera setup charts and informative and entertaining guides and tutorials.
In-pack, there's also a field guide and installation manual with camera setup and operation tutorials, along with a quick reference guide and industry-standard camera setup cards for focusing, framing, exposing and white balancing. These cards can be hung from the supplied neck chain.
Currently, there doesn't seem to be another program like DV Rack, although TV broadcast test, measurement and monitoring devices maker Hamlet is soon to release its own video and audio monitoring software called VidScope Pro ( - price tba - but at first glance, this appears to lack some of the tools in DV Rack, notably the DVR.
We were interested to see if DV Rack really does do what's claimed, and whether it could change the way footage is collected and delivered in the field.


Serious Magic's DV Rack does a good job of replacing its hardware counterparts, offering some easy-to-use and useful tools as well as a DVR that can be slaved to the camera. This cuts out the importing step before editing, saving valuable time.
We feel Serious Magic needs to find a way to increase resolution of the video Waveform monitor and Vectorscope. Also, on the audio spectrum analyser, we would like to see better response and bandwidth as well as level and frequency markings.
Apart from the few bugs - and bugs are not uncommon in new software - we liked DV Rack. It was easy to install and very stable, never crashing once during our rigorous testing. DV Rack is also very keenly priced, as the only thing it can be compared to is its costly hardware equivalent. Just a single waveform monitor costs much more than this entire rack of tools, and the software wins hands down on portability.
We hope that in future upgrades, Serious Magic irons out the issues we have found. If it does so, there can be little doubt that DV Rack is poised to fully replace the hardware it mimics for video monitoring, production and evaluation of DV content.

Guido Giles

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