Avid Xpress Pro test and review

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Avid Xpress Pro

As the prosumer DV editing market becomes more advanced, Avid has had to make some tough decisions, introducing 'affordable' software-only solutions, the latest of which is Xpress Pro.

There's no denying the importance of the Avid name. It was Avid that helped establish the concept of computer-based, non-linear editing in the broadcast and film industries. But, being a pioneer, Avid's roots have been firmly planted in a market of high-end turnkey systems, with very high-end price tags - sometimes amounting to hundreds of thousands of pounds. Today's low-cost PC systems, coupled with growing competition from software developers selling very able editing programs for as little as £300, has seduced many freelance professionals and small-scale production companies, putting Avid into a very awkward corner. It desperately needs to compete in the new mainstream, even at the risk of annoying customers who have been paying unholy sums of money for their editing equipment over the last decade.

Avid's answer has, until now, been XpressDV - which began life as an overpriced and inappropriately-specified IBM workstation, and slowly evolved into an attractive - but still expensive - software-only product with V3.5. Part of the problem with XpressDV's marketing was that the program was made available in two versions - Standard, costing around £1,500, and Power Pack, featuring a more comprehensive and professional software bundle, at £2,233.

Avid has turned its pricing structure and marketing around. XpressDV is now only £576 inc VAT - that's the whole bundle except for film cutting tools and support for 24fps media. Naturally, there's a danger that many editors who paid out big time for Xpress DV 3.5 Power Pack will be miffed by the drastic price cut, but Avid has a new and more expensive editor up its sleeve, in the form of Xpress Pro, and as a sweetener, existing Xpress DV users can upgrade for a mere £361. There's only one flavour of software with Xpress Pro - a rich bundle of programs costing £1,527. The package is comparable to that of the XpressDV Power Pack, but Avid is maintaining its two-tier system by introducing Mojo - a hardware accelerator that provides real-time output to tape, as well as analogue video inputs and outputs. Our review sample was software-only, but we hope to bring a separate review of Mojo in a future issue.

Xpress Pro is a first-rate editing program, and offers some real improvements over the previous version of Xpress DV. In particular, the increased number of timeline tracks, multi-camera editing, and automatic controls in the colour control panel make it well worth the upgrade price. We're also encouraged by Avid's new pricing policy - putting all the good software in the basic package and charging a premium for hardware acceleration. But even at the new 'low' price of £1,500, we doubt that many editors will be tempted to switch from very able (and more affordable) programs such as Adobe Premiere, Pinnacle Edition, Sony Vegas or Ulead MediaStudio.

The benefit of Xpress Pro is clear if you work with Avid software all the time, or if your projects are likely to be remastered on high-end Avid systems. There's also a huge attraction for film makers wanting to edit for a negative cut rather than video release, as Xpress Pro has excellent tools for managing telecined rushes and providing cutting lists from edited projects. Otherwise, for those starting and finishing on DV or DVCAM, there's little Xpress Pro can offer that more affordable competitors can't. Some might argue that Xpress Pro is worth the money, just to become proficient with Avid's software. The sad truth, however, is that there are far more Avid editors in the professional marketplace than Avid systems, and familiarity with Avid's software won't guarantee you work in the professional sector. We think it's far more important to learn to edit well - and for that you need practice, not a pedigree program.

Peter Wells

Read the full review in February 2004's Computer Video magazine.



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