Canopus DVRaptor RT2 test

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Canopus DVRaptor RT2

Years ago, when DV editing was new and unpredictable, there was one capture card that we could rely on to give first-rate performance and almost faultless stability - Canopus's DVRaptor. Things have changed since then, and the task of getting DV footage to and from a computer has become a very simple one. In order to survive in an increasingly software-orientated market, makers of DV editing cards have to offer more than just capture and output - and at present, that means real-time playback of effects, titles and transitions that would otherwise require rendering. Canopus has been very strong in the real-time market for some years, with the professional Rex RT solution and the more affordable DV Storm cards, but it has yet to make any significant waves in the mid-priced mainstream, currently dominated by Pinnacle's DV500 and Matrox's RT.X10.

About two years ago, though, Canopus did make a play for the mainstream, with the Raptor RT board. As with offerings from Pinnacle and Matrox, it provided real-time output of many effects via analogue channels only - DV output still required rendering. And, while it did an excellent job, the overall package fell flat for us, due to a lack of analogue video input.

Priced at under £400, the Raptor RT's successor - the craftily titled Raptor RT2 - seems like excellent value, but there are some big conditions to Canopus's generosity. Firstly, while Raptor RT2 is designed to work seamlessly with Adobe Premiere 6 and above, the program is not included - Canopus does include EzEdit, its own basic software, but it's a near certainty that users will be buying the card for use with something better.

This will probably make Raptor RT2 quite attractive to anyone that already has a copy of Premiere, but first-timers will have to shell out for editing software. Thankfully, some retailers offer a reasonable deal - Smart DV, for example, offers Premiere for £118 when bought with the Raptor RT board. Rather oddly, on its initial release, Raptor RT2 wasn't supported by Canopus's own editing program, Edius. At the time of going to press, however, we're told that the board is supported by version 1.5.

And while Adobe Premiere Pro has just been released, we concluded in our tests that it wouldn't work in tandem with the Raptor RT2. We're assured that Premiere Pro support is coming very soon - it'll probably be available by the time this review is published - but the drivers were still at a beta stage at the time of writing.

Despite a very disappointing start, DVRaptor RT2 proved very impressive for real-time playback via analogue channels. The second system we tested gave excellent results. Our initial bad feeling largely stemmed from the realisation that a 1.4GHz processor just wasn't enough for it - let alone the 700MHz minimum quoted by Canopus. Thankfully, the power needed to get good results is very accessible, and most currently available PCs should prove more than adequate. That doesn't present much comfort to those upgrading older systems, though. Our first test system well exceeded the published minimum, and yet real-time functionality was very unpredictable and heavily limited.

In terms of value for money, Raptor RT2 falls down slightly as Adobe Premiere isn't included in the bundle as standard, and the supplied editor, EzEdit, wasn't able to take advantage of the hardware's real-time capabilities. Premiere is available as an optional extra for around £120, but that brings the overall cost up to around £500, which removes its perceived competitive edge. Add to that the lack of analogue AV input or hardware MPEG encoding, and Raptor RT2 still doesn't sit well against competing products from Matrox and Pinnacle.
What is good is that Canopus's effects plug-ins are well designed, and have a no-nonsense, business-like feel to them. And, the multi-source DV Capture utility is a stroke of genius. Raptor RT2 isn't a bad product by any means, but it falls short of the competition, and doesn't sit comfortably in today's increasingly demanding prosumer market. Editors wanting more than the DV500 or RT.X10 have to offer still have little alternative than to look to the more expensive end of the market - and that's where Canopus really shines with another product, Storm 2.

Peter Wells

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


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