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Digital Origin, formerly Radius, was among the first companies to capitalize on the thrilling possibilities of digital video (DV). Equipped with the company's MotoDV FireWire card and a digital camcorder (available for under $900), your Macintosh can duplicate the functions of a video-editing workstation that would have cost $20,000 in 1995. Digital Origin's newly updated EditDV is an Adobe Premiere-like program for assembling DV clips into a finished movie. Like any newborn, this baby has plenty of messy moments, but you can easily see how attractive it might be when it grows up.
Although they're digital, DV camcorders still record onto tapes. But as the data flows into your Mac (and out again after editing), there's no loss of quality, no matter how many times you shuttle footage back and forth. The finished movies look stunning, always full-screen and 30 frames per second, with none of the shrunken, washed-out look of analog-captured QuickTime movies.
The beauty of EditDV 1.5 is that it puts the capturing and editing functions in a single program, but reaching video nirvana is still a mammoth project. You need a huge, fast hard drive (3.6MB per each second of video), 80MB of RAM, a TV, and a Digital Origin FireWire card (oddly enough, EditDV doesn't yet work with the blue G3s' built-in FireWire).
Once everything is connected, you can control your camcorder (play, rewind, and so on) from your Mac's keyboard. You flag certain taped scenes as component clips for your movie; unattended, EditDV then turns all such segments into DV clips on your hard drive.
Now you're ready to make your movie. You can apply EditDV's astounding powerfilters, transitions, chroma key effects, and so onwith impressive precision. The text animator runs rings around Premiere's, and you can easily change filter, title, and effects settings over time using keyframes.
Unfortunately, you reach all these features via an interface that's modeled after Avid's professional editing systems; if you're accustomed to Premiere, EditDV will turn your brain to mush. The main problem is that EditDV often ignores the Mac's visual orientation. For example, the timeline window shows only the names of your clips, not thumbnails, and you can't adjust a clip's length by dragging its edges. Transitions are similarly frustrating. You can't move or stretch a transition clip by dragging; you must adjust transitions numerically.
The most maddening aspect of EditDV, however, is learning it. There's no online help, or even balloon help, in a complex interface cluttered with unlabeled icons; the manual is a disaster; and Digital Origin's help line is a toll call, frequently busy, and staffed by sometimes underinformed agents.
If you're simply hoping to make the occasional video with your DV camcorder, be warned: EditDV is infuriating to learn and decidedly antivisual. But if DV editing is your career, and user-friendliness isn't your main concern, struggling to master EditDV will reward you with power and efficiency that leave Premiere in the dust.
RATING: PROS: Brilliant integration of digital video and FireWire; some functions superbly designed. CONS: Excruciatingly difficult to learn; no online help; can't drag to edit clips or transitions. COMPANY: Digital Origin (650/404-6000, http://www.digitalorigin.com ). LIST PRICE: $899 ($499 direct); with FireWire card, $999.
May 1999 page: 55