A new generation of digital video editing equipment, based on desktop PCs, is challenging the proprietary systems which dominate the market.
UCL Images, the video studio of University College London, has moved straight from analogue tape-to-tape editing to a Pentium PC system equipped with video boards and software from the German manufacturer Fast Electronics. The equipment was selected by video producer Les Roberts who says: "it compares with an off the shelf Avid system which is three times the price and not as easily upgraded."
UCL's video and animation facilities have been producing a wide range of educational and corporate films for more than ten years. The main clients are UCL departments, and medical and pharmaceutical organisations. The unit commissions a number of freelance video directors and producers on specific projects, as and when budgets allow.
Roberts found that meeting the ever increasing requirements of customers for rapidly-produced, professional videos was becoming something of a problem. Although the original editing suite was of broadcast quality, it was tape-based, mechanical and manually controlled. This required the editor to re-lay a whole video sequence just to edit two seconds of film at the end of the tape.
"As UCL Images is an important source of income for the university, it was critical that we continued to offer a competitive service," said Roberts. "The decision was therefore made to upgrade the computer hardware, so we started looking for a proven manufacturer who could understand our particular needs." After trying some of the big names in PC technology, Roberts visited the London-based PC manufacturer Carrera Technology, which could tailor systems to individual requirements, and had staff with a knowledge of video technology.
Carrera proposed installing three Fast video cards into a high-end Pentium machine. The digital cards handle video as separate YUV components (one for brightness and two for colour), avoiding the loss of information that occurs when the components are combined into a PAL signal. Video is taken from Betacam SP tapes (the leading analogue format for professional camcorders), edited digitally, and recorded back to Betacam SP or Digi-Beta, the newer, digital version of the format.
Working closely with local video specialists PEC Video, Carrera assembled the video products together with 32 megabytes of RAM, twin 17-inch monitors, and two 4-gigabyte hard drives which can store up to 30 minutes of broadcast-quality video. The Pounds 25,000 system was installed at UCL and linked to the department's mixing, editing and processing equipment.