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NLE Buyers Guide Contents
A word of advice
By far the best way to assess a system is to see it operating in a practical situation similar to the one in which you will be working. In reviewing nonlinear systems, it will soon become apparent that each has its own way of presenting information and on first impressions this may be a key issue. Take note of how easy it is to perform operations, how familiar the terminology used is, and whether the demonstrator is making sense or just blinding you with science.
The fairest way to judge a system is to try it out yourself. If it is not possible to review the system on your own premises, it may be possible to hire the system and have the hire fee deducted if you decide to purchase. Otherwise, arrange to take some of your usual work with you to the demonstration facility. A factor to keep in mind is who will be operating the system and if it is not only yourself, it would be a good idea to involve them as well. The supplier may even be able to arrange for you to visit a facility which already uses the system. Never be afraid to ask even the simplest question, and if in any doubt about a feature or capability, insist on seeing it demonstrated.
Notes on listings
Assessing storage requirements
With digital systems using compression, the issue is further complicated by the fact that a range of picture qualities is often available, and this will affect storage calculations. While compression has helped to make digital recording and editing affordable to a much wider market, it should be remembered that it is a compromise. In general, the higher the compression ratio, the directly proportionally more storage time per GB, but the lower the quality.
JPEG, M-JPEG, MPEG, wavelets and DCT (used for DV) are only some of the types of compression used, and different types of compression have different results. The compression ratio or data rate alone cannot be used as a definition of the resultant picture quality. This may depend on the algorithms used, the implementation, and the nature of the source material. Knowledge of which compression level to use for adequate picture quality against storage time for a particular system can only be gained through experience.
While the amount of storage space required can be reduced by using high compression ratios, in many instances it may be necessary to use lower ratios in order to have sufficient quality for complex or fine editing. Therefore, depending on your requirements, it may be helpful if the system allows different picture qualities to be sequenced in the same programme.
An often unavoidable method for reducing the amount of storage required is to be selective about which material is recorded into the system in the first place. Some systems allow recording on the fly, or naming of shots while recording, and many can use prepared lists for automatic 'batch' recording of selected shots.
Some manufacturers also supply cut-down systems for digitising only, thereby eliminating the need to tie up more expensive editing systems with the logging/acquisition process.
Another method of effectively reducing the amount of disk space required is to digitise rushes/dailies using a low quality, perform a rough edit and then redigitise (or auto-assemble) only the required material back into the system at a high quality.
If multiple versions of a programme or stock shots are required, it may be useful if material can be shared between projects, thus avoiding the need to use valuable time and disk space for duplicating material. Also worth noting is that although a system may support large amounts of storage in total, there may be a limit to how long an individual recording or clip can be.
Finally, even if calculations have been made beforehand as to how to maximise disk space, there will often be unforeseen instances where additional material must be brought into the system at the last minute. In such cases, especially where the storage is getting full, it is useful to have a feature which easily allows the deletion of unwanted material in order to make room for the new recording. Most systems support such a (consolidate) feature, but it is worth checking how effective or selective the implementation is in practice.
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