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Sony Digital Studio allows professional video editing on a PC
(CNN) -- Video editing has long been available on the PC, at least for professionals willing to spend a small mint. The home PC user would be unwilling to spend the tens of thousands of dollars in equipment needed for a professional setting. Thankfully, Sony offers a series of affordable PCs that feature home video editing in their Vaio Digital Studio PC line.
The Digital Studio series are common PC systems that include the added hardware and software facilities needed for video and image editing. This goes a long way toward making it more convenient for the user to take home videos from a camcorder or tape, edit it to add effects and transitions, and then publish it in a format that can be easily passed on to friends.
The Vaio Digital Studio 547 computer includes a 500MHz Pentium III processor, 128 MB of RAM, a 8x DVD-ROM drive, a 4x Rewritable CD (CD-RW) drive, and a 20 GB hard drive. It has an nVidia Riva TNT2 Pro graphics card, and the 3D surround sound capabilities of the Aureal Vortex2 AU8830 chip. Additionally, there is a 56Kbps V.90 modem, a Sony iLINK interface, USB ports and a pair of speakers. The system comes preinstalled with a selection of software on Microsoft Windows 98 Second Edition. All this for the tidy estimated street price of $1,899.99, not including the monitor.
The smaller models of the Digital Studio series use a built-in graphics adapter in the Intel 810 chipset, the circuitry that is normally used to control other components of the motherboard such as the PCI bus, and the serial and parallel ports. This built-in system eliminates the need for an Accelerated Graphics Port (AGP) slot and a separate graphics card. However, this also means that you cannot upgrade the graphics system in the future by installing a new graphics card.
The Sony iLINK interface is an IEEE 1394 connection, commonly called Firewire, that allows you to hook up new digital camcorders and other devices and can transfer data at up to 400 MBps. This allows it to transfer high quality video without special compression straight to the PC in real time.
The smaller models of this product family come only with a basic CD-ROM drive, but the CD-RW in the larger models really comes in handy when making your own videos. You can record a Video CD and mail it to a friend who can run it straight from their CD-ROM in their computer. It doesn't have the instantaneous delivery aspect of the Internet but you will get much higher resolution and better overall quality since you can store several hundred megabytes of video on a CD.
Sound and software
Although Sony provides a nice 3D surround sound card, much can't be said about the speakers. Aureal's sound technology can make two regular speakers work in 3D audio mode, but for the best effect, you need four speakers and a subwoofer to really shake your groove thing. The two standard speakers, however, did sound better playing the same clip from the camcorder than the Apple iMac. If you have not experienced 3D audio before, even the two-speaker system can provide a nice emulation of the sound of objects moving all around you.
Sony includes a number of their own software packages for image and video editing: DVgate Motion, DVgate Still, Adobe Premiere LE, PhotoDeluxe, PictureGear, and Smart Capture. DVGate Motion and Adobe Premiere work on video files while DVGate Still, PictureGear, and PhotoDeluxe work on still images. Together these provide all the basic needs for capturing, converting, enhancing, and publishing still image and video files.
Making it work
While capturing the video from our Sony TRV310 Digital8 camcorder to the PC, we found DVGate more flexible in terms of on disk storage but also sporting a few annoyances. The PC had the same 2GB file limitation that the Apple iMac DV does thus limiting the length of uncompressed video clips to about nine and a half minute sections. DVGate does allow you to record the information at twice the normal play rate saving time during video capture. Unfortunately, it does not detect breaks between separate clips on the same tape very well, and sometimes recorded several clips as a single whole piece. This isn't problematic since you can break it up manually but it is nevertheless annoying.
Adobe Premiere LE offers many of the same features as the full version of the software giving this system a step up to a semi-professional quality for video editing. However, Premiere is not a simple tool to use for the beginner, and a book on how to use Premiere would help. In comparison to the Apple iMovie, Adobe Premiere can do a whole lot more but it takes several steps that are not as intuitive or easy to learn.
Sony also includes other software applications, including Microsoft Word 2000, Intuit Quicken Basic 99, Symantec WinFax Basic Edition, and McAfee VirusScan. This doubles the work of the Digital Studio for home office or personal use.
All in all, the Sony Digital Studio computers give you no reason to buy an entire PC from another vendor if you're interested in video editing. In addition to this particular feature, it has all the fittings and benefit of a high-end home PC system capable of running word processors, Web site editing tools, and even some of the best games.
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