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Using Quicktime Video
With Audio Workstations
How Low-Cost Video Tools Help You Work With Audio
First of a Four-Part Series

by Andy Somers

The emergence of low-cost desktop video solutions has had an important side benefit. Those of us who edit audio now have an efficient and cost-effective alternative to SVHS or 3/4" decks for picture playback. If, for example, you’re using Pro Tools on a Mac, you can use an Aurora Fuse card with the Mac’s built-in Quicktime video, instead of a nine-pin controllable deck with a MicroLynx. This can save literally thousands of dollars on the cost of a single system.

Basically, a Fuse card costs less than $500, whereas a nine-pin SVHS deck and a Microlynx setup costs in excess of $5,000. Of course, there are other advantages, as well as significant drawbacks, to using this digital video setup.

Get There From Here
How to Set Up Your System for Digital Video

Fortunately, setting up your system for use with digital video is quite easy. I’ll assume that you will be using digital video with Pro Tools running on a PCI bus PowerPC/Macintosh. The first thing you’ll need is the hardware to allow your computer to input and output regular NTSC (or PAL) digital video. By far the best value today is the stable and reliable Aurora Fuse card. You can find out more at

Your computer will need one available PCI slot for the Fuse card. If your system is using an expansion chassis, you’ll probably have better results with the Fuse in the computer, rather than the chassis.

After installing the Fuse card in the computer, you’ll need to install the drivers from the CD that came with it. Next, you’ll need a copy of a video program such as Adobe Premiere or Final Cut Pro. You can get the Fuse card bundled with Premiere for a few hundred dollars more, but in this article, I’ll use Final Cut Pro, because I greatly prefer it. Note that you do not need Premiere or FCP on systems that are only going to play video – they are needed only for digitizing, and as we’ll discuss in the next issue, you can have a single digitizing workstation and many playback stations.

Finally, you need to consider where you’re going to store all this digital video. And this points to the first, and most significant, drawback of using digital video.

So many little ones & zeros - where will we put them all?
Considering your Storage Options

The most complicated part of setting up your system(s) is determining what type of storage to use. If you have one system, then the solution is straightforward – an 80-gigabyte internal ATA hard drive can be had these days for around $300. That’ s big enough to hold several feature films at a very good quality (better than AVR9s). But if you have several systems that all need access to the same video, you may need to consider external options.

Portable hard drives: This is probably the most common solution, because it is the most reliable and the easiest to deal with. While portable SCSI drives have been used for this purpose for some time, the advent of Firewire-capable Macs has made Firewire drives much more appealing. These drives are relatively cheap, and you can "hot swap" them as you please. Need a copy of that new reel? Just grab your Firewire drive, walk over to the digitizing station, plug it in and make a copy. You can add Firewire capabilities to older Macs, but you may find it’s more trouble than it’s worth to give up a PCI slot for a Firewire controller card.

Jaz disks: I’ve found them too slow and unreliable, and I think they have fallen out of favor with most people. The cost of each disk is high enough to make Firewire drives more attractive.

Writable CD or DVD: While inexpensive and easily portable, these may be better suited to long-term storage than to playing video while editing. Nevertheless, if you abide by file size and data rate restrictions, you should be able to use them for playback.

That’s all I have space for in this issue. Next time, I’ll discuss issues relating to sharing video over an Appletalk network, choosing an appropriate resolution and data rate, and much more. Till then, Happy Cutting!

Go to Part Two

Andrew Somers is a Guild member, a picture editor, sound editor, and mixer.
contact him viaGeneral Titles & Visual Effects

Reprinted from
The Motion Picture Editors Guild Magazine
Vol. 22, No. 2 - May/June 2001

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Andrew Somers has been at the forefront of the digital filmmaking revolution. These pages have some archives for memories sake of some of the early days and trials of digital cinema technology.