A bank of lower end non-linear systems is a good direction for the department methinks. FYI, Speed Razor has been more capable than Premiere, but Premiere is more solid and bug free and I understand the new version is quite capable now. It does what it does well. Frankly, though I would probably still choose SR for purposes, I would probably recommend Premiere for the school. I did a few projects on v. 3.something of Premiere and basically hated it because of some limitations it had then. Those have been dealt with and from what I've seen (only briefly at Siggraph) and heard, ver. 5 is a very good product. They've fixed the most onerous of the problems I had. (mostly having to do w/doing long form work - long form being "over 1 minute") Are your copies ver. 5? It is a major improvement over previous versions. I understand that an advantage of Premiere is that it can utilize Photoshop plug-ins (and possibly those for After Effects) of which there are hundreds - many available for free.
One thing I'm not certain of is whether or not Premiere is now dual stream (for real time dissolves, etc.) I believe that it is. It will run on the Matrox DigiSuite, which is said to be the best card set available for NT platform. This is what I'm running. It's pricey though at about $10K. There is the DigiSuiteLE available now for about half that amount (you can buy it packaged w/Premiere). It is still dual stream. Major differences are that the full DS has 4 DVE processors and the LE has 2. Also, full DS has an on-board SCSI bus and can do two 15mb/sec data streams for up to D1 lossless quality. The LE has no on-board SCSI but uses the PCI bus to move the video data from card to drives and back. It can handle two streams of 5mb/sec (which is what I use anyway) which yields Betacam-SP quality - plenty good enough for stuff originating on Betacam or in my case, DV. The DigiSuites (both versions) have 4 channels of audio built in (though w/Speed Razor only two are utilized - not sure about Premiere. Note that I'm refering to physical ins/outs. SR has unlimited virtual tracks for mixing inside the software. Premiere I'm not sure about. The physical tracks come into play when digitizing into the system or when laying off to tape at the end, as I'm sure you are aware.
Premiere also runs on Targa cards, I believe. Targa technology seems to be getting to the end of it's product life in terms of development. I've been told that Truevision has pushed it about as far as it can go. The good part is that it is very debugged and solid. Also, some are abandoning it in favor of Matrox or whatever and I'm seeing them offered at deep discount on the internet. Even RTX versions. So you might find some deals. DigiSuite, on the other hand, is full of potential, much of which is inaccessible at the moment because the drivers are not mature. The existing ones are quite solid, but there is much more that the hardware is capable of in terms of features and interface elegance that the current drivers don't do. It's still in a rapid development period. For example, they are promising that real-time slo/fast/reverse-mo will be enabled in the next driver version.
You might take a look at the Adobe website to see if they have a list posted of boards that Premiere will run on. I believe Premiere will run on Miro cards. I'm not real familiar with that line (which has recently been purchased by another big outfit - can't remember who at the moment). They have quite a few versions of their card available. The cheapest is not full frame, but is only a few hundred dollars as I recall. I ran the old ver of Premiere on a DPS Perception Video Recorder (PVR) card. They can be had used as well. It is a single stream card - quite good quality, but I did have occassional trouble with balky drivers. That is something they have probably fixed by now. Anyway, I have seen quite a few PVR's available used as people upgrade to dual-stream solutions. Dual stream is purely a time saving issue. You can do everything on the single stream cards, you just have to wait on rendering. This may not matter for student use and the cost is far less. On the other hand, a student may get so frustrated by all the waiting that he'll change majors to something more exciting like accounting! Another idea is to purchase a mix of cards for the different systems. Get a DigiSuiteLE so they can get a taste of what real-time is like. (like your Avid can do) Then get single stream cards like the PVR or even Miro for the other systems. They can learn cutting (which is real time on single stream of course) on any of the systems and how to set up any effect. Just a thought.
Another card I just heard about is the Blossom. It used to be joke, but an editor I respect just told me that it is now a formidable product. They use Premiere software, but I believe the whole thing is only sold as a turn-key. It is realtime.
I'm remembering here that the old version of Premiere would not play smoothly from the timeline. The only way to get playback that didn't drop frames was to render the entire project to a single .avi file. (this was called "make movie" - a term everyone learned to hate because it took forever - like 3 or 4 hours for a 10 min. project) Wasn't so bad as long as project length didn't get over about a minute or so. This is no longer the case w/present version. Experiences like this may cause some you talk to to tell you to run, don't walk, away from Premiere as fast as you can. But, as I said, ver. 5 is getting some serious second looks from folks now. I'm even thinking of taking another look if they make it better than SR which may possibly happen.
Also, and this may still be the case, Premiere only edited .avi files. The DPS PVR card, while very good quality, makes it's own propietary file format (.pvd) In order to use Premiere w/the PVR, you had to use a utility which created pseudo-.avi files which were actually pointer files to .pvd files where the actual video data was. Bottom line, it was a pain in the neck! That's when I got going with Speed Razor because it can edit .pvd files directly. All that to say, PVR may not be the way to go unless Premiere supports .pvd files now.
As far as the computers, are these being purchased new? They seem pretty dated performance wise. I'm running a dual P-II 333 now. Seems 300's to 350's are reasonably priced. 400 is now available, as you know. Also, BX chip set mother boards are out now which have a 100mhz PCI bus. My board is an ancient few months old and is 66mhz. I've been told that this PCI speed jump makes a noticable difference. 64mb of RAM is a bit weak, though it is what I ran in my PVR system for about a year. I'm running 256 now, but you need equivalent amount of RAM for ea. processor. I'd recommend min. of 128 for single processor which is what they are saying is min for Speed Razor now. All this performance talk translates to time of course. RAM is now a fairly cheap component, though, and if you don't have enough, the system has to rely on virtual mem which means constant write/read cycles to the disk swap file. This situation has a drastically bad impact on system performance and really bogs things down.
4 gig is fine for a system drive. However, using the network for video files isn't going to cut it for you, I'm afraid, except at low data rates, which may be okay. If VHS quality is good enough for student projects, etc., you might get by with it. I haven't done much experimenting at this quality level. For Betacam quality (approx. 5mb/sec) you will need local drives at least of the Seagate Baracuda class (7,500 rpm fast SCSI). For dual stream (10mb/sec for Betacam) you will need Seagate Cheetah class drives (10,000 rpm ultra wide SCSI) or use stripe sets as I do. (I had two 9-gig Baracudas when I ran PVR, now I have two Seagate Elite 23 gigs striped together. They are 7,500 rpm. Striped together I get about 18mb/sec top performance out of them. I'm told that they top out in a stripe set of four or five at about 24mb/sec - not fast enough for dual stream lossless D1quality, but they are the best gig/$ available for the Betacam quality work I do. Striping, as I'm sure you know, breaks up the file as it's being written and sends some data to ea. drive in the stripe set so effective performance is greatly increased. The computer sees the stripe set as one drive. This used to require special RAID software and was pretty expensive to implement. Now it's a function of NT and everybody's doing it.
As I said, you may be able to get enough performance out of the network to keep up with VHS quality at 30fps. If not, you can back the data rate down even more and/or go to less than 30fps. Or work in B&W. That really saves the data rate. I'm sure you will want at least one system with local drives so students can get a feel for how things will work in the real world. I'm assuming here that the network is a conventional one such as 100baseT ethernet. If you've got access to some new-fangled optical fiber deal or something like that, then you might be in business. In any case, you can use the network to back up projects in longer than real time. This will help in project management getting files on and off of local drives. I wish I had a good backup software package to recommend. This seems to be a sadly lacking commodity in the NT world. I have yet to find one that will even totalize size for a group of selected files. AVID recently came out with backup software that is drag and drop, keeps the backup directories on a local hardrive instead of on the backup tape, and runs in the background. I'm hoping the NT world comes up with something like this. But if you are using the network to backup, you can just use win Explorer to drag and drop to/from network drives. FYI, re: tape backup drives - I hear the next thing coming along is going to be striping of backup drives. That will be very cool.
Also BTW, I'm running what was the state of the art backup drive last year: an Exabyte Mamoth, 20gig on an 8mm tape (40gig compressed), they claim 3mb/sec (6 compressed), but I get 2 to 2.5mb/sec. (Video files are already compressed, so the uncompressed nos. apply). That drive is down to about $3,500 now. Quantum has come out w/a new ver. of DLT which is what Avid is selling as their solution for $11,000. You get their new software thrown in for "free." My friend who owns an Avid just bought one out of a Mac computer catalog for $5,000 and bought the software from Avid for $695. Anyway, it puts 35 gigs on a tape (70 compressed) and runs 5mb/sec uncompressed (they claim). It's called the DLT7000.
Speaking of drives, the new ultra DMA style IDE drives work well for audio as long as your motherboard supports bus mastering. (this is a scheme that gives priority to the audio data on the PCI bus. While not increasing speed, it avoids the stuttering etc. that happens when audio is preempted by some other data on the bus). The drives such as the Seagate Medalist are big and cheap. I bought a couple of the 6.4gig versions for I think about $230 ea. I believe there is a 9 gig available now. I was unsuccessful using one for audio on my old MB, but it's working great w/ my new one. Keeping audio on these drives improves video drive performance and gives you that much more room on the video drives. This is from the perspective of Speed Razor, which writes A and V to seperate directories. Premiere used to interleave the audio w/video in the same .avi file. Not sure if they still do this. In that case, you would not be able to use IDE drives for audio.
Assuming you are using SCSI drives, you can have 7 on the chain. Most Adaptec cards and on-board controllers have dual channel now so that means 14. Just something to keep in mind.
BTW, the 23gig Seagate Elite has been discontinued. They now have an 18 gig they say replaces it, but I'm sure that's just because they have something better coming they aren't talking about yet. (Kinda like when they retired the SR-71 Blackbirds, don't ya know) The 23 gigs, while not suitable for D1 quality work, are fantastic drives for Betacam quality and can be had now for about $1,100 (see pricewatch.com or killerapp.com)
I'm rambling, but here's another thing to keep in mind: total allowable SCSI bus length is 9 feet. (that is for the normal single ended version. The other version, whose name escapes me goes far longer but is more expensive and a bigger can of worms) It's best to keep your video drives in a seperate case with it's own power supply and fans, but keep it close to the main system and use the shortest SCSI jumpers possible. I've heard about a lot of problems when total SCSI cabling gets too long.
A friend of mine here is working on a little program that is just about done which will run all the time and tell you how much space is left on each of your drives. He's working on a little idea I gave him which will allow you to enter the data rate you are using and it will calculate how much space you have left on the drive in terms of time. Very helpful. When we get it tweaked I'll send it to you.
As far as ZIPs and JAZZ. They are great. Stay away from the parallel port portable versions. Lot's of install problems. An internal IDE ZIP can be had for $79 (think I saw this on killerapp.com) I have one of these in my system. Install is fast and easy. Works like a champ. I like the new 2 gig ver of JAZZ because it holds so much and is compatible w/1 gig JAZZ disks. (don't have either at this point, but they seem to be a defacto standard in the graphics world) Would be nice to have, but if you have all the systems networked and have lots of network drive space available as well, you probably won't have a tremendous need for them. If students are going to be doing animations or Photoshop work or music in their dorm rooms or a non-networked computer lab or whatever, then these drives would be very handy for moving these files around. A 1.44mb floppy is pretty useless these days for media files. You will also need some kind of internet access for downloading new versions of software, patches, etc.
Well, there's a rambling pile of info for ya! Hope some of it is helpful. Let me know if there's anything else you think I could help you with. I'm just about a month away from shrink wrapped, 4-color sleeved dubs of the latest Marilyn Laszlo/Papua New Guinea video. I'll send you a copy when they are done. Has a lot of interesting Steadicam JR work (all shot on the Sony VX-1000).
DP Productions Inc.
St Cloud, Florida
> -----Original Message-----
> From: Tim Rogers [mailto:TMROGERS@bju.edu]
> Sent: Wednesday, August 26, 1998 3:16 PM
> To: email@example.com
> Subject: NLE for students
> Hi Dan.
> Hope everything is going well for you.
> The Questioin I have for you has changed since I thought about
> acking you for advice. Two days ago, I was planning to ask what
> you thought would be the best way to go to set up some non-linear
> stastions for undergrads, and I was wanting you to comepare Speed
> Razor and Premiere.
> Yesterday, due to some bureaucratic mix-ups, we are now the
> owners of ten copies of Premiere.
> So, I guess we'll make the best of it. Can you give me some
> opinions as to what cards we should have?
> The computer specs, as best I can remember, are PC mmx250, 4G HD,
> abut 64m of ram, and we can store files on the university
> network. Would you recommend the use of ZIPs or JAzz's are
> anything like that?
> Any other advice? Help!