I received my MXO2 a few months ago but have lacked the time/project/decks to be able to test it out. The best I could do was hook it up to my computer an HDTV and go “Yup, that outputs a GREAT image” and to my HD CRT and say, well, the same thing. When I got it I was working on an Avid at a production company, then, well, I was unemployed.
But then my first opportunity to test it came.
A company I work with a lot that is primarily an Avid house, but they have one FCP system. Mainly to capture footage for their graphics department, but lately they have put it in use to capture footage for an editor who will be cutting a show on FCP. This show was shot on HDCAM at 1080 24P and they were having issues capturing the footage at a lower resolution. They had an older G5 and older Decklink card and I thought that was the issue, so I asked to borrow the Sony J-H3 HDCAM player and check it out on MY system, using the MacPRo and Matrox MXO2.
Needless to say, I was able to capture just fine. Uncompressed 8-bit, uncompressed 10-bit, DVCPRO HD, ProRes, a custome offline RT Photo JPEG setting I made (full dimensions, but lower image quality). Then I was able to test this on my laptop, capturing the footage as DVCPRO HD (1080p) and as ProRes…but only for 2 min at a shot. The laptop, of course, is not up to the task of encoding ProRes for long stretches. That is what the MacPro is for. But, I again was able to capture into my custome Photo JPEG setting just fine.
So for HD on a tower and a laptop, I give the MXO2 big thumbs up. No ProRes on a laptop, that is the limiting factor. If you are fine with capturing as DVCPRO HD on the laptop then this will be fine. Since it connects to the MacBook Pro via the Express34 slot, the only hard drive option you have is FW800 or FW400, so uncompressed is out of the question. BUT…attach this to a tower and all the options are available. Capture as ProRes to a FW800 drive, then bring that to your laptop for editing. Assuming you have two computers.
Now…onto the next test.
I landed a 3 day job cutting a demo reel for a producer/director I worked with, and ALL of the footage he has was on digibeta or betaSP. So for that I rented a Sony J-30 player. I was able to capture the footage as DV50 and it looked great. On BOTH editing systems, MacPro and MacBook Pro. Both performed flawlessly. And the majority of the digibeta footage was also ANAMORPHIC, and I just enabled that option in the Easy Setups and it captured anamorphic.
Now onto what I REALLY wanted to test…SD hardware upconvert to HD. Now that I had the J-30 and some great looking tapes, and a few betaSP, I had some good source material to test this out. Now, to do this test I needed newer software drivers than I had. MXO2 software version 1.2 didn’t have this upconvert option that I could see. So I e-mailed Matrox asked them how to do this, and they replied “with this version of the software that is still in beta, 1.3.” So I installed the new version and there was this new checkbox in the MXO2 System Preference A/V Input tab called SCALE INPUT FOR CAPTURE. That tells the MXO2 to upconvert the incoming signal to HD. You have a dropdown menu that allows you to choose between SD, 720p and 1080 as the incoming source type.
Then in FCP you choose the format you want to capture it as in the AV Options and it will capture as that type. 720p 59.94 DVCPRO HD, 1080i 29.97 ProRes…whatever you choose. Now…It did have this option for 16:9 to SD aspect ratio, but that didn’t seem to really do anything. When I captured the first tape, this nice betaSP doc on grizzly bears, it upscaled VERY nicely. And captured it full frame, meaning full 4:3 with pillar boxes of black on either side. Nice.
Then I moved onto one of the anamorphic digibetas and chose ANAMORPHIC in the ASPECT RATIO box thinking that I was now telling the MXO2 to expect an anamorphic signal and capture accordingly. But when I looked at what I captured, again, it was pillar boxed. My nice anamorphic signal was pillar boxed. I checked the ANAMORPHIC option and it only stretched out the pillar boxes.
So I asked Matrox what was up with that. Why does it only capture pillar box? Well, as of now, that is the only option…to capture SD as Pillar Box. Because 99% of the time SD will be 4:3, and they are trying to preserve the entire frame…so you can frame the image in your 16:9 project the way you want by zooming in and crop it manually. Apparently they weren’t expecting anamorphic SD. Who blames them? This is a rare format. BUT, they said they’ll get on that for the next build.
So I captured ProRes, DVCPRO HD, uncompressed 8-bit and 10-bit, 1080i 29.97, all upconverts from BetaSP and Digibeta. And they were very clean captures. This card upscales beautifully. And the pillar box is just fine for 4:3 footage, as I would like to zoom and reposition on my own to get proper framing, but when it comes to the anamorphic stuff I can’t capture that properly yet.
And just like any other capture card, you still have to capture 29.97 as 29.97…like to like Hz. You cannot change frame rates as you capture (except 29.97 as 59.94 DVCPRO HD 720p…that is a similar Hz), so you cannot capture 29.97 as 23.98. That conversion has to be done later, with something like Compressor.
EDIT: I need to make a few corrections…and a comment or two. First off, when I wrote this post I was using a beta version of the drivers…the 1.3 version. The current version of the drivers, 1.2, do not upscale on import, only playback. The 1.3 driver is the one that enables upscaling on ingest. And they have fixed it so that it will do pillar box and anamorphic, based on the issue I had. The 1.3 drivers will be due out soon…so more on them later. In the meantime, I am digging the MXO2 more and more. Analog inputs and outputs, SDI, HDMI…720p to 1080i crossconvert. I have yet to test that, but it is there. But thus far it has everything I need.