Edius 6.5 – a serious alternative to the obvious

Video Artisan’s route to Edius 6.5

There’s plenty of choice these days in professional NLEs (nonlinear editing systems) and pretty much all of them will do the job at hand. My guess is that the professional market share today would probably place Adobe Premier at the top of the pile closely followed by Apple’s Final Cut. However, sitting behind these are some amazing NLEs – and in my view none more so than Grass Valley’s Edius.

New Edius 6.5 NLE
The New Edius 6.5 NLE at Video Artisan

It is true to some extent that editing systems are like football teams. Once you pick a team as a child (more often picked for you!) it’s is virtually impossible to switch allegiance later in life. It becomes part of who you are. Whilst NLE-choice doesn’t exactly follow this there is undoubtedly a certain amount of loyalty amongst users and it takes a fair bit of crappy development and bad PR for an NLE manufacturer to lose users to another manufacturer. It does happen – as per Apple and their introduction of FCPX (more on which later) – but once you have your head around the way an NLE works it’s hard to switch.

I guess this is a major part of my reasoning to upgrade my own, ageing Edius 4.6 editing system up to the latest version (Edius Pro 6.52 to be precise) housed in a shiny new and beefy PC. Over the years I’ve grown to love Edius. Whilst my old system didn’t have enough grunt to handle DSLR files natively (I had to convert the MOV files to Canopus HQ files to make them workable), I’ve rarely thrown something at the timeline that Edius has been unable to handle. Whilst other NLEs have caught up with Edius in this respect I still think it’s still hard to beat for its stability, simplicity and source compatibility.

The latest version has built on this reputation and on boot-up carries the legend… “Edius Pro 6.5 – Edit Anything”.

Why Edius 6.5 and not the obvious?

Even with my prejudices it would have been foolish of me not to consider the NLE market leaders. Over the years I’ve had a reasonable insight into all of them – and all have their strengths and weaknesses. But before you get that far one of the first questions for anyone facing this choice is… Mac or PC?

The computer platform has a bearing on your decision even though Premier and Avid (more on which in a moment) are true cross-platform solutions. FCP and Edius on the other hand are platform specific (Mac and PC respectively) but will work on opposing platforms under emulation software (BootCamp on a Mac and Hackintosh on a PC). However, I don’t know anyone who is doing this seriously – so your computer platform choice will narrow your choice either way.

Ruling out any Mac-only option was easy for me. I know this is going to upset a few Mac-heads out there but whilst they make pretty machines that work very well – Apple have demonstrated to me a complete lack of respect and understanding of their professional users. Whereas we all accept that the first editions of any upgrade can be a bit flaky to say the least, the first version of their latest software (FCP-X) was a complete and utter pile of poo and drove many of their users away to other systems. The initial omission of backward compatibility with projects created in previous versions of the software showed that they simply do not understand how this industry works and I doubt they want to understand it either. I think they’re far too involved in the consumer markets of iPhone/Pod/Pad/Tunes to set aside the kind of resources needed to support a professional product. I know that FCP-X has come on since then but that move alone told me that Apple wouldn’t be that interested in me as a user.

Furthermore, I also think that FCP is the least user-friendly of the bunch. If you look at any of the online support forums there’s a huge amount of user questions posted about some of the more basic functions of FCP. On the IOV’s forums there are probably four times as many threads about FCP as there are about any other NLE – despite the fact that it’s not the most widely used system. That either means that the majority of FCP users are either thick or too lazy to read the manual – or the system itself is not intuitive. I strongly believe it’s the latter.

Avid’s main strength is that it’s widely used in the broadcast and film industries. Whilst the entry price is very similar to the others if you opt for an ‘Avid Approved’ system its going to set you back a few bob (more than my budget allowed for). On the plus side, because they were one of the first NLE manufacturers to aggressively market themselves to the education market there’s a massive user-base who have learnt their editing craft at college or university using this NLE.

Though Avid is the system I have least experience with, to me it is still the nearest thing there is to an ‘NLE standard’. Cost of ownership and upgrade paths, and a poorer take up at my end of the market, did leave me feeling that I would be on my own and without the familiar surroundings offered by Edius 6.5.

Premier was a more difficult option to discard as it has come on leaps and bounds in recent years. My first NLE experiences were with the early incarnations of Premier so I know it quite well – and it fitted in budget wise. The entire suite of Adobe tools (PhotoShop, AfterEffect etc) work beautifully together and, to be honest, I’m not ruling out installing then entire Production Suite at some time in the future to run alongside Edius.

I guess you could say the old allegiances played a vital role in my final decision – and they probably did. However, I genuinely think that those allegiances have been formed through years of trusting Edius to do the business for me. Decision made!

Self-build or Specialist-build?

It was then a matter of making the choice between self-build PC or buying a turnkey solution from a specialist NLE builder. I didn’t take long over that decision. Whilst there was a considerable saving to be had in buying the bits and slapping them together I rather like and value the additional peace of mind and support offered though a specialist system builder. There are quite a few good companies out there who build turnkey NLEs but the one that always floats to the top for me is DVC in Hove. They have been around for yonks and have a mighty army of satisfied clients out there – and that doesn’t come about through building shoddy systems that are not suitable for use in a professional edit suite. They are also great listeners. I visited their stand at BVE North to spec up and price a system and was dealt with by Ringo (DVC’s famous super sales guy and technical guru) who listened intently to me talking about the type of productions I was producing, what I was shooting on, other applications I’d be putting the system to and how content would be distributed and stored.

I explained that the majority of my work would be short promotional films that were generally aimed at website distribution but equally likely to be turning out on DVD and/or Blu-ray. I also provide freelance editing services to other production companies and agencies so the system had to be just as comfortable in dealing with longer programme formats and able to ingest material from both analogue and digital sources. My NLE would need enough system storage to handle this without offloading projects to temporary archive. Speed and reliability were major ‘wants’ of mine – all of which had to be provided within my £2.5k budget.

Ringo instantly pointed towards a DVC Ivybridge System – and started adding on all the specifications and accessories that were needed for my requirements into his quote calculator. After a bit of pushing and shoving things around to match my spend, the final machine consisted of an Intel® Core™ i7-3770K Processor 3.5GHz with Hyperthreading (8M Cache, up to 3.90 GHz) running the Windows 7 Pro 64 bit operating system. With 8GB of RAM, 8TB of SATA HD storage and a 128GB SSD system drive – this little beast would eat it’s way through pretty much anything I cared to throw at it – with ease!

DVC helped do a few more tweaks to the standard packages to help the budget work – such as dropping the monitors (I’d use my current ones) and adding a Black Magic Design Intensity Pro card. This would add HDMI, component, composite and SVIDEO in and out to the already included Firewire, USB3, Network and plethora of memory card connections. With Edius at its heart this system really should be able to edit anything.

The Delivery

I opted for delivery rather than collection from their Hove offices mainly because I was being tight fisted. It was cheaper for them to ship it to me rather than drive there to collect – but I can see why some people prefer to collect and get a quick hands-on introduction session from the DVC guys.

With my Edius experience I was pretty sure I wouldn’t struggle too much with the software. But if I had been a complete Edius virgin the free training DVDs that are included with the system would pretty much have had me editing from day one. These films are produced by DVC’s MD, David Clarke (he who knows everything that needs to be known about Edius and NLEs) and take you through all the steps from capture through to delivery in a series of simple to follow tutorials.

I don’t mind confessing that I found even the basic stuff very worthwhile viewing. These include a general tutorial DVD on Edius 6 – plus an update DVD on the new additions and improvements of Edius 6.5. Thoughtfully DVC also installed copies of these on the system itself – with an easy to navigate HTML indexing system so you can quickly and easily study specific functions and processes of Edius.

With all these resources to hand there really is no excuse for not being able to get editing straight away. Nevertheless I’m like every other lazy person out there and often prefer to pick up the phone and ask someone rather than reading the manual (or in this case watching the video). This is where buying from a specialist system builder really pays off as I’ve already solved a couple of simple problems by making a quick call to Ringo. I’ve never been made to feel like I’m a pain, or told to RTFM – and on both occasions his vast knowledge has instantly pointed me to the solution.

Put to task

The system was delivered in a big cardboard box – which was duly ripped open and installed in the edit suite. I have a number of projects about to start and one which is about to go into its post production phase – but before all that I had to transfer over projects that were already under way on the old system so it took a good day to get everything networked and talking to each other nicely.

It was great to know that my old Edius 4.6 projects would work perfectly in 6.5 – with only some minor changes to Xplode transitions which are no longer supported. I’ve also got to re-link some media as I will now be working with DSLR files in the native format rather than the Edius HQ conversions that I needed on the old system. I think that’s a small price to pay though. I’ll also be keeping the old system connected up for a while as there’s bound to be things on there that I’ll be needing later (such as all the fonts I had installed that are not on the new system). And besides, the long term plan for the old system is to keep it networked and working doing transfers, encoding, uploading, archiving and copying. There’s no rest for the decrepit here at Video Artisan!

I guess this story isn’t over yet as I’m about to start putting the new system to proper use – but I have every confidence in it. I’ve also grown to have every confidence in Edius being able to do everything I demand of it – and every confidence in being able to lean on DVC should I hit any problems or need a quick chat.

I’m not sure any NLE user could ever want any more than having total confidence in their system – and I’ve got it. Lucky old me : )

Kevin Cook F.Inst.V. (Hon.)
Video Artisan