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-- by Jim Forbes
Think high-speed processors, such as the 300MHz version of Intel's Pentium II family; think off-the-shelf software configurations-such as easy-to-use graphics packages-that don't cost very much; then think video. Add it all up, and video editing and computer animation-performed on off-the-shelf systems that cost less than $5,000-could make for a trend almost as popular as desktop publishing was in the mid-80s.
Applications that allow users to create and perform low-level video editing on PCs have been available for some time. But until recently, the platform of choice was the Apple Macintosh. Intel's new releases are fast changing that equation.
At this spring's National Association of Broadcasters conference in Las Vegas, one of the big surprises was the number of desktop computer makers previewing new systems designed for desktop video editing, but capable of performing other chores. Earlier entries in this field often served a single purpose; newer technologies have resulted in the development of multipurpose machines that can run nonlinear editing programs as easily as they do word processing programs.
Both Intel and Alpha-maker Digital Equipment have actively wooed hardware and software makers in this arena. For example, Intel recently purchased a stake in Avid Technologies, which makes MCExpress, an external system that has become a video-production industry mainstay. Avid's product has traditionally been associated with the Macintosh; now, the company is pushing its Windows versions. Similarly, MGI customized VideoWave (pictured) specifically for systems with Pentium II and MMX.
Digital, meanwhile, has aggressively licensed OEMs to build systems around Alpha, running Windows NT. With speeds as high as 500MHz and performance that's often superior to Intel machines, these releases seem to be catching the eyes of filmmakers and their software partners alike, such as Microsoft's SoftImage division.
Price is another good reason Alpha might yet lure users. You can now get a fully equipped Alpha workstation with at least 64MB of system memory, a 4MB video card, a 4GB hard drive and a 500MHz processor-and a quantifiable performance advantage-for less than $5,000.