Pinnacle Systems Liquid Edition 7
4.0Overall Score
Price (RRP): $1,999 Manufacturer: Pinnacle Systems

For a while it looked like Pinnacle had been consigned to the archive cupboard after being bought out by Avid, but the release of Liquid Edition 7 puts that move on hold for the time being. Steve Turner has a squiz under the Liquid 7 bonnet.

Liquid 7 appears more an upgrade than a new beast and therefore won’t kill off speculation about long-term issues. After all, why would one of the most successful NLE producers market against its own line of software? For a while, Liquid users will carry on under their own inertia (Liquid is a very good editor) but what is the longer term view for Avid with Pinnacle’s excellent but ageing toolkit?

Out of the box

Installation is the usual stuff with a small unusual element. On the way a dialogue box asked where I wanted to store my captured video. Mine is captured on any one of a number of removable drives so this is a tad early to be asking. At this point, I assumed that this could be changed later. Apart from that installation is uneventful. (The Pro version comes with a nifty breakout box but my review copy didn?t so I can?t comment on how good it is.)

First look

LE7 opens with a ‘one we prepared earlier’ type example and adapts straight away to my two monitor setup. Here’s the first sign of aging I come across. You can’t customise the desktop. There are six different layouts you can choose, but unlike most other NLEs, you cannot move the elements around your desktop to suit yourself. I personally like my timeline to have a monitor all its own (to have maximum vertical space for large layered projects) so this may be irritating. Out of curiosity I changed windows to one monitor only and closed then reopened L7. It adapted to the single monitor and offered another six variations for the layout.

The project window is good and easy to look at and sort through clips and audio, titles and graphics etc, all in a windows like box. These can be displayed as text or the usual thumbnails. Also here, you can easily access all the transitions and effects (and there are a lot of goodies for the goody user to play with). Select these as thumbnail displays and it?s simple to choose an appropriate effect or transition. This part I liked a lot.

Capture this

Like all good NLEs (Non-Linear Editing) it’s a doddle to get pics in for cutting. A simple wizard allows manual capture (and it does have easy access to change drives etc) or you can easily log tapes and do a batch capture at your leisure. Liquid puts up a nice big window for you to preview as you capture. No problems here.

The keyboard

Often the job of customising keyboards can be a pain. Liquid 7 has a nice little graphics interface to allow you to drag and drop keystrokes to where you want them to be. If you are used to keystrokes being in a certain place then this is an excellent tool.

You can assign global keystrokes that work wherever you are in the program (video editor, audio, titler etc) or you can assign keystrokes to each area independently.

The desktop

It’s ummmm, conventional really. I mean how many variations on monitor/timeline/project windows can you have? I’m happy with the play/record windows and the timeline displayed below is OK but too small for me. There’s a bucket load of icons on a toolbar and I think they’re brilliant. Much less wading through drop down menus failing to remember where that switch you need was last time you found it. Also, all the icons can be changed and rearranged to suit yourself. This program hangs on from the days when the desktop editor was the only software on the PC so it takes over and curiously I write this on Word but the theme has changed to L7 colours – quite pleasant so I don’t mind.

There’s a full-screen switch! Yeah! ? I thought this was a thing of the past (as most NLEs assume you’re outputting to a monitor all the time) and it’s excellent to hit the switch and watch your video fill the screen. As I move to flat panel LCD monitors that display the video really well I feel the need to output to a monitor is less necessary than before.

Effects

Having edited for a hundred years I’m not impressed by flashy effects. Mostly there are too many but for once here is a professional set of usable, and more importantly tasteful, effects. Only Sony’s Vegas has a similar collection of useful tools. The really impressive thing though is the divided use of CPU and GPU (your graphics card) for the real time playback. This is stunning and the best I’ve seen on my humble AMD3000 PC (1 gig RAM). The icons in the project window display either CPU or GPU to indicate which is going to be used. My graphics card is a very simple bog-standard one and to see this level of real time playback is exceptional.

Immediate full resolution playback is there and the timeline colour codes the clip to show whether you’ve reached an effect that may need to be rendered first and there are very few of those. The page curl transition actually looks good with correct lighting and reverse image on the back. It’s a professional package with one small let-down.

Included are the Hollywood FX range of 2D and 3D effects. These impressed beginners a few years ago but really have passed their use-by date and should be left well alone. Avid need to update or remove them altogether.

Editing

It’s a breeze for any experienced editor. Simply drag and drop from the project bin (which for some reason is called the ‘rack’ by Pinnacle) or double click to open and the usual in and out to mark points. A small trap for newbies is that Liquid opens a new window each time you double click the source video. You have to right click and tell it to automatically put the vision in the source window every time you click. After that it?s fine.

Rather than a keystroke, there’s an icon to get the pics from the source window to the timeline and the clip goes to whichever timeline is highlighted (by a single click). You change the icon from insert to assemble by a single click. Otherwise it’s all standard stuff and fairly intuitive even for a beginner or novice.

Liquid will also edit DivX video from the timeline along with a long list of of others including DV, MPEG I-frame, MPEG IBP, uncompressed SD, Windows Media, and MPEG-4 in SD as well as HDV.  It’s very flexible in its ability to mix and match on the timeline whatever format of video you have and then will render the output to your desired spec.

Also, if you specify 16:9 as the format but import 4:3 there’s no need to conform the source files. When you open them Liquid arcs them to the correct spec without you lifting a finger and plays them back with no effort. This is surprisingly good and would test most NLE engines.

In the background

One of Liquid’s good features (although this isn’t new) is the rendering of effects and transitions in the background. You happily cut away and suddenly effects and transitions are already rendered. This depends on your PC speed but most off the shelf units will cope well. Most NLEs ask you to render afterwards and provide a real time playback that previews an un-rendered effect or transition. Mind you most units are very good at this as well.

DVD to burn

A couple of years ago I reviewed Pinnacle’s Studio software and was hugely impressed by the DVD authoring built in. Liquid is even better and it’s great to be able to build menus and author from inside the software with ease. There’s a range of supplied menu bases or you can bring in your own. The best part is that the menus and links are built from the same timeline you’re editing on.

HD and HDV

Look out! Here comes the brave new world of HD and HDV (HDV is the miniDV compressed version of HD and is superb). Most semi-professionals and even professionals don’t yet have to go to HD but most want to have a go (including me!). As yet you need a high spec PC to go there, and the cameras already are affordable. Liquid has had a decent codec for ages and can do anything from standard miniDV to DVC- pro50 and uncompressed SD and beyond. It?s down to your hardware what you can achieve.

Computer requirements for HD

  • 2 x 3GB Pentium (HT-enabled)
  • Windows XP Pro
  • 1GB RAM
  • PC1e graphics card with 256MB RAM or better, DirectX 9 hardware support
  • OHCI-comaptible IEEE 1394 port, DirectX 9 software
  • DVD-ROM drive (required for software installation)
  • DVD burner

Computer requirements for SD

  • Pentium 4 processor 3.0GHz or 2 x 2GHz or better
  • Windows XP Professional (SP1 or SP2)
  • 1GB RAM
  • AGP 8X graphics card with 128MB RAM, DirectX 9 hardware support
  • Soundcard
  • OHCI-compatible IEEE 1394 card
  • DirectX 9 software
  • DVD-ROM drive (required for software installation)
  • DVD burner

Got a few cameras?

It’s becoming a standard thing now this multi-camera stuff. The ability to ‘direct’ you own edit is superb and a great feature thanks to newer faster processors being able to handle  a few (not too many) video streams at once.

Select the clips to play and sync them together (that means select a point at which all are at the same position and then they remain locked and even spool back and forth while you spool whichever you’re looking at). All appear in the source window and you can happily chop and change at will. This is very good for sport editing or event videos such as weddings (if you do say three cameras on the vows for instance).

Verdict

The ‘look’ of Liquid has been around for a few years and could do with a makeover. I read an internet review that slammed Liquid for being old but really it’s a very user-friendly interface with a superb engine supplying large amounts of grunt. The real time playback is exceptional and the only real limitation is not being able to customise the desktop but so what? How many variations can you have after all (ummm except I already have one it doesn’t allow!).

The big question remains what will the future bring? Will Avid keep Liquid going or retire it and use the technology in the Avid line of NLEs? Only time will tell but whatever happens this is an excellent editing tool and well worth a look.

Pinnacle Systems Liquid Edition 7
Price (RRP): $1,999 Manufacturer: Pinnacle Systems
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