Hands-On - Draco Systems, Inc.

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Having utilized a number of video editing systems over the years, ranging from old analog edit stations to professional-level nonlinear online systems to low-end desktop editing programs, we were very interested in finding out how the Casablanca from DraCo Systems stacked up in the editing pantheon. Admittedly, after finding out about its relatively low price and its simple, 'all in one box' design, we began to wonder about the depth of Casablanca's capabilities. However, after receiving and trying out the unit, all our doubts were quickly put to rest.

From setup through the actual process of nonlinear digital video editing, the Casablanca is intuitive and easy to operate. The entire system is contained in a box that is only slightly larger than a standard VCR. Setup is ridiculously easy. You simply plug the unit into a monitor or even a TV using RCA cables or a S-Video cable, plug your source deck into the RCA, S-VHS or optional 'FireWire' inputs, and away you go. The simple menu is operated with the included trackball. Within no time, you are capturing video and editing away.

The video and audio is digitized and saved on the unit's own hard drive. Once there, the nonlinear editing process begins. The captured video and audio is easily split into individual 'scenes,' which can later be trimmed, cut and pasted into a storyboard. When these scenes are in the storyboard and are cut the way the editor desires, numerous transitions (like dissolves and wipes), titles and effects can be added with unbelievable ease. From that point, music and other audio can be added and edited using the system's three stereo audio tracks. When the piece is completed, you simply go to the Finish mode, render any effects and output the final product to tape.

Video can be captured in a number of ways. If the source is VHS or Hi8, you can simply hook up a VCR or camcorder to the unit with RCA cables. The capture mode is operated with the trackball, digitizing pieces of video and audio as needed. Footage from Betacam SP and S-VHS is captured with a S-VHS input. Any DV or MiniDV device can be connected over the optional IEEE P1394 (FireWire) interface. With this capability, the footage remains digital throughout and d'esn't suffer quality degradation.

Casablanca delivers the picture quality required for all the formats listed above, from standard VHS to Betacam SP to DV. For as easy as the unit is to set up and use, we were very surprised by the professional level of editing that can be achieved. The quality and quantity of transitions, effects and other editing options available are indicative of a much higher-priced, much more complicated editing system. The friendly, simple interface, as well as the unit itself, couldn't intimidate even the most inexperienced video editor.

The Casablanca's low cost ($3,995), powerful features and simple operation make it an ideal video editing tool for schools. Students and teachers alike can create professional looking videos very easily and quickly. Once the unit is up and running, it takes maybe an hour at most to become comfortable with the interface and the editing functions. It is very easy to pick up and once you have, video editing is a snap.

--Jim Schneider

jschneider@thejournal.com

 

Contact Information
DraCo Systems, Inc.
Boulder, CO
(303) 440-5311
www.draco.com

This article originally appeared in the 09/01/1999 issue of THE Journal.

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