Matrox Rocks

At the moment we’re in post-production on that industrial we traveled the country shooting in May. In this blog we’re going to introduce you to a a wonderful piece of gear that helps us in a couple of important areas of post, namely broadcast monitoring and h.264 compression for web (and blu ray).

For both tasks we employ the Matrox MXO2 Family I/O devices. We have a Matrox MX02 LE hooked up to one Mac Pro and a Matrox MXo2 Mini (both with MAX) hooked up to the other. We also travel with the Mini and hook it up to our MacBook Pro via PCI Express on travel jobs.

With the Matrox MX02 LE we can send out 2 video signals, one to our Flanders Scientific Broadcast Monitor via SDI, and the other to our Vizio LCD HDTV via HDMI.

The ability to send a signal out to multiple monitors, including an HDTV via HDMI, was one of the original selling points of this particular hardware to us. Not only can you send the signal to your HDTV, but you can calibrate it to be broadcast color correct using Matrox software. This can effectively turn any HDMI connected HDTV into a broadcast finishing monitor.

It also means we can preview the FCP timeline on our big screen TV right in a our sitting room. That’s cool. We can also do this with the Mini (HDMI not SDI), but we don’t currently have it hooked up to any monitor.

We use both the Mini and the LE for h.264 compression. That’s where the MAX comes in.

Matrox MAX technology speeds up the creation of H.264 files for Blu-ray, the web, and mobile devices… [and plugs into ] Apple Compressor… Telestream Episode, Final Cut Pro, Avid Media Composer, Adobe Media Encoder, and QuickTime Pro through the QuickTime codec component.

In layman’s terms it creates h.264 files super fast, faster than real time in some cases. This is a huge help to our workflow, especially on a project like the one we’re working on now. We need to crunch large batches of files quickly so the client can watch them. They need to look high quality and we need them now. We spent a lot of time waiting on compression before we brought Matrox MAX technology into our lives. Now it’s a breeze. The Matrox software plugs into all the compression software that we use, and it even comes with great presets depending on your workflow. You can also capture video with the Matrox devices, but we don’t use them for that.

It’s not all a bed of roses though. We do have our complaints. Sometimes, for reasons that are inexplicable, MAX simply doesn’t work. This mostly happens with Apple Compressor. We’ll send it a batch job, and it will refuse to kick in. Usually quitting all software (or even restarting) will solve the problem. It doesn’t happen much, but when it does happen, it’s usually when we need it to work the most and that is never fun.

Also, the presets are great (and they offer the fastest encode times), but if you decided to tweak them, the encode times increase dramatically. Our only other complaint involves monitoring out of Final Cut. If we send the video through Matrox and the audio out through our Mac Pro to studio monitors, then they are a few frames out of sync. If you send audio out with video to the same device, the problem isn’t there.

We haven’t spent much time troubleshooting this, because it’s no big deal for color correction (and we’re busy). If we should need to preview video for a client in our office, then it would need to be addressed.  In the grand scheme of things, none of these small issues has prevented us from thoroughly enjoying the products.

We love our Matrox boxes and highly recommend them.

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