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MainActor 3.6 by Main Concept

  1. The package
  2. Transfer: DV and analog capture
  3. Format conversion: VideoEditor
  4. Editing : MainActor Video Sequencer
  5. Exporting: MainActor DV-out
  6. Conclusions

MainActor from Main Concept is a complete video editing software package. For a price of $99 (plus $30 for an MPEG-2 plugin, to my opinion a valuable option) you can capture video both from digital and analog source and import stills and graphs form various formats. Editing possibilities are basic but sufficient; it comes with a large array of effect and transitions, a 2D and 3D title generator and nice other features. Projects can be exported back to a DV tape through a Firewire card or saved in several formats. The reviewed version is 3.65.

1. The package

The straightforward installation will create a folder called MainActor containing a help program, capture programs, editing programs and a DV-Out program.

  Installation  

Let's have a look at the capture modules.

2. Transfer: DV and analog capture

The common restriction for DV-capture and DV-out applies: it will not work for Windows 95, 98 (First Edition) and NT. If you run it under one of these operating systems you will not get an error message but you will not be able to select a device. Analog capture works without any problems with Windows 98.

After launching Video-capture a list with installed devices will be presented from which you can make your choice. The program recognizes the installed drivers on your system and WDM drivers.

On the bottom of the window you can select the drive where you want to store the captured video. Make sure that you select a drive that is fast enough.

The following capture parameters can be set:
-preview : enables you to watch the movie while capturing. If you experience lost frames during capture, disable this option.
-Audio Format : the frequency, 8 or 16 bits, mono or stereo
-Video Format : picture size and color mode and other settings that your capture card allows
-Video Source : fine tuning of the video like white balance, brightness, saturation etc.
-Video Compression : selection of the desired codec (be careful, not all codecs on your machine will work)
-Video Other Settings : specify if you want to capture video only, audio only or both. Here you can also specify a maximum file size and force synchronization of video and audio

  CaptureBoutons  

After you have specified the required settings you can start the capture by pushing the button at the bottom of the window. The program will also ask you whether you want to capture one image or a series of images. Somewhat peculiar: the speed is expressed in duration per frame. So, 0.040 second/frame corresponds with the PAL standard of 25 fps.

3. VideoEditor

The purpose of this module is to convert file type formats and alter timing. Most interesting use of this program is that you can create a movie or Animated GIF from a series of stills or break down a movie in a number of stills. Another possible application is to recreate an existing movie using another codec. The VideoEditor accepts the following formats: 8SVX, AIFF, AU, AVI, BMP, DL, FLI/FLC, GIF, GIF-Anim, IFF, IFF-ANIMX, JPEG, MacPICT, MPEG-I (MPEG II if you have the plug-in), MPEG-Audio, PCX, PNG, PPM/PGM/PBM, Quicktime, TGA and WAV.

The main window consists of three sections:

MAVE

  • At the left hand side you open projects are shown. Each project is separate, you can not mix data from one project with another.
  • At the upper right hand side a list of the frames from the movie or the list of stills stills (in case you load a series of stills) is shown, including timecode, compression and image size and sound size.
  • A preview window is placed at the right bottom part of the window, where you can preview the project including sound.

You can select a number of frames by SHIFT-clicking and save the series of stills or movie in a separate file.

While testing the program I found that it is very sensitive: if you import an illegal file type, the program often responds by crashing without giving error messages! Also the program sometimes takes a lot of time to load movies making you think that the program hangs.

4. MainActor Video Sequencer

This is the most interesting part of the package. MainActor VideoSequencer is a very powerful video editing program. It allows all kinds of transitions, titles and some very fascinating special effects. If you are used to a program like Studio7 from Pinnacle you may have some difficulties to find your way around in MainActor.

MASEQ1

When launching the program a window opens where you can enter the desired parameters of your project. Be aware that you can not import a DV-AVI if you choose an SVCD project. The supplied templates are standard for PAL, but you can easily create your own templates and safe them.

After clicking OK in the previous window the main window for editing your movie opens. Since it contains a lot of different information it is best to have your screen set to 1024x768 in order not to have certain windows partially hidden.

MASEQ2

The four main windows are the Timeline, the MainActor Browser, the Timeline Player and the Preview window, that you can hide or view through the View menu.

Most functions are accessible through the pull down menu, the tool bar or by right clicking on the specific item. If you don't have your clips available at this time, you can also capture them from here by clicking on the camera icon in the toolbox.

The Timeline

The timeline represents the edited movie placed on a time scale. Here you drop your clips, stills, titles, etc. and define their properties (effects, transparency etc.). In order to adjust for the level of detail you can change the resolution of the timeline through a pull down box on the tool bar.

To place an item on the timeline you can select it from the MainActor browser window or through one of the buttons on the toolbar (Insert Multimedia, Pictures, 2D text object, 3D text object etc.).

  1. Lines Va and Vb :
    These are the principal video lines where you can place your clips or images. Once you have selected a clip just click on one of these lines and the clip will be placed at the position of the pointer. Changing position can be done by dragging the on the timeline to the left or right and right. You can also trim it at the beginning and the end by moving the pointer to the beginning and end where the pointer will change appearance. To cut the clip in pieces you select the cutter tool from the button bar. Through right-clicking on a clip on the timeline another menu with several functions will appear.

  2. Fx line:
    This line is used for transitions between clips on the Va and Vb lines. Once a transition is placed you can double click it to reverse the effect.

  3. Lines V1 through V99 :
    Items that you place on one of these lines will be superimposed (overlay) on the clips on Va and Vb. You can insert all kinds of titles, images etc. The number of lines (maximum 99) can be changed through Edit -> Preferences.
    Studying the example project that is supplied with the program will give you a good understanding of the use of many lines. It enables you to create a "Star Wars"-like trailers . By right-clicking you will get a menu through which you can set overlay parameters and the begin and end transitions.

  4. Lines Aa and Ab :
    These are the sound lines associated with Va and Vb and will be automatically filled with the sound when you place a clip on Va and Vb. Using right-click and choosing for Split Object, you can detach the sound from the video. This enables you to delete the audio separately when you want to remove the audio completely. Volume control handles in the shape of black squares are visible at the beginning and the end. By clicking on these handles you can change the volume and create fade-ins and fade-outs.

  5. Liges A1 throughA99 :
    On these lines you can place other audio files with back ground music or voice-overs.

Timeline Player and Preview window

By clicking on the time scale in the top of the timeline window you can go directly to any desired position in the edited movie. If you move just below the scale the pointer changes to >> or << you can select a limited section: left click for placing a marker, right click for removing it. In the preview window you can select audio only, video only or both.

The Browser Window

Through this window you have quick access to Audio and Video effects, Transitions and paths. MainActor contains more than 30 video effects and 50 transitions with all kinds of settings (varying from 1 through 8 within a transition). You can also add standard video paths that can be edited as well. There is also a rather complete library of 2D and 3D titles and a special effects generator for colors, fractals, oscillators etc. There are also quite a number of effects and filters for audio.

  1. Video Transitions
    Transitions are applied by dragging them to the Fx line in the timeline window. By double clicking on a transition you can change many parameters like color, direction, number of steps etc.

    .Effets


  2. Video Effects
    Effects can be applied to both clips and transitions and more than one effect can be combined on the same item. With the shortcut Ctrl-F you can see the effects that are attached to the object, add more and change settings. In the Video Effect Configuration Window that wil appear you can see which effects are applied to the selected object and you can set start and end point of the effects. The type of effects varies from simple changing brightness and contrast to special effects like blur, emboss, inflate, Old film, Pointilism etc. It certainly takes a lot of time to explore all the possibilities and settings of the available effects.

  3. Video Paths
    This tool allows you to move your video over the screen. The program contains six different models. Paths can be applied to most objects including titles. The paths themselves can also be edited so that you have complete control over the movement and rotaion of the video on the screen.

  4. 2D Titles
    2D titles that you create can be moved over the screen by determining start and end point. Through the main window for defining 2D you can define the text, the poistion on the screen and, if required its path. In a small window that is opened when you access this menu you can see a preview of your titles. By clicking on Select Font you can change font, size, color and background color (or opaque if desired). You cannot select a multi colored background through this menu, but you can do that in another way. Application of texture to the font color is not possible.

  5. 3D Titles
    If you wnat to explore the possibilities of these type of titles be prepared to spend quite some time. The number of possibilities is really big.

    Titre3D

    Fortunately , for those who are "allergic for maths" you can determine positions directly by clicking on the screen in stead of typing in coordinates.

  6. Audio filters and effects
    The program contains the classical effects like chorus, echo, phase and reverb and some basic filters like low-pass and high-pass to improve sound quality.


  7. Others
    Through the button bar you can create all kinds of special objects:
  • Color Plate: You can use this to create colored background. You cannot create a multi colored background with this tool but you can change the color over time. The program also contains textures that you can apply to it and more can be downloaded on the site of MainConcepts.
  • Fractal regions: This is a kind gadget with which you can create all kinds of psychedelic effects.
  • Color canvas: This to insert a colored rectangle, either static or moving. This can for example be used to serve as background for titles.
  • Oscilloscope: This tool generates all kind of waves in the picture.
  • Generated Audio-object: another gadget: mind your ears when checking this out...

5. Exporting: MainActor DV-out

The interface of this module is similar to the MainActor DV-in module and allows you to write back your work to tape. This option is not available for Windows 98 (First Edition) and NT.

6. Conclusions

Pros

  • Very complete program
  • Very powerful editing possibilities
  • Many import and export filters.

Cons

  • A little difficult to master through its complex interface
  • Documentation is somewhat limited
  • No possibility for rough editing based on lower quality (like in Studio7)
  • No automatic scene detection.

General

For a program in this price range, MainActor is very powerful. It is very suitable for those who use programs like Studo7 and want to explore video editing further.

Price is: around $99 for the basic version and $129 with the MPEG-2 plugin. A demo version can be downloaded from MainConcept.


Credits: Kimo kimo@labdv.com (May 5 2002 - version 1)
Translation (from French): Ton

 

Interface en français... Full window view...
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