Matrox MXO

I don’t do the “Pick of the Show” thing, but if I did Matrox MXO would be a strong contender for NAB 2006.

MXO will mark Matrox’s return to the Mac platform. Its previous forays, the RT1000 and RT2000, didn’t go so well. OS X Final Cut Pro drivers were delayed over a year, and, once released, the product line was soon discontinued. That was several years ago.

I had no direct experience with the RTs and didn’t follow the story closely, but colleagues who did continue to hold a grudge. They are justified. No ones like spending money on oft-delayed and quickly obsolesced hardware.

Grudges don’t make economic sense. If MXO meets a need and Matrox delivers as advertised, there’s no reason not to consider it. In the grand scheme of things, denying yourself a solution inflicts more pain on you than the company you refuse to deal with. Shouldn’t you take past experience with a company into account when making a purchasing decision? Absolutely.

Let’s take a closer look at the RT1000 and RT2000 situations. Matrox began development before OS X was released. When OS X came on the scene, Final Cut Pro was also upgraded to include a lot of the functionality delivered by the RT cards in software. Matrox was committed to developing drivers for a dead end product. The company could have handled the situation better, but by the end of the day, it was unlikely RT customers could be made happy. No matter what Matrox delivered for OS X, it was going to be obsolete when it hit the streets.

Though grudges might not make economic sense, it remains a difficult leap to reward a company that you feel has screwed you in the past with your continued business. So if you’re searching for a reason to give Matrox another chance, consider this: Matrox is one of the few companies in North America that actually manufacture anything any more. Visit its headquarters just outside of Montreal, and you’ll find an honest to goodness assembly line. A company that actually makes stuff in 2006.

What exactly does the MXO do for $995? It’s a portable, output-only box for Final Cut Pro. The idea is that the user ingests via Firewire from an HDV or Varicam source, and outputs to any format in realtime. Pretty cool, but the kicker for me is the realtime down coversion to SD. According to Matrox, the release version will be able to do realtime full-screen 4:3 center scan down conversions. This means that all production can move to HD formats and be delivered as full screen 4:3. Outside of PBS, my clients have been averse to accepting either letterboxed or anamorphic 16:9 SD deliverables.

Features listed in the Matrox press release:

  • DVI to broadcast-quality video conversion in HD and SD
  • Portable, hot-swappable external box
  • Genlockable HD/SD SDI, HD/SD analog component, Y/C, and composite outputs
  • Up to 8 channels SDI embedded audio output with stereo audio monitoring
  • Workflow enhancements for Final Cut Pro and other QuickTime-based applications
  • Conversion of DVI preview output to frame accurate video for insert editing and print-to-tape with guaranteed audio/video sync
  • Interlacing artifact elimination and gamma correction when previewing video on a secondary DVI display
  • Hardware accelerated output of DVCPRO HD, HDV, and Final Cut Pro Dynamic RT segments
  • Realtime downscaling of an HD project to SD resolution with proper color space conversions
  • Flicker-free, broadcast-quality video output of the computer desktop with any application

The target relase date is June, 2006. I hope to do a full review for DV Magazine.

Download the complete press release.

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