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Matrox MXO2 LE MAX Speeds Up The Workflow Process For FamilyNet's "Travel Secrets Mexico"

By Herbert J. Kellner

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The production team of Lifelong Learning Magazine recently set off on an exciting adventure, agreeing to produce a new TV documentary series called Travel Secrets Mexico. Alongside my production team, we have been working on capturing and producing footage for twelve 30-minute episodes. The new series is scheduled to air in HD this October on the FamilyNet television network.

Travel Secrets Mexico will offer top-quality advice and information for tourists and the sailing community and, most importantly, give hope to businesses within the country that tourism to Mexico's premiere destinations will soon return to the high levels of earlier years. Most media outlets in the US show a distorted picture of Mexico, opting to focus primarily on the ongoing drug war. Consequently, millions of Americans have developed a fear of traveling to Mexico. This new series hopes to restore trust in Mexico and the country's beautiful and safe tourist destinations. Each episode features unscripted interviews with individuals living in and also visiting Mexico.

Producing a TV documentary series with 12 episodes is a major project. Producing it from various locations throughout Mexico on a 45-foot sailboat is a challenge we had never faced before! Working as a two-person team is not new to us, but on a boat our routine editing workflow needed significant changes because of the very limited space. We converted the boat's navigation station, a desk measuring 30 x 25 in., into our new edit suite.

Our team is equipped with a 15-inch MacBook® Pro and three Firewire 800 hard drives with a total of eight terabytes. We moved all of the hard drives into a box under the navigation table, which actually turned out to be a big problem because of the heat they develop. Our camera is a Sony XDCAM EX1 with three 16GB memory cards. Transferring the content from the camera to the hard drives is done via USB because the MacBook Pro does not have an express card reader for the SxS Pro cards.

To edit the footage captured, we use Final Cut Pro® 7.0.3 as it works with XDCAM EX 1080p30 footage. Our graphics are done in Photoshop CS5 and for animations we use Pro Animator 4.3.3. Playback is not always smooth because the hard drives cannot keep up with the four or five layers of video and up to six to eight tracks of audio. Our Thunderbolt storage upgrade next month will solve this problem for us. We’ll simply daisy chain the Matrox MXO2 LE MAX and the new drives.

While we edit and create our content we don't need to rely on just a window on our laptop screen. The MXO2 LE MAX lets us see our work on our broadcast monitor so we know exactly what the final project will look like.

After editing the content, we convert the final segments to H.264 for online delivery to our studio in Carlsbad, California. This process was extremely slow until the Matrox MXO2 LE with MAX came into our workflow. The Matrox unit converts our videos to H.264 much faster than software alone without sacrificing quality.From Final Cut Pro we use the "send to" command, which launches Compressor. We select the Matrox MAX H.264 preset that we have customized for this project and MXO2 LE MAX encodes the project faster than realtime. We can start the upload to the studio right away and retreat to the pool for some much needed relief from the hot sun.

All of the trailers for the series that we have uploaded to YouTube to-date have shown the performance of the Matrox MXO2 system. We are confident the quality of this series will be equally as outstanding for viewers watching at home on FamilyNet, thanks in large part to the MXO2 and the superb picture quality it continues to provide.

Learn more about Matrox MXO2 LE MAX.