Greg Kiernan
Issue: August 1, 2006


PRODUCT: Avid Symphony Nitris



- Speed 

- Safe Color Limiter plug-in

- New SpectraMatte keyer

OK, let's get a couple of things straight from the start. One, I'm a Mac guy. I was a PC guy until I got my first Avid on two floppy discs that only worked on an Apple IICI. My world has since changed. Two, I work on a PC. No, I'm not happy about it, but I understand the basic core of why the Mac was left behind in the initial round of way cooler stuff. It's OK. I don't take it personally. So, currently, I'm on a PC using the Avid Symphony Nitris.

Since the whole point of me writing this is to say what I personally think of the box, let me start out with this: It totally rocks. I beta tested both versions of it so far and can pretty much state without too much hesitation that the box Avid promised me would be here in 1992 has finally arrived. 


The majority of what I do is SD, 30i NTSC stuff. The way I use the Symphony Nitris is realtime, 1:1 uncompressed 10-bit pictures with two realtime titles, two two-layer matte keys over a secondary color corrected shot, with eight tracks of checker-boarded audio with various pan and level changes... with realtime dissolves in the midst of it all. No dropped frames. No hiccups. And while I can't personally discuss the HD capabilities of Symphony Nitris, I've heard from more than one source that as an HD box, it outperforms the Nitris DS. And, yes, I've heard this from DS users.


When most of us think of an Avid Symphony we think color correction. To me it's the real reason to get a Symphony in the first place. Symphony Nitris's secondary color correction, though not identical to the Meridien version, has a couple of great new features — such as color cast removal, lock vectors — either taken from the Adrenaline products or added as cool, new things. The biggest drawback in the first version of Symphony Nitris was the lack of a color limiter, which saved my butt many times in the Meridien version. But the good folks at Avid have now given us a plug-in called Safe Color Limiter that can live on the top of most layers in your sequence. While I was apprehensive about having to add a plug-in to my sequence, it actually performs better than the limiter of old, enabling the editor to see what areas have problems and adjust them more smoothly that just putting a clamp on them. It blends to safe rather than clamps at safe.


Though I personally would have liked a realtime version of Ultimatte in Symphony, the new SpectraMatte keyer works quite well. Isolating the colors to be keyed is actually quite similar to the keyer in Autodesk Discreet Flame in that you can choose a vector display called SpectraGraph to help narrow down the key color. Its range of controls are far superior to those of the previous chromakeyers, and the results are clean. Or you can monitor the created alpha. I just wish there was a way to use a background plate to help take away some of the minor disturbances. A garbage matte generator would also be great.


For me, aside from the bells and whistles, the most important thing in an edit box is speed. Speed doing repetitive tasks, scrolling, manipulating media, motion effects…simply getting the job done. The Symphony Nitris truly keeps up with me. Renders, when needed, are extremely fast, even in 16-bit processing mode. "Blue" dot effects render at close to previous "Orange" dot speeds.  Even adding workspaces from my Avid Unity is faster than it once was. 


A few comments about some other niceties: Fast Scrub is my newest favorite setting. It's in the timeline hamburger menu, and once you start using it you'll never go back. Real fast scrolling through the timeline without the jerky updating. 

For years I've had to bring in my digital audio by patching AES into my box and capturing it that way. Now, as long as the deck I'm using is capable of it, I can get all my tracks off the SDI audio input. Depending on the machine, the input is changeable from 16-bit to 24-bit, with up to 16 tracks. 

Speaking of audio, the interface to the "audio tool" has changed. You can now access a full complement of audio manipulators from a selector menu on the left-hand side of the interface, making it easier to get to EQ or Audio Suite tools. Selecting any of the three closes the interface to whichever tool you had open previously, so it helps save valuable screen real estate.

So, if you need a high performance edit system that will handle virtually all current media types, this is the system for you. Now, if it was only available on a Mac…