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November 2014
Issue: July 1, 2010

MATROX'S MX02 MINI

By: Jonathan Moser
PRODUCT: Matrox MX02 Mini (tested on a Mac Pro)

WEBSITE: www.matrox.com/en

PRICE: $449
- HDMI/Component/S-Video/Composite outs
- PC/Mac with PciE or Expresscard|34 adapter
- First third-party HD monitoring option for Media Composer
- Blue-only function allows pro set up of low-cost monitors

The introduction of the Matrox MX02 Mini actually makes a little bit of video history: It’s the first third-party hardware option Avid deemed worthy of being allowed into the exclusive club with Media Composer. Matrox is well-known for its quality and value, so the partnership with Avid bodes well for both companies.

To put this little guy into perspective, I need to tell a real-life story: I was recently working on a breaking news program (something to do with a little oil spill) in which there was a ton of different media formats and codecs — all had to be ingested fast and furiously as things were changing minute-to-minute.

At one point the facility was maxed out of computers for transcoding and the show was in danger. I had been beta testing the MX02 along with Media Composer 5 on a MacBook Pro, which I happened to have with me — all snug in my laptop case. I brought the laptop out, booted it up, slipped in the Expresscard adapter and hooked up the MX02 Mini.

I fed an ingest DVCAM deck the component out of the Matrox box, then asked for the drives with the media that would have had to be transcoded and hooked it up via FireWire. Media Composer’s AMA functionality immediately found the various QuickTimes, built bins for me, and I quickly built a timeline with all the media. I went to the start of the timeline, hit record on the DVCAM, playback on the Avid and began recording all the needed media in realtime without transcoding, and all within 15 minutes... ta da!

Rarely has an editor had a chance to be a superhero — but the real hero was Media Composer 5 paired with the Matrox MXO2 Mini. This is not how the MX02 was designed to function with Media Composer. Avid specifies it only as a monitoring solution, but I think this won’t be the first or last time the Matrox and Media Composer 5 break the rules together, especially with its myriad output selections.

In a tiny package (W: 6.5 inches H:1.5 inches D: 4.5 inches), the Mini packs a lot of power and is a long-awaited answer for inexpensively monitoring in both SD and HD for Media Composer. At $449, the Mini is $7,000 less than the Mojo DX, (previously the only way to monitor in HD), plus it has HDMI, Component, S-Video and Composite outputs. At this price point, facilities that wanted multiple Media Composers but balked at the high monitoring costs can now outfit bays for a fraction of the cost with simultaneous HD and SD feeds.

INSTALLATION

There are a number of iterations of the MX02 line and it’s easy to mix up the drivers selection on the download site. Selecting the Mini’s drivers requires negotiating through a number of options.
After software installation, the control panel for the Mini shows up in system preferences. There you’ll find tabs for initial set-up levels and AV I/Os. Source selections will come up, along with audio embedding options for HDMI, and other test and set-up options.

A great feature is in its “blue-only” calibration utility that will let you set up inexpensive monitors in the same way professional-grade monitors are set up and with fantastic color accuracy. With the right interface cards, you can run the Mini on a laptop or desktop, Mac or PC.

HOW IT PERFORMS

Versatility and flexibility are key attributes of the Mini. Though this review primarily focuses on its use as a monitoring solution for Media Composer 5, Final Cut, After Effects, Premiere and others, users will find its various inputting and acceleration capabilities (especially for the Adobe Mercury Playback engine) exceptional.

Up to eight channels of audio (5.1 and 7.1 surround sound) are carried with the HDMI signal, but audio output is also available from the box itself. Playback of AMA-accessed footage was crisp and stutter-free. It outputs 720x486 (NTSC), 720x586 (PAL), 1920x1080 and 1280x720.
While Avid is positioning this as a playback-only solution, it’s no secret that other systems use this for ingest. It’s not hard to figure how this can be used for inputting and even outputting to tape or DVDs.

Matrox also has capture software on its Website, with a number of proprietary codecs. Matrox’s realtime hardware-based 10-bit downscaling allows the ability to view HD projects on SD monitors with aspect ratio conversions for letterbox or anamorphic views.

It should be noted that there is a hardware option (MAX H.264) for faster-than-realtime H.264 encoding on the Mini. This is obviously not necessary for use as the monitoring solution for Media Composer 5, but handy to have if you do any serious encoding work using Matrox’s own software.

FINAL THOUGHTS

This is a great value, providing a lot of bang for the buck, even if Media Composer 5 really doesn’t make use of its ingest capabilities, a savvy user can. Indications are this is only the beginning for hardware openness for Media Composer. Avid is supplying third-party vendors with SDKs to create drivers for Avid systems.

Jonathan Moser is the Owner/Operator of Flashcut Productions in New York. He can be reached via email at: flashcutter@yahoo.com.