Pinnacle’s Liquid Line of NLEs

By Tor Rolf Seemann
DP / Editor
Nordic Boy Pictures

Just over a year ago today it seems that everybody was pushing “realtime” this and “realtime” that, I even got to the point where I started fantasizing about cutting my shows in realtime. Well that didn’t happen. Although Pinnacle’s Liquid Silver offers realtime wipes, dissolves and graphical keys it seems RT hardware has taken a back seat to feature rich software products like the Liquid line: Blue, Silver, Purple and Liquid Field. Silver being the only turnkey of the bunch that offers these RT features.

When you break it down to the smallest of details, it is logical that “good” effects must be rendered. The Liquid software allows for precise sub-pixel rendering in the background while you continue to work. There is no more need to “wait” for a render. Just keep on trucking down the timeline. Pinnacle Liquid is multi-threaded, so your complex, software-based effects -- like 3D DVE moves and compositing -- all occurs behind the scenes, making full use of all the processors and processing power your Windows 2000 workstation has to offer. The separation between Blue, Silver and Purple is based on I/O functionality and processing power. But multi-seat post houses will appreciate the common app between all systems.


The look or layout of the GUI is right up there in my list of priorities for any great NLE. Really, when you think about it, as a professional editor this is what your eyes will be glued to for years of your life. It’s possible you will spend more time in the dark with this screen than your own significant other, in my case my significant other is a collection of Anna Kournikova JPEGs.

When you launch the app, Liquid literally dominates the screen – to the point of appearing as its own operating system. The color scheme shifts to a darkened gray palette, some might say a bit too dark, I say, if rigor mortis had a color scheme this would be it. There is a Windows-style start button on the lower left corner of the screen – which now becomes Pinnacle’s control center. Liquid allows you to pick and choose exactly what tools are visible as well. Not only that, but you can move each icon to different areas on the screen, save user sets and content-sensitive hot keys, all based on the individual’s preferences.

I grew very fond of the audio preview function: Pinnacle makes full use of the traditional (video) preview window by showing two scales of waveform graphs. This is very handy when executing detailed edits based on audio. You can custom scale the lower waveform to your liking. I like the bottom to display the entire audio clip, and rely on the upper for the fine details of the wave. I have never been on a system that is so audio friendly. One of the most common shortcomings of other NLEs is the audio scrub. Liquid’s is truly scrub-a-licious. I’m talking analog style, clean, flowing, scrubbing. Nobody matches this quality. When using Pinnacle’s “Control” device, you can step further back into your tape-to-tape days and wrap your paws around a very responsive jog/shuttle dial with programmable keys surrounding it. This tool alone has saved me loads of time in my selects process and I feel I am interacting more directly with the material, similar to Tom Cruise’s character in Minority Report, and how he worked his way through the visual evidence of the “impending” murder displayed before him.


The Liquid line of editors is a great way to go, especially if you are in a multi-seat work group. With logins to your personal profile and settings easily swapped from bay to bay you will be enjoying the speed benefits of networked editors in no time. It makes sense that a lot of stations and post houses are going this route, there are great benefits in production speed, workgroup flexibility, cost savings based on common sharing of hardware and the ability to perform tapeless transfers. Multiple workstations can view and access the same media. While one bay might be capturing clips and adding them to the racks, down the hall another might be performing edits on a segment, while downstairs they are compositing the show open and end credit sequence. This process is sped up by use of metadata, meaning clips are merely pointers to the authentic media.


This is where it all comes together for Pinnacle. And all other subject headings aside, this is where it really counts. Opening a project for the first time in Liquid, it felt like a massive collection of all my favorite features from each of the systems I’ve used in the last 10 years. I felt at home, but it wasn’t my home -- it was my home on steroids. Its media management and sifting was similar to or better than Avid’s, its audio mixer was akin to that of the Media 100s, its timeline was a notch or two above Discreet Edit’s, its ease of operation and learning curve was right there with Adobe Premiere’s. In short, I had met my editing soul mate.

The history based undo’s get stored in the project, so even when you close it – take a three-week vacation to Istanbul, come back, reboot your computer -- it’s all still there. Similar to After Effects “sub-comping,” Liquid’s “containers” offer the same functionality. Step into them or composite them onto one track and forgetta-bout-it. Direct timeline editing, with both film style and overwrite mode. Speedy three point editing, a schnazzy trim editor, match frame capabilities and desktop storyboarding. Liquid makes a great FX editor, too. I noticed that my typical workflow was drastically different. I was staying in Liquid to compete the project. I didn’t need to be hopping between Sound Forge, After Effects and Photoshop to 3D Studio Max and Combustion. For the first time in my life I found it easy to speed ramp my footage with Pinnacle’s tool called “Linear and Dynamic Time Warp” – something Spock would have found a logical choice for the Enterprise if he had known about it.


Way to go Pinnacle Systems!  I have to admit, this is a company I had not hooked up with in the past; we hadn’t even flirted. I didn’t know a whole lot about them, except for their success with Targa boards and prosumer DV editing cards. I very quickly learned that this is the company to watch. Their successes have led to more successes, which have led to financial stability and the eating up companies left and right. Gaining the intellectual rights to Fast Studio’s software was a huge breakthrough for the company – and makes me giddy like a school girl to think of the potential of this Liquid line at Pinnacle Systems. I can’t help but think of the happy marriages that could be fostered between this new feature-rich software and the robust hardware that has made them their name over the years. The only choice left is color: Blue, Silver or Purple?


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