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Matrox MXO2 – To MAX or not to MAX, that is the question

We’ve had a lot of inquiries lately from customers interested in Matrox MXO2 hardware who are unsure if they need to get the “MAX” option or not. I’d like to share some information here to help you make an informed decision on this for yourself.

Quite simply, MAX is for H.264 export and capture. It provides hardware-accelerated H.264 output of your finished edit sequences to formats for Blu-ray, web, and mobile devices using a dedicated compression chip in the MXO2 box. Using the new Matrox MAX H.264 Capture application with MXO2 with MAX hardware, video can also be captured direct to H.264, skipping the two-step “capture and export” process.

MAX does not accelerate the rendering of any effects – it only kicks in for the final export to H.264 and assumes any “red bar” areas of your sequence have been pre-rendered. Therefore, the export performance of Matrox MAX has remained constant since its introduction. Whether using a laptop or desktop, PC or Mac, MAX converts video to H.264 at, or a little faster than, realtime. All users should expect to see the same performance with MAX, and this compression technology can also be had without the MXO2 by ordering the Matrox CompressHD card.

When MXO2 with MAX was introduced a couple of years ago, H.264 encoding was taking several times longer than realtime in most instances, and MAX brought that encode time down to realtime or faster – a HUGE time-savings! With the introduction of Adobe CS5 and the Adobe Mercury Playback Engine, exports suddenly became a lot faster natively when using a high-performance workstation.

This means if you have a Core i7-2600 PC workstation with NVIDIA graphics, such as a Safe Harbor Tsunami Riptide, you’re likely already getting very fast encodes from Adobe Media Encoder 5.5. I’ve found that while web formats may be close to realtime, export to Blu-ray still takes maybe 1.5x realtime, so MAX would definitely help if doing a lot of Blu-ray encoding on long projects.

While the H.264 encoding may be fast in Adobe CS5.5 natively with the latest PC workstation configuration, this will not be the case with laptops, older computers, or Apple Compressor, so the MAX option is still very viable in those situations to decrease encoding time.

As for the MXO2 hardware itself without MAX, PC users will benefit from Matrox RT technology which provides acceleration for Matrox effects, as well as many Adobe effects. Hardware up/down/cross conversion is also provided, along with the video monitoring and HDMI calibration features. Recent drivers now allow the MXO2 hardware to be used as an input device for live video streaming software such as Adobe Flash Media Live Encoder.

With all the benefits the MXO2 hardware brings to Premiere editors on the PC, I think most users would see the value of having an MXO2 device, and many of those users would benefit from having the MAX technology available for super-fast H.264 encoding.

If you should have any questions about Matrox products, Tsunami workstations, or any of the hardware and software solutions that Safe Harbor offers for video editors, please feel free to give us a call at (800) 544-6599, send us an email at sales@sharbor.com, or connect with us on Facebook, Twitter, or YouTube.

If you’re interested in learning some tips and tricks to utilize all the features and benefits that the MXO2 hardware has to offer with CS5, be sure to check out our exclusive tutorial, “Mastering Matrox MXO2 with Adobe Premiere Pro CS5,” or watch the short preview below.

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Matrox MXO2 – To MAX or not to MAX, that is the question