The Mac

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By "The Mac" we mean YSTV's first venture into the world of Apple Macintosh computers, our 1998 Mac-based edit suite. In 2011 YSTV again wrangled enough (although now significantly less) money out of YUSU to buy an iMac to open up the possibility of editing using Final Cut Pro.

The Mac

The hardware

At the time of purchase it was incredibly expensive, some £6000, and took YSTV a number of years to pay back YUSU the funds needed to buy it. A solid steel "mac safe" was mandated on insurance grounds, as protecting the investment was paramount. There were only two safe keys, one of which was on the shared key fob held by the porter and the other by the Station Director.

This is a 233MHz beige G3, fitted with a Media 100qx hardware acceleration card in order to be able to capture and play back video in real time.

It is too old to have a Firewire port, and so capture and export can only be analogue. An external 16GB SCSI disk drive provides some extra storage space (but not much!). With no writeable optical drive and only a 10Mbit network connection, finding enough free space to edit in was a perennial problem. The digital copies of Mmmbop, 50% titles, and Nony nony nah were all done by putting a parasite machine on the spare shelf of the safe and leaving the flattened movie files transferring over a weekend (!) from the serial port via ZModem.

Decline

Whilst the picture quality obtained from the system was and is very good, its Achilles heel was the interfacing between MacOS 8.2 and the hardware capture card. This combined with the dubious stability of Adobe Premeire 5.5 for Mac meant that crashes whilst working or during the marathon render times were all to common. In practice, because of this it was rarely used for much other than short VTs and title sequences towards the end - for example, rendering a simple caption would take around ten minutes. This is one reason why Bulletin (again) rarely had VTs towards the end of its run, falling in the gap between the abandoning of Sony Umatic/JVC SVHS editing and quick PC editing.

There was also the problem that new, VT-heavy shows such as YSTV Week, Small Screen and The Music Show simply couldn't run using the Mac to edit or play out. This was partly alleviated during 2002 by the availability of the Einstein TV edit machine, but that disappeared again, leaving us using what was Graphics PC as an edit suite in the summer term of 2003. The Mac continued to be used for play out because of the poor TV out from the graphics card and concerns over reliability. This was finaly resolved around October/November 2003 when funds came through from YUSU to buy a dedicated Edit PC. By this point crashes during broadcast play-out had become an all too common event (including virtually every clip in the first episode of Small Screen). Edit PC proved both quicker and more reliable, as the rise in CPU powers had made the hardware acceleration unnecessary.

YSTV still has the Mac in a flight case in the studio, although it has not been used since 2005 (although it was fired up at one point in early 2011 by Michael Cullen to have a bit of a play - it still works), primarily to allow exported material to be recovered - though this is also possible using QuickTime 6.5 on a PC with Media 100's iFinish plugin.