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Information Today, Inc.

December 28, 2009

Table of Contents

Vantage Point: Sound Design
MicroNet Expands MaxNAS Product Line with Scalable 8, 16 Terabyte Rackmount Units for SMBs
Wondertouch By GenArts Ships particleillusion For After Effects

Vantage Point: Sound Design

Sound design is the process of planning and creating a sound treatment that will enhance the storytelling of a film. Effective sound design improves a film without being overbearing or calling attention to itself.

Walter Murch coined the term sound design after creating the sound treatment for Apocalypse Now—a film that, along with Star Wars, forever changed the approach to sound editing in filmmaking. By incorporating simple aspects of the craft into our films, we can enhance our productions to better connect with consumers, which will result in more bookings and will increase the value of our product.

"Sound is NOT there to ‘help' the visuals. That's kindergarten filmmaking. Anyone who says that film is a visual medium is being foolish and naïve."—Randy Thom, sound designer (Harry Potter, Forrest Gump, Eragon)

The elements of sound are dialogue, music, and effects. The category of sound that is sorely underutilized in our industry is effects. Think about music videos. The purpose of a music video is to sell a track of music. Therefore, the music is primary, with all else being secondary. We, on the other hand, are attempting to tell a story, and music plays only one small part in accomplishing that goal.

Ambient sound is the natural background sound of any given environment. Ambience creates atmosphere and establishes a setting. It serves to set the mood and tone of a scene. If a couple is walking on the beach and ambient sound of the surf is captured and placed strategically in the film, the oceanic atmosphere will be heightened. The setting will then become multisensory.

"Sound is a heart thing."—Alan Splet, sound designer (best-known for his work with David Lynch)

Sound speaks to the emotions, not the intellect. Its power, though often subliminal, can be extremely profound. There's a scene in As Good as It Gets where Jack Nicholson and Helen Hunt are having dinner at a restaurant. The ambient track consists of the murmur of background conversations and the faint clinking of glasses and silverware. As their conversation becomes more intimate, the ambient sound is faded down, bringing the audience into this revelatory, private moment.

In wedding films, ambient sound of the bridesmaids laughing softly as the bride is dressing sets a tone of happiness and excitement. Clients will often be unaware of this type of sound treatment on a conscious level. However, they will connect with it emotionally. And affecting your prospective clients emotionally, through your clips, is vital to selling your product.

The term "room tone" refers to the sound in an empty room. No room is truly silent, and each has its own distinct sound. In the making of motion pictures, room tone is recorded and used behind dialogue to smooth out cuts and provide a consistent sound bed when, for example, the director's voice is edited out.

Event filmmakers can use room tone to improve the quality of just about everything we film. Pockets of dead air in a production are a silent killer. Prerecorded room tone will erase the jarring effects of dead air when sniffles or other unwanted sounds are edited out. Additionally, you can fade up room tone (or ambient sound at an outdoor wedding) as a lead-in (and out) to sound bites in stylized productions. This will reduce the jarring effect of going from a music only track to live captured sound.

Another key element of effective sound design is walla, a studio-captured mumbling (or buzz) of background voices. Walla adds atmosphere and a sense of reality. The genesis of the word goes back to the days of old radio shows. To create the sound of a crowd in the background, players would assemble and recite "walla" repeatedly to simulate conversation without any discernible words. Nowadays, Automatic Dialogue Replacement (ADR) groups record actual background conversations for films.

If you're unable to capture clean sound on location for a cocktail hour, simply add a track of walla along with your music track. It will enhance the effervescent atmosphere of friends and family being together; plus, with the music, it helps smooth out the cuts.

Prerecorded sound effects provide realism. Sounds such as birds singing, crickets chirping, and waves crashing all serve to take a wedding film from visual to visceral. The number of sound effects that can substantially enhance concept video productions is limitless. Sounddogs.com (http://sounddogs.com) has every sound effect imaginable.

The significance of a moment can be conveyed through the employment of hyper-real sound—sound that's exaggerated to convey a message. An example is the breaking of the glass at a Jewish wedding where the sound can end up more of a whisper than a roar. By raising the level of the sound beyond what one would experience in reality, the magnitude and significance of the act is emphasized.

Our brains naturally tune into the sounds that are pertinent to us and background the rest. We tune out sounds such as footsteps. Exaggerating these sounds keeps them from being overlooked. As sound editors, it's up to us to decide which sounds we want to be the focus of attention for our audience. Attempting to re-create the actual soundtrack of life would be distracting because it can be too densely loaded with noises. The trick is to use sound to make a point rather than overwhelming viewers with a cacophony of competing noises.

"Unveil the truth by embracing the false."—Laura Moses

By thinking creatively and using sound effects to reveal the truth within our stories, we can touch the hearts and souls of our audience.

Laura Moses (info at vppvideo.com) is half of Vantage Point Productions of San Dimas, California. She and her husband, Steve, are WEVA Hall of Famers, winners of multiple international awards, and three-time EventDV 25 all-stars.

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MicroNet Expands MaxNAS Product Line with Scalable 8, 16 Terabyte Rackmount Units for SMBs

MicroNet Technology, a leading provider of storage solutions that small and medium businesses and enterprises (SMBs) (SMEs) can rely on, today announced an extension to its MaxNAS product line with the introduction of the first rackmount MaxNAS units, providing scalable, high-density networked storage with the affordability and reliability demanded by small and medium sized businesses and enterprises.

The new MaxNAS 1u and 2u hold four and eight 3.5-inch SATA drives respectively. and can be configured with 1 or 2 terabyte drives, delivering up to 16 TBs of shared storage capacity for the most demanding storage-centric applications. The new MaxNAS appliances are stackable, allowing up to six devices to be connected in a rack and managed as a single volume, making capacity expansion quick and easy and giving administrators the ability to manage 96 TBs as a single, high density network storage pool.

The built-in iSCSI targets provides an affordable IP SAN alternative for SMB and SME. When configured you can set up the servers to access the device as direct-attached-storage over LAN or Internet via the high-speed Gigabit Ethernet connection and enabling network administrator to centrally manage and deploy storage for their entire network.

The MaxNAS 4R and 8R rackmount storage appliances are engineered to meet the demanding 24/7 uptime requirements for SMB shared network storage. Critical components – including drive bays, power supplies and cooling fans – are redundant and hot-swappable. Dual Gig-E ports on both the MaxNAS 4R and 8R enable continuous up time with auto failover and load balancing across the connections. Multiple RAID levels are supported, including RAID-6, ensuring continued access and data integrity even in the rare case of dual drive failures.

The new MaxNAS products are also ideal storage platforms to support IP-based video surveillance applications. Leveraging dual Gig-E connections with link aggregation, the MaxNAS 4R and 8R are equipped with the bandwidth to handle IP video feeds from multiple cameras, making them the perfect network storage appliance for one the one of the fastest growing market opportunities in data storage. According to IP Video Market Info, video surveillance storage revenue is projected to average double-digit growth over the next four years and reach $2.95 Billion in 2013.

“With the unrelenting growth in email archives, databases and digital content there is nothing small about the storage capacity challenges facing SMBs and SMEs today,” said AdiAntariksa, Director of Sales –RAID Products at MicroNet. “The new MaxNAS R4 and R8 are optimized to meet the needs of SMB and SME storage environments with designs that allow customers to protect their storage hardware investment and grow storage with the business.”

Both the MaxNAS R4 and R8 NAS appliances support Microsoft Windows, Apple Macintosh, Linux and other environments. The MaxNAS devices give users the option to configure the storage systems with Linux-based ext3 file system or ZFS file systems based on their individual requirements. The ZFS file system also supports snapshot functions, allowing MaxNAS users to implement version control and efficiently create and restore remote backups.

The Nsync remote data backup application, enabling the automatic upload of files to an external storage device at a designated time. Files can be automatically backed up from field offices to a central office site or replicated to a remote site for disaster recovery purposes.

Additional features include:

  • RAID-0, 1, 5, 6, 10, JBOD
  • Multiple RAID Set with Auto Rebuild, SMART
  • Jumbo Frame Support
  • AES 256 Volume based Data Encryption
  • Digital Audio Access Protocol Server for iTunes
  • UPnP Media Server – Photo WEB server
  • Multiple expansion ports: USB 2.0, eSATA, PCI-e
  • Printer Server Support with Internet Printing Protocol for USB printers
  • Power Management with Disk Spindown for Energy Cost Savings

Pricing and Availability
The MaxNAS R4 and R8 are currently available with pricing starting at $1,679.00 for a 4-TB MaxNAS R4 to $5,195.00 for 16TB MaxNAS R8 . The products are distributed through Ingram Micro and available through the Ingram partner channel.

About MicroNet Technology and Fantom Drives
For 20 years, Torrance, California-based MicroNet and Fantom Drives have manufactured a full range of storage solutions that customers can rely on. From the affordable G-Force line of desktop products to high-performance RAID and NAS solutions. MicroNet and Fantom Drives continue to lead the industry in reliability, quality, performance and value. Their award-winning storage solutions include G-Force External Hard Drives, RAIDBank4 and Platinum RAID Disk Arrays, PlatinumNAS and MaxNAS Network Attached Storage (NAS), Optical Drives and a complete range of accessories. For product and reseller information, contact MicroNet and Fantom Drives, at phone: 310-320-7272, fax: 310-328-0202, or on the World Wide Web at http://www.micronet.com or http://www.fantomdrives.com.

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Wondertouch By GenArts Ships particleillusion For After Effects

wondertouch by GenArts announced today the immediate availability of particleIllusion™ for After Effects (pIAE) for users of Adobe After Effects on Windows. Available as a plug-in for the first time, particleIllusion for After Effects enables artists to create gorgeous particle effects directly within After Effects, producing a more efficient workflow and significantly enhanced productivity. Like its stand-alone sibling particleIllusion 3.0, pIAE is built on the industry’s most robust 2D particle generation engine.

As a result, it features the same highly acclaimed speed and ease of use that have made wondertouch products so popular with more than 10,000 compositing artists around the world. In addition, pIAE provides access to the thousands of existing wondertouch emitters -- downloadable presets designed to allow users to effortlessly create natural, high-quality effects such as smoke, fire, explosions, sparkles, fireworks and countless abstract effects -- without ever leaving the After Effects environment.

particleIllusion for After Effects features include:

  • The same emitter search engine found in wondertouch particleView
  • Access to all top-level particle parameters, including size, life, number, velocity, etc. to further customize the particles for each project
  • OpenGL-accelerated rendering
  • Full support for HD content
  • The ability to load most of the more than 2,800 existing particleIllusion emitters in After Effects, including the popular “Pro Emitters”

“particleIllusion for After Effects is the particles solution we’ve been waiting for,” said Ernest Chan, Post Production CG Supervisor at Nickelodeon Animation Studios. “We are huge fans of the incredible ease of use and high-quality output that wondertouch products have delivered for years. Now, we get all those benefits in a more streamlined workflow that maximizes our creativity while minimizing our support costs. particleIllusion for After Effects is the right product at just the right time.”

Artists using particleIllusion for After Effects can gain even greater control by using it in conjunction with particleIllusion 3.0. An excellent companion to pIAE, particleIllusion 3.0 grants access to all emitter settings and lower-level parameters such as color gradients, particle images, initial angle settings, and so on. Artists can also create new emitters and libraries, or move emitters between libraries using particleIllusion 3.0.

“particleIllusion 3.0 as a standalone application has earned its reputation by allowing customers to create stunning, natural effects that they would never have the time or resources to accomplish with other tools,” said Alan Lorence, creator of particleIllusion. “particleIllusion for After Effects further enhances artists’ creativity by offering convenient, intuitive access to our amazing preset library without having to leave the After Effects environment.”

Pricing and Availability

  • Regular pricing for particleIllusion for After Effects is $299
  • Existing particleIllusion 3.0 users can purchase particleIllusion for After Effects for $179
  • particleIllusion for After Effects BUNDLED with particleIllusion 3.0 can be purchased for $579
  • particleIllusion for After Effects BUNDLED with all 12 Pro Emitter libraries can be purchased for $499
  • particleIllusion for After Effects BUNDLED with particleIllusion 3.0 AND all 12 Pro Emitter libraries can be purchased for $799

particleIllusion for After Effects is available immediately for Windows users, and will be available in Q1 2010 for Macintosh users. Visit http://www.wondertouch.com to order online or to find a reseller.

About wondertouch by GenArts
wondertouch by GenArts is an award-winning software developer specializing in particle effects for the visual effects industry. The company's flagship product particleIllusion, a sprite-based particle effects application, is designed to provide the most comprehensive effects creation tool and efficient workflow. Considered one of the most popular solutions for effects creation, particleIllusion is now used worldwide by creative professionals working in film post-production and pre-visualization, standard and HD video, commercial broadcast, motion graphics and game content creation.

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