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Copyright © 2004 -
Information Today, Inc.

April 25, 2005

Table of Contents

The Moving Picture: Avid at the Apex
NewTek Announces VT[4] Version 4.5
Alienware Unleashes New MJ-12 7550 Desktop Workstation with Dual AMD Processors
ADS Tech Unveils New PYRO Studio Bundled with Sony Vegas+DVD Production Suite
More Electronics Firms Join Debate to End DVD War, Reuters Reports
Alera Technologies Announces New 16X 11:1 DVD Super Copy Tower
ADS Tech's New Portable Dual-Link SDI Converter Delivers Bi-directional DV and SDI Transcoding in the Field
EventDV Survey #13: RESULTS

The Moving Picture: Avid at the Apex

At the high end of digital video editing, Avid Technology is clearly the market leader and has been for some time. After all, it's pretty impressive to be able to claim statistics like having Avid products used on all five Best Picture Oscar nominees and roughly 98% of primetime network television programming over the last few years. Avid's recently announced acquisition of Pinnacle Systems should only further that position by adding complementary professional broadcast and live production tools to the product portfolio.

Yet, Avid has been a little less dominant over the years with the products targeting the EventDV and independent videographer market. That's not to say that Avid Xpress isn't a great product or set of tools, but certainly 5 out of 5 event videographers don't use it. There are many other legitimate options available to videographers, often at a lower cost than Avid's premium prices. Pinnacle, with both the consumer-oriented, yet powerful Studio editing software and the Liquid family of prosumer editors, has been one of those competitors, and that makes Avid's pending acquisition of Pinnacle both exciting and somewhat tenuous.

Both companies are publicly traded and that mandates that neither speak publicly about current or future product plans, except to say that they will both continue to manufacture, sell, and support all current products--at least until the transaction closes. Still, there are a few predictions we can reasonably make at this stage.

At the high end, Avid just gets stronger. Avid's President, David Krall, has already pointed to the synergies between two respective product lines, especially with Pinnacle's broadcast products. Avid's strength is in building top editing systems, and many Avid customers already use Pinnacle's play-to-air products, like Deko Titler, Thunder, and MediaStream. Putting them under one roof, and into the portfolio of one sales force, is a logical move that should only strengthen Avid's core business.

The most visible change from the Pinnacle acquisition, however, will likely come from Studio. It's the current clear market leader in the Windows-platform consumer editing and immediately brings a broad base of new users—many of them future customers for Avid's higher-end products--into the fold.

This isn't Avid's first trip down the consumer road, although it's been several years since the last one. In the mid-1990s, Avid launched a product called Avid Cinema which included template shot lists and storyboards to help amateurs both shoot and edit events like birthday parties, vacations, and sports. Avid Cinema was not a success, although the more modest analog camcorders and capture hardware of the day should shoulder more of the blame than Avid's software. Today, in the era of high-quality consumer digital camcorders and easy capture, as well as the stereotypical ease with which young people approach technology, Pinnacle Studio has been a strong source of revenue. Acquiring Studio, complete with a well-oiled distribution and sales channel, immediately puts Avid into a market-leading position.

Avid knows, just as with a decade ago, that maintaining a leadership position means planning for tomorrow. Cinema attempted to get the Avid brand in front of the high-end editors of tomorrow. That's especially important today because aspiring editors can learn their future trades on increasingly sophisticated, yet affordable interfaces from companies like Adobe, Canopus, Ulead, Sony Media Software, and Apple. Indeed, Apple, with products spanning from iMovie to Final Cut Pro, may be Avid's biggest threat, and acquiring Studio enables Avid to meet Apple head on.

What remains to be seen is how much Avid will tinker with Studio's branding and interface. As the market leader, "Pinnacle Studio" is a known consumer brand. Changing to "Avid Studio," even ignoring the confusion that would create with Avid Xpress Studio, will be tricky, yet inevitable if Avid is to put its brand out to future editors. Making over the Studio interface could be even riskier and more rewarding if it offers aspiring editors a flavor of the Avid timeline. Already Studio brilliantly allows users to toggle between storyboard and timeline views of their products. Avid's timeline is less intuitive on the surface than either, but that only makes Studio a potentially more powerful teaching tool if Avid can tweak the Studio timeline to hint more of Avid's higher-end approach.

Pinnacle's Liquid line, including Liquid Edition, is probably in the most tenuous position in an Avid-owned world. On the one hand, at least until the most recent version of Xpress, Avid struggled with giving its corporate/independent-level product enough power to compete, but not so much that it would eat into the company's higher-end sales. Liquid Edition currently sells for less than half the price of Xpress Pro--and exactly the same price as XpressDV, thanks to its price drop at NAB--without yielding much in functionality, at least not on the spec sheet. The hardware/software integrated version of Liquid competes quite directly with the Xpress Pro. What's more, Liquid's entire look and feel are quite a bit different from any of Avid's current products.

Can Avid find a middle ground for Liquid Edition somewhere between Studio and Xpress? That would be nice, especially given Edition's novel all-in-one editing/DVD authoring timeline. However, it may be just as likely that Avid will leverage some of the technology from Edition, like native (without conversion) HDV editing and blend it into Xpress.

Best-guess speculation aside, we'll have to wait until the acquisition is completed--probably sometime this summer—before we find out what Avid has in mind.

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NewTek Announces VT[4] Version 4.5

NewTek, Inc. has announced the latest software version of its VT[4] integrated Production Suite, designed to serve all professional video production needs from network broadcast to web streaming. VT[4] version 4.5 provides real-time layering and effects for live video and graphics in most PC file formats and operates internally in uncompressed D1 component video, with composite, Y/C, component, DV or optional SDI output. NewTek's VT[4] includes integrated timeline and storyboard editing, paint, 3D modeling and animation, titling, keying, live switching and more. "

NewTek is implementing several major new features into VT[4] version 4.5, covering new graphics, titling and output capabilities, as well as significant system improvements. New Features include:

  • LightWave 3D, version 8.3
  • A re-designed character generator for live production
  • Native XGA projector output
  • iVGA adds external computer displays as a switcher input
  • Smooth scaling of all sources for pristine output in any format
  • An improved video codec that offers 5:1 compression and 4:2:2 color-space, exceeding DV quality

System improvements include:

  • New drivers with increased stability and lower system overhead
  • Faster loading of DVEs
  • Improved switcher performance when using 3 cameras
  • Improved PAL signal quality

VT[4] Version 4.5 also offers built-in integration for a wide range of popular tools for film and television effects, including Digital Fusion, After Effects, combustion, 3ds max, and more. VT[4] Version 4.5's frame buffer output for these applications provides artists with instant feedback on what their shots, graphics elements, and composites will look like when broadcast. VT[4] Version 4.5 also includes a Project Codec that lets any application with AVI support load VT[4] project files with no conversion or rendering, allowing VT[4] Version 4.5 to integrate into virtually any production pipeline.

VT[4] Version 4.5 will be a free download for registered VT[4] owners, and retails at $3495.


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Alienware Unleashes New MJ-12 7550 Desktop Workstation with Dual AMD Processors

Alienware, a leading manufacturer of high-performance desktop, notebook, media center and professional computing systems, has announced the availability of the new Alienware MJ-12 7550A workstation featuring dual AMD Opteron processors and dual PCI Express graphics with support for SLI-enabled NVIDIA Quadro graphics. Powered by the new NVIDIA nForce Professional chipset and featuring a new case design, the MJ-12 7750A is designed for computer-aided design and manufacturing, digital content creation, and other rendering-intensive applications.

As the latest addition to Alienware's award-winning line of workstations, the MJ-12 7550A packs cutting-edge dual AMD Opteron 200 Series processors to provide enhanced performance over previous-generation MJ-12 systems. The MJ-12 7550A is based on the NVIDIA nForce Professional chipset, which is the fastest-performing and most stable platform on the market. The MJ-12 7550A boasts a new case design that ensures the quiet operation possible through next-generation acoustic dampening. The case also provides extra ventilation to promote lower system temperatures and includes numerous front-accessible ports for added convenience.

Featuring support for dual PCI Express graphics, the MJ-12 7550A is able to deliver beautifully rendered images on up to four monitors. This feature also enables SLI technology, which allows two graphics cards to work together to draw a single image, resulting in up to twice the graphics performance of non-SLI systems. Creative professionals will also benefit from advancements such as support for the latest SATA II drives to enable faster data transfer rates and dual-channel DDR registered memory for improved stability.


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ADS Tech Unveils New PYRO Studio Bundled with Sony Vegas+DVD Production Suite

ADS Tech has unveiled PYRO® A/V Link™ Studio that includes ADS Tech's 1394/Firewire-based Analog/Digital Video (DV) converter bundled with the Sony Vegas®+DVD Production Suite of video and audio software tools. Combined, the hardware and software components provide professional media producers and prosumers with a video production solution that includes everything they need to begin capturing, editing, and processing DV, HDV, and creating other content, including surround-sound audio and streaming media.

 In addition to including ADS Tech's PYRO PCI 64 FireWire/1394 Card and cable, the new post production suite includes PYRO A/V Link, an external box that connects to the user's PC through the FireWire port. With Composite, S-VHS and Component connectors, users can quickly and easily capture video from a variety of sources--a DV camcorder, DV deck, analog VCR, analog camcorder, and new HDV camcorders. And with ADS Tech's Locked Audio Technology, users also have the assurance that the transferred audio and video will be perfectly synchronized, according to ADS. Video captured and stored on the user's PC can be exported to a TV or studio monitor.

The full retail version of the Vegas+DVD Production Suite that comes bundled with PYRO Studio is a feature-rich non-linear editing (NLE) solution that supports both NTSC and PAL video formats. It includes Vegas 6 software for editing, DVD Architect 3 software for DVD authoring, and Dolby Digital AC-3 encoding software for creating surround sound projects. Vegas 6 software features a comprehensive set of professional tools for A/V production with unlimited tracks, customizable 2D and 3D effects and transitions, project nesting, advanced media management, as well as surround sound production, compositing, titling, scoring, and finishing in nearly any format.

Designed to work seamlessly with the Vegas 6 environment, DVD Architect 3 authoring software features a fully customizable interface to enhance workflow. Among the powerful DVD layout tools included is a project overview window that provides a hierarchical view of all of the menus and titles in a DVD project, support for multiple camera angles, subtitles, copy protection tools, media effects and dual-layer authoring and burning. With support for 24p encoding of MPEG-2 files, users can create 24p DVDs which allow more video on the DVD and/or higher bit-rates. ADS Tech's PYRO Studio also supports other leading DV video editing solutions as well as Apple's iMovie and Final Cut Pro for Mac users.

PYRO Studio has an expected street price of US$699. The complete video production solution will be available in May 2005 through DV dealers and distributors such as Broadfield, B & H Photo, Wynit, CWOL.com, Unitek, D & H Distributing, The Video Guys, Safe Harbor, J & R Computer World, and other major retailers, and e-tailers. PYRO Studio includes the PYRO A/V Link external device, a 6-ft. composite analog and video cable, a 6-ft. S-VHS cable, two 1394 cables, ADS Tech PYRO PCI-64 FireWire Interface Card, and a power supply plus Sony's Vegas+DVD Suite with the full retail versions of Vegas 6, DVD Architect 3, and user guides.


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More Electronics Firms Join Debate to End DVD War, Reuters Reports

More electronics companies have joined talks between Japan's Sony Corp. and Toshiba Corp. to develop a common format for next-generation DVDs and end a fierce battle, industry sources said on Friday. Other key companies involved in the format war, including Matsushita's Panasonic and Netherlands-based Philips are also studying ways to end the three-year stand-off that is threatening to stifle the industry's growth, Reuters reports.

But sources close to the electronics companies said it was still early days, and that the discussions would take a long time, while adding that a positive outcome was not guaranteed. "Discussions are taking place, but it's very complex, both in terms of technology but also because so many companies have a stake in this," one source told Reuters.

At the core of both formats are blue lasers, which have a shorter wavelength than the red lasers used in current DVD equipment, enabling thinner lines and higher density of information on a single 12 centimeter disc. Higher-storage DVDs are needed for high-definition movies and television. The companies which contribute to the next DVD standard can expect hundreds of millions, or even billions of euros (dollars) in royalty income over coming decades.

Panasonic said the Blu-ray standard it supports is the best format for next generation optical disc, but a spokesman added his firm "remains open to adopting appropriate technologies for the best interest of consumers and the marketplace." Philips declined to comment. Sony and Toshiba said on Thursday they would work toward a common format in order to avoid a drawn-out fight that would confuse consumers and hinder the industry's development, just like the spat between the VHS and Betamax video tape formats two decades ago. The so-called format war also parallels events in the prehistoric era of DVD, when two formats called SuperCD and MMCD battled for supremacy before reaching a compromise and yielding what we now know as DVD. In an interview with Reuters earlier this month in France, Yukinori Kawauchi, the general manager in charge of the new format for Sony, had said his company was "open to discussions" on creating a single technology standard.

The about-turn coincides with the recent appointment of new chief executives at both Sony and Toshiba who do not have a strong personal interest in either format and can be more flexible. The Blu-ray technology is backed by a group including Sony, Dell Inc., Samsung Electronics Co. Ltd., Philips Electronics NV and Matsushita. Toshiba, with NEC Corp. and Sanyo Electric Co. Ltd., has been promoting a technology called HD-DVD. Electronics companies hope the technology will spark a new wave of purchases for DVD players, and Hollywood's movie studios hope to benefit from a new round of buying of advanced DVDs.

Unlike the original DVD format dispute between 1993 and 1995, which was eventually resolved in a few months when the Sony-Philips camp agreed to develop a single standard with a camp around Toshiba and Warner, the current alliances involve many more companies, including those from the personal computer industry and Hollywood. "There's a lot of powerplay internally. The managers may like the idea of a single standard, but the companies don't want to throw away everything they have developed," one source said.

Sony and Toshiba have reportedly already begun briefing Walt Disney Co. and other Hollywood movie studios for approval of a unified standard, paving the way for the signing of an agreement between the rival camps. A unified format would be favorable for profitability across the industry because consumers would be more comfortable about buying next-generation products and manufacturers could achieve lower production costs. The different formats for recordable DVDs, which were developed in the late 1990s, have made drives more expensive. While the discussions to unify the format take place, preparations to introduce different HD-DVD and Blu-ray equipment later this year continue, the companies have said.

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Alera Technologies Announces New 16X 11:1 DVD Super Copy Tower

Alera Technologies, developer and manufacturer of Aleratec DVD/CD Optical Recording and Duplicating Solutions, has unveiled its next generation of Super Copy Towers. The new DVD/CD Super Copy Tower stand alone DVD/CD Duplicator can make up to 11 simultaneous DVD copies at up to 16x or 11 simultaneous CD copies at up to 48X without a computer. The Aleratec 1:11 DVD/CD Super Copy Tower can produce more than 100 DVDs per hour, according to Alera.

This Super Copy Tower supports Double Layer technology that can copy 8.5GB Double Layer DVDs. Also featured is a new Aleratec two button Cruise Control duplicator controller with advanced new functions. The 1:11 DVD/CD Super Copy Tower incorporates a 80GB hard disk drive that can store up to 16 images of your frequently used DVDs for making up to 11 quick copies of any one of these images simultaneously. The system also can sense if there is a readable source DVD in any of the DVD recorders and can use this as a source disc to make up to 10 simultaneous copies without loading to the hard disk drive. 

The Super Copy Tower can copy at up to 16X on both DVD+R and DVD-R media. The rewrite speeds are up to 8X with DVD+RW and 6X with DVD-RW media. The DVD read speed is 16X. The CD recording speeds are CD-R 48X and CD-RW 24X. The 1:11 DVD/CD Super Copy Tower also has 8.5GB Double Layer technology supporting 4X copies 80% larger in capacity than conventional DVD discs.

With an estimated street price of $2,299, the new DVD/CD Super Copy Tower is designed for Prosumer, Corporate, Government and Education applications. An easy to use, two button Cruise Control duplicator controller is all new and has a compact two-level menu structure with the 5 most used duplicator functions (Copy, Compare, Verify, Erase, Test) readily available in the first level. It has a large and bright back-lighted display that shows the number of discs loaded and monitors the copy process. The new Cruise Control has diagnostics and copy controls to satisfy the needs of even the most discerning professional user, including a unique new copy counter that can be set to count the total number of copies produced in a production run. The Aleratec 1:11 DVD/CD Super Copy Towers are compact single tower configurations that occupy less than half the footprint and are about half the cost of other implementations of tower type duplicators incorporating more than 10 recorders, according to Alera.


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ADS Tech's New Portable Dual-Link SDI Converter Delivers Bi-directional DV and SDI Transcoding in the Field

ADS Tech has today its new portable Dual-Link SDI (Serial Digital Interface) Converter with embedded AES/EBU digital stereo audio functionality. The Dual-Link SDI transcoder is a 1394a bi-directional device that converts DV audio/video to and from SDI video, the broadcast standard digital interface. Windows XP and MAC OS X-compatible, the versatile device can be used with a portable battery pack, making it ideal for on-location news and event broadcasts, according to ADS.

With the Dual-link SDI Converter, camera operators have a cost-effective solution for Betacam transcoding, transporting content for NLE production and connecting to studio SDI network backbones or affiliate SDI matrices--all while leveraging legacy equipment. Designed for convenience and improved workflow, the compact device eliminates the wire clutter and the connector adaptors associated with using a DV camera to transcode.

The converter works with Betacam SX equivalents to the Sony BVW-55 Betacam SP Editing Recorder such as the DNW-A25 Betacam SX Portable Editing Recorder. In addition to being SMPTE-259M-compliant, the ADS Tech Dual-Link SDI transcoder is enhanced with an embedded audio transmitter and receiver that conform to the SMPTE 272M-A standard. The high picture quality of Dual-Link SDI is embedded with AES/EBU digital stereo audio with a sampling frequency of 48kHz (synchronous to video) to ensure high-quality audio.

Other features, such as the ability to adjust the default start-up options, let the user customize the device to speed workflow. A decode/encode switch is also included that allows users to change modes without being connected to a computer. With auto detection and support for both PAL and NTSC, the ADS Tech Dual-Link SDI Converter is built for international use.

Featuring a low-profile design, ADS Tech's Dual-Link Converter is housed in a rugged yet lightweight case designed for portability. The low-profile device features 4-pin and 6-pin 1394a ports for DV Input and output and two SDI BNCs for simultaneous SDI signal broadcast as well as separate VITC input and output BNC connectors (SMPTE 12M) for analog decks. A 4-pin DIP Mode select switch enables audio pair selection and other modes. The device can be powered using the 4-pin male latching XLR for battery input or the DC power adapter input. A 9-pin D subminiature is also included for RS-422 remote machine control per the Sony protocol.

ADS Tech's portable Dual-Link SDI Converter for Windows XP and MAC OS X systems has a MSRP of 999 and will be available through ADS Tech's network of online and retail channels worldwide by the end of April 2005.


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EventDV Survey #13: RESULTS


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