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Information Today, Inc.

September 18, 2006

Table of Contents

The Moving Picture: Some Bits on Audio
Serious Magic Announces Immediate Availability of DV Rack 2.0
Panasonic Announces The Availability Of The Ultra-Versatile AJ-HD1400 AC/DC-Operated DVCPRO HD VTR
Serious Magic Announces the DVCProHD Decoder for Sony Vegas and Adobe Premiere Pro Users
AJA Technology Integrated Into AVID DS Nitris 8.0
Digital Heaven Releases Two New Plug-ins for Final Cut Pro/Express
Digital Heaven Launches Hot Tips
JVC Announces New Display Technology That Delivers 10000:1 Native Contrast Ratio

The Moving Picture: Some Bits on Audio

All of us have had audio rise up and bite us in the rear on a project or two, usually when we were focused elsewhere and not paying attention to levels, connections, and the like. Fortunately, with the right set of software tools and a bit of background information, you can eliminate many errors with little audible residue. The final product is never as good (or as fast) as it would be if you had gotten it right the first time, but all's well that ends well, especially when you have a DVD to deliver.

The first (and easiest) problem to fix is that of varying levels in your audio file, both within certain scenes (say, a wedding ceremony) and from scene to scene (perhaps from the ceremony to the reception). Here's a common scenario. You've mic'd the pastor at the wedding, and she comes through fine, as do both the music and especially the applause at the end. But the bride is either having second thoughts or is so tightly bound in her wedding dress that her vows are a muted whisper.

An editor's first thought is often to "normalize" the entire audio file from the ceremony. Briefly put, during normalization the audio software boosts volume so that the loudest sample reaches a defined level, usually labelled 100%. This ensures the widest available dynamic range without introducing distortion or clipping. Sounds perfect, doesn't it? No muss, no fuss, and NLEs like Premiere Pro let you normalize on the timeline and avoid a trip to the audio editor entirely. However, normalization is applied equally over the entire audio file, not selectively where the adjustments are needed. If the applause levels at the end of the ceremony are already at the theoretical 100% level, normalizing the file will have absolutely no impact on the bride's whispers. Inaudible before, inaudible after.

In these instances, you must intelligently normalize by working with the waveform in your audio editor. Specifically, you should apply the normalization filter selectively to lower-volume regions within the peaks of applause, music, or laughter. Another option is to avoid normalization altogether and simply adjust volume directly. Once you normalize within each scene, normalize from scene to scene. The best technique is to export the entire project waveform into your audio editor, where the varying heights of the waveform will identify the scenes that need volume adjustment, which you can perform back in the video editor or in the audio editor. If you adjust in the audio editor, import the final audio file back into your video editor, and mute the original audio track. If you pay attention, synchronization shouldn't be an issue, but check synch in all relevant scenes.

The second problem you've probably encountered is random pops and clicks in the video, perhaps where you clicked on the camera's ND filter or kicked the tripod (discreetly, of course). Sometimes these noises have no identifiable cause, making you wonder if they're karmic payback for dissing the A/V guy in high school. Either way, they're there, like a pimple on the forehead of an otherwise-immaculate bride.

Filters designed to solve this problem vary by software program. My favorite tool is Adobe Audition's Repair Transient filter, though I've had good luck with Sound Forge's Click and Crackle Remover as well. The procedure is generally the same; you zoom into the waveform, drag over the offending noise to select it, and then apply the filter.

Interestingly, what's important here is not what the filter removes, but what it leaves behind. If the filter mutes the audio, producing a flat line waveform that would provoke a frantic "Code 2" at the local hospital, the fix will be just as obvious to the listener as the initial problem. Instead, you want only a partially altered waveform that retains the essence of what's going on in the background but without the pop or crackle, which is what Audition's Remove Transient filter seems to do so well. Whatever tool you use, preview the result visually and by playing the file, and make sure that the cure isn't worse than the disease.

The final problem is pervasive noise in the audio signal. Sometimes it's an air conditioning hum, sometimes the whine of a mismatched microphone and camcorder. This is the province of the "noise reduction" filters available in Soundtrack Pro, Sound Forge, and Audition. Note that these work only on regular, consistent noise and can't remove irregular sounds like traffic or crowd noise.

In all three tools, you start by identifying a region in the waveform that contains just the background noise, often called a "noise print." Then you preview the filter and adjust the controls so that you remove as much noise as possible without distorting the remaining audio. When you apply the filter, the program removes the background noise identified in the noise print from the entire audio file, including regions containing other audio, such as speech and music. This feature is very different from "noise gate" filters that mute audio where it doesn't meet a specified volume threshold, leaving the offending background noise in all other regions in the audio file. (For more information, see Luisa Winters' tutorial on Noise Reduction in Adobe Audition.)

Noise removal filters can be a lifesaver, but don't let them lull you into the "fix it in post" mentality. You never know which types of noise these filters will safely remove and how much distortion they will introduce. Still, sometimes you can't control the situation, and sometimes mistakes just happen. It's nice to know that your audio editor has features that can bail you out.

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Serious Magic Announces Immediate Availability of DV Rack 2.0

Serious Magic, Inc. announced today DV Rack 2.0, the latest version of its direct-to-disk recording and monitoring software to help generate superior quality video from an SD or HD camera connected to a laptop. With DV Rack 2.0, Serious Magic strengthens the power of its 10 production tools and now offers a version with real-time capture support for DVCPro50 and DVCProHD cameras.

Powerful Direct-to-Disk Recording Extensive enhancements have been added to DV Rack's Digital Video Recorder that slaves recording to a camera while recording directly to an internal or external hard drive and includes the following:

  • Motion-Activated Recording to automatically start recording when DV Rack 2.0 detects motion in a shot. This is especially useful for "solo shooters" looking to minimize wasted disk space and nature shooters looking to capture that one-in-a-million shot.
  • Stop-Motion Animation Recording allows for easy animation recording of static objects. DV Rack 2.0 can be set to record images one frame at a time to a single AVI File.
  • Time-Lapse Recording sets DV Rack 2.0 to record a single frame at regular time intervals to appear as if time is moving faster than it is. Editors using DV or HD footage can easily convey the passing of time by recording variant cloudscape motion, crowd movement, or traffic flow.
  • Pause Recording enables users to stop in the middle of a recording without creating a new clip. This is especially useful when recording interviews, such as legal depositions.
  • Clip naming, reordering and resizing permits users to rename shots while recording and adds the ability to move and resize them within the DVR.
  • Pulldown removal of 24p footage removes the pulldown from 24p recorded clips, saving hard drive space and making it easy to edit in "true" 24 frames per second when using the HVX200 camera.
  • DV timecode support has been added for Adobe Premiere Pro, Apple Final Cut Pro, Sony Vegas, and Avid NLEs.

DV Rack 2.0 includes vital monitoring tools that help videographers identify and correct lighting, video, and audio problems. The Professional Field Monitor accepts standard-definition video input and when using DV Rack 2.0 HD, accepts HDV, DVCPro50 and DVCProHD footage as well. Users also get a full-resolution 1280x720 monitor ensuring precise pixel-for-pixel display of 720p footage. The monitor helps shooters achieve the absolute best image possible from their camera and includes features such as underscan, safe area and letterbox display. The Field Monitor can also be flipped horizontally and vertically to support 35mm lens adaptors, such as the Redrock Micro M2.

DV Rack's Waveform Monitor and Vectorscope feature industry-standard monitoring functions enabling users to monitor the actual post-compression signal as it will be recorded. New in this version is an RGB Waveform Monitor for users wishing to monitor individual channels separately to easily see which channel is illegal.

DV Rack lets users analyze audio by actually seeing what cannot be heard with headphones alone. The new Audio Spectrum Analyzer III features analyzing modes, exact frequency readouts, and more accurate display graphics that help indicate poor microphone placement and orientation so users can adjust levels for dramatic audio quality improvements. DV Rack 2.0 offers advanced tools for checking continuity between shots.

The Split Function in the Field Monitor now provides on-screen controls to adjust the position of the split making it easier to check continuity from one shot to another. The new Onion Skin mode enables users to overlay a semi-transparent recorded clip on top of a live or recorded video to ensure users get identical framing between shots. This feature is useful for stop-motion animators to see variations from one frame to the next. T

he ShotClock Timer is now editable and now offers a count-down feature and support for 24p (NDF) mode. The DV Grabber now allows users to capture to the DVR while the Spectra 60's lock feature helps users fix onto a particular pixel for accuracy when adjusting for color or brightness settings on the camera.

DV Rack 2.0 has two versions available. DV Rack 2.0 SD supports standard definition cameras while DV Rack 2.0 HD offers additional support for HDV and Panasonic DVCPro cameras. DV Rack 2.0 will run on a Windows 2000/XP laptop or desktop PC connected to a standard NTSC or PAL camcorder via FireWire. Output is in standard formats such as AVI and QuickTime with additional support now being offered for Avid-based NLEs.

DV Rack 2.0 HD also includes Serious Magic's DVCProHD Decoder, its Video for Windows (VfW) decoder that enables Sony Vegas and Adobe Premiere Pro users to edit DVPro50 and DVCProHD video files without the need for transcoding. This decoder also includes an easy-to-use software utility that quickly converts native MXF files from the Panasonic camera to standard AVI or QuickTime files. For more information on this decoder, visit www.seriousmagic.com/DVCProDecoder.

DV Rack 2.0 SD is available at Serious Magic's online store and many professional video resellers for $495. DV Rack 2.0 HD is available for $795. Current owners of DV Rack 1.0 can upgrade to the DV Rack 2.0 SD for $195 or to the HD version for $395. Owners of DV Rack 1.0 with HDV PowerPak can upgrade to DV Rack 2.0 HD for $295. Serious Magic is currently offering a $100 discount on DV Rack 2.0 upgrades for the month of September.

For more information on DV Rack 2.0, please visit www.seriousmagic.com/DVRack.

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Panasonic Announces The Availability Of The Ultra-Versatile AJ-HD1400 AC/DC-Operated DVCPRO HD VTR

Panasonic announced today the availability of the portable AJ-HD1400 DVCPRO HD VTR recorder that plays all of the world's most popular high definition broadcast formats. Unveiled at this year's NAB, this ultra-versatile, portable VTR with IEEE 1394 input/output surpasses its predecessor-the groundbreaking AJ-HD1200A-with the addition of comprehensive editing functions. The AJ-HD1400 is available at a suggested list price of $25,000.

The new AJ-HD1400 VTR offers a cost-effective solution for HD production all over the world. The AJ-HD1400 records at 100 Mbps with 4:2:2 image sampling and intra-frame compression in multiple U.S. and worldwide HD formats including 1080/59.94i, 1080/50i, 720/60p, 720/59.94p and 720/50p, and plays back in 20 HD and SD formats, including both NTSC (480i) and PAL (576i) tapes. It incorporates a built-in up/down/cross converter, so that users can play back DVCPRO50, DVCPRO and DV tapes and output an upconverted HD signal. With its compact size (8-1/2" wide), light weight (18 pounds) and AC or DC power operation, the AJ-HD1400 is an ideal solution -- highly portable with a handle for on-the-go field use and space-saving for desktop and in-studio editing applications.

Equipped with IEEE 1394 input/output, the AJ-HD1400 can transfer DVCPRO video codec data without quality loss to a PC-based nonlinear editing system. With its HD-SDI in/out and SD-SDI outputs, the AJ-HD1400 is a flexible and high-quality solution for applications such as line recording and in-studio production, and it also supports VANC metadata (UMID, CC, et al.) and offers encoder remote control. The AJ-HD1400's RS-422 9-pin remote allow precise insert and assemble tape-to-tape and NLE editing. The AJ-HD1400 is a perfect complement to the AJ-HDC27 VariCam HD Cinema and the new AJ-HDX900 DVCPRO HD camcorders.

This VTR has a built-in gamma correction function for VariCam playback and can convert from an AJ-HDC27 VariCam 50p recording (over 60p) source to native 720p/50 or PAL. The AJ-HD1400 easily connects with the AJ-HDX900 or AG-HVX200 DVCPRO HD P2 camcorder for digital backup recording. The AJ-HD1400 records up to 64 minutes of HD footage on a large or medium cassette tape and can play the entire family of DVCPRO format tapes—DVCPRO HD and HD-EX, DVCPRO50, DVCPRO, as well as DV and DVCAM tapes. It offers 16-bit digital audio with eight embedded channels for 5.1-channel surround sound. Other key features include three programmable function buttons, SMPTE time code generator/reader and a headphone output with volume control.


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Serious Magic Announces the DVCProHD Decoder for Sony Vegas and Adobe Premiere Pro Users

Serious Magic, Inc. announced today the immediate availability of its Video for Windows (VfW) decoder for the DVCProHD format. Because DVCProHD support is limited for Sony Vegas and Adobe Premiere Pro users, Serious Magic now provides a decoder that will allow these popular programs as well as other software applications (i.e. Adobe AfterEffects and Serious Magic ULTRA) that uses VfW codecs to read these files.

Using the DVCProHD Decoder, video files can be edited natively without the need for transcoding because the format uses intra-frame compression just like DV. The workflow is straightforward; users are not required to convert their video data to another codec. The decoder also is bundled with an easy-to-use software utility for quickly converting native MXF files from the Panasonic camera to standard AVI or QuickTime files. Users of Apple Final Cut Pro can transfer the QuickTime file to their Mac for quick and easy editing in a more universal format.

For more information on the decoder, visit http://www.SeriousMagic.com/DVCProDecoder.

DVCProHD Decoder is now available for download at $195.00 (MSRP) at http://www.SeriousMagic.com.

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AJA Technology Integrated Into AVID DS Nitris 8.0

AJA Video, a leading manufacturer of professional video interface and conversion products, today announced that it is supplying Avid Technology, Inc. with a customized OEM solution that enables dual-link HD-SDI connectivity in Avid DS Nitris version 8.0.

The AJA technology, which began shipping with the system in June, plays a key role in enabling full HD-RGB bandwidth capture, editing, and output with Avid's flagship editing and finishing system for real-time, multi-stream SD, HD, and 2K/4K DI work. Post production work today is requiring higher image resolutions and higher throughput. AJA's robust hardware offers dual HD-SDI connectivity supporting the high bandwidth needed to input and output material for 4:4:4 HD-RGB formats such as HDCAM SR. Selection of AJA's technology by Avid again validates that AJA engineering for its dual HDSDI hardware is considered among the best in the industry.


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Digital Heaven Releases Two New Plug-ins for Final Cut Pro/Express

Digital Heaven, one of the leading creators of software for Apple Pro Apps, today announced the addition of two new Final Cut transition plug-ins to their range: DH_TerroTV and DH_Dream.

Designed to replicate an old TV, DH_RetroTV is effectively three plug-ins in one. It has a Switch On mode where the image appears from black with optional picture rolling. The Channel Change mode is designed to be used between two clips and features controls for the amount of Wiggling and Noise. Finally there's a Switch Off mode which reduces the image to a white dot. DH_RetroTV comes complete with five specially created and royalty free sound effects including mechanical on/off switches and channel changes.

Designed to recreate the classic ripple and blur transition commonly used for flashbacks or dream sequences. Allows control over the amount of wave and blur and comes complete with two specially created and royalty free harp glissando sound effects!

DH_RetroTV and DH_Dream are available for individual purchase at $20 each from the Digital Heaven online store. Demo versions and example movies are also available from the Digital Heaven website.


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Digital Heaven Launches Hot Tips

Digital Heaven, one of the leading creators of software for Apple Pro Apps, today announced the launch of their new video podcast, Hot Tips which shows useful and timesaving tips for Apple's Final Cut Pro. In the first episode, Martin Baker demonstrates some little known tips for dealing with clip speed.

Hot Tips can be watched online at http://www.digital-heaven.co.uk/podcast where RSS links and iTunes subscription details can also be found. All episodes will be iPod compatible so you can brush up on your Final Cut Pro knowledge wherever you are!

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JVC Announces New Display Technology That Delivers 10000:1 Native Contrast Ratio

JVC Professional Products Company is previewing its new display technology that delivers a native contrast ratio of 10000:1 as well as its entire line-up of D-ILA home theater projectors at CEDIA EXPO 2006 in the JVC HD Theater located at the Denver Performing Arts Center. This newly developed technology will be implemented in JVC's new full HD home theater projector featuring its proprietary 3-chip D-ILAT (Direct Drive Image Light Amplifier) technology that delivers native 1920x1080p resolution.

JVC's D-ILA devices utilize "non-moving" mirror reflective technology to eliminate the "screen-door effect" and offer a high aperture ratio of more than 90 percent to ensure smooth, film-like images and incredible detail as seen on big-screen Hollywood films. In addition, the new projector will be equipped with a converter and scaler that up-converts the incoming source regardless of its original format to properly display images at 1080p.

For more information on JVC's D-ILA projectors and technology, visit JVC's Web site at http://pro.jvc.com.

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