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Information Today, Inc.

February 18, 2008

Table of Contents

Webcasting Weddings
Panasonic Announces Advanced Professional AVCHD AG-HMC150 Handheld HD Camcorder
Panasonic Announces 64GB Solid-State P2 Memory Card, Doubling Current Recording Capacity
Thomson Releases New EDIUS Broadcast Version 4.6 Software
Matrox MXO Now With Support for Latest Generation of the MacBook Pro
Harmonic's Rhozet Carbon Coder to Support Panasonic AVC-Intra HD Technology
Red Giant Software Sponsors My Toolfarm Contest
Artbeats Blazes a Trail with New Forest Fire Collection
Toon Boom Expands its Consultancy Services with a New Harmony
Fry's Stores Choose Ridata 32 GB SATA Turbo SSD Drives Ritek Among the First Manufacturers to Offer SSD Drives at Traditional Retail Outlets
Sennheiser Launches MKE 400 Mini-Shotgun
Imation Introduces Two Optical Disc Duplicators for Office Applications

Webcasting Weddings

Every bride we've met has expressed disappointment that at least one close family member could not attend her wedding. In the several years we've been running San Francisco-based Savadelis Films, the close family member is usually a beloved grandparent who is too weak or too sick to make the journey. On a very rare occasion, it is a parent. That is what happened to our bride Pam. Just days before her wedding, her mother broke her leg and was hospitalized, unable to fly from Ohio to California for her daughter’s wedding. As you might imagine, Pam, her groom Phil, and her entire family were heartsick.

What’s interesting to us as videographers is that we can, at least partially, mitigate the heartache of a mother not being able to see her daughter be married— and not just by showing her what it was like after the fact. Technology has advanced to the point that we can broadcast events live over the internet from almost anywhere on earth. The price has come down to a point that is within reach for many brides, and mastering the technology is well within the abilities of most wedding video studios. This gives videographers the potential to become heroes in the eyes of their brides.

figure 1The Challenge
Like most professional videographers, we like to surprise and delight our clients with service that is better than they anticipated and is pertinent to their needs. When we heard Pam’s mother wouldn’t be able to attend the wedding, we tried to find a way to help. A few pieces of the solution were already in place.

First, we had excellent communication with the bride and with the wedding planner, Jean Marks of Jean Marks Weddings. Both let us know the situation almost as soon as it happened, which allowed us time to make the necessary arrangements.

Second, Chuck stays current with technology advances by reading industry magazines, by regularly visiting online chat rooms frequented by wellinformed colleagues who willingly share information, and by attending monthly meetings of our local videographers’ association.

As it happened, Dan Grumley, president of Event By Wire, had recently given an impressive live demonstration of webcasting technology at the Bay Area Professional Videographers Assocation (BAPVA). As president of BAPVA, Chuck attended the meeting. Proving that the technology did indeed perform as advertised, Jewel watched the meeting from a computer at home. Being well-informed about current technology was critical to providing a solution for Pam.

figure 1The Solution
We contacted Dan Grumley immediately and explained that within 48 hours we needed to set up a live internet broadcast from an outdoor ceremony site in California with very poor internet access to a hospital in Ohio with similarly limited access. Even though Dan had planned to participate in a golf tournament in Pebble Beach that weekend, he quickly cancelled his plans to personally set up the equipment and make sure things went off without a hitch.

Next, we got in touch with Pam’s relatives in Ohio. Due to restrictions on operating electronic equipment in a hospital, there are no internet connections in patients’ rooms. We contacted the nurses (always the go-to people) who connected us with the head of the IT department. Our IT contact made arrangements to have Pam’s mom transported to an administrative office that had a computer with a fast internet connection on the evening of the wedding. He also ran tests in advance to make sure he could connect to the Event by Wire website.

figure 1On the wedding day, Dan and his associate set up the live feed. The wedding broadcast went live 15 minutes before the ceremony and continued flawlessly until the end, when the last guest left the ceremony area for the cocktail party. Pam’s mother, dressed in her beautiful gown, adorned with a corsage that matched the bride’s bouquet, was thrilled to see her daughter’s wedding, even remotely, and Pam said she felt the strong presence and support of her mom despite the distance.

After the wedding, Pam said, "Instead of trying to figure out how to get my mother to California for the wedding, I was able to concentrate on enjoying the wedding. I felt like my mother was there, somewhere, in the crowd of guests. When the minister mentioned my mother in the ceremony, it was all I could do to stop myself from turning to the camera and waving and smiling because I knew she was there watching me. But then that would have made me cry!"

figure 1Pam’s mother recalled, "It was almost like being there with Pam and Phil. And I watched the wedding again and again when I got home."

The Technology
There is always a trade-off between the price and quality of a technology, and that theory holds for the enabling technology required to webcast a wedding. One low-cost solution is to broadcast a wedding via instant messaging on MSN, Yahoo, or Skype. With obvious compression artifacts, the image and audio quality are poor, playing at 6-7 frames per second, and competing for bandwidth with the traffic of millions of customers. Plus, you can broadcast to only a few people, and there is the ever-present probability that you will lose your connection and the broadcast will be interrupted.

Another low-cost solution would be to record the event, then stream it over a video sharing website such as YouTube, Google Video, VideoEgg, Dailymotion, or Veoh, to name just a few. But all of these sites broadcast archived events, not live events. It is the immediacy of viewing a wedding that is going on right now that is so exciting. Plus, the image might end up being of poor quality. While the low quality of most YouTube video owes as much to poor production values as extreme compression, how much high-quality, unedited wedding video can you really cram into a 10MB file (YouTube’s filesize limit) that you compress and upload immediately after the event? No matter how good the quality of your original footage, that much compression will take its toll. And dividing the wedding into 5-minute chunks isn’t exactly user-friendly to a shut-in elder who wants to watch her grandchild get married.

At the high end, you could broadcast live events with superb quality to thousands of viewers through companies that have served the Fortune 500 for two decades. But this requires a huge infrastructure of hardware, servers, software, maintenance, and tech support, which all come at a hefty price.

Choosing a Webcast Service Provider
So, the key is to find a company that has solved the toughest part of the technology dilemma at a reasonable cost. The most difficult part of delivering a live webcast is the live part. The event must be recorded, compressed, and broadcast in real time. This is where the value lies for brides: that their friends and relatives can watch the day unfold while the wedding itself is happening, rather than hours, days, or weeks later. This requires sufficient processing power to compress the video in real time, and sufficient bandwidth to send the signal to multiple viewers.

Where can you find such a company? Most wedding webcast services operate regionally. By googling wedcast or wedding webcast, you can find such companies as webcastmywedding.net in Dallas, I Do Stream in Connecticut, Yourwebcast.com in Hawaii, Vowcast.com in Georgia, LiveVows in Florida, and our personal favorite, Eventbywire.com in California. Once you locate a service provider in your area, here are some criteria you might apply to select the best among them.

Reputation of Company. Ask how many live events, both weddings and corporate meetings, the company has actually webcast. Ask how many failures, and of what kind, they have experienced. Ask for referrals from other videographers and corporate producers who have had positive experiences.

Quality of Video. How many frames per second will the viewer see? Between 10 and 20 frames per second is lifelike (like the movie trailers you see online); 5-10 frames per second is jumpy. Can the broadcast be seen if viewers have as little as a 100Kbps internet connection?

Quality of Audio. Does it have CDquality sound?

Ease of Use. How easy is it for the broadcaster to use the technology? How easy is it for viewers to receive the live internet broadcast?

Service and Tech Support. What services are included in the price? How many users can view the broadcast simultaneously? Is there a live person available onsite or via phone during the critical setup time if something goes wrong?

Equipment. What equipment is included in the price: dedicated laptop, 3-CCD camera, wireless microphone(s), all required cables and wires?

Privacy for Your Clients. Is the broadcast password-protected?

Additional Services. Will the event be archived and for how long?

The most important criterion, of course, is reliability. There are no second takes in live video—and there’s no fixing in post, either. Above all, you must be sure that you are hiring a company that will, without fail, provide the service you promised the bride and groom. Your reputation depends upon it.

Practical Advice
Here, finally, are five key things to keep in mind that we’ve learned in our experience with wedding webcasting to date.

Set Up Time. Consider how much time you have to set up the live broadcast, given your other duties. It can take as little as 15 minutes if you employ a webcast specialist, or an hour or more if you are doing it all yourself. At the very least, if you employ a webcast specialist who provides a turnkey solution—including all the equipment and cables necessary for video and audio input—you’ll still have to make sure that the audio and video inputs are functional, and that the placement of the stationary camera does not interfere with the line of sight for you, the photographer, or the guests. If you choose to provide web hosting, the amount of setup time will be significantly greater. You will have to provide audio and video capture equipment, connect it to the computer, and connect to the internet via hardwire, wireless, or even satellite, and make sure viewers can receive the transmission.

Dedicated Camera. A stationary camera has no mobility. Whatever camera you use for the live broadcast is in one fixed position throughout the ceremony, most probably the center aisle camera. This may have any impact on your typical wedding coverage—which cameras you use to get certain shots, and how you get them—and all this needs to be taken into account as you plan the day and prepare to get the shots you need for the video you’ll edit and deliver to the client. For example, during long readings, we sometimes use the center aisle camera to get cutaways. If this is the camera that is used for the webcast, you can’t take it off the main action. So you would need an additional camera to capture cutaways. And while capturing those cutaways, we would have to make sure that we are not within the view of the center aisle camera. This might force you to revise your ceremony coverage plan.

Pre-Ceremony Viewing. Your webcast has to go live before the ceremony begins. Visually, you need a title screen and background music that indicates to viewers that they’ve made the connection, but that the ceremony has yet to begin. Consider this: You have a static picture of the altar on screen. If you have live audio, usually the groom’s mic, viewers may hear him saying things meant only for the best man’s ears, or he may be clearing his throat, or worse.

Be Prepared. For want of a nail . . . the battle was lost. No matter how good the service provider, the responsibility for the broadcast is still yours. Speak to the service provider in advance and understand his needs. Then, bring sufficient extension cords, cables, and batteries to back him up.

Secure Connections. This may seem obvious, but that doesn’t make it any less critical. Loose connections can delay or kill the broadcast just as well as more technically involved problems. Make sure all connections from camera to computer, and computer to internet, are secure. Route cables and wires so they cannot be tripped over or inadvertently pulled out which can lead to interruption and loss of connection during the broadcast.

Benefits to the Videographer
Why should a videographer offer this service? Because it is a potential way to differentiate yourself from your competition, and may give you a bit of an edge in being hired by a bridal couple. And if you sell it as a premium option (which, of course, you should), it can provide additional revenue just as same-day edits, photo montages, and love stories do.

Another benefit is that offering webcasts can give you a reputation as a problem-solver in the wedding professionals community, particularly among wedding planners.

Finally, of all the add-on services, this one may have the most value to brides and grooms. If the absence of a precious family member detracts from the joy they feel on their wedding day, you have the ability to deliver a gift of genuine relief to the couple and their families. You have a chance to become a hero to your bride and groom and their families.

Chuck & Jewel Savadelis (jewel at savadelis.com) produce high-definition movies of weddings and other social occasions in the San Francisco Bay Area and internationally. Their company, Savadelis Films, won a 2006 WEVA CEA Gold for Wedding Highlights Production. Chuck is President of the Bay Area Professional Videographers Association (BAPVA). They are members of the exclusive Grace Ormonde Wedding Style Magazine Platinum List.

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Panasonic Announces Advanced Professional AVCHD AG-HMC150 Handheld HD Camcorder

Panasonic announces a new addition to its growing professional AVCHD product line that capitalizes on the phenomenal success of its popular DV-based AG-DVX100. The new, affordable AG-HMC150 handheld is scheduled for shipment later this year.

The HMC150 is designed to provide enhanced HD production capabilities for video enthusiasts who desire professional features, extended recording capability and the fast, simple and highly reliable workflow offered by tapeless, solid-state recording. The HMC150 features three native 16:9 progressive 1/3" CCD imagers with an optical image stabilization (O.I.S.) function to ensure stable shooting and a 28mm Leica Dicomar wide-angle zoom lens (35MM equivalent). The HMC150 handheld offers 1080i and 720p recording at 13Mbps, comparable to current HDV compression formats with bit rates of 25Mbps. In addition, an enhanced mode with a higher bit rate is planned to be incorporated into the HMC150 for higher-level use. It supports a full range of HD formats including 1080/60i, 1080/50i, 1080/30p, 1080/25p, 1080/24p native; 720/60p, 720/50p, 720/30p, 720/25p, 720/24p native; and it is 50Hz/59.94Hz switchable.

The advanced handheld utilizes the second-generation long GOP HD standard called AVCHD. Based on MPEG-4 AVC/H.264 high profile encoding, AVCHD provides a near doubling of bandwidth efficiency and considerably improved video performance over the older MPEG-2 compression used in HDV formats. Announced by Panasonic and Sony, this industry standard format is now supported by over 30 companies and implemented in numerous camcorders, NLE systems and consumer HD playback devices.

The HMC150 offers professional HD performance with the simplicity of a digital still camera. Since the solid-state handheld records onto SD and SDHC memory cards, professionals can benefit from the reliability and random access of tapeless recording and capitalize on the cost advantages, widespread availability, and growing capacity of standard SD consumer cards. Using the newly announced 32GB SDHC memory card and the camcorder’s 6Mbps recording mode, users can acquire up to 12 hours of HD video and audio on a single SD card.

Additional features of the HMC150 include professional XLR audio input connections and a wide range of data and signal interfaces including HDMI out, USB2.0, component out (D terminal), composite out and RCA audio out jacks, a 3.5-inch LCD monitor to display thumbnail images for quick viewing and playback, and a Time Code/User Bits menu. The camera also has remote jacks for focus iris and start/stop functions, a pre-record feature that allows the camera to capture footage occurring immediately before real-time recording begins, and a time/date stamp menu option for documentation purposes.

Panasonic’s AVCHD camera line brings the benefits of solid-state recording to budget-conscious professionals. Like digital still photography, recording onto SD/SDHC card offers a fast and simple IT-compatible workflow with ultra-reliable performance and resistance to shock, vibration and extreme temperatures and weather. SD and SDHC memory cards are inexpensive and widely available and can be reused repeatedly. Since AVCHD records video as digital data files, content can be transferred and stored on affordable, high-capacity hard disk drives (HDD) and optical storage media and transferred to future storage media as technology advances.

The HMC150 will be available this fall at a price to be announced.


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Panasonic Announces 64GB Solid-State P2 Memory Card, Doubling Current Recording Capacity

Panasonic has announced a 64GB P2 solid-state memory card for its popular line of P2 HD and P2 solid-state camcorders and decks. With the arrival of the 64GB card in the fall, Panasonic will again have doubled the storage capacity of its P2 card from the current 32GB capacity, providing HD recording time dramatically greater than any tape or disc-based system.

The 64GB P2 card, model AJ-P2C064, is scheduled for initial deliveries in fall of 2008 at a price to be announced. The new 64GB P2 card will be offered in addition to the current 32GB and 16GB P2 card.

A 64GB P2 card is capable of storing over four hours of DVCPRO footage (64 GB X 4 minutes per GB), or more than two hour of DVCPRO50, AVC-Intra 50 (64 GB X 2 minutes per GB) or 64 minutes of AVC-Intra 100 or DVCPRO HD. With five 64GB P2 cards installed, an AJ-HPX3000 P2 HD camcorder can record for 320 minutes in AVC-Intra 100 or DVCPRO HD (400 minutes in 1080/24pN) and 640 minutes (800 minutes in 24pN) in AVC-Intra 50 or DVCPRO 50.

"With these incredible recording times, the 64GB P2 card will minimize or eliminate the need for video professionals to switch out media on-set while working on long-form projects," said Robert Harris, Vice President of Marketing, Panasonic Broadcast. "The P2 strategy, first introduced in 2004, called for P2 cards to double in capacity every year. With the introduction of a 64GB P2 card later this year, Panasonic is on track to fulfill this promise."

P2 cards are designed for professional users to offer fast, easy IT-based operations and ultra high reliability. They are reusable so that P2 acquisition requires no media consumption, resulting in tremendous savings in media costs.

A P2 card is comprised of its own processor, firmware, a RAID controller, and gigabytes of the highest-quality nonvolatile solid-state memory chips. They manage data intelligently including a write-verification step for every byte of memory that is written to the card for fault-free operation. The P2 card can be connected instantly with laptop PCs and major non-linear editing systems. Packaged in a rugged, die-cast frame, the P2 card is resistant to impact, vibration, shock, dust and environmental extremes including temperature changes.

The 64GB P2 card will work immediately with all P2 HD camcorders purchased from May 2007 forward. P2 and P2 HD products purchased prior to that date will need a free, downloadable software upgrade available on the Panasonic website. Customers wanting to connect the card to an ExpressCard slot of a laptop can utilize a low cost PC card-to-ExpressCard adapter.


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Thomson Releases New EDIUS Broadcast Version 4.6 Software

With the latest release of software for its Thomson Grass Valley™ EDIUS® Broadcast editing platform, Thomson (Euronext Paris: 18453; NYSE: TMS) now offers comprehensive support for all leading tapeless acquisition formats through simple and intuitive workflows.

Version 4.6 of the EDIUS Broadcast software includes powerful new functionality based on the JPEG 2000 codec used in the Thomson Grass Valley Infinity™ Digital Media Camcorder (DMC), allowing multi-layer editing of EFP-quality high definition content, even on a laptop computer. The workflow for Sony’s XDCAM has also been enhanced to support their new EX range of camcorders. EDIUS Broadcast is the first NLE to take advantage of Sony’s Simple Access Mode (SAM), whereby low-resolution video can be used in conjunction with high-resolution audio.

EDIUS Broadcast pioneered tapeless workflows with its handling of Panasonic’s P2 format, and this latest revision is a logical progression for an NLE that has built its reputation on fast, effective, multi-format editing in SD, HD, DV25, and MPEG, with the freedom to mix video standards and formats on a single timeline, all in real-time.

"Craft editing with a comprehensive toolset using material shot with today’s tapeless acquisition formats is naturally a major requirement in production," said Jeff Rosica, Senior Vice President of Thomson’s Broadcast & Professional Solutions business unit. "The release of EDIUS Broadcast v4.6 provides an open, standards-based platform with seamless workflows whatever the acquisition format. And it provides unrivalled flexibility and editing power when using the high quality JPEG 2000 codec implemented in our Infinity Digital Media Camcorder."

The Infinity DMC offers a variety of codecs to suit a user’s workflow. For HD capture, it uses JPEG 2000, a wavelet compression standard that provides very high quality imaging. An inherent benefit of JPEG 2000 coding algorithms is that it provides multiple quality layers — only one high resolution master file is needed to derive lower resolution versions. EDIUS Broadcast v4.6 takes advantage of JPEG 2000’s bit layering which provides not only the full 100 Mb/s encoded stream, but can provide an intermediate level (30 Mb/s) or a high-quality browse level (6 Mb/s) so that today’s laptops users can edit JPEG 2000 in the field. If a laptop’s CPU is not powerful enough to decode the full resolution stream, EDIUS automatically switches to lower resolutions for viewing and display of effects in real-time during editing. The full quality version is, of course, retained for the final output.

The Infinity DMC records onto IT industry-standard recording media including REV PRO removable disks and professional grade CompactFlash solid state memory cards. EDIUS Broadcast v4.6 editing software allows REV PRO disks and CompactFlash cards to be used as both media sources and destinations, as well as offering seamless ingest from both into the edit workstation (REV PRO is mounted as a hard drive and is capable of real-time data transfer — ingest is optional). This allows the editor to quickly browse through all the content available and start work immediately.

The new release also delivers integration — via MXF — with the Thomson Grass Valley K2™ Media Server platform to provide a seamless workflow across networked editing and production workstations. EDIUS can also output a GXF wrapped-streams format (SMPTE standard 360M) making its transfer and sharing transparent with Profile XP, K2, and other GXF compliant systems.

EDIUS Broadcast version 4.6 will be released in February 2008. The full version is priced at $999 (839 euros), although it will be a free-of-charge update for all current EDIUS Broadcast 4.x owners. Existing EDIUS Pro 4.x customers can upgrade to the Broadcast version for $409 (299 euros).


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Matrox MXO Now With Support for Latest Generation of the MacBook Pro

Matrox® Video Products Group today announced that Matrox MXO™ release 2.1.1 is now available as a free download from the Matrox website to all registered users. MXO v2.1.1 offers support for the latest generation of the MacBook Pro with NVIDIA graphics.

"This latest software release extends MXO’s compatibility to include the full range of Mac laptop and desktop computers used by professional video editors," said Wayne Andrews, Matrox MXO product manager. "Matrox MXO is a must-have whether they work in the office or on the road, whether they use Apple Final Cut Pro and Color or Adobe Premiere Pro CS3."

Key features of Matrox MXO

  • Inexpensive HD monitoring on an Apple Cinema Display or other DVI monitor with calibration tools that enable accurate, reliable color grading
  • Frame-accurate, broadcast-quality HD/SD output from a laptop or workstation
  • Realtime HD to SD downscaling
  • WYSIWYG video output from QuickTime-based applications
  • Genlockable HD/SD scan conversion for flicker-free video output of the computer desktop
  • Portable, hot-swappable versatility

Priced at $995 US in North America (₤595, €899), Matrox MXO is available through a worldwide network of authorized dealers. Release 2.1.1 is available to registered users as a free download from the Matrox website. It must be used in conjunction with Mac OS X v10.5.2 (Leopard) and Leopard graphics update 1.0.


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Harmonic's Rhozet Carbon Coder to Support Panasonic AVC-Intra HD Technology

Harmonic Inc. (NASDAQ: HLIT) today announced that its market-leading Rhozet™ Carbon Coder™ video transcoding solution will support Panasonic’s high-performance AVC-Intra high definition (HD) compression technology. Rhozet Carbon Coder will provide real-time transcoding of HD material using the AVC-Intra codec as a standard feature. Developed to provide greater image quality and flexibility in broadcast HD production, this intra-frame compression technology enables highly efficient compression without compromising HD quality. Carbon Coder with AVC-Intra support will be available in April 2008.

"The AVC-Intra format is fast gaining ground with broadcasters, offering significantly better compression efficiency than older codec families yet maintaining very high picture quality," said David Trescot, Vice President of the Rhozet Business Unit at Harmonic Inc. "Support for AVC-Intra confirms our commitment to deliver the format support our customers require, for broadcast, broadband or mobile applications."

The AVC-Intra compression scheme complies with the MPEG-4 AVC (H.264) open standard, and provides 10bit 4:2:2 full-raster compression at the same bit-rate as DVCPRO HD and achieves DVCPRO HD quality at half the bit-rate, effectively creating a new level of HD production while lowering storage and distribution costs. The intra-frame approach captures and preserves the greatest amount of information while offering greater flexibility. Unlike long GOP approaches, AVC-Intra was explicitly designed and optimized for broadcast and production use rather than low bandwidth distribution.

Harmonic’s Rhozet Carbon Coder is a universal transcoding application that facilitates the transfer of media between a variety of platforms, including acquisition, editing, playout, archive, the Internet and mobile devices. Carbon Coder can run as a stand-alone application or as part of a multi-node, fully-automated rendering farm. Carbon Coder provides high-performance, scalable and cost-effective transcoding for a broad range of business environments, from specialized studios to enterprise-scale installations. Carbon Coder solutions have been deployed by more than 100 customers including Amazon.com, Ascent Media, BT, CBS, Channel 10 Israel, Detroit Public Television, Entertainment Television, , MSN, MTV Networks, News Broadcasting Japan, ProSieiben.Sat1, Sony, Technicolor, Telekom Austria, The FeedRoom, thePlatform, The Weather Channel, TVAzteca, and Yahoo!.

For more information about Carbon Coder please visit www.rhozet.com.

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Red Giant Software Sponsors My Toolfarm Contest

Red Giant Software is sponsoring a contest to let users submit their best work using Red Giant Software’s Magic Bullet Looks or Trapcode Form tools and win a chance to show their work at NAB 2008. Users will upload their videos to the My Toolfarm web site where other users can vote on the submission from now until March 24th. The winner will get to fly to NAB and present their work at the Red Giant Software booth at NAB 2008. Winners will be determined by user scores on the My Toolfarm web site and by a panel of Red Giant Software judges.

To enter and get detailed eligibility information, click here.

Prizes and Eligibility


* One round trip airline ticket to NAB 2008 held in Las Vegas, NV, April 14-17, 2008. The prize includes airfare and two days and one night in a hotel on The Strip.
* 2 hour showroom floor presentation at Red Giant's booth to promote your work;
* Feature spot on Red Giant's Community site
* One free Red Giant product OR free upgrade.

1st Runner Up:

* Feature spot on Red Giant's 'Our Community' site
* One free Red Giant product OR free upgrade.

2nd Runner Up:

* Feature spot on Red Giant's 'Our Community' site
* One free Red Giant product OR free upgrade.

Winners will be announced March 29, 2008. The grand prize will include expenses not to exceed a total of $1,300 US. The breakdown is as follows: Airfare capped at $700, hotel capped at $500, food/transportation capped at $100. The contest is open to Red Giant Software users of Magic Bullet Looks and Trapcode Form in North America. Void where prohibited.


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Artbeats Blazes a Trail with New Forest Fire Collection

Artbeats, the industry’s leading creative footage resource, today announced the release of Forest Fire (V-Line). Close-up angles of intense flames, thick smoke and ravaged trees capture the devastating destruction of several forest wildfires. Forest Fire (V-Line) contains 32 clips of smoldering brush spreading across the forest, including water bombers dousing the flames from above. To view or purchase this collection please visit Artbeats’ website.

Featuring a wide range of practical and compelling subject matter, Artbeats’ extensive library includes thousands of high-quality clips that can be used for broadcast, feature film, commercial, concerts, live events, game development, independent production, multimedia and more. A favorite among creative professionals, Artbeats’ footage is used by some of the industry’s leading film and broadcast companies, including Disney, Dreamworks, Pixar, Universal Studios, Comedy Central, BBC, Cartoon Network, MTV, American Idol and CNN.

Forest Fire (V-Line) contains 32 clips and is available in D1 NTSC-720 x 486 resolution for $399.00. To learn more or purchase, click here. Artbeats also offers a wide range of free online Tips & Tricks and other creative resources that help customers make the most of their royalty-free stock footage. See them all at www.artbeats.com/tips.

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Toon Boom Expands its Consultancy Services with a New Harmony

Emmy award-winning Toon Boom Animation Inc. today announced the expansion of its consultancy services with the release of a new version of Harmony. Toon Boom Harmony is the ideal animation solution to create animated episodic and feature-length projects, using traditional and digital methods. In addition to offering a turn-key solution to its customers, Toon Boom is expanding the scope of its consultancy services in the fields of implementation, optimization and creative diversification, as well as custom training and production assistance.

Designed to handle large-scale projects, Harmony facilitates team collaboration and increases productivity, from design to compositing and final rendering, all in a non-linear workflow. Harmonyís networking capabilities are essential in the context of multi-task teams working on site or remotely as well as to set priority-based batch-rendering schedules.

"The new release of Harmony testifies again to Toon Boomís commitment to develop easier-to-use products. Established as the industry standard by the leading animation studios worldwide, Harmony is by far the most powerful multi-platform animation solution to create traditional and digital animation. Our consultancy services bring added-value to our customers as they fully maximize the use of technology in their specific production environment" shared Joan Vogelesang, President and Chief Executive Officer at Toon Boom.

This new Harmony is a must for all studios embarking on large-scale projects as well as Digital Pro customers wanting to grow their studio and set it up with networking capabilities. Harmony is ready to ship and will be showcased at KIDSCREEN 2008.


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Fry's Stores Choose Ridata 32 GB SATA Turbo SSD Drives Ritek Among the First Manufacturers to Offer SSD Drives at Traditional Retail Outlets

Advanced Media, Inc., is a manufacturer and marketer of the popular Ridata brand of recordable CD and DVD media, electronic storage products, and digital media accessories. The company announced today that its Ridata Solid State Turbo Drives (SSD) will be available for purchase at all 34 Fry's Electronics stores and online at www.frys.com in February.

"We are pleased to be the first to partner with the popular Fry's Electronics to provide early adopters, gamers and savvy consumers a Solid State Drive alternative to Hard Disk Drives. SSD drives offer a host of benefits over traditional hard disk drives especially for notebooks. Cool and silent running; fast data access times; dependability and resistance to harsh environments make SSD drives a serious contender for eventually replacing Hard Disc Drives," remarked Harvey Liu, Advanced Media President.

The Ridata SSD drive is inherently resistant to vibration, shock, and temperature extremes. It is very reliable with more than 4,000,000 hours Mean Time Between Failures (MTBF). Data integrity is further supported by static wearing leveling and Reed-Solomon ECC (RS-ECC 6/8/10 symbols). With SMART features and write endurance cycle (P/E) of more than 2,000,000 times, the Ridata SSD drive is built to securely write and store critical data.

The Ridata 2.5" Turbo SATA SSD drive is a cutting-edge solid-state flash disk, based on NAND flash technology. It has no moving parts, which allows it to be virtually silent, run cooler, and use less power than a traditional hard disk drive. Using single-level-chip technology, the Ridata SSD drive provides consistent performance and has extremely low-power consumption in comparison to a traditional hard drive. The Ridata SSD is among the lightest-weight storage drives available. It is excellent for performance-driven and rugged environments, such as laptops, and industrial, professional, and military applications.

The drive requires only a five-volt power supply. Because of its low-power consumption, user time on a laptop or other mobile computing application is dramatically extended. Having no mechanical parts, low power consumption, and minimal heat generation, the Ridata SSD drive is a natural alternative for a greener environment. Meeting bus interface industry standard Serial ATA (SATA) ensures there are no host compatibility or upgrading issues. The Ridata drive offers reliable temperature (0 to 70C) and humidity resistance, assuring long-lasting data storage. The 2.5" drive weighs 64.5 grams with dimensions of 101.85 x 69.85 x 9mm.

The Ridata 2.5" SATA based Turbo SSD cards will be available at Fry's stores and Frys.com in February. Visit www.ritekusa.com for more information.


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Sennheiser Launches MKE 400 Mini-Shotgun

Sennheiser is launching the MKE 400, a lightweight and highly directional mini-shotgun condenser microphone for use with digital camcorders at the 2008 NAB Show. The MKE 400 may be small, but its features are huge, including switchable sensitivity, wind noise filter, extended battery life and an optional, professional accessory kit.

The distinctly directional super-cardioid/lobar pattern allows the MKE 400 to very precisely pick up sound exactly where the camera is being pointed. A control key on the permanently polarized condenser microphone allows users to adjust the sensitivity to match the camera type. It additionally increases the range of the mini-shotgun mic and permits reliable recording of low-level sound sources. A switchable wind filter is also included that eliminates low-frequency noise and rumble from interfering with the recording.

The MKE 400 is literally plug-and-play. All that is required to immediately begin recording is a camcorder shoe mount and a 3.5mm microphone input. For cameras without an accessory shoe, there are shoe adapters commercially available that enable the microphone to be fitted onto the side of the camcorder.

The MKE 400 delivers over 300 hours of professional quality sound on a single AAA battery. A warning LED indicates low battery voltage. As standard the MKE 400 is supplied with a foam windshield, battery and a microphone shock mount in a robust metal case.

An optional accessory kit suitable for those filming extensively outdoors includes a professional grade hairy windscreen and a 3.5mm jack-to-XLR adapter that allows the MKE 400 to be used with professional cameras.


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Imation Introduces Two Optical Disc Duplicators for Office Applications

Imation Corp. (NYSE: IMN), a worldwide leader in removable data storage media, today introduced two optical media duplicators enabling simple CD and DVD duplication anytime. The Imation CD Duplicator and Imation CD/DVD Duplicator deliver high performance disc duplication without software, cables or a PC.

Ideal for broad office applications from Fortune 500 to small office / home office (SOHO) environments, these portable, standalone disc-to-disc systems create copies of marketing and sales materials, music, video, catalogs and other important data quickly and accurately with the touch of a button. Compatible with 12cm or 8cm discs, the Imation CD Duplicator operates on a 52X CD-RW drive, while the CD/DVD Duplicator features a 16X DVD+/-R/RW drive. These high-performance duplicators deliver continuous copying without the need to cool the system in-between duplications, and a user-friendly LCD display menu offers numerous options for maximum system functionality.

"Building on Imation's leadership in optical storage, these two new disc duplicators deliver an easy way for office users to duplicate CDs and DVDs no matter where they are," said Keith Schwartz, director, North America Commercial Division of Imation Corp. "We're extending our optical media accessories beyond publishing to also include duplication, a need our customers have been demanding from a source they can trust."

Small enough to fit on a desk or transport to client meetings, Imation's new disc duplicators offer the ideal combination of price and performance. The Imation CD Duplicator duplicates one master 700MB CD to CD-R media at up to 52X speeds in about two and a half minutes, and also duplicates CD discs to CD-RW media at up to 32X speeds. The Imation CD/DVD Duplicator duplicates a single master 4.7GB DVD at up to 16X speeds in about 11 minutes. It also can duplicate discs to CD-R/RW, DVD+/-RW and DVD+/-R DL media.

Imation's CD Duplicator is now available in the Americas region for a manufacturer's suggested retail price (MSRP) of $279.99. Imation's CD/DVD Duplicator is now available for a MSRP of $329.99. Each duplicator also includes a 5-pack of Imation brand media.

For additional information about Imation disc duplicators, visit http://www.imation.com.

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