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Streaming Media
DV Expo West: California Stars
Posted Dec 18, 2003 Print Version     Page 1of 1

Of the two DV Expos held each year, West usually trumps East in terms of both size and new product announcements. Then again, it's usually a solid bet that its Los Angeles locale will provide a balmy respite from the cold that by December takes hold in DV Expo East's New York home. While it wasn't exactly frigid (regardless of the locals who took the evening temperature dips into the 40s as a call to break out the stocking caps), anyone hoping to squeeze in a little beach time during the show probably decided they were better off staying inside the LA Convention Center. Things weren't a whole lot hotter on the floor: both show size and attendance were down far enough that the organizers waived the registration fee on the Expo's second and third days.

Highlights on the floor included the debuts of Ulead's DVD Workshop 2 and Canopus' EDIUS 2.0, both of which served notice that the distinctions between professional and prosumer authoring tools and NLEs are only getting blurrier. That's a good thing, of course; as mid-range tools like these add more functionality while maintaining their user-friendly interfaces, they bring more editing power to the people. DVD Workshop 2, set to hit the market in early 2004, continues its predecessor's template-based approach to menu creation, but adds levels of customization including the ability to create irregularly-shaped edge masks for menu buttons (heavy metal bassist and Workshop 2 spokesman Rudy Sarzo showed off buttons in the shape of guitars and musical notes), as well as buttons that rotate and include video. Workshop 2's upgrades aren't all cosmetic: the subtitling is both simpler and more powerful, and the authoring tool now supports Digital Linear Tape and DVD-9 capability. The niftiest change, though, just might be Workshop 2's playlists, which allow authors to save space by linking a sequence of assets to buttons without duplicating assets—a perfect example of a consumer-oriented approach that makes things easier for the pros. DVD Workshop 2 will retail for $495.

On the NLE side, Canopus's EDIUS 2.0 now captures to MPEG-1 and MPEG-2 in addition to DV, and it offers DVD authoring directly from the timeline. Canopus also juiced up the capabilities of Inscriber TitleXpress, allowing more manipulation and unlocking the x and y axes for more precise horizontal and vertical text sizing. Scheduled for release in January, EDIUS 2.0 will sell for $599, with upgrades to 1.0 and LE available for $109 and $299, respectively.

Higher up the post-production line, Avid's Express Pro with the MOJO portable nonlinear accelerator was first announced at NAB last April, but didn't see release until late September. Though we've known about its features—including real-time analog-DV and DV-analog conversion as well as real-time DV output to tape—for a while, DV Expo presented our first chance to get our hands on the MOJO. Its real genius is in its form factor: not only is it small enough to fit in a backpack, but it doesn't weigh much more than a cell phone, making it a must-have for editing road warriors who don't need to be weighed down any more than they aleady are.

Though no new cameras were unveiled at DV Expo West, Heuris took its section of the JVC booth's real estate to show off the new Pro Indie HD Toolkit, which lets videographers take high-definition footage shot with the JVC JY-HD10U and bring it directly into Apple's Final Cut Pro 4 for eventual output to D-VHS tape. The Toolkit includes the Xtractor HDV import utility, the XtoHD player utility, and the MPEG Power Professional DTVHD MPEG-2 encoding software. That kind of power doesn't come cheap: the Toolkit sells on for $4,785.

Perhaps the coolest tools we saw on the expo floor came from Serious Magic. On the pro studio side, the company has changed the name of its UltraKey software to ULTRA, and it's one of the best chroma keying/compositing tools we've seen. The virtual sets, with themes from newsroom to wedding, are quite professional looking and include animations and multiple angles. But the real gem is the chroma keying itself, which is designed to work with the limitations of both the limited bandwidth of DV-format video sources and the less-than-ideal lighting conditions videographers often face in the field. A tightly-focused spotlight on a green screen proved to be no problem, and neither did a demo subject's unruly hair; ULTRA was able to key cleanly and naturally—it even keyed out 90% of the areas in the shot that were outside of the green screen. Not bad at all for a $795 tool.

Serious Magic's Visual Communicator presentation software was equally impressive. The $400 product comes with a green screen and lets users create professional-quality presentatons in their offices or cubicles, inputting text and graphics and even importing PowerPoint presentations. The chromakeying was again excellent on DV camera shots, but it was nearly as good on scenes shot with a basic Webcam. It outputs to Windows Media and RealPlayer, but the real kicker is that it also outputs to DVD with the bundled Sonic MyDVD 5 software.

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