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Higher Ground: NAB 2004 Promises HD to an SD World
Posted May 4, 2004 Print Version     Page 1of 1
  

As expected, 2004 was the year of HD at NAB, even though the conference arguably straddles four worlds—broadcast, filmmaking, streaming, and commercial videography—of which the first two are just approaching an HD era and the latter two aren't even close. Our concern, of course, is the digital studio in general and videography in particular, where HD is more theory than practice at this point. But that didn't stop key vendors in the space—Adobe, Apple, Pinnacle, Sony Pictures, and Ulead, among others—from buzzing about HD in their major product announcements at the show. There were also exciting launches in the familiar DVD space, ranging from major upgrades to key products--Apple's DVD Studio Pro 3 and Sonic's DVD Producer 4.5--to DVD-Extra Studio, a "revolutionary DVD-Video production system" promising to bring unprecedented interactivity to the platform; and DVD Generator, a deceptively simple application for Web-based DVD-on-demand designed (among other things) to author a DVD title in as little as 45 seconds.

Central to the HD discussion in the digital studio space is the HDV format, a highly compressed, MPEG-2-based shooting format using standard MiniDV cassettes and offering 720p capture via FireWire. So far, only two shipping cameras, both single-CCD models from JVC, offer HDV capability; Sony showed a prototype (first demo'd at CeBit) of a 3CCD HDV-capable camcorder that's expected to ship later this year for under $5000. Until very recently, software options were limited too. You needed additional software to import HDV into popular pro NLEs, such as CineForm's AspectHD and Heuris' HD Indie Toolkit. Ulead Systems was among several NLE vendors making HD announcements at NAB, unveiling their HD Plug-in for Media Studio Pro 7, which enables MSP users to capture, edit, and output HDV using the JVC camcorders. Sony Pictures also boasts new HD support features in Vegas 5, including not just HDV but uncompressed 1080i support via compatible Sony hardware (see "Five Easy Pieces" in the May issue for more details on Vegas 5 and the accompanying, also full set-upgraded DVD Architect 2. Apple, similarly, debuted Final Cut Pro HD along with a major upgrade to DVD Studio Pro and the new graphics tool Motion; see Eric Schumacher-Rasmussen's May news feature, "How Ya Like Them Apples?" at http://www.emedialive.com/Articles/ReadArticle.aspx?ArticleID=8444 for a full report on Apple's latest. And for more on the Sony Pictures announcements, see http://www.emedialive.com/Articles/ReadArticle.aspx?ArticleID=8443.)

Adobe also emphasized HD support in the 1.5 release of Premiere Pro, along with compatibility with Panasonic's 24P-capable camcorders (for the 24fps uninterlaced "celluloid" look). According to product manager Richard Townhill, who was on hand doing 'round the clock Premiere 1.5 demos at NAB, called the software's new Project Manager "the biggest feature in the release"; the new management tools enable users to consolidate media in a single location and "trim it down to what you actually used." Other key new features of Premiere Pro 1.5 include auto-color adjustment (similar to the auto color correction added to Pinnacle Liquid Edition in version 5.5), spline-based bezier keyframe controls, the ability to access After Effects plug-ins directly within Premiere, and AAF and EDL support. Adobe unveiled upgrades to several components of its Video Collection at NAB, including 1.5 versions of Audition and Encore DVD as well.

Canopus debuted its own HD codec and demonstrated its use with Premiere Pro 1.5. The company also showed HD support in the EDIUS HD, a turnkey editing solution combining the HD codec, EDIUS NLE, and the Canopus HDRX-E1 HD-SDI/SDI I/O card. Canopus made several other product announcements for the digital studio at NAN, including Imaginate 2.0, a full-step upgrade to the pan-and-zoom application with a new multi-image slideshow feature and soundtrack support; ProCoder 2.0, the long-awaited (delayed since October) version of the multi-codec software transcoder with a new wizard interface and batch manager tool; and ProCoder Station, an enterprise-level transcoding solution.

Rounding out the HD announcements for the digital studio space was Sonic Solutions, which announced DVD Producer WMV HD Edition, a new authoring system designed to create hi-def DVD titles using standard DVD media with Windows Media Video encoding. The system creates discs designed for playback in WM9 players included with XP systems. First introduced at CES, the format targets Media Center PCs in particular as a playback platform as PC-CE bridge devices. Due to ship in September, Producer WMV HD will have an MSRP of $12,999.

There was also quite a bit of interesting DVD authoring news at the show in addition to Producer WMV HD and new versions of DVD Architect, Encore DVD, and DVD Studio Pro (as well as one of the first public viewings of the Editor's Choice-winning Ulead DVD Workshop 2). Sonic debuted several new products in the pro and prosumer authoring spaces. DVD Producer 4.5 expands professional DVD prototyping and production in two directions, bringing dual-layer DVD output to the abstraction-layer tool for the first time, and incorporating support for the new double-layer DVD+R recordable media. Other new features of Producer 4.5 include new workstation configurations supporting dual-monitor output and support for Sonic's SD-Series Encoders (now in version 3.0, as of NAB). Producer 4.5 is scheduled to ship in June with a starting MSRP of $1999. Also new from Sonic is eDVD 3, the first fruit borne by the InterActual acquisition closed earlier this year (eDVD 1 and 2 were products of the longstanding Sonic-InterActual partnership). eDVD 3 adds Web links and DVD-ROM content to DVD titles created by "the majority of authoring applications available today," according to Sonic press materials. eDVD is designed to build cross-platform Web-DVD links to online content with both Mac and Windows playback. eDVD carries an MSRP of $899.

Also throwing their hat in the DVD ring is ZOOtech Ltd., a UK-based company launching a new pro-level interactive DVD authoring engine called DVD-Extra Studio. DVD-Extra Studio authors build interactive titles ranging from tic-tac-toe to quiz games and training and educational applications via simple or complex algorithms that generate scores of cascading, linked menus (the menus are the content). DVD-Extra Studio is designed to make DVD authoring more time-efficient and to make DVD-Video more akin, in its capabilities, to CD-ROM, Web, and set-top games. One early example of a DVD-Extra Studio-designed title is Who Wants to be a Millionaire?, a game based on the British version of the popular TV game show; users need only the remote control that shipped with their DVD player to play. Educational toy company LeapFrog Enterprises (via Santa Monica-based DVD facility Ascent Media) is another client. Pricing for the authoring solution was unavailable at presstime, as was specific information on licensing fees attendant to developing and selling titles built in DVD-Extra Studio.

Another innovative DVD authoring business strategy on display at the show came from the Israel-based DVDemand Technologies. DVDemand has developed an application called DVD Generator designed to facilitate DVD-on-demand services. The core of DVDGenerator is its DVD Author engine, developed in-house at DVDemand, which the company claims is capable of authoring a DVD from available assets in 45 seconds. DVDemand also supplies a Web store with the system that handles online transaction; a typical application may involve a user selecting from a catalog of video clips and purchasing a custom DVD including those selections. The company began marketing the product in 2001 as a way for trade show attendees to take home selected content on CD, an approach that business model marketing manager Tal Dayan calls "a great service, but not a great business." One current client is Yad Vashem, the Shoah museum in Jerusalem; visitors to the museum can select the content they want to take home—perhaps information on family members—and collect it on a custom DVD on their way out of the museum. DVDemand supplies the software, the Web store, and back-end specifications, including PC, RAID 5 system, duplicator, and Rimage DVD printer. The company is currently developing relationships to integrate batch encoding and asset management systems.

Also developing the asset management-DVD authoring connection at NAB was Pulse Digital, who was showing DVD SelectNet, which they claim is "the industry's first integrated media asset management and automated DVD production system." DVD SelectNet is a network-based system that organizes media assets on network-attached storage devices and enables anyone with Web browser access (and password access privileges) to author and record DVDs from the stored, managed content. The authoring application enables the creation of custom menu pages, motion or still thumbnails, automatic titling, and graphical labeling on the disc itself, via a networked DVD printer, with additional metadata. The system is capable of processing four jobs concurrently. DVD SelectNet ships with Extensis Portfolio for companies that don't have asset management systems already in place, and the SelectNet software itself is XML-based to ensure wide compatibility with other MAM/DAM systems. DVDSelectNet is scheduled to ship in late Q2 with an MSRP of $12,995 which includes the SelectNet software, Extensis Portfolio, unlimited client licenses, and one DVD recorder license.

DVD duplication and production mainstay Microboards showed their wares at NAB, but this year they too were emphasizing digital asset management via a new (in 2004) alliance with BrighTech Video and their MediaBeacon Video DAM solution. Via a partnership with enterprise-level batch transcoder Telestream (with their FlipFactory solution), and integration with the Pioneer DRM-7000 DVD-R FlexLibrary, Microboards is providing soup-to-nuts, Web-enabled video content management. The solution includes ingestion, transcoding, cataloging, delivery, and archiving.

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