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November 04, 2003

Table of Contents

EZQuest Offers FW800 Firmware Updates for Panther Users
InterVideo WinCinema Suite Bundled with Samsung's 4X DVD±R/RW Drives
Profound Effects Releases Useful Assistants Version 1.1
PTBurn Network Software for Bravo Disc Publisher Now Shipping
Cinram Canada Upgrades with Digital Matrix Electroclean System
ATI Powers the Roku High-Definition Digital Media Player
New "Business Server Solution" Packages Internet-Based Workflow
Toshiba Announces New LCD Front Projector
Review: Sonic MyDVD 5 Studio Deluxe

EZQuest Offers FW800 Firmware Updates for Panther Users

EZQuest is offering firmware updates on its Web site that will solve the Mac OS 10.3 (Panther) FireWire 800 compatibility problem recently announced by Apple. In addition, all EZQuest FireWire 800 drives are now shipping with the updated firmware. A

pple's new Mac OS 10.3 has a compatibility issue with FireWire 800 drives that can cause loss of data on a user's hard drive, and can damage the FireWire 800 drive. Apple has traced this problem to the firmware in FireWire 800 drives. The problem affects only those Mac OS 10.3 (Panther) users who have FireWire 800 drives with Oxford 922 chipsets, and firmware v 1.02 and earlier. These Mac users can get an update that will solve the problem by following the instructions at: http://www.ezq.com/helpdesk/index.php?t=answ& id=38.

www.ezq.com 

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InterVideo WinCinema Suite Bundled with Samsung's 4X DVD±R/RW Drives

Intervideo announced that WinCinema, InterVideo's complete suite of multimedia software solutions, is being included with Samsung Electronics' new SR-T04B 4X DVD±RW drives. Designed to help users maximize the benefits of their Samsung high-performance drives, WinCinema is a fully integrated solution that includes WinDVD Recorder (for DVD/VCD playback and recording), WinDVD Creator (for capturing, editing, authoring and burning videos and slide shows) and DVD Copy (for making identical duplicates of personal DVDs and CDs ).

Samsung's SR-T04B DVD Recorder is a next-generation solution for recording data, audio, photos and video to DVD+R/RW, DVD-R/RW and CD-R/RW media. With the ability to burn DVD±R media at 4X speed (equivalent to 36X CD-R performance), the drive can record an entire 4.7GB DVD-R disc in about 15 minutes. By combining Samsung's high-performance hardware with InterVideo's advanced software technologies, the SR-T04B drive will be a compelling solution for both novices and experienced users who want a fast, easy way to create DVDs and VCDs that can be played back by most DVD players. Users also benefit from having a fully integrated suite of software products and the assurance that there are no hardware/software compatibility issues to resolve.

www.intervideo.com
www.samsung.com

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Profound Effects Releases Useful Assistants Version 1.1

Profound Effects, Inc. is pleased to announce the immediate availability of version 1.1 of Useful Assistants (UA), its breakthrough productivity booster for Adobe After Effects. Version 1.1 nearly doubles the number of bundled assistants (to 62) and adds an entirely new productivity tool, the Profound Effects Uber Controller.

UA boosts productivity within After Effects by automating tedious tasks and adding convenience features that are absent in After Effects itself. The new Uber Controller lets non-technical After Effects users create custom expression controls that are easier to use than the expression controls included in After Effects. Most of the new assistants were requested by UA Beta Testers and users from the After Effects mailing list who include some of the most well known After Effects users in the world. Coming from real world power users, the new assistants address real world problems. Each useful assistant embodies a tip or trick of an After Effects master.

www.profoundeffects.com

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PTBurn Network Software for Bravo Disc Publisher Now Shipping

Primera Technology, Inc., a leading manufacturer of CD and DVD duplicators and printers, announced it is shipping PTBurn Network Software for the Bravo Disc Publisher. PTBurn Network Software allows multiple users to send CD or DVD recording and print jobs to a Bravo remotely from client PCs. PTBurn Network Software includes a range of useful features for the office environment such as job status, priority job queue management, type of disc (CD/DVD), multiple copies, replacement fields and more.

Disc labeling software called SureThing CD Labeler is built into PT Burn Network for designing disc faces that Bravo prints directly onto the surface of CDs or DVDs. Job status is reported back to the user in real time. Remote recording and printing of discs is highly reliable and efficient, since Bravo's major functions can be viewed remotely instead of having to physically supervise the unit in operation. Users can publish either unique "one-off" CDs or multiple disc duplication runs of up to 50 discs at a time. The software runs on virtually any server/client network under Windows 2000/XP and sells for just US$299.95 for the first five users. Additional five-user license blocks are also available for US$299.95 each. There is no limit on the number of users that are able to send jobs over the network.

www.primera.com

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Cinram Canada Upgrades with Digital Matrix Electroclean System

Digital Matrix continues to expand and upgrade its StamperForming installation at Cinram International to include its latest Ultrasonic Electroclean EC/1000-US. The EC/1000-US integrates with an existing Digital Matrix stand-alone galvanics system installed by Cinram last year.

The EC/1000-US includes both anodic and cathodic electrocleaning capabilities. Headquartered in Hempstead, NY, Digital Matrix pioneered the development of the expandable Modular Component electroforming systems in 1994. Today, the company offers both modular and self contained standalone (SA) electroforming systems designed to accommodate the differing and growing needs of replicators with varying volume demands.

www.galvanics.com
www.cinram.com

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ATI Powers the Roku High-Definition Digital Media Player

ATI Technologies Inc. announced that its Xilleon 225 chip powers the new Roku high-definition digital media player. Introduced just last month and now in North American consumer electronic stores, the Roku HD1000 connects to any HDTV and provides a high-resolution canvas for digital media such as photos, art, music and dynamic media applications. Xilleon's architecture is responsible for powering many of the 480i, 480p, 720p and 1080i true high-definition features of the Roku HD1000 including LiveArt, which brings motion to art.

Through high-definition MPEG2 video, LiveArt motifs such as a field of vibrant orange poppies blowing in the wind, or a rippling deep blue mountain lake, can turn any HDTV into a window to the world. Additional LiveArt such as the Roku Aquarium takes advantage of Xilleon's real-time high-definition MPEG decoder. Xilleon 225 integrates into a single chip all the processing, graphics, video, audio, and I/O capabilities needed in the Roku HD1000. Included in the Xilleon 225 is a 300MHz MIPS CPU (central processing unit), dual-HD (high definition) capable MPEG decoder, audio decoder, dual display engine, conditional access, transport demultiplexers, PCI (Peripheral Component Interconnect), USB (universal serial bus), and hard disk drive interfaces.

The Roku HD1000 is priced at $499.99. Roku Art Packs are priced from $39.99 - $69.99. The Roku HD1000 and Roku Art Packs can be ordered at www.rokulabs.com. Additionally the Roku HD1000 and Roku Art Packs can be found on www.amazon.com and in consumer electronics stores nationwide including Good Guys, Magnolia Audio Video and Tweeter Home Entertainment Group locations such as all Tweeter, HiFi Buys, Sound Advice, Showcase Home Entertainment and Hillcrest High Fidelity.

www.rokulabs.com
www.ati.com

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New "Business Server Solution" Packages Internet-Based Workflow

Canto, a global leader in Digital Asset Management (DAM) solutions, announced a new product line featuring the server solutions, which bundle the components for the most typical needs around managing digital assets of any kind. The Server Solutions are offered at attractive prices and will make it easier to pick and choose the various components required to set up complete client/server solutions.

The Business Server Solution meets the superior workflow and e-commerce needs of business users and includes high-end collaborative web tools. It offers a Workgroup server, three clients, Cumulus Vault and Internet Client Pro, formerly only available as a core functionality of Canto's flagship offering, the Cumulus Enterprise Edition.

The Publishing Server Solution is geared to sales and marketing departments and all customers who need to publish and market their assets to the Web. It includes a Workgroup server, three clients, and Web Publisher Pro, as well as one year UAP.

The Archive Server Solution is the ideal solution for companies who need to manage and archive their assets efficiently. A Workgroup server and three clients are included.

Early in 2004 Canto will ship a Professional Photo Suite that will satisfy the needs of professional photographers dealing with high-end camera formats and news-related metadata management, such as IPTC

www.canto.com

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Toshiba Announces New LCD Front Projector

Toshiba America Consumer Products announced the launch of the TLP ET1, the latest addition to its family of front projectors. With a retail price of $1,499, the ET1 is designed to appeal to users who don't have space for a dedicated home theater, but still want to enjoy a high quality entertainment experience. The unique all-in-one design makes the ET1 highly portable and easy to set up.

Capable of operating in TheaterWide, Movie and Game modes, the ET1 offers consumers greater viewing flexibility while still delivering a native 16:9 format for a true wide screen experience. With a 480p wide screen display, the projector also features input capability of 480i, 576i/p, 720p and 1080i. Weighing just 7.6 pounds, this model features built-in high performance 10W stereo speakers and surround sound for reproduction of dynamic sound without connection to other audio equipment.

With just over an eight-foot throw distance for a 100" diagonal image, there's no need for the large dedicated room often associated with home theater projectors - the ET1 is ideal for smaller rooms. The ET1 combines high quality Toshiba video circuitry with the latest Faroudja DCDI 12200 scaling chip for clean, sharp and natural images. Its new 16:9 three-chip LCD engine provides a 600:1 contrast ratio for both 16:9 and 4:3 material.

www.tacp.toshiba.com

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Review: Sonic MyDVD 5 Studio Deluxe

Synopsis: MyDVD is the best all-purpose CD/DVD creation software I've seen, offering as near to the best of DVD authoring and CD creation as you'll find anywhere these days, and with its video editing features, it essays competence in areas that others don't even attempt.

As a callow assistant editor at my first trade show (the late and occasionally lamented intermedia), I stuck close to the EMedia (then CD-ROM Professional) booth, hawking the magazine, tongue-in-cheek, as "all things to some people, and nothing to others." In a way, that was more true then than it is now—if that makes any sense—since the 1995-vintage CD-ROM Professional, though beginning to broaden its purview and diversify its appeal, was a stuck-in-the-stacks, niche-within-a-niche, library-oriented publication, exploring the minutiae of mass-database applications for CD-ROM and the hardware that produced and played them.

Perhaps echoing the spirit of those bygone days, two recent reviews by Ron Miller have used similar "all things to all people" terms to criticize two long-standing CD recording tools, Roxio's Easy CD Creator and Ahead's Nero. In recent versions they've attempted to expand their appeal, both in terms of versatility— adding DVD authoring capability, in the main— and offering a surfeit of features for both the consumer and professional. The problem, Miller argued, came in the tools' tendency to spread themselves too thin, and offer too little to too many. That's putting it in terms more dramatic than Miller did—neither of these tools came up all that short, and both are powerful applications, particularly on the recording side, and admirable ones in their first efforts to throw DVD recording into the mix. But again, in the name of pro/am fusion, he argued that their identities aren't as well-integrated as they might be, and having worked with both tools, I agree.

That said, versions 6 of both tools (the latest, in both instances) have redefined the parameters for software previously known as "premastering" or "CD recording" tools. The old terms simply don't fit anymore, since so much of what these tools do pertains to DVD. Both tools also broke that new ground in much the same way, adding first-generation DVD capabilities to tools well-heeled in CD creation. And while both tools (Nero in particular) can stake a reasonable claim to pro capabilities on the CD recording side, they approach DVD from a decidedly consumer standpoint. Then there's Sonic, who invented DVD authoring "for the rest of us" with MyDVD, and arguably reinvented "the rest of us" as potential DVD authors, with help from Pioneer, HP, and Sony, who brought us affordable DVD recording. MyDVD, which is now in version 5, is bigger and more feature-enriched than ever. What's more, Sonic has added video editing and CD recording to the mix with this version, which is welcome news. But unlike Roxio and Ahead, which are combining the raw and the cooked, Sonic has an ace up its sleeve (mixed metaphors aside). With the acquisition of Veritas' MyCD recording technology in November 2002, they've got a seasoned CD application at their disposal—RecordNow Max, an Editor's Choice winner in 2002. Best of all, they've chosen not to dispose of it, but rather to bundle it with MyDVD in the newly released MyDVD 5 Studio Deluxe, released by Sonic in September and distributed by Adaptec. And if that sounds to you like a suite that could stake a legitimate "all things to all people" claim, you wouldn't be far off. What's more, if it sounds like a lock for Editor's Choice, the single best mass-market DVD/CD creation tool on the market, you'd be right again.

A Period of Transition
There's so much that's new in MyDVD, we'll go quickly over the familiar—and even the relatively mundane among the new—and progress right to the new and the cool. Part of the idea of an all-purpose consumer tool like MyDVD is that it should take care of everything you need to get your video to DVD, from capture to editing to authoring to burning. MyDVD 4 had a solid real-time capture utility, but it's much improved in version 5, with a facile new capture window, and the ability to set capture time and not have to worry about starting and stopping. You can also set MyDVD to detect scenes and make chapter menus from scenes, which is fairly handy, but given that there's more interesting stuff you can do later on, trimming video and customizing transitions and chapter breaks, unless you're in a hurry, you can make better use of MyDVD's rich feature set by holding off and inserting your own chapter points. Under Record Settings, MyDVD gives you a few options for scene detection, such as a slider bar for determining detection sensitivity.

There's no batch capture option or quick scan feature for surveying your source tape before capture, which is disappointing, but more importantly, capture proved fluid and clean in testing, yielding a nice 10-minute DV-AVI file with no dropped frames, which is what you really need to move on to authoring and editing.

Whether you capture new video or pull video from your hard drive (using "Get Movies" in the main authoring window), MyDVD will drop a thumbnail of your video in a working title menu with default text. Double-clicking on the thumbnail or right-clicking and selecting "Edit Video" from the pop-up will take you to Sonic's brand new video editing window. If you didn't enable "Detect Scenes" during capture, you can have MyDVD do it now, and have it place those scenes in a storyboard layout for editing. You won't find a timeline layout like those found in popular consumer video editors like Pinnacle Studio or Ulead Video Studio here; Sonic says customer feedback indicates their users were looking for something simpler.

MyDVD includes five categories of between-scenes transitions (Fades & Dissolves, Iris Wipes, Pushes, Slides, Splits, and Wipes), which run the gamut from the straightforward to flashy and goofy stuff that screams "consumer editor," but makes the process more fun, which is certainly part of the goal here. Pick the transitions you like and drag and drop them into the storyboard, or ask MyDVD to generate random transitions. MyDVD also gives you four categories of options for altering the look of your video (Filters, Frames, Image Adjustment, and Orientation). This type of hokey foofaraw was the trademark of ArcSoft ShowBiz, the "only try this at home" video editing software that Sonic bundled with the Deluxe edition of MyDVD 4. Some of it is kind of fun (like "Alien TV Overlay" under Frames, and the "Scratchy Old Film" and "Sepia" filters), and some of the Image Adjustment tools will have practical use if your source video is a little too dark or bright, or needs its contrast adjusted.

You can also add titles in the video editing window, and most importantly, trim unwanted segments of scenes by double clicking the thumbnail in the storyboard and (as it opens in the trimmer window) dragging the slider bar to new in- and out-points. You can pinpoint these points digitally by specifying them in the clock, then preview your new scene. Here you also have the option of adding soundtrack audio, with audio features accessed by clicking the "Add Audio" speaker icon from the vertical panel at the left side of the screen. Again, very simple and straightforward and accessible to the novice. Nothing unfamiliar or shocking here, but it's a big advantage to have it available within the MyDVD application itself.

Back on Top
Once you've got your video trimmed and transitioned, it's time to head back to the DVD authoring windows, and help MyDVD do what it does best. There's less to note that's new here. MyDVD was always pretty accomplished in the entry-level DVD arts. Chapter and menu creation—automatic, by scene, or customized—is simple and straightforward as can be and, as always, MyDVD gives you a nice selection of background options. You can make motion menus of all your chapter buttons here, too, check your button links (using the on-screen DVD remote-like preview control), and add chapter titles as desired. Then it's just one click to burn—red button, lower right, can't miss it.

Also new in MyDVD 5 is the ability to choose AC-3 as your audio format. This is a nice space-saving feature (as in, leaving more space for video), since AC-3, unlike PCM (the CD-Audio standard that was previously your only option), is a compressed format. And it's a much more appealing option than the "MPEG audio" format available in many tools, which is also compressed, but much lower quality than AC-3.

But the real distinguishing feature of the latest MyDVD as a DVD authoring tool involves OpenDVD and Sonic's CinePlayer software playback tool. CinePlayer never seemed like any great shakes to me in past versions, and Sonic itself admits that for most playback tasks it's more limited than leading competitors like WinDVD and PowerDVD.

For those who don't know, OpenDVD is proprietary Sonic technology that places project information on a recorded disc along with the DVD-Video title itself (this information is invisible to a DVD player). By doing so, Sonic allows users to re-open their MyDVD project from the disc, provided source media like AVI files, images, and MP3s or WAVs used for soundtrack music are still available or you don't intend to re-edit your original video. Arguably, OpenDVD has limited appeal for many applications, since it requires a pretty convoluted scenario to be worthwhile: How likely are users to keep hefty AVI files close at hand but trash their DVD project files while they're still potentially revising a disc? OK, I admit it, I've done that and regretted it, but I still wonder if that's terribly common. Of course, given timecode consistency, it's easier to capture and replace AVI files than re-create DVD project files, so maybe they've got something there.

In any event, OpenDVD (like CinePlayer) never seemed all that great to me until I learned that with version 5, you can actually launch MyDVD from CinePlayer as you review your work and discover something you'd like to correct, and thanks to OpenDVD, re-open your project file and jump in right where you left off, more or less. And because all DVDs created with MyDVD are "OpenDVD-compliant" (which means they include the project files), this applies to any disc you create in the software.

Into the Music
The other keynote of the MyDVD 5 Studio Deluxe bundle is RecordNow, the all-purpose CD and DVD recording application based on technology acquired from Veritas last November. Sonic has made some interesting cosmetic changes to RecordNow, and a few less apparent ones. First and foremost is casting the whole application in a Wizard that looks quite a bit like CinePlayer.

I wouldn't say all the changes have been for the best, but it's certainly a powerful and usable tool. Getting started with RecordNow (a discrete application that installs along with MyDVD) is simple—choose one of the four iconic project tabs (Audio, Data, Copy, or VideoCD) from below the main player window, and RecordNow will launch one of these categories with its several attendant choices. In Audio, for example, these include "Audio CD for Car or Home CD Player," (you can also jump straight to this option from the main window), "Exact Copy," "Convert Audio CDs to MP3s," and more.

The music compilation option is simpler than ever. In addition to the familiar drag and drop for files already on your hard drive, they've also reduced the steps in the rip and import process. (Audio extraction, aka "ripping," was buried in the "Drive" pull-down in the old RecordNow Max.) This all happens in a simple two-window interface, consisting of "Music on System" (at left) and "Music to Burn." Interestingly, if you try dragging a whole folder's worth of files into the "Music to Burn" column, the last shall always be first (i.e., if your files are properly ordered in the source folder and named Track 1, Track 2…Track 24, Track 24 will end up first every time). This quirk (certainly more a curiosity than a bug) lingers from several previous versions of the software. I've never remembered to mention it in a review before, but I'm doing it this time and we'll see if it makes any difference. In any event, using two handy, green arrows, you can move the tracks to your heart's content and get everything in the proper order before burning.

RecordNow also includes a basic CD labeling application, which you can launch immediately after completing a disc. RecordNow will directly import track information into your label, which may or may not be helpful, depending on how cryptically you've named your tracks. The "Sonic Express Labeler" is far from overwhelming, but that's no surprise—bundled labeling tools are usually pretty lame. It's nice to have a DVD option, but I couldn't even find a way to label the spine of a CD jewel case, which is the main thing these tools are supposed to do (besides position text and images on sticky labels) since it's so difficult to do without them.

RecordNow remains a fine CD burning application, though I have one major complaint: as far as I can tell, there's no way to save a project file in the "Audio CD for Car…" area, which is absurd. Is Sonic planning to develop some sort of "OpenCD" technology for CD-Audio creation, and thus alleviate the need for saving CD project information before or after burning? I burned a compilation CD in RecordNow Deluxe and returned to it three times to tweak it, and had to rip the tracks from the previous version of the disc each time.

Down the Road
Whatever its occasional shortcomings, MyDVD is the best all-purpose CD/DVD creation software I've seen. Easy CD & DVD Creator 6 and Nero 6 Ultra Edition were on the right track—jacks-of-all-trades, masters of one. But MyDVD offers as near to the best of both (DVD authoring and CD creation) as you'll find anywhere these days, and with its rudimentary video editing features, it essays competence in areas that ECD and Nero don't even attempt. In a broad evolutionary sense, it's fascinating that these three tools are even competing in the same space now; you could have predicted that a couple years back, but even Roxio, Ahead, and Sonic might have doubted you. And even if it isn't quite all things to all people, Sonic's MyDVD ought to make believers out of quite a few.

Sonic MyDVD 5 Studio Deluxe
$99
Sonic Solutions, www.sonic.com
Adaptec, Inc., www.adaptec.com

System Requirements:
• 800mHz Pentium 3 or higher (1gHz recommended)
• 128MB RAM (256MB recommended)
• AGP video graphics adapter with 8MB RAM
• 10GB free HDD space (20GB recommended)

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