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Streaming Media
December 16, 2003

Table of Contents

InterVideo's WinDVD 5 InterActual Add-on Pack Now Available
Alera Technologies Introduces New Digital Photo Copy Cruiser
Nero Releases 6.3 PowerPack
Kaleidescape Introduces DVD Server
TEAC America Introduces 8X DVD+R/RW Drive
Philips' Semiconductor Solutions Paired with BenQ's DVD Engines
SmartSound Introduces Corporate Soundtrack Solutions
MAGIX Ships Photostory on CD & DVD 2004
Review: NTI CD & DVD-Maker 6.5

InterVideo's WinDVD 5 InterActual Add-on Pack Now Available

InterVideo, Inc. announced that its new WinDVD 5 Add-on Pack with InterActual on-disc and online interactive DVD support is now available for downloading at its web site, Offered as an option for both WinDVD Gold 5, the standard consumer edition and WinDVD Platinum 5, InterVideo's high-end version, InterVideo's new WinDVD 5 InterActual Add-on Pack provides navigation of DVDs that include interactive PC content and exclusive online features. No additional software is required and potential software compatibility issues are eliminated. When InterActual-enhanced DVDs are played, the interactive experience plays automatically.

According to a recent announcement by InterActual Technologies, Inc., the developer of the de facto technology standard for viewing dynamic Internet content and enhanced DVD titles on PCs, WinDVD is the first fully integrated DVD player to integrate the InterActual DVD-ROM and online experience. By adding InterActual functionality to WinDVD 5, consumers have a single, fully integrated solution for the finest-quality video and audio playback of DVD-Videos, VCDs, SVCDs, and audio CDs plus transparent access to entertainment experiences that go beyond trailers and outtakes.

More than 70 percent of the top 25 DVDs now include InterActual-enhanced features such as the ability to morph your own image into a character of the movie or actively participate in answering integrated trivia questions and games that provide rewards for high scores. Some videos even allow viewers to challenge other players on the Internet. InterVideo's new InterActual Add-on Packs for WinDVD Gold 5 and WinDVD Platinum 5 are available at InterVideo's web site,, for a suggested list price of $19.95.

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Alera Technologies Introduces New Digital Photo Copy Cruiser

Alera Technologies introduces the new Digital Photo Copy Cruiser with an MSRP of $229 so that most photographers can enjoy this convenient way to store and share digital photos.

The Digital Photo Copy Cruiser is equipped with a USB 2.0 port and can be connected to a computer and used as a 36X CD Recorder. A software suite is bundled with the unit, including Ahead's Nero, with its user-friendly wizard that simplifies the CD recording process with the use of mouse over direction, and Ulead Photo Explorer, which provides an efficient way to transfer, browse, modify and distribute digital media. Photo Explorer is an all-in-one tool for owners of digital cameras, Web Cams, DV camcorders, scanners or anyone that wants a more effective way to manage digital media.

When copying flash memory cards, you can copy up to twenty-one 32MB flash memory cards to a 700MB CD. Photos from each card can be added to the CD in multi-session format so the entire 700MB storage capacity of the CD can be used. The Digital Photo Copy Cruiser supports the following Digital Memory Card formats: CF Type I and II, SD, MMC, SM, MS, MS Pro, and Micro Drive. Each package contains the Software Suite, a USB cable, a 100-240v, 50-60Hz AC power adapter, and Users Guide.

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Nero Releases 6.3 PowerPack

Nero has announced the immediate availability of the new Nero 6.3 PowerPack. The Nero 6.3 PowerPack not only adds new functionality to existing applications within the Nero 6 Ultra Edition, but also introduces Recode 2, an advanced DVD re-quantizer and transcoder.

Powered by Nero Digital-Ahead Software's MPEG-4 video and audio solution, Recode 2 can re-author, copy, re-process and shrink MPEG-2 streams (DVD-9 to DVD-5) and transcode non-copy-protected DVD movies or DVD folders to Nero Digital, preserving chapters, sub-titles, and surround sound audio.

Other highlights of the PowerPack include unlimited MP3 encoding, OGG vorbis support, and support for AMD 64-bit and hyper-threading. There are also significant quality improvements to the video applications within Nero 6 Ultra Edition, NeroVision Express and ShowTime.

NeroVision Express 2.1 introduces several new filters, DVD-VR import, DV Camera export, dual pass encoding, Undo/Redo functions, Half-D1 resolution for DVD and other features, while Nero ShowTime adds powerful post-processing for Nero Digital, Dynamic Noise Control (DNC) for CD/DVD during playback, IFO and DAT file playback support, and subtitle and chapter support for Nero Digital. InCD 4.1 brings DVD-RAM and DVD-RW quick format into the supported DVD features, and has significant speed improvements. Finally, Nero BackItUp includes on-the-fly compression and recording (compression can be done without using any temporary storage of hard disc while burning on CD/DVD), hot plugging of recorders, and several other feature enhancements.

The Nero 6.3 PowerPack is available now as a free update to all Nero 6 Ultra Edition customers.

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Kaleidescape Introduces DVD Server

Kaleidescape, Inc. introduces the Kaleidescape System, a DVD Server that allows users to store their entire movie collection on hard disks, and to access any movie in their collection from any viewing zone in their home.

A Kaleidescape System comprises rack-mountable hardware components, proprietary operating system software, and Kaleidescape's Movie Guide Service. A basic Kaleidescape System has one Server (with five disk cartridges for storing up to 160 movies), one Movie Player, and one DVD Reader. Additional cartridges can be added to the Server, up to a total of 12, which is sufficient to store 440 movies. Additional Servers, Movie Players and DVD Readers can be added to the System as required by each homeowner to increase movie storage capacity, the number of viewing zones, and to make it more convenient to import DVDs onto the Server(s). Kaleidescape's proprietary operating system software enables the hardware components to communicate with each other within the home, via the home Ethernet, and with Kaleidescape's Movie Guide Service, via the Internet. The Movie Guide Service provides detailed information about thousands of movies.

The Kaleidescape System works by importing an exact replica of the DVD files onto the server, including the copy protection. Since no additional compression is applied, no quality is lost. The same bits are streamed to the Movie Player located in any desired viewing zone. The content resides on the Kaleidescape Server and can only be played on the Kaleidescape Players within the home; it cannot be copied to PCs, rewritten to blank DVDs, or accessed via the Internet. Kaleidescape manufactures its products under license from the DVD Copy Control Association, Inc. and Macrovision, Inc., among others, and is committed to protecting the intellectual property rights of the content owners. Once imported, the homeowner can have instantaneous access to their entire movie library utilizing an intuitive, easy-to-use proprietary user interface which provides multiple ways to browse and select movies, play movies, jump to favorite scenes, pause, resume, and exercise parental control over which movies are available in each viewing zone. Each room can be configured for individual preferences such as audio settings, the screen aspect ratio and parental control. Movies can be selected either by the on-screen movie list sorted by title, genre, director, or actor; or users can peruse the vivid cover art which appears on-screen and automatically shuffles similar titles into view. Homeowners can even scroll through their user-programmable favorites menu, a recommended movie list or even a pre-selected "watch-soon" list.

The Kaleidescape Movie Guide Service can be controlled with current AMX, Crestron and IP-based touch panels, or universal remote controllers. Pricing will depend on the amount of movie storage as well as the number of viewing zones. A base Kaleidescape System lists for $27,000 and includes a Kaleidescape Server with sufficient storage for 160 DVD movies, a Movie Player for playback in a single zone, and a DVD Reader for importing DVDs. The storage capacity can be easily expanded to over 400 movies for less than $6,000 and an unlimited number of Movie Players can be added for $3995 per zone.

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TEAC America Introduces 8X DVD+R/RW Drive

TEAC announces the launch of its new DV-W58E DVD+R/+RW DVD-Recorder drive, an 8X DVD+R/RW IDE/ATAPI DVD-Recorder drive. It writes at 8X speed to DVD+R, rewrites at 4X speed to DVD+RW and plays DVD video at 12X speed. The drive is capable of recording to CD-R media at 32X speeds, rewriting to CD-RW media at 16X speed, combined with a higher read speed for CDs at 40X speed maximum.

The DV-W58E drive utilizes an IDE/ATAPI interface for easy integration and upgrades. It supports a variety of DVD recording applications. The DVW58E/KIT kit comes complete with the installation hardware, recording and video editing software, DVD video player software, full backup software and is ready for quick and easy installation on Windows systems. The TEAC DV-W58E DVD-Recorder drive will be available from December 30th through TEAC America's Distribution partners, and online at

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Philips' Semiconductor Solutions Paired with BenQ's DVD Engines

Royal Philips Electronics announced that it is teaming up with BenQ, a leading DVD recorder engine manufacturer, to introduce a DVD-recorder monoboard solution targeted at consumer electronic Original Equipment Manufacturers (OEMs). Philips already possesses a portfolio of Nexperia DVD-recorder reference designs and recently introduced its highly integrated PNX7200 MPEG-2 codec, which uniquely handles all of the necessary MPEG-2 encoding, decoding and transcoding on a single-chip. This latest collaboration pairs BenQ's DVD engines with Philips' proven, compatible and feature-rich MPEG solutions onto a single board to advance the adoption of DVD video recorders into the high-volume market.

The monoboard produced by BenQ combines the BenQ optical engine, based upon the Philips PNX7850 chipset, with the digital board, which includes the recently introduced Philips PNX7200 MPEG-2 codec. A result of this integration onto a single board is a reduced Bill of Materials (BoM) cost compared to existent DVD recorder designs. CE manufacturers not only benefit from the lower costs and smaller form factor, but also the simplicity of sourcing various components. Lastly, there is an opportunity to improve the reliability and playability of the DVD recorder due to the proven combination of the engine front-end and MPEG-2 back-end.

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SmartSound Introduces Corporate Soundtrack Solutions

SmartSound Software, Inc. announced its new Corporate Soundtrack Solutions at DV Expo West in Los Angeles. These new pricing structures make it affordable for corporate A/V departments to have access to a complete library of royalty-free music and the industry's most efficient soundtrack creation tool - Sonicfire Pro 3.

Such leading companies as BMW, General Motors, SBC and American Airlines use SmartSound products such as Sonicfire Pro to create soundtracks for their video productions. Creating a soundtrack with other solutions can take even video professionals hours to score a short video. For many corporate users, this is time that could be spent on other projects. SmartSound's patented technology and professional quality music library make it a unique solution for creating great royalty-free soundtracks perfectly fitted to any project in a matter of minutes.

SmartSound's new corporate pricing makes bringing Sonicfire Pro into a corporate setting more convenient and affordable than ever. The Complete Corporate Soundtrack Solution™ is $4,995, and includes two copies of the Sonicfire Pro software, the entire royalty-free library of 59 SmartSound music and sound effects CDs for each copy of Sonicfire Pro. A one-year membership to SmartSound's SmartClub is also included, which entitles the customer to free copies of any additional CDs released within 12 months of purchase. This is a savings of more than $3,000 from the cost of the individual pieces.

Companies who wish to start on a smaller scale can choose to purchase The Essential Corporate Soundtrack Solution, which includes one copy of Sonicfire Pro and nine CDs from the SmartSound Music Library that are most appropriate for corporate settings. This package includes a bonus of five free downloads of any single-tracks from the SmartSound library. Priced at $795, this is a savings of more than 30 percent from the cost of the individual pieces.

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MAGIX Ships Photostory on CD & DVD 2004

MAGIX announced that it has begun shipping PhotoStory on CD & DVD 2004, which creates entertaining CD and DVD slideshows that the whole family can watch on TV. With a simple mouse click, MAGIX PhotoStory on CD & DVD 2004 works with personal photos from digital cameras and scanners and a wide variety of image, video and sound files. It captures photos directly from digital cameras and scanners and automatically restores picture and sound quality. Precious memories, such as wedding, parties, and vacations can be preserved on CD and DVD as a movie-like experience that you can play again and again on a home DVD player or PC.

MAGIX PhotoStory on CD & DVD 2004 is easy to use. Consumers can simply select photos, drag and drop to arrange; then click to burn CDs and DVDs, create streaming videos for the Internet, or save as an .AVI movie for use in other projects. If desired, impressive transitions, effects, music and recorded narration can be added. A huge library of creative touches, such as virtual camera movements, images, music, text styles, special FX, cross fades, zooms, subtitles, video clips, close-ups and panorama movements are included to make the slideshow project into a theatrical masterpiece. 

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Review: NTI CD & DVD-Maker 6.5

Summary: NTI has put together an attractively priced, well-integrated, powerful set of tools with an easy-to-use interface, and they should be applauded for that. But with no DVD movie-making functionality, NTI may have a hard time competing in a market where the other main players have DVD authoring built-in.

In an industry with an ever-increasing tendency for program bloat, there is something to be said for a product that values simplicity and purity of purpose. Unlike its market competitors Nero and Roxio, in their latest offerings, NTI has made no attempt to expand its CD & DVD-Maker into a full-blown digital media studio. Instead, NTI CD & DVD-Maker 6.5 does just what the name implies—burns CDs and DVDs. This may be a welcome sight to users who already have an arsenal of third-party tools at their disposal, but it also may disappoint the consumer who is looking for all the necessary tools in a single package, especially when comparison-shopping with Roxio and Nero, not to mention Sonic's new MyDVD/RecordNow combo.

Although NTI has added the obligatory DVD recording ability, a tool absolutely necessary to remain competitive in this market, they unfortunately have limited this to data backup only. There is no support whatsoever for DVD movie making, a glaring omission when compared with competitive offerings that can capture video and offer at least rudimentary DVD menu creation. To their credit, NTI provides the ability to record VCD, Slideshow VCD, SVCD, and Slideshow SVCD, as well as support for a variety of data and audio formats. Their interface is clean and easy to use, and they deliver a balance between simplicity for the consumer and options for the power user. As a piece of software for pure recording purposes, you couldn't ask for more, but in a market where consumers may be looking for supplemental features, it's impossible to ignore their lack of support for DVD movie production.

This review takes a look at NTI CD & DVD-Maker Platinum 6.5 and how it defines itself in the current CD and DVD recording software marketplace.

Right off the bat, you have to like that NTI requires a mere 75MB of hard disk space. Compare that with the whopping 800MB you need to install Roxio or the 500MB recommended by Nero. After you put the installation disc into the CD player, you are presented with an installation front end, which is overkill, since all you can do is install, browse or go to NTI's Web site. Installation is a snap—not even requiring a registration key—a welcome rarity in this day of locked-down programs.

Some users may be unhappy that you cannot pick and choose which pieces you want to include, something that both Roxio and Nero allow. Upon completion of the installation, you are presented with the Indeo software codec installation. Finally, the program installs an NTI Backup trial version. Granted, NTI makes the best Windows backup tool in the industry, but they could have saved everyone some aggravation here by giving a choice about installing it. It's only a seven-use trial and it makes little sense to force it onto every user. Experienced users will simply cancel out of the installation process, but those with less savvy will have to live with it. NTI would have served everyone better by providing an out or simply including a full working copy of the program in the package.

Menu Please
Like Roxio and Nero, NTI has developed a front-end menu system to make it easier to access each program in the package. In this case, NTI uses a CD graphic metaphor for its menu, breaking down their package into different types of activities such as audio, data, or video. Clicking a menu name reveals specific functions in a pop-up. Selecting a function brings you to a screen where you can begin the process of choosing the files you want to record.

Although there are differences depending on which choice you make, NTI presents a uniform interface for all tasks, making it a very easy program to learn and use. This is a nice advantage over Easy CD & DVD Creator, in which Roxio has made little effort to unify the "look" of the new modules and the "classic" interface. The visual integration here also arguably beats Nero's.

Each separate task includes a set of numbered buttons on the left side of the screen, which NTI calls EasySteps that are really an embedded help system. Clicking a step number reveals a pop-up with the instructions for completing the task (or the correct dialog box to complete the task). This is a nice nod to the novice user; unfortunately in their effort to keep the steps brief, they don't include all of the instructions in the EasySteps. Clicking the Help button brings up a context-sensitive help page with the complete instructions, but the beginner at whom this is aimed is probably not going to know this.

Simple Audio CD Burning
For simple audio burning, NTI offers a variety of formats including audio, live audio (the ability to record directly to a CD using a connected microphone, a nice touch), MP3, WMA and recording from an audio player (the default being the Windows Media Player). Recording a basic audio CD is a snap. From an Explorer-like interface, you navigate to the files you want to record in the left pane, then drag and drop the files from the right pane into the audio track layout pane. You can begin the recording process in a number of ways, including clicking the appropriate EasyStep button. It would have been nice if NTI had provided a way to change the format type on-the-fly from the production screen instead of forcing users back to the menu to make a change.

When you're ready to record, you'll find that NTI offers beginners the default opion of having CD & DVD-Maker automatically control all recording decisions, hiding the advanced options so the novice need not even see them. For those users who want additional control over the recording process, clicking the Advanced button reveals other options. This should appeal to both novice and experienced users, providing whatever level of power they desire.

The recording process is smooth and reasonably fast. When it's finished, NTI provides the option of going to their built-in jewel case editor to create CD and jewel case labels. The labeling tool provides an interesting variety of graphics for the disc itself, but the template jewel case graphics tend to be too busy, making it difficult to read the text. You can choose not to include a graphic or to start your own background image from scratch if you aren't happy with the ones NTI has included.

Movie Burning
The video-burning menu is the most perplexing in the program. Without DVD movie making and recording, a lot of consumers will turn away from this product. If you don't need DVD movie recording, however, there are two CD movie recording choices, VideoCD and Super VCD. Granted, most DVD players can play both VCD varieties and recognize menus in VCDs. But with DVD recorders available for $200 and brand-name media widely available for $2 per disc or less, supporting the VideoCD formats to the exclusion of DVD-Video seems almost anachronistic.

For VideoCD and Super VCD authoring, NTI provides the ability to drag in a menu graphic but does not include built-in menu editing. Instead, the user must have the wherewithal to figure out how to edit the menu in a third-party graphics tool. Novice users will almost never get this; even if they do, they need to figure out how to carefully line up the menu items. It's a process that would have been better to integrate directly into the program, rather than leaving it up to the end user. It's also important to note that there is no method for importing video directly into the program, leaving the user to figure out how to capture video from a video camera using third-party software. Granted, Nero and Easy CD & DVD Creator are no great shakes in this department—dedicated consumer DVD authoring tools like MyDVD and WinDVD Creator offer much more versatility—but at least they'll let you build a DVD movie.

Beyond these limitations, making a VCD or SVCD is a simple process, much like creating an audio CD. You simply locate your source material in the Explorer-like interface and drag and drop it into the layout pane. You do the same with the menu graphic and then start recording.

With a Data selection on the main menu that allows you to copy files to a CD or DVD, a backup program might be superfluous, which could explain why NTI has decided to sell the backup program separately rather than integrate it into the standard version of NTI CD and DVD-Maker. Nonetheless, the backup program is sleek, easy to use, and elegantly incorporates EasySteps into the application. Rather than having the user read what the steps are, clicking a step displays a screen with a clear task and a brief explanation. For instance, in step 1 you select your files. You don't need to be "told" to do this because the interface displays a form for selecting the files for backup. Even the backup program's toolbar uses slicker, clearer graphics. If NTI could build each application using this clear design, they would improve the usability of all of their programs. The backup process is clear and easy to understand, and the program includes a built-in scheduler so that you can schedule regular backups.

Final Thoughts
There's certainly a lot to like about NTI CD and DVD-Maker 6.5, but ultimately it will be judged by what it is missing rather than what it includes. As a straightforward tool for recording a variety of media and file types, it does a great job. NTI has put together an integrated set of tools with an easy-to-use interface, and they should be applauded for that. But with no DVD movie-making functionality, it's going to turn some consumers away and make it difficult for NTI to compete in a market where the other main players have DVD making built-in. This is not to say that NTI needs to make major changes. They have a good base and a clear product that boasts a simplicity and consistency of design that's at least the equal of its competition. If they took the next logical step and added DVD movie making, they would be right there with the rest of the market. And at only 75MB and $69.99, they would attract a lot of users who are tired of program bloat.

NTI CD & DVD-Maker 6.5
NewTech Infosystems, Inc.

System Requirements
• 266mHz Pentium (700mHz Pentium 4 recommended) running Windows 98/ME/2000/XP
• 128MB RAM (256MB if running Win XP or 2K)
• 75MB available HDD space
• a compatible CD or DVD burner

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