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January 27, 2004

Table of Contents

Over 100 Exhibitors Slated for Media-Tech Expo
Apple Introduces Logic Pro 6 & Logic Express 6
NovaStor Introduces NovaBACKUP v7.1
Media 100 Announces 844/X Version 3
Avid Xpress Pro and Media Composer Adrenaline to Support Windows Media 9
Alias Licenses Animation Technologies from House of Moves
LG Electronics Selects LSI Logic Dimension Processor for HDD Combination DVD Recorder
Avid Acquires NXN
Pure Energy: CES 2004

Over 100 Exhibitors Slated for Media-Tech Expo

Media-Tech Expo, the leading annual tradeshow for the media manufacturing industry, takes place in Frankfurt, Germany, this year from May 25 - 27. Last year's show featured 180 exhibitors. The 2004 Expo is expected to have over 200 exhibitors from around the globe and attract 3,500 visitors from the media industry. Due to exhibitor demand, the Expo has moved to the newest and most attractive hall at the Frankfurt fair grounds, Hall 3. It offers exhibitors an area of 14,000 square meters, about 1,000 square meters more than the 2003 Expo in Las Vegas.

Of special interest will be the production lines for the fast growing recordable DVD-R and the rewritable DVD RW/DVD RAM. Of course, the newest products for manufacturing the optical disc formats of the future - Blu-Ray and HD-DVD featuring the large 25 GByte storage capacity that is essential for digital HDTV - will also be on display. The Expo's target audiences are made up of many of the world's largest international manufacturers of production lines for CD, CD-R, and DVD as well as their suppliers. The Media-Tech Expo is being organized for the Media-Tech Association by the Messe Frankfurt Ausstellungen GmbH (MFA), a subsidiary of Messe Frankfurt.

www.mediatech-expo.net/ 

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Apple Introduces Logic Pro 6 & Logic Express 6

Apple streamlined its award-winning, professional audio production software line by announcing Logic Pro 6 for professional musicians and Logic Express 6 for students and educators. Used by over 200,000 musicians worldwide, Logic is the industry-leading audio production software for professional musicians, audio engineers, producers and film composers. Logic Pro 6 consolidates 12 pre-existing products into one comprehensive package for just $999. Logic Express 6 provides a basic set of professional tools to allow students and educators to compose and produce music with sophisticated results at an affordable price of $299.

Logic Pro 6 includes Logic Platinum, the award-winning audio recording and sequencer application, and the entire line of 53 audio DSP plug-ins and professional-quality software instruments. Logic Pro 6 is a recording studio in a box with everything professional musicians and audio engineers need to compose, record, edit and mix their music, including professional software instruments, multitrack recorders, mixing desks and sound effect processors. Logic Pro 6 also includes the ability to create 5.1 and 7.1 surround sound, support for up to 128 audio tracks, virtually unlimited input channels and a sample rate of up to 192k.

www.apple.com 

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NovaStor Introduces NovaBACKUP v7.1

The latest release of NovaBACKUP has been updated to make it faster and easier to use, with even more reliable scheduling. We have now integrated our Tape backup product with our Disk and CD / DVD products into a single comprehensive, all-in-one backup product. We've also added additional support for the very latest Microsoft operating systems, Windows 2003.

The NovaBACKUP Server Edition now includes optional support for Open File Management, too. New in this Version:
- Expanded & Updated Support for the Latest Generation of Tape, CD-R/RW, DVD, and Disk Peripherals
- New Windows 2003 Support
- New DVD-RAM Support
- New FireWire and USB Support for Tape
- New Optional Open File Manager Plug-In

www.no-panic.com

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Media 100 Announces 844/X Version 3

Media 100 Inc., a leading provider of advanced media systems, announced the "Visual Effects" release—new Version 3.0 software for 844/X. The largest software expansion of 844/X since its inception in 2002, Version 3.0 advances 844/X with many new real-time, multi-stream capabilities:
- Advanced keying
- 3D digital video effects (DVEs)
- Shadow and glow effects
- XML-based metadata interchange
- New performance optimizations for editing longer-form, layer-intensive projects.

The company recruited over 30 844/X beta sites - the largest number to date - to test Version 3.0 and ensure both high performance and reliability. First customer shipments of the "Visual Effects" release are expected to begin this month. 844/X is available worldwide with prices starting at $9,995 for 844/X software and hardware. Complete 844/X system configurations start at around $20,000 and are available exclusively through authorized 844/X value-added resellers.

www.media100.com 

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Avid Xpress Pro and Media Composer Adrenaline to Support Windows Media 9

Avid Technology, Inc. announced plans to support Microsoft's Windows Media 9 Series in future versions of the Avid Xpress Pro and Media Composer Adrenaline products. At this year's Sundance Film Festival, five films were screened digitally in Windows Media 9 Series. Similar to the export option for Windows Media 9 Series currently available in the Avid DS Nitris system, both Avid Xpress Pro and Media Composer Adrenaline systems will include this capability, enabling filmmakers to output their projects in high-definition with a single click using Windows Media Video 9 (WMV HD) - a component of the Windows Media 9 Series platform.

Windows Media 9 Series is the most comprehensive platform available for the creation, distribution, and playback of digital media. Support for Windows Media 9 Series is expected to be included in future versions of both the Avid Xpress Pro and Media Composer Adrenaline systems. Avid DS Nitris - Avid's real-time HD and SD finishing system - has offered support for Windows Media 9 Series since the product shipped in October 2003.

www.avid.com 

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Alias Licenses Animation Technologies from House of Moves

Alias, a Silicon Graphics Inc. company, announced it has licensed advanced animation technologies from the California-based production company, House of Moves. The technologies, derived from House of Moves' Diva software, are intended for development and integration as a standard feature in future versions of the company's Maya software.House of Moves motion capture technology has been used in such films as Spider-Man and Pirates of the Caribbean, and is increasingly utilized in games, commercials and music videos.

www.alias.com 

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LG Electronics Selects LSI Logic Dimension Processor for HDD Combination DVD Recorder

LSI Logic Corporation announced that LG Electronics Inc. has selected the LSI Logic DiMeNsion (DMN-8650) processor for its hard disk drive (HDD) combination DVD recorder products. Based on the LSI Logic DoMiNo(TM) architecture, the DMN-8650 is the first single-chip HDD/DVD recorder system processor that reduces cost, design complexity, and time-to-market through its high level of system integration, and delivers a rich feature-set including the industry's highest-quality video.

The DMN-8650 integrates a second-generation DV codec, which enables faster-than-real-time DV to MPEG transcoding and LSI Logic's Direct Digital Dub technology. Direct Digital Dub simplifies the transfer of personal digital content from a camcorder to DVD over FireWire, with one-touch control via a single remote. Additional advantages of the DMN-8650 include LSI Logic's proprietary pre- and post-processing technologies, TrueView(TM) Pro and TrueScan Pro. These motion compensation-based technologies provide advanced progressive scan output and impressive noise handling on analog inputs.

www.lsilogic.com 

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Avid Acquires NXN

Avid Technology, Inc. announced that it has acquired Munich-based NXN Software AG - a leading provider of asset and production management systems specifically targeted for the entertainment and computer graphics industries - in a cash transaction valued at approximately EUR35 million. The acquisition expands Avid's leadership in digital asset management by enabling the company's film and video postproduction, broadcast, and 3D animation customers to leverage the revolutionary workflow capabilities of the NXN alienbrain product line.

NXN's products - NXN alienbrain VFX, NXN alienbrain Studio, and NXN alienbrain Engineer - extend Avid's current media asset management offerings with capabilities that include infrastructure, configuration, project, and workflow management, as well as complete version control. Designed to work with any file format associated with 3D models, textures, video, audio, source code and office documents, NXN systems enable users to manage assets throughout all phases of a digital project. A wide range of 3D, graphics, source code, and administrative applications support the alienbrain product family directly in the application menu, including SOFTIMAGEâ|XSIâ, Alias Maya, Alias StudioTools, Discreet 3ds max, Adobe Photoshop, and Metrowerks CodeWarrior, as well as Microsoft PowerPoint, Excel, Word, Windows Explorer, and Visual Studio.

www.avid.com

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Pure Energy: CES 2004

Forget other trade shows. CES is the one with energy. As you navigate the bustling booths and crowded aisles, with the pulse of the show beating in the LVCC floorboards, ou can't help but feel that the blasé economic conditions of the last several years are now long gone. People are hungry for new ways to enjoy content and the industry is here, ready to provide it, at the more than 1500 exhibits to more than 130,000 attendees.

True to its name, the Consumer Electronics Show is primarily a consumer event that teems with gadgets for the home and car. But there are also plenty of important products and trends here for content creators. The key messages for the digital studio professional are as follows:

1. HDTV is here.
2. Optical storage has won.
3. Hard drives are in everything.
4. We don't know how to plug it all in together.

There were dozens of Asian HDTV component and plasma screen vendors. (I had one offer to do an EMedia 50" display if I would order 1000 units.) This means that prices are going to plummet by Christmas 2004.

This also suggests greatly increased consumer demand for higher-quality video (as well as the higher-quality surround sound) for content. Given that TV programming production has doubled in the last ten years, this next trend promises to fuel further work for studios.

Both analysts and vendors say that DVD recording will be big: 100 million systems by 2007. It isn't pirating that drives this growth, it's the abundant miniature digital and video cameras will need some place to put all that content and then share it. Those same cameras and recorders also will have either standard hard drives or one of the 1" square multi-gigabyte removable drives inside, eliminating hassles with tape.

Unfortunately, the battle over the next generation of DVD has heated up, which may mean we're in for more of the format confusion and conflict that plagued writable DVD until mid-2003. But that SD (standard density) DVD stuff is old news. To handle HD content, DVDs need more capacity. Enter Blu-Ray DVDs with 27GB--enough for four hours of HD on a 120mm Blu-Ray disc. Blu-Ray has powerful patent-holders (among them Sony and Philips) and strategic allies (HP and Dell), but the downside is that Blu-Ray requires new equipment to make the discs, so upgrading will take years, at least in the U.S. (Sony says they've been shipping Blu-Ray drives in Japan since April 2003.) 

The good (or bad) news is that Blu-Ray is not the only game in town. In comes NEC with HD-DVD. HD-DVD only holds 15GB, but that's enough room for two hours of hi-def content. The big plus is today's current DVD production lines can make HD-DVD discs with little change, according to NEC (and HD-DVD partner Toshiba), so they can start almost immediately. Both the Blu-Ray backers and NEC had sample units running videos but no commercial versions for the North American market as yet. Since we've all lived with the DVD±R/RW format war for so long I'm almost starting to miss it, for nostalgia's sake, Blu-Ray and HD-DVD will share my "Why Can't We All Just Get Along" award for CES 2004. 

At CES, as anywhere in the consumer electronics world these days, everything that rises must converge. But to converge, these products have to connect. Sadly, there appeared to be no consensus at CES about how we are going to plug displays, PCs, media servers, and other components together. No less than five separate technologies--wired and wireless--vied for the title of the universal connection. No question that we do need to plug it all together, but how?  

To answer one problem, there's a great solution from DeCorp Americas: flatwire. Rather than being a round cable, flatwire is, well, flat. Imagine a roll the size and thickness of shipping tape that actually is coax cable or 12AWG speaker wire--or better yet, a 110-volt power cable. Stick it to the wall, make right angle turns with it, then paint over it. This gets my Best in Show-Technology award for "Rescuing Me from Ugly Cable Hell." 

Freecom also had a better idea for portable storage. I have a keyfob flash drive, but it is bulky in the pocket. Freecom redid this idea as the USBCard which fits in a wallet like a rather thick credit card. There's a pop-out USB connector and up to 1GB inside. For more capacity, the oddly named FHD-XS is Zip-Disk-sized cassette but holding 40GB and a pop-out USB connector as well. These two win my "No Flash in the Pan" Future of Portable Storage award. 

Need a really portable keyboard for on-location? Try the iBiz Virtual Keyboard. Selling for under $100, it projects an image of a keyboard on any flat surface from a tiny two-ounce box. It then follows your fingers to record the keystrokes. It's kind of spooky, and there's no tactile feel or response, but if you just need to enter a few commands or file names, it's a great option. This gets my "Dave's Gotta Have It" award.  

The same could be said for 321 Studios' growing family of software: DVD X Copy Platinum for backups, DVD X Rescue for unreadable discs, and DVD X Show for quick documentary creation. After playing with these products for a few minutes, I feel that they are essential tools for any professional. They win my "They Made an X-Phile Out of Me" Best in Show-Software Utilities Award.

Speaking of software, I give my "They Get It, They Really Get It" award to Muvee Technologies for their autoProducer package. You have to see it, but the software can pan, zoom, and cut video content and then match it to a music track by itself to create a finished home movie. Granted, it's for the novice. But the fact that the software is able to do so much of the basics suggests that in the future we can get a prosumer version that also executes much of the tedious part of production.

If you've got lots of DVDs or CDs, try Popio's wonderful drop-in trays. I like how they are designed to fit right in lateral file cabinets or on shelves and hold 24-48 discs that pop out when pressed. (Pop in/out--PopIO, get it?). For about $15, they earn my "Great Touch of Class" award for the Most Wonderful Non-electronic Tool at an Electronics Show.

I thought Hy-Tek's 30" TFT PC/TV at Comdex was wonderful, but their newest, 37" version, is simply a knock-out and a must-have for conference rooms or demo areas. At around $8000, it is a good value for a Pentium 4 with premium sound (Klipsch) and that incredible screen. Get this--there's a carrying-case available for it.

On the production side, MCE Technologies showed off their nice QuickStreamDV portable hard disk. Its eye-catching design and industry-standard screw socket for attaching to existing equipment wins my "You Must Take it With You" Best Add-On award for DV.

And where was VillageTronic a few months ago when I desperately searched for a way to connect my laptop to my Cinema Display? The VT Book DVI Graphics Card is a wonderful invention to do exactly that. You'll still need your DVI to ADC adapter, but the VT Book wins my "Read ‘em and Weep" award for being the cards that do what many other cards probably wish they could do, but—apparently--cannot.

Another much-sought-after product is OTC Wireless' WiJet. If you've ever tried to run a conference or show with multiple laptops, you'll love this. The WiJet is a 802.11 wireless adapter with a standard VGA port for projectors and displays. You use your regular 802.11-equipped laptop or PC to send PowerPoint or other content over the air to the WiJet and then onscreen. No plugging/unplugging, reconfiguring, etc. This is marvelous and wins my "Wi I Oughta…" Best Professional Tool award.

Finally, my "Do My Eyes Deceive Me?" Exhilarating Display Technology award goes to Norcent. To date, Norcent, whose product line covers virtually everything electronic, hasn't been known for innovations. But at CES they had a demo set up with their own new technology that vastly improves the image onscreen. According to Norcent, they can boost displays from 16 million colors to over one billion. Onscreen, the images seemed to pop out in almost three dimensions and become compelling to watch (like seeing HDTV the first time). A conventional high-end display next to it seemed blurry and washed out in comparison. Units won't ship until late this year, but this has to be one of the year's most anticipated enhancements.

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