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Streaming Media
February 06, 2004

Table of Contents

Sonic to Acquire InterActual Technologies
Alera Technologies Offers Duplicator Grade DVD Recording Media
Zarlink Laser Diode Drivers Support High-Speed DVD/CD Writing Systems
ESS Announces Vantage II MX Integrated MPEG-2 Encoder and Decoder Chip
Pinnacle Systems Unveils Liquid 5.6
CineForm Aspect HD Now Shipping for Adobe Premiere Pro
Discreet Announces lustre 2 Color Grading System
Gridiron Software Announces Agreement with Adobe on After Effects Bundle
Blu-ray and HD-DVD Vie for Future High-Density Dominance

Sonic to Acquire InterActual Technologies

Sonic Solutions has entered into a definitive agreement to acquire InterActual Technologies, a leading provider of solutions for integrating DVD content with the Internet and additional on-disc bonus features for $8.8 million in cash. With the acquisition of InterActual, Sonic intends to strengthen its position with the Hollywood-based DVD production community and broaden its professional DVD authoring product line with advanced Web-linking technologies. In addition, InterActual's Web-enabled DVD playback capabilities will be integrated into Sonic's consumer DVD software applications as well as its AuthorScript DVD creation engine, enabling Sonic's bundle OEMs and technology licensing partners to deliver a connected-DVD experience to their customers.

As a result of the acquisition, Sonic will acquire InterActual's web-enabling technologies including its portfolio of 17 patents and patent applications, the InterActual Player, and all engineering and service operations. Key InterActual executives, including Todd Collart, InterActual's president, and almost all members of staff will join Sonic's Professional Products or Advanced Technologies business units. Sonic plans to continue to market the InterActual brand and spotlight logo as part of the Sonic product family. Sonic also plans to continue InterActual's cross-platform licensing strategy to enable third-party DVD players and authoring solutions to play and access InterActual bonus content.

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Alera Technologies Offers Duplicator Grade DVD Recording Media

Alera Technologies, developer and manufacturer of DVD and CD duplicating and publishing Solutions, has introduced a new line of DVD discs, Prosumers' Choice Duplicator Grade DVD Recording Media. This new DVD media is designed "to assure maximum reliability of the duplication process."

Alera Technologies Duplicator Grade DVD media is available in the most popular DVD formats and speeds. The discs are packaged in stackable cake boxes for easy access to blank media in duplicator applications. Alera Technologies Duplicator Grade DVD Media packs have the following low estimated street prices: DVD+R (4.7GB) 1x-4x 25 Pack, $39.99; DVD+RW (4.7GB) 1x-4x 25 Pack, $54.99; DVD-R (4.7GB) 1x-4x 25 Pack, $34.99; DVD-RW (4.7GB) 1x-2x 25 Pack, $49.99.

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Zarlink Laser Diode Drivers Support High-Speed DVD/CD Writing Systems

Zarlink Semiconductor has introduced its first commercially available laser diode drivers that support 16X DVD and 52X CD write/rewrite speeds for the next generation of optical disc drives used in high-speed DVD/CD combination recorder units. Powered by Zarlink's laser diode drivers, DVD/CD recorder units will be able to write a 4.7GB DVD disc in under six minutes, according to Zarlink.

Laser diode drivers are electrical-based devices that convert voltage into current, which the laser then converts into a light pulse to burn information onto an optical disc. The ZL40510/1 laser diode drivers include two four-channel devices capable of driving separate 650nm DVD and 780nm CD lasers in a combination DVD/CD unit. The ZL40510 device supports up to x16 capabilities for high-speed DVD recorder systems and optical disc drives, while the ZL40511 is suited for existing lower-speed 4X and 8X systems.

Global manufacturers are currently evaluating the ZL40510/1 laser diode drivers for use in high-speed optical pickup units. Zarlink's devices meet 16X DVD write and rewrite standards currently under development by the DVD Alliance and DVD Forum.

The ZL40510/1 drivers are now in volume production, and are available in 4mm x 4mm, 24-pin QFN (quad flat no-lead) packaging. In quantities of 100K, the ZL40510/1 are priced at US$0.65 each. Evaluation boards for the devices are available.

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ESS Announces Vantage II MX Integrated MPEG-2 Encoder and Decoder Chip

ESS Technology, a leading supplier of silicon solutions for digital audio, video, and imaging consumer electronics, has started sampling its Vantage II MX single-chip MPEG-2 codec that will also provide the capability to playback DivX video content. The Vantage II MX chip integrates ESS's flagship Vibratto S DivX DVD decoder core and its Vantage MPEG-2 encoder core into a single device.

ESS expects several major consumer electronics manufacturers to ship DivX-certified DVD recorders using ESS's Vantage II MX single-chip codec during this year.

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Pinnacle Systems Unveils Liquid 5.6

Pinnacle Systems, Inc. has introduced Pinnacle Liquid 5.6, a major update to the Liquid chrome video editing system and an extensive upgrade to Liquid blue and Liquid silver video editing systems. With numerous enhancements for DVD authoring, efficient workflow and support for networked environments, Liquid 5.6 delivers advantages for professional editors in both broadcast and post-production.

Liquid 5.6 supports Liquid blue for multi-format broadcast environments, Liquid chrome for real-time post settings, and Liquid silver for MPEG-2 post editing. Benefits of Liquid 5.6 include integrated DVD authoring, an enhanced MPEG encoder, Rapid Capture, edit while capturing, mark used clips, track matte editor, MXF support, and XSend to Wavelab.

With Liquid 5.6, the entire Pinnacle Liquid family now runs on Windows XP. Liquid chrome 5.6 adds 1394/DV capture and playback as well as real-time slow-motion. Liquid chrome 5.6 also features a real-time frame buffer for video output from Pinnacle Commotion Pro, Adobe After Effects, and Discreet combustion, as well as ASIO drivers for no-latency audio output from Pinnacle Steinberg Nuendo. Pinnacle Liquid 5.6 for Liquid chrome and Liquid blue is available immediately. The Pinnacle Liquid 5.6 update for Liquid Chrome is free for registered customers. New Liquid chrome turnkey systems are available from $19,995.

The Pinnacle Liquid 5.6 upgrade for Liquid blue is $1,495. New Liquid blue turnkey systems are available from $34,995. The Liquid silver 5.6 upgrade for current customers is expected to be available in early 2004 for $695. New Liquid silver turnkey systems are available from $14,995.

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CineForm Aspect HD Now Shipping for Adobe Premiere Pro

CineForm, Inc. has announced that Aspect HD for Adobe Premiere Pro is now shipping. Working within Adobe Premiere Pro, Aspect HD provides professional real-time editing of high-definition (HD) video content, providing more than 30 HD-perfected real-time transitions and effects. This new version of Aspect HD not only includes HDLink, CineForm's capture and export utility for HDV camcorders and decks, but also provides compatibility with other AVI-compatible applications such as Adobe After Effects.

Aspect HD is based on CineForm's visually-lossless high-definition editing codec, CFHD, which is optimized for today's demanding high-definition post-production applications. Aspect HD also includes CineForm's real-time video pipeline which provides more than 30 HD-optimized real-time transitions, professional color filters, graphic overlays, motion, and more, all within Adobe Premiere Pro.

The key to Aspect HD's editing performance is CineForm's patent-pending technologies including a proprietary symmetric video codec and video effects engine. Using a 2.8gHz Pentium 4 PC and a RAID 0 configuration, up to four HD streams plus transitions, effects, and motion are possible, all simultaneously, all in real time, and without the need for specialized hardware. After editing, HD video can be exported to a variety of HD, SD and Web distribution formats.

Aspect HD for Adobe Premiere Pro is immediately available directly from CineForm and from select Video Specialty Resellers for a list price of $1199, exclusive of Premiere Pro. A bundle that includes Aspect HD and Adobe Premiere Pro will be available in the coming weeks. Existing registered users of Aspect HD for Adobe Premiere 6.5 will be upgraded to Aspect HD for Adobe Premiere Pro free of charge.

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Discreet Announces lustre 2 Color Grading System

Discreet, a division of Autodesk, Inc. and developer of digital post-production systems and software, has revealed details of its lustre 2 system, the next version of its real-time color grading system for digital media and digital intermediate (DI) workflows. Developed with partner Colorfront, lustre 2 will offer film studios and post-production facilities more scalability and video functionality in order to meet their diverse DI pipeline requirements and budgets.

lustre 2 introduces new color correction capabilities by means of Discreet's advanced GMask vector shape system, designed to simulate the way light interacts with objects more realistically. GMasks offers colorists more accurate control of light and color when grading a digital image. The lustre 2 system will also feature a real-time, 3D color look-up-table (LUT) engine. These 3D LUTS can be used to visualize how a digital image will look when it is printed back to film and projected in a cinema. lustre 2's open engine allows integration of new color management technologies, such as Kodak's monitor calibration and film-look preview system, and the ARRI Colour Management System (CMS). luster 2 is now in beta and expected to ship in March 2004.

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Gridiron Software Announces Agreement with Adobe on After Effects Bundle

GridIron Software, a leading developer of grid computing solutions, has announced an agreement with Adobe Systems to provide a commercially available solution for consumers and small to medium businesses to harness the power of grid computing. Adobe plans to include a version of GridIron Software's grid computing technology, GridIron XLR8, with the next release of its Adobe After Effects professional software.

Adobe will use GridIron Software's grid computing technology to increase the speed of the preview and rendering capabilities of Adobe After Effects by dividing and distributing the work ordinarily performed on a single computer among several computers joined together in a network. The bundled grid technology is expected to provide linear performance improvement, so preview and rendering will be completed nearly twice as fast on two computers than on one, three times as fast on three computers, and so on. Setting up a grid to achieve this increased speed is accomplished by installing the GridIron XLR8 and After Effects software components and connecting the computers together via a network.

GridIron XLR8 features a patent pending peer-to-peer architecture that allows the computers to discover each other and automatically set up a processing network, distribute work, and recover from failure. No administration, configuration, or ongoing management is necessary, according to Gridiron.

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Blu-ray and HD-DVD Vie for Future High-Density Dominance

With the proliferation of high-definition and the FCC's HDTV mandate only a few years away, new high-density optical disc formats are beginning to take shape. With talk about DVD's high-density replacement hitting stores by 2007 or even earlier, manufacturers are beginning to assess the P & L of HD disc production. As is always the case, multiple formats—in this case, two that are both capable of delivering DVD-length HD content--are vying to become the standard, and both have powerful backers.

HD-DVD, approved by the DVD Forum, is blue laser-based. The other format, Blu-ray, is based on blue/violet lasers and supported by Sony, Matsushita, Thomson, Philips, Pioneer (some of them Forum members who developed the format outside the Forum). Dell, Hewlett-Packard, and LG Electronics offered up products based on Blu-ray technology at the 2004 Consumer Electronics Show in January in Las Vegas. (Sony has been shipping a Blu-ray drive in Japan since February 2003.) Meanwhile, Toshiba and NEC demo'd HD-DVD players. Both new formats are still in development, but pilot lines already exist. 

At the IRMA Management Summit in December, Dominick Dalla Verde, senior director of preproduction at the Cinram (formerly WAMO) plant in Olyphant, Pennsylvania, did a presentation about the two formats. His data was somewhat sketchy, and Cinram declined a request to provide further details. Sony, on the other hand, was very forthcoming with details about Blu-ray. What is evident is the formats are very different from each other, and therefore difficult to compare. HD-DVD is more like an upgraded DVD, whereas Blu-ray is on a different course altogether. HD-DVD seems to have momentum in the U.S., but Blu-ray has a lot of support in Japan.

Mike Fidler, senior vice president, of Blu-ray Disc Group, Sony Corporation of America, says the next format may be the last packaged media. "Having Panasonic, Pioneer, Sony, and Philips involved is a pretty strong representation of core technologies for optical disc. The key issue is to make sure that we could maximize the capacity on the disc. In order to do that, we have to move to a 1.1mm substrate with a .1mm cover layer. That translates theoretically to the highest capacity on packaged media using visible light." Blu-ray disc (BD) is either 25GB on a single layer or 50GB on a dual layer disc (the currently shipping Sony drive works with 23GB discs). The single-layer disc is 1.2mm thick. It is still a two-ply disc, but the information layer (called the cover layer) is just .1mm.

While the BD format has not yet been specified (specs are set for release in the first half of this year), Sony has a BD pilot line production in Shizoka, Japan where over a quarter million single-layer discs have been produced. They have reportedly already reached five-second cycle times.

One of the biggest advantages of BD, according to Sony, BD is its robust copy protection. "The physics of information retrieval at Blu-ray densities mandates changes to the disc form factor and to playback hardware architecture," says Mitchell. "These facts create a unique opportunity in that content protection can be based on interactions between three elements: software, hardware, and the physical disc. Clearly, the ‘software only' approaches the industry has come to rely on are deficient when compared to what Blu-ray can afford," Mitchell continues.

What kind of investment will manufacturers need to make to replicate BD? "At the very least, current DVD injection and sputtering equipment can be redeployed, without modification, towards Blu-ray," says Mitchell. "Depending on the replicator's chosen DVD equipment supplier, the re-use of these sub-systems can represent nearly 40% of a given line's investment cost."

Both new formats will require a new mastering process. For Blu-ray, Phase Transition Mastering or PTM will be used. "In place of glass," Mitchell explains, "we use silicon wafers, in place of photo-resist--inorganic thermosensitive resist, in place of externally modulated gas lasers--direct modulated solid state lasers." Instead of making metal masters, mothers, and stampers, they will plate the stamper directly from the wafer. These differences reportedly yield significant positives including reduced fixed costs, reduced variable costs and reduced environmental impact.

While Sony is continuing development and expects to have a more economical way of forming the .1mm cover layer on the disc within a year, were they to launch the format today, a film cover layer would be applied with a UV-cured resin as the binding agent. "A key advantage of the Blu-ray form factor as it relates to the cover layer and substrate relationship is the fact that the playback laser path no longer passes through the polycarbonate substrate," Mitchell says. "Because of this, the replicator can expect higher yields when forming the substrate which will of course serve to offset cover layer formation costs."

On the other side of the coin, the HD-DVD camp, though not so forthcoming with manufacturing and technical details, is actually farther along in the spec-setting process. Specifications for HD-DVD Read-Only Disc Version 0.9 were approved by the DVD Forum Steering Committee on November 18, 2003. As the spec name suggests, the approval covers only the "read-only" DVD disc; the "rewritable" DVD disc spec remains at large. The approved read-only disc is backwards-compatible and plays on HD and DVD players, according to the DVD Forum.

At the IRMA Summit, Dalla Verde discussed the two formats in limited detail. Here is what we know about HD DVD: It can be single or dual-layer. Each .6mm layer has a 15GB capacity. So far, seven-second cycle times have been achieved; these will improve, Verde said. To master the discs, current mastering and electroforming equipment can be used. Bonding is also the same as it is for DVD. The rewritable version is similar to DVD-RAM—no surprise, considering RAM developers Toshiba and Hitachi (but not Panasonic) are in the HD-DVD camp.

Dalla Verde also said that at Cinram's Olyphant plant, a pilot line has been installed with nearly 300,000 HD-DVD discs already manufactured. Dalla Verde said this pilot line was configured to produce either HD-DVD or BD discs for development purposes, although he admits that the initial BD runs were limited due to the lack of a ROM specification and availability of test stampers.

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