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April 02, 2004

Table of Contents

MaxVision Redefines Portable NLE Computer With Triple 19-Inch Folding LCD
Mitsubishi Digital Electronics America Announces New Four-Pound, High-Performance Projector with Security Features
ALPS Electric Developed RK10N Series of Zoom Volume Controls
321 Studios Files Appeals and Emergency Stay Requests in California and New York
Ahead Software's Nero Enhances DVD+R DL Recording with New Technology; Nero LayerMagic and Nero SmoothPlay
DG2L to Unveil World's First Interactive HD MPEG-4 DVB / IP Set-Top Box at NAB 2004
DVD Burner Acceptance on the Rise, New Survey Finds
Hitachi Designs New SVGA Projector
Review: Plextor ConvertX PX-M402U Digital Video Converter

MaxVision Redefines Portable NLE Computer With Triple 19-Inch Folding LCD

MaxVision, manufacturer of the powerful and rugged portable computers, has announced the industry's first triple-LCD portable family of computers designed for maximum performance and portability in applications such as SD and HD video. The new family of MaxPac X Class computers set a new level of performance features and ruggedness. Three independently driven 19-inch folding displays are combined with dual Xeon processors and 7 hard drives (up to 2 Terabytes of storage), in a ruggedized, transportable form factor that meets every computing need of the video professional.

"We designed the MaxPac X Class with the goal of meeting every expectation, whether it's live video switching, video forensics or HD capture and NLE." stated Bruce Imsand, founder and CEO of MaxVision. "With 6 striped SCSI hard drives on two separate channels and a separate system drive, the MaxPac can meet the 200 MB/Sec bandwidth requirements of uncompressed HD. There are no compromises in the X Class -- dual Xeon, PCI-X slots, and triple 19" LCD monitors driven by the Matrox Parhelia. There are extras too, like projector ports on each of the three monitors and selectable S-Video inputs on each of the three monitors for playback of external sources and an integrated dual media DVD burner. We've integrated Bluetooth and Gigabit Ethernet and even an optional UPS to protect against power failures."

For extended storage, the MaxPac can interface with MaxVision's TeraPac, which will accommodate an additional 2 Terabytes of SCSI storage using eight 300GByte SCSI hard drives. The MaxPac X Class is available immediately and ranges in price from $11K for a single display model to $28K for a loaded system with multiple displays, dual processors, and multiple drives.

www.maxvision.com

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Mitsubishi Digital Electronics America Announces New Four-Pound, High-Performance Projector with Security Features

Mitsubishi Digital Electronics America's Presentation Products Division, maker of award-winning, high-quality presentation and display products, has introduced its new XD70U DLP projector, the latest offering for road warriors who need high performance in a secure, small, and light form factor.

Combining a value price, password protection, and cable slots in a four-pound package, Mitsubishi Digital's XD70U's added security features protect the projector from theft. Offering 2000 ANSI lumens, the projector has a long-life lamp (3000 hours) that is bright and right for even the most demanding presentation environments. Its small size makes for easy portability, allowing professional-level presentations everywhere.

Mitsubishi Digital's XD70U's brightness is powered by Texas Instruments' DLP chip. The projector provides a 2000:1 contrast ratio for bright and vivid colors, XGA (1024 x 768) pixel resolution, a manual focus and built-in short-focus zoom lens to show big, even in small rooms. The XD70U accepts computer, regular or S-video signals from DVD, VCR and even high-definition video or television signals for maximum flexibility. Its footprint is smaller than a regular letter-sized piece of paper, and is easily carried in its free soft carrying case.

Projected street price on Mitsubishi Digital's new XD70U projector is $2,995 and is currently available through authorized Mitsubishi reseller partners. It is covered by Mitsubishi's exclusive full three-year warranty on parts and labor plus a 90-day warranty on the lamp. And, like all Mitsubishi XGA projectors, the XD70U comes with the Express Replacement Assistance (ERA) Program, a nationwide comprehensive service provided for units under warranty that offers next business-day replacement for down units.

www.mitsubishi-presentations.com

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ALPS Electric Developed RK10N Series of Zoom Volume Controls

ALPS Electric Co., Ltd., as a part of its efforts to develop easy-to-use input devices, has developed the RK10N series of 10x zoom volume controls, which feature a resistor travel distance ideal for fingertip-operation compact and high-power zooms. Sample shipments are to begin in late April 2004. The RK10N series will be on display at ALPS SHOW 2004 to be held in the Hiten room at the New Takanawa Prince Hotel in Tokyo for three days from May 26, 2004.

The RK10N series was developed as a device able to change zoom power in a circular arc movement ideal for fingertip operation. In addition, the RK10N series features a self-returning construction where the lever returns to the center position, enabling easy fingertip operation of zooming in and out. The application of accumulated ALPS mechatronic technology has allowed for the construction to feature a two-coil spring structure that replaces the torsion spring used in previous products. As a result, the RK10N series has a long resistor sliding distance, which is ideal for compact bodies and high-power zooms.

Coil springs do not have arms restricted to the center position and the radius of the movement arc is similar to that of torsion springs. This allows for designs where the arc center is located external to the component cases, ensuring a circular arc movement along a long radius. A large radius enables adjustments for high-powered zooms long resistor sliding distances despite small movement angles. The RK10N series features a circular arc movement angle of +/- 13 degrees (plus or minus 13 degrees), one-half that of previous industry products, and a resistor sliding distance of approximately 4mm, or double that of previous products.

www.alps.com

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321 Studios Files Appeals and Emergency Stay Requests in California and New York

321 Studios has filed appeals and emergency stay requests to both the United States Court of Appeals for the Ninth Circuit and the United States Court of Appeals for the Second Circuit. In both cases, 321 Studios makes the following arguments, among others:

-- DMCA is unconstitutional

If, as both Courts ruled, the Digital Millennium Copyright Act (DMCA) allows consumers to copy DVDs based on fair use grounds but denies the tools to do so, then the DMCA is unconstitutional as fair use rights are constitutionally mandated. Even New York Judge Richard Owen acknowledged at a March 15, 2004 hearing that if the DMCA effectively denies consumers the tools to exercise their fair use rights, then 321 has "a beauty there."

-- Both courts ignored Chamberlain

Both district court opinions are inconsistent with Chamberlain Group, Inc., v. Skylink, where another district court concluded that the DMCA did not prohibit the sale of a universal garage-door-opener remote control, even though the remote bypassed encryption. The Chamberlain Court upheld the garage owner's right to open his own garage door, and 321 similarly argues that lawful purchasers of DVDs have the inherent right to unlock their DVD's encryption to access the DVD's contents.

-- DMCA unlawfully extends copyright protection

The opinions also sanction the CSS-encryption scheme by the Studios even when public domain films and works of the U.S. Government are involved. In effect, the rulings deny consumers the tools to make digital copies of DVDs, thus preventing access to and copying of public domain films and government works, all in violation of the "limited times" provision of the Copyright Clause of the U.S. Constitution.

The next step in the Second Circuit case will be a hearing on a motion for stay on April 13. Thereafter, the Second Circuit will set a schedule for briefing and argument on the merits of the case. The Ninth Circuit motion for stay is ripe for ruling without a public hearing. The briefing schedule will begin with opening briefs on June 18. 321 Studios' legal filings are available in the press section of the company's Web site.

www.321studios.com

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Ahead Software's Nero Enhances DVD+R DL Recording with New Technology; Nero LayerMagic and Nero SmoothPlay

Ahead Software, leaders in digital media technology, have announced the technology behind the world's first all-in-one DVD+R Double Layer (DL) software suite, Nero 6. The two essential technologies that will help smoothly usher in double layer DVD recording are Nero LayerMagic, to speed up the DL burning process, and Nero SmoothPlay, to provide seamless DL playback. The Nero applications in this enhanced version of its OEM digital media suite will fully support DVD+R DL drives, allowing 8.5GB DVD writing, authoring, backup, and recoding for the first time ever.

Nero's LayerMagic effectively decreases the amount of time required to master a DL DVD by automatically distributing video content equally between the two layers in order to simplify the final layout in the recording process. If the "padding" recording process is used in which filler content, not actual video data is recorded to even out the data on both layers, there is high risk of creating incompatible discs. Nero Layer Magic however avoids padding by distributing the content between the two layers in equal parts, ensuring that the second layer is already in a compatible state at the end of the recording process, which greatly reduces recording time.

Nero SmoothPlay automatically modifies video content written to the end of the DVD so that delays in playback are reduced to an absolute minimum. The process of switching from one layer to another takes a considerable amount of time as the drive needs to refocus its laser to the second layer as well as perform any seeking operation necessary to find the beginning of the data on layer two. Due to that, many badly mastered DVD-Video media will cause the player to interrupt playback at or shortly before switching layers. Nero SmoothPlay avoids these problems by coding detailed instructions into the DVD's navigation data, making most DVD players perform the caching and playback optimization necessary to prevent playback distortion. When applying the unique Nero SmoothPlay algorithm, the optimum layer break location for both new and pre-mastered DVD-Video content will be detected by analyzing video signal and navigation structures, ensuring maximum compatibility with standalone DVD players as well as the smallest possible delay in switching from one layer to another when playing back mastered video content.

In addition, this software suite offers Nero BackItUp, which takes full advantage of the increased capacity of a DVD+R DL disc, allowing users to run scheduled backups, password-protect their data and choose from various backup modes such as full or incremental. Nero Express 6 allows users to burn standard data and digital audio discs with up to 8.5 GB in size. Also included is the essential drive testing utility, Nero Toolkit, the powerful DVD and digital video playback software Nero ShowTime, the standard packet writing application InCD 4 and the label creator Nero Cover Designer. Each application can be accessed with a single click via the one-of-a-kind application launcher Nero StartSmart, providing users with an at-a-glance overview of what DVD drives have to offer. The Nero OEM digital media suite will be included in worldwide bundles from major drive manufacturers from Q2, 2004, and is available for PC and drive OEMs.

www.nero.com

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DG2L to Unveil World's First Interactive HD MPEG-4 DVB / IP Set-Top Box at NAB 2004

DG2L Technologies, Inc., a provider of next-generation digital media technologies, has announced that it will unveil DG2L Neuron, the world's first, multi-network, HDTV MPEG-4 set-top box (STB), at the 2004 NAB next month in Las Vegas (Booth SL2175). DG2L Neuron is the most comprehensive and versatile STB, capable of delivering High Definition and Standard Definition interactive broadcast and IP streams over DVB-S, DVB-C, DVB-T, and IP networks respectively. The Neuron STB also offers advanced digital services, including video on demand (VOD), pay per view (PPV), personal video recording (PVR), and MPEG-4 systems layer interactive program guides, all at a significantly lower price than any other STB in its class.

In addition to DG2L Neuron, DG2L will also unveil several other new products at NAB: the Phoenix 200A and 200D, DG2L's line of analog and digital MPEG-4 broadcast encoders and IRD/decoders. The company will also launch the latest version of its DG2L Digital Cinema System.

www.DG2L.com

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DVD Burner Acceptance on the Rise, New Survey Finds

Survey research conducted by IDC and sponsored by a group of leading computer and consumer electronics companies forecasts that consumers will purchase some 11 million DVD burners for their home PCs over the next 18 months--a significant increase over earlier survey results--and outlines the features and functions fueling this growth.

The IDC White Paper, "Consumer Requirements for DVD Recording Technologies: Simple, Reliable, and Compatible", published in March 2004, polled over 1,000 households on their purchase intent, and desired features and functions of DVD burners. Sponsored by various member companies of the RAM Promotion Group, the survey broadly indicated that consumers seek highly reliable, easy-to-use drives that support multiple DVD formats, and that the main applications are video related.

Among specific findings, the survey showed that issues surrounding reliability drew the highest interest, and that the vast majority of consumers ranked reliability factors, such as data verification and error correction, cartridge-type disc and data allocation of defective sectors, among other factors, as either "important" or "extremely important". The survey additionally showed that the primary reason consumers would acquire a DVD recorder would be to store, edit and replay video from a variety of sources, including Internet downloads, broadcast, cable and satellite television; video tape libraries; and digital camcorders.

Copies of the survey are available at www.ramprg.com.

www.idc.com

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Hitachi Designs New SVGA Projector

Hitachi America, Ltd., Digital Media Division, a subsidiary of Hitachi, Ltd., Tokyo, Japan, has announced the availability of the newest member of its LCD projector family, the seven-pound CP-S235. Designed for use in venues ranging from classrooms to corporate conference rooms, the affordably priced CP-S235 delivers an outstanding value with a sweeping range of presentation features. The CP-S235 offers an impressive 1,600 lumens of brightness combined with SVGA resolution for brilliant, crystal-clear images.

Hitachi's CP-S235 provides numerous connectivity options, including one RGB and three video inputs, including component and S-video. The projector is HDTV compatible and incorporates full remote mouse control so that the presenter can command the presentation from a remote, rather than through a PC. A monitor output allows presenters to view the same projected image on an external monitor, enabling presenters to focus on the audience and avoid turning back to look at the screen. An audio output function also permits the use of additional external speakers to further enhance sound, which is especially useful in noisy classrooms and larger venues.

The CP-S235 offers Hitachi's signature Whisper Mode function, which reduces operating noise levels to 30 decibels with only a slight reduction in brightness. Vertical keystone correction also allows the presenter to work around various seating arrangements where the path of the projected image may be obstructed. Other features include manual zoom and focus, illuminated control buttons, a customizable start-up screen, 16:9 mode for widescreen viewing and a PIN security code.

The CP-S235 is priced at $2995.00 and is currently available through Hitachi's network of nationwide resellers.

www.hitachi.us/digitalmedia

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Review: Plextor ConvertX PX-M402U Digital Video Converter

Plextor's ConvertX isn't the first USB 2-based A/D converter box we've seen or reviewed here—ADS' USB InstantDVD holds that honor—but it brings some interesting new features to the table. First and foremost, it's the first DivX-certified consumer hardware capture device, and delivers real-time DivX and MPEG-4 encoding. What's more, the ConvertX is also priced lower ($159) than devices that also offer MPEG-2, but not MPEG-4 or DivX.

It's sleek, shiny, and lightweight, but beyond that it doesn't look like much. It mostly resembles a bedstand clock-radio except instead of the time/frequency LCD it has composite and S-video connectors and two status lights on one side and a USB port on the other. Of course, the real action happens on the inside: true to its name, the heart of the ConvertX is a real-time hardware MPEG encoder that in this latest version adds support for the MPEG-4 and DivX formats increasingly popular in Web and portable-device video delivery and available in several recently announced DVD players. The box includes an NTSC/PAL decoder which enables you to capture video from PAL video sources and convert them to NTSC for viewing on North American televisions. Inside you'll also find, naturally, a USB 2 controller for connection to high-speed USB 2 ports.

Plextor's never been one to skimp on software (their CD-R HW/SW bundles are always among the most generous in the industry), and the ConvertX ships with everything you need to get going: USB 2.0 drivers for quick-and-painless installation [visit www.plextor.com/english/support/support_downloads.html#soft for the latest upgrades], and two InterVideo tools, the excellent entry-level DVD authoring software package WinDVD Creator for capture, clip-trimming, menu-building, and recording; and WinDVD, the company's industry-leading software PC-DVD player.

The Numbers Game
Once you get the ConvertX installed and up and running, you'll need to connect an analog video device via the composite or S-Video connectors (I attached a VCR via composite) and select the appropriate connector in WinDVD Creator (default is S-Video; you'll be prompted if something is amiss). Next you set capture parameters, which is where it gets interesting. For MPEG-2 you get several choices, ranging from 6Mbps High-Quality (HQ) to 4.5Mbps Good Quality (GQ) all the way down to lowly EP, which promises 4+ hours of video on a 4.7GB DVD. All these choices are 640x480 full-screen; you can also select VCD, which is 352x240 MPEG-1.

That's all pretty familiar. What you also get are a number of choices for MPEG-4, beginning with selections for the MPEG-4-based DivX consumer video format. Select DivX HT (home theater) for highest quality, full-screen; or DivX Portable for 352x240 low-bandwidth video tailor-made for the growing number of PDAs and other portable video devices offering DivX support. You can also choose MPEG-4 HQ and MPEG-4 GQ.

The magic of MPEG-4, being a newer and more efficient codec than MPEG-1 or MPEG-2, is comparable video quality at lower bit rates and lower filesizes. Our tests bore that out, for the most part. Capturing video from several different VHS sources, but using identical 5-minute, 2-minute, and 1-minute clips for tests at those durations, results were visually very strong and comparable in the DivX HT, MPEG-2, and MPEG-4 HQ and GQ formats.

For the two-minute file, for example, filesizes came in at 67.6MB for MPEG-2 HQ but only 61MB and 63.4MB for DivX HT and MPEG-4. That doesn't sound like much of a difference, but project it over, say, 60 minutes of video, and you're looking at 180MB difference between the MPEG-2 HQ file and the DivX HT. The differential was even more striking at the GQ (good quality) level. While the video output was comparable between the MPEG-4 GQ file and the MPEG-2 GQ file, the filesize differential was nearly 18MB. That may not be typical (although the VBR encoder in the ConvertX averaged nearly the same video bit rate for the HQ as the GQ MPEG-2 files in several tests on different sources), but project that two minutes to a 60-minute clip and you're looking at 540MB. (Data on the video was collected using the GSpot Codec Information Appliance and a utility called ReMPEG2.)

Video playback quality was excellent in all five cases when played back in WinDVD. As for the partial screen stuff, the DivX Portable clip looked substantially better than the MPEG-1 clip, and the filesize was quite a bit smaller: 13.1MB for the two-minute DivX Portable compared to 21.25MB for the MPEG-1 VCD clip.

Old School
As many of you may recall, these nifty USB 2 converter boxes used to do one thing, in the main: capture analog video from VHS, convert it to MPEG-2, and launch a DVD authoring tool that would let you make a basic menu and burn it to DVD. In addition to all its MPEG-4 capabilities, which obviously open the ConvertX to all sorts of new conversion, output, scaling, and delivery possibilities, the ConvertX package also includes solid DVD creation capabilities.

When you move into Edit mode in WinDVD Creator, the software prompts you to detect scenes, which you're well-advised to do when you've captured that much video. Testing the software on my 3.0gHz Pentium 4 Gateway 510XL testbed, this process still didn't go all that fast—probably about 12 minutes all told, albeit with other applications running. Another user might easily interpret that as lightning-quick, but I guess I'm just impatient.

You can also set thumbnails here, split and combine scenes, and trim start and end points as needed. Then it's on to a nice and reasonably flexible DVD authoring application, without a lot of menu templates, but a nice title/chapter menu structure all the same.

Interestingly, you get a little more bit-rate flexibility than in authoring mode when you do direct-to-disc recording, which is something you can do "live" via the ConvertX box and WinDVD Creator's very handy Disc Manager. It functions very similarly to "direct-to-disc" recording via FireWire, except with hardware encoding. You can also record an editable disc, which means you can capture directly to disc then grab the DVD-compatible MPEG-2 files off the disc and add DVD chapter menus at a later date.

I made three different DVDs during the evaluation period for the ConvertX, upgrading three different VHS-only (to my knowledge) titles to DVD. The first of the three had some audio-sync issues, but audio-sync was perfect in the other full-tape-to-DVD tests as well as all the shorter-clip tests done to compare MPEG-2/4 quality.

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