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April 19, 2005

Table of Contents

Tenacious HD: Apple, Sony, Panasonic, Adobe, Avid Highlight Early NAB 2005 Announcements
SANYO and Sharp join DVD6C In Licensing DVD Patents
Nero, MediaTek, and ATEME Announce Partnership
Globalstor Demonstrates 9.6TB HD Video Storage Server with 1030MB/sec. Playback at NAB
Sonic Debuts Scenarist HD
Avid Announces New 4 Gb Version of Avid Unity MediaNetwork
Adobe Buys Macromedia
Microboards Releases a True 16X DVD Duplicator with Ten Recorders

Tenacious HD: Apple, Sony, Panasonic, Adobe, Avid Highlight Early NAB 2005 Announcements

NAB starts on different days for different people. For vendors and expo attendees, the real action kicks off on Monday. If you're a journalist, most of the high drama has already passed by the time the expo floor opens. If you're in town to hear the latest from heavy hitters such as Apple, Panasonic, Sony, Avid, and Adobe, the big news hits on Sunday with a string of press events presenting many of the key announcements of the show.

Apple's event struck the most high notes this year; although they didn't have a single new product release that will rattle walls across the Mac world, they did deliver upgrades all down the line of their key postproduction models, which should produce noticeable tremors for just about anyone who's doing video or audio editing, graphics production, or DVD authoring on the Mac platform.

The big-picture announcement from the Apple camp was the much-anticipated public debut of "Tiger," the new version of OS X. And while it's easy to deride the pep rally atmosphere of any trade show Mac demo, there's no denying that Tiger looks mighty cool. A new search function called Spotlight is well-nigh mindblowing in action; it's a real time application which actually starts delivering results as soon as you start punching in your search terms—and those results encompass your entire hard drive, by all appearances. Also new in Tiger are dashboard "widgets"; the idea here is that you click on your Dashboard icon (which looks a bit like a panel of taichometers, speedometers, odometers etc. on an automobile dashboard) while you're working in FCP and Tiger instantly opens a variety of "widgets" like Web sites reporting weather info and the like. I'm not real sure what's the point here, but the demo certainly drew its share of applause.

With Tiger also comes the debut of the H.264-based QuickTime 7, which has two instantly apparent strengths: the ability to deliver HD-quality video at 8.5Mbps, and its implementation in a new, OS-based videoconferencing utility called iChat AV. Frank Casanova's demo highlighted the advantages of iChat AV for real-time digital daily review in disparate cutting rooms—the effect of which, at least in the demo, was nothing short of awesome.

Also coming into focus in Apple's big picture was the heartily welcomed Final Cut Studio, a new four-application digital video and audio postproduction suite in the tradition of the Adobe Video Collection and Avid Xpress Studio. Just as remarkable as the notion that there now is such a thing as a Final Cut suite is the fact that all the applications found therein are full-step upgrades. First and foremost is Final Cut Pro 5, which boasts a host of new features and a catchy rallying cry: "Edit anything, wait for nothing." They've dropped the HD from its name but upped the ante for native HD support in the product. The three standout features, from where I was sitting, are the following:

  • native support for Long-GOP MPEG-2 HDV (with "true" IBP editing)
  • a new "Dynamic RT Extreme" capability that, according to Apple, automatically scales preview quality based on the complexity of the clip and the abilities of the host Mac
  • a dazzling new multi-camera interface that offers on-the-fly editing during playback of—get this—up to 128 sources, with available for up to 16 sources

First runner-up behind the big three is multichannel audio support; Apple now promises 24-bit/96KHz support, one-pass multi-channel capture, and 24-channel audio I/O.

During the FCP demo, Apple shared the stage with some powerful friends—not just Sony, whose contributions to the recent insurgence of prosumer HD via HDV are well-documented, but also Panasonic, who shocked more than a few attendees by introducing a new HD camcorder that is not the $2,500 HDV version of the DVX-100A that many had anticipated. Panasonic's new entry, the AG-HVX200, which may prove the signature announcement of the show, actually aims a little higher—uncompressed HD—for $5,995. The camera, which is due to ship in Q4 2005, actually supports a range of formats, including DV, DVCPro, DVCPro 50, DVCPro HD, and the gamut of interlaced and non-interlaced SD and HD video resolutions and frame rates. The 1/3", native 16:9, three-chip camera records to P2 memory (another big push for Panasonic at this show) and DV tape.

But we digress. The other elements of the Final Cut Pro Studio suite are Motion 2 (whose big news is the ability to map behaviors to a MIDI keyboard for animating to a beat or soundtrack), Soundtrack Pro (a dramatically revamped application that now boasts 5,000+ cinematic effects and Apple loops, and features round-trip audio editing of clips from the FCP timeline), and DVD Studio Pro 4. Like DVD Studio 3, DVD SP 4 is not the spruced-up, breakthrough upgrade that DVD SP 2 was, but it has some cool new features, including support for "HD-DVD" authoring using H.264 and optical flow image analysis for improved format conversions.

Pricing for the Studio suite and its components breaks down as follows: $999 for FCP 5, same as always; $299 for Motion 2; $299 for Soundtrack Pro; $499 for DVD SP 4; and $1,299 for the full Final Cut Studio suite. Registered users of FCP HD or earlier can upgrade to the entire suite for $699; if they also have Motion or Soundtrack, the upgrade price drops to $499. Apple says Tiger will be available on April 29; Final Cut Studio and all its individual applications are currently promised for shipping sometime in May.

Sony's Sunday press event, a meandering trip down "The HD Highway," wasn't quite so eventful. We learned that a lot of second-tier broadcast execs like Sony, as repeated testimonials amply demonstrated. The biggest Sony announcement was the company's new XDCAM HD camcorder, which uses a pro optical disc format (Sony's XDCAM Pro Disc media) for storage that's very similar to the forthcoming Blu-ray; TDK will also provide media for the camera.

Sony's other significant NAB introductions are Vegas 6 (see Vegas story) and the VRDVC20, the new version of the Editor's Choice-winning DVDirect. Essential new features (filling the two important gaps in the original) are FireWire I/O and support for recording to DVD-R/RW.

Avid kicked off its event with a brief exposition on the biggest events at Avid that they can't really talk about yet: the Pinnacle acquisition that won't be final until sometime this summer. According to Avid CEO David Krall, "Pinnacle is the Number One consumer video company in the world," and called the Avid-Pinnacle union "a great combination for the industry." While acknowledging that most consumer editors—who have largely gravitated to Pinnacle Studio—rarely become pro editors, by the same token, he argued, "The pros who enter the field in five years are experimenting with consumer software now."

Many of Avid's announcements, not surprisingly, focused primarily on the broadcast space, where the company is apparently working assiduously "to create an ecosystem for our customer," according to VP and general manager for Avid Video Chas Smith. Besides an intriguing new offering called iNews Instinct, which attempts to move news cutting away from the NLE paradigm into a realm more appropriate to the journalist mindset (words and pictures rather than audio and video), the primary thrust of Avid's announcements concerned the implementation of HD across their product line.

In our space, that meant the long-awaited HD-ification of the Avid Xpress Studio suite, which has now added "HD" to its name. The suite includes Xpress Pro HD (with newly added real-time multicam support), plus ProTools, Avid's 3D tool, the titling and compositing tool AvidFX, and the Sonic-developed Avid DVD. The full suite (Avid Xpress Studio HD Complete) now lists for $5,995 (a $1,000 price drop). The Xpress Pro Power Pack (which includes FX, 3D, and DVD) goes for $2,495), and Xpress Pro flies solo for $1,695. Avid also announced a noteworthy price drop on Xpress DV, which now goes for $495 (formerly $695), which puts it squarely in the Pinnacle Liquid Edition zone. Time will tell what, if anything, that will mean to Avid, Pinnacle, and Pinnacle users.

Adobe closed out the night with a stylish soiree at the new PURE nightclub at Caesar's Palace that was long on socializing and short on announcements (a welcome change, by that point). The main topic on the table was OpenHD, a new initiative created in partnership with HP, Intel, Microsoft, and Dell to help those manufacturers to optimize their systems for HDV and HD postproduction. The result will be OpenHD certified solutions which will meet Adobe accreditation standards and bundle the full Adobe Video Collection (Premiere, After Effects, Audition, and Encore DVD).

Another company making big announcements at our self-imposed late-Sunday filing deadline is Serious Magic, which will be unveiling ULTRA 2, a full-step upgrade to its pro chromakey software, and an HDV add-on for the Editor's Choice-winning DV Rack. ULTRA 2 also adds HDV support, along with 16:9 and 24p.

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SANYO and Sharp join DVD6C In Licensing DVD Patents

The DVD6C Licensing Group, whose members include seven developers of DVD technology and formats, has announced that SANYO Electric Co., Ltd. and Sharp Corporation have joined its worldwide joint licensing program which provides manufacturers of DVD products the ability to license essential DVD patents owned by the group's members.

DVD6C has licensed essential DVD patents owned by its member companies since June 1999 (adding licensing for DVD-Recorders, DVD-Audio Players, DVD-R, -RW, and -RAM Drives, DVD-Audio, -R, -RW, and -RAM Discs and Cases in September 2003). DVD6C's licenses cover patents owned by the 6C member companies that are essential for products that comply with the DVD-format specifications defined by the DVD Forum.

www.pc-w.com/PRESSROOM/DVD6C

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Nero, MediaTek, and ATEME Announce Partnership

Nero, providers of digital media technology, MediaTek, a developer of five integrated circuit (IC) companies, and ATEME, a provider of hardware and software solutions for video and signal processing, have forged a partnership to deliver Nero Digital supported MediaTek chips to consumer electronics manufacturers of home entertainment components and portable entertainment devices.

MediaTek offers comprehensive IC solutions for CD-ROM, DVD-ROM, CD-R/RW, DVD+RW drives, and DVD Players. Nero Digital, co-developed by Nero and ATEME, is a complete MPEG-4 audio and video solution for home entertainment and CE devices.

Nero Recode allows for the direct importing of most video file formats and non-protected DVDs for encoding or transcoding into Nero Digital.

www.nerodigital.com

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Globalstor Demonstrates 9.6TB HD Video Storage Server with 1030MB/sec. Playback at NAB

Globalstor Data has demonstrated the ExtremeStor-HD at NAB. A fault-tolerant video storage server incorporating either 24 250GB hot-swappable SATA hard drives for up to 6TB of local storage or 24 400GB hot-swappable SATA hard drives for up to 9.6TB, ExtremeStor-HD is capable of achieving up to 350MB/sec. write and 1030MB/sec. read performance using RAID 5.

Globalstor's ExtremeStor-HD is packaged in a single 5U rackmounted enclosure, supports RAID levels 0, 1, 5, 10 and 50, and is entirely platform independent. Featuring Adobe Premier Pro 1.5 software and a Blackmagic DeckLink HD Pro digital card, ExtremeStor-HD captures, records, and can playback uncompressed video in real time. This video server offers a fast PCI-X 133 MHz interface, to ensure the high data rates of Dual Link HDTV 4:4:4 video work can be handled. Dual HD-SDI channels carry full color resolution to ensure video quality. SDI connections can be switched to standard HD-SDI 4:2:2 or standard definition SDI to ensure facilities a smooth transition from standard definition to HDTV.

Beyond providing video control and real time video editing capability, ExtremeStor-HD also offers enhanced audio editing for richer, more vibrant audio using sample-level editing, track-based effects, 5.1 surround sound, and support for VST filters.

www.blackmagic-design.com
www.globalstor.com

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Sonic Debuts Scenarist HD

Sonic Solutions, a developer of digital media software, has debuted Scenarist HD, a HD-DVD authoring system, enabling high-end production facilities and major motion picture studios to begin developing the first wave of titles in the highly anticipated HD-DVD format.

Important new features and capabilities of Scenarist HD include support for the latest high-definition video codecs (H.264 AVC, VC-1, and MPEG-2) and audio codecs (Dolby Digital +, DTS HD, and MLP), menus with up to 48 buttons each as well as 256-color sub-pictures for smoother looking subtitles, and expanded navigation capabilities.

Sonic plans to release the product in the summer of 2005.

www.sonic.com

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Avid Announces New 4 Gb Version of Avid Unity MediaNetwork

Avid Technology, Inc. has announced Avid Unity MediaNetwork 4.0, the latest version of its shared-storage system. Version 4.0 of Avid Unity delivers 4 Gb Fibre Channel throughput for seamless real time collaboration in post production environments. The system supports a broad range of media types, including mastering-quality Avid DNxHD and uncompressed high-definition; moreover, it is built around Avid's MEDIArray ZX4 hardware.

Highlights of 4.0 include:
- 4 Gb Avid MEDIArray ZX4
- Support for up to 20TB
- Support for high-resolution, high-bandwidth media
- Open connectivity framework
- Multiple levels of redundancy

Pricing for the Avid Unity MediaNetwork 4.0 system starts at $67,000. Upgrade programs are available for existing Avid Unity MediaNetwork customers.

www.avid.com

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Adobe Buys Macromedia

Adobe Systems Inc. has announced a definitive agreement to acquire Macromedia in an all-stock transaction valued at approximately $3.4 billion. Under the terms of the agreement, Macromedia stockholders will receive, at a fixed exchange ratio, 0.69 shares of Adobe common stock for every share of Macromedia common stock in a tax-free exchange. Based on Adobe's and Macromedia's closing prices on Friday April 15, 2005, this represents a price of $41.86 per share of Macromedia common stock.

The acquisition, which is expected to close in Fall 2005, is subject to customary closing conditions, including approval by the stockholders of both companies and regulatory approvals. The transaction will be accounted for under purchase accounting rules.

In addition, investors and security holders may obtain free copies of the documents filed with the SEC by Adobe by contacting Macromedia Investor Relations at 408-536-4416. Investors and security holders may obtain free copies of the documents filed with the SEC by Macromedia by contacting Macromedia Investor Relations at 415-252-2106.

www.adobe.com
www.macromedia.com

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Microboards Releases a True 16X DVD Duplicator with Ten Recorders

Microboards has announced the release of the CopyWriter Tower, a true 16X DVD duplicator. Microboards¹ latest product offers a two-button interface giving users access to immediate copying ability or advanced features such as track extraction, image archival, speed selection, and verification modes.

The CopyWriter Tower comes standard with a two-year limited warranty and unlimited phone support. The CopyWriter Tower will begin shipping immediately.

www.Microboards.com

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