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May 17, 2005

Table of Contents

The Network Observer: Kinds of Blue
Sony Unveils New HDV Camcorder for Professional Videographers
Nero Toolkit Now Supports Blu-ray
Memorex Introduces Director's Cut DVD Media
LightScribe Technology Featured In I/OMagic's 16X Dual Format, Double Layer DVD Drive
Avid to Discuss HD Transition and Demonstrate Latest Innovations in Los Angeles and New York
Yahoo! Music Licenses Sonic AuthorScript CD/DVD Burning Technology
EIZO Releases FlexScan L551 17" LCD Monitor
SmartSound and Artbeats Team Up to Provide Royalty-Free Music and Stock Footage
Toshiba Acquires Panasonic Shikoku Electronics' U.S. HDD Design Center

The Network Observer: Kinds of Blue

Hello, and welcome to The Network Observer, version 2.0. As a fellow digital media professional and longtime network administrator, I look forward to discussing and probing this madcap world of the care and feeding of digital creators and consumers with network services. This month I'd like to take a look at the brewing insanity with storage media.

Let me start with Dave's First Rule of Production: Don't waste your artists' time. If you have to re-create content, you are either risking losing your client (missed deadlines) or missing out on new clients (lost opportunities). The goal of an effective adminstrator is to create a system that saves people creative time. That means building a highly robust, redundant system including storage: RAID for current production, tape for daily and weekly backups for CYA, and optical for long-term archiving and Web access libraries.

With these three in place, you can deliver these key services from networked storage:

  1. Fast, continual access to live data
  2. Peace of mind from accidental deletions
  3. Ready access for repurposing existing content

So just when we have a viable archive media suitable for video content in blue laser, we get four competing recordable standards—two from the same vendor! Let's just mention the highlights (and low-lights) of these for the archive task.

HD-DVD may be a viable short-term solution for pressed disc production, but the recordable version is limited to a single layer of 15GB. This sounds like a solid improvement over current DVD (4.7GB single layer, 8.5GB dual layer), but when compared with Blu-Ray (with up to 50GB dual layer), HD-DVD starts to seem rather small.

To remedy the situation, Toshiba has proposed HD-DVD recorders that will resort to a completely new triple-layer approach (to reach 45GB) that remains unproven (http://www.emedialive.com/Articles/ReadArticle.aspx?ArticleID=9921). In fact, this multi-layer system requires disc replicators to install all new equipment, eliminating the much-ballyhooed advantage to HD in the first place.

The good news, manufacturers say, is that HD media will cost just 10-20% more than DVD-R. The downside is that first-generation, single-layer HD-DVD has about as much legs as a three-legged horse in the Kentucky Derby. Create an archive with this and you may find yourself five years from now with no drives to read it on.

I don't see much advantage to the "alliance" to unite HD-DVD and Blu-Ray other than to stabilize the market from a format war. The proposed alliance is being stonewalled by HD-backer Toshiba, and maybe Toshiba is right, but for the wrong reasons. There's no physical overlap of HD and Blu-Ray; in terms of creating products that will be viable in the mass consumer market, such a hybrid makes about as much sense as a combined VHS/Betamax deck. Yes, they both use tape (much as HD-DVD and Blu-ray both use 120mm discs and blue lasers), but there the similarities end.

Blu-Ray recordable, known as BD-R for the write-once version and BD-E for the erasable/rewritable version, should be out by the end of the year, thanks to Philips producing a practical recording head that writes to all three media: CD, DVD, and Blu-Ray. Best of all, Blu-Ray recorders and media are targeted for consumer use, and thus will be ubiquitous, readable anywhere, and cheap in short order. The downside? BD isn't out yet and doesn't have the cachet of Sony's Professional Disc.

Speaking of which, did you notice that Sony has not one but two Professional Disc products? There's the "Professional Disc for Data" (aka ProData) which is gaining momentum, but there's also the less-well-known "Professional Disc" that goes with the XDCAM and various editing decks. (The latter comes in a nifty translucent blue case vs. the ProData's mundane opaque blue.) Naturally, they are not cross-compatible even though their specs are quite close.

So what are you thinking, Sony? It's tough enough to sell us pros on a new technology like blue laser, only now to have you introduce similar-sounding and similar-looking products that seem tailored for our studio but can't work together. The upside though is that ProData is here now and crafted for production use. There's something to be said for being the first on the block to start using a hot new storage technology, but as always, early-adopt at your own risk.

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Sony Unveils New HDV Camcorder for Professional Videographers

Sony is expanding its lineup of HDV products for professionals with the new HVR-A1U model, based on a 1/3-inch, 3-megapixel Complementary Metal Oxide Semiconductor (CMOS) imager. Sony has improved upon the key attributes of traditional CMOS sensors with proprietary technology, and this innovative CMOS device is also accompanied by Sony's Enhanced Imaging Processor (EIP). The EIP enables the high-speed processing required for capturing high-definition video images, and allows an HDV camcorder to record and playback high-quality still images.

The first professional high-definition application of this enhanced imaging technology is in the HVR-A1U model. EIP technology is also at the core of a new consumer product counterpart, the Sony HDR-HC1 Handycam.

new HVR-A1U HDV camcorder complements Sony's first entry into the professional HDV market, the HVR-Z1U. Introduced last fall, more than 37,000 units of Sony HDV products have already been delivered to customers worldwide. The new HVR-A1U model now offers professional videographers another option for the capture and playback of HD images.

The HVR-A1U offers many of the same features as the HVR-Z1U, such as balanced audio, XLR inputs, SMPTE timecode and a Carl Zeiss Vario-Sonnar T* Lens. However, its smaller footprint makes this camcorder ideal for applications where space is at a premium or extreme mobility is required. For example, potential applications may include mounting on a skydiver's helmet or placement on the hood of a racecar. Sony's CMOS sensor produces natural and rich tones for both light and dark areas of an image.

To achieve wide dynamic range, EIP technology employs an algorithm that separates image data into its texture patterns and brightness components. CMOS-based technology helps eliminate the presence of smear, which is created by vertical bands of bright light stretching from the top to the bottom of an image's "bright areas" and occurs when something extremely bright like a pin-point light source is shot.

Sony has reduced the size of the transistors within an image's pixel matrix, allowing for a larger area of the photo-sensitive portion of the pixel and enabling more light to be taken in than with a conventional CMOS sensor. In addition, the Correlated Double Sampling circuits on the sensor achieve extremely low-noise image quality. Sony's CMOS-based sensor circuitry runs at lower voltage and consumes less power than conventional CCD-based processors, resulting not only in longer battery life but also allowing for the use of smaller batteries so the camcorders can be smaller overall.

The HVR-A1U can record and playback HDV, DVCAM, and DV content, with the ability to down-convert footage into standard definition. A wide-screen Hybrid LCD monitor is also included.

Other key features include:

  • Still image capture - Maximum pixel size for still images is 2.8M (1920x1440) pixels in Memory Mode. Users can record 1.2M (1440x810) pixels in Tape and Play/Edit Mode.
  • Histogram Indicator - Users can check the brightness of an object and easily adjust exposure by viewing this graphical presentation.
  • Tele Macro - This feature enables users to capture a macro image from a distance, especially useful for shooting smaller moving objects, and it also provides the ability to make subjects more prominent against a backdrop and to suppress shadow projection.

Sony's highest-quality 6mm videotape, DigitalMaster, is the company's recommended professional media for HDV applications. These 63-minute cassettes (model PHDVM63DM) use Sony's AME (Advanced Metal Evaporated) II Technology and its unique dual-active magnetic layers. By improving on an already successful product, the new AME II manufacturing process employs Hyper Evaticle IV magnetic grains, improved lubricants, and a refined Diamond-Like Carbon (DLC) layer. DigitalMaster tape exhibits greater packing density of magnetic grains, higher retentivity, higher output and lower noise. The result is a more robust tape with 60% fewer dropouts and 90% fewer errors, according to Sony.

The HVR-A1U HDV camcorder is expected to be available in early fall, at a suggested list price of less than $3,500.

www.sonystyle.com

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Nero Toolkit Now Supports Blu-ray

Nero has announced that the Nero Toolkit optical disc recording tool testing software, now supports Blu-ray testing and data recording.

The Blu-ray format was developed to enable recording, rewriting and playback of high-definition video (HD), as well as storing large amounts of data. A single-layer Blu-ray disc can hold 25GB, which can be used to record over 2 hours of HDTV and about 13 hours of standard-definition TV. Dual-layer Blu-ray discs can hold 50GB, which can be used to record over four hours of HDTV and about 26 hours of standard-definition TV.

In addition, Nero Toolkit, a Nero 6 application, consists of programs that supply information about the system, CD/DVD drives and optimum running modes. It offers the most accurate and comprehensive drive testing available.

Nero Toolkit's Blu-ray supported programs include Nero CD-DVD Speed and Nero InfoTool. Nero CD-DVD Speed is the perfect tool for OEMs to use for testing Blu-ray drives. It supports read-only transfer rate testing, disc erasing and formatting and provides the ability to create data discs. Nero InfoTool supplies the user with a summary of the main characteristics of the drives, the disks in the drives, and the installed software. Dual Layer -9r disc support includes 8.5GB storage for data content and 120 min playback time (SP) for DVD-Video.

www.nero.com

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Memorex Introduces Director's Cut DVD Media

Memorex puts consumers right in the director's chair with its new Director's Cut recordable DVD media. Designed for movie buffs and novice home movie producers, the Director's Cut DVD family, now available in standard and mini DVD formats, comes packaged in a movie reel-style metal tin and includes several safeguards that help eliminate threats to DVD preservation.

At eight centimeters in diameter, Director's Cut Mini DVD-R discs are suited for home video recording with DVD camcorders like the Sony Handycam, as well as mobile storage of multimedia presentations, videos, and MP3 files.

The full-sized DVD+R discs are ideal for transferring VHS tapes to DVD and saving home movies, in addition to mobile storage of precious photos, favorite music and important data. Both products feature a Hollywood-themed disc print that resembles a movie director's marker board. A movie reel-style, metal storage tin comes with every package of Director's Cut media from Memorex. Reminiscent of movie vault storage, these tins help maintain the integrity of important recordings by preventing exposure to light, one of the top threats to proper DVD preservation.

Director's Cut DVDs also feature Memorex's DuraLayer technology, a special scratch-resistant hard coating that also eliminates other threats to DVD preservation like dust, debris and rough handling.

Memorex Director's Cut recordable media is now available in major retail stores in the U.S. and Canada. A 10-pack of standard 4.7 GB Director's Cut DVDs with movie-reel tin lists for $17.99. A 10-pack of 1.4 GB Director's Cut mini DVDs with movie-reel tin retails for a suggested price of $17.99.

www.memorex.com

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LightScribe Technology Featured In I/OMagic's 16X Dual Format, Double Layer DVD Drive

I/OMagic Corp., a leading provider of data storage products, has announced the launch of its new 16X LightScribe Internal DVD+/-RW/+/-R Dual Format Double Layer Drive. Included with this DVD Rewritable drive is LightScribe technology, which gives users the ability to custom laser-etch labels on specially coated media.

In addition to the LightScribe technology, the 16X LightScribe Internal DVD+/-RW/+/-R Dual Format Double Layer Drive has the ability to read and write popular formats, including DVD+R and DVD+R double layer (DL), DVD+RW, DVD-R, DVD-RW, CD-R ,and CD-RW and allows users to choose the media (DVD, CD, or LightScribe) format that is most convenient or compatible with their personal computers or home DVD players. In addition, the double layer technology in this drive allows for up to 8.5GB(a) of storage space on double layer (DL) media.

I/OMagic's 16X LightScribe Internal DVD+/-RW/+/-R Dual Format Double Layer Drive will write at 16X speeds using DVD+R, at 8X with DVD-R media and at 2.4X speeds using DVD+R double layer (DL) media. The drive also includes both white and black faceplates and software to enable users to create and edit videos, burn DVDs and CDs in various popular formats, and play or view, as well as store, music, photos and movies on either DVDs or CDs.

I/OMagic's new 16X LightScribe Internal DVD+/-RW/+/-R Dual Format Double Layer Drive supports Windows XP/2000/Me/98SE operating systems. The Company anticipates shipping its new 16X LightScribe Internal DVD+/-RW/+/-R Dual Format Double Layer Drive in May 2005 at an introductory suggested retail price of $109.99.

www.iomagic.com

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Avid to Discuss HD Transition and Demonstrate Latest Innovations in Los Angeles and New York

Avid Technology, Inc. has announced that it will host two industry events--one in Los Angeles on May 18, the other in New York City on June 9--designed to explore HD postproduction trends and demonstrate the company's latest product innovations. Both events will offer an in-depth look at the challenges associated with transitioning to HD postproduction, followed by the opportunity to test drive Avid's complete line of postproduction solutions--from its entry-level HD tools to its most advanced HD video editing and finishing solutions. In addition, registered attendees will have the chance to win a free Avid Xpress(R) Studio HD Complete system--valued at $5,995 US MSRP.

Following the discussion about the transition to HD postproduction, Avid will demonstrate a range of its latest HD product innovations, including:

  • Avid DNxHD encoding - delivering the image quality of 8- and 10-bit uncompressed HD images with the bandwidth and storage requirements of SD files
  • The Avid(R) Symphony Nitris system - offering the real-time performance of the Nitris Digital Nonlinear Accelerator (Avid DNA) hardware with the creative and corrective tools, and multi-format mastering and versioning capabilities, of the Avid Symphony software
  • The Avid DS Nitris system - delivering resolution-independent capabilities, including 10-bit uncompressed HD, Avid DNxHD encoding, and SD finishing and mastering as well as 2K/4K file-based editing and expanded DPX file-conform functionality for digital intermediate (DI) workflows
  • The Media Composer Adrenaline HD system with the Avid DNxcel board - providing 10-bit capture, editing, and playback of today's leading HD formats, true 24 fps HD support for film projects, new tapeless workflows with support for the Panasonic P2 and Sony XDCAM professional cameras, Avid DNxHD encoding, and real-time HD and SD multicamera editing
  • The Avid Xpress Studio HD and Avid Xpress Pro HD systems - offering professional HD, SD, DV, and film editing features with powerful audio, 3D animation, effects, titling, and DVD authoring tools.

Event Logistics, Registration & Contest Rules The Los Angeles event will take place on Wednesday, May 18, 2005, from 6:30 p.m. - 9:30 p.m. at the House of Blues, 8430 Sunset Blvd., West Hollywood, CA. The New York event will take place on Thursday, June 9, from 6:30 p.m. - 9:30 p.m. at Strata, 915 Broadway and 21st Street, New York, NY. To register for either event, www.avid.com/domoretour. To learn more about the official contest rules for how to win an Avid Xpress Studio HD Complete system, please visit www.avid.com/events/roadshow/rules.asp.

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Yahoo! Music Licenses Sonic AuthorScript CD/DVD Burning Technology

Sonic Solutions has announced that it has entered into a multi-year license agreement with Yahoo! Inc. in which Yahoo! will embed AuthorScript Music, Sonic's digital music CD/DVD burning and ripping engine for music in both its current music applications, Yahoo! Music Engine and Musicmatch Jukebox 10. With AuthorScript, Yahoo! Music users will now have access to a reliable and efficient solution for burning custom music CDs and DVDs.

"Because Yahoo! Music services are so widely used, Yahoo! required a burning engine that was fully featured, easy to integrate, and that allowed them to release new versions quickly," said Jim Taylor, senior vice president and general manager of Sonic's Advanced Technology Group. "With its support of all major audio formats, built-in support for new models of CD and DVD drives, and a small footprint for fast downloading, Sonic AuthorScript is an ideal solution for Yahoo!."

AuthorScript Music is based on Sonic's AuthorScript CD/DVD formatting and burning engine and provides Yahoo! Music with over forty music-centric features that have been built for online music service providers and audio application developers. Highlights include a 1MB footprint for faster downloading than competing solutions, MP3 CD support that allows Yahoo! Music users to create CDs that can be played in MP3 CD players, and SilentSelect technology that automatically supports CD/DVD burning and playback in new drives as they become available.

As the product life cycles for CD and DVD recorders continue to speed up, new drives are arriving on the market faster than ever. As a result, CD and DVD recorder support and burn engine qualification are among the most costly ongoing maintenance issues for software application developers. In addition, the explosive growth of numerous low-cost CD and DVD recorders from an abundance of manufacturers has prompted a huge demand for a consistent music burning application that will support them all. Since it is engineered to automatically enable new drive support with its SilentSelect technology, Sonic AuthorScript Music provides online music distributors and application developers with the confidence that their PC applications will work with virtually any burner ever shipped, resulting in the best possible end-user experience and minimizing costly technical support calls and software updates. "

www.sonic.com

www.yahoo.com

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EIZO Releases FlexScan L551 17" LCD Monitor

Eizo Nanao Technologies Inc. has introduced the FlexScan L551, a 17-inch LCD monitor targeted at corporate and home users. The FlexScan L551 sports a no-frills design, no-touch automatic setup, and automatic brightness adjustment. It is backed by EIZO's five-year warranty.

From text and spreadsheet applications to Web browsing and video playback, the FlexScan L551 is designed for home, office, and entertainment applications. Performance specifications include brightness of 300 cd/m², contrast of 450:1, and a fast 16ms response. The OSD menu offers an sRGB mode for color management with other peripherals also supporting this color space. Color temperature settings include 6,500 K and 9,300 K, and the gain levels for red, green, and blue can be adjusted independently. The thin bezel cabinet design and an integrated power supply unit make for a small footprint. The FlexScan L551 meets VESA mounting standards so it can be easily mounted on an arm or a wall bracket. 

When the monitor initially detects a signal, it automatically adjusts clock, phase, screen position, and resolution. The FlexScan L551 includes functions designed to stabilize brightness and ensure it is always at a comfortable level regardless of the ambient lighting conditions. The first of these functions is EIZO's drift correction circuit, which stabilizes the brightness level after startup or when coming out of power saving mode. There is also a sensor on the front bezel that takes a reading of the ambient brightness and then signals the backlight to adjust the screen brightness accordingly. In a brightly lit room, BrightRegulator increases the monitor's brightness level, whereas in a dimly lit room it will decrease the brightness. EIZO stands behind the workmanship of the FlexScan L551 with a five-year warranty*. This warranty is valid in any countries or territory where an EIZO authorized distributor is located.

The FlexScan L551 begins shipping this week at a suggested retail price of $399. The cabinet comes in gray and black.

www.eizo.com

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SmartSound and Artbeats Team Up to Provide Royalty-Free Music and Stock Footage

SmartSound Software, Inc., a leading provider of soundtrack creation technology for visual content creators, has announced a partnership to deliver software and royalty-free music to customers of Artbeats, a leading provider of royalty-free stock footage. Artbeats customers can get the award winning SmartSound Sonicfire Pro soundtrack creation software for free with qualifying purchases of Artbeats footage and a SmartSound Music two-pack.

When Artbeats customers select certain video footage products to purchase, the online store will recommend a two-pack of SmartSound music that has been tested and recommended for that footage. Customers can add the music two-pack to their Artbeats order for only $199 and new SmartSound users will receive a free copy of SmartSound's Sonicfire Pro.

www.artbeats.com

www.smartsound.com

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Toshiba Acquires Panasonic Shikoku Electronics' U.S. HDD Design Center

Toshiba Corp. and Toshiba America Information Systems Inc. (TAIS) have announced the acquisition of Panasonic Shikoku Electronics' HDD design center in Fremont, Calif. Terms of the agreement were not disclosed. The newly acquired design center will support HDD development at Toshiba's Ome operations in Japan. In addition, Toshiba's new facility will provide engineering support to PC and consumer electronics companies, putting resources closer to Toshiba customers.

As part of the deal, approximately 50 engineers have joined TAIS, bringing a rich mix of engineering and problem-solving skills and proven product design capabilities for low-cost, high-quality, high-volume production.

Toshiba continues to advance its small form factor HDD development, with introduction of its smallest hard disk drive at 0.85 inches and its first announced products to incorporate perpendicular magnetic recording (PMR) on the company's 1.8-inch HDD platform, scheduled to ship in the second quarter of 2005. Toshiba currently claims a leading position in the 1.8-inch HDD market, reporting more than 14 million units shipped since its launch in 2000. The company also recently surpassed the 80 million units shipped milestone for 2.5-inch HDDs, according to Toshiba. "

www.sdd.toshiba.com

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