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Streaming Media
June 28, 2005

Table of Contents

The Network Observer: To Protect and Share
MF Digital Introduces New PicoJet Inkjet DVD/CD Printer
Adobe Systems To Integrate Vizrt Rotoscoping Technology Into Product Line
FutureVideo Announces Professional Multi-function Jog/Shuttle Control Surface
AJA to Introduce Five New Converters at IBC 2005
Panasonic Broadcast Debuts Professional DV Tape Line
HP Improves Data Protection for Small Businesses with Entry-level Backup Solutions
Stretch Partners With Vanguard Software Solutions to Deliver a Platform for H.264 Video Codec
TechSmith Releases Camtasia Studio 3 for On-Demand Demonstrations, Training, and PowerPoint Presentations

The Network Observer: To Protect and Share

In my last column, I mentioned my second rule for production environments: Build a reliable, redundant system. To do that, I recommended a combination of RAID, tape, and optical as the ideal. I received an email from a reader asking me to clarify this rule—and, in particular, why optical is necessary is required to adhere to it--since so much of the world seems to rely on RAID or RAID and tape technologies exclusively.

The primary purpose of networked storage is to share it. Even in the smallest studio, you will still be sharing content with clients, senior management, or other contractors if not with other artists and developers. This occurs both locally (on the LAN) and over the Web (at the very least by email and FTP). The best technologies should help us share content, not limit its access.

The second purpose of network storage is to protect it. Depending on every user to back up and index ongoing content in development is risky at best. Given the value of content (it being the lifeblood of a studio), a centrally managed storage system provides the simplest and therefore safest way to archive and protect that investment. A system that's redundant by design protects data. And each storage technology plays an integral role in that design.

RAID provides the speed and protection for immediate production work. There's no question every network will have a RAID subsystem, but every workstation should also now having a RAID subsystem installed. The cost is nominal, and it closes the gap on potentially lost content at the point of creation.

RAID alone, however, is not enough. RAID controllers have been known to fail, corrupting an entire set and losing all the content. Also, a local RAID system can't cope with something as large as a fire on the premises, an earthquake, or a flooded data center. For these, a fast, removable storage medium is useful—enter tape. Do daily backups to recover from accidental deletions (a primary cause of lost data). Store weekly tape backups offsite in a safety deposit box or secure facility for insurance against the big stuff.

While tape does achieve the protection goal, as an archive it fails on the sharing goal. Content on tape is like suffering from amnesia. You seem to remember knowing something, but you can't recall it. Even if there's an index to tapes and such, you're still stuck with hassle of having to locate and retrieve the tape itself, then wait while you search through the data on the tape to find the content. (Oh, and do you have the appropriate drive for that type of tape?) It would seem bad policy to have the adminstrator spend hours scanning old tapes to find content. The worst scenario, though, is to pay artists to recreate that content because of the recovery hassle.

With the plummeting cost of hardware, you could keep everything on RAID. The problem here is the ever-rising cost of energy (don't forget to you have to keep all those racks of drives cool). This can and will get expensive. And this expense goes on year after year until a project comes along that requires some part of that content. Given that this could extend to 10, 15, even 20 years down the road, this surely isn't practical.

The rational solution is to use optical storage. A long-term, optical storage library is essential because it provides low-cost, yet continual access to even ancient data for both Web and internal users. It provides an ideal solution for allowing spontaneous repurposing of older content. With optical storage, it is all random access in a medium that every workstation can cope with. It achieves both our goals—it is a great way to protect and share content over the long-term.

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MF Digital Introduces New PicoJet Inkjet DVD/CD Printer

MF Digital has introduced its own proprietary inkjet DVD/CD printer based on HP 5650 technology. By combining the HP 3-picoliter ink technology with MF Digital mechanisms, the PicoJet delivers photo-quality graphics and laser-quality text to in-house producers of CDs and DVDs, according to MF Digital.

MF Digital's PicoJet inkjet printer offers fully automated, direct-to-disc printing and is compatible with MF Digital's PC-Based Scribe PC, Scribe SA Standalone, Director Publisher, and Director PRO Publisher. As a 4800dpi printer with 16.7 million color capacity, the PicoJet provides edge-to-edge printing for standard 120mm CDs and DVDs, CD business cards, and 80mm mini discs.

The proprietary SureThing labeling software is included and can be used with most design packages, including CorelDRAW and Adobe Photoshop.

The PicoJet carries an initial manufacturer's suggested price of US $1695. Shipping of the product has just begun. The PicoJet replaces the OptiEC PRO in MF Digital's line of thermal and inkjet printers.

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Adobe Systems To Integrate Vizrt Rotoscoping Technology Into Product Line

Vizrt, a producer of real-time 2D and true 3D graphics system for television, has entered into an agreement with Adobe Systems whereby Adobe will license, develop and distribute the Curious gFx software. Adobe will be using this licensed technology to expand the professional capabilities of its product line by integrating it into future Adobe software.

Curious gFx is a raster paint, retouching and rotoscoping software package for film, video, and broadcast developed by Curious Software, which was acquired by Vizrt as of June 1 this year. With this technology from Vizrt, Adobe will have access to a powerful paint engine for moving images, a sophisticated roto-matte system and a range of features for wire and rig removal or content restoration.

Vizrt will continue to support existing customers of gFX, but the standalone product's future upgrade path will now be determined by Adobe. Additionally, Vizrt will continue to offer the gFx technology as a licensed option within the Curious World Maps digital map creation software and its authoring and design software such as Viz|Artist.

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FutureVideo Announces Professional Multi-function Jog/Shuttle Control Surface

Device control manufacturer FutureVideo Products, Inc. has unveiled its new multi-function jog/shuttle controller, Media Commander MC-20PRO. Media Commander MC-20PRO combines the control and functions commonly used during video and audio post-production—PC keyboard commands, media playback, and Jog/Shuttle controls—into a single control surface that allows controlling both digital media on the PC as well as tape-based media.

Its KeyAssigner software integrates key-mapping and jog/shuttle preferences with keyboard labeling for the 180 possible multi-modal commands that can be programmed and saved in flash memory for the 22 assignable keys. The software will come with pre-configured key maps for various NLE systems, including Adobe Premiere, NewTek VT[4], Canopus Edius, and others.

The MC-20PRO's capabilities extend beyond computer-based media systems. Thanks to its EditLink port, Media Commander MC-20PRO can connect with FutureVideo's Media Commander 100 modules to directly control a network of up to 16 VCRs (including various camcorders equipped with LANC or 5-pin edit control ports), Digital Audio Tape Recorders (including DTRS/DTS machines), and selected DVD recorders.

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AJA to Introduce Five New Converters at IBC 2005

AJA has announced several new products that will debut at IBC 2005. The Io Control Panel application enables direct, standalone control of Io, IoLA or IoLD from a simple OS X interface on the PowerMac. This allows the use of the Io as a standalone A-to-D and/or D-to-A video converter. In addition the control panel features extensive Proc Amp controls as well as the ability to disembed or embed audio. Its Proc Amp capabilities include adjustment of hue, saturation, video gain, and black level, output timing horizontal or vertical, genlock settings, and analog audio level control.

Also introduced at IBC is the HD10AM-HD/SDI Dual Rate 8 Channel AES Audio Embedder/Disembedder, which provides four AES outputs. The Embedder is user-selectable, on a channel pair basis, to either "pass" SDI input audio or to embed input AES audio. AES inputs are sample rate-converted to a 48Hz rate synchronous to the video output. Input video standard is automatically detected and configured.

The HD10AMA-HD/SDI Dual Rate 4 Channel Analog Audio Embedder/Disembedder provides four analog audio outputs. The Embedder is user-selectable, on a channel pair basis, to either "pass" SDI input audio or to embed input analog audio. Analog audio levels are selectable. Input video standard is automatically detected and configured.

The ADA4 4-Channel Bi-directional AES/EBU audio A/D and D/A can be configured as a 4 channel D/A, or 2-channel A/D and 2-channel D/A. It can accept a Wordclock or video sync/color black reference input for synchronization. Reference input and synchronization are automatic.

The HDP4 HD-SDI/SDI to DVI-D and Audio Converter converts HD-SDI/SDI to DVI-D for LCD/Plasma monitors and provides 4 DVI-D and audio outputs. Its built-in high quality scaling engine automatically sizes 4:3 or 16:9 inputs to many DVI-D monitors. For appropriate monitor configurations, scaling is automatically 1:1.

The D5PSW SDI/ASI Protection Switch is a dual SDI/ASI input protection switch with 3 SDI/ASI outputs. It can be used as a repeater and/or DA. Its multi-color LED indicators provide instant status.

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Panasonic Broadcast Debuts Professional DV Tape Line

Panasonic Broadcast has announced the immediate availability of its Advanced Master Quality (AMQ) professional DV tape series, promising increased durability and reliability in DV tape for professional users. The new 6.35MM metal evaporative tape provides unprecedented performance for DVCAM, DV SP, and DV LP recording, according to Panasonic.

The AMQ Series is designed to offer improvements in regard to drop-outs, clogging, and still-image playback over previous Panasonic professional DV tape, and to provide higher signal output and a lower error rate. A dry-type lubricant and a durable diamond-like carbon (DLC) film with extra thickness are designed to increase durability during still image playback and extend VTR head life. These advanced production technologies allow the AMQ tape to stand up to the repeated rewinding, fast-forwarding and playback typical of professional editing, Panasonic claims.

Panasonic reports that the new series offers a new surface treatment process (Super Advanced Metal Evaporation or S-AME) for improved magnetic density and an increased output level of +1.2dB, resulting in a more precise and secure recording. Improvements even extend to the cassette housing, with a new gray color, dust-proof anti-static lid and durable ABS resin shell construction--the same material used for high-quality data tape.

An easy-write cassette label is already affixed to the cassette housing, so writing titles directly on the label is quick and easy. Both the large and small tape sizes use a two-way open soft vinyl case that is designed to be rugged yet easy to open.

Suggested list pricing is as follows: A

  • AY-DVM33AMQ 33 min. Mini-DV $19.95
  • AY-DVM48AMQ 48 min. Mini-DV $21.95
  • AY-DVM63AMQ 63 min. Mini-DV $23.95
  • AY-DV96AMQ 96 min. Standard DV $29.95
  • AY-DV124AMQ 124 min. Standard DV $38.95
  • AY-DV186AMQ 186 min. standard DV $43.95
  • AY-DV276AMQ 276 min. Standard DV $51.95

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HP Improves Data Protection for Small Businesses with Entry-level Backup Solutions

HP has announced several new tape backup offerings for its HP Business Protection portfolio to provide small and mid-size businesses (SMBs) with affordable data protection.

Chief among these are DAT USB tape drives, which combine the reliability and cost-effectiveness of digital audio tape (DAT) with the plug-and-play capabilities of the USB 2 interface. HP also introduced half-height LTO Ultrium 1 tape drives and additional tape drive support for the HP StorageWorks 1/8 tape autoloader.

According to AMI Partners, data protection is among the highest priorities for SMBs, and tape is still the most commonly used backup medium.

By supporting the HP One-Button Disaster Recovery feature, the new tape drives allow users to recover not only their data but, in the event of a catastrophic disaster, their complete system configuration with the push of a single button.

Additionally, all of the new tape drives and autoloaders come with HP StorageWorks Library and Tape Tools, a comprehensive set of utilities that aid in installation, management, and troubleshooting.

The tape drives are compatible with a wide range of servers, operating systems, and backup software. In addition, the cost of DAT media is reduced by eliminating the need for the additional purchase of SCSI host bus adapters. Furthermore, these DAT USB drives provide the added investment protection of a simple upgrade path through future generations of the HP DAT technology roadmap.

The HP StorageWorks DAT 72 USB delivers a capacity of 72GB on a single data cartridge and a transfer rate of 23GB/hour (assuming a 2:1 compression ratio). The DAT 72 USB is expected to be available July 4 starting at $749.

The HP StorageWorks DAT 40 USB is a DDS-4 tape drive that stores 40GB of compressed data on a single cartridge at a rate of 23GB/hour (assuming 2:1 data compression). The DAT 40 USB is expected to be available July 4 starting at $599.

HP also is bringing to market the new HP StorageWorks Ultrium 232 tape drive. The Ultrium 232 features a 200GB capacity per cartridge and a backup speed of 115GB/hour (assuming 2:1 data compression).

The HP StorageWorks Ultrium 232 is the lowest priced LTO drive from HP. The HP StorageWorks Ultrium 232 starts at $1,799 and is expected to be available July 11. HP also now offers two new versions of its HP StorageWorks 1/8 Tape Autoloader: an Ultrium 960 model and an Ultrium 448 model. These 2U tape autoloaders are rackmountable for space-saving and provide a backup solution without the need for an IT technician to manually change tapes.

Extending support to these two new Ultrium tape drives increases the autoloader's maximum capacity to 6.4TB with an Ultrium 960 drive or to 3.2TB with Ultrium 448 (assuming 2:1 data compression). The Ultrium 960 model boosts the autoloader's performance to 576GB/hour (compressed).

The HP StorageWorks 1/8 Ultrium 960 Tape Autoloader starts at $7,499. The HP StorageWorks 1/8 Ultrium 448 Tape Autoloader starts at $5,299. Both are available now.

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Stretch Partners With Vanguard Software Solutions to Deliver a Platform for H.264 Video Codec

Stretch and Vanguard Software Solutions have announced they have teamed up to deliver a flexible and cost-effective development platform that supports changing requirements in media technology. Vanguard Software Solutions has matched its software-only H.264 codec to the Stretch S5610 processor, creating a software-configurable engine suited for video processing.

The new development platform captures a video image, performs H.264 encoding, and displays a compressed bit stream via Ethernet in real time. Thus, users can design a video system based on a cost-effective platform that provides development of embedded systems that can be adapted to support new standards and meet changing market needs.

The family of Stretch S5000 processors combines the speed and efficiency of a DSP with the programmability of an FPGA, and is configured with standard C/C++ programming tools. There is no use of assembly language, thereby simplifying application development. The processors achieve their performance by spotting software hot spots--sequences of operations that get executed many times--and "crushing" them into a single instruction.

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TechSmith Releases Camtasia Studio 3 for On-Demand Demonstrations, Training, and PowerPoint Presentations

TechSmith has announced the availability of Camtasia Studio 3 with digital video capture and picture-in-picture (PIP) capabilities, giving users a solution to create realistic on-demand software demonstrations and Microsoft PowerPoint presentations.

Camtasia Studio allows users to create on-demand demonstrations, presentations, and screencasts to communicate in a more effective, engaging, and visually informative manner. Camtasia Studio now enables users to include video of a presenter, which can be added to a presentation via PIP. Multimedia content created with Camtasia Studio reduces costs associated with technical support and helpdesks, and it improves the effectiveness of online training, sales presentations, and marketing initiatives, according to TechSmith.

Camtasia Studio automatically records what users see on a computer screen, what they say, and how they interact with any application or Website on a Windows desktop. Users can then edit and share the demonstrations online or via fixed media in popular streaming media formats, including Flash (SWF).

In addition to video capture and PIP, other new features in Camtasia Studio 3 include the following:

  • 30 days of free Web hosting-Camtasia Studio 3 users receive 30 days of free third-party Web hosting for their videos, with additional monthly contract options.
  • JPEG compression for Flash (SWF)-Users can significantly reduce SWF file size for graphically intensive recordings such as photographs, CAD drawings, or other complex graphics.
  • Automated publishing-New production wizard aids users in publishing and sharing videos, optimized for email or DVD sharing. 
  • Quizzing-Allows organizations to assess learning with multiple-choice quizzes. Answers can be reported back to SCORM-compliant Learning Management Systems. 
  • Interactive callouts-Gives users one-click control to make any callout a HotSpot for interactive navigation.
  • Additional audio and video tracks-With improved video production capabilities, such as PIP, additional audio and video tracks are provided. 
  • Faster audio editing-A new audio-editing toolbar has been added to help users more quickly adjust audio levels.

Camtasia Studio 3 supports Microsoft Windows 2000 and Windows XP with DirectX 9 or later. Supported digital video formats include AVI, MPEG, MPG, and WMV. Web cameras for capturing live video and microphones for capturing audio are available for purchase separately. Camtasia Studio 3 is available immediately with a suggested retail price of $299. The software and recommended hardware can be purchased at

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