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Streaming Media
August 02, 2005

Table of Contents

The Moving Picture: The Birth of OpenHD
Proavio Introduces a New Line of Professional FireWire Drives Designed for High Resolution Audio and Video Applications
Alienware MJ-12 Workstations Now Available with NVIDIA QUADRO FX 4500
RE:Vision Effects, Inc. releases RE:Flex 3
Mammoth HD Adds New Titles To Stock Footage Library
Avid Unveils SOFTIMAGE|XSI 5
Avon Zatec Launches New Line of Stay Sharp Products For the CD/DVD Replication Market
Nero Announces NeroLINUX

The Moving Picture: The Birth of OpenHD

A decade ago, nonlinear editing system buyers had a choice: save money by building a system from "open system" components or bite the bullet and buy a more expensive professional turnkey system. The great price disparity between the two used to be impossible for independent studios to resist and open systems surged in popularity. But without the benefit of one-stop tech support, it often became a case of pay me now or pay me later.

The industry has come a long way since those early days and the price and feature gap has greatly narrowed. The continually increasing speed and power of computers has alleviated many reliability concerns simply because it's easier for an average system to process large blocks of video data. Today's affordable open-system hardware and software could easily edit circles around the top systems of those early years.

Yet, as open-system products have matured, they have found their way into more professional and time-sensitive situations. Down-time for tech support has gone from unavoidable to almost unacceptable. Ten years ago an event videographer might have been willing to work on the system as a hobby, especially because it offered professional results at such a relatively affordable price. Today, tinkering with a computer is more often just a waste of time.

Higher-end nonlinear editing system makers learned a long time ago that letting customers experiment with different computer configurations is a fool's game. It's a technical support Pandora's Box because it increases the number of possible configuration permutations. It's just not good business, even if it forces the customers to spend a little more money up front. Even amid a robust open-system market, there have always been integration companies that catered to independents by selling bundled systems and providing that one-stop tech support for turnkey systems featuring otherwise open system components.

Such expertise is likely to become quite valuable again as the industry moves toward HD editing. Processing extremely large amounts of HD data very quickly is again taxing the limits of system components and making efficiency critical. To avoid the return of open-system horror stories, several open-system partners led by Adobe have introduced OpenHD Certification, a joint effort to offer pre-tested configurations of HD-capable editing workstations.

Adobe has been the primary proponent of open-system editing for almost 15 years. Premiere has been bundled with dozens of hardware cards, from multimedia to professional quality. Yet, Adobe has historically tended to keep a hands-off approach (publicly anyway) as to not appear to endorse any one hardware maker over another. However, as Premiere Pro has matured, its competition has become more focused. Today, Apple's Final Cut Pro, which only works on Apple hardware, and Avid, which has always posted a list of certified system configurations, have emerged as Adobe's main rivals.

With OpenHD Certification, Adobe in joined by companies like Intel, Microsoft, Dell, and HP in an effort to collectively test and qualify specific system configurations that will work, out of the box, with no hassles. As of the end of July, the Web site has listed four configurations built around Dell and HP workstations that are effectively guaranteed to include enough processing power, bandwidth, and storage to edit HDV, Uncompressed HD, Compressed HD in real-time, and uncompressed HD in real-time.

Each system still uses off-the-shelf I/O cards where needed, like BlackMagic Designs' DeckLink, AJA's Xena, or Matrox's Axio hardware. All four use NVidia graphics cards and off-the-shelf audio cards. And each includes both a system hard drive and independent storage for media. Expected pricing is listed on the site.

It all sounds smart and easy for potential buyers. But questions remain about how much value there really is in a certification for a group of companies that would naturally support users who buy their products. Adobe, Dell, HP, Microsoft, and Intel have all done extensive work over the years in building a platform for handling video, from Intel's Architecture Labs to Microsoft's very capable Windows Media division. However, it's unlikely that either company is doing anything for Adobe that doesn't also enhance the Windows platform for any other vendor, including Avid. Dell and HP have each had video editing configurations in the past for both Adobe Premiere and Avid. Adobe, naturally, wants to make Premiere Pro more professional.

Even though these configurations have the blessing of each of the applicable OpenHD companies, you'll still need either to build the system yourself by purchasing the components separately, or to contact a Certified OpenHD reseller (submit your information at and a reseller will contact you). In many ways, that's no different from buying a system from an integrator like BOXX Technologies, 1 Beyond, Laird Telemedia, or several others. As yet, it's still a little unclear where tech support will come from for purchasers of Certified OpenHD configurations, although it's expected to be a third-party organization contracted by the OpenHD alliance members.

Without details on service contract costs, hours of operation, and ability to solve problems, OpenHD Certification is really only putting a nice collective face on an open-system problem. It's a step in the right direction and credit is due for the initiative and desire to make things easier. But how all those big name companies actually interact with the independent video producer remains to be seen—and that, after all, is what will really matter.

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Proavio Introduces a New Line of Professional FireWire Drives Designed for High Resolution Audio and Video Applications

Proavio, a developer of professional storage tools for digital media, has announced the release of their new dvBOX FireWire800 desktop solutions. The dvBOX features a complete line of storage options with capacities ranging from 160GB single-drive units to 1TB dual -rive RAID arrays.

Proavio's dvBOX features a aluminum-alloy housing and next generation Oxford chipset technology. The dvBOX™ Portable series comes equipped with one high-speed USB2.0 and two FW400 ports. The dvBOX Desktop series is designed for use with digital content creation and desktop media production suites. It's available in FireWire400/USB2.0 and native FireWire800 models. The dvBOX™ PRO is a dual-disk, external FireWire800 disk array featuring internal RAID-0 drive architecture. The dvBOX™ PRO is the designed for use with applications such as Final Cut Pro, Avid Xpress, Adobe Premiere, ProTools, Nuendo, and many more.

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Alienware MJ-12 Workstations Now Available with NVIDIA QUADRO FX 4500

Alienware has announced the availability of the powerful new NVIDIA Quadro FX 4500 graphics accelerator on select Alienware MJ-12 workstations, including MJ-12 7550a, MJ-12 7550i, and MJ-12 5500 systems. As the newest addition to NVIDIA's line of workstation graphics solutions, the Quadro FX 4500 allows MJ-12 workstations to provide floating point and sub-pixel precision for the latest professional applications.

MJ-12 workstations powered by the Quadro FX 4500 raise the level of precision for sub-pixel effects, resulting in a higher success rate for correctly mapping objects to pixel values and reducing the amount of artifacts and visual anomalies. By accelerating the antialiasing of points and lines, the Quadro FX 4500 delivers superior image quality in real-time without any decrease in performance. Backed by hardware accelerated processing, MJ-12 workstations that feature the Quadro FX 4500 benefit the many professional applications that involve lines, triangles, wire mesh, and 3D textures. In addition, advanced memory management enables improved performance when working with multiple active applications.

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RE:Vision Effects, Inc. releases RE:Flex 3

RE:Flex brings intuitive morphing and warping directly to combustion 3.0 or later, After Effects 5.0 or later, Shake 3.01 or later, and Discreet Systems. RE:Flex uses the host program's own drawing and masking tools (when available) to direct the warping and morphing; as such, there is no need to learn a whole new user interface, according to RE:Vision Effects.

RE:Flex combines hand feature-matching with automatic image registration. After aligning the hand matched shapes, RE:Flex 3 now uses the new tracking found in RE:Vision's Twixtor 4.5 product to automatically align the non-handmatched parts of the image so that often less handwork is required.

New features in version 3 include the following:

  • Auto-align feature uses the improved Twixtor 4.5 tracking which provides more precise results than with previous versions of RE:Flex.
  • Floating point image support added for Shake version.
  • New anti-aliasing setting that uses less memory (but does so at the expense of speed). In the new method antialising is performed by repeated offset renders, with buffer accumulation. The old method is still available to users. This new feature is particularly useful to those warping and morphing large resolution images.
  • MipMapping. Now RE:Flex can be set to give better filtering results when parts of an image a squished by a factor of 2 or more.
  • New render-only pricing available for After Effects 6.0 or later (and continues to be available for Shake).

Availability and pricing is as follows: After Effects 5.0 or later, Macintosh and Windows: RE:Flex 3 is priced at $595. Render-only nodes are avaiilable for users of After Effects 6.0 or later for $119 Upgrades from RE:Flex 1 or 2 for After Effects are priced at $89.95. Persons who have purchased RE:Flex, version 2, on or after June 1, 2005 qualify for a free upgrade to version 3. If they qualify, users can retrieve their free upgrade by writing

Shake 3.01 or later, Macintosh and Linux: RE:Flex 3 is priced at $795. Render-only licenses are available for $198.75. Full license upgrades from version 2 are $119. Render-only license upgrades from version 2 are free.

Discreet Systems, Irix: RE:Flex 3 is priced at $995. Upgrades from RE:Flex version 2 for Discreet Systems are free. RE:Flex version 2 keys will work in the installer for RE:Flex version 3.

combustion 4 have already been using RE:Flex 3. However, with the latest release on the RE:Vision Effects Web site (version 3.0.2), they get the new tracking found in Twixtor 4.5. The upgrade to version RE:Flex 3.0.2 is free for combustion 4 users.

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Mammoth HD Adds New Titles To Stock Footage Library

Mammoth HD has added the Z1 collections to the MHD Footage Library. The eight new titles bring the library to 179 collections and over 2000 clips online. The Z1 collections are produced using Sony's Z1 HDV camera system. The collections are available in HD and HDV-2 formats.

Mammoth HD 's new titles include:

  • Columbine
  • Flame Vol.1
  • Mountain Goat
  • Crested Gecko
  • Medano Creek
  • Great Sand Dunes National Park
  • Summer Clouds
  • China: Bicycle Traffic

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Avid Unveils SOFTIMAGE|XSI 5

Avid has announced version 5 of the company's SOFTIMAGE|XSI 3D animation software. This latest version includes new tools to improve performance and creative flexibility. SOFTIMAGE|XSI 5 offers 3D teams to new features, such as Ultimapper--a map generation tool for producing cinema-quality maps in a few clicks--and GATOR--a property transfer system for merging fully textured and animated 3-D models. In addition to running on standard 32-bit CPUs, SOFTIMAGE|XSI 5 will also be available in a native 64-bit configuration, allowing users to model, animate, and render complex scenes in their entirety with billions of polygons and layers of 3D, film, and video content, according to Avid.

SOFTIMAGE|XSI 5 allows users to create and customize character rigs, streamlining the process for making modeling, texturing, and rigging changes to characters without re-constructing bones, bone weights, or shape animation. SOFTIMAGE|XSI 5 also includes a set of migration tools for Maya users, such as a customizable user interface with new menu and keyboard and mouse navigation properties.

SOFTIMAGE|XSI 5 has been redesigned to take advantage of dual-core 64-bit CPUs, which can access large amounts of physical memory to effectively double production throughput during the CG content creation process, according to Avid. In addition, SOFTIMAGE|XSI 5 is integrated with version 3.4 of the 64-bit mental ray rendering software. Now, users no longer need to reduce large scenes into smaller, individual pieces before rendering.

SOFTIMAGE|XSI 5 is expected to be available in September 2005 for purchase in the following configurations:

  • SOFTIMAGE|XSI 5 Foundation for $495 from the Softimage Web site at
  • SOFTIMAGE|XSI 5 Essentials for $1,995 from authorized Softimage resellers.
  • SOFTIMAGE|XSI 5 Advanced for $6,995 from authorized Softimage resellers.

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Avon Zatec Launches New Line of Stay Sharp Products For the CD/DVD Replication Market

Avon Zatec has introduced its newest product line of Stay Sharp squeegees for use in the DVD duplication and replication market.

Stay Sharp squeegees provide high-resolution images pass after pass, according to Avon. They are manufactured using a combination of urethane materials and are surgically cut to ensure a sharp edge.

Avon's new line consists of single, double, and triple layers with multiple sizes, colors, and tolerances available.

The Stay Sharp squeegees are produced in Avon's manufacturing facility in Raynham, MA, which is certified to International Standards ISO9001 & ISO14001. They have been designed to be solvent and abrasion resistant, thereby eliminating product swelling and deterioration and imparting a longer product life cycle, according to Avon.

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Nero Announces NeroLINUX

Nero has announced the release of NeroLINUX This upgraded version of Nero's Linux OS solution for CD/DVD Burning features Layer-Jump Recording (LJR), DVD-Video and miniDVD mastering, and user interface changes like selectable ISO track recording options and assignable sounds that alert the user to the burn process results.

NeroLINUX is Layer-Jump Recording software, which enables multisession burning, improved read compatibility, and a memory capacity of up to 8.5GB on dual-layer DVD-R media. The software allows data to be added to a disc over several burning sessions.

In addition, the current NeroLINUX already supports burning data and disc images to CDs and DVDs, Bootable CDs and DVDs, Audio CDs with CD text, Mixed Mode CDs, CD-EXTRA, Multisession CDs and DVDs, and Double Layer DVDs. It is provided as a standard Linux package in RPM or DEB. Supported 32-bit distributions include Red Hat 7.2, 7.3, 8, and 9; Enterprise Linux 3; SuSE 8, 8.1, 8.2, 9, 9.1, and 9.2; and Debian 3.

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