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December 06, 2005

Table of Contents

The Moving Picture: Unsung Heroes
Thomson Buys 33 1/3% Stake in Canopus
Microtech Systems Launches Xpress XL
Canto Releases Cumulus Video Suite
eyeon Software Ships DFX+ 5
MAGIX Soundpool DVD Collection 11 Offers Professional Sounds For Music Creation
Photoflex Enters Video and Photo Backdrop Market with Debut of Muslin Backdrops and Backdrop Kits
muvee Launches autoProducer 5
Promise Technology Enables Maximum Dependability For Storage With Double Parity RAID 6 Protection

The Moving Picture: Unsung Heroes

In our business, you're only as good as the tools you can bring to bear on the wide variety of tasks we perform. I write mostly about major tools like computers, NLEs, and DVD authoring programs; here I want to identify some of the smaller, lesser-known tools that help me work more smoothly and efficiently.

First is my KVM switch from ATEN (www.aten-usa.com). KVM stands for Keyboard, Video, and Mouse, and KVM switches let you control multiple computers with one set of each. I don't know about you, but I seldom retire my computers. Instead, I like to keep them around to control a printer, serve as a disc replication station or perform occasional rendering tasks, or even to test new products on older, less powerful platforms. What I don't like is the clutter associated with these systems, which can quickly overwhelm my limited desk space.

I've used KVM switches for years, but until recently, they didn't offer DVI connectors for the latest digital monitors, and didn't allow you to share speakers or other peripherals like scanners and printers. Now they can do all these things. The model I have, the CS-1754, can connect up to four Mac, Windows, Linux, and Sun computers, with audio and support for two USB peripherals. You can find it for about $300 online.

ATEN also has models that let you connect dual monitors to multiple systems, and a host of other units with more or less connectivity and capabilities. If you have multiple computers in your office, consider a KVM switch to reduce clutter.

The next tool is a "personal paper trimmer" from Fiskars (www.fiskars.com). Between the digital pictures I print for families and friends and CD and DVD case covers and other art I print for business, I find myself cutting heavy photographic paper pretty frequently. Before I got the Fiskars trimmer, I used Exacto knives, razor blades, and other random sharp edges that always seemed to gouge my desk and shift a millimeter or two at the very last moment, ruining the trim just as I was about to finish. Then I got the 12" Fiskars model ($24.20 online), which comes with an embedded blade safe enough for my five-year old to play with, that's also replaceable when it gets dull. If you haven't found the optimal tool for trimming your digital pictures, labels and covers, check it out.

The boom in digital cameras has created a constant stream of visitors with different kinds of media—SD, CompactFlash, Memory Stick, SmartMedia, and MultiMediaCard. But no matter how obscure the storage format, the inability to download pictures of your kids from your mother's digital camera is definitely your fault.

I armed myself for future visits from Mom with an ImageMate 12-in-1 Card from SanDisk (under $30 at Wal-Mart). The unit can read 12 different formats and connects to your computer via USB. As with most such models, no software is required on Windows XP computers, so using the connector is a snap.

I travel occasionally on business, usually to perform training or give a presentation, and have learned to prepare for the worst, either a busted or lost laptop. This takes two different peripherals, a 2GB USB Key (my Verbatim key costs about $200 online) and an external 250GB hard disk (my Maxtor costs about $220 online).

Before leaving, I back up all my important files onto the Maxtor hard drive, so I'll be sad but not out of business if tragedy strikes my laptop while on the road. I also store my presentation or training materials on the USB key so I can be up and running on another computer if my laptop mysteriously doesn't boot.

I also periodically use the Maxtor to back up my office computers and store critical files offsite, which is always recommended. On my trips, the USB Key always proves useful for a variety of other tasks; in my last class, for example, I used it to transfer some extremely large PowerPoint files to several students, so I didn't have to burn and send a CD-ROM upon my return to the office.

The one software program I have on all my Windows computers is Ulead's PhotoImpact, an image editor that always seems to delight. PhotoImpact was the first editor that let you preview JPG files at various rates before compressing them for transfer or the Web, and more recently the first I found that lets you trim images for specific picture sizes, like 5x7, or for specific aspect ratios, like 4:3 or 16:9 for slideshows or DVD menus, both awesome time savers for digital producers. I also find its automatic color and contrast adjustments best of breed, so I can optimize, crop, and print my images with minimum muss or fuss.

Finally, the peripheral responsible for the most oohs and ahhs in my office is the Epson Stylus Photo R200 printer, remarkably priced for under $100. It's the lowest-cost device I've found for printing directly on CDs and DVDs, which is a cheap and easy way to impress clients, family, and friends. It also has more than sufficient pixel resolution for printing my digital images, and the six ink cartridges seem to last for months. Better yet, you can replace the cartridges separately, saving lots of money over all-in-one cartridges which you have to replace when any of the colors runs out.

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Thomson Buys 33 1/3% Stake in Canopus

Thomson today announced that it has signed an agreement to acquire 33 1/3% of the issued and outstanding shares of Canopus Co., Ltd, a Japan-based leader in high-definition desktop video editing software, through a private transaction with Chairman and CEO, Hiroshi Yamada, and members of his immediate family. Thomson also disclosed today that it will launch a public tender offer for the remaining Canopus shares on Tuesday, December 6, 2005.

The value of the private transaction combined with the pending tender offer would represent approximately €91.3 million (¥12.8 billion) on an equity value basis. Canopus had net debt, including debt secured on real estate owned by Canopus, of €5.2 million (¥712.6 million), as of August 31, 2005. Total Canopus revenues for the 12 months to August 31st 2005 were €50 million (approximately ¥6.8 billion) of which €40.5 million (¥5.5 billion) were in the core ProAV and video editing positions. The profitability of these operations, together with synergies, will result in a neutral impact on core business earnings in the first year and accretion thereafter. Overall, the business meets Thomson's acquisition criteria.

Taken with the discussions with Thalès on Thalès Broadcast & Multimedia (broadcasting and IP-TV), this transaction completes Thomson's external initiatives for its Grass Valley Broadcast & Networks business. Grass Valley is a key element of Thomson's Two Year Plan, as one of four primary revenue growth boosters. The acquisition fits with Thomson's objectives to broaden its media and entertainment client base -- and to support that, accelerated delivery of technologies ranging from desktop video editing, video over IP, and digital media conversion, among others. Accordingly, Thomson has now completed the external growth actions of its key primary boosters required for the Two Year Plan.

In addition to offering leading PC-based, multi-format digital and HD video editing systems, Canopus is a leading supplier of high-performance video encoding/decoding technology. Canopus also provides leading digital media conversion technologies, including a range of specialized devices that bridge the video/audio and PC worlds, allowing content to be moved easily between these different environments. Finally, Canopus also produces a multi-channel, multi-location video delivery solution that uses standard IP networks and display devices in enterprise-type applications such as digital signage for advertising and VOD applications for in-house video systems.

The Canopus product offering strengthens Grass Valley's position in several markets. Thomson and Canopus agree on the substantial opportunities which exist in professional video (Pro Video or non-broadcast video production applications), and professional A/V (ProAV or applications such as university or corporate media centers and distance learning). Based on internal and third-party data, Canopus technologies are estimated to address markets exceeding €1 billion, which Thomson does not address today. "Canopus brings important products and technologies that allow us to address multiple facets of our growth strategy and accelerate key elements of our R&D roadmap," said Marc Valentin, president of the Grass Valley business within Thomson.

Mr. Yamada will continue to play a leadership role in managing the Canopus business and in seizing the opportunities offered to the combined business by the professional AV and video editing markets. It is anticipated that the current Canopus management team will continue to lead the day-to-day business with the support and guidance of Grass Valley senior management. Under terms of the private transaction, Thomson is acquiring 33 1/3% of the issued and outstanding shares of Canopus from Mr. Yamada and his family. The purchase consideration will be settled 50% in cash and 50% in (821,917) Thomson S.A. shares.

Mr. Yamada, the single largest shareholder of Canopus, together with his family holds a total of approximately 40% of the shares of Canopus. The planned public tender offer is expected to last for a period of at least 42 days, and is anticipated to close January 16, 2006. Thomson is offering ¥148,000 per share, which reflects a premium of nearly 20% over the 30-day average closing price to December 2, 2005 of ¥123,900. Thomson will purchase all shares tendered to it, conditional upon receiving enough tenders to bring its shareholding in Canopus to a minimum of 77.87%. It is Thomson's ultimate intention to acquire 100% of the issued shares of Canopus and to fully integrate the company with its Grass Valley business, as well as to delist Canopus from the Tokyo Stock Exchange (assuming successful completion of the acquisition).

www.thomson.net
www.canopus.com

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Microtech Systems Launches Xpress XL

Microtech Systems is launching a new high-performance CD/DVD mixed media production system. The Xpress XL is a dedicated robotic production system designed for producing high volumes of CDs/DVDs and DVD-DL recorded discs with high-quality printed labels.

The XL is equipped with twelve recorders and two label printers and features an 800-disc capacity and the ability to produce mixed media with intuitive setup controls. Each XL comes as a complete system with integrated server class PC.

The system runs on a Windows XP-based operating system with a full suite of Microtech developed production software. The software suite includes all the capabilities found on the prior Xpress models for disc duplication, printing, and customization using the API. Optionally available is the widely deployed desktop software MyDisc Enterprise for submitting remote jobs to the machine from Windows workstations.

www.microtech.com

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Canto Releases Cumulus Video Suite

Canto, a global leader in Digital Asset Management (DAM) solutions, today announced at AMIA 2005 the worldwide availability of Cumulus Video Suite, an Option for the Cumulus Enterprise product line to efficiently manage videos assets. The Cumulus Video Suite enables Cumulus Enterprise to manage video files as well as individual shots of a video.

Due to shot boundary detection technology Video Suite can automatically create records, previews and thumbnails for each shot in the video, which then can be annotated with additional metadata. Cumulus Video Suite also supports streaming for viewing video files and individual shots over the Internet. Users can preview videos and shots directly in Cumulus and also edit and view the metadata of each shot. This substantially simplifies the searching and accessing of specific parts of a video.

AMIA is the annual conference of the Association of Moving Image Archivists in Austin Texas Availability Cumulus Video Suite is available from Canto Sales at www.canto.com and Canto Certified System Integrators (CCSI). For more information on all Canto products and services and to download demo versions go to: http://www.canto.com.

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eyeon Software Ships DFX+ 5

eyeon Software Inc. is now shipping version 5 of their digital video compositor, DFX+. Following five years of focused video development and four version releases, DFX+ 5 has evolved into a prominent compositing tool for effects, motion graphics and animation pipelines.

DFX+ is based on the image engine and architecture of eyeon's film compositing solution, Fusion. DFX+ 5's principal features include 3D compositions with lights, cameras and primitives, OpenGL acceleration with display views, and an essential change to ASCII files. Compositions created in DFX+ 5 can easily be opened in Fusion, making it simple to move any project forward.

Fundamental enhancements in DFX+ 5 include the following:

  • 3D Integration: Direct importing and compatibility with leading 3D animation applications allow the same 3D parameters of cameras and scenes to exist inside DFX+ 5. This 3D integration delivers direct support of Maya, LightWave, Max and XSI, offering seamless and precise finishing of 3D scenes in DFX+ 5.
  • Motion Graphics: DFX+ 5's toolset is designed for the creation of Motion Graphics, now with 3D text that can be bevelled and lit. Advanced shadow casting provides a rich environment when combined with the mature features of DFX+ 5, with a powerful flow system that can integrate all of the 3D and 2D tools together. This allows artists to create new looks and designs without the disadvantage of appearing like common presets.
  • Waveform, Vectorscope and 3D Histogram Monitors: Producing graphics and effects for broadcast requires that colors are legal at all times. New realtime vectorscope, histogram and waveform displays in DFX+ 5 offer complete color control.
  • Collaborative Workflow - Bins Server: DFX+ 5's bins can be seen and managed over the network, allowing other artists to view, and update, collaborating bins. The bins also have the ability to run as a standalone service on a central server.
  • Integrated Particle System: Building upon DFX+'s initial 3D-in-2D particle suite, version 5 introduces a complete 3D particle system that can now integrate directly into the 3D environment. Artists can now match cameras with 3D applications, use light sources to illuminate particles, and interact with primitive shapes, image planes, and mesh geometry.
  • Integrated Vector Paint System: DFX+ 5's paint is an extremely flexible, stroke-based system that can be used to retouch and create new images and artistic elements from scratch. Paint can perform wire and rig removal, image cloning and rapidly create custom masks and mattes.

www.eyeonline.com

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MAGIX Soundpool DVD Collection 11 Offers Professional Sounds For Music Creation

MAGIX has announced MAGIX Soundpool DVD Collection 11, the company's newest collection of professional sound samples. The DVD includes more than 7GB of new royalty-free and copyright-free sound samples and loops.

Since the sounds are standard WAV files, they are compatible with all MAGIX products as well as third-party audio and video software, whether Mac or PC based. Available October 15th, MAGIX soundpool DVD collection 11 is priced at $29.99 and available in retail stores and online at www.magix.com.

With more than 7,000 loops and samples in CD quality, MAGIX Soundpool DVD Collection 11 gives you unique music sounds with an extensive variety of musical styles, such as hip-hop, ambient, rock, pop, house and techno. These new styles showcase the hottest trends from clubs and studios around the world, with huge selections of all kinds of instruments, vocals, and special effects. All samples are produced exclusively by internationally-renowned producers and top musicians in stereo CD-quality. MAGIX's archiving system gives easy access to files, so you never need to search files again!

For more information, visit www.magix.com.

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Photoflex Enters Video and Photo Backdrop Market with Debut of Muslin Backdrops and Backdrop Kits

Photoflex has entered the market for video and photographic backdrops with a line of muslin backdrops and two backdrop kits.,

Made of durable and washable muslin fabric, the Photoflex BackDrop comes in two sizes, 10x12 feet, and 10x20 feet. It will be available initially in five solid colors (black, white, gray, chroma-key blue, and chroma-key green), and five marbled colors (blue, gray, brown, purple, and orange). The two chromakey backdrops provide substantially more flexibility for videographers and digital photographers who have benefited from Photoflex's FlexDrop2 twist-and- fold, reversible blue/green backdrop, which measures 5x7 feet. Users have the option of either hanging the Photoflex BackDrop from a pole by inserting the pole through a sewn-in channel at each either of the backdrop, or by clipping the backdrop to the pole.

For the 10x12-foot backdrop, retail prices are $134.95 for solid black, white, or gray, and $169.95 for chromakey solid blue or green. In marbled colors, retail price for the 10x12-foot backdrop is $144.95. For the 10x20-foot backdrop, retail prices are $229.95 for solid black, white, or gray, and $299.95 for chroma-key solid blue or green. In marbled colors, retail price for the 10x20-foot backdrop is $236.95.

The First Studio BackDrop Support Kit is part of Photoflex's new First Studio product line aimed at the consumer market for videography, digital imaging, and traditional photography. These kits are designed for budget-conscious videographers and photographers who also seek traditional Photoflex quality and reliability.

Designed for consumer use with 12-foot-wide muslin, canvas, or paper backdrops, the First Studio BackDrop Support Kit includes a pole that extends to a width of 13 feet, two support stands that extend to a height of 9 feet, and a carry bag. Highly portable and quick to set up, the sturdy, all-aluminum pole uses an all-in-one operation so the user can extend and lock the pole in one motion. Most competitors' poles come in three or four pieces, and require assembly with an Allen wrench. The support stands are designed for light to medium duty, and are available only with this kit. The durable carry bag has multiple sections for easy transport of kit components and other accessories.

Retail price for the First Studio BackDrop Support Kit is $249.95. Photoflex ProDuty BackDrop Support Kit The Photoflex ProDuty BackDrop Support Kit is designed for professional videographers and photographers who require the highest standards of quality and reliability. This kit offers a more heavy-duty setup for users of heavy, 12-foot rolls of seamless paper, muslin, or canvas backdrops, who also need taller stands with greater extended height. It includes the same rugged aluminum pole as in the First Studio kit, two sturdy support stands that extend to a height of 12 feet, 6 inches, and a carry bag.

In addition to the strong aluminum pole with one-motion extension and locking capability, the Photoflex ProDuty BackDrop Support Kit provides the same durable carry bag as in the First Studio kit, and features two of the Photoflex LS-2320Y LiteStand. The company's largest LiteStand, the LS-2320Y, features oversized knobs, tubing, cast-aluminum extension collars, and leg struts that provide maximum stability and security. It supports a weight of almost 18 pounds.

Retail price for the Photoflex ProDuty BackDrop Support Kit is $274.95.

www.photoflex.com

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muvee Launches autoProducer 5

muvee Technologies has launched the latest version of its automatic video editing software, muvee autoProducer 5. New features in this release give users more control over the pan/zoom motion that is applied to photos, make quick touch-ups and batch save/burn to DVD.

magicSpot™ technology is a key new feature in muvee autoProducer 5 that enables users to control the pan/zoom motion that is applied to still pictures. The default 'Automatic' function applies motion based on the user's chosen style, while the Manual option presents users with two overlapping frames that they can move around to specify start and end points of motion, as well as resize to control zoom in/out points.

The Tweak muvee feature is another addition that lets users quickly touch-up their muvee productions by replacing segments of video or individual pictures just prior to saving. The software can intelligently select similar or contrasting replacement segments using Auto Replace, while the Manual Replace option lets users choose specific shots for substitution from the source material. Users can now also collectively save and burn multiple muvees to DVD from a single session, including their original source files.

Other new features in muvee autoProducer 5 include the following:

  • Auto-rotation of photos - Embedded smartPick intelligence to analyze and select photo highlights from a series of similar-looking shots (such as a group of pictures showing similar scenery)
  • Support for MP4 and 3GPP (mobile phone) input video formats

muvee autoProducer 5 supports Windows XP and is now available at US$99.95 from muvee's Web site at www.muvee.com. The software is available in English, French, Italian, German, Spanish and Japanese.

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Promise Technology Enables Maximum Dependability For Storage With Double Parity RAID 6 Protection

Promise Technology, Inc., a supplier of serial ATA (SATA) RAID data protection and storage solutions, has announced immediate availability of its RAID 6 double parity disk storage architecture for the highest level of reliability and data protection. RAID 6 is the latest technology for shared storage systems and high-capacity SATA disk arrays used in many servers today.

Because RAID 6 performs two different parity computations rather than one, it provides an extra layer of redundancy for increased fault handling and can tolerate two simultaneous drive failures or errors without downtime or data loss, while other fault-tolerant RAID levels only support a single failure for a given array.

The first wave of products from Promise specifically designed to support RAID 6 includes its SuperTrak line of high-performance, 8-port SATA RAID controllers with hardware acceleration based on Intel® IOP331 and IOP333 I/O processors with Intel XScale technology. These controllers are particularly well suited for high-capacity storage applications such as disk-to-disk backup, NAS and nearline storage, security/surveillance, and video editing.

Offering high port counts and support for RAID 6, the SuperTrak line consists of cost-effective, high-performance, high-capacity SATA 3Gb/s RAID controllers for business-critical server and storage applications. The key features include:

*8-Port, 3Gb/s low-profile SATA RAID controller
*PCI-Express host bus interface (SuperTrak EX8350)
*PCI-X host bus interface (SuperTrak EX8300)
*Full open source Linux driver architecture
*Support for RAID levels 0, 1, 5, 6, 10, and JBOD
*Intel I/O processor with Intel XScale technology
*Multiple logical drive and multiple LUN support, enabling users to combine different RAID levels on one set of disks
*Multiple application and OS support on the same storage system
*Automatic/manual rebuild of hot spare drive
*PerfectRAID technology for robust error handling and recovery
*Online array expansion, RAID level migration add capacity when and as needed
*Optional battery backup module to protect cached data
*Web-based Promise Array Manager (WebPAM) software for easy, browser-based storage management

RAID 6 drivers and upgrade kits are now available for download free of charge from the Promise Web site for customers who have already purchased the Promise SuperTrak EX8350 and SuperTrak EX8300 RAID controllers, which are available through the worldwide Promise distribution network. New products will have RAID 6 support included in the box.

www.promise.com 

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