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December 20, 2005

Table of Contents

The DVD Writer: Socrates, Pascal, and Multilayer Blu-ray Discs
Primera Releases Free SDK for Automated CD/DVD Burning and Printing
HP to Support HD-DVD High-definition DVD Format and Join HD-DVD Promotions Group
Autodesk Ships Cleaner 6.5 for Macintosh with QuickTime 7 Support
On2 Announces Plans to Offer Browser-Based Flash 8 Video Encoding Product
Facilis Technology Keeps Growing with 12TB Servers
Photodex Releases ProShow Gold 2.6
Elpida Memory Ships Samples of 2 Gigabit DDR2 SDRAM Using 80nm Process Technology
Specialized Communications Corporation Announces CinePorter Web Page and Drawing

The DVD Writer: Socrates, Pascal, and Multilayer Blu-ray Discs

"Man is but a reed, the most feeble thing in nature; but he is a thinking reed. The entire universe need not arm itself to crush him. A vapor, a drop of water suffices to kill him. But, if the universe were to crush him, man would still be more noble than that which killed him, because he knows that he dies and the advantage which the universe has over him; the universe knows nothing of this."
— Blaise Pascal, Pensees (sec. 6, no. 347)

Socrates tells us that the unexamined life isn't worth living. The same can be said for business. With scores of product launches and decades of market experience behind it, the optical storage industry has had ample opportunity for introspection. But, sadly, I see little evidence that past experience has entered the minds of manufacturers who, time and again, hurl themselves and their prospective market into the same (or even worse) predicaments. Over the years I've highlighted many of these quandaries but I'm truly alarmed about the path that forthcoming Blu-ray Disc (BD) is preparing to take.

BD, of course, isn't the only blue laser technology vying to succeed CD and DVD. For the past few years we've endured the nonstop debate, invective, and spin between BD and HD DVD. But there shouldn't be any question left that BD is technologically superior to its rival. To start with, discs will come in straightforward prerecorded (BD-ROM), recordable (BD-R), and rewritable (BD-RE) versions in both single (SL) and dual-layer (DL) configurations. This translates to true next-generation capacities of 25 and 50GB (as opposed to HD DVD's 15 and 30GB).

Thus, the most obvious tactic marketers use to push BD is to emphasize its superior capacity over HD DVD. But as so often happens when pressing an advantage, BD's promoters just don't know when to stop. For example, they're now promising future increases by having designers tack on additional data layers to next-generation discs (akin to adding more floors to a building whose foundation is already poured). While first-generation BDs employ one and two layers, proposals for new versions would see this increase to four (100GB), six (150GB), and perhaps even eight (200GB). But as in any hotly contested political election, tantalizing promises are sometimes made without discussion or understanding of how such grandiose ideas could actually be brought to reality.

To start with, inexpensively fabricating such complex multilayer discs will be a challenge to say the least. But I'm far more concerned about the chaos that will erupt at the market level. Given technological and market realities, and the fact that BD disc and product test specifications (as well as hardware command sets) only recognize formats of their respective generations, I can't see how new iterations of multilayer media can be anything but incompatible with all BD devices already sold. Just think back to the old compatibility problems of CD-RW, the move from DVD-RAM version 1.0 to 2.0 (2.6GB to 4.7GB) or even ahead to next year when DVD+RW DL and DVD-RW DL are to be launched.

My doomsday scenario would be for manufacturers to roll out successive generations of multilayer discs as they become feasible to manufacture. It doesn't take a lot of cynical imagination to envisage dual layer at launch time with tri- or quad-layer products coming out in a few years followed by six- then eight-layer discs. Or, worse yet, rolling out every multilayer variation of each BD variety (BD-ROM, BD-R, and BD-RE) when these become technologically possible. Every time layers are added and variations constructed, existing hardware won't be able to read or write the new discs. Users, content providers, manufacturers, and retailers will drown in the undertow of incompatibility.

Even conceding a more rational evolution of one or two more generations (say from BD-50 to BD-100 then BD-200), what movie studio or game developer would be interested in underwriting that? Content publishers might indeed be enthusiastic to embrace ultra high-capacity discs to condense complete TV series, offer multiple movies in full HD MPEG-2 quality, and the like, but all that must rest on universal compatibility. And not even the writable market could stomach what amounts to be an entirely new disc format at random intervals.

Do I worry too much? Maybe. But once again, maybe Pascal was right.

Hugh Bennett (hugh_bennett@compuserve.com), an EMedialive contributing editor, is president of Forget Me Not Information Systems (www.forgetmenot.on.ca), a reseller, systems integrator and industry consultant based in London, Ontario, Canada. Hugh is the author of Understanding Recordable & Rewritable DVD and Understanding CD-R & CD-RW, both published by the Optical Storage Technology Association (OSTA).

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Primera Releases Free SDK for Automated CD/DVD Burning and Printing

Primera Technology, Inc., a developer and manufacturer of CD/DVD duplication and printing equipment, has announced its PTDevSuite Software Developers Kit (SDK). PTDevSuite provides a comprehensive Application Programming Interface (API) for Windows XP/2000. It allows software developers to quickly and easily integrate automated CD-R and DVD+/-R burning and printing into their own software programs.

The SDK supports Primera's award-winning Bravo II, Bravo XR and BravoPro Disc Publishers. Third-party software that currently uses components of the PTDevSuite SDK includes medical imaging, digital photo minilabs, backup, archival and storage, Web-based content creation, on-demand music, and video download and content upload, kiosks and much more.

The suite consists of two software modules as well as sample applications with source code:

1. PTRobot PTRobot is a DLL-based API that allows developers to add robotic control and automated disc printing to their Windows 2000/XP application. This module is designed for use by applications that have their own burn engine and already support disc burning. To help decrease development time, PTRobot comes with C++ source code for a fully functioning sample application that supports disc movement between all positions as well as support for direct-to-disc inkjet printing.

2. PTBurn PTBurn includes all the features of PTRobot but also includes its own integrated burn engine. It provides a simple text-file based interface that allows the developer to easily integrate automated disc burning and printing into their own applications. PTBurn monitors a shared folder for job submissions from anywhere on a Windows-based network. The client application simply creates an ASCII text file (Job Request File) in the Job Request Folder (shared "hot-folder"). The PTBurn application scans this Job Request Folder for new jobs submitted by any client application and burns and prints the discs automatically using any of Primera's Disc Publishers. PTBurn runs on Windows 2000/XP but the client can be from any Windows, Mac or Linux computer that can access the Windows shared folder over the network. To help decrease development time PTBurn comes with C++ source code for a fully functioning "client" application.

SDK is available at no charge to software developers and integrators. Register as a developer at http://www.primera.com/register_developer.cfm.

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HP to Support HD-DVD High-definition DVD Format and Join HD-DVD Promotions Group

In order to provide consumers with the best possible high-definition experience, HP has announced it will support the HD-DVD high-definition DVD format, in addition to the Blu-ray Disc format, and join the HD-DVD Promotions Group.

Previously, HP supported the Blu-ray Disc format exclusively. The company had requested the Blu-ray Disc Association adopt two customer-friendly technologies, Mandatory Managed Copy and iHD, which are already included in the HD-DVD format. Only Mandatory Managed Copy, which permits consumers to make legal copies of video content, was formally adopted by the association. iHD, which allows content providers to offer greater interactivity on next-generation DVDs and helps ensure a more compelling user experience when recording HDTV programs or moving digital content throughout the home, was not approved for launch.

HP believes both Mandatory Managed Copy and iHD are important to fostering the digitally connected home; both of these technologies are incorporated into HD-DVD. Microsoft has already announced plans to integrate iHD into its new Windows Vista operating system. HP believes this integration will reduce development costs and provide a more affordable solution for consumers. In addition, HD-DVD provides a rich, cost-competitive solution for the consumer and is easier to manufacture, according to HP.

www.hp.com

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Autodesk Ships Cleaner 6.5 for Macintosh with QuickTime 7 Support

Autodesk, Inc. has announced the availability of Autodesk Cleaner 6.5 for Macintosh, the newest update to its professional desktop media mastering and encoding software. Autodesk Cleaner is an application for encoding and optimizing video content for delivery formats ranging from the Internet and DVD to handheld mobile devices.

On the heels of the release of Cleaner XL 1.5 for Windows, Cleaner 6.5 for Mac brings extended format support and increased workflow flexibility to the Mac-based digital video encoding community. New to Autodesk Cleaner 6.5 software is encoding support for Apple's QuickTime 7 player, DivX 6.0, and Kinoma Producer, to encode wide screen MPEG-4 playback on Palm Powered handhelds and the Sony PSP video player. Also added is the Flix exporter from On2 Technologies‹that allows compressionists to publish video in .FLV and .SWF formats‹the Internet video formats supported by Macromedia Flash.

New output formats include Flash video support (.flv and .swf) with On2 Flix Exporter, DivX Pro 6.0 encoder, Apple QuickTime 7. Updated codecs include Kinoma version 3 exporter, H.264 encoding through QuickTime 7, and support for Real 10.

Autodesk Cleaner 6.5 for Macintosh software is available now. Suggested retail price for both Cleaner 6.5 Mac and Cleaner XL 1.5 for Windows is US $599 for an individual license. Suggested retail upgrade pricing from Cleaner 6 Macintosh or Cleaner XL Windows to the current versions is US $125; Suggested retail upgrade pricing from Cleaner 4 or 5 to Cleaner 6.5 Macintosh or to Cleaner 1.5 XL Windows is US $179.

www.autodesk.com

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On2 Announces Plans to Offer Browser-Based Flash 8 Video Encoding Product

On2 Technologies, Inc. has announced that it is developing a standalone product that will allow users to use a web browser to encode Flash 8 video on their own computers. The user can store the resulting video files either on their own PC or upload them to a central server for distribution.

The product will complement the browser-based capabilities of On2 Flix Engine, On2's existing enterprise -class Flash 8 video encoding solution. The new product will be intended specifically for consumer-level "point, click, and publish" applications by supporting capture from consumer video devices such as DV cameras, a customizable user interface, and streamlined uploading of the final encoded video to a publishing service.

The new service will allow On2 customers to license the technology and do the serving and streaming from any service they designate. The beta testing period for the product will begin shortly with a release target of early to the middle of the first quarter of 2006. The product will also be shipped with the On2 Flix Engine so customers can offer the two products as part of an umbrella service. Among the features of the new product are the following:

  • One click video capture/encode/upload in Flash 8 format from within any Web browser that supports browser plug-in technology such as Microsoft's ActiveX
  • Capture and encode video directly from a webcam or DV camera attached to the end-user's machine
  • Encode existing video files on the user's machine
  • Accept 3GP video files submitted from a mobile device
  • Automatically uploads files via ftp, http, or other appropriate means to a designated distribution service
  • Configuration options can be embedded within the web page containing the encoder object, including destination address, video data rate, video size, and other key parameters.

www.on2.com

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Facilis Technology Keeps Growing with 12TB Servers

Facilis Technology, a provider of media sharing storage for post-production and content creation, has announced a new version of its 24D TerraBlock shared storage system. This upgrade utilizes the latest in high-capacity SATA II disk drives, optimized through high-performance custom software.

With this 12TB upgrade, Facilis Technology brings affordable high-end shared storage system to new levels of scalability, supporting up to 48TB and 16 uncompressed HD clients on a single network. Built on a server-direct architecture, the TerraBlock combines intelligent drive management with lower-cost SATA II drive technology and dedicated optical fiber channel connectivity.

It employs the best attributes of SAN and network-attached storage to create a simple, high-performance system that is reliable and easy to use. The base server unit combines the server, storage and direct connections for fibre clients, which in most cases avoids the need for an expensive external switch.

The 12TB 24D TerraBlock also comes equipped with Facilis Migration, the data management software that makes Avid project movement easy. The TerraBlock solution supports all Avid, Apple, and Adobe nonlinear editoring, graphics and effects applications, and works with Windows 2000 and XP, Mac OS9 and OSX clients.

The 12TB 24D TerraBlock is currently shipping and is available through www.facilistech.com, their regional distributors and resellers. With multi-user TerraBlock systems starting under US$15,000, post-production facilities worldwide can benefit from turnkey shared storage networks.

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Photodex Releases ProShow Gold 2.6

Photodex Corporation has announced a new upgrade to its slideshow software, ProShow Gold. Version 2.6 is loaded with new features that give a user more control over their slide shows and allows for more customizability than ever before.

New features include image transparency support, a new slideshow menuing system, built-in audio and video trimmers, and many workflow enhancements. ProShow Gold 2.6 allows a user to create a highly customized multimedia slide show in just a few minutes. Users simply drag and drop their photos and videos onto a timeline where they can add audio, transitions, motion effects, and more. When a show is complete, a user can choose from 9 different ways to output their show, including burning to DVD.

With the new audio and video trimmers, users can visually edit and crop their multimedia files within ProShow Gold 2.6. The audio trimmer displays a waveform that allows a user to set the starting point, ending point, and fades for their audio. The video trimmer provides accuracy down to the frame and lets a user preview exactly what a video clip will look like. Transparency Support Users can now incorporate the effects of transparency into their slides. ProShow Gold 2.6 supports transparency for PSD, PNG, TIFF and GIF files. ProShow Gold 2.6 will read the transparency information in a file and render the images so the transparent pixels can be seen through.

The new menuing system in ProShow Gold 2.6 allows users to customize new aspects of their slide show menu. They can now set custom captions, edit menu audio, and adjust images and backgrounds. Once a custom menu is created, it can be saved and used in a future project. "

ProShow Gold 2.6 is available from http://www.photodex.com and is priced at $69.95 for electronic delivery, $44.95 to upgrade. A fully functional 15- day trial is available for free download.

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Elpida Memory Ships Samples of 2 Gigabit DDR2 SDRAM Using 80nm Process Technology

Elpida Memory, Inc. (Elpida), Japan's leading global supplier of Dynamic Random Access Memory (DRAM), has announced the shipment of 80nm-based 2 Gigabit DDR2 SDRAM samples. These samples are among the first 80 nm-based devices in the world to be shipped for customer evaluation, and the devices are expected to be used first in high-density memory modules for high performance servers.

The 2 Gigabit DDR2 SDRAM devices are available in three different data rate speeds: 533Mbps, 667Mbps, or 800Mbps. They are organized as either 64 M words x 4 bits x 8 banks or as 32 M words x 8 bits x 8 banks. The supply voltage (VDD) is 1.8V+/-0.1V, and the operating temperature range (Tc) is 0-85 degrees Celsius.

Elpida's 2 Gigabit DDR2 SDRAM devices are currently available to customers as samples and volume production will begin in accordance with market demand.

www.elbitas.com

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Specialized Communications Corporation Announces CinePorter Web Page and Drawing

Specialized Communications has added a new page to its Web site devloted to its CinePorte CP-2 HDD Recorder. Visitors to the site can see the preliminary specifications, diagrams of how the CinePorter will mount to various P2 cameras, a 3-D video of the CinePorter concept, and a drawing to win the first CinePorter off the production line.

With the CinePorter, Specialized Communications Corporation compliments Panasonic P2 technology by offering more options to P2 users. The CinePorter works like a large P2 card while writing to a shock-mounted on-board hard drive with capacity options ranging from 100GB to 240GB.

The CinePorter is small and has an independent power source. With the CinePorter still in the development stages, Specialized Communications Corporation felt the need for a dedicated web page for the CinePorter so that P2 users can stay abreast of the latest developments. Visitors can win the first CinePorter by giving valid, appropriate, and reasonable suggestions or comments regarding the development of CinePorter. The drawing will be on the release date which will be announced shortly. Read the latest information and submit your suggestion now at www.spec-comm.com.

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