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January 03, 2006

Table of Contents

Gear & Now: HDV Camcorder Accessories, Part Two--Lenses and Filters
Pioneer Launches BDR-101A PC-Based Blu-ray Recorder
NewTek Releases Free Update to VT[4] Integrated Production Suite
New InterVideo iVideoToGo Converts DVDs, Video Files to iPod Movies
Seagate Technology to Acquire Maxtor Corporation
SRS Labs Introduces WOW HD at CES 2006 Giving Consumers the Ability to Position and 'Turn Up' the Dialog in TV and Movies
LG.Philips LCD to Commence Mass Production at P7, Its 7th Generation Plant in Paju, Korea
Video Without Boundaries to Showcase New Media-Convergent Devices at International CES 2006

Gear & Now: HDV Camcorder Accessories, Part Two--Lenses and Filters

The creative use of optical filters and interchangeable lenses (where possible) in event videography opens the door to wider, closer, and more colorful video imagery. As the newest camcorders make their way onto the popular HDV stage, they are supported by a growing cast of accessories--among them, cool new super-telephoto lenses, night vision image enhancers, and 35mm film lens adaptors for HDV camcorders.

Filters
First, though, let's be clear: filters for fixed or interchangeable lenses serve two roles: creative, and protective. For one example, the new Digital Ultra Clear from Tiffen simply protects a lens against dirt, grime and fingerprints--if not folding, bending and mutilating--without affecting the image. Its size (ranging up to 82mm) and price ($30 to $110) make it pretty hard to resist.

A bit about filter sizes in mm: how many of you know--without looking--the lens filter thread size of your camera? The Z1U, for example, is 72mm; Canon's XL1 and XL2 are 72mm as well. The Sony HC1 is 37mm. Panasonic's DVX100 is 72mm. Any 77s out there? 82s?

Once you find out, a world of possibility opens up, for more than just protection. Hundreds of different threaded screw-on filters are available as single aluminum or plastic rings, in production-specific sets (polarizing kits and "film look" sets, for example), or as pre-cut square sheets for mounting in matte boxes.

Filters can add a special look to your shot (cross-star, halo, center spot, and more) or be used for image correction (color temperature, polarization, diffusion) or both. Color-gradated (grads) filters can do some interesting things, indoors or out. An orange-to-clear filter, for example, can truly dramatize an otherwise weak sunrise or sunset shot. Stripe filters (say, with clear down the middle and blue on the sides) can be used to paint a scene, or do some area-specific color temperature balancing. UV, ND, and polarizers can bring more depth and contrast to hazy, overcast, uni-chrome skies. As well, some observers feel the anti-aliasing filter on CCD and CMOS sensors in some digital cameras are highly reflective on their own. Anti-reflection coatings formulated to counter such artifacts are now available.

The list and possibilities are truly endless, so check out as many companies as you can before making your move. Vendors with offerings in this space include B&W/Schneider, Cokin, Formatt, Kenko, Heliopan, Hoya, Lee, Promaster, Tiffen, and many more. Pricing is all over the map, too, ranging from less than $20 to over $200 per filter, depending on the type, function, and manufacturer.

Some video camcorder owners have another exciting decision to make: on which lens might the filter be mounted? (OK, some interchangeable lenses cost more than the camera itself, but I still love the option! And if you can't or won't get a new lens, a conversion device might work just as well in some cases.)

Lenses
The Sony HDR-HC1 CMOS Cam, for example, with its Carl Zeiss Sonnar Optical Zoom 10x, has a nice, bit-fixed lens. Available wide- and tele-conversion lenses, priced around $170 and $340 respectively, stretch the camera's angle of view and reach capabilities considerably.

16x9 Inc. is among the makers of wide-angle conversion tools for the HVR-Z1U and HDR-FX1 HDV camcorders. Its new 0.7X Wide Angle Converter threads on to open up the angle of view some 30 percent. It maintains zoom-through capability while doing so, but the original 4.5-54mm lens becomes a 3.2-38.5 mm.

The converter weighs about 23 oz., measures 45mm long, and costs about $700. Its 72mm rear thread is compatible with other camcorders like the Panasonic DVX100/A and Canon XL 1/2. It has a 95mm front thread for filters, and it works with matte box systems.

Century Optics, too, has a complete line of wide angle, wide- and tele-conversion lenses for today's popular camcorders, including the Sony models.

Its .6X Wide Conversion Lens (list $849.95) opens up the image by about 40 percent, and offers "limited" zoom-through (probably best used when zoom isn't needed). Matte boxes or protective shades are also available from Century for many lenses and cameras.  

Century has also just introduced its Xtreme Fisheye, designed for use miniDV camcorders like the Z1U. It provides a 160-degree horizontal image, terrific for dramatic shots in tight spaces, pulling in nearby objects while seeming to push back those more distant. It's priced below $3,000.

The new Red Eye .7x and .5x 72 mm aspheric wide angle adapters are designed for most of the DV/HDV/HDTV cameras (58, 72, 77, and 82mm sizes are available), including the Sony Z1U and FX1, Panasonic 100A and now B, etc. It was developed by Canadian videographer/cinematographer Rene Collins.

The Red Eye is quite thin and light (less than 3.5 oz., or 100 grams), and features a multi-layer anti-reflective coating to increase light transmission to near 100% for the best image clarity, contrast, and sharpness. Its hard coating offers scratch resistance and water repellency.

As many users have noted, HDV cameras have a very fast auto-focus feature. Interestingly, although the Red Eye is, strictly speaking, a "non-zoom-through" adapter, it can be used as a partial zoom-through with these cameras. The cameras set on auto-focus will allow you to zoom in about 30-40 percent from the wide setting. As the zoom lens tracks past the 30-40 percent range with the Red Eye on, it will then lose focus.

With the .7x aspheric Red Eye adapter, the angle of view on most camera lenses will be increased by 30 percent. Prices start at around $350.

Raynox is another maker of HDV camcorder accessories, too, including fish eye, wide angle, super macro lenses, and protection filters. But its telephoto and super-telephoto lenses are out there.

The DCR-2020PRO lens extends the focal length of the FX1 to 850mm; the DCR-1540PRO lens takes it to 600mm (as a 35mm equivalent). The optical 2-group/4-element formulation performs well, maintaining good resolution at the center of the image, without reducing F-stop exposure values.

Somewhat amazingly, the 1540 is priced at barely over $100! It can be used with camcorders with 52mm mounting threads, but it is heavier than products like the 16x9 Inc. unit described earlier.

JVC's GY-HD100U comes with a detachable bayonet mount lens, probably the Fujinon 5.5-to-88mm 16x Optical Zoom with a 72mm Filter Diameter. The key word here is detachable, meaning all sorts of angle options are available.

Yes, there's the 13x (3.5mm) wide angle ProHD Lens - priced around $12 K (among others). But there's also a lens mount converter, to get a 1/2" lens on the 1/3" mount. For around $700, adapters like this not only open the creativity door, they can knock it off the hinges.

Special Adapters, Lenses, Matte Boxes
The P+S Technik Mini35 Digital Image Converter is a case in point. Newly available for almost all the top DV/HDV camcorders (Canon XLs, Panasonic AG-DVX100/100A, Sony HDR-FX1/HVR-Z1U and PD150/PD170, JVC GY-HD100U), the kit is optimized for motion and still 35mm film lenses, including top-notch glass from Arri, Nikon, Panavision, Zeiss, or Canon.

The digital adapter creates an image on ground glass located in the film plane of the attached lens. By creating a physical image inside the adapter, control over depth of field is preserved. The 35mm format image is then relayed onto the camcorder's CCDs and recorded to tape. It makes for truly astounding imagery, with control and depth not often encountered on video.

Of course, it comes with a price: around $7,500 for Series 400 kits (base unit, mounting rods, camera supports, handles) and about $2,500 for a required camera adapter.

Canon, of course, is both a well-known lens and camera manufacturer, so the popularity and flexibility of the interchangeable-lens XL1/2 DV camcorders is understandable. Its 20x Professional L-Series Fluorite optical zoom lens, with optical image stabilization, is priced around $2,000. Canon's EF Series lens adapter is about $600.

Not only does Canon have its own lenses and conversion tools, the XL platform is target for many third-party manufacturers, as well.

The Electrophysics 9300-XL Astroscope kit, for example, turns the XL2 into a powerful long-range low-light camera. The $6,000 kit incorporates an image intensifier for superior low-light sensitivity, and digital magnification that increases the focal length by 7.2X.

Using the 100-400mm lens with the XL2 20X gives an effective focal length of 720-2880mm (35mm equivalent) allowing this setup to produce an identifiable image greater than a half-mile away, the company says.

Panasonic's AG-DVX100A (and the DVC-80) as well as the eagerly anticipated (should be out by the time you read this) AG-HDX200 have a fixed lens (a 13x optical zoom for the 200) with wide-angle capability (and 82mm filter diameter). Now in stock is Panasonic's 16x9 anamorphic lens, for squeezing a 16:9 image onto its 4:3 chipset. Priced at around $700, most say it's still a better way of maintaining the best possible resolution than letterboxing or digital squeezing.

And if you're ready for the Full Monty of filtering and lens accessories, you can go Hollywood with your camcorder. 16x9 Inc. recently introduced the Chrosziel HDV Matte box Kit and 4x4 Clamp-on Sunshade System for the GY-HD100, with a real 16:9 housing and snap-in 16:9 insert mask. It works with all the lens models offered by JVC--standard 16X, 13X wide-angle zoom, and 0.8X wide angle converter.

Matte boxes such as this Chrosziel can be ordered with rigs for follow focus and focus gear-drive mechanisms. Such systems are also available from companies like Formatt, Vocas, and Cavision for the HD100 and other HDV camcorders. These large and impressive-looking cine-style kits bring complete control over camera filtering and image enhancement, and are clearly seen as one way to more creative videography.

(To see Part 1 of this article, please click here.)

Suggested Resources

16x9 Inc.
www.16x9inc.com

Century Optics
www.centuryoptics.com

Camera Filters
www.camerafilters.com

Collinscraft Canada
www.collinscraft.com

Electrophysics Corp.
www.electrophysics.com

LEE Filters USA
http://leefilters.com

Photographic Research Organization
www.promaster.com

P+S Technik
www.pstechnik.de

Raynox
http://raynox.co.jp/english/egindex.htm

The Tiffen Company
www.tiffen.com/camera_filters.htm

VFGadgets
www.vfgadgets.com


 

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Pioneer Launches BDR-101A PC-Based Blu-ray Recorder

Pioneer Electronics has announced the BDR-101A, a Blu-ray-based recorder that is expected to begin shipping in the first quarter of 2006. No pricing has been announced to date.

This first-generation product will be targeted primarily to professional users and serious enthusiasts, generally the first to adopt new technology. In particular, content creators will depend on Blu-ray Disc writers to test and evaluate high definition consumer Blu-ray Disc titles during the authoring process before replication.

The drive will come equipped with a data recording application to transfer digital files to Blu-ray Discs. As the market for high definition video camcorders grows, Pioneer says that users will increasingly rely on the Blu-ray Disc drive to store massive amounts of HD video. Likewise, a person with a television tuner on his or her personal computer could use the drive to record high definition television shows for later viewing. The drive also will be able to play consumer Blu-ray Disc movie titles on BD-ROM discs and will play and record standard DVD media. As one of the first products to utilize Blu-ray Disc technology, the drive significantly increases storage capacity, while reducing the number of discs currently needed to back up computer hard drives, digital files and applications. "

The half height BDR-101A Blu-ray Disc/DVD writer will read BD-ROM/R/RE, DVD-ROM/DVD-R/DVD-RW and +R/+RW discs. It offers the following write speeds:

  • BD-R/RE (2X)
  • DVD-R/+R (8X)
  • DVD-RW/+RW (4X)

www.pioneerelectronics.com

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NewTek Releases Free Update to VT[4] Integrated Production Suite

NewTek, Inc. has announced the release of a free update for VT[4] owners, version 4.6. The new version of the VT[4] Integrated Production Suite includes improved 3D animation and motion graphics tools, enhanced support for multiple monitors, improvements to the NewTek codec, and all computer sources, including attached DV cameras, can be used as a downstream key (DSK).

The feature and maintenance update is a free download for registered VT[4] users. A centerpiece of the update is LightWave [8] version 8.5 and FX Monkey, the icon-driven motion graphics and animation wizard which allows any video producer to create complex logo animations with no prior 3D experience. With FX Monkey, the user selects the objects to work with and easily applies motions and effects to create a complete animation, such as a flying logo or an animated bumper graphic. Another plus for animation production for VT[4] users who have LightWave [8], the LightWave 3D version 8.5 update brings users up to latest features and enhancements offered to date in the LightWave line, including new text creation tools as well as rendering and workflow improvements.

The enhanced multiple-monitor support of v4.6 enables VT[4] users to utilize more than two monitors on the host system. The NewTek video codec now supports "YUY2" FourCC video format, which allows digital video files written with the codec to be directly read by Windows Media Encoder, for more efficient streaming capability.

Other new features of the update include additional skins for a variety of audio mixer sizes, and title templates now support lower resolution background images. NewTek's iVGA, which allows the user to import the display of external computers as video sources on the VT[4] Switcher, now has an "overscan" setting for SD output. Unicode support has also been improved.

VT[4] Version 4.6 features include the following:

  • FX Monkey motion graphics and animation wizard NewTek Codec now supports "YUY2" FourCC, allowing files written with it to be read directly into Windows Media Encoder.
  • All computer sources (including DV) can be used on DSK.
  • Expanded multiple monitor support for systems with 3 or more monitors.
  • iVGA has an "overscan" setting for SD output. Gamma control in Control Tree for clip color.
  • New audio mixer skins.
  • Title templates now support lower resolution background images.
  • De-fielding of DDRs in pause mode (etc...) when selected in the preferences.
  • For VT[4] LightWave [8] users, LightWave v8.5 included.
  • MXF files can be used in VT-Edit, with the proper codecs installed.
  • A .WMV file renamed as .AVI will now be read by VT-Edit.
  • Improved Unicode support.

VT[4] Version 4.6 is a free download for registered VT[4] owners; VT[4] retails at $3495.00. For more information, visit http://www.newtek.com or call NewTek Sales at 1-800-368-5441, overseas callers dial +1-210-370-8000. To locate a NewTek Authorized Reseller, link to http://www.newtek.com/dealers.

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New InterVideo iVideoToGo Converts DVDs, Video Files to iPod Movies

InterVideo, Inc. has announced InterVideo iVideoToGo, an east way to copy personal videos for playback on a video-enabled iPod. Priced at $29.95, the software is a 3-step solution that lets users quickly convert their existing DVDs and video files into iPod-compatible files that provide smooth playback.

iVideoToGo is equipped with a simple, friendly interface and it utilizes a single window for all tasks. And with just three steps to complete the copy process, there's no learning curve -- even a beginner can have immediate success, according to InterVideo.

The 30GB 5G iPod (with video), which was released mid-October 2005 supports the MPEG4 and H.264 video formats and stores more than 150 hours of video. According to American Technology Research, sales of Apple's video-enabled fifth-generation iPod are stronger than expected and in some cases are outselling even the very popular iPod nano. In addition to supporting the iPod's H.264/MPEG-4 formats iVideoToGo supports DVD-Videos, AVI, MPEG, WMV, MOV, MP4, DivX, ASF, DVR-MS, 3GP and others. To deliver support for these formats, iVideoToGo includes InterVideo's innovative H.264 codec technology. H.264, which is also known as the Advanced Video Codec (AVC) specification or MPEG 4-Part 10, provides two to three times the compression efficiency of current solutions such as the MPEG-2 standard, enabling iVideoToGo users to pack even more movies and music on their iPods.

InterVideo iVideoToGo is available at InterVideo's web site, www.intervideo.com, and will be in retail outlets worldwide in the near future. Compatible with Windows(R) 2000 and XP systems, the suggested list price is $29.95 USD.

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Seagate Technology to Acquire Maxtor Corporation

Seagate (NYSE: STX) and Maxtor (NYSE: MXO) have jointly announced they have entered into a definitive agreement under which Seagate will acquire Maxtor in an all stock transaction. Under the terms of the agreement, which has been unanimously approved by the boards of directors of both companies, Maxtor shareholders will receive .37 shares of Seagate common stock for each Maxtor share they own. When the transaction is completed Seagate shareholders will own approximately 84% and Maxtor shareholders will own approximately 16% of the combined company. The value of the transaction is approximately $1.9 billion.

The combined company is expected to generate significant synergies, and the transaction is expected to be at least 10-20% accretive to Seagate on a cash EPS basis after the first full year of combined operations. As with other past combinations of disc drive manufacturers, revenue attrition is anticipated to result from this combination. Synergy estimates take into account anticipated revenue attrition. It is estimated that the incremental revenues will generate gross margins that are in line with the high end of Seagate's standalone model. In addition, the combined company expects to achieve approximately $300 million of annual operating expense savings in connection with the transaction after the first full year of integration.

The combined company will retain the Seagate name and executive offices will be located in Scotts Valley, California. Dr. Park will become a director of Seagate upon the closing of the transaction. Seagate's chairman, CEO, executive vice presidents, and the principal equity investors affiliated with certain of Seagate's Directors have committed to vote their shares in favor of the acquisition. The transaction is expected to be completed in the second half of calendar 2006, subject to obtaining shareholder approvals and customary regulatory approvals. There is a termination fee of $300 million payable to Maxtor under certain conditions. The transaction is intended to be tax-free to Maxtor shareholders.

Prior to the closing, Seagate and Maxtor will operate as separate businesses. Seagate's previously announced outlook for the December quarter of $2.2 billion in revenue and earnings per share in the range of $0.53-$0.57, excluding non-cash stock based compensation, remains unchanged. Additionally, Seagate confirms its recently announced guidance for fiscal year 2006 earnings per share outlook of approximately $2.00, excluding non-cash stock based compensation.

www.seagatemaxtor.com

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SRS Labs Introduces WOW HD at CES 2006 Giving Consumers the Ability to Position and 'Turn Up' the Dialog in TV and Movies

SRS Labs, Inc. a provider of audio technology solutions, has announced that the new SRS WOW HD audio enhancement technology for televisions and consumer electronics products will debut at the International Consumer Electronics Show from January 5-8th at the Las Vegas Convention Center in room N-218. SRS WOW HD provides consumers, for the first time, the ability to adjust the mix of the phantom center image relative to the background audio. Consumers can now easily position the dialog and vocals to their taste and playback environment.

It also features high definition audio enhancement for added clarity of high frequency content along with advanced bass processing for superior low frequency sound quality. SRS Labs will be demonstrating WOW HD on Analog Devices' SigmaDSP audio processors at CES.

WOW HD solutions are available for televisions, set top boxes, DVD recorders, and digital media players from SRS Labs platform partners including: Analog Devices' SigmaDSPs (AD1940/1941, ADAV400, ADAU1701); SigmaTel STMP35xx; Freescale Coldfire and ARM. Other WOW HD-enabled chips from leading semiconductor manufacturers will be available in early 2006. About SRS WOW HD SRS WOW improves the dynamic audio performance of compressed and uncompressed audio by expanding the size of the audio image and creating a deep, rich bass response. The patented techniques in SRS WOW widen the horizontal sound field and raise the vertical sound image, retrieving information lost in the mixing process to create a more natural audio experience.

WOW also shapes a maximized bass response using sculpted filters and driver physics to go beyond the low-frequency limitations of speakers and headphones. The combination enables manufacturers of televisions, mobile phones, and digital audio players to leverage cost-effective components for a high-quality consumer experience. SRS WOW HD builds on the success of SRS WOW by adding the new Definition control for high-definition clarity and the new center control for dynamic extraction and positioning of dialog. SRS WOW HD is the latest addition to the SRS suite of audio enhancement and surround sound technologies. SRS TruSurroundXT is the industry's leading surround solution to play multichannel broadcast content over two speakers. SRS Circle Surround II is the matrix surround sound format used by HD Radio broadcasters and by television broadcasters like ESPN.

www.srslabs.com

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LG.Philips LCD to Commence Mass Production at P7, Its 7th Generation Plant in Paju, Korea

LG.Philips LCD, a TFT-LCD manufacturer, has announced todthat it has commenced mass production at P7, its 7th generation plant in Paju, Korea, by beginning the production of 42-inch panels from its 1950 X 2250mm glass substrates. The company started the pilot run for P7, which is the world's largest 7th generation line not only in size but also in terms of production capacity, at the end of November 2005.

This early start will enable the company to respond to the expected surge in demand for LCD TVs that will be further stimulated by upcoming events such as the Lunar New Year holiday and the World Cup soccer in Germany. The first phase of P7 is scheduled to reach a production capacity of 45,000 glass sheets per month by the third quarter of 2006, and the facility is expected to reach its initial design capacity of 90,000 input sheets per month by the first quarter of 2007.

This will enable LG.Philips LCD to quickly respond to the fast growing demand for large and wide LCD TVs. The 7th generation line will initially manufacture 42-inch TV panels and then gradually increase the production ratio of 47-inch TV products to further solidify LG.Philips LCD's leadership in the 42-inch and larger LCD TV market. It is capable of producing eight 42-inch panels or six 47-inch panels from a single glass substrate.

 Based on its system of fab dedication, LG.Philips LCD has developed a portfolio of facilities that concentrate on specific product categories. The 6th generation line in Gumi focuses on 32- and 37-inch TV panels while the 7th generation line in Paju will focus on 42- and 47-inch TV panels.

The groundbreaking ceremony for the Paju Display Cluster was held in March 2004, with subsequent site development, plant construction, equipment installation and pilot production all being completed within 22 months. With the start of mass production at P7, Paju will emerge as the center of the world's display industry. The start of P7 will also speed up the entry of parts and equipment suppliers to the Paju Display Cluster. Investment and development to make the Paju Display Cluster a vertically integrated LCD complex that encompasses R&D, parts and materials companies as well as the finished products, is also likely to gather pace.

www.lgphilips-lcd.com

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Video Without Boundaries to Showcase New Media-Convergent Devices at International CES 2006

Video Without Boundaries, Inc. will showcase the newest products in its MediaREADY product line at the 2006 International Consumer Electronics Show, January 5-8 in Las Vegas. Leading the lineup is the company's new MediaREADY 6000 digital media center, a convergent set-top device that makes it easy for consumers to browse the web, stream movies, watch DVDs, send email, and even place Internet phone calls, all from their living room TV.

Among the latest VWB products that will be on display at International CES 2006 are the following:

  • MediaREADY 6000 - The electronic TV set-top product, which combines DVD/MP3/CD recording and playback with an Internet browser, email, media jukebox and more, now includes onboard CableCARD(TM) digital cable tuning and dual ATSC/NTSC/PAL tuners for watch-record, HD MPEG 2-4 (H.264)/DivX/WMV/VC-1 codecs, and VoIP/video conferencing support (camera and microphone), among other new features. Carrying an MSRP of $1,249.00, the MediaREADY 6000 will ship in Q2 of 2006
  • Flyboy HD - Featuring an innovative 960 x 234 pixel backlit LCD display, the Flyboy HD portable multimedia player lets users enjoy home video, recorded TV programs, movies, video podcasts and more with a clarity and brightness rivaling screens many times its size. The Flyboy HD's 20GB Hard Disk Drive (HDD), Secure Digital (SD) card slot, and USB 2.0 support enables users to store, transfer, and organize the full range of digital entertainment, from thousands of MP3 songs to over 100,000 still photos or up to 20 movies. Priced at under $400 (MSRP), the Flyboy HD will ship in Q1 of 2006
  • CoPilot - Retailing for under $200, the CoPilot portable media player features AV input recording allowing for easy connection to DVD Players, VCRs, cable and satellite set-top boxes for simple recording of TV and movies. The CoPilot features video playback and recording on its 512MB flash drive, along with expandable unit memory via its SD card slot enabling the CoPilot (1GB model) to store more than 6 hours of video at 320 x 240 @ 30f/s resolution. The CoPilot also supports MP3, WAV, and WMA formats and Line In Audio for simple playback and recording of music
  • MediaREADY 5000 - VWB's current flagship product, the MediaREADY 5000 connects people simply to all the possibilities found in their digital entertainment world. The $899 (MSRP) unit, no bigger than a conventional VHS or DVD player, delivers a TiVo-like Personal Video Recorder (PVR), DVD/MPEG 1, 2 and 4 playback, storage/retrieval via its onboard hard drive or PC-based home networked hard drive, electronic program guide, Internet browsing, email, MP3, WAV and CD playback, streaming video and audio, karaoke, games, and media jukebox.

Video Without Boundaries is exhibiting during International CES 2006 from its display at InnovationsPlus at the Sands Convention Center, Booth IP240. To arrange a meeting at the show please call 954-527-7780 or email VWB at productinfo@vwbinc.com. For more information about VWB's groundbreaking MediaREADY product line, or to purchase any VWB product, visit http://www.vwbinc.com.

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