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January 17, 2006

Table of Contents

Adobe Announces Production Studio Bundle
Commentary: Macworld 2006
A Month of Training at Safe Harbor
Sennheiser Introduces Evolution 912 Boundary Microphone at NAMM
Apple Announces iLife '06
Sennheiser Powers Up Wireless Monitoring

Adobe Announces Production Studio Bundle

Sometimes the competition among software NLEs—and particularly those packaged and sold en suite—seems like a game of inches. Or maybe just a word game of inches. At least that's what I thought when Adobe rolled out Premiere Pro 2.0, heralding its much-broadened palette of format support with the rallying cry "Edit Everything!" Granted, it's been nine months since Apple announced Final Cut Pro 5 under the "Edit Anything!" banner, but did Adobe think we'd have forgotten Apple's slogan by now, or did they just think the array of innovations unveiled in Premiere 2.0 would make the comparison irrelevant?

Either way, that little instance of hyperbolic déjà vu is a minor point for such a major release as Premiere Pro 2.0, and while the format support it celebrates is an important feature (all the more so because Premiere, unlike Final Cut, enables you to work with all those formats in the same timeline), it's not even the most interesting aspect of Adobe's new release, nor is Premiere Pro 2.0 the only major product rev that Adobe is unleashing today. They've also got 2.0 versions of Encore DVD and Audition, the long-awaited After Effects 7.0, and a spruced-up product suite called the Adobe Production Studio that (in its Premium configuration) improves on the earlier Adobe Video Collection by incorporating the popular Adobe Illustrator CS2 vector tool. It also boasts heightened integration via the new Dynamic Link capability, which enables users to work with files in multiple applications without rendering, and make changes in a single application (like, say, a color change in Photoshop) that are applied to the project file everywhere it's accessed and edited. And as you might expect, another key new feature of the Production Studio—leveraging Adobe's earth-shaking 2005 acquisition--is integration with Macromedia Flash.

One of the heralded new features of Premiere Pro 2.0 is support for DVD authoring directly from the timeline. Adobe introduced this capability in Premiere Elements 2.0. As in Elements, it doesn't give you tremendous flexibility, and doesn't appear to be as advanced as the implementation in Avid Liquid 7, which incoporated this feature several revs ago. Premiere Pro 2.0 also promises native HDV editing, without creating massive CineForm files as in previous implementations, which is a significant technological feat since MPEG-2 transport streams are essentially groups of pictures (GOPs) consisting of one editable frame and a bunch of unviewable math, which must be laboriously process to make those frames into accessible edit points. It's also got a cool new multicam feature with support for up to four cameras and real-time preview. While Apple and Avid can handle significantly more cameras—allegedly up to 99—Premiere's advantage (over Final Cut, anyway) is support for multiple formats in a timeline, so if you have HDV from one camera feed and DV from the others, there's no issue with mixing formats or editing the video natively. Other formats supported by Premiere 2.0 include HDCAM, D5HD, and Windows Media (no DVCPro yet). You can also mix 24p and 60i in the same sequence, according to Adobe.

Premiere Pro 2.0 also boasts multiple nestable timelines, Flash export, and support for high-resolution images up to 4096x4096. Another intriguing issue is the "Feet+Frames" timecode options. This allows editors working with material sourced from film to use a time reference system better suited to their acquisition medium by displaying time code information in terms of feet rather than frames.

Adobe has also used this release to introduce an ingenious new utility called Clip Notes. Designed to enable the same sort of handy project review and annotation in Premiere Pro files that you get in PDF files, Clip Notes allows clients to place notes in a project at the exact frame where there comment applies (say, to adjust the color or re-frame a particular shot). The comments are saved in a compact metadata file that the editor can then open and find all the Clip Notes flagged in the timeline precisely where the frame in question is found. The most obvious appeal here is to corporate videographers for whom client review is a regular part of the process; similarly, event shooters who may work with editors in remote locations can use Clip Notes for much more efficient exchanges on particular in-progress edits.

Another feature included with Premiere Pro 2.0 is the Adobe Bridge file management tool we first saw with Photoshop CS 2, which provides organization and quick access to media and project files in multiple formats. The new version also includes three-way manual color correction and a Fast Color Corrector feature that makes it easier to adjust hue and saturation in multiple clips at once.

While there are far too many new features among the many applications found in the Adobe Production Studio (After Effects in particular) to do justice to them here, what's interesting is the re-constitution of the bundle from the previous Video Collection, which was arguably the standard-setter for multi-application postproduction bundles. Adobe still appears to lead the pack in the degree of integration offered; they've extended that here via Dynamic Link, which enables users to work with project files from multiple Adobe applications in other apps with the sort of fluidity that was only available to Photoshop project files in the previous version. The key here is that you need neither render nor import to work with files in different applications in the Studio set.

The Premium version of Adobe Production Studio, which retails for $1,699, includes full versions of After Effects 7.0 Professional, Premiere Pro 2.0, Photoshop CS2, Audition 2.0, Encore DVD 2.0, Illustrator CS2, Dynamic Link, and Bridge.

Adobe Production Studio Standard, which lists for $1,199, includes full versions of After Effects 7.0 Standard, Premiere Pro 2.0, Photoshop CS2, Dynamic Link, and Bridge.

On January 17, to coincide with the product's release, Adobe will begin a five-city tour to present the new Production Studio and train users in specific applications. Coordinated by the 4EVER Group, the tour will include stops in Philadelphia (January 17), Orange, California (January 18), Chicago and Dallas (January 24), and Atlanta (February 1). For more information, click here.

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Commentary: Macworld 2006

"The PowerBook is dead." Or so one blogger wrote who attended the Macworld Keynote. He updated a Web page from the audience as Apple CEO Steve Jobs announced the Intel Core Duo Processor MacBook Tuesday morning.

In actuality, Apple was one of many to announce new laptops with Intel's Core Duo. Several other companies announced Core Duo chips at CES the week before. The buzz around the many products announced at the annual convention is on par with what was not announced, despite many rumors and considerable, reasonable expectation. Despite the year that the Mac Mini has been on the market, relatively unchanged, and the recent introduction of Apple's Front Row software, which is a very good basis for a home media center, Apple did not bring these two products together today, as many had anticipated.

Also, the first two products that have migrated to the Intel processors are the iMac and the PowerBook. The most recent iMac was just announced in October. The Power Mac G5 Quad and updated PowerBooks were announced in November. We have to go all the way back to July to find updated for the iBook and the Mini. Those updates were basically faster processors and a tweaked product selection, respectively. The Mini has remained basically unchanged for over a full year now. So it is a surprise to see two of the most recently updated PowerPC-based products to be the first Intel-based offerings from Apple.

Why is this important? Steve Jobs recounted some numbers... 32 million iPods sold, just in 2005. Three quarters of a billion songs have been downloaded from iTunes. And 8 million videos have been sold through iTunes. More media companies and media is being added every day. If a company with this sort of market share introduced a home media center computer, you can bet there would be big ripples throughout media delivery systems. But it hasn't happened--not yet, anyway--so we can continue to twiddle our thumbs waiting for Blu-ray.

But back to the interesting tidbits. The new MacBooks differentiate themselves from PowerBooks with more than just the processor. There is optical audio in and out. This is good news for those using digital audio. However, the PC card is gone. If you relied on the PC card for a specific I/O system, you'll have to wait till new ExpressCard/34 cards come to the market in force. Given the current dearth of cards available, one has to wonder why Apple dropped the PC Card clot so definitively now. We can only hope it plays out like it did with the original iMac, which was the first to ditch all the old I/O ports for USB, well before USB was so readily available.

With the new MacBook, Apple also dropped FireWire 800, which has consistently provided better throughput than FireWire 400 on G4-based systems, including the laptops. The optical burner still does not offer specifications for dual-layer burning capability. So while this now dual core computer has some numbers that show it is faster than the G4 chip it previously had, it is more limited in terms of fast I/O to peripherals, and still does not have a dual-layer burner.

These points are very important to ponder for mobile editors intending to move to HD or HDV. If you like the new Panasonic HVX-200, be aware that the new laptops are moving to ExpressCard, which does not work with P2 cards because the P2 cards physically won't fit. No PC Cards fit. Also, the loss of Firewire 800 is the lost of the fastest connection available for laptops.

Tests have shown the built-in FW 800 to be capable of 60-70 MBps. If you need more speed, add a FW-800 PC card and run a dual-channel RAID for speeds over 100MBps on a laptop. There are also SATA PC cards boasting speeds of 70-80MBps without a RAID. Until there are FW 800 or SATA cards for ExpressCard slots, mobile users will be back down to FW 400/USB 2.0 speeds of around 20-30MBps. Down the road, however, ExpressCard has the potential to offer several times the speed of a PC card so future ExpressCards may offer faster throughput, when they become available.

The color speed charts on Apple's MacBook page show the new chip should do video rendering at least 2x faster than the fastest previous G4 PowerBook. This is good news for mobile professionals because a 1.8g Core Duo processor is also in the new iMac. This processor is touted to be 2x faster than the 2.1g G5 it replaces. We know that there was little possibility that the hot-running G5 could be shoehorned into a PowerBook, so a different processor that runs cooler and supposedly runs 2x faster amicably solves the problem. Barring any software hiccups, this should be a welcome move for the future.

This is important because it is clear that Apple is really tweaking their iLife software bundle. The latest iMovie and iDVD include true 16:9 themes. The software is already designed to handle both widescreen video, as well as HDV, and produce a standard-definition DVD from HD content. Now all the menus and interactive elements can be widescreen as well. The big addition here is that iMovie gets the "theme" treatment as well, enabling the more casual user to deliver really polished and consistent results in their final movie without having to create all the elements from scratch. The only thing that is missing is a HD-DVD burner to deliver the finished product in HD.

This is no small advancement. iMovie adds the ability to keyframe audio levels and continues to cover more of the capabilities pros expect in their software. While no Final Cut Pro, or even Final Cut Express, iMovie has offered certain capabilities and functions that Final Cut has never, and still does not offer. At the same time, iMovie continues to gain strength and capability with each revision. For one, iMovie has always rendered every effect in the background. You never, ever had to wait for a render progress bar to go away before you continued working on your project. Final Cut still does not have true background rendering while you work in the same application. In addition to the key framed audio, iMovie also now takes a page from Final Cut and adds real time effects that require no rendering.

However, pro users are not left out in the cold. Jobs also announced that the Pro apps are scheduled to be "Universal" (which means they can run on both current PowerPC or Intel chips) by March 2006. That's just two months. Best of all, Jobs also says that current apps can be upgraded to Universal Binary versions for just $49. This is really insignificant to the person who stays at the edge of technology.

Despite all the talk about Apple's consumer iLife apps, I'm not saying that consumers with iMovie are going to be stealing pro work. I am saying that the finished video they will be producing will be keeping us on our toes. Moreover, there's nothing saying that seasoned professionals can't use the same basic tools that consumers use. In the end, our goal is to produce materials that please and delight our customers. Whether we do it on Betacam or DV, or edit it on a Mac or PC, or in FCP or iMovie is not as important as the fact that our customers are satisfied. So it is important to be aware of the new tools, including the inexpensive ones, if they can help us do our job better, easier or faster. With the new hardware and software introduced today, it looks like all three may be true.

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A Month of Training at Safe Harbor

Safe Harbor Computers has announced the scheduling of four in-depth training sessions for professional video editors and animators. Each series will cover one of four popular software programs: Apple Final Cut Studio, Adobe Premiere Pro 2.0, NewTek LightWave 3D, and Sony Vegas 6.

The classes will be taught be well-known industry professionals including Chip Eberhart, Tim Kolb, Pat Beck, and Michael Bryant. Each class will focus on a specific aspect of the software that many users find difficult to master, and will run approximately one hour in length.

"Whether someone needs to really zoom in on a certain area of the software that's challenging them, or they need a broad overview of the entire program, these classes are going to help," said Tiffani Banaszak, Director of Sales and Marketing at Safe Harbor Computers. "We've worked with our instructors to develop a wide range of lessons in a convenient format." Taking place throughout the month of March, class fees range from $75 to $100, with special package discounts.

For more information or to sign up for the classes, visit www.sharbor.com/events, or call 800-544-6599.

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Sennheiser Introduces Evolution 912 Boundary Microphone at NAMM

Sennheiser introduced a new condenser boundary microphone, the e 912, at the 2006 NAMM Show. A companion to the e 901 boundary mic for bass drums, the e 912 is designed for picking up speech, vocals and acoustic instruments, and, in particular, grand pianos.

"The e 912 is an ideal solution for a wide range of applications--from musical instruments to theater and opera house stages, from churches to conference centers and lecture halls," says Robb Blumenreder, Sennheiser's MI product manager.

The pre-polarized condenser microphone with half-cardioid pick-up pattern has a wide frequency response (from 20 to 20,000kHz) and a maximum sound pressure level of 136dB. The e 912's very flat housing makes it virtually inconspicuous while it's extremely robust design copes well with the rigors of being used on a stage floor. A rubber plate on the underside of the e 912 ensures that vibrations are not transmitted and mounting slots on the underside allows the microphone to be securely fastened on a stage, on a conference table or lectern.

The e 912 weighs in at a mere 350 grams (approx. 12 ounces) enabling it to be easily positioned in a variety of applications. The preamplifier electronics are integrated into the microphone and the gold-plated XLR-3 connector is surrounded by the enclosure in such a way that the connection isn't compromised. The e 912 is available in two colors--cream white and black--to blend in easily with the installation environment. The e 912 offers users a professional, versatile microphone that excels even in diverse applications such as speech, vocals or instruments. 

www.sennheiserusa.com

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Apple Announces iLife '06

At Macworld 2006 in San Francisco Apple announced iLife '06, a significant upgrade to Apple's award-winning suite of digital lifestyle applications. iLife '06 features iPhoto 6 with faster performance, new printed books, calendars, and cards, and Apple's new Photocasting for sharing photos over the Internet; iMovie HD 6 with new motion themes for adding spectacular production value to your movies; iDVD 6 for authoring custom DVDs for today's widescreen TVs; and GarageBand 3, now an enhanced solution for creating professional-quality Podcasts. iLife '06 also introduces iWeb, a new iLife application that makes it easy to create Web sites with photos, blogs, and Podcasts and publish them on .Mac for viewing by anyone on the Internet with just a single click.

With iWeb, Apple-designed templates help create stunning websites and the iLife media browser makes adding photos, movies, music, or playlists as simple as drag and drop. Powerful editing tools make it easy to customize websites without having to know HTML. iWeb works seamlessly with other iLife '06 applications as a complete solution for creating photo albums, blogs, and Podcasts that can be published to the Internet with one click using .Mac.

iPhoto 6 offers blazing performance, support for up to 250,000 photos and introduces Photocasting, an innovative new way to share photos directly from within iPhoto via .Mac to friends and family. Photocasting is like Podcasting for photos where anyone can subscribe to a published photo album and automatically receive full quality photos directly within iPhoto 6 or on a PC. Pictures automatically update when the owner adds, edits or deletes a photo within the published album. Photos can be viewed on Apple's displays with new full-screen edit and compare mode without menus or windows to distract from the image. Up to eight photos can be compared simultaneously and adjusted with a one-click image enhancements and effects panel. Professional-quality books, calendars and greeting cards are created easily by adding photos to Apple-designed themes.

iMovie HD 6 introduces revolutionary new Apple-designed motion themes that let users add Hollywood-style production value to their movies in minutes. Effects can be previewed without waiting with new real-time Core Video effects, while cinematic titling gives users flexibility to create incredible text effects. New audio enhancement tools and sound effects make movies sound as good as they look. Multiple projects can now be opened at once in iMovie HD 6 and clips can be moved among projects. iMovie HD is the easiest way to make a video Podcast which can be published with iWeb for the whole world to experience.

iDVD 6 allows users to take content shot with the latest HDV and widescreen DV cameras and author custom DVDs with widescreen menus, movies and high-resolution slideshows that fill every inch of the newest widescreen TVs. iDVD 6 features 10 new Apple-designed menu themes in both widescreen (16:9) and standard (4:3) formats. iDVD 6 themes include new autofill drop zones to make customizing menus even easier. In addition, iDVD 6 can burn using compatible third-party DVD burners.

iDVD 6 also includes new Magic iDVD, the easiest way ever to make a DVD. With just a few clicks, users select a theme and choose their movies and photos, Magic iDVD then automatically creates a complete DVD that's ready to burn.

GarageBand 3 is now also a complete solution for creating professional-quality Podcasts. Voices can easily be recorded using the built-in expertise of an audio engineer and Podcasts can be enhanced with radio-style sound effects and music jingles, chapter artwork and URL links. Talk show Podcasts are created easily by interviewing one or more guests simultaneously in iChat AV and recording directly into GarageBand 3. Podcasts can be posted for the world to enjoy on .Mac and submitted to iTunes using iWeb. In addition, a new video track makes it easy to create music to score iMovie projects.

iLife '06 is now available for a suggested retail price of $79 (US) through the Apple Store (www.apple.com), Apple's retail stores and Apple Authorized Resellers. The iLife '06 suite of applications will be included with all new Macs. iTunes version 6.0.2 is currently available as a free download at www.apple.com. .Mac is available as a subscription-based service for $99.95 (US) per year for individuals and $179.95 (US) for a Family Pack which includes one master account and five sub accounts. Anyone can sign up for a free, 60-day .Mac trial from www.mac.com.

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Sennheiser Powers Up Wireless Monitoring

Sennheiser is introducing a new, more powerful and flexible line of 3000 Series wireless monitor transmitters and receivers at the 2006 NAMM Show. The new SR3254-U single-channel transmitter, SR3256-U dual-channel transmitter and EK3253-U body-pack receiver are compatible with Sennheiser Evolution series wireless G2 monitor products. The new units offer extended tuning flexibility and an unprecedented 100mW output.

Engineered in response to customer requests for higher RF output levels, the new 3250 series transmitters incorporate the HDX compander technology used in Sennheiser's G2 wireless equipment achieving noise suppression of up to 90dB and ensuring a wide dynamic range and crystal-clear monitoring signals. Operating over the G2 products' A, B and C ranges, the new receiver and transmitters offer a 36MHz switching bandwidth and are tunable in 5kHz steps across the frequency range, offering a total of 7,200 frequencies.

All three products ship with 16 pre-coordinated preset frequencies and 16 user-assignable presets. Both transmitters are easy to operate, can be switched between mono and stereo mode and have a backlit LC display. These newcomers are especially recommended for demanding multi-channel applications and are supplied complete with integrated power supply unit, rack-mount "ears" and either one (SR3254) or two telescopic antennas (SR3256). The system's bodypack receiver, the EK3253, is twenty percent smaller than its predecessor but even more robust. Both the body and the battery cover are now made of metal. A backlit display makes the menu-controlled operation even more user-friendly. A pilot tone-controlled squelch allows noise-free switching in stereo mode.

The receiving frequency is adjustable in 5kHz increments. And the receiver also has a scan function making it easy to search for free transmission channels.

The compact, inconspicuous EK3253 is equipped with a focus function, enabling artists to create their own special mix from their own audio signal and the overall mix. The receiver comes complete with batteries and a pair of IE 4 stereo ear-canal phones. Two AA batteries will give the user six to ten hours of operation.

www.sennheiserusa.com

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