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Streaming Media
January 24, 2006

Table of Contents

Glass Houses: CES 2006 and the Push for HD on Disc
The Moving Picture | CES: Pain and Suffering in Las Vegas
Samsung Completes Blu-ray Disc Drive Development
Philips Launches Veeza
Imation to Acquire Memorex
Sony Announces Major ACID Pro Software Upgrade
Caligari Ships trueSpace7
AJA Enables Native HD/SD Capture, Editing, and Playback with AJA XENA HS Support for Adobe Premiere Pro 2.0

Glass Houses: CES 2006 and the Push for HD on Disc

Pay off the Christmas Visa bill now, because even though you may have purchased a portable DVD player or a Playstation 2, it's already outdated; perhaps even before your bill arrived. Every year, the latest and greatest technologies are exhibited at the Consumer Electronics show in Las Vegas the first week in January. This year's four-day show attracted more than 150,000 attendees and 2,500 exhibitors.

In addition to Playstation 3, the star of the show was HD DVD and Blu-ray. Toshiba shook the Vegas foundation when they introduced an HD DVD player for $499, way below what most industry analysts were predicting. The finalization of the Blu-ray spec was announced. Several studios who had previously announced alliances, announced specific titles. Sony unveiled manufacturing plans with the first Blu-ray discs scheduled to run off lines in Japan next month. In all of this excitement, my question is … are we really ready for a new disc?

Before I even begin giving impressions of high-definition at the show, it's important to point out that the biggest obstacle right now for both formats is licensing for copy protection. Industry sources told me that it's a problem because without the licensing, players can't be finished and you can't provide the proper encryption for mastering either. A meeting is scheduled for the first week of February, and all parties involved hope these issues will be worked out.

Back to the issue at hand. When I say, are "we" ready for a new disc, I mean consumers, primarily, but I also mean disc manufacturers. Let's take it piece by piece. Consumers are very excited about their high-definition televisions. In fact, the Consumer Electronics Association says that HDTV sets will outsell analog sets by 89 percent in 2006, reaching total unit sales of 15.9 million. Reports about celebrities' disgust with the pristine broadcast of their facial wrinkles were abundant during the holiday buying season, but the sets kept selling. Much to the chagrin of my 12-year old daughter, I'm always thinking in terms of a story. So, I took a very unscientific survey at a Christmas party given by a friend of mine who just bought a very expensive, HDTV set. When I asked if anyone knew about blue laser discs, everybody at that party aked, "Will the quality will be better than DVD?" Not the answer I'd been hoping to get.

What about replicators? Are they ready to roll with a new format? Certainly all of the replicators I know have been reading the press and attending shows. Most of them are happy that there is another physical format on the horizon, but many if not most are not looking forward to the equipment purchases they will have to make. Which brings me to another question: Is there equipment to be purchased? Are the processes really fined tuned? When I ask these questions, companies dodge me left and right. Are they afraid of tipping their hand? Or are they not sure of the answers?

If you remember, just a few short years ago, DVD became the fastest-growing consumer format ever. Why? The competing format camps came together and decided to compromise on one format. I remember going out to the Cinram plant, then to the Warner plant in Olyphant, Pennsylvania, where they were training their competitors to make DVD. I sense no such cooperation with Blu-ray or HD DVD. I may be wrong, and by writing this I may get people mad enough to fill in the manufacturing blanks.

Singulus is not ready to talk, and I've also done some interviews with GE Plastics about using Noryl instead of polycarbonate. I've heard that there is controversy over whether spin coating or film lamination is most efficient. Although in their press release Sony says they will use the spin process, have any of these questions totally been answered? Degussa, for example, is still banking on film lamination.

I spoke to a few replicator friends who attended the show. I got very different answers from them as to the level of excitement surrounding high-definition formats. They did not want their quotes to be attributed. However, one manufacturer said, "My personal perspective is that I cannot see any non-tier one replicator even thinking about HD or BD this year. The ones that would be interesting to me would be the tier-1A replicators (i.e. JVC, Sonopress). I think the whole HD business is crazy. It would be difficult enough for a unified format to come even close to the success of DVD, but two formats? I've yet to hear anything about either format that gets me, as a consumer, at all excited. From an industry perspective, I hope I'm wrong."

I tried calling JVC and Sonopress. They really didn't have much comment for me this time although in the past sources at both companies expressed belief that a higher-definition format would "take off" quickly. Another replicator was totally positive. "I think replicators are nervous about the new formats because they are going to have to make a big investment but I think they are pretty comfortable with being able to manufacture HD DVD discs. Equipment is in place, front-end and mastering systems are there, and a lot of replicators are experimenting."

CEA spokesperson Megan Pollock says many have tried to compare what is going on in high definition to the VHS/Beta wars. But this battle is different. "When VHS and Betamax came out, no one had content. It was about the technology. This time, there are content guys lining up on either side. Content is going to be the driver. If your main interest is Disney, you'll buy Blu-ray, but if it's Microsoft, you'll be looking at HD DVD."

Pollock agrees that a lot consumer education will be needed, but says that with or without that education, ultimately consumers will simply demand discs that can deliver the same video quality as their HDTVs. "They already like the broadcast content, but now they want everything to look like that," Pollock says. "It seems unfair to have to go out and purchase a DVD. It's downgrading. I think consumers are ready for this!"

Don't get me wrong--I'm excited. I love new technology. But I have one question that goes beyond video. Will the music industry get in on this, or will they let this new format slip through their fingers? I still have hope for 5.1 Audio (Listen to "Bohemian Rhapsody" in 5.1 and you'll be hooked, too). But will video enthusiasts push the audio envelope, too, and compel the manufacturers and content providers to do likewise?

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The Moving Picture | CES: Pain and Suffering in Las Vegas

I've always found the annual Consumer Electronics Show to be a good crystal ball in terms of revealing what to expect for the coming year. The straightforward, logical reason is that stores start making decisions about what they'll be introducing and carrying over the next calendar year based on what they see at CES. Not setting things in motion in January makes it hard for physical products to be on the shelves come the summer and holiday buying seasons.

I've always liked CES because it tends to offer a real-world perspective on early technology I see and hear about from manufacturers. For example, VideoCD authoring was a hot topic back in early 1995 with the companies predicting that the MPEG-1-based technology was going to replace livingroom VHS decks, just as audio CDs had recently done to vinyl. But very few companies that year even showed consumer VideoCD players and still fewer seemed serious about moving volume into the distribution channel. The floor at CES said that VideoCD wasn't going to happen.

A few years later, the reality on the show floor did match the expectations for DVD, with all the major electronics companies prominently promoting new DVD players. You didn't need a crystal ball to see that DVD was primed to take off. CES 2006 offered another glimpse at the future of optical media, this time the high definition-capable replacement for DVD. HD DVD players and Blu-ray players were everywhere, with the earliest one apparently destined to hit the superstores this march for as little as $499.

But that future doesn't look very bright at all.

Oh sure, the pictures are great. Who can argue with the quality of high-definition images shown on the newest high definition-capable, large-screen flat-panel displays? (Indeed, CES has become the most important tradeshow of the year for the plasma, LCD, DLP, etc. sector of the display industry.) Both Blu-ray and HD DVD camps were showing glorious high-definition scenes from favorite Hollywood movies as a way to prove that high definition is something that consumers won't be able to resist.

Many event videographers have probably already begun testing high-definition acquisition using the affordable HDV format in anticipation of that HD future when clients will have both HD disc players and HDTVs. Indeed, the Consumer Electronics Association predicts that more than half of all new TV sales this year will be HDTV-capable sets, thanks to the enormous popularity of those plasmas, LCDs, and DLP TVs. And a majority of cable TV customers now can receive HDTV. HD is here, no doubt, and the consumer is ready.

But this HD disc thing is a mess, and shame on the companies for letting it go this far. And pity the consumer who can't resist this rush of HD players that are about to be force-fed down their throats by a greedy industry. HD DVD and Blu-ray, the competing and incompatible HD disc formats, both have a bunch of companies and Hollywood studios lined up to support one side or the other. That means that some Hollywood movies will almost certainly play on some players and not others. That's old news. What's new is that now we're talking about actual players in the marketplace.

Toshiba has announced that it will ship the first two domestic HD DVD players in March at the surprisingly low starting price of just $499. That price is, indeed, startlingly low for a first-generation player and the reason is clear: HD DVD is losing the battle for industry support. Blu-ray now has much more manufacturer support and far more backing from Hollywood (thanks in no small part to Sony's owning much of Hollywood-I thought that's what anti-trust laws were suppose to prevent), so Toshiba is hoping to parlay being first to market into marketplace dominance. The low price is surely calculated to gain an early foothold. By contrast, the first Blu-ray player will likely arrive in April from Pioneer, but will be a professional studio reference player for about $1,800. Models going for about $1,000 should arrive early this summer from a variety of manufacturers.

Of course, that just means a bunch of consumers will spend money and be stuck with something that, at best, doesn't play half of what they want. And it never should be allowed to reach that point. I don't care about technological superiority. I don't care how many ways licensing fees will need to be divided. I don't care about who's first to market. We've been through this nightmare with VHS and Betamax. We've been through it with DVD-R, DVD+R, and DVD-RAM and it's rather tiresome.

Until sanity prevails over greed, consumers would be better off looking for a normal DVD with built-in up-conversion to HD rather than one of these new HD DVD or Blu-ray new players. Those are becoming increasingly popular, more affordable, and very good-looking. Frankly, the average consumer isn't going to be able to tell the difference and it would serve the manufacturers right.

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Samsung Completes Blu-ray Disc Drive Development

TSST Korea (Toshiba Samsung Storage Technology Corporation) announced that it has completed the technical development of its Blu-ray disc drives. These offer a storage capacity up to 25GB at a single layer disc.

In the Blu-ray drive, the blue laser is the core factor that enables the next-generation optical disc format. Current DVDs use a red laser (650nm) to read and write data, while Blu-ray and HD DVD use a shorter-wavelength blue laser (405nm). As a result, the Blu-ray beam can focus more precisely, enabling it to read information recorded in pits that are only 0.16 microns long, which is more than twice as small as the pits on a DVD. Also, the smaller pit length allows for the storing of up to 25GB in a single layer disc -- about five times more than can be stored on a standard DVD disc.

The enhanced design that was first incorporated into Samsung's External DVD Writer is being adapted to the Blu-ray Drive as well. Samsung's Blu-ray Drive has the sophisticated black and silver color design of a high-end A/V product that would look perfect even in a living room. Blu-ray offers 50GB of storage capacity on a double-layer disc (25GB on a single-layer disc). A single-layer Blu-ray disc can hold 25GB, which can be used to record over 2 hours of HDTV or more than 13 hours of standard-definition TV. There are also dual-layer versions of the discs that can hold 50GB.

Like all the other Samsung ODD Drives, the Blu-ray drive is eco-friendly and supports Firmware Live Updates that allow users to ensure they always have the latest Blu-ray firmware version. Samsung Electronics is a member of the Blu-ray Association and will launch internal and external Blu-ray drives simultaneously in 2006 under the Samsung brand through the Samsung Electronics distribution channel.

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Philips Launches Veeza

Royal Philips Electronics has introduced a new way of licensing its CD-R disc patents. With this system, called Veeza, Philips intends to help the industry combat unfair competition from trade in unlicensed CD-R discs. Veeza is designed to make it simple for everyone involved in the trade of CD-R discs to recognize unlicensed goods. With traditional patent licensing methods traders and retail companies tend to have difficulty in verifying that the goods they have purchased, are licensed and royalties have been paid.

Veeza will make it easier to sell licensed CD-R discs and more difficult to sell unlicensed discs, according to Philips. Discs distributed under a Veeza license can easily be traced and recognized by three clear marks: a logo that is embedded in the disc, a serial number on each package carton and an authenticity document, called Licensed Status Confirmation Document (LSCD). These three marks provide simple proof that a shipment with CD-R discs is licensed under Philips' patents.

Manufacturers participating in Veeza help promote the transparent and fair trade in CD-R discs by using the Veeza logo and Veeza LSCD with their products. Veeza-compliant companies will therefore benefit from a 44% reduction in the royalty, which goes down from 0.045 to 0.025 USD per CD-R disc.

Philips co-invented the CD-Recordable disc system in the early 1990s and has a portfolio of patents essential for manufacturing and selling CD-R discs. Philips successfully promoted the worldwide adoption of CD-R by making these patents available on reasonable and non-discriminatory conditions. Likewise, Philips has successfully promoted the DVD and DVD+RW standards. Currently, Philips is a major driver of innovation in Blu-ray technology and many other technologies. To safeguard an appropriate return on investment made in R&D, Philips places great value in protecting its innovations through intellectual property rights (IPRs). The company currently holds about 115,000 patent rights, 26,000 trademark registrations, 15,000 design registrations, some 1,600 domain name registrations.

More information about Veeza can be found on

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Imation to Acquire Memorex

Imation Corp and Memorex International, Inc, jointly announced that they have entered into a definitive agreement under which Imation will acquire Memorex International in an all cash transaction for $330 million. Additional cash consideration ranging between $5 million and $45 million would be paid out over a period of up to three years after close, contingent on financial performance of the purchased business. The boards of both companies have approved the transaction.

In Memorex's fiscal 2005, ended March 31, the company reported revenue of $430 million and operating income of $30 million. In the subsequent two quarters, ending September 30, 2005, Memorex's revenue totaled $205 million and operating income totaled $14 million. After completion of integration, Imation expects Memorex to be significantly accretive adding approximately $32 million to $36 million in annualized operating income and approximately $0.40 to $0.47 earnings per share. This estimate includes synergy benefits, purchase price amortization expenses and the assumed loss of interest income due to cash used in the acquisition. Imation anticipates significant synergy benefits, from operating efficiencies including expense reductions, purchasing, and supply chain benefits. The full integration of Memorex into Imation which will result in these benefits is anticipated to be completed by the end of 2006.

Imation intends to fund the transaction with cash and has adequate cash on hand, which totaled $507.6 million at December 31, 2005, to both fully fund the acquisition and to meet current operating needs. Imation is in the process of establishing a new and expanded credit facility of $200 million to $250 million which is expected to be in place by the close of the transaction. The transaction is subject to customary closing conditions and regulatory approvals as well as approval by the shareholders of Hanny Holdings, a Hong Kong-based company listed on the Hong Kong Stock Exchange. Hanny Holdings and Investor Asia Ltd., a private equity firm, which together hold 67 percent of Memorex shares, have agreed to vote their shares in favor of the transaction. The sale is expected to close by the middle of the second quarter of 2006. Merrill Lynch acted as exclusive financial advisor and Dorsey & Whitney LLP as exclusive legal advisor to Imation in connection with the transaction.

Additional information about Imation and this transaction is available at Additional information about Memorex is available at

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Sony Announces Major ACID Pro Software Upgrade

Sony Media Software announced ACID Pro 6 software, an upgrade to its professional music creation and production application. This new release includes several major development enhancements to the recording and MIDI capabilities of the program, transforming version 6 into a full-featured professional digital audio and MIDI workstation.

ACID Pro 6 software is expected to be available in March at an MSRP of US $499.95. ACID Pro 6 software not only continues to provide the loop-based music creation tools, but now provides users with a multitrack recording and MIDI sequencing environment that will appeal to creative professionals and audio engineers looking to record, produce and mix in ACID software's fast, efficient and easy-to-master platform.

Some of the new digital music workstation technologies include the following:

  • Multitrack Audio and MIDI Recording -- Simultaneously record multiple tracks of audio and MIDI into the ACID timeline through a variety of methods, including step recording, punch in/out, continuous looping, and more.
  • Multiple Media Files per Track -- Layout multiple media files per track, including one-shots, Beatmapped events, loops, and disk-based files with new automatic crossfade capabilities.
  • Inline MIDI Editing -- MIDI data can be manipulated directly on the ACID timeline, using either a piano roll or a drum grid interface. Edit all note position, velocity, pitch bend, and controller information using an easy, visual approach in the main multitrack interface.
  • MIDI Filtering and Processing -- ACID Pro 6 software provides processing of MIDI data directly on the timeline, including quantization, swing, editing of velocity values, event duration changes, and more.
  • VSTi Parameter Automation -- Using automation envelopes, ACID Pro 6 software provides increased mixing flexibility for VST instrument parameters.
  • Drum Map Editing -- The Drum Map Editor provides an intuitive way to create custom Drum Map templates, to make working in the Drum Grid even easier.
  • Project Sections -- ACID Pro 6 software now provides for the creation of project sections that lets users more efficiently rearrange time-based segments of audio and MIDI events located across multiple tracks.
  • External Control Surface Support -- ACID Pro 6 software allows for hands-on mixing using external hardware control surfaces. Control record, transport, envelopes, faders, mutes, solos, pans, and effects automation. ACID Pro 6 software includes native support for the Mackie Control Universal, however the generic control interface option allows user-customizable mapping of up to five generic control surfaces.
  • Record Input Monitoring -- The new multitrack workflow provides users with the ability to monitor audio signals with real-time track effect DSP during recording sessions.

ACID Pro 6 software will be available worldwide through software stores and online retailers at US $499.95.

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Caligari Ships trueSpace7

Caligari Corporation, producer of 3D modeling and animation software, extended its leadership by announcing the availability of trueSpace7, a 3D software application that features real-time collaborative authoring technology. The new release is designed to meet the expanding needs of Caligari's current customers while addressing the 3D authoring and collaborative requirements of teams creating visualizations, simulations, and online training material.

trueSpace7 offers aspects of real-time design, modeling, and animation within a virtual 3D space shared by remote participants over the broadband internet. trueSpace's authoring tools, based on a direct manipulation user interface. The trueSpace7 collaboration server enables multiple participants to connect to a shared 3D space to create and manipulate their content in real-time -- trying new ideas and discussing creation strategies with built-in chat and other communications tools.

The new and upgraded trueSpace7 includes the following features:

  • Lightweight and networked truePlay 3D player offers companies an effective, unified content authoring and delivery system;
  • Real-time rendering engine (based on Microsoft's DirectX 9.0 NHLSL) and a real-time visual material editor provide photorealistic pre-visualizations of animations as well as final renderings to video;
  • Three global photo renderer options are now available: LightWorks, V-Ray (sold separately), and VirtuaLight;
  • Behavior and activity creation, via a visual design environment with a customizable user interface for created objects, brings dynamics and interactivity to your objects;
  • A new Link Editor and integrated physics engine simplify procedural and interactive animations and behaviors for training simulations by easily linking objects together;
  • Script editor with JScript, Lua, Python, VBScript, and other languages allows users to write scripts directly embedded in any object;
  • Message-passing kernel and a distributed network engine enhance the collaborative environment;
  • Support for the next-generation of massively parallel, multi-core processing hardware offers the computing power required for rich, realistic interaction.

With trueSpace7, Caligari has enhanced every aspect of its product, including those features most used by its current community. The authoring client provides a full set of polygonal editing tools, subdivision surfaces, NURBS with trim curves and blends, sweeps, rails, lofts, skinning, and cross-sections, chamfers and fillets, metaballs and particle surfaces, Boolean operations, organic deforms, array tools, layers, and more. Animation tools include a key-frame editor, non-linear animation editor, function curves, facial animation tools, bones with deformable skin and muscles, and more. For rendering and surfacing there are three photorealistic renderers with ray tracing, radiosity and photon mapping, a UV editor, texture editor, layered materials and shading trees, HDRI, IBL, 3D paint tools, post process editor, and more.

trueSpace7 is now available from for an MSRP of $595.00. Rendering applications from LightWorks and VirtuaLight are included with trueSpace7. V-Ray is available for an additional $299.

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AJA Enables Native HD/SD Capture, Editing, and Playback with AJA XENA HS Support for Adobe Premiere Pro 2.0

AJA Video, a manufacturer of professional video interface and conversion technology, announced that Adobe has implemented native support within Adobe Premiere Pro 2.0 for AJA's XENA HS real-time HD-SDI/SDI I/O card as part of the new Adobe Production Studio.

AJA has also announced joint development with Adobe to deliver HD certified turnkey solutions as part of the Adobe OpenHD alliance. The AJA real time HD/SD solution provides Adobe Premiere Pro 2.0 customers with native full-resolution capture, editing and playback in HD/SD. XENA HS support is among the new features in Adobe Premiere Pro 2.0 and allows post-production editors, videographers, and multimedia creative professionals to input and output high-speed, uncompressed SD or HD digital audio/video under full control of the software application for integrated capture, playback and print to tape.

In addition, AJA's own plug-ins let users also preview and export within Adobe Photoshop CS2, and preview material within Adobe After Effects 7.0. XENA HS provides high-speed, uncompressed digital audio/video input/output for Adobe Premiere Pro 2.0. Users of Adobe After Effects 7.0 and Adobe Photoshop CS2 can link video preview output seamlessly from the applications using AJA's custom-coded plug-ins and software.

XENA HS is available now through AJA's worldwide channel of dealers and system integrators for a suggested retail price of US $990.

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