April 2003 Computer Video News

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Sony DVD disc camcorders

Sony plans summer launch of two camcorders recording to 8cm discs

Sony is following Hitachi's lead with a late summer launch of two camcorders that record to DVD, rather than tape. Models are the DCR-DVD100 (likely price £900, inc VAT) and DCR-DVD200 (£1,000).
Like Hitachi's trio of camcorders (news, June 2002, p7; review, February 2003, p30), the two Sony models can record DVD-standard MPEG-2 footage to 8cm single-sided write-once DVD-R discs.
But they differ in the type of rewritable disc they can use - DVD-RW, rather than the more expensive (but more durable and double-sided) DVD-RAM favoured by Hitachi. And, while discs in Hitachi's camcorders use caddies, discs go naked into Sony's machines. Maximum recording time, as with the Hitachis, is 60 minutes.
While DVD-R discs should play on most set-top DVD players (and, Sony says, later releases of PlayStation 2 consoles) DVD-RWs are likely to play in considerably fewer machines - though many more than DVD-RAM discs, which can be read only by a handful of PC DVD drives, and even fewer set-top DVD players.
As with the Hitachi models, both Sony camcorders can record edited footage from a PC to DVD. But here, the Sonys again score over the Hitachi models by being equipped with DV-in/out, not just a USB socket. And, although the USB socket on the two Sonys is a fast USB 2.0 - as it is on Hitachi's £1,050 range-leader (the MV270) - it is the slower, USB 1.1, version on the two cheaper Hitachi models (MV230, £800; and MV200, £650).
The main difference between the two Sony models is that the DVD100 is said to have an effective pixel resolution of 400,000 for video and stills, while the DVD200 has 690,000 for video and one million (one-megapixel) for stills. The result is that the DVD100 can record JPEG stills at a resolution of 640 x 480 pixels, while the DVD200 has a higher resolution of 1,152 x 864.
Each uses a single (1/4.7in) CCD and has a 10x optical Carl Zeiss zoom lens (120x digital) and a pull-out 2.5in (123,000 effective pixels) LCD monitor. Also common to both are Super SteadyShot, to compensate for camcorder shake, and Super NightShot for virtual darkness filming of a subject up to 10 metres away, using an infrared system and an automatic slow-shutter control.

Sony UK, 08705 111999; www.sony.co.uk

Dazzle DVD/analogue package

VCD/DVD production bundle centres on USB 2.0 box with analogue in/outputs

Dazzle's Digital Video Creator 150 (SRP £200, inc VAT) combines an external USB 2.0 capture box for real-time encoding into MPEG-1/2, with Windows editing and DVD authoring software.
Unusually, the Dazzle external box has inputs and outputs for S-video, composite video and L/R audio - instead of just inputs as is the case with competing products such as Snazzi's £265 III USB2 Gold Deluxe Edition (review, Sept/Oct 2002, p70) and Adaptec's £139 VideOh! DVD (review, February 2003, p64). As a result, the Dazzle can output to analogue tape (VHS or S-VHS) or to a TV set for monitoring full-screen.
Three Dazzle programs are provided - MovieStar 5 for video editing; DVD Complete for authoring and burning CD/DVD discs; and OnDVD for creating digital photo albums.
MovieStar offers storyboard or timeline interface options, scrolling titles, 3D transition effects, background (smart) rendering, and a CD burning tool for creating VideoCD or SuperVCD discs. The program can output to AVI, DV, Real Media and Windows Media.
DVD Complete (review, this issue, p58) creates VCD or DVD discs and supports DVD-R/-RW and DVD+R/+RW formats. The package comes with AV and USB cables and requires a minimum of a 500MHz PII processor; Windows 98SE/ME/2000/XP; 128MByte RAM; a video card capable of 1024 x 768 pixel resolution in 24-bit colour; and a USB 1.1 port (USB 2.0 preferred).

Dazzle Europe, +49 89 95 95 5000; www.dazzle-europe.com

Vegas steps up a gear

Sonic Foundry's video editor gains swathe of new features and DVD authoring option

Sonic Foundry's Vegas Video editing software has undergone a massive overhaul and is now selling in two versions - one bundled with a DVD authoring program called DVD Architect, and including an AC-3 surround sound encoder (US$600), and one without DVD authoring capabilities (US$400).
Vegas 4 (the word Video has been dropped from the name since V3 - review, Aug 02, p76) offers a host of new features. The long list of improvements is largely split between two areas - making the interface more useable, and adding tools to make the program better suited for creating projects for broadcasting.
Interface enhancements include the addition of media bins to help keep project files organised; split-screen A/B effect previews; the ability to copy-and-paste attributes from one clip to another; keyboard-based event trimming; and improved ripple editing. Vegas can add chapter markers for DVD Architect to use, and - to chime in with the AC-3 encoding provided by DVD Architect - gains 5.1 surround sound mixing, plus support for Asio audio drivers and other sound editing enhancements.
On the broadcast side, the big additions are advanced three-wheel and single-wheel colour-correction tools paired with four monitoring tools - vectorscope, histogram, RGB parade and waveform - which can be used on their own or together. The correction tools and monitors are intended to help keep footage within the narrow range of colours that broadcasters require.
Also on the new-features list are improved audio time stretching; support for Windows Media 9; additional transitions, effects and compositing modes; real-time record input monitoring with track effects; smart video resampling; and the ability to speed output by using pre-rendered sections of a project.
The list continues with audio bus tracks to automate volume, panning and effect parameters; and a video bus track to add/animate video-output effects and project-level fade to colour, motion blur, and video supersampling envelopes.
Until March 15, Sonic Foundry is offering extra-low-price upgrades on its web site to users of previous versions of Vegas. Owners of full versions can upgrade to Vegas 4 for US$149 (a $50 saving) or to Vegas+DVD for $299 (a $100 discount). For owners of LE versions, the prices are $299 (rather than $399) and $499 (rather than $599).

Sonic Foundry, www.sonicfoundry.com

Budget, real-time VideoStudio 7

Ulead offers real-time previewing and DVD creation for £50

Version 7 of Ulead's budget Windows editor VideoStudio (SRP £50 inc VAT) shares some key features with the newly introduced version of the company's prosumer editor, MediaStudio Pro 7 (news, March 2003, p6). It also comes with a plug-in for DVD-creation - in contrast to MPS 7, which comes with Ulead's separate DVD authoring program, DVD Movie Factory.
The V7 program is said to be able to preview in real-time without rendering - and output for monitoring full screen on a TV set being fed by a new-generation graphics card, such as a Matrox Parhelia or ATI 9700, or from the analogue output of an attached DV camcorder. Preview quality and frame rate depend on the power of the PC, and the programs support multi-tasking in dual-processor systems, plus Intel's Hyper-Threading technology in single-processor Pentium 4 PCs.
There's also support in both programs for Windows Media Video and for capturing and editing MPEG-2 footage, even from Sony MicroMV camcorders and DVD disc camcorders. Set-top recorders that support the -VR format and provide on-disc editing capabilities are also included in this list. A MultiCut tool allows multiple video segments to be removed, prior to the addition of a soundtrack, narration, titles or effects.
Edited projects can be output to DVD, VideoCD or tape, or in formats for use on the web. The included DVD plug-in is said to support DVD-R/-RW and DVD+R/+RW, and to be able to produce dual-layer menus and first-play video clips. Encoding time is said to be faster, thanks to improvements to Ulead's MPEG.Now Codec.
VideoStudio 7 has a step-by-step video-editing tutorial, a scene-selection tool that automatically splits captured video clips by scene-change, and features a new fast/slow motion tool. The lite V3 of the company's 3D animated titling and graphics program, Cool 3D, is also included. Owners of previous VideoStudio version can upgrade for £30 with a download from Ulead's site.

Ulead, 01327 844880; www.ulead.co.uk

Cool 3D text and graphics from Ulead

Professional 3D text and graphics for video and multimedia purposes

Ulead modestly describes Cool 3D Studio as a new breed of 3D animation software for video production.
What this means is that, unlike the company's well established program, Cool 3D - often bundled with other firms' hardware and software - the newcomer outputs projects in a range of video formats for video and multimedia work, although it still offers pre-sets for quickly creating 3D text and graphics.
The £80 program can output AVI, MOV, RealVideo and WMV video formats; and can create stills as Bitmap, JPEG, RealText 3D and TGA (with alpha channel and transparent backgrounds), as well as produce GIF animation sequences, image sequences (Bitmap, JPEG, TGA, RealText 3D) and 3D Macromedia Flash files. All file types can be used in the company's two video editing programs, MediaStudio Pro and VideoStudio.
Cool 3D Studio's interface is customisable and has a key-frame timeline with an attribute tool bar for more precise control. The EasyPalette offers a collection of ready-made, customisable objects (including shapes), styles, attributes and effects, plus tools for creating complex compositions such as titles, straps, 3D animation, or transparent video overlays.
File import options include 3DS (Discreet 3D Studio Max) and X Model 3D formats, plus video and stills, including AVI, MOV, WMV, Bitmap and JPEG. 2D images can be changed into 3D using the Path Editor, and Symmetrical objects can be made based on path lines in the Lathe Object Editor.
Image and video backgrounds can be added as well as textures, 3D outlines and particle effects - snow, fire, smoke, or bubbles. Another set of plug-in effects is bundled for transforming smooth 3D objects into artistic renderings, and includes Cartoon Shader, Stylised Outline, Psychedelic and Natural Paint. There's also background audio support for MP3, WAV and AIFF files.
Recommended requirements include Win98/SE/NT4/ME/2000/XP; an 800MHz PIII processor; 256MByte RAM; a 3D accelerated display adapter with 32MByte RAM; DirectX 8.1 (or later); and drivers for Windows Media Player 9, QuickTime 5 and RealOne Player 2.
Registered users of Cool 3D can buy a boxed upgrade to Studio for £50, or download an upgrade for £45.

Ulead; 01327 844880; www.ulead.co.uk

Pinnacle Edition roadshow

Second tour for Edition runs from March to June

Pinnacle is running a second hands-on roadshow for its powerful but affordable Windows DV editing package, Edition (review, July 2002, p32).
Morning visitors get a free hands-on introductory session and special pricing deals. Afternoons are given over to two-hour training workshops for Edition owners costing £35 a seat. The workshops are said to cover the key areas of the program, including the logging tool and capture; media management; three-point editing; containers and their uses; timeline syncing and trimming; audio editing and voice-over; and exporting for DVD and the web.
Sessions will be held at resellers' premises in Bristol on 8 April and 3 June; Dublin on 8 May; Glasgow on 5 June; Leeds on 15 April; Maidstone on 18 March/22 May; Manchester on 25 March/13 May; Nottingham on 4 March/1 April; Norwich on 24 April; Plymouth on 29 May; St Albans on 10 April; Stratford-Upon-Avon on 20 March/29 April/20 May; and Southampton on 1 May. For more details and to register go to: www.editionexperience.com or call 01895 424228.

Pinnacle, 01895 424210; www.pinnaclesys.com

Sorenson squeezes out better picture quality

Latest Squeeze 3 range of Sorenson professional tools

Sorenson's media re-purposing tool, Squeeze 3, comes in Mac and Windows versions in three variants - Squeeze 3 Compression Suite (£300 inc VAT), Squeeze 3 for MPEG-4 (£150), and Squeeze 3 for Flash MX (£80).
Squeeze offers one-pass variable bit-rate (VBR) compression (for speed) and two-pass VBR for best quality. Two-pass mode is slower because the incoming video stream is analysed before it is transcoded on the second pass.
Squeeze 3 for MPEG-4 uses Sorenson's MPEG-4 Pro Codec for multimedia and mobile phone and embedded device screen delivery purposes, where smaller bandwidth is vital. It supports MPEG-4 Visual Simple Profile and Advanced Visual Simple Profile video, plus AAC audio. Squeeze 3 for Flash MX makes use of Sorenson's Spark Pro Codec for outputting to Macromedia Flash, FLV and SWF high-quality video files for the Web or CD. A 30-day Flash MX trial version can be downloaded from: www.sorenson.com/content.php?pageID=112.
The Compression Suite includes all the functionality of its cheaper one-shot siblings, and makes use of the professional version of Sorenson's Video 3 Codec found in QuickTime Pro. Video 3 Pro is supported by Adobe Premiere, Apple Final Cut Pro and iMovie, and includes watermarking, encryption, chroma keying and multi-processor support. On the Windows version, imported AVI, MOV, MP3 or DV files can be output as QuickTime, Real Media, Windows Media, Flash Player 6, or MPEG-4, but in the Mac version, stupidly, they can only be output as QuickTime, MPEG-4 and Flash Player 6.
All versions have an easy-to-use, drag-and-drop interface, and feature DV capture-compression; compression presets; watch folders for batch processing of multiple files; video and audio filters; and adjustable cropping.
Supported operating systems are MacOS 9/OS X and Win 98SE/ME/2000/XP. Minimum requirements are set at a G3 PowerMac/PIII Windows PC with 128MByte RAM and running QuickTime 5.0.2 (or later). Windows systems also need DirectX 8.1 to be installed.

Sorenson; www.sorenson.com
Computers Unlimited (UK distributor), 020 8358 5858; www.unlimited.com

Pinnacle CD/DVD duplication

Budget CD and DVD copying software InstantCopy

Following its acquisition of VOB Computersysteme in October 2002, Pinnacle is launching a range of disc creation software over 2003.
First out is budget InstantCopy (SRP £30 inc VAT) for duplicating or backing up CDs and DVDs that don't have copy-protection. The program is said to provide one-to-one copying of a DVD - including all menus, features, languages, audio tracks and bonus material - and is reckoned to be able to fit a 9GByte DVD film on a 4.7GByte recordable DVD disc. It is said to support DVD-R/-RW, DVD+R/+RW and DVD-RAM formats.
The second release, about which few details are available, will be Instant CD/DVD - a suite of programs for creating, burning and copying any type of CD/DVD media.

Pinnacle, 01895 424210; www.pinnaclesys.com

Partition Magic updated to V8

Easy-use interface and extra functionality in PowerQuest's latest partition manipulation tool

Partition Magic 8 - the latest version of PowerQuest's DOS/Windows partitioning and boot-management program - has an interface redesigned to resemble Windows XP's Explorer, complete with an easy-to-use Task manager pane at the left, and pop-up partition browser window.
The browser gives access to all the file systems that the program recognises, including not just FAT, FAT32 and NTFS, but also Linux Ext2 and Ext3. Files and folders can be deleted, copied and moved even on hidden partitions.
Version 8 (SRP £50, inc VAT) supports a wider range of drives than V7 (review, April 2002, p58), in capacity (up to 160GByte, rather than 80GByte) and connectivity. As well as IDE and SCSI, drives connected via USB 1.1, USB 2.0 and FireWire are all compatible - but changes requiring a reboot can only be applied to IDE and SCSI drives.
New wizards and a Flash tour simplify the process of creating backup partitions, or installing another operating system. PQBoot for Windows lets the user choose from within Windows which OS to rebooted the PC in. V8 includes PowerQuest's BootMagic for switching smoothly between the different operating systems.
The program is said to be able to speed up file access on NTFS partitions by splitting up clusters on NTFS partitions into smaller ones, though resizing clusters on partitions over 120GByte requires the PC to have at least 256MByte RAM. It's also reckoned to be able allow an NFTS partition (even a system partition) to be expanded without rebooting.
File protection has been improved by the inclusion of a separate PowerQuest program, DataKeeper, that can automatically back up data files to a separate partition, or to a removable media device, including hard drives.
Registered users of previous versions of Partition Magic can download an upgrade but the price is a rather stiff £40, and the updater's file size is 54MByte.
The program runs under Win 95/98/ME/NT4/2000/XP and requires a minimum of 128MByte RAM.

PowerQuest UK, 020 7341 5517; www.powerquest.com

Formac Mac/Windows DVD solution

Formac FireWire DVD package bundles Mac/Win DVD authoring software with latest Pioneer DVD-R/-RW drive

The latest addition to Formac's Devideon Superdrive range is a FireWire DVD burner (SRP £434, inc VAT) bundled with DVD authoring software for Mac and Windows, and centred on Pioneer's newest high-speed DVD-R/-RW model, the A05 (review, March 2003, p38).
The Mac software - Devideon x.2 - is said to have been specially written for the company's range of burners. It runs on MacOS 9.2/OS 10.1.3 (or later) and consists of two programs - Devideon V2 encoding software for DVD authoring and encoding, and Devideon Burn, for burning. For Windows users, the company bundles Pinnacle's budget authoring program Express DVD, and Ahead's CD/DVD writer software Nero CD.
Divideon x.2 has a drag-and-drop interface and allows custom menu designs - but doesn't support motion menus. Text and background images can be added to menus, and chapter buttons can be repositioned on backgrounds, resized and have their thumbnails changed.
The program is said to speed up the creation of MPEG-2 footage - using parallel encoding of several movie chapters simultaneously. An OS X screensaver is also activated when the Mac is encoding, turning off redundant processes so that all processing power is concentrated solely on the task of encoding. There are presets for VCD, SVCD and DVD burning and a choice of picture quality settings and variable or fixed bit-rate encoding.
Users of previous-generation Devideon DVD burners based on slower-burning Pioneer models (A03 and A04) can download Devideon x.2 free as a 1.5MByte file from: www.formac.com/p_bin/?cid=help_support_devideon_su

Formac, 020 8533 4040; www.formac.co.uk

For more news, see the April 2003 issue of Computer Video.

Recent features...
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Reviewed in April's issue:

Canopus DVStorm 2
Panasonic NV-MX500B

In April's news:

Sony DVD disc camcorders
Sonic Foundry's Vegas 4
Dazzle DVD/analogue package
VideoStudio 7
Formac Devideon
Partition Magic 8
Pinnacle CD/DVD copying
Pinnacle Edition roadshow
Sorenson Squeeze 3 Codec
Ulead Cool 3D Studio

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