December computer video news

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Pioneer burns its fingers
DVD burners can self-destruct using high-speed media. Barry Fox reports

Pioneer has had to issue a trade and consumer warning after discovering that almost all of its DVD-R/DVD-RW recorders and computer drives will self-destruct if used with new high-speed blank discs due in the shops in early October. The laser can burn itself out in just five minutes.
Well over a million people round the world are using set-top Pioneer DVD recorders, and PCs and Macs with Pioneer's burners inside them. The company is urging users to upgrade their recordersí firmware to prevent self-destruction.
Pioneer sells home recorders and computer drives under its own name, and also supplies them for re-branding to Sony, Sharp, Compaq, Apple and others. But, as most computer firms do not say who makes their component parts, many owners will not know they are at risk until it is too late.
The first DVD-RW recorders recorded erasable DVD-RW and write-once DVD-R discs in real-time, at 1x (taking an hour to copy an hour of video or equivalent data to a blank disc). Recently, the DVD Forum approved a standard for 2x erasable DVD-RW blanks and 4x write-once DVD-Rs. The new discs are now ready to sell, but Pioneer has found a bug in its drive control software. Once the discs are in the shops some people are sure to use them, either by accident or out of curiosity.
Pioneer's soothing official line is that "a number of drives and recorders will require a firmware update... to avoid potential damage when attempting to record to blank new high-speed media." Pioneer UK is singing from two hymn sheets - one warning of the problem, the other dismissing it.
Owners of DVD-RW decks and drives would be well advised to play safe and heed the warning, rather than accept bland reassurances - but also need to realise that the upgrade might not work, and may render the machine unusable.
The laser in all types of disc recorder tests a blank before recording, to set the correct burn power. Pioneer's DVD-RW recorders only recognise 1x blanks, not the new 2x and 4x discs. The laser diode keeps on trying to check the disc, overheats and burns out in around five minutes.
Says Andy Parsons, Pioneer Electronics Senior VP, Business Solutions, in the USA, "We didnít want to whitewash this. It is a serious problem and affects the whole installed base of more than a million drives. It is strictly a hardware problem, in the firmware, and not the fault of the blank media. There's no danger of personal injury or fire."
The firmware upgrade fix is a 1MByte file. Computer users can download it, but consumer players will need an upgrade disc or service call. In the week following the announcement, Pioneer's website was still building links to give more information on affected PCs and other makers' products ( The web site already carries
a commercially damaging assurance from Pioneer that the rival formats DVD-RAM and DVD+RW are not affected.
Trade estimates are that Pioneer, Sharp and Sony have sold around 0.7m drives. Apple will not disclose current numbers but in April boasted that 0.5m Macs with Pioneer burners - SuperDrives, it calls them - had been sold.
The day after Pioneer's announcement an Apple spokesman was still unaware of the problem with high-speed blanks and voiced what many consumers are surely thinking. "You'd have thought someone would have thought of that." Apple then failed to come back with further comment on which Macs are affected by Pioneer's problem. Further developments can be followed in the 'DVD, VCD and MPEG' forum at

WD 200GByte EIDE drives from £300
GBytes per cubic inch on the up and up

Western Digital has released prices for its giant-capacity 7,200rpm EIDE hard disk drives (news, August 2002, p9).
The WD2000JB 200GByte model with an 8MByte cache is expected to be £326 (inc VAT) and the version with 2MByte cache (WD2000BB) £300.
Models of 180GByte will be £275 with the 8MByte cache (WD1800JB) and £257 with 2MByte (WD1800BB); while 120GByte drives will be £150/£133 (WD1200JB/ WD1200BB; and 100GByte £137/£120 (WD1000JB/WD1000BB). The 80GByte offerings are pitched at £92/£83 (WD800JB/WD800BB).
Western Digital, 01372 360387;

Panasonic turns nasty
Widget makers are threatened with legal action

Cease-and-desist letters threatening damages claims and court injunctions have been received by makers and sellers of DV-in enablers across the EU.
The letters, which arrived without prior warning or discussions, demand the end to the selling and promotion of all hardware, software and services for re-enabling the DV inputs of Panasonic camcorders, and were sent from the Belgian offices of Matsushita, the parent company of Panasonic and JVC.
In the UK and other EU countries, DV-in enablers are a necessary part of many video editors' toolkits because, unlike anywhere else in the world, some DV camcorders sold in the EU donít have working DV inputs (still the majority, we think). But many buyers only realise this when they try (and fail) to record footage back out from their computers to their DV camcorders via FireWire.
Panasonic's strong-arm campaign is the second recent blow to DV-in enabling firms. Earlier this year, these folk heroes of the video editing world discovered that their enablers didnít work with any of the nEUTered camcorders introduced this season by the big four brands - Sony, Panasonic, Canon and JVC. Soon after, they realised that there was no way of enabling these new models without modifying them in ways that would invalidate their guarantees and cost more than any user would be willing to pay.
The reason for the nasty letters and the apparently mean-minded change to this season's models seems to be that camcorder makers are scared that EU customs will hit THEM with major financial penalties if they donít make it impossible for disabled inputs on their camcorders to be turned back on, and are not seen to be doing something about stopping the inputs on earlier models from being re-enabled.
Panasonic UK - the only one of the big four to respond to our queries - says that in July 2001 the EU published an explanatory note on the classification (for import duty) of camcorders that could have their video inputs enabled in software. This, Panasonic says, has led Customs in different EU countries to consider changing or to actually change the duty payable on such models by reclassifying them as video recorders.
Although Panasonic denies that it has been threatened, this does suggest that camcorder makers fear that certain countries' Customs may try to make them pay back-dated import duty on EVERY camcorder ever brought into those countries that could have its input re-enabled - the amount per camcorder being the difference between the 4.9% duty on the landed valued of the camcorder, and the 14 per cent duty that would be payable if it had a working input.
Whatever the case, our view is that Panasonic is wrong to have sent out threatening letters, and that camcorder makers are wrong to cow-tow to Customs and the EU. These companies should instead be joining forces with their trade and public customers to get rescinded the stupid EU regulations that levy a higher duty on camcorders with working video inputs.
This situation exists nowhere else in the world and puts a wide range of EU citizens and businesses at an unfair disadvantage.
For the full text of Panasonic's original letter and its response to our queries, and for more information about why most camcorders in the EU do not have working inputs, see:
To join Computer Video's campaign against neutered camcorders, go to:

Multicam support for Canopus Storm and RexRT Pro
Multi-camera shoots options extended

United Media's Adobe Premiere plug-in for editing footage from multiple cameras is now available in versions for Canopus's DVStorm SE and DVRexRT Pro systems. The four-camera version (MC4-C Multicam) has an SRP of £449 (inc VAT), and the two-camera version (MC2-C Multicam) is £229 (inc VAT).
Other versions of Multicam cover Matrox products, including the RT2500 (review November 2002, p78), RT2000, DigiSuite LX, LE and DTV; and Pinnacle's Pro-ONE and DV500 Plus.
365 Digital (UK distributor), 0870 1646 365;
United Media, 01 714 777 4510;
Canopus UK, 020 7793 1188;

Dazzle RT on a laptop

Budget video hardware maker adds mid-market real-time package

Dazzle-brand budget video hardware maker SMC is moving upmarket with the launch of a Windows real-time analogue/digital editing bundle claimed to run on a laptop PC because it works more efficiently than all direct competitors.
At the heart of the Dazzle Real-Time Video Producer - likely street price under £500, inc VAT - is an external breakout box. This is bundled with Adobeís Premiere 6.5 video editor (full version), Boris FX LTD, and Dazzle's own DVD authoring program, DVD Complete Deluxe (news, November 2002, p14). The breakout box has inputs and outputs for FireWire, S-video and composite video and L/R audio.
Two things set Video Producer apart from competitors such as Pinnacle's DV500 DVD and Pro-ONE, and the Matrox RT.X10. The first is that the breakout box connects to a PC only by a single FireWire cable. The PC must have an OHCI-standard FireWire port, but this arrangement allows the package to work on laptop PCs - though a 1.7GHz or faster processor is required.
Second, Video Producer is said to edit video in YUC - which is how the video comes into the PC - rather than RGB. Not having to convert to RGB for editing and carrying out transitions and effects, and then not having to convert back to YUV for outputting is said to greatly reduce the processing work that has be done, and to eliminate the need for any extra hardware. Sticking with YUV is also claimed to cut out the risk of colour shifts and image degradation inherent in the conversion processes.
The product is said to be able to handle three video streams in real-time - outputting to the PC's screen and to analogue - and to fully support Premiere 6.5's titler in real-time, too.
Although the company claims that what it's doing is revolutionary, it also says it can't understand why others have all along insisted on converting video to RGB.
Most graphics cards, it says, can receive input in RGB or YUV - and can do the on-screen translation from either, so there is no extra work involved in displaying YUV on a PC screen.
What the company says it had to do, though, was ensure that YUV can run with Direct Draw, as RGB already did, and this, it reckons, did involve close liaison with Microsoft. It addition, SMC had to replace Adobe Premiere's own pipeline, like other hardware makers do, but says it did so in a way that still didn't involve converting to RGB as they do.
SCM Microsystems, 0118 932 1613;

Low-cost PAL/NTSC converter
East-European offerings fill the gap

The name aDVanced might not have the resonance of Avid, Canopus, Matrox or Pinnacle but this Hungarian company offers an innovative and surprisingly affordable fully-featured DV PAL/NTSC converter, which sells for a mere US$98, and goes under the rather pragmatic name of the PAL/NTSC Converter.
The PAL<>NTSC converter is said to be able to transcode, with motion interpolation, a wide range of file types using Apple or Avid DV Codecs or any DirectX or Video for Windows Codec.
It can import AVI Type 1 and 2 (with or without OpenDML extension); Reference AVI Type 1 and 2; Raw DV (.DV/.DIF/.DVSD); Sony ES-3 DV files (.DV); QuickTime and QuickTime Reference Movie (each with or without audio). The list of export file-type options is much the same except for not including QuickTime Reference Movie.
The program has no file-size limitations (on NTFS-formatted drives), works in batch or scripting modes, and is said to correctly handle interlaced and progressive scan with optional de-interlacing. PAL-to-NTSC options cover Scale Down and Crop. NTSC-to-PAL options take in Scale Up, Letter Box, Pan-And-Scan, and Letter-Box-Plus-Pan-And-Scan.
This offering joins a pair of longer-established programs, the aDVanced DV File Converter (US$33), and aDVanced DV File Converter Pro (US$69). These enable cross-conversion between a wide selection of DV file formats (without standards conversion) - with Pro adding options for scripting and two-way conversion between DV/DVCAM and DVCPRO25.
Trial versions (each well under 2MByte in size) can be downloaded from:

DV edit-ready Samsung laptops
Windows mobile editing in flavours for all

Each of Samsung's latest laptop Windows PCs - £1,468 to £2,349 (inc VAT) - is edit-ready, with a single four-pin FireWire port and preloaded with lite versions of Roxio's (formerly MGI's) rather naff VideoWave 4 video editing program and PhotoSuite 3 imaging software. Models with CD burners also have Ahead's Nero 5.5.
Range leaders are the T10 VXC2000 with 2GHz P4-M processor and 40GByte hard disk (£2,349), and T10 VXC1800 with 1.8GHz/30GByte (£2,114). Each has a 15in TFT LCD screen (1400 x 1050 pixels), weighs 3.3kg and has a combined DVD player/CD-RW writer, 256MByte of PC2100 266MHz DDR RAM (upgradable to 1GByte), and ATI Mobility Radeon 7500 graphics (with 32MByte DDR RAM on the 2000 and 16MByte on the 1800).
Among other shared features are two USB 1.1 ports; mic and headphone sockets; stereo line input; SPDIF (5.1 digital surround sound) audio output; 10/100 Ethernet; composite video (TV out); VGA; 56K modem; floppy disk drive; parallel port and PS/2 keyboard and mouse ports; and the ability to run one Type III PC Card or two Type II cards. The lithium ion battery life is said to last up to three-and-a-half-hours.
The P10 series, with 14in 1024 x 768 screens, takes in eight models that are 29.5mm deep - rather than the 41mm of the T10s - weigh 2.3kg, and have claimed battery life of up to three hours. All have P4-M processors, 256MByte DDR RAM and the same graphics processor and graphics RAM as the VXC2000. Prices range from £1,761 for the 1.9GHz P4 P10C XTC1900 with DVD/CD-RW combi drive and 30GByte HDD, to £1,468 for the 1.6GHz P4 P10 XTD1600 with DVD-ROM drive and 20GByte HDD.
Connectivity is much like the T10 models, but there's an S-video output instead of composite video, a headphone socket that's software-switchable to SPDIFF digital audio out, and only one PC Card slot - Type II.
Completing the range are three equally slim 1.35kg models with 1024 x 768 resolution 12in TFT screens and PIII processors - the Q10 TXC933 (30GByte HDD/384MByte RAM/£1,996), Q10 TLC866 (20GByte/256MByte/£1,761) and Q10 TEC800 (£20GByte/128MByte 1,526). Other features include two USB 1.1 ports, 10/100 networking, 56k modem, single PC Card Type II, VGA, mic and headphone sockets.
Samsung UK;

£70 software-only editing bundle
Full tape-to-disc software selection from Nova Development

Underlining the ever-increasing importance of video software over hardware, Video Explosion Deluxe is something we've never seen before - a collection of different companies' video editing programs sold as a package without hardware.
The £70 Windows package, put together by Nova Development, centres on a tweaked, lite version of Sonic Foundry's Vegas Video editor (review of full £375 version, August 2002, p76), and Sonic Solutions' wizard-based DVD authoring package, MyDVD. Also in-pack are various video clips from
The editor is timeline-based with two video tracks (main and overlay) and three audio tracks (voice, music, FXs). Clips, still images, transitions, video effects and text can be dragged-and-dropped from the corresponding tabbed bins in the bottom half of the screen and previewed in the preview monitor and audio levels adjusted using the on-screen mixer.
Capture options includes batch capture via FireWire and automatic scene detection. Finished projects can be exported to DV tape, emailed, burnt to VCD or saved to disc in a wide range of formats - AVI, MPEG-1, MPEG-2, MOV, WAV, MP3, Real Audio and Video, WMA, WMV, JPEG and PNG, plus Sonic Foundry's PCA and Wave64 audio.
VCDs are burnt from within the editing software but there's no support for direct burning to SVCD or DVD. However, MPEG-2 files created using the integrated MainConcept encoder plug-in can be imported into MyDVD.
Nova Development UK, 01752 202507;


Canopus ProCoder V1.2 with streaming enhancements and HD support

Version 1.2 of Canopus's media re-purposing Windows software ProCoder (review, Sept/Oct 2002, p56) is now available and said to include MPEG support for the professional High Definition (HD) format through MPEG-2 Main Profile at High Level (MP@HL) encoding. There's also said to be multiple-streaming support for RealVideo 9 through enhancements in the web streaming encoding tools, plus MPEG-1 encoding outside of the standard 640 x 480 MPEG-1 resolution for better Web and VCD quality video. DV import of raw DV files has also been improved.
The software costs £617 (inc VAT), but registered ProCoder users can upgrade to V1.2 with a free 21MByte download from the Canopus web site:

Canopus UK, 020 7793 1188;

Mac OS support for TerraTec 4G sound cards

Downloadable OS X and OS 9 drivers are available on TerraTec's web site for its range of 4G (4th Generation) true 24-bit/96 kHz sound cards - the EWX 24/96, DMX 6fire 24/96, DMX 6fire LT, EWS88 D, EWS88 MT and EWS MIC2/8.
The cards were, until recently, compatible only with Win 98SE/ME/2K/XP. All provide support for Steinberg Asio 2.0, Microsoft MME and Nemesys GigaSampler GSIF filter technology.

Read more news in December 2002's Computer Video magazine.


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

Canon DM-XM2
Matrox RT.X10
Philips DVDR890

In December's news:

Pioneer burns its fingers
WD 200GByte EIDE drives from £300
Panasonic turns nasty
Multicam support for Canopus Storm and RexRT Pro
Dazzle RT on a laptop
Low-cost PAL/NTSC converter
DV edit-ready Samsung laptops
£70 software-only editing bundle
Canopus ProCoder V1.2 with streaming enhancements and HD support
Mac OS support for TerraTec 4G sound cards

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