January 2003 Computer Video news

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Sony doubles DVD options
Four-way burners write to DVD-R, DVD-RW, DVD+R and DVD+RW

It might be seen by some as the ultimate fence-sitting act, but most CV readers will welcome Sony's introduction of two multi-format DVD burners for PCs, each able to write to DVD-R/RW and DVD+R/RW, as well as to CD-R and CD-RW.

Least expensive of the pair is an internal IDE/ATAPI drive, the DRU-500A (SRP, £249 inc VAT). Its stablemate, the DRX-500UL (£379), uses the same drive, but housed in an external casing that connects via FireWire or by USB 2.0.Each can write to DVD-R media at 4x standard speed - twice as fast as previous-generation models.

For other disc types, write speeds are: DVD+R/DVD+RW (2.4x); DVD-RW (2x); CD-R (24x); and CD-RW (10x). Read speeds are 8x for DVD-ROM and 32x for CD-ROM.

Bundled programs include Sonic Solutions MyDVD and Arcsoft ShowBiz 1.2 for making VCDs and DVDs. Also in-pack is a selection of DVD and CD software from Veritas.

RecordNow DX, Drive Letter Access (DLA) and SimpleBackup - for mastering, drag-and-drop data storage, backup and disaster recovery. The bundle is rounded off with CyberLink PowerDVD for DVD playback, and MusicMatch Jukebox for playing, recording and managing music.

Mitsubishi media problem

Mitsubishi Chemicals has issued a warning to all DRU-500A users that they may experience write errors when using certain types of its 2x DVD-R media. The company states on its Japanese web site (http://www.mcmedia.co.jp/news/0018.html) that it will replace the following DVD-R media products, bought mainly around September this year:

- Type DRR 47U5 (five-sheet pack for PC data) and product numbers VG2604K, VG2607K, VG2617K, VG2618K, and VG2710K
- Type DRR47V5 (five-sheet pack for videotape recording) and VG2607K, VG2619K, VG2620K, VG2709K, and VG2710K
- Type DRR47VPM5 (five colours pack for videotape recording) and VG2422K, VG2508K, VG2515K, VG2518K, VG2521K, VG2522K, VG2526K, VG2527K, VG2528K, VG2529K, and VG2601K
- Type DRR47V1 (for videotape recording) and VG2501K, VG2506K, VG2510K, VG2512K, and VG2607K
Sony, 01932 816000; www.storagebysony.com

Stills on steroids
Canopus Imaginate makes light work of still image manipulation for video

A wide range of video editors are likely to welcome the launch by Canopus of Imaginate, an easy-to-use and powerful - if somewhat overpriced (£175, inc VAT) - Windows program for manipulating still images and turning them into video footage.

Creative use of stills can greatly enhance a video project, but the image-manipulation tools in most video editing programs are limited or difficult to use (one honourable exception being those in Sonic Foundry's Vegas Video 3), and the alternative - a rostrum-mounted camera - is expensive and cumbersome. Imaginate's interface is timeline-based - with keyframes - and includes tools for pan, zoom, rotate, skew and tilt, plus a virtual camera for interactively creating motion paths and varying angles. These make it easy to zoom around a still and move the still across (and into and out of) the screen to create eye-catching 3D effects, with all actions immediately ready for preview on screen, though not on an external monitor.

The program can work with a wide range of image types - BMP, IFF, JPEG, JNG, MNG, PNG, PSD, TGA and TIF (though not LZW-compressed TIF) - and can speedily output video as AVI or DV files for immediate use in video editing programs. Projects can also be output as Canopus DV files if using ProCoder (review, Sept/Oct 2002, p56), DVBooster or other Canopus hardware.

Video files created by Imaginate can, of course, be imported into Adobe Premiere, but a plug-in provided with the Canopus software also allows Imaginate project files to be brought into Premiere with alpha channel support for effects layering. An Imaginate project in Premiere's project bin or timeline can be previewed in real-time without rendering and, if double-clicked, can be opened for editing within Imaginate itself.

Minimum requirements for the program are modest - Windows ME, 2000, XP; an MMX-supported processor; and 64MByte RAM - considerably less than the requirements for any modern video editing program.

Canopus UK, 020 7793 1188; www.canopus-uk.com

Apple goes native
New Macs to boot in OS X only from January 2003

Apple has announced that all new Mac computers sold from January 2003 will be set up so that they only boot into Mac OS X - losing the option to instead boot into OS 9.

But, the company claims that Macs will still be able to run most OS 9 applications - in OS 9 running on top of OS X - in what's known as Classic mode. This, however, requires extra RAM to run smoothly, and means that Macs are going to have to work harder than when running programs under a real OS 9 session.

This is a high-risk move, since it remains to be seen just how well some OS 9 programs will work this way. It's also a strategy that is likely to be circumvented by many commercial users - either because they are still waiting for OS X-compatible versions of critical programs (Quark Xpress is a prime example) or - even more likely - are unwilling to pay out to upgrade to OS X versions of existing, fully working, OS 9 programs - or increase their support burden by having to cater for two versions of each program.

On the plus side, though, Apple says that there are now nearly 4,000 OS X-compatible applications - including video editing software such as Adobe Premiere 6.5. The company also claims that the latest version of OS X, OS 10.2, has an updated Classic mode that launches twice as fast as before, awakens from sleep much faster when AppleTalk is turned on; and can share the same desktop and document folders and Internet preferences as OS X, plus access all OS X file systems.

Apple UK, 0800 783 4846; www.euro.apple.com/uk


Pinnacle Studio 8 bundle for the laptop
Capture and edit on the move

Studio DV Mobile, the latest addition to Pinnacle's Studio family of video editing products, is a hardware/software bundle aimed at users of laptop PCs running Windows 98SE/ME/2000/XP, and retails from about £105 (inc VAT). It pairs Pinnacle's cheap (sub-£60), but highly powerful, video editing and DVD-creation program, Studio 8 (review, November 2002, p46) with an OHCI-standard CardBus FireWire card for capturing DV footage and sending finished projects back out to tape.

The card carries two six-pin ports, but these can't be used to power other FireWire devices, such as external hard drives. However, tests we've carried out using a 750 MHz Dell Latitude CPx laptop show that the card is able to use a mains-powered or USB-powered external FireWire drive for editing, and works well whether a DV camcorder is daisy-chained to the drive or connected to its own FireWire port.

Also included are a six-pin-to-four-pin FireWire cable, Sonic Desktop's SmartSound QuickTracks 2.2 software for creating music tracks, and two further Pinnacle programs - Hollywood FX 3D for transitions, and the TitleDeko titler.

Studio, which still seems to be the only third-party program able to work with Sony MicroMV MPEG camcorders, can produce video discs to the three mains standards - DVD, SVCD and VCD - and its powerful authoring features include automatic scene-index menus, slide-show creation and options for motion menus. Studio is also able to create video content for web sites, offering export options as RealVideo 8 or Windows Streaming Media.

Pinnacle, 01895 424228; www.pinnaclesys.com


Freebie Win XP editor revamp
Microsoft set to replace Movie Maker with far more powerful version

Movie Maker, the half-baked video editing program that comes free with Windows XP, is being replaced by a MkII version that is hugely more powerful, and available now in beta form as a moderately sized - 8.1MByte - download.
Movie Maker 2 Beta isnít in the same class as iMovie 2 - the free editing program supplied with all current Apple Macs. And nor can it compete with paid-for programs such as Pinnacle Studio 8, though that's probably no bad thing, given that iMovie seems to have killed off development of all budget-priced Mac editing programs.

But, the MkII does look to be more than useable (something its forerunner could never even aspire to) and to have many features that were conspicuous by their absence from the lack-lustre original. Most notably, it's able to export finished projects back to DV tape, rather than just save them to disc, and has a timeline editing interface, not just a storyboard (though a storyboard view is an option). There are five tracks - one for video, one for transitions, two for audio, and one for titles.

The program is ultra-simple to use and offers some decent tools to enhance video - though next to nothing for audio apart from volume controls and a narration option. There are over 50 video transitions, together with 29 special effects video filters - the most striking of which are three types of old-film effect. A titler is built in, too, and this offers 44 templates, each customisable to a limited degree, but many still capable of producing attractive results.

Video can be output to CD - or saved to disc in a variety of formats, including Windows Media 9 for web use. Export wizards simplify the business of creating footage for different tasks, including video for emailing.
Movie Maker has lots of rough edges. Rendering of changes, for instance, seems to take an age and be carried out with no intelligence. There are also too few options under many tasks to allow users to take proper control of editing projects, but thereís enough of a feature-set to make getting hold of the program worthwhile for any editor using Windows XP.

Microsoft, www.microsoft.com/windowsxp/moviemaker


Pinnacle budget DVD authoring
Pinnacle Expression offers quick and easy DVD creation for £30

Pinnacle has revamped its budget Windows DVD authoring program, Express, and relaunched it under a new name, Expression, and at a lower price - just £30 (inc VAT). Also included is a selection of royalty-free music and TitleDeko fonts.

The easy-to-use program can burn digital video and still images onto disc as VCD, SVCD or DVD, and - unlike itís forerunner (review, December 2001, p36) ñ can bring in MPEG footage, not just Type-2 DV AVIs. Worryingly, though, this key feature didn't work on two test installations of the program we created on different PCs - using V2.0.47 of the program, and MPEG files known to be DVD-compatible. This, Pinnacle told us, is a bug that should be addressed by the time this issue of CV is published.

It was due to the fact that our two test PCs had Pinnacle's own Studio 8 software installed already. We checked, and found this problem does not arise if Expression is installed before Studio.

Expression offers a selection of ready-to-use menu templates which can be customised with a choice of layouts, fonts and button styles, and comes with options to bring in stills or video for the background, and MP3 or WAV files for audio. Files can be imported normally or dragged-and-dropped into the program from Windows Explorer. Thumbnail images for clips can be changed, too. Useful new editing tools include Re-Detect Scenes, Split Scenes at Set Intervals, and Split Scenes at Edit Points.

For slideshows, still images can be zoomed, cropped (including into letterbox style) and re-ordered - with fades and wipes automatically applied - plus music clips can be automatically made to fit and fade out.

At the burning stage, a disc graphic shows the amount of space used, and the program can automatically vary bit-rate (up to 7MBit/sec) for fitting the project at best quality on a disc. Bit-rate is manually customisable for those with more experience.

Before content is burnt to disc, a feature for designing disc labels offers a selection of twelve, fully customisable, templates to choose from - allowing users to get better consistency in the design of finished products. A label applicator is included in-pack, together with blank CD and DVD labels, blank case labels (for CD and DVD), a blank DVD case and two CD-R discs.

Expression supports CD-R/RW, DVD-R/RW and DVD+R/RW, and requires Windows 98SE/ME/2000/XP, a 500MHz processor and 128MByte RAM.

Pinnacle, 01895 424228; www.pinnaclesys.com


High-speed Pioneer DVD
New-generation writer doubles burn speed for DVD-R and DVD-RW

Pioneer is set to launch a new IDE DVD writer able to burn DVD-R discs at 4x standard speed and DVD-RWs at 2x.

The DVR-A05, likely street price £249 (inc VAT), uses media conforming to the high-speed spec recently approved by the DVD Forum - the same media which confuses most earlier-generation Pioneer writers - unless they've had firmware upgrades - and can quickly cause their lasers to burn out (news, December 2002, p10).

The new Pioneer can still use older, slower discs - 2x DVD-R and 1x DVD-RW - but using new media means that disc-writing time is halved compared with Pioneer's previous IDE burner, the A04. DVD read speed has also been increased from 2x to 6x for DVD-R/RW discs; from 2x to 8x for dual-layer DVD-ROMs; and from 6x to 12x for single-layer DVD-ROMs. CD write speeds have also been doubled.

Another important change is that DVD-RW discs can be used instantly for drag-and-drop data copying without any obvious delay for formatting, and can be prepared for other types of writing in around two minutes. That's far quicker than the 40-90 minutes taken by earlier burners - something which was always held up as a major negative by competitors in the DVD+RW camp.

Also making burning more convenient, DVD-R/RW discs containing less than 1GByte of data can be finalised more speedily than before, because thereís now no need to write any extra lead-out information. And, better use can now be made of both types of media, because both can be reopened after having been finalised and written to again.

The included software bundle takes in Sonicís MyDVD Video Suite 4 - for video editing (ArcSoft's ShowBiz), DVD authoring and disc playback - along with VOB's Instant CD/DVD V6.5, which provides drag-and-drop capabilities, quick-formatting of discs and another player program, DVDPlayer.

Pioneer, 01753 789789; www.pioneer.co.uk


Planet Birkenshaw
Video editing quick-start workshops

Video editing system builder Planet PC is opening a training facility at its offices in a former village school in Birkenshaw, W Yorks.

The Planet PC Training Institute offers a range of hands-on video editing courses. These are said to meet the needs of beginners and those who want to enhance existing skills, and are in a choice of formats - one-to-one, or in small groups.

Software/hardware tutorials include those for Adobe Premiere, Pinnacle Edition and Pro-One, Matrox RTX100, Canopus DVStorm, Ulead DVD Workshop and Avid Xpress DV. Group courses start at £147 (inc VAT) for three-hour sessions on Premiere or DVD Workshop; rise to £230 for a variety of seven-hour courses; and top out at £589 for two daysí hands on with Xpress DV.

The training manager is Ian Deakin, a bearded figure familiar as a Canopus demonstrator at exhibitions and whose own production company is said to have filmed and produced TV programmes, commercials, weddings and corporate material.

Planet PC, 01274 713418; www.planetdvtraining.net

Royalty-free Backgrounds

Arlington Interactive is offering 100 royalty-free moving backgrounds for £100, plus P&P. The Liquid Moves animated backgrounds are in 720 x 576 PAL QuickTime format, each 20 seconds long, and come on 10 CDs. They are said to work with any QuickTime-compatible video editing program but can, if preferred, be supplied on MiniDV or DVCAM tape, rather than CD.

Arlington Interactive, 01271 864001; www.arlington.it


Roxio Easy CD Creator update fixes Win XP bugs

The latest update for Roxio's Easy CD Creator 5 Platinum CD/DVD burning program - V5.3.2 - is said to fix problems under Windows XP. The 18.2MByte download for the English version - from: www.roxio.com/en/support/roxio_support/ecdc/ecdc_plat_53_updt.html - is said to install XP-specific drivers and make changes necessary to allow the program to operate properly. V5.3.2 also disables Take Two in all Windows environments, including Win 2000, ME, 98 and NT.

The latest version adds support for DVD-R/-RW and DVD+R/+RW, as well as DVD-RAM. And, more than 99 files can now be added in Data CD Project, using the Add button.

Roxio, 0049 2405 450 80; www.roxio.com

Windows Media Player 9 enhancements

Microsoft's release candidate for Windows Media Player 9 Series (news, December 2002, p19) is now available at www.microsoft.com/windows/windowsmedia/9series/player.asp.

New features for Windows XP users include high Performance Media Access Technology (HighMAT) CD burning and emailing capabilities. Synchronised lyrics can now be added to music files and viewed on-screen. Improvements have also been made to auto playlists under XP, as well as startup time, the media library and player interface.

Microsoft, 0870 601 0100; www.microsoft.com

Read more news in January 2003's Computer Video magazine.


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

Avid XpressDV 3.5 Power Pack
Apple dual-1.25GHz PowerMac
Pinnacle Pro-ONE RTDV

In January's news:

Sony doubles DVD options
Mitsubishi media problem
Stills on steroids
Apple goes native
Pinnacle Studio 8 bundle for the laptop
Microsoft to replace Movie Maker
Pinnacle budget DVD authoring
High-speed Pioneer DVD
Planet Birkenshaw
Royalty-free backgrounds
Roxio Easy CD Creator update fixes Win XP bugs
Windows Media Player 9 enhancements

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