Computer Video News - July 2003

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Computer Video News - July 2003

Power of X upgraded

Matrox updates software capabilities of RT.X10 and RT.X100 real-time editing bundles...

Matrox is adding new software to its two mid-market Windows analogue/DV real-time editing solutions and repacking them under new names. The RT.X10 (review, December 2002, p52) is being replaced by the RT.X10 Xtra (SRP £469 inc VAT), while the better-specified RT.X100 (review, November 2002, p34) is being relaunched as the RT.X100 Xtreme (£986). The two editing cards, though, remain unchanged.
New features with Xtra include two additional real-time title/graphics layers; four new types of real-time effects (spheres, cubes, particles and 3D tiles); still image capture from live DV sources; and real-time fast and slow motion (field-blended and claimed to be 'super-smooth') - one of two new selling points shared with Xtreme. The other is the ability to capture using OHCI-compliant DV programs and Video for Windows-compliant analogue programs. This enables both cards to be used with editing software other than Adobe Premiere 6.5 - the program that Matrox supplies with the cards.
To these plus points, Xtreme adds WYSIWYG video output support for DirectShow-compliant programs, and a couple of pro features - the inclusion of waveform and vectorscope monitors, and Sonic's ReelDVD Studio DVD authoring package in place of DVDit! SE.
Xtreme is reckoned to be able to combine 16 or more effects in real-time - Matrox instances five channels of transparency, two channels of smooth slow/fast motion, two channels of colour balance, two channels of input/output level control on video, two channels of proc amp control on video, two channels of key-framable 3D transform and perspective, plus two channels of key-framable cropping. But, when a project exceeds the real-time capabilities of the system, Xtreme allows previewing to degrade gracefully, decreasing the frame rate as needed, rather than grinding to a halt. Xtreme is also said to make multi-layering of effects easier thanks to the ability to preview real-time effects by toggling between tracks, and adjusting the settings of each layer of video under Solo mode. Also worth noting is that enhancements are said to have been made to
the cropping tools and audio previewing, and to chromakeys in PAL video.
Matrox is promising that users of the current RT.X family of cards will be able to upgrade free to the new capabilities as soon as the packages go on sale, but, as with previous Matrox software updates, the downloads are likely to be massive and only practical for those with broadband connections.
Each package comes with an analogue breakout box for input and output, and has FireWire on the card itself. The shared software bundle includes Matrox Media Tools, Matrox MediaExport (including the Ligos GoMotion MPEG encoder), Pixelan Video SpiceRack Lite and, courtesy of Premiere, Sonic Desktop SmartSound QuickTracks. Xtreme also comes with WYSIWYG plug-ins for Adobe After Effects, NewTek LightWave 3D and Discreet 3ds max.
Minimum system requirements are said to be a single 1GHz PIII PC running Windows XP with at least 256MByte of RAM for Xtra and 512MByte for Xtreme. The preferred configuration, though, is at least one 2.2GHz P4 PC running Windows XP with 512MByte of RAM - DDR RAM or RDRAM with Xtreme.

Matrox, 01753 665500;

Better, cheaper Mac DVD authoring

Easier-to-use, more powerful Mk II Apple DVD Studio Pro goes out for less than half price of original

An OS X-only version of Apple's professional DVD authoring program DVD Studio Pro, due in August, promises to be more powerful and easier to use than V1.5, despite going out at just £399 (inc VAT). That's less than half amount that Studio Pro sold at until recently, but is also the new price for V1.5.
The most obvious change is a new user-friendly interface that replaces the daunting and complexly-layered front-end of previous versions. That alone would be a good enough reason to upgrade - something that costs £24 for V1.5 purchases after April 6, and £169 otherwise.
Version 2 looks to be based on technology acquired when Apple bought Spruce, rather than being a re-write. It has a fully scalable interface with a Viewer window workspace for creating menus from scratch, or from an array of professionally-designed templates, buttons, backgrounds and styles.
A new Menu Editor replaces the tedious way in which menus were previously created. Text, graphics, buttons or drop zones can now be easily added (dragged-and-dropped), customised, or re-aligned in the menu itself. Context-sensitive drop palettes should also dramatically speed up menu creation. Options include setting a background; creating a new track, button or drop zone; linking tracks to buttons; and creating movie-scene indexes based on chapter points with one click of the mouse.
Also new is a timeline much like the one in Apple's Final Cut Pro video editor. This offers up to eight camera angles and audio tracks, and up to 32 subtitle tracks. There's an integrated subtitle editor, too, and greater control over chapter-points and trimming. Integration with Adobe After Effects and Photoshop has been improved. After Effects compositions can be used for motion menus, and layered Photoshop files can be brought in as backgrounds and layered menus.
Apple says there's also enhanced support for any QuickTime-supported file format, and that it's including the new media re-purposing plug-in Compressor that will also be provided with the forthcoming V4 update to Final Cut Pro (news, p10). Compressor is reckoned to offer batch processing of multiple file formats, including MPEG-2 for DVD, MPEG-4 for video streaming, and supported QuickTime formats. The MPEG-2 encoder provides one-pass or two-pass variable bit-rate encoding, with all single/batch encoding happening in the background. A.Pack, provided with V1.5, is also included with V2 for encoding uncompressed audio into Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound.
The lower price, enhanced interface and new features will appeal to Mac editors wanting to author professional-looking DVDs, though not those stuck with OS 9. And, it may also attract serious DVD makers over from the Windows platform. This will depend on how V2 shapes up in comparison with Adobe's £530 Windows-only pro DVD offering, Encore (news, June 03, p7), and whether users need all the power available or are happy with the level of features on offer from other programs, notably Ulead's latest easy-to-use Windows contender - the £300 AC-3 stereo version of DVD Workshop (review, June 2003, p96).For upgrades, visit Apple's Up-To-Date page, at

Apple UK, 0800 783 4846;

Third-generation Hitachi DVD cams

Latest DVD-R/-RAM camcorders are half the size of previous generation

Hitachi is set to launch its third generation of DVD camcorders, with the introduction of two USB 2.0-equipped models, the DZ-MV380E (£1,000 inc VAT) and DZ-MV350E (£800), that are around half the size of the company's previous-generation range-leader, the DZ-MV270 (review, February 2003, p30).
Each weighs just over 500g and is 54mm wide, but the MV380 is a little larger at 93(h)x147(d)mm, vs 89(h)x132(d)mm. They share a striking resemblance to Panasonic's sub-£1,000 VDR-M30 (news, June 2003, p10) which, we guess, is a clone even though it has USB 1.1 connectivity, rather than USB 2.0. All three record to 8cm DVD-R and DVD-RAM discs housed in slim, circular caddies. This contrasts with two Sony contenders due late summer, the £900 DCR-DVD100 and £1,000 DVD-200 (news, April 2003, p8). These offer USB 2.0 and FireWire connectivity, and don't require caddies, but can only record to write-once 8cm DVD-R media.
The Hitachi models record DVD-standard MPEG-2 in one of three modes - extra-fine, fine and standard. Extra-fine uses variable bit-rate recording between 3 and 9Mbit/sec. The other modes use constant bit-rate recording at 6Mbit/sec (fine) and 3Mbit/sec (standard). Up to 120 minutes can be stored to DVD-RAM disc (using both sides), and up to an hour recorded to single-sided DVD-R.
VR-format (on-disc) editing and DVD authoring software is bundled with each camcorder. Sonic's MyDVD 4 covers basic DVD authoring and disc burning - including burning back out to a DVD-RAM disc in the camcorder. Also in-pack is DVD MovieAlbum 3 (from Panasonic's parent, Matsushita) for capturing and editing content. The installation CD also carries USB drivers and UDF file system software that together allow the camcorders to act much like an external disc drive.
Sockets include an S-video output, a combined composite video and L/R analogue audio output, and a mic input. A Flash memory card slot has been added for still image capture, but no Flash card is supplied with either cam.
Each camcorder has a single 1/4in imager CCD, but the chip on the cheaper MV350E has 800,000 pixels and 640x480 still image resolution capability, whereas the MV380E has a 1.1 megapixel chip with maximum still resolution of 1280x960.
Shared features include a 10x optical/240x digital zoom lens with image stabilising; a 2.5in TFT colour monitor (120k pixels) and a 113k pixel colour viewfinder; and manual and automatic focus, white balance and exposure (including six auto exposure preset modes).
Each package is rounded off by a Lithium-ion battery and power adaptor, an IR remote handset, A/V and USB cables, and a blank 8cm DVD-R disc.

Hitachi, 01628 643 000;

Western Digital Serial ATA HDD

Western Digital's first Serial ATA150 hard disk, the Raptor (WD360GD), is now available, selling for £130 (inc VAT). The 36.7GByte/10,000rpm drive has an 8MByte memory cache and is pitched as a low-cost alternative to Scsi hard drives, especially in Raid configurations.
Claimed advantages for SATA drives include being able to use the full bandwidth of each drive interface in a networked RAID set up (which is logical when the standard allows only one drive per interface), hot-plug support, and advanced error detection for increased data integrity. Prospects for the Raptor do look exciting, as is demonstrated by independent tests at:
The drive has a five-year guarantee and is said to have an average seek time of 5.2 millisecond and an MTBF (Mean Time Between Failure) of 1.2 million hours.

Western Digital, 01372 360387;

Sony MiniDV pocket cam

Compact, lightweight megapixel camcorder with improved 16:9 capabilities and direct-to-disc recording software

Sony's latest compact single-CCD MiniDV camcorder, the DV-in-enabled DCR-PC105 (anticipated price £1,000 inc VAT), is claimed to offer improved widescreen (16:9) recording and the ability, when linked with the company's latest DVD-equipped Vaio PCs, to carry out direct-to-DVD recording.
The PC105 - 550g and 76(h) x 98(w) x 136(d)mm - has a 1/4.7in imager chip with a claimed 1.1 megapixels, and is said to use technology similar to that found in the company's DSR-PDX10 three-CCD MiniDV camcorder. The result, the company reckons, is that it can record widescreen footage without stretching or cutting the frame - a wider 16:9 area of the imager CCD being used to increase image resolution and widen the shooting angle. All 16:9 footage is recorded anamorphically to tape.
The single-click, direct-to-disc capability comes from the inclusion of the latest version of Sony's Click-to-DVD software (V1.2), which also has basic VCD/DVD authoring and archiving capabilities. Edits created in Sony's video editor MovieShaker can also be imported into Click-to-DVD.
Stills captured to the supplied 8MByte Memory Stick can be downloaded and made into a slideshow, and analogue video capture from the camcorder is also said to be possible, but only if the Vaio PC comes with a Sony Giga Pocket Personal Video Recorder. Pixela's ImageMixer software for basic editing and VCD burning is also bundled with the camcorder, and said to give direct to disc recording via the PC105's USB 1.1 port.
The PC105 has a 10x optical Carl Zeiss zoom lens (120x digital) with a manual focus ring; a pop-up flash for stills; and a 2.5in (211,000 pixel) touch-panel colour LCD, along with a 0.44in (112,000 pixel) colour viewfinder. Also featured are Sony's Super Steady Shot electronic stabiliser system; Super NightShot for dark shooting conditions; seven fade options, six program auto exposure (AE) settings, and the same number of digital effects and picture effects.

Sony UK, 08705 111999;

ADS FireWire/USB 2.0

FireWire/USB 2.0 drive bay and connection cards mark ADS's entry into combi hardware

ADS is introducing a series of combined FireWire/USB 2.0 products said to work equally well on Mac and Windows PCs.
The three initial Dual Link models - each with an SRP of £99 (inc VAT) - are an external drive bay, the Drive Kit; and two edit-ready connection cards supplied with lite versions of Ulead's entry-level video editor, VideoStudio 6. The PCI Card is for use in desktop machines. The other, equally-mysteriously-named Cardbus, is a CardBus card for laptops.
As with the company's big selling Pyro FireWire drive bay, the Drive Kit external enclosure can hold a 3.5in or 5.25in IDE hard drive (ATA33, 66, 100 or 133), or a 5.25in optical drive or burner (CD or DVD). At the front, there's a pop-out bezel that's removed for fitting an optical drive, and carries a hard disk access light. Around the back are three ports - two six-pin FireWire and one USB 2.0 - along with an illuminated on/off switch and a DC-in power socket. A CD with Intech's SpeedTools Utilities for Mac is supplied in-pack together with an external trailing power adapter and two 2m connection cables - one six-pin-to-six-pin FireWire, the other USB 2.0.The Dual Link PCI Card has two six-pin FireWire ports and three USB 2.0 ports, while the Cardbus has a single six-pin FireWire connector and two USB 2.0 ports - one powered, one unpowered.
All three Dual Link models are said to work with Windows XP, 2000, ME and 98SE, and Mac OS 9.x and all versions of Mac OS X. Minimum requirements are set at a 500MHz Celeron, Pentium III or AMD Athlon/Duron PC, or a PowerMac or Mac G3/G4.

ADS Tech Europe, 0035 361 702042;

FCP 4 packs a pro's punch

External real-time previewing, enhanced RT effects, animated titling, music-track creation and media transcoding among new features claimed for Apple FCP 4

With the introduction in June of V4 of Apple's Final Cut Pro video editing software, the company is playing catch up in a few areas, and leap-frogging competitors in many others - underscoring the program's broadcast and cinema aspirations, despite the price remaining at £799 inc VAT. The upgrade price is £299, but only £39 if V3 was bought after April 5.
Most obvious of catch-up features are real-time previewing - not just on a Mac screen but also on an external monitor connected via FireWire or a breakout box - and the bundling of a new music-loop creation program called Soundtrack.
Leap-frog features include the bundling of the Compressor media batch repurposing application that's also provided with the new version of DVD Studio Pro (news, p7); the LiveType titler, in which each character is a separate customisable animation; and the Cinema Tools database that used to be sold on its own for much the same price as FCP 3.
Cinema Tools keeps a track of cine footage that's been telecined to video, showing relationships between the original camera negatives, the transferred videotapes and video clips. It supports 16mm (20-perf/keycode) and 35mm (four-perf/keycode) film edge-code
formats, along with 24fps HD EDLs.
Final Cut Pro 4 has native 24-frame support for Panasonic's AG-DVX100 camcorder, and is reckoned to score an industry first by delivering 50Mbps 4:2:2 quality video over FireWire.
Version 4 has a software-based compositing and effects engine called RT Extreme. This is scalable, so extra processor power increases the number of video streams and effects viewable in real-time. It's said to be Codec independent, and allow real-time preview at maximum resolution (at output quality), or at maximum performance - to show the most video and effects layers. There's a third preview mode, too, at a lesser playback quality with some frames dropped.
The program comes with over 13GByte of content, covering LiveFonts and other goodies for the LiveType titler; and copyright-free music loops and sound effects for the Soundtrack music-loop creation program - including 30-plus professional Apple
and Emagic effects.
There's an improved, customisable interface, and support for a scrolling mouse. Keyboard shortcuts can be added as quick-access buttons, and the keyboard can be customised, too, with settings saved for use on another Mac.
Among enhanced audio editing capabilities are keyframe thinning, multi-track audio mixing, and 24-channel output. Much heralded are the program's new XML interchange format and FireWire-based I/O framework - with an import/export plug-in API for third-party developers to create new plug-ins and FireWire-based I/O devices for uncompressed broadcast video - such as AJA's rack-mountable capture box (

Apple UK, 0800 783 4846;

Canon big-money competition

£75,000 total prize money up for grabs in video, graphics, still image, and multimedia categories

Closing date for this year's Canon Digital Creators Contest is September 4, so don't delay - a top prize of £13,000 will be handed over to each gold award winner in one of four categories - Digital Movie, Digital Photo (print), Digital Graphics/Illustration (print) and the Web.
Each category also has one silver award, three bronze awards, five honorary mentions and a single Canon Award (two for Digital Photo), bringing total prize money to £75,000. Gold-award winners will be invited to the prize giving at Spiral Hall in Aoyama, Tokyo on December 5 - with Canon covering travel and accommodation. All winners will also be given a Canon product prize, and have their work displayed at Spiral Garden for a week.
Entries must be submitted to one of the contest's collection points in Amsterdam, Hong Kong, New York and Tokyo. Entry guidelines along with full information can be found at the CDCC web site:
Last year's competition received 5,205 entries from 77 countries - 1,099 of them from Europe, with Germany and France each having a gold-award winner.

Canon, 0870 241 2161;


After much speculation about who would acquire Sonic Foundry's desktop video and audio editing software, the buyer has finally been named - Sony, or more accurately, the firm's Pictures Digital division.
The deal, for "$18 million cash and assumption of certain trade payables, accrued liabilities and capital leases", gives Sony control of all of Sonic Foundry's desktop software products (Vegas video editor, DVD Architect authoring program, AC-3 encoder, and Sound Forge and Acid audio software) and related assets associated with the desktop software business(also see DVdoctor, p98).

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


Recent features...
View the archive

Reviewed in July's issue:

Ulead Cool 3D Studio
Dazzle DVD Creation Station 200
Roxio Easy CD & DVD Creator 6
Steinberg Cubase SX and Wavelab 4
Wacom Volito

In July's news:

Power of X upgraded
Better, cheaper Mac DVD authoring
Third-generation Hitachi DVD cams
Western Digital Serial ATA HDD
Sony MiniDV pocket cam
ADS FireWire/USB 2.0
FCP 4 packs a pro's punch
Canon big-money competition

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