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Computer Video News

Sony Vaio PC/TV/VCR

Edit-ready Sony combined PC, TV, video recorder and audio system with FireWire, USB 2.0 and DVD burner

It looks like nothing else you've seen before, but Sony's PCV-W1 Vaio combines a desktop PC with a TV/video recorder and audio system. It's due in October and is designed to bring an edit-ready PC into the living room.
It measures 190mm deep, weighs 13.5kg, incorporates pseudo-surround sound and has an integrated widescreen 17.5in WXGA (1,280 x 768) LCD display. With the attached keyboard folded out, the W1 functions as a PC. With it folded away, the W1 acts in one position as a TV set and video recorder, and in another as an audio player - both with full IR remote control.
The W1 comes with Adobe Premiere 6.0 LE, and has a single FireWire (i.Link) port, four USB 2.0 ports and a 160GByte hard disk - giving plenty of room for video editing and capturing TV broadcasts. There's a built-in DVD burner, naturally, (a DVD-R/-RW unit, make/model unknown) that's reckoned to write at single-speed to DVD-R and DVD-RW media, and to burn CD-RW and CD-R as well.
Inputs are provided for composite video, S-video and L/R audio, plus optical digital audio, as well as RF-in, line-in and mic-in. A V.90 modem and 100Base-T Ethernet networking are built-in, along with slots for a Memory Stick and a PCMCIA (Type II) card.
The Vaio runs WinXP Home - rather than Microsoft's forthcoming Media Center edition - and has a 2.8GHz Intel P4 processor, 512MByte of DDR333 RAM, and SIS 651 graphics with 32MByte of video memory. It ships with four Sony applications that are accessible via the new Vaio Media management interface.
The Click-to-DVD entry-level authoring program offers one-click, direct-to-DVD recording to a Sony DVD camcorder (currently the PC105 or PC103), or menu-based disc-creation from captured or saved content. Giga Pocket is for TV viewing and programme recording where the viewer can start watching a recording before it's finished.
Other Sony applications are Sonic Stage, for audio file management and playback, and Picture Gear Studio for still image management and manipulation. Adobe's Photoshop 6 LE is also installed for more advanced image editing.

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

Snazzi analogue and DV editing

V One extends Snazzi range of Windows analogue/DV and MPEG editing solutions

V One Multimedia is adding a fifth hardware/software package to its Snazzi range of analogue/DV MPEG editing solutions for Windows.
Snazzi DV.AVIO, estimated price US$200, has a PCI card that supports analogue/DV capture and output, and a range of video formats - DV, MPEG-1/2/4, WMV and Div-X. The card carries two six-pin FireWire ports and a connector for attaching the supplied analogue breakout box, featuring inputs and outputs for composite video, S-video and L/R audio.
Like other Snazzi offerings, DV.AVIO comes with a healthy bundle of software. Real-time hardware encoding and decoding uses Snazzi's DV Studio AVIO capture and output program. Captured DV files are said to be compatible with Adobe Premiere Pro, Ulead MediaStudio Pro and Microsoft Movie Maker 2.
Also bundled are Ulead DVD MovieFactory 2, for creating menu-driven VCDs or DVDs with slideshow support; InterVideo's WinDVD Creator Plus for DVD authoring/burning, with MPEG-4 support; and InterVideo's WinDVD 4 software DVD player. The package also comes with Muvee autoProducer DVD Edition. This provides automatic creation of finished edits with added music in one of 24 styles, and burning of a final compilation to VCD, SVCD or DVD, or export to the web.
Snazzi DV.AVIO is said to require a 1.8GHz P4 PC running Windows XP with 256MByte of RAM, and a 1,024 x 768 Direct Draw-compatible graphics card.

Holdan (UK distributor), 01457 851000; www.holdan.co.uk
Snazzi; www.snazzi.com

Easy CD/DVD creation

Pinnacle extends Instant range of budget disc-creation software

Pinnacle has expanded and upgraded its Instant range of budget CD/DVD duplication and creation software for Windows.
Instant VideoAlbum (SRP £30, inc VAT) is new and allows discs to be created in four easy steps - it's aimed at people who want to share their videos on CDs or DVDs without the bother of learning how to edit.
Step One is the importing of video files from hard disk or from a DV camcorder with auto scene-detection. Step Two is for customising the disc's menu (still or motion), buttons, music background and font. An Edit Movie button gives access to basic clip editing and simple video enhancing tools - colour correction, image-stabilisation, noise-reduction, and picture brightness adjustment. Video can also be matched to a chosen music clip using the SmartMovie feature.
The project is previewed in Step Three, using an on-screen remote controller, before moving onto Step Four for one-click burn-to-disc. Here, three picture quality (bit-rate) options can be selected. The Automatic option tries to ensure that the video will fit on the disc using the highest possible bit-rate to maximise quality. The other settings are Good quality, with a 6Mbit/sec data rate, and Better quality (up to 8Mbit/sec). There are options for more advanced settings, but Pinnacle's expectation is that most users will leave well alone if they want a quick and easy way to share video on disc.
The software comes with a disc labelling kit and has a built in applet for designing disc labels and library case inserts. To speed up the production process, the applet can be used even while discs are burning. Some of Instant VideoAlbum's features are taken from Pinnacle's entry-level disc authoring program Expression, which is part of the latest version of the Instant CD/DVD software suite - SRP £45.
Instant CD/DVD V8 has programs for creating, burning and copying discs. It's said to copy faster than the previous version, and has direct-to-disc recording capabilities; backup utilities; and a lite version of Pinnacle's entry-level Studio 8 DV editor.
InstantCopy 8 for CD/DVD duplication of non-copyright discs is also included. This features high-speed mode and direct-to-disc recording to shorten encoding and burning times without, it's said, affecting quality. The suite has MP3 support from a new InstantAudio music management and creation tool that integrates myMP3PRO - acquired when Pinnacle bought Steinberg earlier this year. InstantAudio offers VST audio effects and basic EQ features, and has support for WAV and AIFF files.
Other members of the suite are InstantWrite, an easy-to-use drag-and-drop file burning tool that sits on Windows' desktop; InstantDrive, for previewing DVD disc images saved to hard disc; and InstantCinema, for playback of VCD and SVCD discs and DivX video files.

Pinnacle, 01895 424228; www.pinnaclesys.co.uk

Roxio's Toast for 10

OS X-only Toast CD/DVD burning program offers authoring, backup, better slideshow and audio options, and writing over networks

Roxio is introducing version 6 of its CD/DVD burning program Toast Platinum - a must-own application for many Apple Mac users. Version 6, likely street price £60 (inc VAT), will run only on Mac OS 10.2 or later.
OS 9 users aren't being abandoned, though. The company will continue to sell V5 on-line. This runs on OS 9, as well as OS 10, and has even been recently updated - to V5.2.1.
Version 6's headline features are its improved handling of audio, video and stills, plus expanded video-disc-making capabilities. However, it also offers something that, to our knowledge, isn't available with any other program - Mac or Windows - the ability to write CDs and DVDs over a network to a burner connected to a different computer, assuming each Mac has the software installed.
Added to this, Roxio has licensed the Déjà Vu backup program from Propaganda Products for use in V6. Features are said to include scheduled backups and the ability to backup to CD, DVD or over a network.
While V6's interface will look familiar to existing users, it has been changed in one very welcome way, it can multi-task between its various tabs - audio, photo, data and video. It will be possible not only to switch between one type of active project and another, but also to burn any project without having to close others.
Although V5 can copy DVDs and transfer data to DVDs, it can't author DVD Video discs, only VCDs. Version 6, though, has basic authoring for both types of video disc, and SVCDs, too, along with limited editing capabilities such as clip trimming and changing clip thumbnails.
The new version is also said to be able to capture from DV, carry out direct-to-DVD burns of incoming DV - if the host Mac is fast enough - and rip VOB files from DVDs that aren't copy-protected. Version 5 has very limited slideshow capabilities through the inclusion of the iView applet - which doesn't run natively under OS X. But V6 can itself create a variety of basic slideshows - and burn them to DVD, VCD or SVCD if required - and comes with a more sophisticated application, Motion Pictures, for making slideshows with features such as image zooms/fades and added audio.
Roxio says that Toast 6 integrates well with the programs in Apple's iLife suite, accepting files dragged directly out of iTunes, and importing video files created in iMovie.
The CD Spin Doctor applet - used for creating CDs from LPs - has been reworked to make it compatible with VST audio plug-ins and to let users listen to recordings while they are being made. It also has auto track-detection (with sensitivity adjustment), so that CDs will conform to the CD Audio standard.

Roxio, 0049 2405 45080; www.roxio.co.uk

Adobe uses MainConcept

MainConcept Codecs integrated in Adobe Premiere Pro and Encore DVD

MainConcept says that its Codec technology is fully integrated into the latest version of Adobe's video editing software Premiere Pro (news, September 2003, p7), and used to turn DV into MPEG in Adobe's DVD authoring program Encore DVD (news, June 2003, p7).
In Premiere 6.5, MC's MPEG Codecs were part of a separate plug-in. In Pro, though, the Codecs - which offer two-pass MPEG-2 encoding - are in a new interface called the Adobe Media Encoder, from where all file export is handled, including Windows Media 9, RealMedia 9 and AAF.
MainConcept's DV Codec is also used in Pro behind the scenes - in Pro's key new development of native YUV processing, credited with improving real-time capabilities.

MainConcept, +49 241 401080; www.mainconcept.com
Adobe, 0870 6060325; www.adobe.co.uk

Multi DVD burner/printer

Primera automated Disc Publisher burns and prints up to 50 DVDs in a session

Disc duplication and printing specialist Primera is offering a CD/DVD publishing system for Mac or Windows that combines automated multiple disc duplication (using a built-in Pioneer DVR-106 burner) with a full-colour, 2,400 dpi (dots per inch) CD/DVD printer.
The Bravo Disc Publisher - £2,110 inc VAT - can burn and print to up to 25 inkjet-printable DVDs in a session, or double that number by adding a £77 Kiosk Mode Kit, complete with a 50-disc output bin and metal tray. The Pioneer DVR-106 (review, October 2003, p42) is reckoned to write to DVD-R (4x), DVD+R (4x), DVD-RW (2x), DVD+RW (2.4x), CD-R (16x) and CD-RW (10x).
The printer uses two cartridges - one three-colour (CMY) and one black - and works with inkjet-printable media at a claimed maximum resolution of 2,400 x 1,200 dpi. Primera says any inkjet-printable media can be used, but recommends discs from Maxell, Verbatim, PrintWrite and Imation.
Two connections to a computer are required - FireWire for sending data to the burner, and USB for robotic control and printing. The units ships with either Mac or Windows software, but an extra £229 buys both.
Windows software includes Prassi PrimoDVD 2.0 CD/DVD publishing and SureThing v3.12 CD labeller, as well as the Bravo printer driver. The Mac software has the printer driver bundled with Discus for Primera v2.72 disc labelling software, and CharisMac Discribe v5.2 CD/DVD duplication software.
Minimum requirements for Mac are said to be Mac OS 10.2.x; a 700MHz PowerPC G4 processor; 128MByte of RAM; and 6GByte of free hard drive space for creating DVDs. Windows is said to require XP or 2000 (each with an NTFS drive partition); a 700MHz PIII CPU; 256MByte of RAM; and 5GByte of free hard drive space. Watch out for a review in a coming issue.

Microboards Technology (UK distributor), 01789 415898; www.microboards.co.uk
Primera, +49 611 927 770; www.primeraeurope.de

DVD VR to QT under Mac OS

Software Architects' Mac program converts DVD VR files into 21 QuickTime-compatible formats

Software Architects' GreatVideo! v2.0 is a $100 standalone Mac OS program that's said to perform easy drag-and-drop conversion of VR-format DVD video files (PAL or NTSC) into 21 industry-standard video file formats compatible with QuickTime 5 or 6, for use in editing software such as Apple Final Cut Pro 4 (review, October 2003, p26) and Adobe Premiere.
The QT-compatible file-format list includes DV (PAL and NTSC), DVCPRO (PAL), component video, MPEG-4 video, Sorenson, Sorenson 3, Cinepak, Intel Indeo Video, Motion JPEG A and B, H.261, H.263, Video Planar RGB, BMP, Photo-JPEG, PNG, TIFF and TGA.
GreatVideo! 2 is also said to support one-step MPEG-2 compression and file conversion to DVD video player format (VOB files), and mastering to DVD-R/-RW, DVD+R/+RW and DVD-RAM, with support for many brands of burner, including multi-format models.
In addition to VR video file and VOB format support, the program is said to be compliant with the Optical Storage Technology Association (OSTA) specifications for UDF formats.
System requirements are given as Mac OS 9.x or 10.2 (or later); 128MByte RAM (256MByte recommended); 5GByte free hard disk space; and QuickTime V5.0 or QT Pro v5.0 (or later) - V6.0 recommended.
Software Architects Inc, 01 425 487 0122; www.softarch.com

Greater Contour control

ShuttlePRO V2 edit controller with two extra programmable buttons and improved jog-shuttle

The MkII version of Contour Design's ShuttlePRO jog-shuttle edit controller for Windows and Mac (SRP £99 inc VAT) is now available.
ShuttlePRO V2 - compatible with Mac OS 9.x and OS 10.1 or later; and Win98 or later - has two extra programmable buttons (15 in total) and a redesigned jog-shuttle knob for improved frame-by-frame navigation and control. Nine of the 15 programmable buttons have removable keycaps for easy labelling.
The software supplied with the USB controller supports macros, allowing the programming of different command sequences into a single button. It's also claimed to monitor the current application and automatically switch to the settings programmed for that application. It comes pre-configured for many video editing programs, including Apple Final Cut Pro 4 (review, October 2003, p26), Canopus DVStorm, and Ulead MediaStudio Pro 7 (review, August 2003, p28). A complete list, along with downloadable updates, can be found at: www.contourdesign.com/shuttlepro/sp-apps.htm.
Other changes include a move from silver to black, and a jog wheel made of heavier brushed metal - meant to give greater accuracy and a more professional feel. The inner jog ring rotates through 360 degrees in both directions for moving from frame-by-frame. The outer, rubberised, spring-loaded shuttle knob is said to operate faster than before for forward and rewind actions.

Contour Design, 020 8731 1410; www.contourdesign.com

Defragmenting -/+VR DVDs

CyberLink's PowerProducer 2 disc-creation software defragments VR DVDs

A disc defragmentation tool in V2 of CyberLink's PowerProducer CD/DVD creation program is said to tidy up the content of rewritable media, making extra space available and improving playback performance.
The feature comes into its own with DVD-VR or DVD+VR discs that have been repeatedly re-edited - something that can cause severe fragmentation - and works like a hard disk defragmentation utility, shuffling the content until individual files are contiguous, rather than spread around the disc.
PowerProducer 2 is a wizard-based program for capturing and editing video; creating slideshows; customising disc menus; and burning content to disc. It uses smart technology to only encode parts of an MPEG project that have been edited - to cut down on rendering times. There's also direct-to-disc capture - similar to that found in Sonic's MyDVD - where footage is captured, encoded, then automatically burnt to disc.
Other features and enhancements with V2 include direct copying of CDs and non-CSS-protected DVDs; video import from DVD play lists, DVD Video discs (if non-CSS protected) and -/+VR media; improved MPEG-2 encoding; customisable menu backgrounds; additional audio tracks; and stills-import direct from digital stills cameras.

Koch Media (UK distributor); 01256 707767; www.kochmedia.co.uk
CyberLink; www.gocyberlink.com

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

 

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Reviewed in November's issue:

Epson Stylus Photo 900
Canopus ProCoder 1.5
Matrox RT.X100 Xtreme
Sony Vaio GRT715M

In November's news:

Sony Vaio PC/TV/VCR
Snazzi analogue and DV editing
Easy CD/DVD creation
Roxio's Toast for 10
Adobe uses MainConcept
Multi DVD burner/printer
DVD VR to QT under Mac OS
Greater Contour control
Defragmenting -/+VR DVDs

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