Computer Video Magazine News November 2004

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COMPUTER VIDEO NOVEMBER 2004 NEWS

Ultra-slim Apple G5 iMacs

New-generation edit-ready, widescreen iMacs use faster G5 processor and, at under 6cm deep, are slimmer than many LCD monitors

Apple's latest iMac all-in-one computer range is based on G5 processors and ditches the base-plus-swing-arm-monitor of G4 iMacs. Instead, the new line uses an ultra-slim design with everything except keyboard and mouse built into the casing of a widescreen LCD monitor mounted on a tilting stand.
There are three models in the range, all using single processors. The least expensive (£919, inc VAT) has a 1.6GHz PowerPC G5 CPU, a 533MHz front-side bus and a 17in LCD screen. The others (17in at £1,049 and 20in at £1,349) use 1.8GHz G5s and have 600MHz front-side buses. Screen aspect-ratio in each case is 16:10 and the optimum resolution is 1,440 x 900 pixels for the 17in iMacs and 1,680 x 1,050 for the 20in. Viewing angles are said to be 120 degrees horizontal and 90 degrees vertical with the 17in models, and 170 degrees each way with the 20in. Irrespective of screen size, graphics are handled by a built-in nVidia GeForce FX 5200 Ultra processor with 64MByte of DDR video memory.
Abandoning the expensively engineered swing-arm design means that positioning the G5 iMac's screen isn't anything like as swift and simple as before, but it's likely to keep down production costs, enabling Apple to make bigger margins or, hopefully, price cuts.
The new brushed aluminium tilting stand is similar to the one used on Apple's Cinema flat-panel monitors (news, Sep 04, p9). Although they don't offer finger-tip adjustment of height or reach, the new iMacs - like the Cinema monitors - are said to tilt effortlessly through 30 degrees, thanks to being suspended on their stands at their centres of gravity. There's also a VESA-standard mounting point, so anyone wanting fully-adjustable positioning can fit a VESA wall-mount or desk-mount - though fluid-damped arms aren't cheap, starting at around £100.
The cases are just 5.05cm deep on 17in models and only a whisker thicker on the 20in - 5.59cm. The new design also means a considerable reduction in weight - increasing portability around the home and keeping within the support-limits of typical VESA arms. The 17in models are 8.4kg (nearly 2kg lighter than a 17in G4 iMac) and the 20in is 11.4 kg - about 7kg less than its forerunner.
As with all current Apple computers, the iMacs are video-edit-ready. They have two six-pin FireWire 1349a ports for connecting camcorders and drives, and are supplied with Apple's iLife '04 suite of programs. This includes the iMovie video editor and also the iDVD program for authoring in the case of the two more expensive iMacs - these have slot-loading DVD-R burners; the cheaper model carries a combi DVD-ROM/CD-RW unit.
All ports, including FireWire, are arranged one above the other at the back of the iMac. The stack has three USB 2.0 ports; a mini-VGA for mirroring the desktop on another monitor (adaptor £15 extra) or outputting S-video or composite (ditto); a 3.5mm line-in stereo jack; 10/100Base-T Ethernet; 56K V.92 modem; and a 3.5mm headphone jack that doubles as an optical audio output for 5.1 surround sound. Stereo speakers are built-in, as is a microphone.
By today's standards, the supplied memory and hard disks aren't overly generous. There's 256MByte of DDR400 SDRAM (upgradable, for a price, to 2GByte) and a single 7,200rpm Serial ATA drive - 80GByte in the 17inchers and 160GByte in the 20in. However, each model has something not found on desktop Windows PCs - a built-in wireless networking aerial - and there's an expansion slot for an optional 54Mbps/802.11g wireless card, plus an option for an internal Bluetooth module.
Optical drives are built into the right side of the iMacs. The DVD writer is said to burn DVDs at 4x , CD-Rs at 16x and CD-RW at 8x. Read speed is given as 8x for DVD and 24x for CD. The combi drive in the 1.6GHz iMac has the same speeds for CD-R/-RW writing and CD/DVD reading.
The software package is rounded off by iLife members iPhoto, iTunes and GarageBand; the AppleWorks office suite; Apple Hardware Test; a trial version of Microsoft Office 2004; World Book 2004 Edition; and a couple of games - Nanosaur 2 and Marble Blast Gold.


Casablanca uses MainConcept

Macro System adopts MainConcept software Codecs for Casablanca Solitaire one-box editor

Macro System is using MainConcept's software Codecs alongside its own hardware Codecs in the Casablanca Solitaire one-box video editor - SRP £3,170 (inc VAT) from UK distributor Hama.
This is a first for Macro System - it says that until now, all components and software have been home-grown. The move is said to greatly boost the background rendering of effects in Solitaire's native Smart Edit 3.2 video editing software - the workload being shared between Main Concept's Codecs and Macro System's smart rendering hardware.
The Solitaire's hardware was recently uprated to include a 3GHz+ processor, 512MByte of RAM (upgradable to 1GByte), and two 160GByte 7,200rpm hard disk drives - one for editing, the other for backup - with 300GByte drives as optional extras.
As a result, Solitaire is said to support HDTV and allow HDV editing with VGA output at resolutions up to 1,600 x 1,200, with MainConcept's Codec being used during HDV processing.
Solitaire also runs Arabesk V2.1 software for basic DVD authoring and burning to DVD-R/-RW and DVD+R. Ports include FireWire, S-video, composite video, analogue L/R audio and microphone. There's also a dedicated internal FireWire port for connecting an optional Shining Technology CitiDisk DV portable, battery-powered DV-to-hard-disk recorder (review, May 04, p46) - for twice real-time file import.


Sony TRV950 replacement

The DCR-HC1000 boasts improved 16:9 recording and a manual focus ring

Sony's replacement for its mid-range three-chip DCR-TRV950 MiniDV camcorder (review, Nov 02, p56), the DCR-HC1000 (SRP £1,300 inc VAT) looks, at first glance, to have virtually the same specification as its predecessor.
The HC1000 offers DV/analogue in/out and has three 1/4.7in CCDs (1.07megapixels with 690,000 effective for video); an f1.6 12x optical zoom; a 2.5in hybrid touch-screen LCD monitor capable of spot metering and spot focus; a colour LCD viewfinder; a built-in flash; an intelligent accessory shoe; and a Sony Memory Stick Duo slot.
However, unlike the 950, the HC1000 also has a manual focus ring and what's described as 'true' 16:9 widescreen recording. Also new is the use of a Carl Zeiss Vario-Sonnar T lens - instead of a Sony lens - and this is reckoned to have a special coating that reduces reflections inside the lens and distortion in the captured image. Another plus point is the Active Lens Image Stabilizer said to further reduce camera shake during hand-held filming. A nice touch is the second record button - on the frame the LCD screen - to make recording simpler when shooting with the LCD open.
Audio recording can be four-channel sound, using the optional (£150) surround-sound microphone specifically designed for the HC1000 - the ECM-CQP1. Owners of Sony Vaio PCs running Sony's Click to DVD software can capture four-channel video recordings, have the audio converted to 5.1 surround sound, and then burn a DVD Video disc.
The most obvious difference between the HC-1000 and its forerunner is the body design. The HC1000 has a smoother-shaped, charcoal-coloured body with a multi-angle grip that swivels forward 90 degrees for controlling the camcorder in different positions, while allowing the hand to remain close to the controls. The microphone now sits on top of the camcorder in front of the accessory shoe, and the backlight button has been moved below the focus switch.
Still image capture is at 1,152 x 864 or 640 x 480 resolution to card. Sockets include four-pin FireWire (iLink), USB, S-video, composite video, mic input, headphone/audio line output, and Lanc.
Supplied accessories take in a rechargeable battery, mains adapter/charger, remote controller, AV cable, shoulder strap, USB cable, lens hood, lens cleaning cloth, 8MByte Memory Stick Duo Plus adapter, and Pixela ImageMixer VCD2 disc authoring software (Mac) and Sony Picture Package still-image software (Windows). Sony also sells an optional (£50) soft, protective black leather carrying case (LCS-HC1000).


Apple Production Suite

Apple bundles Final Cut Pro HD 4.5, DVD Studio Pro 3 and Motion for £899 - £499 to owners of FCP

Following Adobe's lead, Apple is creating a low-cost professional video editing, effects and DVD authoring bundle - the Production Suite - carrying an SRP of £899 (inc VAT) but available to registered users of Final Cut Pro (V4 review, Oct 03, p26) for £499.
The suite is a logical move, given Apple's recent introduction of its own motion graphics and effects software, Motion (news, Aug 04, p10). This £199 program is one of three suite members, the others being the Final Cut Pro HD V4.5 editor (SRP £699) and £350 DVD Studio Pro 3 authoring package (review, Sep 04, p36). The bundle offers a saving of £349 on the total price of the three individual programs - or £749 for existing FCP users.
Features include over 150 real-time effects for DV, SD and HD in Final Cut Pro HD; real-time compositing and previewing in DVD Studio Pro 3; a real-time animation-design engine in Motion; and a full set of manuals.
Production Suite also contains LiveType 1.2 for resolution-independent animated titling, Compressor 1.2 for HD encoding, Cinema Tools for filmmakers working with 35mm or 16mm film, and QuickTime Pro.


Hitachi 400GByte HDD

400GByte 7,200rpm/8MByte hard disk drive for £250

Hitachi is adding a 400GByte model to its Deskstar range of 3.5in parallel ATA hard disk drives. The Deskstar 400P runs at 7,200rpm, has an 8MByte buffer, and transfers data at a claimed rate of 8.5ms. VAT inclusive price is likely to be around £250
Massive capacity like this in a single internal drive will clearly appeal to video editors, but Hitachi says it's also suitable for other types of high performance PCs, as well as home media jukeboxes and servers used for imaging, gaming, music, video streaming, backup and archiving.
If run on a PC with a compatible Bios (or add-in EIDE card), the drive should be compatible with Windows XP, 2000, ME, 98/98SE and NT4; Mac OS 9.2.2 (or later) and OSX 10.2 (or later); and Linux Red Hat 7.1 (or later).
The retail package includes an Easy-Setup guide, an 80-wire data cable and mounting screws, plus installation utilities and Hitachi Data Fitness Test software.


MainConcept HD DVD encoder

MkII preview version of H.264 Encoder for Windows with performance enhancements and familiar interface

MainConcept has made available on the web a preview of version 2 of its H.264 Encoder for Windows.
The H.264 AVC (Advanced Video Coding) format, also known as MPEG-4 Part 10, has been ratified for use in next-generation High Density DVDs, but has a wide range of other potential uses, including video conferencing/telephony, mobile phone movies, movie downloads and streaming.
That's because the format is claimed to match the quality of MPEG-2 but at a much reduced data-rate. Official figures from the ISO show that coding efficiency is almost twice that of MPEG-2 for High Definition. Figures from MainConcept suggest that its encoder - which was written from scratch using none of the reference programming code - might be able to do better, at least judging by the claimed 9:1 file-size ratio between the original standard-definition footage and the encoded output.
The MkII encoder has an interface similar to that of MainConcept's popular MPEG encoder, and is reckoned to encode faster than the previous preview version. Output, though, remains watermarked, but that shouldn't stop users from evaluating the encoder or the format.
MainConcept's H.264 decoder is also included for playback of H.264 files, but we couldn't play any footage on two test PCs. Additional features and enhancements of the encoder are said to include baseline and main profiles; quarter-pixel motion-estimation; reference frames that are dependent only on chosen level/profile (five for Main, D1-size, for instance); motion-search range also only dependent on level/profile; and customisable GOP structure. There's also main-profile support for interlaced (field stream) and progressive (frame stream) video, bi-directional interpolation (B-slices) and CABAC bitstream encoding.
Preview version 2 runs on Windows ME (and above) with DirectX 9 installed. The free demo version is an 11MByte download from: www.mainconcept.com/h264_encoder.shtml.


Networkable Panasonic DVD recorder

Set-top DVD recorder with 400GByte hard disk drive and Ethernet connection

The latest addition to Panasonic's DIGA range of set-top DVD recorders is the DMR-E500H - due in October for a hefty VAT-inclusive SRP of £1,300 and featuring a 400GByte hard drive plus built-in Ethernet for network connection to Windows XP PCs.
Video in MPEG-2/4 or JPEG stills stored on the E500H can be viewed on networked Windows XP PCs using a media software player pre-installed on the PC (usually Windows Media Player) and Panasonic's DIGA Manager - a browser window accessed by entering a given URL. This offers basic content management options, including the renaming of video titles. Content can also be shared between two or more E500H recorders via Ethernet.
Just to make clear - the E500H network viewing capabilities work the opposite way around to those of network media players we've recently reviewed - such as the Elgato EyeHome (Mac-only, review this issue, p88), Neuston MC-500 (Mac, Windows and Linux, review, Sep 04, p58) and Pinnacle ShowCenter (WinXP, review, May 04, p26). These boxes allow the media files on PCs to be viewed on a TV set.
Five recording modes are available - XP (High picture quality), SP (Standard) and LP (Long), along with EP (Extra Long) at two audio-quality levels. In the lower-quality EP recording mode, the E500 is said to be able to store up to 709 hours of video on hard disk, and record up to eight hours to single-sided media (DVD-R or DVD-RAM) - 16 hours to double-sided DVD-RAM.
Effective transfer speed from hard disk to removable disc varies according to the quality mode of the original recording. With an 8x DVD-R, the effective speeds are said to be 64x (EP 8-hour mode), 48x (EP 6-hour mode), 16x (SP) and 8x (XP). For 5x DVD-RAM, they're 40x, 30x, 10x and 5x.
One-button recording is said to give convenient and speedy disc-creation from hard disk - a one-hour EP recording being transferred to 8x DVD-R in one minute and to 5x DVD-RAM in around a minute-and-a-half.
Content sharing from digital camcorders or stills cameras is reckoned to be simple. With a DV camcorder connected to the E500's four-pin FireWire port, the DV Auto Recording feature captures footage to hard disk or DVD-RAM as MPEG-2 and creates a thumbnail playlist of the different clips. Clips in a playlist can be rearranged, edited and played back, and DVD menus with customisable thumbnails and titles recorded to DVD-R.
There are slots for SD Memory Card and PC Card Type II - for recording/viewing MPEG video and JPEG stills - and claimed support for MultiMediaCard, Compact Flash, Smart Media, Memory Stick and ATA Flash PC Card.
All SD content saved to hard disk can be edited and titled, but MPEG-4 video and JPEGs can be viewed directly from SD Card before transfer to hard disk. MPEG-2 video stored to hard disk or DVD-RAM can be converted to MPEG-4 at up to 1.5Mbit/sec (Super Fine mode). A broadcast can be simultaneously recorded to hard disk as MPEG-2 and MPEG-4, and the MPEG-4 file later copied to SD Card at up to 240x (Economy mode) for viewing in, say, Panasonic's D-snap SV-AV100 SD video camera.
The E500H has input/outputs for composite video, S-video, RGB, and stereo analogue audio, plus outputs for component video and digital audio. Audio can be recorded as linear PCM or Dolby Digital - the built-in Dolby Digital decoder is said to make it possible to output analogue 5.1 sound, even if the attached AV amp has no decoder. Audio levels can be adjusted manually during recording, aided by peak-level meters.
Other features worth noting, and reckoned to improve picture quality, include pixel-by-pixel noise reduction; time-base control to reduce jitter and give stable pictures; real-time variable bit-rate control; and visible modulation technology - a smart compression technique. There's also PAL progressive scan (25-frame), claimed to enhance playback, and the ability to view a programme being recorded off-air before it ends, using a range of options - Chasing Playback, Simultaneous Record & Playback and Time Slip.


Software assistance for DV filmmakers

Windows software with ten tools for DV monitoring, production and evaluation

Serious Magic's DV Rack - £375 (inc VAT) from UK distributor Imago - is a Windows software package that picked up a 'Best of NAB 2004' award at April's National Association of Broadcasters show.
The program helps DV camcorder users shoot good quality footage by offering calibration tools for getting the best quality shot before hitting record; improving video quality and consistency by checking the shot before and during recording; and speeding up filming with instant preview of recorded clips off hard disk.
There are ten tools in the 'virtual rack' interface that are reckoned to emulate traditional video gear at a fraction of the cost, weight and complexity - Professional Field Monitor, Digital Video Recorder, Waveform Monitor, Vectorscope, DV Quality Monitor, Video Analyzer, Audio Spectrum Analyzer, Automatic Camera Setup, DV Frame Grabber, and Shot Timer & Production Clock.
The Professional Field Monitor accepts a direct DV input and is said to show the video exactly as it will be recorded. It has underscan, safe area display and letterbox features, as well as evaluation tools such as freeze, zoom, dual light/dark zebras (for getting correct exposure) and split screen (for checking incoming versus recorded video). It also allows the PC screen to be set up using broadcast colour bars.
DV Rack is slaved to an attached DV camcorder with the Digital Video Recorder applet - when the camcorder's record button is pressed, recording to hard disk as (DV format) AVI or QuickTime files starts simultaneously. Recorded clips can also be previewed off-disk.
Waveform Monitor and Vectorscope are industry-standard signal-monitoring tools often found in a lot of video editing software for setting the signal levels of the picture (brightness) and its saturation and hue. DV Rack's tools analyse the post-compression signal and can also perform real-time splits between the incoming signal and what's being recorded to hard disk for level comparisons. Also featured are standard monitoring checks for Luma, Parade, Y-only, R-Y and B-Y modes and gain, trace, illumination, scale and position.
DV Quality Monitor automatically evaluates incoming video and audio, marking problem areas that can be reviewed with one click. Quality parameters can be custom set beforehand as well.
The 32-band audio spectrum and video analyzers graphically display audio and video for making adjustments such as a mic's position - and, unlike traditional scopes, can even monitor pixels. Pixels are measured in real-time in five colour spaces, including RGB, HSV and YUV.
DV Grabber captures JPEG, BMP and PNG stills from incoming video. There's also a stopwatch/clip-timer for counting in video frames as well as a time-of-day production clock.
The SureShot Module guides the user through four simple steps on how to calibrate a camcorder using specially printed calibration charts. It also helps users adjust camera and lighting for the best possible quality.
System requirements include Windows XP/2000; a 1.4GHz P4 processor (or equivalent); 256MByte of RAM; 20MByte free disk space for installation; and a graphics card with 32MByte of video memory and 3D acceleration (GeForce or Radeon recommended).


Roxio sells software arm to Sonic

Roxio funds its Napster online music business with US$80 million sale of consumer software division to MyDVD software maker Sonic

Roxio is selling its consumer software division to Sonic Solutions for US$80 million - US$70 million in cash, the balance in Sonic common stock.
Sonic produces consumer and professional DVD creation software, ranging from MyDVD - the authoring package supplied with the majority of DVD burners - up to Scenarist at the high end.
Roxio - which was spun off from Adaptec in early 2001 and only recently relaunched Napster - plans to focus on the digital music market. It will change its name to Napster (leaving Roxio to Sonic) and trade under the ticker NAPS on Nasdaq.
The deal means that Sonic takes control of Roxio's entire software operation covering programs for CD/DVD recording and authoring, and photo and video editing. These take in Easy Media Creator, PhotoSuite, VideoWave and Easy DVD Copy under Windows, plus Toast and Jam under Mac OS.
The acquisition, Sonic says, provides it with rights to well-recognised consumer software brands; access to long-standing distribution channels; strong product-marketing expertise; and key relationships with top retailers and hardware makers. Completion is scheduled for the fourth quarter of 2004 if approved by Roxio shareholders and various regulatory bodies.


Miglia FireWire800 storage

Ultra-slim, dual-disk Raid O hard drives with 1394b ports and capacities of 320GByte and 500Gbyte

Miglia's latest offering is a pair of slim (37mm-high), Raid 0 external FireWire 1394b hard drives - one 320GByte (£260 inc Vat), the other 500GByte (£409). The DualDisk drives each contain two 3.5in hard disks side-by-side, and are said to be compatible with Mac (OS 9/OS X) or Windows (2000 or above).
They carry two 1394b (FireWire 800) nine-pin ports and have hardware-level support for Raid 0 (Striping), to read and write data simultaneously to their two 7,200 rpm/8Mbyte-buffer ATA/100 hard drives - giving a peak data transfer rate reckoned to be 88Mbyte/sec.
Low-noise fans and the drives' aluminium enclosures are said to help keep the drives running at low temperatures, to lengthen their lives. The enclosures are 245mm wide and 220mm deep and weight 1.9kg each.

[pic - 10_Miglia.jpg]

Recent features...
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Reviewed in this issue:

Elgato EyeHome
Boris Continuum Complete 3.01
Snazzi DV.AVIO
Terratec Aureon 7.1
Sony Sound Forge 7 v Steinberg Wavelab 5

In November's news:

Ultra-slim Apple G5 iMacs
Casablanca uses MainConcept
Sony TRV950 replacement
Apple Production Suite
Hitachi 400GByte HDD
MainConcept HD DVD encoder
Networkable Panasonic DVD recorder
Software assistance for DV filmmakers
Roxio sells software arm to Sonic
Miglia FireWire800 storage

 

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