But Ours Go to 11
As August gave way to September, two announcements rocked the standalone duplication world—at least, those in that world who were ripe to be rocked. First came the new CopyWriter tower from MicroBoards (www.microboards.com), the self-proclaimed World's First 10-drive standalone CD/DVD duplication tower. The product may be new but the brand is not—at least one ancestor of the new CopyWriter snagged an EMedia cover and Editor's Choice Award in the late 1990s. The new CopyWriter is also available in a daisychainable dual-tower configuration, which brings the target-drive total up to 16.
Not to be outdone, crosstown rival Condre, Inc. (www.condre.com) shot back roughly 45 minutes later with its own announcement: the new GV 11, developed in conjunction with Go Video, boasting—you guessed it—eleven CD/DVD recorders in a single tower. For those of you keeping score (and I know at least two guys who are), the Condre incorporates 16X/52X DVD/CD recorders vs. the Microboards' 8X/24X; but at what speed do you really expect to use these things? (At least the 52X CD speed is more than a number at this point.) Condre's unit has a published MSRP, too: $1,199; I've also seen a Web price for the MicroBoards DSR DVD-D8810 of $2,695, although it's well worth noting that the MicroBoards unit has an 80GB hard drive, which changes the value proposition entirely. But Condre's duplicators go to 11.
At presstime for this issue we also saw what seemed like almost daily announcements in the double-layer DVD recording space, suggesting that in spite of its rocky start, this technology just might go mainstream after all, if only by sheer market saturation. Few drive manufacturers seem to be following Plextor's example of staying out of the DL game until the odds improve; but the good news is that the latest round of drives seems so far to have improved on the first generation's two main shortcomings: speed and compatibility.
In this month's Driving Range, Hugh Bennett reports a 65% success rate for burned DL disc playback in DVD players and drives, up from 35% a few months earlier. The new drives also bump the speed from 2.4X up to 4X. HP, of course, led off the second generation by asserting that its 90% compatibility claim (same as Sony's in the first round) was the genuine article; one advantage is that most of the latest entrants seem more willing to switch the book time from the unfamiliar DVD+R9 to ROM, which makes players much more comfortable with DL discs.
The latest 4X contenders (or pretenders, depending on how the compatibility claims shake out) include LaCie, Sony, and TEAC. Most of these drives also boast 16X recording to compatible discs, and the announcements have come with plenty of ambiguity in the height that might lead more credulous audiences to believe DL speed had jumped to 4X as well. And not everyone seems to be in step with the prevailing 16X/4X combo; for example, Memorex' latest combines cutting-edge 16X SL with old-school 2.4X DL and no Book Type-switching.
Recent weeks have also seen a spate of 16X media announcements from the likes of Verbatim, Philips, Imation, and Traxdata; here's hoping those discs actually materialize in the near-term. (And it's anyone's guess when 16X or DL media might ship in sufficient quantities that 16X or DL recording becomes practical in duplication spheres.)
Finally, we also saw announcements of DL support in a variety of consumer video tools like Ulead's Video Studio 8, and two new releases, NewSoft Presto! DVD PowerSuite 2.0 and Sony Pictures Vegas MovieStudio+DVD—yet more evidence of DL's approaching mainstream move, ill-advised or not.
Early September also brought news of a new round of sawed-off software from Sony Pictures Digital Networks: Vegas Movie Studio+DVD, ACID Music Studio 5, and Sound Forge Audio Studio. This is where it all began for Sonic Foundry and Sony Pictures, using the consumer Screenblast channel to sell these feature-reduced, hobbyist-oriented versions of Sonic Foundry's prosumer-to-pro digital media tools.
It was and is a good match—Sonic Foundry was never a consumer software company, even though ACID was an especially good fit for the home audio crowd. Movie Studio has always seemed a slightly tougher sell; version 3.0 looked an awful lot like Vegas when you opened it up, which seems pretty opaque if more consumer-transparent tools like Pinnacle Studio and Ulead Video Studio are more your speed.
What's especially interesting about this Movie Studio release is that it adds DVD authoring support, with a presumed kinship to Vegas-mate DVD Architect. Like just about everything from of Sony Pictures Media Digital (www.mediasoftware.sonypictures.com, the former Sonic Foundry software unit), Movie Studio+DVD, ACID Studio 5, and Sound Forge Studio are certainly worth a look, especially since they're the only Sony Pictures Digital tools you'll see for under $100.