World’s Fare: G5, Panther, and More at MacWorld CreativeExpo 2003
Posted Aug 1, 2003

This year's east coast IDG MacWorld Conference & Expo, held July 14-18 at Jacob Javits in New York City, is reportedly the last MacWorld that will happen in New York (rumors are it will move back to Boston next year) and the first to bear the qualifier, "CreativePro." Given the Mac's longstanding popularity with "creative" types, from video producers to artists to graphic designers and publishers, it seems a good match, and the mix of sessions and exhibitors fit well with the theme.

Greg "Joz" Joswiak's keynote—while not a keynote in the strictest sense of the world, since it essentially amounted to a product announcements, though even the products had been partially announced before—focused on the upcoming G5 Power Macintosh and the Panther OS that will succeed the current OS X. Joswiak made a strong case for the G5 as a video production platform, beginning with its 64-bit processor—licensed from IBM—which he claims delivers performance 13 times as fast as the current dual-processor G4 in the top-of-the-line dual 2gHz processor G5. He also emphasized its dual 1gHz front-side bus speed, which trumps, according to Joswiak, the shared single 512gHz front-side bus in Intel's top Xeon. For graphics acceleration and display support, the G5 features an AGP 8X Pro graphics card, plus 4X SuperDrive DVD Recorder in all models, and for peripheral and network connections, FireWire 400 and 800, USB 2.0, and Gigabit Ethernet. The top-of-the-line dual G5 will retail for $2999.

The highlight of the Panther presentation for digital studio pros was Pixlet, a Pixar-inspired video-editing format that Joswiak called "the first studio-grade codec to run on a personal computer." Named to suggest a hybrid of "Pixar" and "Wavelet," with applications for video and high-end 3D animated graphics alike, the format's origins are at Pixar, where the CGI giant used a similar codec for file manipulation, sharing, and review. Accepting 48-bit pixel source data with no interframe compression, the Pixlet format is designed to serve "anybody doing film" and can enable, Joswiak said, HD editing and rendering on a 1gHz Titanium Powerbook.

While most of Apple's recent activity in the video post space has involved circling the wagons and excluding products like Adobe Premiere that compete with flagship Apple tools like Final Cut (particularly the recently released Final Cut Express), Apple's partnership with Avid remains strong, as indicated by an informative session on the forthcoming Avid Express Pro (successor to the successful Express DV). Avid product manager Steve Chazin started with a brief history lesson on the partnership, noting that "Avid started on the Mac" with the first MediaComposer because it was "the only system that allowed more than one monitor." To this day, he said, Avid develops code on the Mac and ships all Mac and Windows products together; more than half of Avid's business, he maintained, is on the Mac platform. Chazin and his colleague, senior applications editor Glen Seaman presented not just Express Pro, but also Mojo, a FireWire-attached "portable digital non-linear accelerator" (DNA) that combines with a Mac or PC running the Avid software to provide a "full real-time system. As soon as you plug in Mojo," Chazin said, "you don't need to render." Mojo provides five simultaneous streams of real-time DV25, he said, with analog output to a monitor. Key features of Express Pro noted in the presentation included full support for Panasonic's 24p camcorder, OpenGL 3D and DV effects, and support for multicam projects with up to four cameras simultaneously.

Given Apple's policy of not revealing much if any information about yet-to-be-released products, MacWorld CreativePro also offered more detailed previews of near-release products already announced at NAB and other shows such as Final Cut Pro 4 and Studio 2, Beyond Apple itself were providers of key production and publishing tools for the Mac platform like Primera, with the Mac version of its Bravo Disc Publisher integrated DVD/CD duplicator and printer, as well as DiscMakers with the latest addition to their line of automated DVD/CD production systems, the MacElite Pro. Also showing products in the DVD/CD duplication space was R-Quest Technologies, a longtime manufacturer of automated optical publishing systems that's only recently started marketing its products under its own brand name. Featured products at MacWorld CreativePro included the TCP line of autoloading DVD/CD systems with up to five DVD/CD recorders and loading capacities ranging from 220 to 550 discs.

Also on hand was PowerFile, the leading (only?) provider of near-line optical libraries for the Mac platform. Using Panasonic DVDburner drives, with their DVD-RAM/R support, the PowerFile libraries offer up to 940GB of optical storage with pricing ranging from $2799-$4799, connected via FireWire. Rackmountable systems are available as well, with daisychaining of up to four libraries. Future versions will support FireWire 800, which is good news for Mac users interested in keeping their PowerFiles more than six feet from their computers (far-line storage, perhaps?), but otherwise inconsequential given that CD and DVD transfer rates demand nowhere near the throughput capacity of FireWire 400. Interestingly, at a show that's all about hyping the Mac platform and swearing Apple allegiance, PowerFile director of channel sales Todd Owens pointed out that PowerFile's current strategy is to build up sales on the Windows side. Initially, their optical library business was 100% Mac; today, he estimates, it's roughly 70/30 Mac/Windows. Naturally, the ultimate goal is to bring that ratio as close as possible to the actual market breakdown without eroding their longstanding Mac business.