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Copyright © 2004 -
Information Today, Inc.

January 31, 2005

Table of Contents

Review: HP LightScribe Direct Disc Labeling
4EVER Group Fires Up Videographer Education Programs, Awards
Leitch Announces Price Reductions for VelocityQ Non-Linear Editing Solutions
Digital Heaven announces Multicam Lite
Double Layer Technology now available in Alera 16X DVD/CD 1:3 and 1:7 Duplicator Towers
SmartSound Technology Powers Soundtrack Creation in New CyberLink PowerDirector 4 Home Video Editing Software
Nero Digital Fully Integrated Into NeroVision Express 3
Sony to Release New DVD+R DL Drive in February
Digital Video Computing Introduces ClipRecorder-Light and ClipRecorderXTreme

Review: HP LightScribe Direct Disc Labeling

Though groundbreaking in incorporating a fully functional disc labeler into a standard form-factor DVD recorder, LightScribe (www.lightscribe.com, www.hp.com) will not replace the usual suspects for serious commercial and decorative work. It may not give you the aesthetic edge you desire from a disc-labeling product if your aim is to reproduce attractive color photography or graphics on the discs you present to your clients. With their near-antique appearance—thanks to a sepia-like look--LightScribe labels also offer another visual option for crafting something distinctive.

What's the best way to label a disc—marker? sticker? printer? The inventive folks at Hewlett-Packard think they have the answer with LightScribe, promising slick labels with fewer hassles. But does HP's LightScribe live up to the hype?

Using a compatible recorder and software, LightScribe imparts text and graphics directly to the face of special CDs and DVDs. Labeling is simple: burn the disc as usual, flip it over, and put it back into the recorder which then uses its laser to draw the image. And the entire process is accomplished within your DVD recorder—possibly even the one that ships factory-installed in your new PC.

How it Works
The underlying technology is simple yet ingenious. The top surface of these special discs is screen-printed at the factory with a thermal-sensitive coating (a leuco dye). When exposed to infrared radiation from the recorder's CD laser this material heats and forms a visible mark through an irreversible chemical reaction.

By pulsing the laser on and off at the appropriate time as the disc rotates, a pattern of these marks is produced. The entire label is then built by stepping the laser across the surface of the spinning disc thus forming the image in a series of tightly packed concentric rings (tracks).

Where You'll Find It
According to HP, LightScribe-enabled DVD recorders will be produced by many of the industry's largest manufacturers such as Lite-On IT, Hitachi-LG Data Storage (HLDS), Toshiba Samsung Storage Technology (TSST) and Philips BenQ Digital Storage (PBDS). Not surprisingly, HP is the first to offer computers factory-equipped with optional LightScribe units including several models of its latest desktop Pavilion, MediaCenter, and Compaq Presario systems. HP's Pavilion a820n and a830n, MediaCenter m1270n and m1280n and Compaq SR1350NX are the first models to ship with LightScribe drives.

Branded-enabled recorders from HP, BenQ, Philips, and LaCie have also been announced and should hit store shelves in the first quarter of 2005 with prices expected to be a little higher than conventional offerings.

Media and Software Support
Moser Baer India (MBI), Mitsubishi Chemical Company (MCC), and CMC Magnetics will manufacture LightScribe discs with market versions available in the Q1 2005. Familiar faces include Imation, TDK, Philips, and Memorex. HP and Verbatim CD-R discs are already shipping but some delay on the DVD front has been encountered due to unforeseen technical problems. When resolved, 8X DVD+Rs will come first. However, promotional agreements, manufacturing constraints, and wait-and-see marketing may bring us the end of the year before DVD-Rs make an appearance—perhaps even later for DVD+R Double Layer (DL).

Promotional spin puts the cost of LightScribe discs at a "slight premium" over regular media. Prices for DVDs have yet to be published but HP currently markets through its online store a five-pack of LightScribe 52X CD-Rs for $8.99 ($1.80 per disc) ,while Verbatim has announced the same price for a larger ten-pack ($0.90 per disc).

Rounding out the picture, LightScribe-enabled software is on the way from industry luminaries MicroVision, InterVideo, Sonic Solutions, Nero, Roxio, and CyberLink.

How it Tested
Over the holidays I had the opportunity to experiment with a pre-production LightScribe recorder to get a good feel for the technology. The drive submitted for testing is an external 8X HP unit manufactured by HDLS (shipping models will be 16X), which was bundled with InterVideo WinDVD Creator and DiscLabel, Sonic RecordNow, and Express Labeler as well as Apple iTunes.

Not having to play around with gooey labels, tricky applicators, and moody printers has natural appeal, so I was anxious to give LightScribe a spin. The provided software was rudimentary but, to my delight, the overall process proved as convenient and painless as promised.

After I laid out my design, the next step was to select one of three contrast levels (best, normal, draft) for the disc. These adjust the density of the tracks marked by the recorder's laser, thus resulting in the final image appearing lighter or darker. And obviously, since this alters the number of tracks, higher quality settings take longer to produce. How fast a label is imaged to the disc surface is also determined by its layout. Since a label is formed a ring at a time (moving from the inner to outer diameter of the disc), text and graphics arranged in tight radial (rather than linear) patterns are put down the fastest.

My initial excitement gave way to impatience as LightScribe proved to be slow. Full-surface labels took from 18 (draft) to 33 (best) minutes to complete while simpler radial designs clocked in at 6 to 10 minutes. In fairness, your computer won't be enslaved during the process as disc printing is a background operation, but the recorder will obviously be tied up. Later this year a 50% speed increase is planned by using a new disc coating (compatible with existing LightScribe recorders after upgrade). Labels can also be augmented later with new material properly aligned with existing content, although in testing it proved possible to run over previous work.

LightScribe is a monochrome system generating grayscale by varying the lengths of the laser-written marks and intervening spaces. Images I produced using supplied templates and my own artwork were respectably detailed with smooth gradations but not on par with better inkjet printable discs or other labels. And real estate is comparatively tight starting at a diameter of 47mm (as opposed to 18 to 41mm). From an aesthetic perspective, I found overall LightScribe label appearance to be a matter of personal taste. The thermal-sensitive coating is green/gold in color so images lack high contrast and have a look reminiscent of sepia photographs.

Built to Last
Since LightScribe technology is new, the lifetime of its labels is unknown. HP cautions that images can fade over time so discs should be kept out of direct light. During my encounter, results appeared to be water fast and survived dragging wet fingers across unscathed. That said, labels are not indestructible. For example, I was able to easily scuff them with a fingernail while isopropyl alcohol spoiled the surface.

So, what's the best way to label a disc? Though groundbreaking, LightScribe will not replace the usual suspects for serious commercial and decorative work, and may not give you the aesthetic edge you desire from a disc-labeling product if your aim is to reproduce attractive color photography or graphics on the discs you present to your clients. It should, however, do the trick when you need something better than handwriting and don't want to chance a sticker. With their near-antique appearance, LightScribe labels also offer another visual option for crafting something distinctive.

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4EVER Group Fires Up Videographer Education Programs, Awards

As the event videography market matures and more and more intrepid entrepreneurs flock to the field, the need for effective educational resources to teach the neophytes and sharpen the skills of seasoned veterans grows in kind. In the past, WEVA was pretty much the only game in town for providing event videography-specific information, but that's not the case any more.

Mike Martin's Fast Forward Club (www.fastforwardclub.com) has provided one alternative resource, with a growing Web community with much valuable content and some seminars planned, although the recent cancellation of their first-ever Expo was a significant setback. More recently, the 4EVER (Event Videography Education and Resources) Group (www.4evergroup.org) has hit the scene, and, with the experience and expertise at its helm, it's well-equipped to make event videographers sit up and take notice.

The 4EVER Group was founded by two former WEVA insiders and longtime event videographers: Tim Ryan, founder of Treasured Memories Video, and Steve Wernick, founder of Videoccasion and founding member of the Greater Philadelphia Videographers Association. Both got into the videography game back in the mid-'80s, and became involved with WEVA in the mid-'90s, first as volunteers, then as contractors and key organizers of the WEVA Town Meetings and Expos. In summer 2004, internal disputes soured the relationship, and WEVA and Wernick parted ways. Ryan quickly followed him out the door. Although they left with no specific plans for future work in the larger videography community, the response they received from the industry suggested a new direction. "So many videographers called us and said that it doesn't matter what you do, we're going with you," says Ryan. "Then we heard from the manufacturers—these were key people—asking us what we were going to do next," says Ryan.

"We clearly still had great relationships with the overwhelming majority of people in the industry," Wernick says. "That was the evidence we needed that we should continue." But how? Neither Wernick nor Ryan had any desire to form a trade organization to compete with WEVA. "We even sat down and said, ‘What can we do that WEVA isn't already doing that there's a need for? Let's fill in the blanks,'" says Ryan. "We started to write a list of the types of things that we might be able to supply. That was the start."

The foremost goal of the 4EVER Group is to educate videographers. "Right now we're starting with educational programming, working together with Luisa Winters, who's an Adobe Certified Instructor," says Wernick. "We've set up a nine-city tour." Class attendees will benefit from Winters' experience as a Premiere Pro trainer and will be learning on how to take full advantage of Adobe Premiere Pro 1.5. But the 4EVER Group isn't just about educating, it's also about acknowledging high-quality work through Artistic Achievement Awards. These awards, announced in January 2005, will feature 14 categories, including seven for wedding videos and seven for other types of events. "The obvious reason for this is to reward the people in our industry, but that on its own is not that different from what WEVA's doing," says Ryan. "What's different is that we are going to do this because we want to uncover new and unique creative talent."

The 4EVER Group then hopes to translate this new talent as well as that of established experts into a network of presenters and educators. "The next set of events or programs is going to be what we're calling ‘regional summits,'" says Ryan. "They're going to be in-depth workshops. You're not going to just be introduced to a topic; you should leave as an expert in that topic." In some ways, these regional summits will mirror WEVA's Town Meetings, but there's a distinct difference in the way that Ryan approaches these as compared to the way he ran WEVA's Town Meetings. When he ran these Town Meetings, Ryan says, his typical approach was to show a video and then encourage people to attend WEVA Expo to see and learn more. "Our goal is to not just show a video. I want to show the video hopefully with the videographer who shot it right there with me," says Ryan. "Then I want to discuss what's good or bad in the video, hear how it was done, hear what the mindset was of the videographer as he was shooting it." Ryan even envisions having panels of brides-to-be available to comment on how they perceive the videos. "Videographers never get to hear what customers or potential customers think," he says.

But the 4EVER Group isn't free and clear to move ahead with all of its plans; WEVA has filed suit against the organization and is thus attempting to enjoin it from launching the seminars and regional summits. "They've made allegations that we did not engage in appropriate conduct as we were leaving the organization," says Wernick. WEVA alleges that Wernick and Ryan illegally obtained and retained information about WEVA to gain competitive advantage.

The lawsuit also claims that Ryan has extensive member data from WEVA's ranks, although where the line is drawn between privileged and public information is debatable. "This is my analysis of what I read—because it didn't say it in these terms. It's the fact that I know how many people attended certain workshops and the fact that I know how many people each presenter draws," says Ryan. "I don't have the actual number of people in a spreadsheet in front of me, but I do know these things since I was there. [WEVA chair Roy Chapman] seems to indicate that I have membership info. I never even knew how many members WEVA had or how many total people attended WEVA Expo."

Despite the fact that uncertainty over the outcome of this lawsuit caused some sponsors of the 4EVER Group's regional summits to back out, Ryan doesn't have any desire to duke this out in court. Ryan and Wernick botj note that there are a growing number of companies and organizations that are moving into the space that was previously WEVA's exclusive domain. "The market on the educational side [of videography] is maturing," Wernick says. "There's no reason that there shouldn't be different entities offering educational programming.We just want the opportunity to compete in the marketplace."

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Leitch Announces Price Reductions for VelocityQ Non-Linear Editing Solutions

Leitch Technology Corporation has announced price reductions on all models of its VelocityQ non-linear editing system to match the pricing of the VelocityQ line to the range of Leitch's earlier dual-stream Velocity editing systems.

VelocityQ combines the Quattrus multi-stream, real-time hardware with the Velocity software, forming a tightly integrated, multi-layer NLE solution. VelocityQ features real-time, full-quality playback of four streams of compressed or uncompressed video, up to six graphics streams, and optionally two or four channels of 3D DVE.

VelocityQ harnesses this power into a customizable interface designed to makes complex editing tasks easy. The comprehensive feature set includes integrated, full-quality multi-camera editing; 3- and 4-point editing; real-time filters such as color correction and speed changes; hundreds of customizable real-time transitions; timeline integration with eyeon's included Digital Fusion DFX+ compositing software; OMF and AAF interoperability; and the unique EyeCon View timeline interface tool. The Virtual Tape File System also qualifies VelocityQ ideal as a digital disk recorder or graphics output platform.

VelocityQ is available as fully integrated, "ready to run" turnkey solutions, or as boardset-and-software bundles for installation into a Windows 2000 or Windows XP workstation. Leitch Quattrus cards and DVE modules are also available on an OEM basis to third-party developers wanting to integrate high-quality, real-time video I/O hardware into their own products and applications.


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Digital Heaven announces Multicam Lite

Digital Heaven has announced Multicam Lite, the "first ever" multi-camera editing solution for Apple's Final Cut Pro. Multicam Lite is a standalone application which works in conjunction with Final Cut Pro (v4.1 and later) for the input and output of sequences via XML files. DV, DVCPRO25, or OfflineRT source clips can be directly used by the software and there are comprehensive trimming and camera-switching features built in. When the cut is finished, the XML file is imported back into FCP where all the cuts are automatically recreated ready for further effects work or output.

Multicam Lite is currently in beta and is expected to be shipping in December. The software will be available for download purchase from Digital Heaven's online store for $295.

Digital Heaven has also announced that a higher-end product called Multicam Pro is currently in development. Multicam Pro will be able to use up to 20 cameras and has additional features to cater to more demanding multicamera projects. Multicam Pro is expected to be shipping in Q1 2005.


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Double Layer Technology now available in Alera 16X DVD/CD 1:3 and 1:7 Duplicator Towers

Alera Technologies has announced a new generation of its DVD/CD duplicator solutions. The 1:3 DVD/CD Copy Tower Pro 16 and 1:7 DVD/CD Copy Tower Pro 16 are standalone DVD/CD duplicators that copy DVDs at up to 16X. The new Alera copy towers include a 80GB hard disk drive to store frequently used source material. The new Pro 16s also support 8.5GB DVD+R DL recording technology.

The duplicator controller provides copy control flexibility as well. Users can select multiple speeds for both read and write processes, prescan source discs for optimum copy speeds, and select duplication sources; moreover, customers can analyze discs showing the size, number of tracks, and sessions. The backlit LCD display reports the % complete and other status elements of each duplicator function. The display indicates when a process will be completed, which is useful when copying discs that cannot be copied at full speed.

The 1:3 and 1:7 copy towers are priced at $1,199 and $2,299, respectively.


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SmartSound Technology Powers Soundtrack Creation in New CyberLink PowerDirector 4 Home Video Editing Software

SmartSound Software, Inc., a leading provider of soundtrack creation technology for visual content creators, has announced that CyberLink is embedding its Quicktracks technology in its new PowerDirector 4 video editing software.

SmartSound's Quicktracks technology is the driving force behind the MagicMusic feature inside CyberLink PowerDirector 4. This patented technology allows users to create soundtracks for their projects through SmartSound's "block" method. Users select a song from SmartSound's royalty-free music library and bring it into the timeline. The song is automatically rearranged into a complete soundtrack piece with a musical beginning and ending, that matches up with the on-screen visuals.

These songs can fit any length needed, from a few seconds to several minutes, according to SmartSound.


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Nero Digital Fully Integrated Into NeroVision Express 3

Nero has announced that NeroVision Express 3, the video authoring and editing application included in the Nero 6 digital media suite Nero 6, will now include Nero Digital, the company's HD-capable MPEG-4 solution.

Nero Digital is at the center of Nero's strategy for content creation, delivery, and protection. Featuring AVC/H.264 video encoding and HE-AAC audio, NeroVision Express 3 can now capture directly to Nero Digital's HD video format with surround sound, or export and burn to Nero Digital for playback on compatible devices. With the addition of VCPS in the near future, Nero says, Nero Digital output files will provide the required level of security against unauthorized re-distribution.

NeroVision Express 3 is able to author or edit video from virtually any input source, according to Nero, and record video files to DVD Video, Video CD (VCD), Super Video CD (SVCD), miniDVD, and now Nero Digital. Chapters can be created using automatic scene detection. Videos can be trimmed and customized menus can be created using pre-defined layout templates and button frames. NeroVision Express 3 is available as FREE update to Nero 6 users.


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Sony to Release New DVD+R DL Drive in February

Sony Electronics will begin shipping a new generation of dual-format, DL-capable DVD±R/RW drives in February 2005. The internal DRU-720A and external DRX-720UL will feature 4X DVD+R DL, 16X DVD±R, 8X DVD+RW, 6X DVD-RW, 48X CD-R, and 24X CD-RW writing speeds. Sony will bundle the full Nero software package and promises enhanced DL disc playback compatibility with home DVD players.

The internal ATAPI DRU-720A features a black replacement bezel, and will hit store shelves in early February for an estimated selling price of $129 plus an additional $30 mail-in rebate. Sony will begin taking pre-orders on SonyStyle.com this week. The DRX-720UL will offer both i.LINK and USB 2.0 connectivity and a vertical design, and will ship in late February for $149 plus $30 mail-in rebate.


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Digital Video Computing Introduces ClipRecorder-Light and ClipRecorderXTreme

Digital Video Computing (DVC) has introduced two new HD and SD hard disk recorders to its ScreenDisk family of products, which provide open platform for the uncompressed recording and playback of SD, HD, 2k, and film data. Within this range the ClipRecorder series of uncompressed HD and SD disk recorders has been extended with new multistandard, multi-channel models.

The ClipRecorder-Light now can store and record both HD and SD SDI video with six-channel AES /embedded audio. The internal SCSI disk array can be enlarged up to 2 or 4TB. The entry-level model with 66 min HD 1080p25 or 330 min SD 625i50 lists for Euro 15,000--and is available immediately.

DVC has also announced ClipRecorderXTreme, its new top model. ClipRecorderXTreme will feature the new XENA2 (former KONA2 uncompressed multistandard I/O boards. As a result all models of ClipRecorderXTreme have Dual-Link HD, HD, and SD input and outputs with 8- or 10-bit, and the option to operate in 4:2:2 or 4:4:4 modes. In addition an analog component output with 12 bit D/A conversion is available. With the XENA2 I/O channel hardware up- and down conversion from HD to SD and vice versa will be supported. The new server platform used for ClipRecorderXTreme allows the use of multiple XENA I/O boards and thereby provides a true multistandard multi-channel device.

Further highlights of ClipRecorderXTreme are Dual XEON processors up to 3.6GHz, up to 16GB RAM, and PCI-Express high-end graphics. The disk array is based on approved and reliable SCSI technology and can be expanded up to 6TB. Additionally a Quad-Fibre-Controller for SAN-connection will be an option. Furthermore ClipRecorderXTreme comes with the Drastic MediaReactor file converter, transcoder and encoder and the IRIDAS FrameCycler Player software.


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