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Copyright © 2004 -
Information Today, Inc.

February 14, 2005

Table of Contents

Studio Streaming: How Low Should You Go?
Pioneer Expands Line of Professional DVD Recorders
Discreet Announces combustion 4 Desktop Compositing Software
Serious Magic Announces Free Closed-Captioning for Visual Communicator 2
Advanced Media Adds Printable, Double-Layer DVD+R Disc to RIDATA Line
Telestream Adds Xsan Support, Mac version of MAPone
Baystor Introduces BK-1500 and Teletext
EventDV Spotlight Survey #2 RESULTS: How do you price your services and packages?
EventDV Spotlight Survey #3 RESULTS: How many events/jobs did you book in 2004?

Studio Streaming: How Low Should You Go?

Back when EventDV was EMedia magazine, columnist Bob Starrett was one of our resident "deep technology" gurus. In the days when CD recorders had just entered the consumer market, player compatibility was hit-and-miss and, all too often, more miss than hit.

One of the things Starrett noticed was that the likelihood of a CD-R playing back successfully on any given player correlated almost directly to the price of the player. In my favorite installment of his CD Writer column, Starrett argued that the manufacturers of CD media had a responsibility to make sure that their discs were as likely to play on a $50 boombox as on an audiophile's $300 component player. Fast-forward a decade. CD-R compatiblity is virtually a non-issue. Same goes for single-layer DVD±R; if it's authored at a reasonable bitrate, it's going to play back on most players, whether it's a $39 off-brand from Wal-Mart or a unit with a higher price tag and recognizable nameplate. (The new dual-layer recorders, unfortunately, have yet to achieve this level of compatibility.)

The bottom line is that if you're doing your own DVD authoring and duplication, as most videographers are, you thankfully don't have to worry much about whether your discs will play on your client's (or their family members') players. If you're delivering video from your Web site, however, it's a different story. Just because you've got a G5 and broadband in your studio, that doesn't mean your clients have the same level of PC power or a fast Internet connection. You need to consider everyone from dial-up to T1 users when encoding clips—demos or final product— for your Web site.

All of which means you'll want to encode your clips at at least two, and maybe even three, different bitrates and resolutions. Most broadband users can reliably receive streams between 200 and 300Kbps, so 256Kbps is generally considered the "sweet spot" for broadband encoding. For those who've got faster connections, you also might want to offer a 512Kbps version. In either case, you'll also need to consider the resolution (or screen size). According to Steve Mack, author of The Streaming Media Bible, the best bet is to start with an encode at 240x180, then work your way up through larger screen sizes until the quality of the video becomes unacceptable. Since high-action video puts more of a strain on codecs, in terms of both bitrate and resolution, your results likely will vary from project to project. For most wedding videos, however, you should be able to encode at 320x240 and achieve acceptable results.

But that leaves dial-up users out in the cold. Even though the installed base for U.S. broadband access surpassed dial-up for the first time in late 2004, there are still plenty of modem users out there. (If there weren't, we wouldn't be seeing all those TV commercials for NetZero and AOL TopSpeed, would we?) To ignore them is to ignore almost half of the potential viewers of your work. While you might cringe at the thought of delivering any video in a format that doesn't do justice to your productions, you should at least consider the option of offering a 112Kbps version at a 160x120 resolution, with a disclaimer that the quality of the Web video does not reflect the quality of your finished products. (Progressive download is another option. Check out the November 2004 STUDIO STREAMING, http://www.emedialive.com/Articles/ReadArticle.aspx?ArticleID=9031, for more on that approach.)

Worrying about bandwidth and screen sizes might seem like putting the cart before the horse. Isn't it more important to decide on a format first? Microsoft, Real, Apple, and other codec and format proponents would like you to think so, but that's just so much marketing bluster. Truth is, from a player standpoint, it doesn't make much difference. If you encode in Windows Media Player (for viewers on PCs) and QuickTime (for Mac users), you've likely got all your bases covered. In fact, if you encode for the Macromedia Flash player—which is on virtually every PC in the market—you can bypass the Windows vs. QuickTime vs. Real dilemma altogether. (Plus, the Macromedia Video Kit makes it ridiculously easy to embed video into Web pages created with the company's Dreamweaver so that the video doesn't need to pop up in a separate player screen; viewers never take their eyes off of your brand.)

Now, I won't argue that videographers have the same kind of responsibility to the public to make their video accessible to everyone with a computer as CD media and player manufacturers do with CD-R compatibility. It's just good business sense, even if the lower-bandwidth, small-screen versions don't provide an ideal reflection of the quality of your work. I know that's anathema to many of you, and there's something to be said for never displaying any work that doesn't meet your own high standards.

But the potential client without broadband is accustomed to video playback that's less than top-of-the-line, and your clips will be on the same playing field as every other videographer's. If you make sure that you take the limitations of low-bandwidth viewers into account, at least you'll be in the game.

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Pioneer Expands Line of Professional DVD Recorders

Pioneer Electronics, Inc. has announced the availability of the PRV-9200 professional DVD recorder. Coming with a 160-gigabyte built-in hard disk drive and 48X high-speed copying to the HDD, the PRV-9200 allows for the creation of compliant DVD-Video discs without the need for a computer or authoring software.

DVD-R/RW discs recorded on the PRV-9200 are highly compatible and can be played back in most DVD players, including industrial players, consumer players, in-car systems, portable DVD players, and personal computers.

Additionally, the recorder allows high-speed copying of content from a DVD-RW disc recorded in Video mode to be directly recorded back onto the internal HDD. Users can then repurpose content or make edits before recording it to a new DVD-R/RW disc. Users also can re-encode original HDD recording while making a copy simultaneously to a DVD disc in real time.

Other product highlights include:

• Extended Recording Times
• Multiple Copy Modes
• Disc Backup and Bit-for-Bit Recording
• Chase Play
• Smart Variable Bit Rate Recording (VBR)
• Full Motion Thumbnails with Sound
• Built-in Tuner
• IEEE-1394/DV Input/Output (i.LINK)
• Three-pin AC Power
• Supports NTSC and PAL/SECAM TV Formats


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Discreet Announces combustion 4 Desktop Compositing Software

Discreet, the media and entertainment division of Autodesk, Inc. (NASDAQ: ADSK), has announced combustion 4 software, a full-step upgrade to its visual effects desktop software solution. combustion software for Windows and Mac features tools for visual effects creation, including vector paint, particles, effects, animation, and 3D compositing tools. Version 4 provides motion graphics and compositing artists new creative capabilities, interface improvements, new paint tools, and enhanced interoperability with most 3D animation products including Discreet's 3ds max animation software, and Discreet's cleaner encoding software and its systems products including flint, flame, inferno, fire, and smoke.

New features in combustion 4 include the following:

  • Discreet's Diamond Keyer—the second generation of sophisticated keying algorithms derived from flame, Discreet's online visual effects system. The Diamond Keyer adds a new level of advanced keying technology to the capabilities already available to combustion users via the Discreet Keyer.
  • Time-Warp—a fully keyframeable, time-remapping operator for quickly creating slow motion and speed-up effects
  • B-spline vector shapes and new point-grouping for faster, more efficient rotoscoping
  • New optimized Fast Gaussian Blur
  • Custom capsules—create and save encapsulated single or grouped operator nodes
  • Gbuffer builder—enables custom building of Discreet's Rich Pixel Format (RPF) data structures from bitmap files for more extensive use of combustion's RPF nodes
  • Merge operator—new optimized operator to quickly merge two layers of the same size using any of combustion's transfer nodes
  • UI enhancements including edit-operator, navigation, filtering, and compare tool improvements
  • New file import/export options—import of images into color mixer, import ASE (ASCII Scene Export) camera targets from 3ds max, import Windows Media, Open EXR-compatible output
  • Enhanced paint—new paint tools, grids, and rulers, Bspline in paint, and new customized brushes
  • Ability to read media directly from Discreet stone filesystems for enhanced interoperability with Discreet's online systems: inferno, fire, smoke, flame, flint, and backdraft

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Serious Magic Announces Free Closed-Captioning for Visual Communicator 2

Serious Magic, Inc. has announced the immediate availability of closed-captioning for its Visual Communicator 2 software. This feature currently outputs for Windows Media and is available as a free download from Serious Magic's Web site. It will enable government agencies, educators, and professional trainers serving the government to be in compliance with Section 508 of the Federal Rehabilitation Act, which requires that Federal agencies' electronic and information technology be accessible to people with disabilities.

Visual Communicator 2 is based on a video production process that eliminates traditional editing timelines, allowing faster video creation. It offers an on-screen teleprompter, customizable graphics and titles, real-time transitions, and virtual sets; moreover, it includes a professional clip-on microphone and V-ScreenT foldable backdrop material for green-screen effects.

The update works with all versions of Visual Communicator 2, including Web, Pro, and Studio, and those that wish to upgrade from previous versions of Visual Communicator can do so for $149.95.


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Advanced Media Adds Printable, Double-Layer DVD+R Disc to RIDATA Line

Advanced Media, Inc., manufacturer of the RIDATA brand of recordable CD and DVD media, electronic storage products, and digital media accessories, has added an inkjet-printable, double-layer DVD+R disc to its line of products. The single-sided disc has 8.5GB of storage capacity, enough for up to four hours of DVD-quality video, 16 hours of VHS-quality video, or over 120 hours of MP3 audio. It records at speeds of 1-2.4X and uses a premium organic-dye recording material, Advanced Media says.

The new RIDATA printable, double-layer disc is compatible with current DVD-Video players, DVD game consoles, DVD-ROM drives, and DVD+R DL drives, according to Advanced Media. It may be used with most disc printers, such as Primera Technology's Bravo Disc Publisher.


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Telestream Adds Xsan Support, Mac version of MAPone

Telestream has announced expanded support for the Mac platform with a number of new workflow automation solutions. Enhancements to Telestream's FlipFactory and MAP products enable all-digital workflows for the Mac community. New Flip4Mac products bridge the Mac/PC format gap, simplifying the way professional users export and import files directly on their Macs.

Telestream adds support for Apple's Xsan SAN file system. FlipFactory now provides Final Cut Pro workgroups connected to an Xsan network with media and metadata exchange between a range of professional video devices, including leading media servers, NLEs, asset management systems, streaming servers, as well as communication with automation systems.

A Mac version of Telestream's award-winning MAPone personal IP delivery software application makes its NAB debut. Priced at under $1,000, MAPone for the Mac provides videographers and journalists with a solution for transmitting review-and-approvals, digital dailies, news cuts, and other edited material over any standard or wireless IP network. MAPone for the Mac transcodes and delivers broadcast-quality media files directly from Apple's Power Mac G5 systems or PowerBook notebooks running Final Cut Pro HD or other QuickTime-based software.

The new Flip4Mac MXF Import Component provides for direct import of MXF media from Sony eVTR and XDCAM systems for Macintosh users. Available by NAB2005, the MXF Import Component automatically transcodes Sony digital news acquisition formats into Mac-based formats for an upcoming version of Final Cut Pro HD software.

The Flip4Mac WMV Export Component, available now, enables Mac users to create Windows Media 9 Series SD or HD files directly from within QuickTime-based applications, including Final Cut Pro HD, Final Cut Express HD, iMovie, QuickTime Player, Discreet Cleaner, and the new Sorenson Media Squeeze 4 Compression Suite. Available the end of March, the new Flip4Mac WMV Import Component allows Mac users to import Windows Media files for viewing in the QuickTime Player, thus enabling the great playback capabilities in QuickTime for this popular transport format.


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Baystor Introduces BK-1500 and Teletext

Baystor has launched two new products designed to economize asset management for the broadcast industry. These products complement the company's BK-2500 DVD burning system, which retains original timecode, closed captions, metadata, and vertical blanking data to an industry standard optical discs. The new products being unveiled by Baystor at NAB 2005 are the BK-1500 and Teletext, and both can be added to existing station environments by connecting them via a Gigabit LAN.

With an MSRP under $5,000 Baystor's new playback-only BK-1500 facilitates retrieval of assets stored on DVD. The BK-1500 can be used to play back assets while archiving others on the BK-2500 recorder. With built-in RS-422 and frame accuracy, DVDs are guaranteed to operate the same as tape, according to Baystor, preserved with original timecode, CC, and VBI. A built-in 40GB hard drive and programmable playback allow this unit to be used as a video server.

Locating assets that reside on your network is easy, Baystor says, with Closed Caption Teletext, the company's new search software. Just like an Internet search, users can type in a keyword or phrase and instantly see the timecode In & Out locations and keyframe of the clip containing that phrase. This software will search assets that reside anywhere on the network of BK-2500's and within the BK-1500 player. Once the original clip is located, you can play it back, copy it to a DVD, schedule it for playback, or transfer it directly into your editing system, all without generation loss.


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EventDV Spotlight Survey #2 RESULTS: How do you price your services and packages?


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EventDV Spotlight Survey #3 RESULTS: How many events/jobs did you book in 2004?


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