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Copyright © 2004 -
Information Today, Inc.

February 28, 2005

Table of Contents

The Moving Picture: Packaging Matters
Review: Sony Pictures ACID Music Studio
Nattress Announces Updated Film Effects for Apple's Final Cut Pro
Red Giant Software Announces Magic Bullet Suite 2.0
MAGIX Releases Movie Edit Pro 10
Norazza Announces CDcopy and DVDcopy Appliances
Fast Forward Video Launches New Portable FieldPro DVR
EventDV Survey #5: Where do you get most of the music for your production?

The Moving Picture: Packaging Matters

Back in the simple days before marriage and kids I owned an ice green Porsche 912E that was the only car I ever truly loved. Though Porsche connoisseurs would dismiss the car as the underpowered combination of 911 body-style and four-cylinder 914 engine, I still say there's no substitute, whatever the specs.

I bought the car with about 100,000 miles on the odometer and included an engine rebuild in the medium-term budget. When the time came, I brought my baby to Franz Blam Racing in northeast Atlanta where the Schwarzenegger sound-alike Franz gave me great confidence in the result. When I retrieved the car two weeks later, the engine sounded great, but what really impressed was the finely detailed interior, with freshly washed carpets, Armor-All'd dash and doors, and new car scent. This had nothing to do with the engine rebuild of course, but the pristine look, feel, and smell assuaged the $4,000 price tag and I drove away quite happy. The obvious lesson that I've retained to this day is this: packaging matters.

So it was when I was set to deliver four concert discs to Estonian opera singer Taimo Toomast. Toomast had recently held a two-set, 90-minute concert which I authored onto two DVDs to maximize video quality. I also created an audio CD of the concert and one data DVD containing the concert in Windows Media format, primarily because the DVDs were NTSC and I wanted Taimo to have something to play once he got back to Europe.

Four discs meant four labels, which I created quickly in Epson Print CD, the program Epson ships with their Stylus Photo R200. Fortunately, I had sufficient printable media from Ridata and Verbatim laying around to print the requested four sets (plus an archival copy for me).

In the past, for most one-disc jobs, I've either used traditional jewel cases for delivery, or scrounged around for commercial large form DVD cases with printed outside covers that I could replace with my own. However, neither solution worked well for a four-disc set, so I headed online and started looking at multi-disc cases.

My first stop was www.univenture.com. Here I found the UniKeep "wallet," a plastic case that contains two rings for inserting up to five discs in safety sleeves, which are essentially sleeves with covers to ensure that the discs don't fall out. At 5.5"x6.5"x.5", the case was only slightly larger than a traditional CD jewel case and cost $1.85 in low quantities. Like most blank cases, it featured a full-wrap overlay so I could produce and insert a custom cover.

Then I visited www.tapeandmedia.com, where I found the NexPak Slim 4. At 7.5"x5.25"x1," this case is the same length and height as most Hollywood DVD cases, though about ½" thicker. As the name suggests, the case holds four CDs or DVDs, one each on the front and back cover and two on a hard, inner plastic sleeve. All four disc holders have push-to-release hubs that hold the disc in place, and the unit has two clips on the front panel to hold a small booklet, though this would cover the disc stored on that panel. This case cost $.96 cents in low quantities.

I ended up getting some of both cases, using the Univenture to deliver the first requested batch, and the Slim 4 for the de rigeuer follow-up batch. Overall, I liked the compactness of the Univenture case, which made it easy to carry in a coat pocket or purse. On the other hand, the Slim 4 looked more at home on a shelf next to other DVDs since the packaging shared the same height and length. At these prices, perhaps you should buy a few copies of each and let your client decide.

About that Printing
Getting the cases in was only half the battle, of course. Next I needed to create and print the custom labels. Verbatim has always been my go-to supplier for printed labels, since they provide all standard label sizes and include nifty software that simplifies label creation. Here, however, since neither case was standard-sized, I had to make some adjustments.

Specifically, the Slim 4 was half an inch longer around than a standard DVD case which is perfectly sized for an 11" label (two 5.25" widths and the half-inch spine). This meant that the stock Verbatim label was about a quarter-inch short on both sides, and also that the vertical text on the spine didn't quite split the middle.

Fortunately, the software packaged with the Verbatim labels, an OEM version of the widely distributed SureThing labeling tool, allowed for easy adjustment of the text positioning. I took the easy road on this set of labels, using stock Verbatim 11" labels rather than creating my own that fit precisely.

One inch wider than the standard CD/DVD jewel case, the Univenture case wasn't quite so easy. Here I created my own label in Ulead PhotoImpact, which I printed out on standard photo paper and cut to size with my handy Fiskars paper cutter.

Of course, all this custom stuff is time-consuming. It eats into profit margins and can push tight delivery schedules, especially if you don't plan ahead. Still, the cases and labels had a strong impact: when Toomast and the concert promoter requested their additional copies, both hastened to add "in the cases, of course."

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Review: Sony Pictures ACID Music Studio

It's hard to keep track of all the versions of ACID out there. Sony Pictures claims there are only three, but that doesn't count all the different iterations of the "lite" versions you're likely to find in CD recording bundles—which is the first place many users are likely to encounter the ACID software. ACID Music Studio is the newest addition to the family, and it's also part of another family—Sony's new Studio group of products.

For many users, ACID is the go-to application for creating loops and mixing audio, and it's a great tool for videographers who need to enhance their videos with snatches of royalty-free audio and looping clips. Vegas and Movie Studio users will feel right at home in the ACID timeline; its track-list and window docking areas are virtual replicas of the comparable elements of the Vegas workspace. Here the emphasis is on mixing controls (also graphically presented

Everything you've done to a track is indicated and accessed via the track list. ACID tracks come in four types—loop, one-shot, beat-mapped, and MIDI—all iconographically identified in the track list. The Track FX button accesses the FX window where you can apply and configure a good-sized list of effects; also of note is a solo button that isolates a specific track for preview, and a multipurpose slider through which you can set a track's volume or apply panning controls. If you don't have good audio panning capabilities in your NLE, this is especially helpful for physically placing the various sounds in a scene. Like Sound Forge Audio Studio, ACID Music Studio supports the import of video tracks in various formats and the ability to manipulate and augment their audio for effective sound-synching. And it includes a full complement of mixing controls for adjusting volume of all audio elements and Soft Synth properties in your various events.

Of course, what the ACID products are best known for are their many included royalty-free loops (you get 1,000 on the content CD that comes with the software) and the ways you can mix, manipulate, and, well, loop them. And it's certainly as powerful a tool as I've seen for working with loops—especially its tempo, key, and time signature management tools. That said, you'll find many of those capabilities in more general-purpose, professional audio editing tools like Adobe Audition—which has excellent loops and fine tools for manipulating them—and at a net price that's only slightly higher if you buy it as a component of the Adobe Video Collection.

As for comparisons to ACID Pro, the highlights of the what's in/what's out breakdown are as follows: unlimited tracks, ripple editing, MIDI recording/editing, Flash and QuickTime support, and that cool Metronome feature are found in both; only available in the Pro version, most notably, are support for 5.1 surround mixing and 24-bit depth.

System Requirements: 500MHz PC with 128MB RAM running Windows 2000/XP; 150MB available HDD space for program and content disc installation; Windows-compatible sound card.


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Nattress Announces Updated Film Effects for Apple's Final Cut Pro

Nattress has released Film Effects 2.0, a new update to the popular plug-in package for Apple's Final Cut Pro. Film Effects is designed to give the user additional control over how their video looks, and the ability to make it look like film, according to Nattress.

Film Effects is based around a 60i-to-24p simulation plug-in and also includes over 20 configurable, preset looks, and eight other plug-ins designed to help make the user's video more filmic. Included in the package is a plug-in, G Nicer, which can increase the quality of the chroma in DV NTSC video by use of a proprietary chroma reconstruction algorithm. The algorithm improves the creation of 4:4:4 from NTSC DV's 4:1:1 chroma.

Film Effects 2.0 also includes 24p Simulation, which now allows for variable motion blur; G Film Extra and G RGB Colour Mixer, a new Film Effect that combines the newly improved 24p effect with a new method of altering video to look like film; G Widescreen Matte Filter for improved letterboxing of 4:3 video. New presets include improved Bleach Bypass, a new G Chroma blur plug-in, and G Vignette with new custom shapes and dithering optons.

Film Effects 2.0 is available now with an MSRP of $100.


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Red Giant Software Announces Magic Bullet Suite 2.0

Red Giant Software announced the availability of Magic Bullet Suite version 2.0. Comprised of 18 After Effects plug-ins, the new software application delivers a complete production pipeline for processing digital video footage for output to DVD, TV, or film. Applying technology created by the post-production studio The Orphanage, users can de-interlace and de-artifact footage, apply film treatments, crop footage to any standard format, and ensure compliance with broadcast TV standards.

New features of Magic Bullet Suite 2.0 include:

· Misfire—13 filters to accurately mimic film grain, splotches, scratches, and projection artifacts
· More Looks—23 additional preset film treatments
· Look Suite Mac optimization—up to 5X faster rendering on Power Mac G5 vs. Power Mac G4
· HD capability—included as standard (no separate HD version)

Magic Bullet Suite 2.0 supports both SD and HD resolutions for $795, render licenses can be purchased for $495, and upgrading from version 1.x costs $149.


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MAGIX Releases Movie Edit Pro 10

MAGIX, a developer of video editing software, announced the release of MAGIX Movie Edit Pro 10 home video editing software. The new version of the MAGIX Movie Edit Pro line features capture, editing, automatic movie functions, and CD/DVD burning.

Users can now improve picture quality, add captions, apply fade effects, virtual camera pans and zooms, and make rotation effects.

MAGIX Movie Edit Pro 10 builds special effects, animations, and 3D transitions; moreover, it makes cuts and even creates DVD chapters. The new Anti-Shake Filter takes the blur out of handheld shots and Comment Feature lets users add background commentary to any movie.

The software now imports high-definition video and online movies from HDV, HDTV, DVB, WMVHD formats and saves in MPEG 1 and 2, MOV, WMV 9, and high-quality MPEG-4 and DivX compression (with installed codec). MAGIX Movie Edit Pro 10 also supports recording, editing, converting, and burning 4:3 and 16:9 widescreen formats.

MAGIX Movie Edit Pro 10 is available immediately for Windows for $49.99.


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Norazza Announces CDcopy and DVDcopy Appliances

Norazza, Inc.'s new Norazza CDcopy and Norazza DVDcopy standalone devices allow professionals to copy CDs and DVDs of photos without the need to connect to a PC.

Norazza CDcopy features a 52X recording speed for high-volume throughput and supports multiple CD formats, including CD-R, CD-RW, Audio CD, CD-ROM Mode-1, CD-ROM XA Mode-2 (Form1, Form2), Super Video CD, CD Extra/CD Plus, CD Text, and CD-I Photo CD (Single and Multisession).

Norazza DVDcopy can be used to copy either DVDs or CDs at 16X and 40X recording speeds, respectively. It supports both DVD+R and CD formats supported by CDcopy. The DVD models also include dual layer DVD technology, which supports 8.5 Gigabytes of video content.


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Fast Forward Video Launches New Portable FieldPro DVR

Fast Forward Video, Inc., a manufacturer of digital video recorder (DVR) technology for broadcast, industrial video, presentation, and military applications, announced the launch of its new FieldPro DVR with IDE drives. The FieldPro DVR will debut at NAB2005 in Las Vegas.

The FieldPro DVR is a portable stand-alone digital video recorder with an internal 2.5" hard drive. It features video capture and playback at 60 fields per second, resolution greater than 550 lines at 4:1 compression, user-selectable compression ratios ranging from 4:1 to 20:1, and recording times averaging between four to 20 minutes per GB. It delivers scalable MJPEG compression and 720 x 486 pixel image resolution.


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EventDV Survey #5: Where do you get most of the music for your production?
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