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Copyright © 2004 -
Information Today, Inc.

August 22, 2005

Table of Contents

Pieces of Eight: A First Look at Macromedia Flash Professional 8
Roxio Launches Toast 7
Leitch Adds Panasonic DVCPRO50 Support to VelocityHD and VelocityQ NLEs
Photodex Corporation Releases Professional Slideshow Software, ProShow Producer
Magnet Media Now Shipping DVD-Based Training for Apple's Soundtrack Pro
Microboards Ships New Print & Burn DVD/CD Duplicator
Ulead Announces CD & DVD PictureShow 4
Media Supply Introduces the OmniTowerSL
MAGIX Announces Movies on CD & DVD 4

Pieces of Eight: A First Look at Macromedia Flash Professional 8

A few years back, a friend of mine showed up wearing a pin on his jacket lapel. Bright gold, it featured the letters "TCB" and a lightning bolt. I'd seen it before, but I couldn't quite place it.

"Elvis, man," he said. "Stands for ‘Taking Care of Business--in a flash." Turns out it was Presley's official motto, and my friend's pin was based on the original design the King had given to the no-nonsense members of his personal entourage, the Memphis Mafia.

Were it not for the potential of a trademark infringement lawsuit from Elvis Presley Enterprises, Inc., Macromedia would do well to crib the motto and its attendant logo for their Flash and Flash Video products. After all, they're both designed to get high-impact, knock-your-socks-off animations and film clips up on the Web with a maximum control for the creator and minimum hassle for the viewer. Flash has gotten even better with the introduction of Flash Professional 8, officially announced on August 8 and set to ship in September.

We've all seen Flash movies, and most of us have seen Flash Video (the former is an animation that may or may not have video embedded in it; the latter is Macromedia's proprietary video format). After all, the Flash Player is installed on about 98% of the world's desktop computers, or so Macromedia claims. But even if they've fudged that number a bit, the Flash Player's market penetration still has Windows Media and Real beat. And Flash allows the graphics-savvy among us to design their own player environment; for instance, instead of the typical WMP or Real player window, you could use Adobe Illustrator or Flash itself to create a "virtual screening room," complete with screen curtains and seats, or a "video gallery," with videos displayed on the walls. Or you can simply make the Flash Video screen an unintrusive part of your Web site—either way, there's no additional player to download or open. So why aren't more videographers taking advantage of Flash to deliver their online demos?

Part of the answer surely lies in the simple fact that Flash Video isn't a commonly encountered export option in nonlinear video editors; you need either Flash Professional (a $699 investment) or a third-party compression tool like Sorenson Squeeze for Macromedia Flash MX or On2's Flix Pro, both of which sell for around $100. Flash Professional does include the Flash Video Exporter, which allows you to export from most popular NLEs.

But perhaps a greater impediment has been a lack of understanding of what it takes to deliver Flash on a Web site. Contrary to popular belief, you don't absolutely need a Flash Communications Server—you can embed a QuickTime, AVI, or MPEG video clip directly into the timeline in Flash 6 or higher, and the video becomes part of the SWF file. Problem is, viewers must download the entire SWF file before they can play it back, unlike streamed video that plays immediately (at least over a broadband connection) or progressive download video that begins playback before the entire file is downloaded. For these reasons and more, Macromedia recommends embedding video in flash as a last-resort option.

If you want to maximize what Flash has to offer, though, you'll need to use either Flash 7 or the new Flash 8. You can still avoid using a Flash Communications Server or a third-party content delivery network if you don't mind delivering Flash Video via progressive download. While progressive download is great for low-bandwidth connections, and it's the easiest way to get video on your Web site, viewers can't navigate forward and backward until the entire clip has downloaded. Plus, viewers who know how to find their browser cache or temporary Internet files are can locate the downloaded video and use it however they like—a serious problem for videographers concerned with protecting their content.

If you want to stream Flash Video you need to either configure your in-house Web server as a Flash Communications Server or house your video on a content delivery network that offers Flash Video Streaming Service. The Flash Communications Server software marks a $499 investment, and handles up to ten simultaneous connections and up to 1Mbps data transfer. Since that's probably sufficient for most videographers' Web sites, and since a monthly contract with a streaming service provider will cost much more, we'll leave those prices out of it.

But that's still an investment of between just over $600--if you're using a third-party encoder and the Flash Communications Server--and nearly $1,200 if you go with Flash Professional 8 and the Flash server, which may be more than you're willing to spend on your Web presence. The new Flash Professional 8 promises enough of an upgrade in both quality and features, though, that now might be the time to consider Flash.

First and foremost in the new version of Flash is a new video codec, On2's VP6, and early reports based on a beta version of the software released in July indicate that it's an improvement over Flash Video 7 in terms of quality, efficiency, and encoding options, including batch encoding. The new codec also allows for an 8-bit alpha-channel video compositing for layering video, including chromakeyed green-screen, and embedded cue points that can trigger Web events, such as text changes, during playback. Speaking of text, Flash 8 also includes FlashType, Macromedia's new font rendering engine, which offers increased readability in both animated and static text, especially at small sizes.

But if you're going to use Flash Professional, you're also going to want to take advantage of its 2D animation. The frame-based timeline user interface remains, but the program's custom easing tool allows greater control of animation speed and motion, as well as greater control over vector shapes. Additionally, when content generated by Flash Professional 8 is played back on Flash Player 8, viewers also should get smoother, faster playback of vector shapes with the new "cache as bitmap" feature, which saves already-drawn vectors as bitmaps, thereby relieving the processor of the need to recalculate vector shapes every frame. Finally, Flash Professional 8 offers more filters than before, including animation drop shadows, all of which are rendered in real time by the Flash Player.

While the standalone version of Flash Professional 8 retails for $699, it's also available in the new Studio 8 suite of applications for $999. Of most interest to videographers in Studio 8 is the new version of Dreamweaver, which was one of the first Web development tools to combine design-based and code-based Web site creation, meaning that a deep knowledge of HTML coding isn't necessary. Also included in Studio 8 is Fireworks 8, Macromedia's Web graphics application; Contribute 3, a collaborative Web-content workflow solution; and FlashPaper 2, which converts any printable document into SWF or PDF files.

Aside from the very Illustrator-like features in Fireworks, the new tools suggest little impact of Adobe's purchase of Macromedia, which was still under review by government antitrust regulators as of press time. (Even those similarities have more to do with Illustrator's ubiquity as a graphic design tool than with the proposed merger, and all the tools in Studio 8 were under development long before the merger was announced.) Both companies' shareholders were set to vote on the merger on August 24.


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Roxio Launches Toast 7

Roxio, a division of Sonic Solutions, has announced Toast 7, the most significant upgrade ever to its industry-leading Mac CD & DVD burning suite. Toast 7 complements and extends the functionality of the Mac OS and iLife applications with new features and ground-breaking capabilities that empower users to copy, save, hear and see their entire digital life on CD and DVD.

Toast 7 will be publicly available direct from Roxio starting August 31 and in stores in early September. Headlining the latest version is a number of features that make previously impossible tasks a reality for Mac users. These features include multi-image High Definition slideshows with pan and zoom effects, transitions and background soundtracks, audio DVDs with over 50 hours of rich Dolby quality music and advanced navigation, and data spanning, which allows users to backup large files, folders and applications across multiple CDs and DVDs. 

Toast 7 also is the first third-party application on any platform to support DivX 6. The integration of the latest powerful compression technology allows users, in a single step, to turn DivX format files into DVD-Video discs. In addition, users are able to convert any video file to DivX and turn iMovie HD and FinalCut HD projects into true high-definition video discs to enjoy in the comfort of their living room on their DivX HD-enabled DVD player.

Toast 7 will be available August 31st direct from Roxio at ( http://www.roxio.com/go/toast7 ) and will be widely available at retail stores in early September for a suggested retail price of US$99.95. Toast 7 is currently available for pre-order from select online retailers. In the United States , a $20 mail-in rebate will be available on August 31st to current owners of Toast, Jam, Popcorn, The Boom Box, iLife, and Mac OS X.


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Leitch Adds Panasonic DVCPRO50 Support to VelocityHD and VelocityQ NLEs

Leitch Technology Corporation, a provider of SD/HD solutions for professional digital video, has announced the addition of support for Panasonic's DVCPRO50 format in version 9.1 of Leitch's VelocityHD and VelocityQ non-linear editing (NLE) solutions. Version 9.1 of VelocityHD and VelocityQ offers direct real-time playback of DVCPRO50 files from Panasonic's P2 series of products.

When equipped with the Server Interchange Option, VelocityHD and VelocityQ 9.1 also feature the ability to push and pull DVCPRO50 content to and from Leitch's modular, scalable NEXIO(tm) server system. The VelocityHD HD/SD NLE combines the innovative Altitude hardware platform with the powerful and intuitive Velocity software interface, bringing guaranteed, full-quality, real-time editing performance to the HD realm at an affordable price, according to Leitch. VelocityQ combines the Velocity software with the Quattrus multi-stream, real-time non-linear editing hardware, forming a tightly integrated, multi-layer, standard-definition NLE solution. VelocityHD and VelocityQ are available as fully integrated, "ready to run" turnkey solutions, or as boardset-and-software bundles for installation into qualified Microsoft Windows XP Professional workstations.

Existing VelocityQ 8.2 users can purchase upgrades to version 9.1 through authorized Leitch postproduction resellers. U.S. customers can also order VelocityQ 9.1 software upgrades directly from the Leitch e-Store at www.leitch.com. VelocityHD version 9.1 is scheduled for release in September and will be available as a free download from the Leitch Web site for all registered VelocityHD users.


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Photodex Corporation Releases Professional Slideshow Software, ProShow Producer

Photodex Corporation has released ProShow Producer, a high-end multimedia slide show presentation product designed specifically for professional photographers. Producer is equipped with new features designed to streamline workflow and enable professional photographers to create quality slideshow presentations that sell.

Features in ProShow Producer include multiple layers per slide, RAW file support, custom show templates, professional DVD menu authoring, color profile awareness, watermarking, caption interactivity, and manual show control.

ProShow Producer's enhanced workflow capabilities make it fast and easy to create highly customized slide shows that sell. Slide show templates and menu templates can be created to minimize repetitive work. RAW file support, new to ProShow Producer, saves file conversion time when using high-resolution images.

The encoding speed of Producer has also been optimized for faster performance. It is up to ten times faster than other industry leading DVD authoring and video editing software applications, according to Photodex. PC shows and DVD menus can now be branded and customized to represent a photographer's identity.

ProShow Producer allows a photographer to customize every aspect of a DVD menu including layout, pages, and color scheme, giving them more control over the output quality. For PC Shows, photographers can customize the progress status bar, the volume bar and title bar text, the CD icon, and more.

ProShow Producer's layering function allows photographers to add multiple images and videos to a single slide, with transparency and masking capabilities. The interactivity function makes it possible to use text as links to other slides, websites, or menus, giving photographers further control over their slide shows and enabling them to generate more revenue from their work.

ProShow Producer is available from www.photodex.com for $499.95. For a limited time only, ProShow Producer is available at a special introductory price of $399.95. A fully functional trial is available for download.

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Magnet Media Now Shipping DVD-Based Training for Apple's Soundtrack Pro

Magnet Media, Inc. has released Inside Soundtrack Pro, an interactive self-paced training DVD for Apple's newest audio application. The DVD is designed to teach users to build sound effects, foley, and score for a fictional movie trailer, and do it all non-destructively.

As both a standalone application and as part of Apple's Final Cut Studio, Soundtrack Pro allows producers, video and film editors, motion graphics artists, and DVD authors to work with on multitrack projects and audio file projects (with an actions based waveform editor), to score, sweeten, add sound effects, and find and fix problematic audio. The training is appropriate for users new to sound design and familiar with other audio applications.

DMTS training DVDs are available in some Apple retail stores, as well as local Apple specialists and Authorized Apple Pro Video Resellers. Users may also purchase the training directly from Magnet Media's website at www.digitalmediatraining.com. Free lessons from the training are available online. Other recently released products produced by Magnet Media include Inside Mac OS X: Tiger, Inside Final Cut Pro 5 and Inside Motion 2.


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Microboards Ships New Print & Burn DVD/CD Duplicator

Microboards is shipping a new disc creation system (MSRP $2,995) with a high-speed DVD/CD recorder and industrial printing technology from HP to give users professional publishing in a petite package. Combined with custom label design and recording software, the system makes in-house disc creation easy and inexpensive. Co-developed with Hewlett Packard, the DX-1 offers a more robust choice among entry-level systems on the market.

The out-of-the-box solution contains a publisher with full automation, printing, and recording capabilities, as well as software for label design and recording. The unit features 16X DVD recording and 48X CD recording, and supports virtually every disc format for CD and DVD, including the dual-layer DVD standard. Microboards has patented gravity-feeding "singulation'"technology, which loads and unloads CDs with minimal moving parts and in a small area. The integrated disc printer is capable of up to 4800 dpi printing in full color. The unit can print up to 75 discs per hour, dependant on coverage and resolution, and ink consumption costs as little as $.05 to $.15 per disc.


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Ulead Announces CD & DVD PictureShow 4

Ulead Systems, Inc. has announced the release of CD & DVD PictureShow 4, the latest version of its slideshow creation software. CD & DVD Picture Show 4 is designed specifically for novice or first-time users and yet has powerful features that should satisfy most enthusiasts.

Users can select an Instant-Show theme template, which gives them all the aspects of an entertaining slideshow with just one click. Templates mix themes with rich special effects. There are also many powerful features, including built-in audio and video trim functionality, intelligent photo enhancement tools, customizable audio and transition settings and DVD menu creation capabilities.

New Features in CD & DVD PictureShow 4:
- Customizable pan-and-zoom adds excitement as users can pan across or zoom into the details of their photos.
- Built-in photo repairs with the ExpressFix Wizard enables users to quickly fix common photo problems such as incorrect exposure, color cast, saturation, and focus - they can also "beautify" skin.
- Trim audio lets users adjust music to the desired length. It's the perfect built-in tool to add small clips or sections of audio to a slideshow.
- Multi-trim video lets users select segments from a video file and insert them into a slideshow so they can view their photos and video together on one disc.

Ulead CD & DVD PictureShow 4 is available in North American retail stores, catalogs and at www.ulead.com for $49.99. Previous CD & DVD PictureShow customers can upgrade to the latest version at www.ulead.com for $29.99. 


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Media Supply Introduces the OmniTowerSL

Media Supply, Inc., a wholesaler of premium-quality CD and DVD recordable media, has added an advanced duplicating tower to its popular Omnitower line. Evolving from the original, low-cost, 3- and 7-drive Omnitower duplicators, the new OmniTowerSL features Premium Plextor PX-716 slot-load drives in a black case.

"Intelligent Recording" is a combination of technologies designed to achieve high-quality results when using media of varying quality:
1. Intelligent Tilt, a precise laser and three-dimensional tilt control to reduce jitter and achieve optimum recording.
2. PoweRec, a write strategy that provides superior quality recording at maximum speed for certified media.
3. Autostrategy, a feature that determines the standard deviation mark of any blank disc and then automatically optimizes the write strategy for the unknown media.

Media Supply has also developed a Quick Start Guide and detailed Operating Manual specifically tailored to the OmniTowerSL. Omnitowers, known for affordability, speed, accuracy and reliability, offer finely tuned firmware and software tested for compatibility and clean operation.


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MAGIX Announces Movies on CD & DVD 4

MAGIX has announced MAGIX Movies on CD & DVD 4 for enhanced home entertainment. MAGIX Movies on CD & DVD 4 restores and preserves collections of home videos, favorite TV shows, VHS films, and video downloaded from the Internet. MAGIX Movies on CD & DVD 4 converts all your favorite movies into high-quality CDs or DVDs to enjoy on your home or portable entertainment systems.

Old video camcorder and VHS archives can now be part of the digital revolution in just three easy steps: import, edit (with or without supplied templates), and burn. Available at retail September 15, MAGIX Movies on CD & DVD 4 is priced at $39.99.


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