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Information Today, Inc.

October 09, 2006

Table of Contents

The Moving Picture: Juicing Your Audio
Focus Enhancements Announces Availability of 2.0 Firmware Upgrade Adding Native QuickTime HDV Support for FS-4Pro HD, FS-C, and DR-HD100 Portable HD DTE Recorders
JVC Announces Firmware Upgrade for BR-HD50U ProHD VTR
Carl Zeiss Introduces Tele-Extender for 2/3” HD Lenses
Zaxcom to Debut New Handheld Wireless Recording Systems at AES 2006
New Tinderbox Collections Now Shipping
Indigita Single-Chip Solution Enables Direct-to-Disk Recording of DV and HDV Video with New Sony HVR-DR60 Hard Drive
Toshiba Announces HD DVD Writer for Mobile PCs

The Moving Picture: Juicing Your Audio

If you're a hammer, the world looks like a nail. This aphorism, which, to me at least, means that your background or perspective determines your vision and viewpoint, is one of my favorites. It's unavoidable and affects us all, in life and, more to the point, in how we produce video.

Here's what I mean. My personal video practice is homegrown, starting with home videos, then extending to concerts, ballet performances, tutorial DVDs for local artists, and now several weddings. My major focus has been on perfecting video then audio quality, then on the art of multicamera productions, then on some creative editing of video and still-image montages. Titles and DVD menus are important, but I've not been overwhelmingly creative by using minimal 3D motion graphics, for example, or complex designs.

Had I started in TV or advertising production, I would have assumed that high-quality audio and video was a given and moved quickly into how to delight and—more importantly, retain—the customer's interest. Intros to all major segments would be supported by both motion graphics and music, and no text would ever hit the screen without some motion or overlay elements.

Now for some video tutorials that I'm producing, the concept of "production value" is starting to come to the fore, especially after I've reviewed competitive products. Though my toolset is extensive, there are some gaps. I can create simple backgrounds and moving titles in Adobe After Effects, or Apple Motion or LiveType, but these aren't my strengths, and as a right brain-limited former CPA, I'll never be more than merely competent at creating my own. I want a source of thematic, high-quality animations and other design elements that I can simply plug into my productions.

On the audio front, while SmartSound has been wonderfully competent at full-length songs, and certainly can create short intros and outros, I'd like a tool that can present me with short, fixed-length tracks that also have longer complementary segments. In short, I want Digital Juice.

As luck may have it, one of the founders of Digital Juice lives here in Galax, and we've become buddies. When his former partner, and current president of Digital Juice, David Hebel came into town, he introduced us, and Hebel explained the company's product line and was kind enough to provide some samples.

To say that the meeting opened my eyes is an understatement; I haven't felt this creative since I learned how to change fonts in WordPerfect. While I hope I don't do the same kind of stylistic damage to my videos that I did to my memos and faxes back then, exposure to Digital Juice's product line dramatically changed my view of production elements that I formerly considered static. So, I'll devote my next two columns to Digital Juice, first reviewing their StackTraxx digital music offering and next month reviewing their Editor's Toolkit product.

Digital Juice has two music offerings, 15 volumes of StackTraxx layered music and 27 volumes of BackTraxx, which is older, non-layered music; both offerings are divided into themes such as corporate, sports, and suspense. Much as with SmartSound's multilayered music offering, you can customize StackTraxx down to choosing which instruments are playing, though the selection is for the entire song only, with no feature like SmartSound's mood mapping to adjust the mix mid-song. As with SmartSound's older collections, you can't adjust the mix of BackTraxx tracks.

StackTraxx volumes cost between $69 and $249 and contain 20-40 layered tracks per volume. Each track includes the complete song, usually around three to four minutes in length, plus variations of that song in durations of 10, 15, 30, and 60 seconds; this feature is a unique strength for commercials, intros, and outros. Unlike with SmartSound, you can't buy an individual song at a time or download a song after you buy it, so you need to budget accordingly and plan ahead. Uniquely, however, you can sample each song on the Digital Juice website with layers fully enabled, so you can verify that removing the drums will eliminate the conflict with your voice talent.

Once you buy a volume, you install it in the "Juicer," a free downloadable media management tool available for Mac and Windows. In the Juicer, you can search for songs and variations among your installed collections and then batch output them for use in your productions.

As mentioned previously, your selection of layers is for the entire song only. However, for more precise mixing, you can render all layers as separate tracks so you can input them all into your audio editor and refine the mix. While not as simple as SmartSound's Mood Mapping feature, StackTraxx's short selections seem more well formed than SmartSound's and are faster and easier to produce. Digital Juice offers a very helpful downloadable-PDF StackTraxx manual on its site to help you through the process.

Overall, the tools are more complementary than competitive; neither vendor really charges you for the music application, just the music that you buy, minimizing your initial investment. SmartSound's Mood Mapping and ability to create songs of variable length make it a better choice for scoring long segments, especially those that have to mix with dialog and other background noise, while StackTraxx seems ideal for intros, outros, and short commercials where you probably won't have to duck for dialog or well up for an emotional sequence.

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Focus Enhancements Announces Availability of 2.0 Firmware Upgrade Adding Native QuickTime HDV Support for FS-4Pro HD, FS-C, and DR-HD100 Portable HD DTE Recorders

Focus Enhancements, Inc. today announced the availability of version 2.0 software which adds native QuickTime HDV support to its industry leading Direct To Edit (DTE) FS-4Pro HD, FS-C and DR-HD100 recorders. The upgrade will be available for purchase in disc format on the Focus Enhancements website for $39. 1080i 50/60 and 720p/30 clips recorded in the QuickTime HDV format using FS-4Pro HD, FS-C and DR-HD100 can be used immediately in Apple Final Cut Pro 5 without having to first capture or convert footage.

Sony, Canon, and JVC camcorder owners can now record 1080i 50/60 or 720p/30 video directly to their FS-4Pro HD, FS-C and DR-HD100 in native QuickTime. The file can be imported directly into Apple Final Cut Pro and used immediately in the timeline — eliminating the time-consuming steps of capturing and converting footage. The FS extracts and decodes the audio from the incoming HDV stream, combines it with the video stream, and wraps audio and video as a QuickTime file. Previously, clips had to be either captured or converted prior to use in Final Cut Pro 5. The FS-4Pro HD and DR-HD100 offer a 40GB (3 hour) or 80GB (6 hour) internal disk drive, while the FS-C offers a 60GB (4 hour) or 100GB (7 hour) disk drive option.

These versions feature separate 6-pin FireWire connectors for interfacing with camcorders and computers for editing or file transfer, a backlit status LCD display, and a comprehensive set of control buttons including a navigation pad. The FS-C was designed specifically for Canon HDV camcorders users. The DR-HD100 was designed for JVC GY-HD100 camcorder owners.

The FS-4Pro HD 40GB model has a US MSRP of $1,395 while the 80GB model is $1,795. The FS-C is available through Canon in both 60GB and 100GB versions for a US MSRP of $1,395 and $1,995, respectively. The 40GB and 80GB DR-HD100 models are available exclusively through JVC Professional for a US MSRP of $1,495 and $1,895, respectively. The version 2.0 update can be ordered directly from the Focus Enhancements website in disc format for an MSRP of $39.

For more information on Focus Enhancements and its products, visit http://www.Focusinfo.com

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JVC Announces Firmware Upgrade for BR-HD50U ProHD VTR

JVC Professional Products Company has announced the release of firmware upgrade for the BR-HD50U ProHD VTR accessible by end users through the JVC Professional web site (http://pro.jvc.com).

Owners of JVC BR-HD50U VTRs purchased in the United States can download the upgrade file and instructions free of charge using a Windows or Mac computer, and perform the update themselves. The upgrade optimizes the interoperability of the BR-HD50U ProHD VTR with Final Cut Pro 5.1.2, which provides native editing support for the HDV720 24P and 25P format. Additionally, the upgrade enables the VTR to record (via IEEE1394) and playback 720/60p and 50p signals from JVC's new GY-HD250U ProHD camcorder. The firmware upgrade will also enable the cloning of tapes when recording from another HDV source, such as a GY-HD100U, GY-HD110U, GY-HD250U or another BR-HD50U VTR.

Currently shipping units of JVC ProHD BR-HD50U VTRs being sold that have an "(A)" indication on the product and do not require the upgrade. The BR-HD50U VTR firmware upgrade is now available free of charge on the JVC Professional web site (http://pro.jvc.com). Customers who don't wish to install the firmware themselves have the option of sending their unit to JVC Service and Engineering to have the firmware installed for a fee of $75.

Additional information is available on JVC's Web site at http://pro.jvc.com.

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Carl Zeiss Introduces Tele-Extender for 2/3” HD Lenses

Band Pro Film & Digital has introduced the Carl Zeiss DigiMutar 1.4X Tele-Extender. Designed to complement the popular ZEISS DigiPrime and DigiZoom series, as well as all other high-quality 2/3" HD lenses, the DigiMutar is an elegant and simple way of adding focal length while saving the cost of an occasional-use lens. Weighing 422g (14.9 oz.) and only adding 25.4mm (1"), the DigiMutar mounts neatly between the camera and the lens. The Tele-Extender multiplies focal length by 1.4X with only a one F-stop loss.

Like all Carl Zeiss optics, the DigiMutar 1.4X features superior quality optical glass and is precision engineered for unsurpassed performance and unequalled image clarity. ZEISS DigiZoom and DigiPrime lenses are renowned throughout the industry for innovations such as standard-pitch zoom, focus and iris gears, brightly marked oversized windowed cine scales, and highly accurate, individually calibrated focus scales.

The ZEISS DigiMutar 1.4X Tele-Extender is manufactured at the Carl Zeiss Optics factory in Oberkochen, Germany and marketed worldwide exclusively by Band Pro Film & Digital.


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Zaxcom to Debut New Handheld Wireless Recording Systems at AES 2006

Zaxcom, a provider of professional audio equipment for the television and film industries, today announced that the company will introduce two new handheld wireless systems at the AES 2006 exhibition, Oct. 6-8 in San Francisco. The new ZFR800, a handheld wireless recorder, and TRX800, a handheld wireless microphone with an integrated timecode and remote control receiver plus internal recorder  will provide internal recording capabilities for radio, television, and live concert and event productions where professional sound quality and mobility are paramount. The patent-pending TRX800 is the industry's first handheld microphone to produce a timecode-referenced recording, which acts as a back up for live or live-to-tape applications where wireless transmission is affected by interference or limited frequency availability.

For simplified editing, an internal RF receiver in both the ZFR800 and TRX800 allows for timecode entry or remote control. The receiver includes SMPTE timecode, jammed from the internal wireless recorder so that it is always frame accurate to the camera. Audio files are recorded in full-resolution, full-bandwidth form as broadcast wave (.bwav) files, or compressed as MP3 files, directly to a removable mini SD memory card. Production staff can hand off audio instantly without handing off the recorder. Two recording modes are available in the ZFR800 and TRX800: continuous, for nonstop recording as soon as the mic is switched on, and the traditional record/stop mode for manual control. During continuous recording, markers can be inserted with a push of a button for fast transfers of select recorded material while providing an infinite prerecord buffer. Up to eight hours of audio can be recorded in full-bandwidth on a single 2-GB card. The TRX800 expands on this feature set because it is a transceiver.

The system can record and then playback audio through an RF link, providing artists and production staff with the unique capability to record a performance and then go out into the audience setting to hear how the recording will sound. The TRX800 is the only wireless handheld mic to provide digital modulation with audio quality that matches that of a hard-wired system. This quality is possible because the TRX800 does not rely on the companders, noise reduction systems, or emphasis/de-emphasis technologies used in all other wireless mics.

For a professional look and feel, the ZFR800 and TRX800 microphones are made from a lightweight aluminum and can be used with either a Neumann or Shure screw-on head (sold separately). The handheld body is free of any visual distractions from company logos, colors, or buttons, yet all functions are fully adjustable without connecting to external computers. The ZFR800 and TRX800 feature a frequency response of 20 Hz to 20 kHz, a dynamic range of 107 dB, and distortion of less than .01%.

The TRX800 is available for $1,850 while the list price for the ZFR800 is $1,250. To learn more about the ZFR800, TRX800, and other wireless microphone recording products from Zaxcom, stop by Zaxcom's AES booth, 1425 or visit www.zaxcom.com.

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New Tinderbox Collections Now Shipping

Visual effects developer The Foundry announced today that Tinderbox 4 for After Effects is now available to purchase globally, along with re-engineered Tinderbox 1, 2 and 3 collections, from The Foundry's website and from authorised resellers. Tinderbox 4 is the latest addition to The Foundry's Tinderbox range, and features twenty brand new 2D plug-in visual effects that will enhance the creative capabilities of Adobe After Effects 7.0 users.

The new Tinderbox collection is priced at: $500 / £275 per nodelocked license. Existing customers can upgrade for $250 / £137.50 per box.

The new Tinderbox 4 collection comprises a superior collection of generators, creative visual effects and image tools that will appeal to After Effects customers looking to significantly enhance their VFX capabilities. After Effects users can generate realistic animated flames with the Fire plug-in, and simulate the effect of water droplets rippling on a surface using Water. Other new plug-ins include the following: Cartoon, to give images a hand-drawn look; LineDrawing, a smart tool that detects the edges in an image and applies organic-looking pen strokes; and Muzzle Flash which generates light flashes from a range of guns including the M16, AK47, Beretta, Colt 45, and 12-gauge shotgun.

In addition to the new Tinderbox 4, The Foundry has re-engineered its Tinderbox 1, 2 and 3 collections from the ground up, enabling users to leverage the new features within After Effects 7.0. These include automatic synchronization with After Effects' in-built camera and lighting features, support for 32-bit floating-point images, brand new licensing to make it more flexible for customers to have plug-ins on multiple machines, as well as significant speed and feature enhancements.

Now, the complete collection of Tinderboxes 1, 2, 3, and 4, feature over 70 powerful 2D visual effects, each of which comes with a multitude of adjustable parameters to give those involved in the creation of stylish motion graphics and stunning visual effects access to a toolset that can deliver unlimited creative possibilities. Tinderbox 4 key features include the following:

  • Bars: generates color bars and ramps.
  • BleachBypass: exactly mimics a film lab bleach bypass process where the silver in the negative is retained giving a very stylised look.
  • Cartoon: flattens colour and adds edge lines to give a hand drawn cartoon style look to images. Channels: provides floating point colour conversion between spaces.
  • Colourist: uses statistical analysis of the image to provide various forms of automatic technically perfect colour correction for normal colour balancing.
  • Convolve: is a general-purpose spatial filter that uses a weighted average of sampled pixels to determine each new pixel value.
  • Fire: generates a variety of realistic animated flames.
  • Flow: reveals the layers in a composite by flowing colour through a matte. The user creates a "path" in the alpha matte. Flow will then fill the matte procedurally. Flow can be used to create a variety of interesting "Write-on" and "reveal" type effects.
  • InfiniteZoom: continues to zoom in on an image until the original or an alternative image is revealed within the zoomed image pixels.
  • Kaleid: produces a classic kaleidoscope prism effect on an image. This is achieved by simulating the inter-reflections of a triangular prism over a picture.
  • LightWrap: wraps background light around foreground objects to smooth composites.
  • LineDrawing: a smart tool that detects the edges in an image and applies a really organic looking pen stroke.
  • Median: applies an NxN median filter to an image. Median filters do an excellent job of removing single pixel noise or scratches from an image while only causing a slight reduction in sharpness.
  • MuzzleFlash: generates light flashes for guns. Presets include M16, AK47, Beretta, Colt 45, and 12 gauge shotgun.
  • Quantise: limits the number of colours in an image to give a range of interesting effects. Rain: simulates really clean effective 2D rain.
  • Security: simulates a security camera feed.
  • Snow: simulates 3D snow. It's a really smart plug-in which lets snow settle on objects when fed a matte.
  • SoftGlow: generates really fast elegant glow effects.
  • Water: procedurally simulates the effect of water droplets rippling on a surface. The effect can also be output as a procedurally animated ripple matte. For further realism a "wall" matte can be introduced to the ripples, which will then reflect or "bounce" off the white areas of the wall matte.

Now shipping, the new Tinderbox collection is priced at: $500 / £275 per nodelocked license. Existing customers can upgrade for $250.00 / £137.50 per box.


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Indigita Single-Chip Solution Enables Direct-to-Disk Recording of DV and HDV Video with New Sony HVR-DR60 Hard Drive

IntellaSys Corporation today disclosed that the Indigita AV Content Manager chip (iND60C32) has been designed into Sony's new 60GB removable hard drive, which was recently previewed at the IBC Conference in Amsterdam. Designated Model HVR-DR60, the new Sony hard drive is FireWire compatible and capable of storing up to 4.5 hours of HDV, DVCAM, and/or DV content.

Sony demonstrated the HVR-DR60 at IBC in conjunction with its new high-end "professional" HDV Camcorder (Model HVR-VI) featuring true progressive scan 25p or 30p video recording with an HDMI output. According to Indigita, its powerful single-chip solution enables "direct-to-disk" recording to make HDV recording and post production easier and more flexible than ever before. For example, Sony's new HVR-DR60 allows instant random access, clip replay, and even on-camera editing. Moreover, unwanted scenes or recordings can be edited or deleted to free up additional storage capacity. Once recorded, video files can be named, organized into categories, or stored in directories and sub-directories. The Indigita chip also makes the Sony hard drive immune to video drop-outs, a common drawback of tape drives.

The Indigita chip facilitates connectivity with virtually any computer OS using the FAT-32 file system. While the 1394 HDD mounts as a drive letter for drag-n-drop file transfers, video files can be edited directly on the drive or copied to a Mac or PC at nearly 10X real-time video HDV playback. Supported SBP-2 Protocol allows storage and access to other multimedia file types just like an internal drive. Audio/Video Command (A/V C) set is also supported, thus facilitating connection to 1394-enabled HDTV for DVR playback directly from the drive. An HDTV remote control may used to execute FF, REW, and Playback functions.

The iND60C32 chip is packaged in a 272-pin Ball Grid Array (BGA), and is available within 10 days after receipt of order. Pricing depends on quantity purchased, with discounts available on OEM quantities. Indigita™ Product Brand The Indigita product brand has emerged as a preferred choice among OEMs requiring powerful 1394 (FireWire or i-Link) connectivity and storage management solutions. The Indigita brand is currently being extended to encompass native 1394 and Video Streaming silicon to enable the delivery of broadband content for storage and set-top applications.


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Toshiba Announces HD DVD Writer for Mobile PCs

Toshiba Storage Device Division (SDD) today announced the world's first HD DVD writer for integration into mobile PCs, enabling notebook PC users to write high-definition video content, while enjoying backward compatibility with all DVD and CD formats. Toshiba's SD-L902A integrates a blue-violet laser diode to read and write HD DVD-R discs and supports high-density HD DVD-ROM discs, including high-definition movie and video images. The drive also offers super-multi functionality, with high-performance read and write capabilities for all standard DVD and CD discs.

At only 12.7 millimeters in height, the SD-L902A meets the stringent space constraints of the mobile PC environment, since the HD DVD format has the same physical structure as standard DVD technology. As a result, the HD DVD writer uses an optical pick-up head with a single objective lens. With this next-generation DVD technology, mobile PC users can easily work with content in high-definition, while continuing to enjoy legacy DVD and CD material.

Toshiba will demonstrate the SD-L902A Oct. 3-7 during CEATEC JAPAN 2006, at Makuhari Messe in the HD DVD Promotion Group booth (1A06) and the Toshiba Booth (1A09). Sample shipments are scheduled to start by the end of this year.


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