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April 09, 2007

Table of Contents

The Moving Picture: Compressing Video for the iPod
Blue Skies Cinema Offers Cinematic Shooting and Editing Workshop at Their Southern California Studio, October 21-22
Abaltat Muse Video-Driven Soundtrack Composer Launches With Special NAB2007 Rebate
ProMax Announces 12th Annual Charles McConathy Digital Café at NAB 2007
lynda.com Announces Release of Blue and Green Screen Production Principles
4EVER Group Schedules SoCal, New York Video Summits
Samsung Launches Silent and Speedy SpinPoint S166 Hard Disk Drive Series
HANNS·G Offers Cost Effective 1080p Monitor
eCinema Ready for NAB with DPX Monitor Line

The Moving Picture: Compressing Video for the iPod

Many videographers are creating iPod-compatible files for clients or for posting as demo files on their websites. You would think that with a gazillion iPods sold, the process of getting video onto an iPod would be very straightforward.

Well, there's straightforward, and then there's straightforward. If you're a soccer mom showing off vacation videos, your audience will be impressed that you got the videos on the dang thing in the first place. On the other hand, if you're a bride showing off the four-minute montage that you paid top-dollar for, you expect perfection, and you might get a bit miffed if you see interlacing artifacts or if your mother-in-law looks a bit squeezed. In this column, I'll identify some of the fundamental issues involved in converting video to iPod format, and discuss how to produce optimal quality results.

Let's start by looking at the iPod's video-related specifications, which have changed since the first video-capable iPod was introduced in 2005. Before starting, check which version you (or your client) has and customize your settings accordingly. Note that the iPod itself has only a 320x240 resolution screen, so if you're producing for viewing solely on the iPod, there's no reason to encode at a larger resolution. On the other hand, the iPod does have an NTSC-output port for displaying videos on a TV. If you plan to use this, or think your client might, consider encoding at 640x480 resolution.

The iPod supports two codecs, H.264 and MPEG-4. The former has is higher quality, but takes longer to encode and requires more resources to decode. Each has more variations than a Chinese buffet, with obscure options like Low-Complexity Baseline Profile, or Simple Profile. These, in my humble opinion, are compelling evidence that you need to find an effective tool with a template so you don't have to think about these things. As you'll see, if only things were so simple.

Anyway, you can find all the technical specifications on Apple's website, and you should print these and become familiar with them. If you exceed the bandwidth limits when encoding the file, or use the wrong codecs, the video won't play on the iPod, though it will play perfectly fine on your computer. Note that not all tools support these audio and video codecs; for example, Adobe Premiere Pro can't output AAC audio (though Premiere Elements can). This means you'll have to find another tool to produce your final output.

If you have the right tool, like Apple's Compressor, Techspansion's iSquint, Sorenson Squeeze, or ArcSoft MediaConverter 2, powered by the ADS Tech InstantVideo To-Go iPod encoding accelerator, you can just choose the iPod preset and encode. All four tools do everything necessary to produce a high-quality file. Most other consumer convert-to-iPod tools work well for the soccer mom, but forget one critical element that's essential for professional work, rooted in the ways that streaming video differs from what you watch on television.

Here goes. The first consideration is aspect ratio. You'll note that the 320x240 video file we'll be producing has an aspect ratio of 4:3, while at 720x480, the original DV file has an aspect ratio of 4.5:3. I could spend pages going into these differences and how to deal with them, but the short answer is that you want to change the aspect ratio or 4:3, not preserve or maintain, the aspect ratio. If you end up having to adjust settings manually to get the proper results, be on the lookout for these controls, or options like "square pixel" output, which is what you want.

Experiment with some short clips. Those with a 4:3 aspect ratio should fill the screen, with no distortion. Usually, if the aspect ratio is hosed, you'll either see letterboxing on the top and bottom, or folks stretched about 10% (or skinnier by 10% if working with PAL, which most folks seem to find more acceptable). In 16:9 videos, aspect ratio issues are a bit tougher to detect since the video will be letterboxed top and bottom, but watch for the stretching or shrinking.

The bigger problem with most iPod encoding tools is deinterlacing, or more specifically, the lack thereof, which is necessary when starting with interlaced source. Interlaced source videos (such as 480i60 DV and 1080i60 HDV) have two fields for every frame, while streaming video is frame-based. In high-motion videos, simply combining the two fields into a frame produces a noticeable artifact that looks like little slices in your video.

To avoid this, the aforementioned programs—Compressor, iSquint, and Squeeze—all deinterlace during encoding, preserving video quality. On the other hand, a host of other tools that I tested, including QuickTime Pro, InterVideo iVideoToGo, and ArcSoft MediaConverter 2, running with the hellaciously fast InstantVideo To-Go iPod encoding accelerator, don't deinterlace, so higher-motion segments can look awful. On the other hand, these tools have brain dead-easy templates that make it incredibly simple to produce iPod video, and don't cost $500 like Sorenson Squeeze.

What to do? Output a deinterlaced, progressive video file from your video editor at the target resolution of your iPod file (320x240 in our case) and at 29.97 frames per second. I typically use the QuickTime animation codec for my intermediate files (Millions of Colors), with uncompressed audio, which preserves quality for the final encoding stage. Then load the intermediate file into any consumer iPod video tool and you should get great results.

Jan Ozer (www.doceo.com) is a frequent contributor to industry magazines on digital video-related topics and the author of Adobe Digital Video How-Tos: 100 Essential Techniques with Adobe Production Studio, published by Peachpit Press.

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Blue Skies Cinema Offers Cinematic Shooting and Editing Workshop at Their Southern California Studio, October 21-22

Jeff and Andee Wright of Blue Skies Cinema, two-time EventDV 25 honorees and winners of numerous international awards, have announced new dates for their ongoing series of two-day workshops, held at their Corona, California studio. The next installment of "Cinematic Shooting & Editing," the workshop series they debuted in 2007, will take place October 21-22. Previous Cinematic Shooting & Editing workshops have all sold out.

The workshops, which are limited to 9 attendees for each session, will cover on-location shooting at California beaches and parks, editing, and hands-on shooting techniques such as shot composition, reveals, simulated crane shots, floating-camera effects, and possibly even the underwater shots that have also come to distinguish Blue Skies' work. Other topics include marketing to the high-end bride, using manual camera settings, producing Love Stories and Bridal Spotlights, creative lighting and audio, and cultivating a film-like look. According to the Wrights, attendees "will leave with amazing footage of your own to use for your demo reel."

"We've been to all kinds of classes on various subjects but we've never experienced the warmth and genuine desire to teach that we have with Jeff and Andee Wright," said past attendees Rose Mary and Mike Lalonde of of Image Photography & Video. "We're leaving with knowledge and tools that I can use immediately as well as develop and perfect over time."

The cost of the two-day workshop is $1195 per person, with additional registrants from a given studio offered a discounted rate of $995. Lunches and dinners are included.

Winners of 15 WEVA CEAs (including 4 Golds) in the last 7 years, the Wrights are popular speakers at industry conferences acclaimed for their cinematic wedding productions. They were voted to the 2006 and 2007 EventDV 25.

For more information about Blue Skies Cinema workshops, visit www.blueskiescinematraining.com.

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Abaltat Muse Video-Driven Soundtrack Composer Launches With Special NAB2007 Rebate

Abaltat, a provider of radical music software solutions, today announced that it will offer a 40 percent discount to NAB attendees who register to download its innovative Abaltat Muse™ video-driven soundtrack composer. The company will showcase the new software application at NAB2007 in its booth, SL7424.

"The highly imaginative technology behind Abaltat Muse allows video editors to actually create original compositions tailored to their specific picture sequences," said Siun Ni Raghallaigh, managing director at Abaltat. "The software actually writes the music to the picture and provides the editor with tools for refining or updating tracks at any point. The resulting music has the aural quality of a recorded band and can be altered in real time to achieve just the right sound."

Abaltat Muse represents a fundamental departure from traditional post-production tools, exploiting artificial intelligence to measure select elements of a moving picture and then composing music to match those elements. Designed specifically for video editors, Abaltat Muse uses a combination of picture window, timeline, and keyframes to compose music, leveraging a video editor's skills — not a musician's — to create music.

Among the elements that help the video editor achieve the right sound are the preferred style of music, the elements in the picture, the instruments needed, and the time signature that works best with the edit. Once a best fit is achieved, the user has limitless options in adjusting the composition using factors such as melodic constraints, scale modulation, and audio mix. All these adjustments can be performed using keyframes in a timeline synced to the picture.

Abaltat Muse composes the music and plays it out using a sample player and virtual instruments. The software incorporates technology from experts in the audio industry, namely Native Instruments and Garritan Libraries. Consequently, the audio and instrument quality is extremely high. The audio can be exported as AIFF or WAV files. The composition can be exported as a MIDI file, should the editor require a composer to do additional work on his or her composition.

More information about Abaltat Muse and other Abaltat products is available online at www.abaltat.com.

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ProMax Announces 12th Annual Charles McConathy Digital Café at NAB 2007

PROMAX SYSTEMS, INC., the leader in high-performance video and storage systems, is proud to announce they will again be hosting the Charles McConathy Digital Café April 17th, 2007 at the Empire Ballroom in Las Vegas. In its 12th year, the Café expects to draw over 1000 attendees to see some of the latest hardware and software developments in the video industry.

Major manufacturers will briefly present, including Apple, AJA Video, Sony, and Adobe, in a relaxed, after hours setting featuring food, drinks, music, and the excellent giveaways for which the Café has been known. Named for the founder and former President of ProMax Systems, the Digital Café will be held at the Empire Ballroom after the Stardust Hotel, where it had been held the previous 11 years, was demolished earlier this year.

"The Digital Café has always been something very special for our customers." says Dan Hatch, CEO of ProMax Systems. "We're really working hard to keep the event informative, interesting, and fun in the sprit which Charles envisioned." Registration will begin at 6:00PM and the event will begin at 6:30PM, after the NAB show floor closes. Attendance is limited.

For more information or to register for this free event, visit http://www.promax.com/cafe.

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lynda.com Announces Release of Blue and Green Screen Production Principles

lynda.com, the leader in self-paced digital media and design training, today introduced Blue and Green Screen Production Principles.

The technology used for compositing blue and green screen has improved to the point where a chroma key matte can be pulled off almost anything. However, the better the original photography and setup, the better the matte extraction and composite will be. Whether the goal is to shoot a blue or green screen for compositing, or just to get familiar with terms and techniques, Blue and Green Screen Production Principles has the information needed. Pete Kuran goes behind the scenes to teach the processes of this popular film technique. Blue and Green Screen Production Principles is an excellent accompaniment to Digital Video Principles in the lynda.com Online Training Library.

"We are known for software training, but our customers also need the principles-based education that makes the software easier to use. Starting with the best possible footage makes it a whole lot easier to work with compositing video using digital tools. This is a great example of how to apply knowledge from the outside world of videography and film to the desktop world of digital editing tools," says Lynda Weinman, CEO of lynda.com.

Anyone with an internet connection can access Blue and Green Screen Production Principles by subscribing to lynda.com's Online Training Library. Blue and Green Screen Production Principles is an online exclusive. Subscriptions to the lynda.com Online Training Library start at $25 per month, and provide access to over 17,600 movie tutorials covering more than 260 technology career tools, software, and techniques. Subscribers can access any of the computer-based training titles at their convenience. Multi-user subscriptions are also available for companies and institutions seeking to provide education and training to groups.

For free online samples of Blue and Green Screen Production Principles and more detailed product information, visit http://movielibrary.lynda.com/html/modPage.asp?ID=392.

For more information on lynda.com products, visit http://www.lynda.com.

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4EVER Group Schedules SoCal, New York Video Summits

The 4EVER Group's 2007 Video Summit programs, which are one-day educational events held regionally, are currently in the planning stages. The first Video Summit will be held on May 23, 2007, in Orange County, CA. That will be followed by a Video Summit in Metro New York City on June 11. Additional Video Summits will be announced in the coming weeks.

"Video Summits continue our commitment to the industry by providing education all year long, and in various locations," said Tim Ryan, Director of Education. "When videographers get together at a Video Summit, the environment is perfect for building business success."

Adobe, Grass Valley, and Canon are among the Sponsors for the Mini Trade Show portion of the day. This is the perfect opportunity to see for yourself their newest products and services. A Video Summit will also include educational workshops and an evening program. The complete list of workshop presenters, along with registration information, will be available shortly at www.4EVERGroup.org.

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Samsung Launches Silent and Speedy SpinPoint S166 Hard Disk Drive Series

Samsung Electronics Co., Ltd., a worldwide leader in digital consumer electronics and information technology, today announced its new SpinPoint S166 Series of ultra silent and high-speed hard disk drives. The 3.5" SpinPoint S166 hard drives are currently shipping in 80GB and 160GB capacities and will be available worldwide in April.

The new SpinPoint S Series of hard drives offer upgraded versions of Samsung's proprietary SilentSeek and NoiseGuard technologies to accelerate operational speed while reducing noise. Benchmarking tests on sound power have shown that competing hard drives (80GB and 160GB models) generate on average 2.8 bel (1 bel = 10 decibels) in idle mode and 3.2 bel in seek mode, while Samsung's S166 series generate just 2.4 bel and 2.75 bel respectively. This 15% noise-level reduction makes the drives ideal for use in office computers, as well as in home consumer electronics such as DVR/ PVRs, or any other hard drive equipped products intended for use in a quiet environment.

In addition, three breakthrough technologies are implemented in the new S Series to enhance performance and reliability. An improved fly-height control technology ensures better read and write sensitivity by dynamically lowering the fly height in read or write mode while maintaining a consistent and high fly-height across the disc in standard mode; an optimized actuator assembly for single-disk mechanism reinforces the reliability of the disk's mechanical functions and improves the non operating and operating shock characteristics of the drive; and an upgraded system-on-chip (SoC) controller provides significant thermal, disk data transfer speed, and power consumption enhancements.

"Samsung is constantly pushing the technology envelope with the introduction of new and innovative products that meet the computing needs of today's most demanding customers and operating environments," states TJ Lee, vice president of sales & marketing at Samsung Electronics' Storage System Division. "This latest technology development by Samsung in the new SpinPoint S166 Series makes our high-end, award-winning hard drive products attractive to a wider audience by even further reducing acoustic noise and improving disk data transfer speed."

The S166 Series has a spin speed of 7,200rpm and provides an 8MB buffer. The Series features the SATA 3.0Gbps interface and includes Native Command Queueing (NCQ). The drives are also available with a PATA interface for customers who require this application. With the new SpinPoint S166 series and recently introduced 2.5" hybrid hard disk drives and 1.8" hard drives, Samsung continues to expand its portfolio of advanced hard drives and technologies. Pricing and market availability information will be provided on a regional basis.


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HANNS·G Offers Cost Effective 1080p Monitor

HANNspree California, Inc., creator of design-driven LCD TVs, today announced that it is shipping six new widescreen (16:9) IT monitors in its HANNS·G line. The new models include two 17-inch displays; the black styled HW-173DBB (SRP: $159.99) and the silver HW-173DB0 (SRP: 159.99), as well as four high-performance 19-inch models, HG-191RPB (SRP: $219.99), HW-193DPB (SRP: $199.99), HW-194DJB (SRP: $229.99) and the 22" Widescreen 1080p HW-223DPB (SRP: $329.99).

With the addition of the new models, HANNS·G now offers more widescreen monitors than traditional 5x4 aspect ratio models. All the new models also have Windows Vista certification. Noted Michael Amkreutz, HANNspree Vice President, Marketing and Product Planning: "In less than a year after entering the IT monitor market, HANNS·G has already earned the #8 market share position in the U.S. We have achieved this rapid growth due to several factors. Notably, our products break the traditional IT monitor mold in terms of ahead-of-the-cure aesthetic design, and they all combine high-quality build materials, industry-leading features and total user flexibility. Throughout 2007, we plan to continue introducing larger-screen models with unique and attractive new styling, high-quality performance and features, all at very competitive prices."

HANNS·G's new widescreen IT displays all reflect the company's commitment to raising the bar in the PC monitor market. All boast extraordinarily fast response times (2ms, 5 ms, or 8ms), 16:9 widescreen aspect ratios, wide viewing angles, clearest contrast and highest brightness levels. Also, HANNS·G new monitors features proprietary technology like Ultra TN for better viewing angles, X-Vivid for superior image quality, High Color Gamut, or X-celerate for faster response time.

HANNS·G's new 22-inch HW-223DBP 1080p LCD monitor epitomizes the quality, unique features and style of the company's broad monitor line. In addition to an astounding 300 cd/m2 brightness, a 1000:1 High Contrast Ratio, 1680 x 1050 WSXGA+ resolution and 5ms response time, it features a full 4 port USB 2.0 hub built-in, with a 170-degree/170-degree viewing angle. This HD Ready monitor can be used with any HD source like a video game system, or any HD DVD through an included DVI to Component cable, 3W x 2 Channel built-in stereo speakers and user-selectable color temperature settings. This model bears the Certified for Windows Vista logo so you can enjoy your HD content to its fullest.

All six new widescreen monitors are available now.


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eCinema Ready for NAB with DPX Monitor Line

eCinema Systems (NAB booth SL9227) has unveiled plans to launch an expanded line of LCD monitors at this year's NAB convention in Las Vegas.

Founder and CEO Martin Euredjian comments, "eCinema Systems has been conducting research and development in the LCD monitor field for over five years. The new monitor line reflects what we've learned about the technology. However, and, more important than that, the new monitor line is a direct reflection of the customer feedback we have received."

Euredjian continues, "Last year we held private demonstrations of a CRT-replacement LCD monitor in prototype form. This year we are showing the finished product. Known as the ‘DPX' series, these new displays were designed with high-end DI and Telecine in mind. They are LCD-based monitors that beat CRT's in terms of contrast ratio, color gamut, bit depth, cost-of-ownership and more. The first DPX monitors will start shipping right after the show."

As part of the introduction of the new lines, eCinema Systems will be offering special discounts during NAB'07. Resellers as well as end-users are invited to come to the booth to see the new lines and take advantage of NAB-only introductory pricing.


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