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July 23, 2007

Table of Contents

The Moving Picture: Ghost in the Machine
Blue Skies Cinema Offers Cinematic Shooting and Editing Workshop at Their Southern California Studio, October 21-22
Dolgin Debuts 4-Slot Smart Battery Charger
Sony's Newest DVDirect Recorder Now Transfers High-Definition Home Videos to DVD
Microboards Technology Expands Disc Printer Offering
CineBags Introduces New CB-22 HD Backpack LT
Proavio Announces EB4-CR Desktop RAID Array
Acon Digital Media Announces Acoustica Premium 4 with Support for Multichannel Audio

The Moving Picture: Ghost in the Machine

Sooner or later, your computer will get so crowded with applications, resident programs, mysterious services, spyware, malware, games, and other detritus, that performance will begin to drop like stateside interest in the Tour de France post-Lance. That’s your signal that it’s time to reinstall Windows. Sure, you can delay the inevitable if you’re careful and watch what you install, but sooner or later it’s going to happen. Interestingly, the time to start planning for that occasion is just before you buy a computer. Once you start loading applications and adding drivers and such, it’s pretty much too late.

This whole reinstall-Windows dynamic is on my mind because of a recent experience I had with my Hewlett-Packard xw8400 Dual-Processor Quad-Core workstation. As you may recall from a recent column, Death, Taxes and Vista, I had loaded Microsoft Vista over Windows XP, much to my immediate dismay. I tried to work with Vista for a few weeks, but I ran into so many frustrating compatibility issues I knew it was time to return to XP.

I considered calling the local Roman Catholic Diocese to ask them to exorcise the demon that had taken over my computer, but being Jewish, I wasn’t sure I could get their attention. Fortunately, there was an easier solution that didn’t involve 360-degree head rotations and green, projectile vomiting. That is, like many reputable vendors, HP includes restore discs with their new computers, so if you can pop a DVD in a drive and follow simple instructions, you can have your computer back in under and hour. Not only is the operating system back, but so are all of your drivers and original applications. Check for updates on the Microsoft site and you’re back in business. This, for me, is one of the key reasons that I don’t like building my own computers—you just don’t get the same level of support, either in the box or over the phone.

In honor of my reclaiming the utility of my most powerful computer, I thought I would write down some thoughts to keep in mind if you’re forced to reinstall Windows on any computer, or when buying a new computer. First, when reinstalling Windows, remember to uninstall any licensed software before starting the process. Otherwise, when you go to reinstall the software, you may run out of licenses.

For example, Adobe lets you install Production Studio on two different computers. I’m not sure if it would recognize the same computer if you reinstalled Windows and then tried to reload the suite, but when you uninstall the program, Adobe lets you cancel the license for that computer, adding it back to the available pool. When you authorize that computer over the internet, you’ll have at least one license available.

Second, if buying a new computer, buy one with a smallish system drive and much larger video drive. That way, you can reinstall Windows without losing any project data. Not to go too far afield, but one of the questions I get most often from readers is whether they need to spend extra dollars on high performance hard drives, for either the system drive or the video drive. This is one of those legacy questions that relate back to when the average hard drive couldn’t store or retrieve more than a few hundred kilobytes per second, and you had to use expensive SCSI drives to capture the 600-700KB/sec produced by most Motion JPEG capture cards.

If you bought your computer in the last two or three years, it probably uses a Serial ATA drive that can store and retrieve in excess of 40MB/sec. Given that a single stream of DV input is only 3.6MB/sec (the equivalent of 25Mbps video), you certainly can capture DV or HDV (same bit rate as DV or less) on these types of drives. Even if you’re producing multicam videos with four or five streams, you don’t need a special disk setup. Overall, unless you’re working with uncompressed HD, or building video servers or other high input/output applications, don’t even think about RAID or 15,000 rpm disks; you just don’t need them.

Back on point, when you’re buying a computer (or building your own), if your computer vendor doesn’t provide restore discs, consider buying Symantec Ghost, which can get you to the same place. Specifically, Ghost is a program that builds an image of your system drive, which you can store on another drive or on an optical disc.

Typically, once I get a new computer (or restore an older computer), I’ll load all of my test and production applications, then run Ghost and save the image. Since Ghost saves (and restores) everything on your system drive, it’s best to do this with the minimum number of applications installed, or the Ghost image will become massive, certainly larger than you can store on an optical disc.

Once it’s clear that I have to reload Windows, I simply use Ghost to copy the image back over to the system drive, essentially reverting back to where I started. Then I download all critical updates to Windows from Microsoft, update other programs as needed, and then create another Ghost disk image to use the next time.

Though Symantec doesn’t offer a Macintosh version of Ghost, you can accomplish the same goal using a program called EMC Retrospect, which does both backup and image-restore functions. You might also check out Bombich Software’s Carbon Copy Cloner and NetRestore, which perform local and network-based imaging, respectively.

Jan Ozer is co-author of Hands-On Guide to Flash Video, published by Focal 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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Dolgin Debuts 4-Slot Smart Battery Charger

Dolgin Engineering is expanding its line-up of 7.2V battery chargers by introducing the “FOUR ZERO” (TC40), a fast 4-position microprocessor-based battery charger ($395). Designed for video production studios and rental facilities, the unit is designed to provide fast, reliable charging of multiple camera batteries for both in-house and field use.

According to company president Alex Dolgin, who designed the charger, the TC40 incorporates a host of key features including the following:

  • Fast, safe simultaneous charging of any common 7.2v (Sony, Panasonic, JVC, Canon) packs.
  • Each of the 4 channels is fully independent of the other.
  • Worldwide 100-240V AC or 12v DC power for mobile use, using cigarette lighter car cord for connection to the power source.
  • Sleek, small and lightweight package 10.5"x 4"x 1.5"

The FOUR ZERO also features a highly efficient smart charging circuit. “It takes only about 4.5 hours to charge a typical high capacity battery pack. The pack can be left on the charger after the charge is complete,” said Dolgin.

The design of the charger he said, utilizes unique Dynamic Power Management (DPM) technology for minimizing battery charge time. By dynamically adjusting battery charge current, more current is allocated to the deeper discharged batteries. Through this process the batteries are ready to use at about the same time.

For more information visit Dolgin Engineering at www.dolgin.net.

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Sony's Newest DVDirect Recorder Now Transfers High-Definition Home Videos to DVD

Sony Electronics today debuted its next-generation multi-function DVDirect DVD recorder which can quickly transfer high-definition home videos and digital photos to DVD discs without using a computer. The new VRD-MC5 model can now transfer AVCHD quality videos to DVD discs in their native 1080i HD resolution when connected directly to a Sony hard drive or Memory Stick Handycam camcorder. The resulting DVD can be played back on compatible Blu-ray Disc(TM) devices, including players and computer drives as well as PlayStation 3 (PS3) computer entertainment systems.

The VRD-MC5 recorder can also transfer standard-definition home videos to DVD without the complexity of using a computer from virtually any camcorder, VCR or digital video recorder. The new model includes Digital Video (i.LINK/FireWire/IEEE-1394), S-Video, Composite Video inputs, and USB (for Sony hard drive, DVD, and Memory Stick Handycam camcorders).

DVD video discs recorded in this manner are playable in most consumer DVD players, In addition, the VRD-MC5 can directly record digital photos to a DVD as a slideshow or just for photo storage from any of the five popular digital camera memory cards. It sports slots for Memory Stick(R) Pro and Memory Stick Pro Duo media, Compact Flash(R), Secure Digital (SD/SDHC), and xD-picture card, or via USB from Sony hard drive, DVD and Memory Stick Handycam camcorders. Users can also import their own MP3 music files to serve as background music.

"With our newest DVDirect model, users can transfer their high-definition videos to convenient DVDs for enjoying and sharing with family and friends," said Robert DeMoulin, marketing manager for branded storage products in Sony Electronics' IT Products Division. "We enhanced personalization and connectivity to make capturing and saving digital memories simple and fun."

The re-styled DVDirect recorder has a built-in 2.5-inch color LCD screen for easily previewing video or up to six digital photos at a time. With automatic DVD menu and title creation, the new model offers four preset menu backgrounds along with the ability to import JPEG images to serve as the DVD menu background: automatic DVD chaptering every 5, 10 or 15 minutes; and stop-timer recording.

Up to six hours of standard-definition video, up to 95 minutes of AVCHD video or up to 2,000 digital pictures can be recorded on a 4.7GB DVD+R/+RW disc. Up to 12 hours of standard definition video can be recorded on 8.5GB DVD+R double layer discs which are compatible when using the DV, S-Video, or Composite video inputs only. The new DVDirect model maintains Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound, as well as 4:3 and 16:9 aspect ratios with compatible camcorders.

DVDirect and Sony Handycam Camcorders: A Unique Combination
By connecting to the new Sony HDR-SR5, HDR-SR7, and HDR-CX7 Handycam camcorders, users can transfer high-definition videos in their native 1080i resolution to DVDs recorded in the AVCHD format. This allows up to 95 minutes of high-definition video to be recorded on a DVD playable on compatible Blu-ray Disc players.

When recording from standard-definition or AVCHD Sony hard drive or Memory Stick Handycam camcorders to DVDs, users have the option to record all the contents, only new content captured since the last DVD burn, or to utilize the scene selection/date selection/playlist recording modes. Scene selection and date selection recording allows the user to pick and choose individual video clips or photos to be recorded to disc from the built-in 2.5-inch color LCD screen.

The enhanced connectivity to Sony's Handycam camcorder family enables video to "span" multiple DVDs if the video exceeds the capacity of a single DVD. Users may also consolidate several mini camcorder-size DVDs to a full-sized 5-inch DVD using a Sony DVD Handycam camcorder.

Availability and Pricing
The DVDirect model VRD-MC5 will be available in August for about $230. Sony DVDirect products are sold through sonystyle.com, at Sony Style retail stores nationwide, and at authorized resellers and retailers across the country.

Pre-orders for the new model are now being accepted online at www.sonystyle.com.

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Microboards Technology Expands Disc Printer Offering

Microboards has announced an expanded solutions offering encompassing economical disc printers for entry-level professional publishing. The enhanced offering will directly complement its flagship GX publisher product, and will cater to a number of new customers – including small/home office, independent recording, and other small professional services organizations.

John Westrum, Chief Technology Officer, comments: “The expansion of our offering is in line with Microboards enhanced hardware and consumables strategy, and our objective to remain the leading solution provider in the disc duplication industry. In short, our purpose is to offer the market at large, and our extensive customer base, a substantially more compelling, unique and comprehensive range of printers - without moving away from our core focus which still remains end to end optical disc publishing.”

“The change in our offering is in line with customer feedback and requirements as well as the exponential growth in the optical recording arena.” Says Westrum: “The last year has seen the successful launch of the GX-1 disc publisher for entry level recording & printing for both Mac and PC. Now our regular interaction with our reseller base indicates that the next step is providing a product that reaches an even wider base of users.”

The two products, a manually fed GX Disc Printer, and a 50-disc GX Disc Autoprinter, will street at $695 and $1095, respectively. Simultaneously, Microboards is announcing a price reduction on the GX Publisher, which combines printing and recording into a single unit. With the GX Publisher’s new street price of $1495, the three printing solutions represent the best value in the industry. All three feature high-resolution, photo-quality inkjet printing and include label design software and a starter kit of media and ink. And the cost-per-disc in consumable (ink) cost remains the lowest in its class by as much as 60%.

The broad offering that Microboards brings to optical users is split into two core components, hardware and consumables. And although still focused around providing the high quality Taiyo Yuden recordable media and tower duplicators for stable, quality duplication, the offering has been expanded to include a complementary range of printing and publishing products to meet a broader set of customer requirements.

“Our accumulated expertise from the past 14 years enables us to offer products that meet the needs of a wide range of people” says Westrum. “Anyone can benefit from in-house control of disc publishing jobs. Not only can they customize content and labels, users also find that they can better ensure quality, up-to-date versioning, and control costs and inventory. That’s a pretty powerful combination.”

www.microboards.com

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CineBags Introduces New CB-22 HD Backpack LT

CineBags is introducing it brand new HD Backpack to accommodate new medium size DV cameras such as the Panasonic HVX200, DVX-100, HVR-Z1U and similar sized cameras as well as a laptop computer. Weather it is a feature film, documentary, or a snowboard video our cinematographers know that a padded protection for their equipment is vital. Customizable inner compartments provide safe gear storage and external storage pouches keep the most important items within quick reach.

Features of the CB-22 HD include the following:

  • Padded customizable interior compartments
  • Laptop compartment
  • See-through compartments
  • Large padded shoulder harness
  • Waterproof material
  • Large zipped opening for easy access
  • Internal organizer pockets
  • Tripod strap
  • Exterior bottle holder

The CB-22 HD Backpack LT carries an MSRP of $199. It comes in gray and black, with red webbing.

www.cinebags.com

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Proavio Announces EB4-CR Desktop RAID Array

Proavio today announced the EB4-CR, the first professional multi-interface, desktop RAID array designed for today’s digital lifestyle. Featuring a small-footprint aluminum tower design and Zero-noise cooling, the EB4-CR is the ideal RAID-5 storage solution for home and project studios working with high resolution digital media. A next-generation RAID processor board allows users to configure the EB4-CR for RAID-0 performance, or RAID-5 data protection.

Key features include the folowing:

  • 4-disk, RAID-5 multi-interface storage solution for the desktop
  • Quad-interface design (FW800, FW400, USB2.0 and eSATA) for instant connectivity
  • User-selectable RAID options. RAID-0 for performance, RAID-5 for data protection
  • Easy-to-use front LCD configuration panel
  • Hot-swap disks & cooling
  • Studio-quality Zero-noise cooling
  • Up to 2.0TB (R-0) and 1.5TB (R-5) capacity support
  • Supports Mac OSX and Windows operating systems

A product of this caliber will open new opportunities within sectors of the desktop markets currently undeveloped by Enhance Technology/Proavio. The combination of small form factor, RAID-5 protection and choice of connectivity will be immediately embraced by experienced users who have lost valuable data due to disk malfunction or failure. Features such as locking hot-swap disks, system door, user selectable RAID settings and solid aluminum construction help create a sense of high reliability & value.

Target markets for the EB4-CR include the following:

Home & project studio production (digital audio, virtual instruments, sound libraries, etc.)
Digital video editing (DV25 & DVD production)
High resolution graphic design & pre-press (Photoshop, Illustrator, Quark, etc.)
Digital media home library (music, photos, and movie files)
Desktop storage & backup (accounting, marketing, disk-backup)
DVR & video surveillance
Anywhere RAID-5 data protection is needed.

Preliminary pricing is as follows:

MSRP: $1,095.00USD (w/o Disks for Authorized Value Added Resellers)
MSRP: $1,495.00USD (1.0TB)
MSRP: $1,735.00USD (2.0TB)

The systems ship with a limited 2-year warranty.

www.proavio.com

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Acon Digital Media Announces Acoustica Premium 4 with Support for Multichannel Audio

Acon Digital Media, a leading provider of audio software applications, today announced Acoustica Premium 4. The software for professional audio editing and mastering extends the standard version of the full- featured audio editor Acoustica with support for multichannel audio formats such as 5.1 and 7.1 surround. Additionally, the integrated CD burner in Acoustica Premium 4 provides precise control over the details of audio CD productions, such as pause lengths, index markers and CD-TEXT fields.

The processing tools from the following Acon Digital Media plug-in suites are tightly integrated in Acoustica Premium 4, thus providing a simplified workflow and a large range of professional quality tools for mastering and sound design:

* Studio Clean (VST and DirectX) Audio restoration tools, including noise reduction, click and crackle reduction, restoration of clipped audio recordings and high frequency harmonic synthesis (gives new life to dull sounding recordings).
* Studio Time (DirectX) Professional quality time stretching and pitch shifting (transposition of key).
* Studio Necessities (VST and DirectX) Mastering and sound design tools, including equalizer, dynamic processing, limiter, reverb, chorus, flanger, phaser, and multi-tap delay.

The plug-ins originating from any of the three plug-in suites are also accessible from audio software applications supporting the DirectX plug-in interface standard. In case of Studio Clean and Studio Necessities, VST plug-in compatible applications are also supported. ASIO support will be added in an upgrade (free for Acoustica Premium customers) in August.

Acoustica Premium 4 is available for $119.90 (USD) as electronic delivery on the Acon Digital Media web site (http://www.acondigital.com). There is also a free 30- day trial available.

www.acondigital.com

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