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December 17, 2007

Table of Contents

The Moving Picture: Core Performance
New On EventDV's TechThoughts Blog: Sony HVR-Z7U/S270 Lens Issue?
Panasonic Ships Popular AG-HVX200 Solid-State P2 HD Camcorder with Free 16GB P2 Card in the Box
NewTek Releases Free Live Virtual Set Authoring Tool
Addonics Announces Optical Solution that Bridges Blu-ray and HD DVD Formats
Disc Makers Introduces Revamped Reflex Duplicator Line Highlighted by all new 15-Drive Reflex15
Boris FX Releases Boris Graffiti 5.2
Toon Boom Studio 4 is Leopard Ready

The Moving Picture: Core Performance

These days, this is how edit-bay economics shakes out: You can get a dual-processor, 3GHz quad-core Dell Precision 690 for $5,510 or save about $1,700 bucks and get a single-processor, quad-core system for $3,321. Which renders your projects more quickly, the four-core or eight-core system? Is the eight-core PC worth the extra money? To some degree, this is application-dependent; a lot depends on how efficiently a program can divvy up a single task among multiple processors. I just performed a round of benchmark testing with Adobe Production Premium and Sony Vegas on a range of systems, from two to eight cores. Here’s what I learned.

First, here’s some background. PCs and Macs are either single-core or multicore, depending on the number of processors they house. We don’t refer to software as "multicore" or "multiprocessor," but rather "multithreaded," which refers to an application’s ability to split work among different processors. A nonmultithreaded application can’t split up the processing load, and thus runs at about the same speed on a one-core or eight-core system. My tests revealed that there are "levels" of multithreading efficiency. That is, some programs, most notably Autodesk’s 3ds Max, are nearly twice as efficient with eight cores as they are with four. Alas, both Sony Vegas 8 and Adobe Premiere Pro CS3 seemed more efficient running on four cores than eight, as you’ll see in a moment.

I tested three systems, all from HP. The first was a dual-core Core 2 Duo-based 8710p notebook running at 2.2GHz. The next was a quad-core xw4600 Workstation based on the QX6850-core 2 Extreme Processor quad-core running at 3GHz. The third was an eight-core xw8400 workstation running dual processor, Quad-Core Xeon X5355s at 2.66 GHz. The desktops were running Windows XP, while the notebook used Windows Vista.

I would have preferred two, four, and eight cores with identical speeds, but to normalize the results, I multiplied the number of cores by the processor speed, which gave me relative scores to assess application performance. For example, the notebook had two cores running at 2.2GHz, or 4.4GHz total processing speed. In contrast, the xw4600 had four cores running at 3GHz, or 12GHz total speed, roughly 2.72 times more clock speed than the notebook.

Accordingly, if an application rendered 2.72 times faster on the xw4600 than on the notebook, it took full advantage of the multiple cores and the additional speed.

Interestingly, working with my standard 3.5-minute HDV test project on the xw4600, Sony Vegas produced SD MPEG-2 files in 3:27 (min:sec) compared to 9:02 for the 8710p notebook, or 2.62 times faster, coming very close to the 2.72 theoretical max. Also on the xw4600, Vegas produced an MPEG-4 file from the same project in 6:11, compared to 18:07 for the notebook, which is 2.93X, even faster than the expected 2.72. On the xw4600, Premiere Pro produced a 1440x1080i Blu-ray-compatible MPEG-2 file from the same 3.5-minute test project in 8:47, compared to 23:30 for the 8710p, about 2.68 times faster, again close to the 2.72 differential. Clearly, when jumping from two to four cores, both Vegas and Premiere Pro were very efficient in their multithreading.

Here’s where things started to break down. Using the same type of mathematical comparison, the eight-core xw8400 has 21.28 GHz of total processing speed, 4.8 times that of the 8710p and approximately 80% faster than the four-core xw4600. In the Vegas tests, however, the xw8400 performed more slowly than the xw4600. With Premiere Pro, the eight-core xw8400 proved 20 seconds faster than the xw4600 when producing the Blu-ray-compatible file (8:27 compared to 8:47), an advantage of 4%. This doesn’t seem worth the $1,700 differential between the four-core and eight-core systems. I also tested Encore and produced a 2-minute Blu-ray disc image on both computers. The eight-core system was actually 6% slower.

A quick glance at the processor utilization graphs in Windows Task Manager on all three systems tells the story. You can open Task Manager via the three-finger salute (Ctrl-Alt-Del) and then click the Performance tab, if you’re running Windows XP. Vista adds an extra step in the middle—you’ll need to select Task Manager to get to the screen with the Performance tab. On the two-core 8710p, Vegas used nearly 100% of both of its processors during rendering. On the four-core xw4600, the number averaged around 97%; on the eight-core xw8400, the number dropped to 44%. Adobe numbers were similar, though less well-defined. Neither program used eight cores nearly as efficiently as four, producing similar or even slower results on the theoretically faster system.

At this juncture, more is not better when it comes to cores, at least once you go beyond four. But, as they say in baseball, speed never has an off day. If you’re currently running a two-core system, you can definitely get a real jump in encoding performance by buying a four-core system, and the new generation of quad-core Core 2 Duo processors look like real winners for the editing community.

But if you’re faced with the decision between a moderatespeed eight-core system and a top-speed four-core system, go with the four-core system every time—at least for Vegas and Adobe Production Premium.

Jan Ozer is a contributing editor to EventDV and Streaming Media.

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New On EventDV's TechThoughts Blog: Sony HVR-Z7U/S270 Lens Issue?

Marshall Levy, who wrote our compact flash media test results, is finding issues with the lenses that adorn the latest HDV camcorders from Sony- the HVR-Z7U and the HVR-S270. He’s found focusing issues, lens wobble and says the issue was confirmed by Sony. Click here to read more.

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Panasonic Ships Popular AG-HVX200 Solid-State P2 HD Camcorder with Free 16GB P2 Card in the Box

Panasonic announced today that, starting this month, it will be shipping new AG-HVX200 P2 HD camcorders with a free 16GB P2 card (model AJ-P2C016RG).

Customers who buy a new HVX200 from an authorized U.S. Panasonic reseller will receive one 16GB P2 card (a $900 value) and a copy of The HVX Book by Barry Green included inside the box at the time of purchase.

On a single 16GB P2 card, professionals can record for 16 minutes in DVCPRO HD, 40 minutes in DVCPRO HD in native 720/24p, 32 minutes in DVCPRO50 and 64 minutes in DVCPRO. With the HVX200, which has two P2 card slots, users can double record times.

The ultra-versatile HVX200 records in 1080i and 720p in production-proven 100 Mbps DVCPRO HD quality, with the ability to capture images in 21 record modes. The DVCPRO HD format offers users cost-effective, intra-frame compression, where each frame stands on its own for editing, and its full 4:2:2 color sampling allows the image to hold up under color correction. The camera records video on a P2 card as IT-friendly MXF files in 1080/60i, 30p and 24p; in 720/60p, 30p and 24p; in 50Mbps DVCPRO50 and in 25Mbps DVCPRO or DV. The HVX200 can capture fast or slow action in 720p at various frame rates--the first time this function is available in a hand-held camera. The shooting frame rate in 720p native mode can be set for any of 11 steps between 12fps and 60fps including 24fps and 30fps.

For more information on the AG-HVX200, visit www.panasonic.com/hvx200.

www.panasonic.com/broadcast

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NewTek Releases Free Live Virtual Set Authoring Tool

NewTek, Inc., manufacturer of industry-leading video and 3D animation products, today announced the release of LiveSet Generator™ for LightWave®, a free plug-in for LightWave v9 that facilitates the authoring of computer generated virtual sets. LiveSet Generator for LightWave takes advantage of the Emmy® award-winning modeling and rendering technology, providing a simple solution for the creation of custom, photo-realistic virtual sets. LiveSet Generator for LightWave is for use with LiveSet™, the proprietary virtual set technology found in NewTek’s TriCaster STUDIO™, Portable Live Production System, and VT[5]™, Integrated Production Suite.

LiveSet Generator™ for LightWave Features of the plug-in allows users to do the following:

  • Create virtual sets with multiple camera angles and focal lengths.
  • Generate effects with real-time video scaling for virtual on-set video monitors.
  • Produce projects with full support for anti-aliasing, reflections, refractions, radiosity, texture filtering, bump maps and more.
  • Automatically generate and assign LiveSet preview icons.
  • Render LightWave projects directly to LiveSet format.

"Until TriCaster STUDIO live virtual sets were only available to production facilities with deep pockets" said Andrew Cross, NewTek’s Executive Vice President of Software Engineering. "LiveSet Generator for LightWave now makes custom, photo-realistic, virtual sets available to video producers at all levels."

LiveSet™ Technology
LiveSet™ is a proprietary virtual set system included in TriCaster STUDIO and VT[5] products. LiveSet allows individual virtual set effects to be applied independently to each camera input as well as integrated DDRs and iVGA inputs. Each LiveSet effect offers virtual cameras with multiple camera angles and focal lengths, with support for secondary video sources, such as on-screen background monitors and video walls. The photo-realistic LiveSet engine allows real-time rendering of reflections, refractions, bump maps and more.

Pricing and Availability
The LiveSet Generator for LightWave is available as a free download for all registered owners of NewTek’s TriCaster STUDIO, Portable Live Production System, and VT[5], Integrated Production Suite. The LiveSet Generator for LightWave plug-in requires the use of LightWave v9. Registered owners of TriCaster Studio or VT[5] may purchase a full commercial copy of LightWave v9 for a special price of $495US.

www.newtek.com

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Addonics Announces Optical Solution that Bridges Blu-ray and HD DVD Formats

Addonics Technologies today announced its Zebra Blu-ray / HD DVD Player an optical storage solution that allows your PC to play Blu-ray and HD DVD movies from the same tray.

The Zebra Blu-ray / HD DVD Player also plays standard DVDs and CDs in various file formats and burns DVD±R/RW and CDRW media, which makes it one of the most flexible optical drives available. Users can turn their laptop or desktop computer into a high definition movie player and enjoy high definition video quality of 1080p format at 1920x1080 resolution and the dynamic 7.1-channel audio output that comes with the Blu-ray or HD DVD format.

Addonics has left the decision over which high-def video standard will emerge victorious to the end user. Consumers reluctant to purchase single-format hi-def players can now be assured they will not be left with an obsolete player with the Addonics Zebra solution.

Constructed in a sturdy compact aluminum body, the Zebra Blu-ray / HD DVD player & DVD±R/RW burner comes with a choice of high speed eSATA connection or a combination eSATA and USB 2.0 interface.

The Addonics Zebra records up to 8.5GB of data or 4 hours of video on compatible DVD+R DL (double layer) and DVD-R DL (dual layer) media. It is bundled with the Cyberlink High-Def Suite for use with Microsoft Windows 2000, XP, 2003, and Vista. The product also supports Linux (Kernel 2.6 and above) with free playback software downloadable from various Linux websites.

Maximum transfer rates in various modes of the Addonics Zebra are Blu-ray BD-ROM 215.79 Mbits/s (6x); HD DVD-ROM 109.65 Mbits/s (3x); DVD-ROM 22.16 Mbytes/s (16x) and CD-ROM 6,000 Kbytes/s (40x).

The Addonics Zebra is compact at 10.16 x 6.61 x 2.36 inches and weighs just 3.72 lbs. The MSRP of the Zebra Blu-ray / HD DVD Player is $409 with eSATA interface, or $429 with combination eSATA and USB 2.0 interface. It is available through the Addonics online store www.shopaddonics.com, major catalog companies, resellers, VARs and distributors, including Amazon.com, PC Connection, CDW, Buy.com, Provantage.com, Insight, and Ingram Micro.

www.addonics.com

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Disc Makers Introduces Revamped Reflex Duplicator Line Highlighted by all new 15-Drive Reflex15

Disc Makers, the nation’s leading manufacturer of CD and DVD duplication hardware, today introduces the latest refresh of its Reflex tower manual duplicator line highlighted by the new 15-drive Reflex15, the industry’s largest single tower duplicator.

The new Reflex towers feature the latest 20x DVD±R / 48x CD-R / 8x DVD±R DL drives, and new load and copy feature that greatly speeds up the duplication process, plus beefy 250GB hard drives with Dynamic Smart Partitioning (DSP) to optimize the space used on the hard drive. The new towers also have been redesigned with a sleek black and silver look, and include strategic air vents to maintain optimized temperatures while duplication is in progress.

The newly enhanced Reflex line includes towers with one, two, four, seven, ten, and now fifteen drives. The new Reflex15 tower, the largest on the market today, duplicates an astounding 225 CDs or 120 DVDs per hour. Prices for Disc Makers’ Reflex line start at just $249 and go up to $1,399 for the Reflex15.

"Our Reflex towers are the finest disc duplicators on the market, and the updates we have made to the line only raise the bar for all other duplicator manufacturers," said Tony van Veen, President of Disc Makers. "We build the Reflex towers in our Pennsauken, New Jersey factory and control every detail of manufacturing and quality control. With Disc Makers, our customers can be confident they are getting the widest range of choices and that they’re buying the best duplicator on the market, at the best price possible."

In addition to the industry-leading features and award-winning design, Disc Makers’ Reflex duplicators are backed up by a one-year, bumper-to-bumper warranty, a Perfect Fit Guarantee, and the new Best Price Guarantee. The Perfect Fit Guarantee ensures that the system you buy is the one that fits your needs best. If it’s not, then the tower can be sent back for full credit towards another duplicator that better fits your needs.

Disc Makers’ Best Price Guarantee, launched last month, guarantees consumers that if they find a comparable tower duplicator from another reputable seller that is advertised at a lower price, Disc Makers will match it. Complete details on the Best Price Guarantee can be found here.

For more information on Disc Makers’ new Reflex line of tower duplicators, visit www.discmakers.com/duplicators.

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Boris FX Releases Boris Graffiti 5.2

Boris FX, the leading developer of integrated effects technology for video and film, announced today the release of Boris Graffiti 5.2. Boris Graffiti is a 2D/3D titling solution with extensive title animation capabilities including support for; EPS import and extrusion, resolution independent vector text, advanced type-on title animation, text on a path and automated rolls, crawls, fades and zooms.

A plug-in package for 20-plus non-linear editing systems, the new release is offered free for existing Boris Graffiti 5.0 customers via electronic distribution (www.borisfx.com) and adds support for major operating systems Leopard (Apple OS X) and Vista (Microsoft) as well as extended Sony Vegas 8.0 and Adobe CS 3.0 host integration with full validation for the Intel-Mac versions of After Effects and Premiere Pro and After Effects for Windows Vista. The point release also optimizes several features including Preview to Monitor which now supports Firewire as well as AJA video cards and an enhanced Boris Title Container with better control over sub titles.

Boris Graffiti 5.2 Highlights
* Support for Apple OS X Leopard and Windows Vista operating systems
* Host Support: Adobe CS 3 (Intel-Mac AE and Premiere Pro, Windows Vista AE), and Sony Vegas 8.0
* Optimized features; Preview to Monitor (support Firewire / AJA video cards) and enhanced Boris Red Title Container (no need to re-import the STL file).

For more information, please visit the Boris FX web site at http://www.borisfx.com.

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Toon Boom Studio 4 is Leopard Ready

Emmy award-winning Toon Boom Animation Inc. today announced that a Studio 4 patch is now available for all users running Mac OS 10.5 (Leopard), Apple’s latest operating system. All current Studio 4 Mac customers need to go to toonboom.com, login, go to the My Products page and click on Download to get the patch.

This Studio 4 patch is for Mac OS 10.5 customers only and reaffirms Toon Boom’s commitment of making their animation software compatible with the leading operating systems.

Toon Boom will be showcasing Studio 4, Digital Pro, Storyboard Pro and Flip Boom at Macworld 2008, Booth W-4336, from January 15 to 18 in San Francisco. One hundred free Exhibit Hall Passes are available to be given away. First come, first served so go to http://rcsreg.com/macworld/08-G-PC306 to register.

www.toonboom.com

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