Computer video news - January 2004

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Computer Video News:

Sony VX2000 replacement

VX2100 said to offer 1 lux low-light performance, low-reflectivity LCD monitor, improved audio sensitivity and more comfortable shooting

The DCR-VX2100 - Sony's replacement for the Editor's Choice award-winning DCR-VX2000 semi-pro three-CCD MiniDV camcorder (review, July 2000, p30) is due in December at a likely price of £2,700 (inc VAT).
Key changes are said to include improved low-light filming, reduced reflectivity on the fold-out LCD monitor (claimed to make it usable even under bright outdoor conditions), and the fitting on the handle of a start/stop button and a three-position zoom control. The handle itself has been raised and re-sized to give better handling when shooting low angles. Manual sound recording sensitivity is also reckoned to have been enhanced - by roughly 6dB - by using more accurate audio sampling.
The viewfinder and eye-cup attachment are larger than on the VX2000, for more comfortable shooting, and the removable lens hood has a built-in cap that opens/closes using a lever on the side. The VX2100 uses Sony's Stamina InfoLithium rechargeable battery technology, and the supplied NP-F960 is claimed to last for up to nine hours continuous recording.
Sony says that the sensitivity of the 1/3-inch imaging CCDs has been increased to give clearer, brighter pictures in low-light - with shooting possible in levels as low as 1 lux, compared with 2 lux for the VX2000E. If another claim is true - that the display of the LCD monitor can be seen outdoors in bright light - that's a big step forward, but the screen size remains at 2.5in, which VX2000 users know is too small for comfort.
The rest of the features list reads much like that for the VX2000 and includes an f1.6-f2.4/12x optical zoom lens (6-72mm - equivalent to 43-516mm on a 35mm camera); 48x digital zoom; two-level neutral density filter; 12-bit/32kHz and 16-bit/48kHz audio; manual gain, iris and shutter speeds (to 1/10,000 sec); 58mm filter thread; 640x480 pixel stills capture to Memory Stick (8MByte supplied); and inputs and outputs for FireWire (i.Link) and analogue video (S-video and composite) and L/R audio.

Sony UK, 08705 111999;


LaCie 320GByte HDDs

LaCie 320GByte external hard drives with FireWire, or FireWire 800/USB 2.0

Two 320GByte external hard drives now feature in LaCie's Big Disk range, one with standard-speed FireWire sockets (SRP £316 inc VAT), the other with high-speed FireWire 800 and USB 2.0 (£422).
Multiple Big Disks can be configured for mirroring (Raid 1) for extra speed, or striping (Raid 0) to enhance data security. The drives within the housings are 7,200rpm ATAPI units with 2MByte buffers.
The Big Disks - said to be bootable under all versions of MacOS - come with drivers for Windows (98SE to 2000) and MacOS (8.6 to 9.x) and use the operating system's own drivers with Win XP and with OS X. Also in-pack are LaCie's Silverlining disk utilities software for Mac/Windows and SilverKeeper Mac backup software.

LaCie, 020 7872 8000;

The Mac OS we've been waiting for?

Easier navigation, better switching between programs and users, and enhanced Windows integration among 150 claimed new features in Mac OS 10.3

Nearly three years after Apple's Unix-based OS X operating system first became available, the newly launched, fourth iteration, 10.3 Panther, might be the version that convinces many of the large number of businesses and individuals still using OS 9 to upgrade - helped by the fact that most of the key programs, including QuarkXpress and Adobe's family of still image tools, are now available in OS X versions.
Most obvious of 150 claimed new features in Panther - SRP £99 (inc VAT) - is the reworked Finder navigation window which, like Windows XP's Explorer, has a quick-access sidebar on the left. This gives instant access to favourite programs and folders, hard drives, servers and removable media. As in XP, the sidebar appears in Open and Save dialogues, but can be more comprehensively customised than XP's sidebar. The sidebar has eject buttons for CDs, DVDs and other removable media, so there's no longer need to fret about dragging disc icons to the Trash to eject them.
No less important is Exposé - a new way of quickly viewing and switching between open program windows. Customisable shortcut keys allow users to switch between special views - all open windows shown as (active) thumbnails, only the windows of a particular application, or all windows hidden to reveal the full desktop. Exposé will make a big difference to those who run lots of programs simultaneously, since thumbnail windows are surprisingly effective, and switching between views is simple and virtually instantaneous.
Fast user-switching has been borrowed from Windows XP. It allows a number of people to more conveniently share a single computer and have the running programs on their own desktops unaffected if others start up different desktops. Users can encrypt their home folders if concerned about security. An eye-catching touch is that, when switching from one user's setup to another, the two desktops are shown on the faces of a rotating cube.
Integration with Windows PCs and networks is claimed to be improved, with Macs more easily able to use Windows printers, access Windows file servers and share their own drives and printers with Windows PCs. Macs in businesses can use the same email infrastructure as Windows PCs - OS 10.3 works with Microsoft Exchange email servers and address books. The OS also supports Zip file compression/decompression and has an integrated font management tool, Font Book, to preview, install and uninstall fonts, either in sets or individually. These two things, until now, required the use of third-party programs.
The OS is said to be faster than previous OS X versions in starting up, shutting down and running programs, and to work on any PowerPC Mac with built-in USB and a G3, G4, or G5 processor (processor upgrade cards are not supported, though). One word of caution - a bug in the initial release could result in data on FireWire 800 hard disk drives being lost. Apple has warned users not to use OS 10.3 with drives based on Oxford 922 chip-sets until a fix has been produced.

Apple, 0800 783 4846;

Low-cost eMacs

1GHz/17in eMac comes in at £650 - or £850 with DVD burner, bigger HDD and more RAM

A 1GHz G4 Apple eMac running the latest OS V10.3 and equipped with a 17in CRT display, CD-RW/DVD-ROM combi drive, 128MByte of SDRAM and a 40GByte Ultra ATA drive costs £650 (inc VAT). An extra £200 buys double the memory and hard disk space, along with a SuperDrive DVD-R/-RW burner.
Other shared features on the two eMacs include an ATI Radeon 7500 graphics card with 32MByte of DDR video memory; two FireWire ports; three USB ports; and Apple's iLife suite of applications for video editing (iMovie), DVD authoring (iDVD), image manipulation (iPhoto), and music management (iTunes).
Also common to both are 10/100Base-T Ethernet, a 56K modem, and the ability to be upgraded to run Apple's Airport Extreme wireless network.

Apple UK, 0800 783 4846;


Avid Xpress Pro

Avid's professional video editing packages Xpress Pro (news, Aug 2003, p6) and NewsCutter XP 5.0 are now shipping. SRPs are £1,528 (inc VAT) and $6,995 (UK pricing tbc), with the option of the £1,528 Avid Mojo DNA (Digital Nonlinear Accelerator) hardware for analogue/DV capture and hardware-accelerated real-time effects and DV in/output.
Avid, 01753 655999;

Canopus Premiere Pro support

Drivers (a 13.6MByte download) are now available to allow Canopus's real-time video editing cards DVStorm 2 (review, April 2003, p32) and DVRaptor RT2 (review, p22) to work with Adobe Premiere Pro (review, December 2003, p30).
The cards have onboard hardware DV Codecs that provide real-time DV and uncompressed analogue (YUV 4:2:2) output, and relieve Premiere Pro of CPU-intensive rendering. More available processor power should mean more real-time previewing of special effects, including keyframable 2D, 3D, alpha video transitions and layered filtering.
Canopus UK, 0118 921 0150;

Roxio Easy CD & DVD 6.2 updater

Version 6.2 of Roxio's CD and DVD burning suite Easy CD & DVD Creator 6 (review, July 2003, p40) is available for free via download (32MByte).
Lead feature is the ability to backup up unprotected/encrypted DVDs - even dual-layer - by compressing contents and burning to recordable DVD.
Also new is support for WMDM-compliant portable audio players, overburning to 90min and 99min CDs, power management for laptops and multi-lingual CD Text.

Roxio, 0049 2405 45080;

Recent features...
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Reviewed in this issue:

SonicFoundry SonicFire Pro 3
Adobe Encore DVD
Canopus DVRaptor RT2

In the news:

Sony VX2000 replacement
LaCie 320GByte HDDs
The Mac OS we've been waiting for?
Low-cost eMacs
Avid Xpress Pro
Canopus Premiere Pro support
Roxio Easy CD & DVD 6.2 updater

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