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Pinnacle Studio 9 Plus

Enhanced version of Pinnacle Studio 9 adds A/B editing, chromakey, PiP, Double Layer DVD burning and Dolby Digital Stereo

The latest, Plus, version of Pinnacle's big-selling budget video editing program Studio 9 (review, Apr 04, p44) is aimed at users wanting extra professional features, and likely to sell for £60 (inc VAT).
Top of the list of enhancements is the addition of a second video track, making it possible to carry out A/B editing, keyframable picture-in-picture (PiP) effects, and chromakeying - for superimposing a foreground image over a greenscreen (or bluescreen) background image - as in TV news and weather reports. Also significant are support for Dolby Digital Stereo (in place of pseudo-Pro Logic) and for burning DVD Video projects to Double Layer DVD+R discs.
Slideshow creation has been significantly improved with features such as red-eye removal; image-rotation; and pan-and-zoom animation controls that turn still images into moving video. Picture slideshows can also be brought to life with music, titles and transitions.
Initially, Studio 9 Plus is being sold as a step-up from the original Studio 9, with existing users able to upgrade for £40. However, although upgrades will still be available, it looks likely that the Plus version will soon replace the original, which, though priced at £55 on Pinnacle's own net store, is available for £40 from third-party online shops such as
Pinnacle is offering Studio 9 Plus bundled with a whole range of goodies for £90. The other items in the Studio MediaSuite package are a green chromakeying cloth backdrop measuring 5ft x 6ft (1524mm x 1830mm) and a raft of software. There's Corel PhotoBook for photo editing and sharing, plus a bunch of Pinnacle's own products - Instant DVD Recorder for direct-to-disc DVD capturing and burning; Instant CD/DVD for CD/DVD burning, copying and data backup; Media Manager for digital media organising; the Instant Cinema DVD player; and Pinnacle/Steinberg WaveLab Lite for audio editing;
Studio 9 Plus will also start to be bundled with the Deluxe versions of Studio hardware such as Studio MovieBox Deluxe and Studio AV/DV Deluxe, which already include the Hollywood FX Plus 3D transitions and effects program.

Canopus Let's Edit 2

Sub-£100 OHCI-compatible video editor gains real-time previews, DVD authoring, AVI-2 support and mixed-format editing

Canopus is making a more aggressive play for the entry-level DV market with a version 2 update of its well-respected OHCI-compatible editor Let's Edit for Windows XP (V1 review, Feb 04, p38). This carries an SRP £99 inc VAT (£35 for an upgrade from previous versions).
New to Let's Edit 2 are real-time previewing of transition and filter effects via FireWire, and claimed frame-accurate editing of mixed-format sources, including DV, MPEG-1 and MPEG-2. There's also DVD burning directly from the timeline, and CD ripping for directly importing audio from disc. Capture of long video clips is now enabled with support for AVI-2 files. Let's Edit allows sequences to be storyboarded in its clip bin or more accurately edited on a timeline, allowing assemble and insert editing and rubber banding for audio.
There's also a voice-over recording tool and a simple encode-and-burn feature for exporting edits to DVD. The program seems pitched at a middle ground between the most basic entry-level programs and more advanced programs such as Adobe Premiere Pro or Canopus's own Edius. And, with Adobe's Premiere Elements (news, Dec 04, p15) and Vegas's Movie Studio+DVD (news, p16) already on their way, ambitious beginners might find themselves spoilt for choice.

Wacom Intuos MkIII

Redesigned Intuos3 range of three graphics tablets with ExpressKeys and Touch Strips

Wacom's Intuos3 range of graphic tablets takes in three models - A6 (£153 inc VAT), A5 (£235) and A4 (£345) size - all in stylish dark blue/grey with shiny work-area surrounds, and featuring built-in ExpressKeys and Touch Strips to speed up workflow. Active working areas are 127(w) x 102(d)mm (A6); 203(w) x 152(d)mm (A5) and 305(w) x 231(d)mm (A4).
ExpressKeys are programmable four-button keypads that sit at the top corners of each tablet - or one in the top-left corner of the smallest (A6) tablet. They provide shortcut functions within certain applications and, by default, are assigned to the Ctrl, Alt, Shift and spacebar keys of a keyboard.
Touch Strips act like scroll bars with presets allowing zooming and scrolling in various applications. Both ExpressKeys and Touch Strips can be customised for a program in the updated driver control panel software that comes with each tablet. Tablets are compatible with USB-equipped PCs running Windows 98SE (or above) or Mac OSX 10.2.6 (or later).
The Intuos3 range offers a resolution of 5,080 dpi - double that of Intuos2 models. There are also said to be 1,024 levels of pressure sensitivity in the pen tip and in the eraser of the redesigned Intuos3 Grip Pen (supplied) and Airbrush (a £100 optional extra) - with the tablet said to recognise a tilt angle of up to 60 degrees on both devices.
The cordless, induction-powered Grip Pen has been ergonomically styled with left-handed and right-handed users in mind, and has a cushioned, rubber sleeve to stop the pen slipping and alleviate wrist fatigue. It also comes with changeable pen nibs. The stroke pen nib gives brushstrokes, whereas the felt pen nib acts gives more friction on the tablet when painting or drawing to mimic its namesake. The pen-stand has also been changed to allow the pen to be rested vertically or horizontally.
Like the pen, the supplied induction-power mouse has been redesigned and now carries five buttons. It is said to offer smooth tracking control, and work at the same 5,080 dpi resolution as the pen and brush.
A custom-designed version of Corel's Painter 8 graphics program - Painter Essentials 2 - comes in-pack and is said to take advantage of the airbrush wheel, tip pressure and tilt, eraser and Tool ID functions of Intuos3 family members.

Sony Studio lites

Sony makes a play for the consumer media market with lite versions of its Vegas+DVD, Acid and Sound Forge software

Vegas Movie Studio 4.0 +DVD is the lead package in a trio of lite media editing programs for Windows 2000 and XP from Sony. This is a cut-down version of the video editing and DVD authoring package Vegas+DVD (review, Aug 04, p26) and can be bought for US$100 from Sony's website - either as an electronic download or a physical CD - although Sony's RRP in the UK is £99 inc VAT.
Vegas Movie Studio works with OHCI FireWire ports and offers batch-capture and scene-selection. The editing timeline has three video tracks and three audio tracks - as opposed to unlimited tracks in the full Vegas - though this is sufficient for assemble-editing, insert-editing, split-editing and titling. New to version 4 is support for SWF Flash files, and a selection of customisable 3D transitions. There's also a collection of sample video and audio clips and sound effects.
Finished projects can be exported directly to for sharing online, or authored to DVD in the accompanying DVD Architect Studio. Unlike the full Vegas 5 editor, Movie Studio provides no surround-sound mixing capabilities, putting it a step behind Pinnacle's Studio 9 Plus in that department. And, there's no AC-3 audio support - a big drawback considering that Dolby encoding is now standard for many budget DVD authoring programs.
Other compromises include a lack of MP3 output, simplified effects (with no advanced colour-correction tools, keyframable Bezier masks or 3D track motion effects) and sound that's limited to 16-bit at 48kHz. External monitor support is also unavailable in Movie Studio. Some things have been added, however - such as red-eye removal for still images and dedicated audio restoration filters. As with editing tools, DVD authoring features are lightweight compared to those of the full DVD Architect program included with the Vegas 5 +DVD bundle.
In fact, a first glance at the Architect Studio's feature set makes it look a lot like V1 of DVD Architect - with no subtitling tools or support for multiple audio tracks. Elementary MPEG streams aren't supported either, forcing users to create multiplexed files with MPEG audio in advance, or import AVI files and have Architect Studio encode them for DVD authoring. Oddly for a program at this level, automated 'fit-to-disc' compression settings are also disabled, leaving users to guess which data rate will be best for their projects. The tools it does have do look to be good though, with support for motion-menus, chapter-marking, and 4:3 or 16:9 video. Menus can be designed from scratch, too, rather than drawing solely on templates and wizards. There's a preview interface with a remote control simulator, but no support for external monitors.
Acid Music Studio 5 is a loop-based music composition program pitched at US$70 from Sony's website or £85 inc VAT at the full UK RRP. It's a lite version of Acid Pro (V4 review, Mar 03, p42) and offers unlimited tracks. There's no surround-sound panning, though, and audio resolution is limited to 16-bit/48KHz. The program comes with 1,000 ready-made audio loops, but allows users to record their own music, automatically tweaking tempo and pitch if necessary to keep all elements in time and in tune. There's a piano-roll editor, allowing music to be corrected or drawn directly in, plus a Chopper editing tool, for cloning sections of music; a metronome; a master bus track for applying changes to the entire project; and a choice of time signatures other than 4/4. Video scoring is supported, allowing music and sound effects to be synchronised with movies. Effects include EQ, reverb, delay, chorus, flange, phaser, distortion, and echo, and projects can be burned directly to CD.
Third of the array of lite media applications is Sound Forge Audio Studio, selling at £85 (or US$70 from Sony's website). As with its big brother Sound Forge (V7 review, Nov 04, p78), the program allows audio to be recorded to the system, edited, processed, and exported or burned to CD. Video can be edited and synced to video files with sub-frame accuracy. General sound-editing tools include automatic merging of left and right mono channels into a single stereo file, a ten-band graphic equaliser, bit-depth conversion between 16-bit and eight-bit audio, click and pop clean-up tools, and effects such as chorus, delay, reverb and flange. CD ripping and burning options are provided, too. Unlike the full Sound Forge, however, Audio Studio doesn't support DirectX plug-ins or audio resolutions above 16-bit/48KHz.

Serious Magic Visual Communicator

Portable newsroom kit with live chromakey and teleprompter

Serious Magic's Visual Communicator is described as a quick and easy 'portable newsroom' setup, consisting of a foldable greenscreen, tie-clip microphone, and software for Windows desktop and laptop PCs. It uses DV camcorders or webcams to record subjects against the greenscreen, and performs live chromakey effects to replace the coloured background with a virtual set - simultaneously displaying a script in a rolling teleprompter-style display. The product comes in three flavours - Web, Pro or Studio.
Visual Communicator Web costs £152 inc VAT, and supports video resolutions up to 320 x 240 pixels. Footage is saved in RealVideo or Windows Media formats for use as email attachments or integrating into websites for online streaming. Visual Communicator Pro costs £303, and supports full DV resolution for capture and output, allowing finished recordings to be saved as DV files or encoded to MPEG and published as DVD or VCD discs. It has a richer assortment of supplied music files and real-time effects such as backgrounds, transitions and titles, and also allows PowerPoint presentations to be imported and used in projects. The Studio version carries a £526 price tag, and enables live video output as well as offering the means to switch between subjects in an interview setting. It also includes tools to integrate video into web pages, stream live over the net, and add chapter markers to archived video.

Apple PowerMac

Apple launches £1,000 entry-level 1.8GHz G5 PowerMac

Apple is adding a budget system to its line up of G5 desktop PowerMacs. In this case, though, budget means a price tag of £1,099 including VAT, mouse and keyboard, but no monitor.
The system has a single 1.8GHz 64-bit G5 processor - rather than dual-processors as in the existing range - a 600MHz front-side bus, 256MByte of 400MHz DDR SDRAM, a 7,200rpm/80GByte Sata hard drive, a dual-head 64MByte GeForce FX 5200 Ultra graphics card in an 8x AGP port, and a SuperDrive DVD burner capable of up to 8x burning.
There are three vacant PCI slots, giving plenty of expansion options, along with a 56kps V92 modem, three FireWire ports - two FireWire 400 (1394a) and one fast FireWire 800 (1394b) - plus three USB 2.0 connections. Fast networking via gigabit Ethernet comes as standard, but wireless capabilities are extras - £35 for Bluetooth and £59 for Airport.
The latest version of Mac OSX is provided, along with a Classic environment option and the usual extensive suite of software including iLife '04 (iTunes , iPhoto, iMovie, iDVD and GarageBand); Mail; iChat AV; Safari; Address Book; QuickTime; iSync; iCal; DVD Player; Art Directors Toolkit; EarthLink Total Access 2004; GraphicConverter; OmniGraffle; OmniOutliner; QuickBooks for Mac New User Edition; Zinio Reader and Xcode Developer Tools.
While this budget system won't come close to the power of Apple's dual-processor machines for real-time video editing, we're sure it'll find a ready audience, not least among DVD authors looking for an affordable Mac that can be expanded with a SCSI card for DLT mastering.

Apple Logic Express and Pro 7

Logic Pro and Logic Express music-creation and audio-production programs upgraded to version 7

Apple is upgrading its Logic audio software to V7. Logic Pro 7 carries an SRP of £699 (inc VAT) while Logic Express 7 - the lite version aimed at hobbyists and the educational sector - goes out for £199.
With V7, Logic Pro gains three software instruments - the Sculpture synthesiser, said to offer an inexhaustible variety of naturalistic sounds centring around vibrating strings or bars; the Ultrabeat drum machine offering 25 custom drum voices; and EFM1, mysteriously described as providing everything from dreamy landscapes to punchy bell tones with FM style!
Nine further effects plug-ins are added with V7, most notably Guitar Amp Pro. This is said to recreate the sounds of eleven of the world's best-known guitar amplifiers. Users can configure their own amps from numerous options including 14 speaker-cabinet selections, microphone type and placement, and EQ type and settings. Version 7 also sees new pro mastering plug-ins such as Linear Phase EQ and professional metering.
Among the 100 claimed workflow enhancements is distributed audio processing via gigabit Ethernet networks. This enables work to be shared among suitable networked G5 Macs running OSX 10.3 (or later) - and these machines can, of course, be located outside the studio, so as not to increase background noise in the workroom. Others include Recall Channel Strips that save all channel settings and parameters for future use; auto cross-fades; and shuffle editing to restrain movement and prevent regions of a project accidentally overlapping.
Support is provided for importing Apple GarageBand projects, and for working with the Apple Loops open-standard file format used in GarageBand and Apple's other entry-level music-creation program, Soundtrack.
Pro and lite versions of Logic V7 support audio at 16-bit and 24-bit resolution, and sample rates up to 96kHz (Express) and 192kHz (Pro) for recording and for playback of internal software instruments.
Logic Express - seen as the step up from GarageBand - offers scaled-back features within the same Pro interface. These include 12 input channels verses an unlimited number in Pro, and eight bus and auxilliary channels rather than 64.
Express lacks many of the new features of its big brother, including the new software instruments, the guitar amp plug-in and distributed audio, and also doesn't offer surround-sound capabilities. However, its features list does take in over 50 software instruments and plug-ins; a studio-style mixer; and the ability to edit and print performances using standard music notation.
Minimum requirements for Pro and Express include Mac OSX 10.3 (or later); a PowerPC G4 processor (G5 or dual-G4 recommended); 512MByte of RAM; and a DVD drive for software installation. Pro further requires low-latency multi in/out audio hardware and a Midi interface.
Upgrading to Logic Pro 7 costs £199 for users of V6, Logic Platinum and Logic Gold 5 or 6. Upgrading from Express 6 to Express 7 costs £69, and £499 to Pro 7.

Hitachi EasyBak HDDs

External hard drives for digital media storage

Hitachi is to launch three external versions of its Deskstar and Travelstar hard drives under the name 'EasyBak' - targeted largely at media enthusiasts and digital photographers.
First to be released will be EasyBak Travel, a battery-powered unit housing a 40GByte Travelstar 2.25in drive and integrated memory card reader. The device is self-contained, and operated with an LCD panel, allowing files to be backed up from a range of card types, including CompactFlash, SD Card, MultiMedia Card, MemoryStick; MemoryStick Pro, SmartMedia, xD Cards, and Hitachi's own MicrodriveT media. The enclosure also features a USB 2.0 port for connection to a Mac or Windows PC, and works with the supplied Dantz Retrospect Backup software, allowing it to be used for more general system backup.
Two devices are based around 7,200rpm Deskstar 3.5in drives with a choice of 160, 250 and 400GByte capacities. EasyBak Data comes in a slate-grey housing that can be stored horizontally or vertically, and connects to computer systems via USB 2.0. It's designed to back up files from systems and networks using the supplied Dantz Retrospect Backup software, or the PC's own system and controls. The second drive, EasyBak Media is much like EasyBak Data, but also includes a multi-format memory card reader for immediate archiving of digital photos.
EasyBak Travel should be available in shops by the time this issue is in print, with the Data and Media versions following early in 2005. Pricing is as yet unknown.

NTI Dragon Burn 4

Dragon Burn 4 provides Mac OSX DL DVD+R support, VCD encoding tools and more

While Apple's own software has successfully dominated the Mac consumer software markets for DV editing and DVD authoring, killing the competition outright, it has yet to deliver a death blow in the mainstream disc-burning arena. Roxio's Toast is still alive and well - though under new management at Sonic Solutions - and NTI is making good progress with the development of its Dragon Burn software, V4 of which is now available online for Mac OSX systems at US$50.
Part of Apple's problem is iLife's lack of support for the full range of recordable DVD media (notably +R), and absence of advanced burning tools and authoring features to create mixed mode CDs, and SVCD or VCD discs. And it's these gaps that NTI intends to fill with Dragon Burn 4.
As well as recordable CD and DVD-R/-RW discs, NTI's software supports DVD+R discs, including 8.5GByte DL media, and DVD+RW. It's also claimed to work with many burners that Apple's own software won't support. For video users, the program allows creation of VCD and SVCD discs, and will also burn DVDs from VOB files or Video_TS folders created in programs such as Apple DVD Studio Pro. Dragon Burn also archives images from digital cameras to DVD in a format that can, according to NTI, be recognised and played by some of the latest set-top DVD players.
Supported audio formats include AAC, AIFF, CDDA, MP3, SD2 and WAV files, and Dragon Burn's tools take in MP3 encoding, volume normalisation for music tracks that come from different sources, CD-Text support, and direct recording to CD from line or mic inputs. For data, the program offers a simple drag-and-drop interface; provides a choice of data formats such as ISO 9660, Joliet and UDF; and supports multi-session burning to DVD+R. It will also recognise and burn common disc image file types, including BIN, CUE, CDR, DMG, ISO, and NCD files. Multiple burners are supported for making several copies simultaneously, and Discus labelling software is provided to help make discs look pretty.

Video Forum 2005

The UK's leading video-editing show, Video Forum, is moving from the Wembley Conference Centre to Earls Court for 2005, and taking place January 25-27 (Tuesday-Thursday) - about two weeks earlier than usual. Entry for visitors to the new central-London event is free, but early online registration to secure a badge is recommended for those who don't like queuing.
Some 150 exhibitors are expected, and there should be scores of free seminars covering DVD and audio for video, lighting, post-production and High Definition. Video Forum 2005 will also supported by two new events - TV Tech 2005, focusing on HDTV and AVIT (Audio-Video-IT); and i-deliver 2005, which is dedicated to digital TV and media streaming.
Watch out, too, for Computer Video Editing's stand - we hope to have a large team of friendly experts in attendance, as usual, and to be contributing to the seminars!

D-Link DSM-320

D-Link launches wireless network media player

The popularity of network media players for serving up video and audio from home computers appears to be rocketing, judging by the ever growing number of new devices arriving on the market. And, it's reassuring for us to see how many PC users are taking an interest in digital video and audio - and getting their hands dirty with broadband internet and basic networking.
D-Link's DSM-320 is among the latest devices for accessing a computer's audio and video files from a TV set and AV system. It sells at a not-outrageous £130 and supports fast 802.11g wireless networking to boot. The supplied UPnP Media Server software running under Windows 98SE, Me, 2000 or XP is used to sort files and make them accessible from the DSM-320. The device receives data from the network with theoretical transfer speeds of up to 54Mbit/sec wirelessly or 100Mbit/sec via wired Ethernet, and feeds the media to a connected TV set and audio system
The D-Link box is small - 423(w) x 280(d) x 35(h)mm - silver-finished and well-connected. In addition to composite and S-video outputs, there's a Scart socket serving RGB video, plus stereo audio outputs - analogue and digital SPDIF.
Supported video formats are said to include AVI, QuickTime, Xvid, MPEG-1, MPEG-2 and MPEG-4. DVD VOB files, though, aren't currently playable. On the audio side, MP2, MP3, AIF, WAV and WMA files can be played, but not Dolby AC-3. The device is claimed to recognise M3U and PLS playlists, though, and allow viewing of stills in JPG, BMP, TIF, GIF, or Jpeg2000 formats. As well as retrieving files from networked PCs, the DSM-320 is reckoned to connect directly to the internet via ADSL routers to access online radio stations, and also be able to communicate directly with other UPnP hardware devices.

CyberLink PowerProducer 3

PowerProducer 3 builds on CyberLink's DVD authoring tools, while Power2Go takes on the general disc-burning market

While CyberLink's software has never been at the top of our list for must-have video tools, the company is determined to make a splash at the entry-level. Its basic DVD authoring application PowerProducer is now at version 3, and sells at £47 (inc VAT) from the company's website. New features include a SmartFit option to automatically select MPEG compression rates according to duration and available space on the target disc; improved menu templates, including alpha blending effects; and support for 16x burning and double-layer DVD+R discs.
As with previous OEM versions we encountered when reviewing Double Layer DVD burners, the program also encodes audio to Dolby AC-3 format. Menus can be animated or still, but layout still seems to be dictated by ready-made templates, leaving users with little hands-on control over the design. The program comes with a version of CyberLink's basic DV editing program, PowerDirector Express, as well as PhotoNow for image retouching.
Also from CyberLink is Power2Go 4 - a simple disc-burning application for making music, data and multimedia discs. The program costs £27 and includes a light version of PowerProducer for video-disc creation. Among the audio options are burning of Audio CDs and MP3/WMA CDs, as well as Mixed Mode and CD Extra discs containing audio and data tracks. Tools for CD ripping and playlist creation are also provided. Data burning largely follows a simple drag-and-drop procedure, but has a handful of advanced surprises, such as the ability to burn extra content onto the lead-out of the disc. Disc-to-disc copying is also enabled.


Mac OSX 10.3.6 ready to download

An updater to Mac OS X 10.3.6 is now available in two standalone versions and via auto Software Update, and said to be recommended for all users. One standalone version is a 92MByte combined update, for use with OSX 10.3 earlier than 10.3.5, the other - 34MByte - is for use only with OSX 10.3.5. Fixes are said to include a situation where Final Cut Pro HD 4.5 could quit in 10.3.5; the monitor sometimes remaining dark when waking the display from sleep on laptops; and a kernel-panic problem with wireless USB broadband modems.
Enhancements are also claimed for FireWire and USB audio-device compatibility; disc burning/recording; drivers for OpenGL technology and ATI and Nvida GPUs; FileVault, FireWire 800 and WebDAV; and network file-sharing, auto-mounts and application-launching. The update also has new versions of Address Book, Calculator, Disk Utility, DVD Player, Image Capture, Mail, Safari and Stickies.


Free training DVD

Desktop Images, creator of interactive software training DVDs, has released Technics - a free DVD sampler, showing off 30 scenes from its range of titles for Avid Xpress Pro, Photoshop and Lightwave. Topics include general editing in the Avid interface; digital restoration and texture creation in Photoshop; and motion graphics, modelling and animation in Lightwave. Given that Desktop Images' DVDs typically sell for around US$70 each, the idea of being able to try before buying makes a lot of sense. Maddeningly though, the offer is only open to US residents. Still, it seems like a good idea for serious potential buyers to contact the company anyway, as we'd hope that the rules might be bent in the interest of winning customers.

Desktop Images,

Recent features...
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Reviewed in this issue:

Pioneer DVR-108
Canopus Imaginate 2
Adobe Audition 1.5
Ulead CD & DVD PictureShow

In January's news:

Pinnacle Studio 9 Plus
Canopus Let's Edit 2
Wacom Intuos MkIII
Sony Studio lites
Serious Magic Visual Communicator
Entry level Apple PowerMac
Apple Logic Express and Pro 7
Hitachi EasyBak HDDs
NTI Dragon Burn 4
Video Forum 2005
D-Link DSM-320
CyberLink PowerProducer 3
Mac OSX 10.3.6 ready to download
Free training DVD

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