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Computer Video News

Video Forum 2004

More than 7,000 visitors are reckoned to have attended this year's Video Forum (Wembley, Hall 1, Feb 10-12), drawn by the 140-plus exhibitors of video, audio, animation and special effects goodies, and a host of seminars and workshops.
On-stand demos, seminars and workshops ranged across cameras, lighting and sound, video editing and High Definition (HD) video. There were DVD and 5.1 surround-sound workshops, picture-quality sessions, IP seminars, and sessions concentrating on 2D/3D software, notably Adobe After Effects, Boris FX, Cinema 4, Combustion, Flash, Lightwave, LiveType, Photoshop, Shake and Softimage. Sony, Avid and lighting experts ARRI ran their own specialist programmes.
Computer Video held two packed seminars for beginners - Pete Wells running through the A-Z of DVD authoring, and Ray Liffen giving an introduction to desktop video editing. Our stand also drew in crowds with a vast range of queries - technical, buying and technique. These were ably fielded by techno-giants from our DVdoctor-hosted message board and ace CV contributors. Stand up and take a bow, Gary Mackenzie, Alan Roberts, Paul Dickin, Ray Liffen, Tom Hardwick, Guido Giles, Richard Jones and Peter Wells. Thanks also to Chirpy for bringing along a mess of Mrs C's yummy rice pud, despite his being on the Atkins diet!
Video Forum will be moving to a bigger and, hopefully, more accessible venue next year - Earl's Court - we hope to see you there!


Task-centric Creator 7

Roxio's digital media management suite allows users to choose specific tasks, rather than only decide what program to use for jobs

Apple may have set the standard for digital media suites with its iLife range of interlocking Mac programs for editing and managing video, audio and images, but under Windows there's everything still to play for. Roxio probably dominates with Easy CD Creator 6 (review, Jul 03, p40), and hopes to capitalise on its lead with the latest version - Creator 7 (SRP £70, inc VAT).
As well as updates for most program elements, giving them a similar look and feel, including the addition of panes listing specific tasks, Creator 7 has a front-end that allows users to pick the tasks they want to carry out, rather than just giving them a single place from which to run all the suite's many programs and utilities - though these are available there as well, along with thumbnails for accessing the most recently opened projects and files.
Creator, which runs only under Windows XP and 2K, has five main task-headings in its front-end - Video, DVD, Data, Photo and Music. Under Video, there are four tasks - Capture, Edit, Auto edit with Cinemagic, and Guided edit with StoryBuilder. DVD has three - Copy DVD, Create new DVD and Plug & Burn, which is said to capture DV footage and burn it directly to disc, along with a menu, and the option of encoding audio to Dolby Digital. Data has three tasks - Copy data to disc, Copy files to disc and Create backup project - while photos and music have five tasks each.
Choosing a task starts up the appropriate tool, and forces the main interface to minimise while leaving running suite members unaffected. There are seven main updated applications - VideoWave (a video editor with timeline and storyboard interfaces), DVD Builder, Disc Copier, Creator Classic (a two-window data copier), Drag-to-Disc (for drag-and-drop copying to write-once or rewritable discs), PhotoSuite (Platinum) and Napster, Roxio's online (currently US-only) music-download service.
All applications are available directly from the main interface or can be started from Windows' Programs menu. The front-end lists five further tools (again accessible from the Programs menu) - Media Manager, Capture, Label Creator, Sound Editor and Roxio Player - and gives links to a help-centre and tutorials, plus a bunch of useful extras, including utilities to check Roxio's site for program updates and to interrogate Windows about the set-up of optical drives.
Apart from the front-end, the two most important elements are probably the Media Manager and Capture applets. Media Manager is used for organising, browsing and previewing all types of media, and also for opening files from within programs and utilities. The Capture applet provides a single interface to all kinds of devices - DV camcorders, CD/DVD burners, digital stills cameras, scanners, web-cams, microphones and more.
Minimum (recommended) requirements are said to be Win 2K with SP4 (Win XP), 128MByte of RAM (256MByte); and a 500MHz PIII CPU (1.2GHz PIII for editing video and authoring DVDs; 1.6GHz for MPEG-2 capture and burning). The suite itself also requires 1GByte of free hard disk space.

Roxio, 0049 7543 939882;

GarageBand grows

Extra music samples for Apple's GarageBand music-creation program

Apple is offering a £69 (inc VAT) add-on music-content pack for GarageBand - its recently-launched addition to the iLife 4 suite of program (news, Mar 04, p8), for playing, recording and creating music tracks under OS X 10.2.6 or later.
Jam Pack triples the number of samples available, adding over 2,000 loops, including many for hip-hop and electronica tracks. There are 100-plus software instrument samples, such as a 12-string guitar and a concert grand piano that can be played and recorded with any attached USB or MIDI music keyboard. The package also has what are described as over 100 professional-quality sound effects and presets, plus 15 guitar amps - surf, grunge, heavy blues and atmospheric among them.

Apple UK, 0800 783 4846;

Cut-price Canon cams

Canon upgrades FireWire in/out MiniDV camcorders and drops prices

Canon's three-strong MV7xxi range of FireWire in/out MiniDV camcorders take the place of the MV500i, MV550i (review, Jul 02, p68) and MV600i. Prices have been cut by up to £200. The new range leader, the MV750i, is £549 (inc VAT), and the others are £499 (MV730i) and £449 (MV700i).
The most obvious of changes is the reduced size - the MV700 is nearly 20 per cent smaller than the MV600, measuring 53(w) x 95(h) x 139(d)mm, and weighing under 500g. The size of the single imager CCD is 1/6in, as before, but there are said to be more effective pixels out of 800,000 - 400,000 for video, 528,000 for stills in the MV750i and MV730i. All use Canon's Digital Image Core (Digic) DV processor, found in the higher-end XM2 and XL1 camcorders, and reckoned to recreate colour, tone and detail more pleasingly to the human eye.
Gimmicky backlit buttons have been replaced with smaller metal ones and, on the downside, there's no longer a microphone input, although the MV750i and MV730i carry AV and mini-USB ports, with S-video included on the 750i along with a built-in video LED light beneath the lens for shooting in zero light under Super Night auto exposure mode.
Canon says audio has been improved with new digital circuitry and a filter that prevents noises from the tape deck and other mechanisms being recorded. An ALC (Automatic Level Control) has been built into the speaker driver to stop sound distortion, even if the volume is set to maximum.
The MV750i and MV730i offer a 'Progressive Photo System' that can capture still images in JPG format to the MMC or SD memory card while shooting video, and a mechanical shutter is said to eliminate any still image blur, working more like a digital stills camera. Video can also be copied from tape to memory card as Motion-JPEG.
Canon plans to bundle Pinnacle's Studio 9 video editor (review, Apr 04, p44) with the MV730i. Other supplied programs are for still image download, editing and management - ZoomBrowser EX (Win), ImageBrowser (Mac) - plus PhotoStitch (Mac/Win) for panoramic imaging and DV Messenger V2 (WinXP) for video conferencing and camcorder remote control.

Canon UK, 0870 241 2161;

Desktop spanning over a network

Network software turns one PC's monitor into an additional monitor on another PC

MaxiVista, from German software company Bartels Media, uses network links between Windows PCs to turn one PC's monitor into an additional monitor on another - allowing the master PC's desktop to be spanned onto the second monitor. The software, retailing at US$50, is said to work with desktop, laptop and tablet PCs networked via Ethernet, wireless, FireWire or USB.
We tried the downloadable (1.7MByte) fully-working version of the software with Adobe's Premiere 6.5 video editor using two Windows XP desktop PCs connected over a 100Base-T peer-to-peer Ethernet network which allocates IP addresses automatically.
The program, which also runs under Win 2K, has to be installed on both machines but configured itself without any intervention - apart from our having to change the display properties on the master machine - from a system-tray icon - to extend its desktop onto the second monitor.
The program worked okay if all that was required was to spread multiple windows over two screens but, not surprisingly, the secondary screen didn't refresh fast enough for video previewing, and the timeline, when extended onto the second desktop, was slow at refreshing also. Performance may be better over Gigabit Ethernet or FireWire, but we didn't try these.
The company says the software supports resolutions up to 3,200 x 1,600 (the secondary always runs at 60Hz, though) and has been coded to minimise CPU usage and network load by analysing the display's content and only transferring changing regions between single frames.

Bartels Media, 0049 651 999 1950;

Affordable rostrum camera software

Lumidium's three-strong range of still image animation programs includes a version that's a third of the price of Canopus Imaginate

Lumidium's introduction of three still image animation programs - including a powerful offering at £59 (inc VAT) - hopefully means there's a happy ending to what might have been a rather sad tale.
At the back-end of 2002, we received an optimistic email from Paul Harter announcing the launch by his east-London-based company of the Windows program DigiRostrum. This, he explained, creates AVI video files from simulated moves across digital still images - the sort of thing that is typically carried out with professional rostrum cameras or expensive and hard-to-use special-effects software or high-end compositing systems.
Unfortunately, though, we had to tell Paul that Lumidium had been pipped at the post by Canopus with a rostrum-camera program called Imaginate (review, Feb 03, p54). This, we advised him, was set to enjoy considerable success - even if limited somewhat by its hefty price-tag of £175 - and out-gunned DigiRostrum in terms of ease-of-use and by its offering a number of things that DigiRostrum lacked, including DV output (rather than uncompressed) and real-time previewing.
Paul and his team went back to the drawing board, and the result is a trio of programs under the banner, DigiRostrum - Ken Morse Edition, emphasising the fact that the they're spin-offs of a digital rostrum camera workstation designed for use by Ken Morse, whom Lumidium describes as having pioneered the development of rostrum camera technology for three decades and as being one of the most credited men in British film and television.
For a majority of CV readers, the £59 DV version is of most appeal. It's around a third of the cost of Imaginate and, though still not as easy to use, isn't difficult either, offering plenty of powerful features. It has real-time on-screen preview (with optional safe-area display) and can output in PAL and NTSC 4:3 and 16:9 formats to Type 1 or Type 2 AVIs. Video files can be output from disc to tape via FireWire with machine control - singly or en masse - and it's also possible to output a sequence of still images in either of five file types - Targa, TIF, PNG, JPEG or BMP.
Acceleration controls are adjustable using Bezier curve handles, and there's a choice of camera position (relative or absolute), image orientation (on the floor or on the wall), and type of rendering interpolation - nearest neighbour, linear or cubic. Other options cover a choice of background colour and field order (if the preset value is not appropriate), and whether or not to compress contrast and whether to add a graphic to the first frame of the output file giving details such as file name and length.
Next up in price is DigiRostrum Pro, at £529, which adds unlimited size image import (with image scaling); QuickTime support; the ability to use AVI files as source images; motion blur; 32-bit and alpha channel output; options for hundreds of keyframes; and what's described as 'ultra high quality Super Sampling'. Range leader is DigiRostrum HD, able to output at unlimited frame sizes for HD and other large-format video files, and pitched at £882.
A 28-day demo program producing water-marked output is available as a 9MByte download and can be run as any of the three versions.

Lumidium, 020 7749 4874;

Read the full review in May 2004's Computer Video magazine.

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Reviewed in this issue:

Pinnacle ShowCenter
Canon MVX3i
CyberLink PowerProducer 2.0
Magix Movies on CD & DVD 2.0
Pure Motion EditStudio 4
Shining CitiDisk DV
Ulead DVD Workshop 2
Wacom Graphire 3 Studio XL

In this issue's news:

Video Forum 2004
Task-centric Creator 7
Apple GarageBand
Cut-price Canon cams
Desktop spanning over a network
Affordable rostrum camera software

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