Screen tech: May 2003 – Technical Section – new products

Screen tech: May 2003 – Technical Section – new products – Column

Michael Jones

Go on, admit it. Isn’t, it about time you faced the truth? All this nonsense about making movies, being creative, expressing ideas through the glories of mass media–film, video, music, the Internet–it’s all a big hoax. If we’re really honest with ourselves we’ll openly and proudly stand up and admit that at the core of everything, we are all just a bunch of computer nerds pretending to be creative types …

Creative expression is all well and good but it’s the cool ‘toys’ that really make this industry fun. You’ve all felt it. The buzz of installing new software for the first time. Fiddling with the nobs and flashing lights on your latest bit of hardware. Proudly arranging your equipment across the desk so your home studio looks as professional as possible to any stray visitors passing through.

This new regular column, ‘Screen Tech’, is dedicated to keeping you up to date with all the latest toys and developments in the world of media creation–film, video, on-line, interactive, 3D, animation, sound, music and multimedia.

What’s new, what’s cool, what’s changing and what might be around the corner?

So go on. Don’t be shy. Be proud. Embrace the nerd within.

JVC INTRODUCES AFFORDABLE HD CAMCORDERS

Everyone talks about HD (That’s Hi-Definition for the uninitiated). But for all the talk we don’t seem to be seeing a whole lot of it. Sure, George Lucas has so far given us four hours of plot-less, pointless, but none-the less pristine, HD Star Wars Prequels, but he did so on cameras so expensive they could fund an American war effort. The new HD camcorder from JVC, however, threatens to put High Definition into the hands of the average Joe Blow.

The digital camcorder goes by the name of JY-HD10U (Doesn’t exactly roll of the tongue does it?) and offers an impressive range of flexibility. It can record in three formats at the flick of a switch: HD at 720/30p and SD at 480/60p or 480/60i. Probably the most exciting and practical element is that it records all these resolutions to standard MiniDV tapes. Both progressive scan formats are recorded using Mpeg-2 and 480/60i using DV compression. Kind of a one camera fits all.

Australians still don’t have the widespread means to view the wonders of HD but now that JVC have whet the appetites of semi-professional users with this offering, expect the other manufacturers to follow suit very quickly.

AVID EMBRACES THE FRUIT OF OS-X

Film editing cornerstone, AVID, have released their hi-end AVID Symphony v4.7 for the Apple Macintosh OS-X platform. Previously only available on Windows, AVID held off on porting Symphony to the Macintosh until Apple had fully stabilized its OS-X operating system for video creation with the release of Jaguar 10.2.

Despite predominantly making seriously hi-end systems, AVID are obviously feeling the heat from Apple’s own video editing efforts, such as Final Cut Pro, and are determined to keep Mac users happy with their AVID suites by fully embracing OS-X.

Following suit with Symphony, AVID has also simultaneously released their other NLE packages, Media Composer and Film Composer for OS-X.

SONIC FOUNDRY RELEASES VEGAS 4

Better known for their audio tools such as Sound Forge and Acid Pro, Sonic Foundry have nonetheless drawn a very loyal band of users over the past few years with their NLE, Vegas. Version 4, released in Australia in early March, offers some unique features that threaten to put the major players on notice.

Vegas does just about everything in real-time and, what’s more, does it without hardware support. Relying solely on processor speed and RAM, Vegas is able to give real-time previews of multiple layers of composited video and audio not only to its preview window but also via a 1394 cable to an external monitor. No hardware. No rendering.

Even more impressive is Vegas’ set of audio tools that, among other things, can mix audio in Dolby 5.1 surround sound and render out AC-3 surround audio files for encoding to DVD. Included in the Vegas DVD package is DVD Architect, Sonic Foundry’s new authoring software that provides a very flexible tool for creating multi-layered DVD menus.

Most interesting of all, Vegas 4 employs Microsoft’s .NET technology to provide open scripting of Vegas functions. Free downloadable scripts are already springing up all over the Internet that automate or expand Vegas’ functions into potentially infinite possibilities.

Visit www.sonicfoundry.com for more info.

SONY DELIVERS DVD CAMCORDERS

Following the lead set by Hitachi, SONY has released its own range of camcorders that use 8cm DVD-RW discs instead of the usual MiniDV tapes. SONY is releasing two models, the DCR-DVD100 and DCR-DVD200, that both record video in the Mpeg-2 format.

Hitachi chose to use the more expensive DVD-RAM discs in their cameras, which have an advantage in durability, but presumedly SONY aren’t too bothered by people shelling out for new discs regularly. SONY’s choice of DVD-RW is probably a wise one however, as it is the more widely accepted format on most domestic DVD players.

Both cameras are single CCD and deliver an image comparable to the rest of SONY’s domestic camcorder line-up. Both also continue SONY’s relationship with lens manufacturer Carl Zeiss, as they are sporting 10x optical zoom. Carl Zeiss lenses.

SORENSON SQUEEZES NEW CODEC

Sorenson, the grunt behind Quicktime, has released a new media tool for video compression known as Sorenson Squeeze 3. Available for both Windows and Macintosh operating systems, Squeeze 3 allows for very high quality video compression not only in the usual formats such as Mpeg4, AVI, Quicktime and MP3 audio but also exports video in Macromedia Flash formats such as FLV and SWF.

Visit www.sorenson.com to find out more.

EDIROL DELIVERS FIRST USB 2.0 AUDIO INTERFACE

Roland sidekick company, Edirol has embraced the speed possibilities of USB 2.0 and released an multi-port audio interface for digital sound recording.

The UA-1000 offers 10 distinct channels and a wide variety of inputs, including XLR, SP/DIF and MIDI. The UA-1000 incorporates in-built microphone pre-amps and ports for auxiliary effects’ sends and returns. The audio interface also employs support for both ASIO and WDM drivers with latency free direct monitoring.

Details on Edirol gear can be found at www.edirol.com

Michael Jones has fully embraced the nerd within and merely masqueraries as a writer, media producer and technology educator. Send feedback, thoughts, comments or concerns to luciferjones@ihug.com.au

COPYRIGHT 2003 Australian Teachers of Media

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