NAB '00: Choose Your Weapons
Mar 1, 2000 12:00 PM, Dan Ochiva, Michael Goldman, Barry Braverman, Audrey Doyle, Philip De Lancie, Matt Cheplic, and Pete
At the many pre-NAB press conferences, you could hear journalists wondering out loud, "If the technology is just retreads of last year's, where's the next great thing?" Or, "If HDTV's still 'almost here,' how come no one but the manufacturers seems to care about it?"
No one wants to think that the first NAB of the new millennium might be held without its share of new technology and challenging issues. But in fact, there's plenty of excitement. Just look to the Internet for a heady new mix of gear and controversial issues. New technology and terminology must be learnt. Questions must be answered. For example: As streaming-media sites set up shop, how do producers and post houses get involved while protecting their product? Some interesting clues at NAB will speak to the reinvention of the industry. Again.
A telling example is the turnaround in the fortunes of Media 100. In May 1999, the Marlboro, Massachusetts-based company's stock hit a new low of 4 5/16 as it faced a stagnant market for its nonlinear editing systems. According to a Wall Street Journal article, the company saw its business flatten and its stock plummet in 1997 and 1998 as the traditional market for its digital editing systems matured and revenue began to decline.
But May also brought the key event in Media 100's turnaround: the acquisition of Los Gatos, California-based Terran Interactive. Terran makes highly regarded software for optimizing digital images and, importantly, compressing them for broadcast over the Internet and other channels such as cable television.
Media 100 decided to integrate Terran's software across its product line. The company soon reported an operating profit for the first time in six quarters, and by last December, its stock had shot up to a new high of 32 3/16. At press time, the main Wall Street watcher of the company's stock rated it a strong buy. No wonder. At press events throughout 1999, Media 100 remade itself into a Web-oriented NLE manufacturer with its new flagship iFinish line. Meanwhile, the company unveiled new products such as the under-$3,000 V20 DV, designed specifically for Web producing and publishing.
Media 100's media customers include MTV, Disney, Time Warner, and cable-Web portal firm Excite@Home. These customers employ streaming video to either promote their entertainment products on the Internet or add spark to their Web pages. The number of Web sites offering video will triple this year, predicts Sunnyvale, California-based market-data firm Multimedia Research Group.
The flat NLE market also hit Avid hard, bringing a new CEO, layoffs, and restructuring late last year. Fourth quarter 1999 revenues were $111.6 million, compared to $144.6 million in the fourth quarter of 1998. For the year ending December 31, 1999, revenues were $452.6 million, versus $482.4 million for 1998.
So Avid, too, announced significant Web initiatives last fall, including a collaboration with InfoLibria, developer of multimedia management and delivery systems. The two will offer complete streaming-media delivery systems capable of transmitting thousands of simultaneous multimegabit streams across broadband networks and over the Internet. The system will combine Avid's Unity, a solution providing storage and asset-management features, with InfoLibria's MediaMall, which manages and delivers multimedia. At the show, Avid will announce an application for developing dynamic, interactive presentations for distribution through multiple mediums, including the Internet, Intranets, CDs, and DVDs.
Media 100 and Avid are just two examples of why you should check your NAB preconceptions at the door.
Of course, while the Internet will create buzz in many manufacturers' booths, there's plenty else to check out. Sony delivers on its grand MPEG strategy with a new lineof gear called MPEG IMX, while Panasonic pushes its DVCPRO lineup to deliver HD capture and editing. Omneon Networks delivers its Video Area Network, a 1394-based network and storage system set to radically redefine both post and broadcast. Pinnacle Systems broadens its product line with less expensive servers and a completely new production switcher. Innovation TK shows its anticipated Millennium Machine, a new-from-the-ground-up high-end telecine from the renowned designer, Stuart Hunt. TeraNex shows the full implementation of Xantus, an any-format-in/any-format-out converter based on a military supercomputer. Finally, there's HD on the desktop, with real-time uncompressed editing on Windows NT workstations from Intergraph, Viewgraphics, and others.
So, keep your eyes and mind open.
Production: High Definition and 24p At a pre-show press conference, Panasonic president Warren Allgyer promised an NAB announcement about "new business opportunities" in HD cinema. And according to rumors, Sony is working on a system that could include a DLP-type projector along with a server. Meanwhile, the ideal posting format still remains a subject for debate. There are two contenders: Panasonic's D5 and Sony's HDCAM, both of which are now available in 24p versions.
Panasonic claims that its initial D5 VTR, the 2700, is the preferred HD mastering format in post houses. The company intends to keep that lead with the introduction of its second-generation HD VTR at the show. This new deck, the AJ-HD3700 (available in June for $85,000), includes greater format flexibility than before. The 3700 plays back existing 525-line standard D5 or D5 HD cassette and records 10-bit uncompressed 480/69i standard-definition video. It also records 1080/24p, 1080/60i, 1080/50i, 1035/60i, and 720/60p HD standards.
Burbank, California-based 4MC thought that flexibility would prove useful. The fast-growing conglomerate of post facilities bought 34 AJ-HD3700 decks to spread among its many constituents, including Riot, Encore Hollywood, and both the Los Angeles and San Francisco FilmCore Editorial shops. (The Los Angeles area leads the way in buying this latest-generation VTR; 61 of the first 70 3700s sold there.)
Panasonic's first HD studio DVCPRO VTR, the AJ-HD150, serves as the flagship of this new series. Offering the highest DVCPRO recording speed-100Mb/s-the deck plays back all professional DV formats, even Sony's DVCAM. It captures both 1080i and 1035i signals, and recording maxes out at 46 minutes per cassette. An optional internal format converter allows the VTR to play back standard-definition DVCPRO 25 and 50 cassettes (480i or 480p), turning them into HD signals upon playout.
Panasonic's HD DVCPRO camcorder, the AJ-HDC20A 3-CCD ($60,000), inaugurates a new generation of chips. These 2/3-inch CCDs each hold 2.2 million pixels-quite a jump in resolving power from the one-million-pixel CCDs in the less-expensive HDC10A ($45,000). The AJ-HDC20A and the HDC10A camcorders both include Super Gain electronic video-signal amplification. This new feature creates usable images out of dim scenes with its +18dB gain.
At a pre-NAB press conference, Sony president Ed Grebow called 35mm an "increasingly isolated island". Grebow said that 18 out of 19 current prime-time HD series finish on Sony's HD systems. Sony completes its line of first-generation 24p HD gear with the introduction of the HDW-F900, a $100,000 camcorder. (Also at the show: 24p HDC-900/950 cameras and the HDW-F500 studio VTR.)
Sony management talks confidently about the prospects for 24-frame progressive-scan video capture, claiming that it's now an equal complement to 24-frame film origination. The constantly improving hardware reportedly makes this possible. For example, Sony's three CCDs, now in their fourth generation of development, feature 2.2 million pixels each-matching Panasonic's CCDs. Again, that's about double the pixels of prior-generation chips.
Finally, even a famous film name is conceding the appeal of 24p: Panavision will provide newly designed cinema-style lenses for Sony's new HDW-F900 camcorder.
At the show, expect manufacturers to tout the interoperability of their gear in this era of 18 possible HD formats. For example, both Sony's new 24p studio camera (HDC-900) and companion portable (HDC-950) offer built-in format converters. These enable output to the alternative broadcast HD format of 720/60p, selected by ABC. There's also a choice of SDTV formats such as 480/60p/30p/60i, as well as analog NTSC and PAL.
Here's a dry subject that features in Sony's plans: international technical agreements and video frame rates. Surprisingly, these two technology issues might speed up the implementation of HD production by drastically lowering prices. It seems that both 24p and 25p HD are subsets of the 1920 x 1080 progressive digital format. Last June, this 1920 x 1080 standard was accepted by the ITU, the international standards committee. With only an insignificant frame-rate difference between 24p and 25p, the new standard means Sony "can deliver the same hardware worldwide for the first time in video history," according to Sony's Larry Thorpe, vice president, acquisition systems. By the way, who got to use the first HDW-F900 shipping model? None other than famed German film director Wim Wenders-for a U2 video earlier this year.
Interestingly enough, services, not products, are becoming a much larger part of Sony's bottom line; some $100 million a year come from systems-integration services. Perhaps to emphasize the change, the company now wants to be known as a "digital broadband networking company" and not just a "box company."
President Ed Grebow sees Sony in the twenty-first century "moving to the forefront of the convergence of broadcasting, personal computing, and telecommunications." MPEG looms as the major standard for this technological convergence. Already, Sony has sold 32,000 of its SX-series MPEG VTRs since their introduction at last year's NAB. Not a huge number, but significant players such as NBC and CNN have adopted the gear for much of their production and post. Sony has now named its MPEG line "IMX" This term designates gear using MPEG 4:2:2p@ML intraframe recording at 50Mb/s. New Sony products supporting the format include VTRs, servers, nonlinear news-editing systems, and DDRs.
Lenses For ENG-style shooters, the trend in lenses at NAB 2000 is a favorable one as manufacturers turn increasingly to lighter-weight, higher-performance, and more feature-laden lenses.
Fujinon is introducing two new high-definition models, including what it describes as the "world's widest, smallest, and lightest-weight wide-angle HD lens in the world": the HA10x5. This portable broadcast lens features a remarkable 5mm wide angle (87.6 degree horizontal field of view), making it an especially useful tool for shooting in cramped conditions.
As a shooter, I can appreciate the value of the HA10x5's expansive wide angle. After all, experienced shooters often work in the wide-angle position. The value of a superb HD lens with a wide field of view cannot be overstated. The HD format loves detail-and that's exactly what Fujinon's new 10x5 would appear to do best.
The HA20x7.8 is a companion lens to the 10x5 that trades off the extreme wide angle for greater overall versatility and a longer zoom range. Offering the everyday shooter an impressive 20x magnification in a very compact package, this lens aspires to be the new industry workhorse for HD production.
Both the HA10x5 and HA20X7.8 feature zoom, focus, and iris servo controls that are fully digitized, permitting such capabilities as fixing the zoom speed at a given rate while zooming, or seamlessly switching from power to manual and back again without interrupting operation.
Once again in these new lenses, Fujinon is showing off its unique molded-lens technology. Through the careful use of lightweight aspherics, entire lens groups have been replaced with a single lightweight element. The result is not only better performance in a tight package, but also dramatically increased light transmission.
Also as part of the overall trend, Canon will feature a new line of reduced-weight, enhanced-performance optics. Canon's emphasis, however, will be on High Definition Electronic Cinematography (HD-EC). The new series of cine-inspired lenses will finally integrate many of the lessons learned from over 100 years of cinema, lessons that so far the engineer-dominated video world have been slow to embrace. For example, has anyone else wondered why lenses intended for video have such tiny markings? Surely HD videomakers have the occasional need to record zoom and focus settings in order to match close-ups, or possibly to recreate a setup later?
Angenieux's new High Definition Series includes the "film-style" 11.5x5.3 and 10x5.3 lenses for general-purpose ENG/EFP applications. For studio use, Angenieux is featuring a 20x7.5 HD lens, which the manufacturer claims offers the extended zoom range with "minimal" ramping. All Angenieux HD-Series lenses provide distortion-free images, according to the manufacturer, "with no chromatic aberration."
Angenieux will also be showing its latest SDTV broadcast lenses, including the versatile 15x8.3 AIF and 12x5.3 AIF zooms, the latter featuring a F5.3mm wide angle (79 degree field of view). Both units incorporate Angenieux's proprietary Assisted Internal Focus (AIF) technology and are compatible with 2/3-inch, digital 16/9 format cameras.
Finally, from Century Precision Optics comes a variety of useful peripheral products, including a new B-4 Lens Mount Adapter that allows cine-mounted telephoto lenses to be used with Sony HD cameras.
Century is also wisely looking to the burgeoning DV market. Its range of accessories for the Canon GL1, for example, includes a .55X Wide Angle Fixed Adapter, a .65X Lightweight Wide Angle Converter, and a 16:9 Widescreen Adapter. According to the manufacturer, the Widescreen Adapter is an anamorphic front-mounted lens that utilizes the camera's entire CCD, thus maintaining the highest resolution possible in a true widescreen image.
In the last several years, with the advent of High Definition, producers and shooters alike have witnessed a vast improvement in lens performance. Resolving power, chromatic aberration, tracking, and ramping-these are the areas in which we've seen considerable advances. Now the challenge is whether these heightened performance levels can be maintained in the face of continued pressure to reduce the size and weight of these remarkable, complex instruments. Hopefully, NAB 2000 will offer some insight into this key question. Barry Braverman
Lighting It goes without saying that lighting is one of the best investments for today's videomakers. Whereas the typical camera today might have a life span of five years or less, a good-quality lighting instrument will almost certainly provide an investment return for decades to come. I've gone through many cameras-from the Ikegami 79 of my youth through a Sony BVW-300 Betacam. While these once state-of-the-art cameras are pleasant memories now, I still use the 1950s Mole Inkies that a retiring cameraman kindly sold me in 1981. These lights still work great and continue to earn me income, even if their two-way barn doors do occasionally provoke laughter.
This year's NAB continues the relentless technological advances in the realm of studio and location lighting. From Mole Richardson-makers of my aforementioned Inkies-comes a sophisticated 2,000W 18" projector useful for producing a sharp shadow effect through a window or for streaming a well-defined beam through smoke or haze. The latest Molebeams include a 1,200W HMI version that, according to Mole, will project an 18" parallel beam with a wide-range flood-to-spot ratio.
Over the years as a National Geographic shooter in some very remote locations, I have become a firm believer in K5600's products, especially the 400W Joker units. This year, K5600 introduces the Joker-Bug 800, a natural step up from the 400W workhorse. According to the company, the new unit offers the comparable output of a 3,200/4,000W quartz fixture, but with the relatively low power draw of only 12.5 amps. Used as a conventional PAR instrument, the Bug can achieve the remarkable spot-to-flood ratio of 55 to 1 with a beam angle as narrow as five degrees. Without a lens mounted, the Bug will likely find a range of applications, especially in Lightbanks and Lanterns.
Arriflex, long known for the ruggedness of its camera and lighting gear, continues to dominate the corporate and non-theatrical markets with the introduction of several new, portable lighting kits. Long a mainstay of the most vigorous tarmac-pounding shooters, ARRI has significantly expanded its trusty Fresnel line to include new configurations of HMIs, open-face Arrilites, Softlights, and Chimera Lightbanks.
The Arrilux 21/50 Minisun is ARRI's smallest dual-wattage daylight fixture. With the advent of increasingly faster CCD chips, especially in DV, the Arrilux 21/50 will likely find a welcome place in the arsenal of craft-conscious shooters. The diminutive unit uses 21W or 50W lamps and can be operated from any 12-30V DC source. In its literature, ARRI describes the 21/50 as the perfect choice for use in very cramped areas. Its 2.5" x 3.7" cylindrical lamp head may quickly be separated from its electronic ballast for detached operation as desired. A special glass reflector and matching lens set are included, incorporating for the first time true professional capabilities in such a small unit.
ARRI is also introducing a new 12/18kW Daylight Fresnel that it says is "smaller and lighter in weight than any other comparable product." With the largest Fresnel diameter in its class, the new ARRI Daylight Baby achieves "a particularly even light with high intensity." Arriflex further notes that the Baby may be equipped with either 18kW or 12kW lamps, providing some economy with respect to a user's changing requirements.
For studio applications, ARRI is offering its X-Series 40/25, a broad lighting unit intended either as a bounce source or for down-lighting backgrounds such as cycloramas. With a purported beam angle of over 120 degrees, the new instrument is capable of covering an area of 60 square feet at over 300 footcandles at fifteen feet. Arri is also offering a smaller X model with a 1200W HMI lamp.
Of course, nearly every shooter is familiar with Lowel-Lighting equipment. Is there a cameraperson alive without at least one piece of Lowel gear in his or her inventory? Now Lowel is expanding its venerable DP line to include three dimmable HMI/MSR units. Equipped with triple-output compact ballasts, Lowel's new system, dubbed "DP Daylight", features three lamp configurations: 200W, 400W, and 575W-all using the same familiar DP housing. The attraction here is the ability to double dip accessories: The DP Daylight System uses the same extensive range of grip, scrims, and filters currently used for the familiar tungsten model. Consolidating and compacting one's lighting package is or should be the goal of every itinerant cameraperson, and Lowel's new offering will enable many shooters to travel more lightly and easily than ever before.
Speaking of compact travel, Cool-Lux is introducing its SL3000 "La Palette" on-camera softlight. Made of aircraft-quality aluminum and weighing just seven ounces with its retractable/removable reflective hood, this rugged unit will almost certainly fill a critical niche in the burgeoning DV community of filmmakers seeking an easy and efficient way to fill dimly lit scenes. Cool-Lux designed and developed a special double-ended halogen lamp expressly for the fixture, drawing on its decades of experience pioneering new light sources. The SL3000 comes standard with a 60W lamp (a 100W lamp is optional) and may be mounted on any camera equipped with a 5/8" post, 1/4" x 20 thread, or common accessory shoe.
In addition to the SL3000, Cool-Lux will also be featuring its Combo/Soft Kit III, a durable package built around the professional studio softlights many still photographers are already familiar with. The Combo-Light III Kit contains three Combo-Light units complete with four-way barn doors (not two-way!), easily attachable Softlight Hoods, diffusion accessories, and 500W (double-ended) lamps. In addition, the kit contains two AC/DC Mini-Cools with 250W lamps, barn doors, and a dimmer. Including the 22W and 35W lamps for DC operation, the quick-flip daylight filter, four stands, and the heavy-duty injection molded case, the Cool-Lux Combo/Soft Kit III is by far the most complete kit of its kind in the industry.
Overall, the trend in lighting this year appears to be toward lighter-weight, more versatile, and softer-quality instruments. Bogenphoto is evidence of this trend as it promotes its Academy Award-winning Aurasoft Softlight, a revolutionary design featuring a reflector consisting of thousands of microbubble mirrors. The unit's 127 degree coverage is remarkably consistent from center to edge, producing a very high-quality northern light. The Aurasoft is now available in 600mm or 800mm diameters, with interchangeable tungsten or HMI light sources up to 4000W.
So if lighting-especially soft lighting-is on your shopping list this year, don't scrimp unnecessarily. The lighting you purchase today will likely be the lighting you use for many years to come.
(By the way, is anybody interested in my two-way barn doors?)
Servers and SANs Increasingly, post and broadcast operations rely on networked servers to handle their image-processing chores. Broadcast news favors MPEG servers, while post goes for ITU-601. No matter what alternative you select, be prepared to see many new server solutions at the show.
Check out Omneon Video Networks' booth, for example, for one of the most intriguing approaches to networked servers, whether MPEG or uncompressed HD. The Campbell, California-based company demonstrated its Video Area Network technology at last year's NAB. This year, it delivers a full up-and-ready version of this networked server. One important feature is the Video Area Network's data-type independence. The system is capable of storing HDCAM alongside DVCAM, DVCPRO 50, MPEG2, uncompressed 601, and a number of streaming file formats. Omneon's booth highlights a number of Video Area Network applications, including collaborative production, Internet content creation and streaming, transmission, and media management.
With its IEEE 1394 (FireWire) network architecture linked to Fibre Channel storage, Omneon shows one of the first implementations of the IEEE 1394b flavor. This higher-level standard runs at 800Mb/s, or twice the speed of the more common, consumer version of IEEE 1394a that DV gear and FireWire ports use. The company will also show an entirely new class of 1394 switches that work with both the 1394a and 1394b standards. The switches allow use of slower-speed material (say, from a DV camcorder), which can then be merged into the higher-speed network.
Leitch-with new CEO John McDonald and new management-is reinvigorated, ready for the Internet Age. Or at least that's how the upbeat press material presents the recent changes. Of course, the company has much more than Internet-ready servers to offer. Products include gear for processing, storage, and connectivity, with servers playing an important role as a centralized connection point for these various technologies and applications.
Leitch expands its VR MPEG-2 server line with much more storage capability. The new 50GB drives quickly build a system from 250GB to a massive 3TB (terabytes) and beyond. As larger drives are employed, they actually help lower overall storage costs. Leitch claims it can offer the lowest cost in the channel/storage time equation.
But at the Leitch booth, expect Video over IP (Internet Protocol) to generate the most interest. Leitch now makes its VR servers-which run on a Fibre Channel Video SAN-IP-capable. A broadcaster can download news from the Web directly to the VR servers or transport video content over WANs (Wide Area Networks) to other facilities.
Using its VR servers, Leitch plans to demonstrate a WAN streamer and News-to-Net Internet-content encoder. The company's router software already offers control of remote systems over IP networks.There's also a graphical user interface called PageBuilder that simplifies routing by using images such as maps and photos for more user-friendly control. Also to check out from Leitch: compressed video routing and control over IP.
Things have been hot in the MPEG-server market for Pinnacle over the last year. The company bought the MediaStream product line from Hewlett Packard in August 1999. Sales of that server line and its post-oriented Thunder line pushed a remarkable 60-percent growth in server sales for Pinnacle over the past year.
Broader applications are key to spurring the growth of Pinnacle's networked-technology approach to post and broadcasting. A plug-in decoder card for the MediaStream server line, for example, now enables the three models in that line to deliver SD 259M SDI (or serial ITU-601), as well as ATSC/DVB MPEG streaming and even HD record and play. The good news: the rapid drop in entry-level prices. The new MediaStream 300 targets a specific market, that of "broadcasters looking to switch from outdated tape-based analog systems to today's digital-television environments." The MediaStream rack-unit device offers a modest three channels of video I/O. Prices start at $32,000. That's not bad, since some video servers start at $50,000 on up.
Panasonic, hoping to boost use of DVCPRO for broadcast, brings out a multiformat disk server. With a recording capacity of up to 20 hours, Panasonic's AJ-HDR 150 supports resolutions of 25Mb/s DVCPRO, 50Mb/s DVCPRO50, DVCPRO Progressive, and 100Mb/s DVCPRO HD. Data protection comes via an internal RAID 3 video disk array.
Heralding its open-systems approach, Panasonic notes that users can add more channels and storage using a Fibre Channel-based SAN. Hardware flexibility is key. The AJ-HDR 150 can be configured to provide four standard-definition I/Os or two HD ones. Need to create a server cluster? Just lash together three systems via an FC-based SAN, which yields 12 DTV I/Os or six HDTV I/Os.
Sony's MAV-2000 series, described as a multi-access studio and audio server, builds upon its first-generation MAV-1000. The 2000 series can still be used as part of Sony's NewsBase broadcast-news server, but it adds capabilities such as FTP (File Transfer Protocol, for Web transmission) via a Gigabit Ethernet connection. An important new option of the MAV-2000 series is the optional support for Sony's HDCAM compression scheme.
One new software application, the BZA-7000-series Archive Management System, uses Sony's PetaSite-series data-tape library and robotic system. The application creates a large-scale, tape-based server for news or other MPEG-based applications. Pricing of entry-level systems starts at $85,500. While that places the BZA-7000 on the high end for a server device, companies with large archives will be attracted to the storage capacity of up to 900,000 hours. (That's about 11.2 petabytes of data.) Employing an Oracle database engine, the BZA-7000 allows up to 100 clients to simultaneously browse data via its Web interface. Sony notes that the asset-management technology employed, essentially the metadata, will become an integral part of every Sony product in the future.
HD Recording & Editing NAB will see the first generation of Windows NT workstations designed for HD recording and editing in BOXX Technologies' FusionBOXX HD for uncompressed HD editing and compositing.
BOXX's design is unique. For starters, the company figured out how to deploy eight Pentium CPUs to power the FusionBOXX, which supports both the 1080i and 720p HD formats. The system interfaces directly to HD VTRs and cameras, with storage configurations of 15, 30, and 60 minutes available. "With uncompressed HD, little 30-second clips are four or five GB long, and it can become a nightmare," says BOXX CEO and president Todd Bryant. "We tell people to dump things to tape, either HD tape or D-5. If they need that material, they can just load it back in. DLTs aren't going to be fast enough. Our system is scaleable up: If you need more processing power, you can scale it up with render nodes." Bryant hopes broadcast stations, on-air graphics artists, and film-effects companies will take a close look at the FusionBOXX.
Designed as a free-standing system, the impressive-looking device (20 rack units high) includes up to 4GB of system memory, integrated Symbios dual-channel Ultra2 LVD SCSI controllers, both RAID N+1 and three hot-swap drives, redundant power supplies, and a 10-bit HD I/O card.
The fully multithreaded Digital Fusion HD software, created by eyeon, keeps things running in real-time and features items such as advanced NLE timeline adjustments, bezier spline control of all parameters, image tracking with an unlimited number of tracking points, warps, masks, chromakey, network rendering, third-party plug-ins, and full 16-bits-per-channel color within a 64-bit color space for film-resolution work.
Intergraph moves into HD with its first offering in the RAX Studio-Ready Components line, which consists of turnkey, self-contained systems that fit immediately into the production environment. The RAX HD Animation Recorder ($150,000) automates production and output of HD content and offers an accurate review of high-resolution material prior to film output. RAX HDAR builds around Intergraph's Wahoo technology, which delivers high-speed, real-time throughput for graphics and video. Users can review and output animations in real-time at any HD resolution, work in any HD resolution, and output at 24p, 30p, and 60i frame rates. One unique ability comes with the system's Frame Wrangler software, a "frame-harvesting" technology that automatically searches the network and assembles rendered frames in sequence into a video file. It also allows users to replace bad frames without having to reconstruct entire clips.
Chyron's Duet combines Chyron's heavily customized computer architecture and a Windows NT-based workstation to create a flexible, modular post and broadcast device.
Open systems and real-time processing are two central tenets of Duet. The video bus architecture can handle up to 56 simultaneous full-bandwidth video streams, all from a single 6U rack-mount system. While there's only a single video input on the HD Duet, two outputs handle 720@60p and 1080@30i. Of course, the system expands easily, with a total of five Video Graphics Engines supported. A downstream keyer, built into the HD I/O card, supports the VGE's internal keying and compositing capabilities.
Chyron says a typical control-room scenario has two SD or HD Duets acting as a backbone. In this scenario, one of the Duets will control automation and playback applications, as well as the GPI and serial control ports that in turn control video servers, VTRs, DDRs, routing switchers, and mixers.
Snell & Wilcox keeps expanding its product line at a rapid clip. At the show, expect to see additions including HD pre-processing, HD post, and aspect-ratio conversion. The HD Prefix is an HD version of the company's Prefix compression preprocessor and bandwidth optimizer. For post, look for both DVE and switcher products. The new HD 1200 DVE, known as "DaVE Alone," is a stand-alone, dual-channel HD DVE that can be used with any HD switcher. Meanwhile, there's a bigger HD switcher in the HD DaVE 2524, a 21/2 M/E (Mix/Effects) board. Also, the company's IQ modular line now has over 300 add-in modules available.
Eyeon Software releases Version 3.0 of Digital Fusion at NAB. Information on the latest version of this real-time compositing and effects program, which has won numerous show awards, was scant at press time. However, expect to find DF 3.0 delivering with HD capabilities, extensive OMF enhancements, new import capabilities (including EDLs and PSD files), a full-up character generator, paint, DFX+, and improvements in tool functionality, interface enhancements, and performance increases.
Teranex shipped its first Xantus All Format Converter this past January to New York's Du Art Film Labs. Du Art, which has built a good reputation over the years supporting independent filmmakers, was in a bind. With only one week remaining beforethe Sundance screenings, the lab had six NTSC movies dropped at its doors. The filmmakers could not afford 35mm blow-ups. However, Sundance would accept them if they could come up with HD cassettes. Xantus provided the solution.
The Xantus converter employs PixelComp, a unique motion-compensated de-interlacing technology that can only work with the extremely high-speed processing provided by the device's supercomputer. (The Defense Department spent $100 million developing a computer for battlefield image acquisition and processing-the Xantus is built around the results.)
The PixelComp process preserves the full resolution of the source material during the real-time conversion process. It realigns each of the two fields of video into one frame on the fly. Color-space conversion also occurs during this process. The Xantus can take in any current video format at any frame rate and immediately output any video format at any frame rate. Don't miss the booth demos.
Interactive Effects will debut Piranha HD version 3.1. Designed for SGI workstations, the NLE system builds upon earlier releases to deliver improved video support, EDL conforming, digital-audio support, and enhanced performance for both graphics and disk operations. The product already includes color correction, rotoscoping, paint, image tracking, compositing, particles, motion blur, DVE, and full capture and record capabilities. Version 3.1 brings new levels of scripting control, such as control over rendering and expression-based animation. Both AES audio and ADAT are supported, with the audio layers now offering full trim, cut, slip, and roll support. There's even onscreen waveform display.
Motion Capture Motion capture will be more high-profile than ever at this year's NAB. Several studios, including a few that launched last year, will invade the show and preach the mo-cap gospel. Many will partner with major manufacturers to offer virtual-character demos and performances. House of Moves of Venice, California, Giant Studios of Atlanta, Rainbow Studios of Phoenix, Performance Capture Studios of Los Angeles, and Spectrum Studios of Los Angeles are just a few examples of mo-cap facilities that will have a high-profile presence at the show.
Only a few months old, Spectrum Studios is focusing on motion capture's Web possibilities and will be discussing those developments at the Motion Analysis, Intergraph, and Kaydara booths. Company president David Bawel says that Spectrum expects to announce at NAB a new technology that inserts mo-cap data directly into Flash animation for Web viewing.
Several demos at the show will present the real-time preview advances of optical motion capture. Spectrum, for instance, will produce a real-time, full-facial and upper-body virtual character at the Motion Analysis booth. That demo will highlight the new Virtual Anchorman system from Santa Rosa-based Motion Analysis. Dean LaCoe, Motion Analysis VP, says Virtual Anchorman is designed to simultaneously pick up the body and facial motion of a single actor and run that data into real-time TV broadcast or Web-streamed animated characters.
Motion Analysis will concentrate mainly on camera-tracking issues. The company will introduce its new Virtual Set Optical Camera Tracking system at the show, which builds upon its previously released camera tracker. According to LaCoe, the system is a fully integrated "combination solution" 3D camera-tracking system that works in real-time in conjunction with the company's real-time character-animation software. LaCoe says the system is designed to let users accurately track complex camera moves on virtual sets.
Magnetic mo-cap manufacturer Polhemus will announce expanded tools for its StarTrak system. Among the offerings will be an OEM/VAR version of the StarTrak system for low-end users that allows a single workstation to process mo-cap and content-creation data simultaneously (rather than requiring two or more workstations). For high-end users, the company is offering a StarTrak improvement that will permit the use of up to 32 receivers (up to 16 on each performer) attached to two performers simultaneously as they interact in a mo-cap session.
Vicon Motion Systems of Tustin, California, will discuss its real-time system, Vicon 8RT, which the company has been tweaking since the product's demo at Siggraph '99. At press time, company product manager Brian Nilles expected the RT system to hit the market a few weeks before NAB. However, Vicon's major focus at the show, according to Nilles, will be the unveiling of the Vicon M Series camera, a new high-resolution, high-frame-rate camera for its core optical systems. He says that the camera, which Vicon expects to deliver in May, can record data or capture images at 120fps, up to 1,000 x 1,000 resolution.
3D Animation Software Alias|Wavefront, will preview Maya 3, the fifth major incarnation of its popular 3D modeling and animation software. According to Maya product manager Chris Ford, part of Alias|Wavefront's goal was to improve the software's modeling and animation workflow. "Things like the software's new color editor, which is more powerful than in past versions and enables you to blend colors easily, a more streamlined workflow, and small changes to the interface that make Maya more accessible to users are minor but key to user satisfaction."
The company also focused on improving Maya's renderer and tightly integrating Maya 3 with other members of the Maya family, including Artisan, Fusion, and Composer. "In Maya 3, you can use the Artisan brush to actually paint stiffness on cloth or fabric," says Ford. "That's a lot easier than tweaking individual vertices or CVs. And, the pipeline between Maya 3 and our Fusion and Composer 2D compositing applications is more streamlined than in the past." Maya 3 was in beta at press time and is scheduled to ship by the middle of this year. According to Ford, a version of Maya 3 that is compatible with Intel's forthcoming IA-64 Itanium processor and Microsoft's 64-bit Windows NT operating system will be available sometime after Maya 3 ships.
For game developers, Alias|Wavefront will showcase Maya Builder, its tool set for level designers and games programmers that includes the polygonal modeling and texturing tools in Maya Complete, features found in Artisan, the Maya Embedded Scripting Language (MEL), and the full Maya API. Also, the company will feature the Maya Real Time SDK. With this game engine solution, content can be developed in Maya, pre-visualized in an integrated plug-in, and exported directly to Sony's next-generation PlayStation graphics hardware. Alias|Wavefront will demo all of these 3D animation products at the show.
NewTek will demonstrate its LightWave  with a new comprehensive set of character animation tools and advanced rendering capabilities, among other features. "Character animation is an area that we were pretty weak in, in past versions of LightWave," comments Brad Peebler, vice president of the 3D Graphics Group at NewTek. "So we focused hard on that area for this release." And it shows. Unique to the software is a new breed of character-animation tools called IntelligEntities, which consist of Skelegons, Endomorphs, and Multi-meshes. Skelegons are polygons that look like traditional 3D bones but are saved as part of the object so that a character always has an intact skeleton. As you modify the character, the bone structure is automatically updated. With Endomorphs, you can change the expression, mood, or action of your character by training a single model, greatly simplifying lip-synch and complex morphing scenarios. And, Multi-meshes embed multiple layers of geometry into a single object. With Multi-meshes, hierarchical objects are saved as a single, complete model that includes all defined relationship and pivot data.
LightWave  also introduces a hybrid Inverse/Forward Kinematics engine that offers both locked and freeform IK goals. With this feature, users can lock goal items to the length of the IK chain, or use rubber band-style goals that can float in space, away from the chain itself. Version  also enables vertex grouping for bone assignments, resulting in greater control of anatomically precise characters.
Additional character-animation features include a new curve editor and a new graph editor that provide a set of tools for manipulating curves of any type while enabling interactive copy and paste between those curves.
LightWave  also features a new modeling paradigm for real-time subdivision surface modeling with point weights. It also offers UV control mapping with infinite layering, the ability to use orthogonal- and perspective-view modeling ports, and the ability to achieve direct control over polygons, vertices, and patches.
One of the most exciting new surfacing tools, according to Peebler, is VIPER (Versatile Interactive Preview Render), a preview system that enables users to quickly change textures, lights, backdrops, volumetrics, and HyperVoxels without completely re-rendering the scene.
In terms of rendering, LightWave  features High Dynamic Range Image (HDRI) support. Introduced at Siggraph '99 as part of the Fiat Lux project presented by Paul Debevec of UC Berkeley, this technology enables users to import imagery containing traditional bitmaps as well as extra data. The extra data can be leveraged in the radiosity rendering process, so users can light scenes accurately from environment maps. According to Peebler, LightWave  is the first commercial application to incorporate this technology. "We're able to bring in new types of images that have a much higher bit depth than normal bit-mapped images. HDRI technology is a fantastic way to not only improve realism but also simplify the rendering and compositing process." At press time, the software was scheduled to ship by the end of February for a suggested retail price of $2,495.
Softimage also will showcase updated versions of its 3D animation systems at NAB-specifically, Softimage DS Version 3.1, the company's integrated postproduction toolkit for graphics and effects; and Softimage 3D Version 3.9, the company's 3D animation system. Visitors to the company's booth also can see product demonstrations of the forthcoming Sumatra nonlinear animation system, as well as Softimage DS HD, an HDTV version of Softimage DS that is scheduled to ship in the second half of this year.
According to John McQueen, vice president of product marketing, one highlight of Softimage DS Version 3.1 is the fact that it is optimized to take advantage of the processing speed of Intergraph's newest StudioZ GT workstation, which features dual 700MHz Intel Pentium III processors. The speed increase, he says, enables users to run more real-time, uncompressed effects concurrently and provides faster overall processing of multi-layer composites and image effects.
Version 3.1 features additional enhancements as well. "Although Version 3.0 was compelling because it integrated editing, compositing, and paint to help speed up the production process, people wanted more effects and wanted each component to be best of breed," says McQueen. "This version features true 3D DVE capability, and we've made some Media Composer-type workflow improvements. Plus, Version 3.1 supports Avid's Unity, so it can hook into the other Avid products. Version 3.1 is true to our original vision of an uncompromising end-to-end postproduction system." A complete turnkey multistream system, consisting of DS Version 3.1 and an Intergraph StudioZ GT with dual-Pentium III 700MHz processors, plus two hours of uncompressed video storage from Avid, sells for $137,500.
The new release of Softimage 3D, meanwhile, will be targeted specifically toward the game-development community. According to McQueen, this new version will feature better mesh editing tools, an improved user interface, new game-development tools, a major update to Softimage's XSI file format, and enhanced output for the Sony PlayStation format.
And, finally, more news for those of you who have been waiting for Softimage's 3D animation system, code-named Sumatra, to ship. According to McQueen, the company expects to release the final beta version of Sumatra during the NAB timeframe and plans to ship the system to customers by early Q2.
Workstations At press time, Intergraph Computer Systems' Zx10 ViZual Workstations were still powered by Pentium IIIs running at 750MHz, with a 100MHz frontside bus ($3,995). The "at press time" proviso is important, as leading workstation manufacturers have been matching the constant march of new processors from Intel and AMD. Intel, for example, had 8 different CPUs introduced in 1999 alone.
Available immediately, the Zx10 with Wahoo Technology offers a choice of graphics subsystems, from high-end 2D to midrange 3D to the fast 3D graphics of Intense3D's Wildcat 4110 VIO Graphics. Graphics options include: Matrox Millennium G400 (good 2D performance), Intense3D Wildcat 3510 (one for the cost-conscious that delivers entry-level 3D performance), Intense3D Wildcat 4000 (delivers dual display and faster 3D graphics), Intense3D Wildcat 4105 (offers even higher performance 3D), and Intense3D Wildcat 4110 VIO (delivers "the world's fastest 3D graphics" with specialized extensions available for video I/O cards).
The Wahoo Technology delivers graphic performance by expanding system throughput and optimizing performance of the 2D/3D graphics pipeline. Wahoo's Streaming Multiport Architecture, Intergraph's systems architecture, improves system throughput and performance of the 2D/3D graphics pipeline by eliminating CPU cycles spent waiting for held-up data. Intergraph claims that only the Zx10 provides up to 8GB PC133 or PC100 ECC SDRAM memory capacity. Each of the Zx10's eight memory slots can accommodate a 1GB module of SDRAM, enabling 8GB of memory-eight times the maximum Intel RAMBUS memory configuration of i840-based workstations. That's important since SDRAM is a more reliable, faster, less costly, more flexible, and more convenient memory technology than Intel RAMBUS, says Intergraph. Another plus is the 128-bit memory bus, which delivers up to three times the memory bandwidth of generic workstations.
IBM claims increased 1999 market share in the Windows NT and UNIX server markets. Keeping pace with Intel's chip designs, Big Blue released in January an 800MHz version of its flagship Z Pro NT workstation with a completely redesigned motherboard available in a dual Xeon-chip version. The design deploys the new Intel High-speed PC frontside bus, which runs at 133 MHz. Intel's new 840 support chipset also uses higher speed RAMBUS memory; these latest designs allow up to 4GB of RAM.
Editing and Compositing Avid Technology will unveil new releases of Media Composer and Symphony editing/finishing systems. The upcoming Avid Symphony Version 3.0 release will provide an entirely new real-time keyer (for chromakeying that promises to rival linear online capabilities) and real-time moving mattes. Avid also promises advancements in multi-format, multi-version editing and mastering, including the ability to output Web-streaming formats directly from the Symphony system. Media Composer 10.0 will also include real-time moving mattes, as well as the ability to output streaming formats directly from the system. Features including 24p Universal Offline Editing and 24fps feature film editing (previously announced for the Media Composer's Macintosh "Millennium" release) have been rolled into the new release. The system will be available for both Mac and Windows NT and will offer full feature parity on both platforms. Avid plans to ship a single software release for both platforms in Q3 2000.
FAST Multimedia will showcase its 601 with the 601-PrintDVD Option, which first debuted at IBC last September. Billed as a "truly complete system," the combination (along with featured authoring packages from Spruce Technologies) offers MPEG-2 and DVD production capabilities without requiring an MPEG-2 encoding device. 601-PrintDVD is designed for presentations on MPEG-2-enabled notebooks and PCs, offers high-quality for point of sales and point of information stations, and allows digital-video archiving (as well as direct burning) of DVD video on a DVD burner. The software option encodes video clips available in the "Editing-MPEG" format and expor ts them directly from the Timeline as a DVD-compliant data stream. Video material can also be recorded in real-time as distribution-MPEG. FAST offers 601-DVDVirtuoso for high-level DVD productions, as well as DVDConductor for 601 for professional authoring. The DVD-compatible data streams created by 601-PrintDVD can be played directly into the authoring software.
Matrox Video Products Group will bring its DigiSuite DTV real-time nonlinear editing platforms with built-in support for DVD authoring and Web video streaming. DigiSuite DTV combines the popular DigiSuite real-time editing engine with support for DV, DV50, and MPEG-2 compression. New for NAB are additional real-time features and productivity enhancements. Options include real-time 3D DVE, 1394 I/O, and SDI I/O. Matrox platforms are available with a complete content-creation software suite, and they support leading third-party software. Also featured this year are the original Matrox DigiSuite, which the company claims is the most affordable dual-stream uncompressed-quality video platform on the market, and DigiSuite LE, the most cost-effective platform in the DigiSuite series.
NAB attendees will get a chance to see Play's Trinity video-production system in action with in-depth demonstrations of each of its real-time broadcast applications, including Trinity's digital production switcher, still stores, online character generator, paint and animation system, chromakeyer, DVE, and linear and nonlinear editor. Play will also showcase its latest Electric Image 3D animation system, HoloSet, a cost-efficient chromakeying system, and Pocket Producer, Play's portable logging device.
Accom's AFFINITY, combined with its Dimension.8 software, delivers real-time, uncompressed 601 editing, effects, compositing, and finishing. Harris Rogers, Accom vice president of marketing, says that the system is "less than half the price of the other uncompressed NLE" and claims that storage costs are under $30 per gigabyte.
AFFINITY works with five simultaneous real-time streams of uncompressed or compressed video (background, embedded background key, overlay, embedded overlay key, and title). Users can mix compressed and uncompressed clips in any project. The system also offers real-time, frame-based, motion-adaptive Abekas DVE and DveousFX effects, including warps, lighting, and texture. A patent-pending clip-stacking function lets an editor stack clips on a single track and then make quick comparisons by playing only the top clip of that track.
Audio Mackie highlights the new HDR24/96 24-track, 24-bit/96k-capable stand-alone hard disk recording/editing system ($4999 list). The system includes an internal 20-plus gigabyte Ultra-DMA hard disk delivering over 100 minutes of 24-track recording at 48kHz, plus an extra drive bay for pull-out hard disks of any size. Preset sampling rates are 44.1kHz and 48kHz; 96kHz will be possible with future software upgrades. No external computer is required to take advantage of the graphic operating interface and editing software. Mackie also announced a major upgrade to the D8B V.3.0, featuring third-party plug-in support and new surround-sound mixing capabilities, networking capabilities, and user-requested features. V.3.0 adds support for the new Mackie UFX digital signal processing card (based on the more powerful Motorola 56303 DSP chip). The UFX, combined with V.3.0 software, allows plug-in effects into common console signal paths, including mastering-type effects for the L/R out and surround channels. With each UFX card capable of running up to four independent software plug-ins at once, the D8B's four processing slots allow up to 16 third-party plug-in effects to be used simultaneously.
Dolby will take the lid off the DM100 Handheld Dolby E/ Dolby Digital Monitor and the DP570 Multichannel Audio Tool. The lightweight DM100 will allow audio system integrators and service engineers to quickly test the integrity and composition of Dolby Digital, Dolby E, and PCM signals. The DM100 also generates Dolby Digital, Dolby E, and PCM test bitstreams. The DP570 lets producers and DTV broadcasters optimize the presentation quality of their multichannel audio mix. It combines the features of Dolby Digital metadata selection and receiver emulation to enable creation of audio metadata for multiple programs and the monitoring of changes.
Dolby will also conduct several demonstrations: a run-through of a Dolby Digital 5.1-channel home-audio experience; a demo of the new DP570 in a postproduction environment; a DVD authoring display using Dolby software along with the DP569 encoder, DP562 decoder, and a Windows-based PC; and a broadcast solution showing how a typical broadcast chain can include Dolby E and Dolby Digital for multichannel broadcasts.
Sony will highlight its DMX-R100 small-format 48-channel digital audio mixer, which debuted at NAMM in February. The 24-bit unit-aimed at record, post, and TV facilities-features a selectable 44.1/48/88.2/96kHz sampling rate, a full-color SVGA LCD touch screen, and full 5.1 mixing and monitoring capabilities. It also offers dynamic and snapshot automation as well as built-in storage. "The R100 reflects our extensive experience with the design and development of the Oxford console," says Courtney Spencer, VP, Professional Audio Group Broadcast & Professional Company for Sony Electronics. Spencer adds that Sony steered clear of the "layered design" approach common in other digital mixers in the R100's price range. At press time, the R100 was slated for availability in April with a suggested list of about $20,000. For further info, visit www.sonycom/proaudio.
Tascam's DA-78HR 8-Track recorder/player is claimed as the first MDM with 24-bit capability designed for either fixed installations or mobile recording. TASCAM's Application Specified Integrated Circuit technology allows backward compatibility with 16-bit DTRS tapes and improves modulation and error-correction code algorithms, according to the company. The company's DA-98HR (based on the DA-78HR, designed for post) features AES/EBU digital I/Os for instant integration into digital patchbays or DAWs. It can be controlled with standard DTRS remotes or via serial nine-pin. The MX-2424 24-track, 24-bit digital hard disk audio recorder/player features a built-in nine-Gig SCSI hard drive, a graphical user interface, and multiple I/O options. The MX-2424 is compatible with PC and Mac file formats using industry-standard Broadcast Wave and Sound Designer II audio files; it uses TimeLine's simple Open Track List EDL format. Learn more at www.tascam.com
Technical Grammy winner AMS Neve will demonstrate audio-post and live-production solutions via the new WorkFlow systems, which integrate Neve consoles and post systems for rapid project transfer and studio flexibility. WorkFlow systems include AMS Neve's Encore universal console automation system and the StarNet editor network. New features of the StarNet system enable storage of projects on a central RAID StarNet Controller, accessible from all studios. The StarNet Controller stores all project data from both editor and console, including recordings, edit lists, and mix automation. A key element of the StarNet network is AudioFile SC, AMS Neve's new high-speed 32-track editor, which can be connected to Libra Post consoles in a range of configurations to suit applications from basic tracking and premixing to full 5.1 mixing for DTV and DVD. Speaking of the Libra Post, Neve will also show its new, compact, 48-channel version. Neve will also show new studio-integration options, including a flexible GPI (General Purpose Interface) interface system and, for the first time, enhanced support for MIDI digital audio routers and fibre connections.
Fairlight hopes to shake up the mid-market with Prodigy, a 24-track, 24-bit digital audio workstation and surround-sound digital mixer that combines advantages of other Fairlight products in a single dedicated system. Even with the best features of the company's popular FAME and Fairlight MFX3plus systems, Prodigy arrives with an introductory list price of $68,000. It offers 16 assignable faders and joysticks integrated into a dedicated desktop recording, editing, and mixing production center. Prodigy's processing engine is claimed as the world's fastest 24-track recorder/editor.
Streaming Video Like hawkers in a library reading room, today's Internet entrepreneurs have transformed a once-tranquil enclave of government and academia into a brash bazaar for commerce and entertainment. Fueled by funny money and media attention, many of these invaders are racing to stake a claim at the intersection of "content" and "eyeballs." To bring the former to the latter, they'll be relying on streaming-media technology.
Streaming media is audio, video, or animation that plays back on the receiving end (the "client") as it arrives from the sender (the "server"). Because it doesn't first have to be downloaded in its entirety, there's effectively no waiting for the viewer. That would offer the instant gratification of TV, but with the selection and flexibility of the Web.
In the typical American household today, where Internet service is provided via a "dial-up" over a 28.8 or 56K modem, connection speeds are still too slow to support meaningful streaming of video programming. In fact, it's bound to be a few years before even a significant minority of home surfers are equipped with "broadband" connections (DSL lines or cable modems) that would allow them to stream video at acceptable resolution and frame rates. But broadband to the home is growing, and it's already common in the workplace. And just as business-to-business accounts for a far greater share of e-commerce than business-to-consumer, enough demand may exist for streaming media in corporate applications to tide vendors over as consumer markets grow.
Because a lot of different technologies are part of the streaming-media puzzle, the buzzword "streaming media" is currently being applied to a broad array of companies. That was very evident at the Streaming Media West show in San Jose in December, where the range of exhibited products included video servers, encoding tools, Web-event and conferencing services, and even custom online radio stations. (Even with all this diversity, the biggest buzz came from an established source: Microsoft unveiled version 4 of Windows Media Technologies with improved streaming that is likely to challenge the dominance of RealSystem G2 from industry leader RealNetworks).
Expect this diversity to continue at NAB, where even some traditional video vendors will be highlighting their streaming-video products in order to identify themselves with the Internet phenomenon that has proven so popular with investors.
Hardware Tools In January, Pinnacle Systems announced the formation of a Webcasting Solutions Business division for the escalating Internet media-streaming market. Pinnacle positions its StreamGenie as a Webcasting solution in a box for "live and on-demand streaming over the Internet." StreamGenie captures A/V content from multiple live video cameras, applies special effects on the fly, and outputs to an Ethernet LAN or DSL/Cable modem. Pinnacle is positioning the product for Webcasting of corporate events, business TV, distance learning, conferences, and concerts.
At Streaming Media West, Minerva Networks, Mountain View, featured VNP (Video Network Platform), a real-time MPEG-1 & 2 encoder/decoder for IP video streaming. VNP connects directly to IP networks; after assigning an IP address, the system will automatically transmit to a specified destination IP address in unicast, multicast, multiple unicast, or broadcast mode. The compressed video streams may be received by Windows PCs and set-top boxes or stored on video servers.
According to technical marketing manager Jonathan Epstein, Minerva will introduce at NAB a transcoder intended to "bridge the gap between the traditional DTV broadcast world and the terrestrial world of IP networks. The transcoders will convert DVB (digital video broadcast) to IP, or IP to DVB. Designed for service providers,the transcoder will have two primary functions. First, it will demultiplex DVB streams from satellite or terrestrial sources to redistribute them into an IP network. Second, it will collect multiple IP streams and multiplex them into a native DVB stream for satellite or cable networks." Minerva will also unveil encode/decode support for both QuickTime and MPEG-4 at the show.
Software Tools "Streaming media seems a natural growth area for postproduction facilities and related creative professionals," says Greg Estes, VP for broadband & Internet solutions at SGI, Mountain View. "As broadband networks continue to proliferate, the demand for quality content is rapidly increasing. The postproduction facilities already have the artists and the editors-the storytellers-and most have the technical chops to put out content packaged specifically for this market. I think they really need to look at content creation specifically for streaming media as one of their target areas."
Best known for its advanced 3D workstations, SGI has recently spun off its MediaBase media-streaming software into a stand-alone company called Kasenna, Inc. SGI showed MediaBase at Streaming Media West, and Kasenna will show the latest release for Linux and IRIX operating systems at NAB. MediaBase is positioned as a complete solution for media streaming for both intranets and Internet Webcasting. It streams in MPEG (including MP3), QuickTime, and RealNetworks formats and provides an asset-management environment for customers to manage their content from a Web-based interface. SGI will also be showing Oracle Video Server for IRIX (Unix), intended as a solution for residential interactive television over broadband networks. In addition, the company will show solutions allowing broadcasters to bring video clips into the system, log and catalog them, browse the content from any workstation, and then pull up the clips in high resolution.
One of the best things about the Internet is that its contents are effectively a huge database. Virage, San Mateo, California, makes tools that extend this text-based searchability into the realms of video and audio. Designed for organizations producing or distributing large volumes of video content, the company's VideoLogger application analyzes video clips and creates frame-accurate indices that allow nonlinear access to any video segment. At NAB, Virage will announce new plug-in search tools for VideoLogger 4.0, including facial recognition and optical character recognition. Carlos Montalvo, VP of marketing at Virage, says that as "all things analog go digital, content becomes currency. Broadcasters, video service providers, and content producers will be the first in line to take advantage of the emerging convergence economy. Nowhere is this more apparent than in the convergence taking shape for NAB 2000 between broadcast programmers and the Internet."
MediaSite, a developer of interactive video technology, debuted its Publisher Suite 4.0 at Streaming Media West '99. This software enables users to automatically create, index, edit, manage, and post searchable video. Publisher builds on the automated indexing capability of MediaSite's Logger product, adding features such as automated posting and distributed deployment.
Publisher Suite 4.0 pulls a number of modules (speech index, image index, highlights index, and auto index) together with WebFinder. The company says the product is uniquely able to send searchable video to multiple locations. This means the index, video, audio, and database can be in multiple locations, either outside or inside a firewall.
At Streaming Media, Terran Interactive, Los Gatos, California, showed version 4 of Media Cleaner, a popular software solution for optimizing and compressing video and audio files for streaming. Terran shared its booth with parent company Media 100, which showed iFinish. IFinish is a family of Windows NT-based streaming-media production systems ranging from $2,995 to $14,995, with integrated editing capabilities starting at the $4,995 level.
Regarding NAB, Terran VP of sales and marketing John Geyer says the company is "keeping our announcements under wraps for the time being," but adds that "we're finding more and more customers-including or perhaps especially video professionals-need to better understand the streaming-media production process. So we plan to have a large educational component to our message at the show."
An all-in-one media authoring tool called Stream Anywhere featured at the Sonic Foundry booth at Streaming Media. The program is designed to prepare audio, video, and synchronized metadata for distribution over the Internet in either the Microsoft Windows Media Technologies 4.0 format or the RealNetworks RealSystem G2 format. It also includes features for publishing the streaming program in a complete Web-page layout. Content may either be captured directly from camera or tape or imported in such file formats as AVI, QuickTime, MPEG-1, or MP3. And multiple bit-rate encoding allows the user to create a single file that adapts to the bandwidth of the end-user's playback connection. Sonic Foundry is confirmed as an exhibitor at NAB, but at press time did not have any specific comment on its show plans.
Internet Video Services Many companies find it easier to let specialists produce their audio and video content for streaming than to handle it in-house. Based in San Diego, California, Intervu offers such production services to the worlds of entertainment and business communications, creating both live and on-demand streaming content such as Webcasts and continuous radio broadcasts. Backed in part by Microsoft and CNN money, the company offers services covering the entire process, including production, encoding, uplinking, Web-site integration, distribution, audience building, reporting, and archiving.
According to public relations director Anjeanette Rettig, the company's NAB message will focus not only on its own streaming-media solutions, but also on demonstrating "how streaming media can be a complementary, economically viable business for traditional television and radio broadcasters."
One of the Web world's best-known providers of streaming file preparation services has been encoding.com, Seattle, Washington, which exhibited at Streaming Media. The company recently changed its name to reflect a more diverse set of activities and will be exhibiting at NAB as Loudeye. "We grew the company's infrastructure from encoding to include distribution management, consulting, and software applications, and the name needed to grow with our expanding mission," says founder and CEO Martin Tobias.
At press time, Loudeye's "Maestra of the Message," Melanie Hoff, said the company's plans for NAB are not yet finalized, but announcements are likely to reflect a broader focus than streaming video specifically. "We provide the full range of digital-media solutions for streaming audio and video on the Internet," she says, "including capture, management, and distribution of content."
DVD ASTARTE's DVD@CCESS technology allows DVD authors to embed URL links in a standard DVD-Video title. The links work on any Mac- or Windows-based DVD player. DVD@CCESS is now incorporated into ASTARTE's DVDirector, DVDExport, and DVDelight authoring systems.
With the DVD@CCESS feature, a DVD-Video title can jump to a related Web page that might show the viewer the most current information regarding the DVD's subject matter-or to any other URL. Many other Web-link systems require the use of special player software, but DVD@CCESS links work with existing, unmodified player applications. Links can be attached to menus, buttons, tracks, markers, or scripts. ASTARTE provides a freely distributable installer application for Mac and Windows versions that can be included on any DVD disc. The application installs system software that enables any DVD player to read and interpret the DVD@CCESS links in a DVD-Video disc.
In February, ASTARTE announced the availability of version 1.0.5 of DVDExport, its DVD authoring Xtra for Macromedia Director. Building on the Director interface and workflow that users alreadyknow, version 1.0.5 lets you accomplish two formerly "impossible" functions: create a complete, interactive DVD-Video title as well as a hybrid DVD-ROM multimedia application.
At the InnovaCom booth, check out the DV5000 DVD "Corporate" Authoring System, which incorporates VITEC's Video Clip MPEG-2 editing software. The combo supports MPEG formats from SIF to full D1. The DV5000 also permits external VTR control and optionally supports a DVD-R writer or DLT tape writer for output.
VITEC's Video Clip MPEG-2 editing package brings one of the first nonlinear, frame-accurate MPEG-2 editing software packages to the Authoring System. Capabilities include removal of MPEG-2 segments within a video stream without having to re-encode, frame-accurate copy-and-paste editing functions in a project window, insertion of transition effects such as titling, and multiplexing of an MPEG-1 audio stream and MPEG-2 video stream in an MPEG-2 program file. The Video Clip MPEG-2 editing package will convert an MPEG-2 transport sequence into an MPEG-2 program sequence while including PCM audio files. Machine control is available as an option.
Spruce's DVDMaestro 2.0, its latest generation of hardware for real-time encoding of both MPEG-2 video and Dolby AC-3 audio, now offers "Web hybrid" authoring support. DVDMaestro is the heart of a completely integrated turnkey system called DVDStation-MX. The product delivers as a fully configured Windows NT system.
DVDMaestro users can import Adobe Photoshop files for use in screen creation in DVD menus. The version 2.0 product identifies the multiple layers that constitute a Photoshop file and automatically turns those layers into DVD-compliant menu components in the DVDMaestro interface. Version 2.0 also enables users to perform basic editing functions directly on the interface's nonlinear editing-style timeline. This means users can implement decisions such as trimming the tops and tails of chapters on the fly.
Partnering with Heuris (maker of MPEG encoding software), Spruce announced in January the DVDStationNLE bundle. Spruce will include Heuris's MPEG Power Professional Version 2.0 software with its DVDStationNLE ($9,995) NT workstation. The package makes a complete DVD encoding and authoring station. Users employ templates and almost automatically create streaming-ready MPEG-2 files.
Virtual Sets At NAB next month, several virtual-set vendors will announce new versions of established systems as well as enhancements that increase capabilities, reduce costs, and simplify use. Here's a sampling.
RT-SET will officially announce Larus Post, a postproduction version of its Larus virtual studio that enables broadcasters to re-render a show with greater visual richness, correct performance problems in graphics rendering, recover dropped data, and fix miscues in effects.
Here's how it works. During production, the computer records all camera data directly to disk (or to cache memory, writing to disk later). Each instance of data is indexed with the time code being fed to the system, and any event-animation, effect-activated by the operator is recorded. After shooting, the data is fed back into the system to recreate any scene at any point in time.
With Larus Post, says RT-SET, users can "re-shoot" a show numerous times using the same talent and content but a different set to create regionalized versions of the same show. Users also can "re-post" a show in non-real-time, but with a more visually rich model. The show is shot with a placeholder set that runs in real-time and is replaced in post by a final, high-resolution set.
Meanwhile, Evans & Sutherland will introduce two new MindSet systems that it says are more cost-effective than their predecessors. The systems are based on a new line of MindSet image generators. (E&S is phasing out its current image-generator line.) The entry-level product will be part of the MindSet 2100, a system that enables real-time 3D, but with fixed camera positions. At the high end of the line is the new MindSet 2000, a real-time, fully tracked 3D system. According to E&S, a 2100 with multiple stationary cameras will cost less than $50,000, and a fully loaded, three-camera MindSet 2000 will cost less than $200,000. E&S expects to ship the systems in June.
Orad will demonstrate advances in its CyberSet line. With one new feature called CyberSet Webcasting and Interactive Video Streaming, viewers will be able to interact with elements in a scene by just clicking them. For example, an image of a news set can have clickable icons that show viewers instant weather forecasts, sports news, or business information during a regular broadcast.
The company will also showcase CyberSet NT, which combines NT technology developed at Accom with Orad's pattern-recognition technology. Plus, booth visitors will see demonstrations of Orad's Special Election Package, a high-end video wall and graphics package designed for local election coverage. (The system can also be adapted for weather and other special broadcast applications.) The company will show its CyberSport, SporTrack, and VirtuaLive sports-production tools as well.
Play will showcase the latest versions of its Trinity, Electric Image, and HoloSet products. With Trinity's PersonalFX application, producers can customize virtual sets to incorporate live reflections mapped onto 3D objects. The new version of the Electric Image: Universe 3D animation software enables users to create and export 3D environments directly into Trinity for virtual-set and effects creation.
The HoloSet chroma-key system consists of a synthetic reflective background and HoloRing optical emitters. Users attach a HoloRing to any standard camera lens and place a synthetic reflector in their scene. When illuminated by the HoloRing's uniform light wavelength, the reflector glows. Although onlookers see a neutral gray background, the camera sees a broadcast-quality key source without chroma spill. According to Play, the system enables producers to create realistic virtual environments in a range of lighting conditions. Audrey Doyle
DTV Monitors Looking for large-screen DTV/HDTV monitors for your production or broadcast facility? There will be a few to choose from at NAB 2000. Although the broadcast and production monitor market doesn't turn itself upside down every few months like the projector market, there will be a few new "goodies" to check out in Las Vegas.
Panasonic will showcase its AT-H3017W "master"-grade 32" (16:9) reference monitor, aimed at super-critical production applications including colorist work in film-to-tape transfers. The monitor has an extremely fine dot pitch of .36mm (center) and a horizontal resolution specification of greater than 1,000 TV lines. Three preset color temperature settings (6500K/9300K/3200K) are included, along with a user preset. All HD formats (1080i, 720p, 480i, and 480p) are supported, and two sets of YpbPr and RGB inputs with loop-throughs are standard. The AT-H3017W's list price is $35,000.
Panasonic's 32" DT-M3050W 16:9 multiformat display monitor is compatible with a variety of signal formats including 480i, 480p, 720p, 1125i, NTSC, M-NTSC, PAL, and SECAM. The DT-M3050W has a somewhat coarser dot pitch of .68mm (center), and Panasonic claims it delivers more than 700 TV lines of horizontal resolution. Horizontal synch compatibility ranges from 15.5 to 60kHz, and vertical refresh rates are from 50 to 120Hz.
Sony will also roll out a few new displays in Las Vegas. Flat-screen CRT technology will be evident in the new BVM-D32E1WU, a critical evaluation monitor for postproduction and telecine. This monitor provides a wider viewing angle (160() than curved-screen CRTs in a 32" screen size. Sony's Flat Trinitron picture tube has a dot pitch of .35mm across the image, and horizontal resolution is specified at 1,000 TV lines.
The BVM-D32E1WU supports bilevel and trilevel synch, plus SDI 4:2:2, composite SDI, HD SDI 1080i/60, 720p, and 1080p/24 segmented (using sequential odd-even scan-line fields at 48Hz refresh). The BVM-D24E1WU 24" 16:9 monitor will also continue in the line and offers the same feature set as its 32" relative. A new feature on all BVM-D-series monitors automatically selects ITU 601, ITU 709, and SMPTE 240M color gamuts and assigns them to the appropriate input signal.
Both of Sony's plasma displays will undergo a facelift. The PFM500A3WU is a 42", 852- x 480-pixel 16:9 display that incorporates 10-bit signal processing for better grayscale reproduction than its predecessor, the PFM-500A2WU. It has a new scan converter that supports direct 720p playback and a full rack of video inputs including YPbPr. The PFM510A2WU is also a 42" panel that incorporates 10-bit signal processing and 720p compatibility, but with 1024- x 1024-pixel resolution.
Barco continues to ship several SDI-compatible monitors. The ADVM 20 is a 20" (4:3) reference monitor with .26mm dot pitch and 1,000 lines of resolution. It accepts composite and S-video and also has a direct 10-bit SDI input (ITU-601). Three different pre-calibrated color temperature settings are provided, along with a user setting. Aspect ratio can be switched to letterboxed 16:9, and an optional 16:9 bezel is available. Barco is also offering a 28" version (ADVM 28) with .8mm dot pitch.
JVC will be offering a pair of monitors for DTV production. The DT-V2000SU 20" (4:3) reference monitor has an extremely fine .26mm dot pitch and claims 900 horizontal lines of resolution. It autodetects 480i, 480p, 720p, and 1080i, plus standard NTSC and computer inputs up to SXGA (1280 x 1024). The horizontal scan compatibility is 15 to 65kHz, and two selectable color temperature modes, plus overscan and letterbox aspect-ratio options, are included.
JVC's HV-M300VSU 30" (16:9) display monitor provides a full range of inputs for NTSC/PAL, 480i/p, 720p, and 1080i, as well as computer displays from VGA to SXGA. The .68mm dot pitch CRT provides 800- x 600-pixel resolution, and scan rate compatibility is 15 to 60kHz. Sixteen user presets and selectable color temperature settings complete the package.
While they won't be exhibiting at NAB 2000, Princeton is shipping the AF3.0HD, a 32" 16:9 display monitor for multipurpose use. This monitor has a full rack of component video jacks and RGB ports and offers two independent YPbPr inputs. The CRT has a .63mm (center) dot pitch, and resolution is specified as over 800 horizontal lines. All ATSC formats are supported, and factory presets for 480p, 720p, and 1080i are included. Four preset aspect ratios are also available: 1.33:1, 1.66:1. 1.78:1, and anamorphic.
Princeton also announced the AS3.6HD, a 36" (4:3) display monitor which supports analog NTSC, 480p, 1080i, and 720p digital formats (letterbox) and VGA, SVGA, and XGA computer sources. The AS3.6HD features dual auto-detect YPbPr-to-RGB transcoder matrices for 480p, 720p, and 1080i signals. The monitor has a maximum horizontal scanning frequency of 50kHz for true 720p display capability. Additional features include four selectable aspect ratios (4:3, 1.66:1, 1.78:1, and anamorphic), three adjustable color temperature settings, a built-in NTSC tuner, and a built-in DVDO PureProgressive(tm) line doubler.
The telecine market, dominated by Cintel and Philips over the last few years, heats up with new offerings from Sony and Innovation TK. At press time, Sony's as-yet-untitled machine was in beta; the company had no word on a release date. But ITK delivered its first Millennium Machine, laying down a challenge to both leading manufacturers.
For years, ITK made its name designing enhancements to Cintel's popular URSA telecine. But now with the Millennium Machine, the company introduces the first telecine of its own design. The new Millennium Machine offers a unique optical system and builds upon a number of the improvements that the company has designed over the years. With the redesigned CRT, for example, ITK solves noise problems on the blue channel via a newly created white phosphor. The company says that the new phosphor is brighter, whiter, and better at matching film images. Resolution independence in the Millennium Machine means the telecine transfers frames up to 4K; film handling runs from Super-8 to 70mm. An improved light path includes a new achromatic lens created by Barry Johnson, one of the designers of NASA's Hubble telescope lens. The first Millennium Machine delivered in January to Santa Monica-based Pacific Data Post.
Cintel will deliver a substantial upgrade path for URSA owners and a totally new entry-level model. The upgrade for Gold and Diamond URSAs turns them into the CALLISTO. Cintel spots the package for those companies who don't expect to add telecines but who also don't want to see their current investments languish. While the upgrade includes the electronics used in C-Reality, there's no change out of the optical system.
Cintel also introduces RASCAL, an entry-level machine expected to price around $600,000. Although it provides film transfers for both HD and standard-definition output, the RASCAL cannot transfer 4K frames (the C-Reality, however, does have this capability). For the C-Reality, look for enhancements in data operation, OEM integration, image quality, and a number of new creative features.
DAV, showing in the Options International booth, introduces a package replacing major components in the standard MkIII telecines that also allows HD transfers. This will include HD versions of ClrView and Film Grain Reducer. Also in the Options booth, check out First Art's primal. Its hardware-based Image Processing Engine works with telecines to offer real-time computer-graphic filters.
JVC has dropped the DIGITAL-S name from its flagship recording format. Introduced at NAB in 1995, the 4:2:2 50Mb/s format now goes by the SMPTE-assigned D-9 moniker, which users ended up favoring.
While providing no figures, JVC claims that the format's popularity is quickly growing, with price/performance ratio, robust 1/2-inch tape size, and the incredibly long head life among the top reasons users give. The company says it has received field reports of up to 13,000 hours of head life with just normal maintenance.
JVC's new DY-70 camcorder offers 14-bit digital signal processing, 4:2:2 sampling, and a 50Mb/s data rate. The camera uses 1/2-inch CCDs with CCD micro lens technology. (The next step up in resolution is via the DY-90, JVC's 2/3-inch CCD camcorder.) The total weight of the DY-70 is only 15 pounds, but it offers features such as four-channel audio. The price of the camcorder has yet to be announced, but it's expected to come in around that of the DY-700. The DY-70 will replace the DY-700.
Arri, in collaboration with the highly regarded lens maker Carl Zeiss, has spent the last few years finishing a complete rebuild of its prime lens family. Now delivering are its 12 ULTRA PRIMES. Ranging from 10mm to 135mm, the lenses come in at a remarkable T1.9 rating. There's total internal focusing, of course, with only a small, lightweight lens group moving in the interior. This keeps the lid on drift problems in the focus and iris gears.
In response to clamoring from cinematographers, Arri has introduced new techniques to suppress stray light for increased color saturation. Image crispness was an important design consideration, too. A high MTF (Modulation Transfer Function) enables rendering of 10 line pairs/mm, a frequency dealing with image crispness. Even the iris has been redesigned; the iris blades' smoother contours make the depiction of unsharp light sources (e.g. street lights in the background) more round than angular, yielding a more natural look.
As part of a new effort called Media Without Bounds, the Grass Valley Group (GVG) demonstrates a wide range of options for its MPEG Profile XP "media platforms," or servers. The company hopes to promulgate its ideas of interoperability throughout the production, post, and distribution realms.
GVG claims it has shipped the most number of MPEG server channels worldwide. For the Media Without Bounds initiative, MPEG Transport Stream (MTS) is key. This interface, intended to streamline and lower the cost of distribution, ends up improving quality by sidestepping the problem of signal concatenation. (As used in transmission, concatenation refers to multiple compression and decompression operations.) That's a problem as MPEG compression spreads more widely. GVG's MTS input eliminates a decoding and recoding stage in the distribution chain by moving compressed video data directly onto the server. So a broadcaster might use the Profile XP to take in MPEG material coming from a Sony IMX deck and then immediately play it out as baseband video. GVG also plans to be the first to deliver Dolby E capability for the XP platform.
When da Vinci bought Sierra Design Labs last year, the color-corrector manufacturer spoke of potential e-cinema applications that would employ both companies' devices. That is not yet available, but da Vinci will deliver another product delivers at the show: a random-access color corrector.
Da Vinci says that the color corrector, which combines Sierra and da Vinci technology, won't tie up those million-dollar-plus telecines. Joe Moore, director of marketing at da Vinci, figures the setup will increase telecine throughput, while giving colorists a more natural way to work (i.e., within a fast, nonlinear environment). The device currently works with both the C-Reality and Spirit telecines.
Also in the da Vinci and Sierra Design booth: the Revival Digital film-restoration system. Revival's workstation and server combo, distributed by da Vinci, is designed to remove scratches and other film flaws at up to 2K/frame resolution.
Philips estimates that 60- to 80-percent of a telecine's time is spent in still mode as color corrections are made. The company points out that when a telecine is in stop mode, the machine becomes "nothing more than a very expensive frame store feeding a still image to a color correction system." The company designed the Specter Virtual DataCine as an offline solution. Here, the Spirit telecine streams the image data to the VDC as files; users can then apply color correction and image manipulation, and garner multi-format output in a much more cost-effective mode.
During high-speed transfers, a buffer to hold the data makes sense, as high-speed RAID-type storage alone can't accommodate the huge amounts of data. This is where Philips' Phantom TransferEngine comes in. Designed around an SGI server and workstation, the setup pools data, which users can then feed to high-speed data tape drives (such as Ampex's DST) or shunt to a facility's network. The Phantom includes an SGI Octane and O2 backed up by a FC disk array. All of this connects to the Spirit DataCine via high-speed HIPPI connections.
Until now, you couldn't find a tape-based system capable of recording uncompressed HD. At the show Philips will unveil its Voodoo Media Recorder, an uncompressed HD VTR designed in collaboration with Toshiba. Based on the D6 recording format (SMPTE 277/278M), the new DCR 6024 VTR offers 1080p recording with 24p frames at 10 bits per channel. (The Voodoo records a number of other 1080 progressive and interlaced formats at various frame rates.) Uniquely, the Voodoo handles up to 12 channels of 48kHz AES audio, making it the only machine to record and play multi-channel Dolby AC3 sound within the DTV standards.
Post Impressions' SpiDDR HD can be tightly integrated with telecines and color correctors; it forms a central store for stills, clips, and works in progress. The "device" is actually a software creation. SpiDDR HD was developed when the company rewrote its flagship SpiDDR software for the SpiRINT HD workstation. Designed for telecine, graphics, and machine rooms, SpiDDR HD offers format and resolution-independent storage, I/O, and networking. Because it is Windows NT-based, the workstation operates as a central gateway to PCs, Macs, and UNIX networks and delivers a reliable frame-accurate HD video I/O with machine control. At NAB, Post Impressions' SpiRINT will demo running piCCASO, the result of a joint development with color-corrector manufacturer Pandora International. The product enables multi-resolution, real-time, disk-to-disk color correction. Targets include facilities that might want to optimize their multi-million dollar telecine investment by decoupling the transfer from the creative color-correction process. The company says the device will be ideal for the HDTV tape-to-tape color-correction market where it speeds up the process while saving on VTR maintenance.
EMC, perhaps the largest worldwide provider of enterprise storage systems, won't be pushing its hardware at the show. Instead, look for demos of their take on media asset management, media streaming, multi-channel broadcasting, and even direct-to-home delivery. Also in their booth will be system-building partners including Louth, Omnibus, Philips, Sony, and Virage.
Thomson Broadcast offers its own SAN solution, built around the Nextore RAID system. At the show, Nextore will be demonstrated in today's hot SAN application: broadcast news. Thompson will also add new compression formats, including DV and MPEG2.
Medea has gained a reputation for delivering "value-priced" RAID storage; currently, $4,000 gets you 150GB of storage. That low-ball pricing approach will be welcome in the SAN market. Pricing of the new Fiber Channel VideoRaid FC and VideoRack FC starts at $23 per gigabyte.
The six-drive VideoRaid FC fits on the desktop. The VideoRack FC, which fits in the standard 19-inch rack mount, also sports removable drives that offer a sustained transfer rate of 60MB/s. That rate supports a single stream of uncompressed video and can deliver real-time, multistream video for NLE systems at broadcast resolutions of up to 500KB/frame.
FAST Multimedia will announce a partnership with Rorke Data and Mercury Computer Systems. The combination of technologies will allow multiple FAST 601 NLEs to use the same media and consecutively work on the same project files. While such a setup was possible before, each of the companies involved now pitches products as having a much lower entry fee for such a FC SAN system.
Viewgraphics presented one of the first workstations to handle uncompressed HD at last year's NAB. This year, the company will offer the DTV:Xstream, its fully functional model that features the MediaPump and VideoPump interface adapters installed in a Windows NT tower. Currently, the DTV:Xstream line includes servers and workstations from IBM, HP, and AMI. Viewgraphics has already approved systems from Ciprico, Medea, and Nstore/Andataco.
Kaydara's flagship product, FiLMBOX, integrates with all the major 3D packages to offer a software suite for motion capture, animation, and interactive rendering on Windows NT and SGI. Now, Kaydara has a broadcast slant. FiLMBOX on-air delivers real-time 3D graphics production for virtual backgrounds, as well as motion graphics for news, sports, and other programming. The product includes online and offline tools for the design, setup, and playback of 3D and 2D content for ITU-601 or HD resolution material.
Advanced Rendering Technology (ART) says its RenderDrive RD5000, shipping this March, delivers between three to five times the performance of its current RenderDrive RD2000. The RenderDrive line of ray-tracing graphics devices combines rendering software and custom ray-trace rendering processors. The company says this approach offers both speed and good image quality without the drawbacks of high initial investment and day-to-day administration of standard render farms. Suggested list price: $24,950.
In January, ART announced Version 2.0 of the RenderDrive software, which controls the implementation of Pixar's RenderMan software. (The ART system uses RenderMan exclusively.) RenderPipe RIB, the client-side interface for RenderMan users, makes possible the rendering of RenderMan RIB files generated by 3D apps such as Alias' Maya and Side Effects' Houdini. Version 2.0 also includes support for object motion blur, as well as a new sampling technique for improved accuracy and performance in rendering.
Evans & Sutherland claims a 30-percent performance increase for its Lightning 1200 and E&S Tornado 3000 graphics cards. The catch? Either of the cards must be used in conjunction with Intel's 820 chipset technology, which supports one of the latest Intel CPUs, the 733MHz processor.
E&S posts some competitive test results on its Web site (www.es.com/wg). One test, 4Views.max, runs direct comparisons between its E&S Tornado 3000 and Intense 3D's Wildcat 4110. It simultaneous checks display in four viewports within 3D Studio MAX R3. The test stresses the video card's ability to move objects interactively in a four-viewport setup. Since the Tornado lists for $1,299, the company says it can show superior results even while pricing approximately $1,200 less than the Wildcat 4110.
ICE has found success mapping its high-speed graphics boards to highly popular software, such as Adobe After Effects. Now, Apple's Final Cut Pro, another program with fast-growing popularity, gets "ICE'd."
This past December, ICE also started shipping its BlueICE SDI Video, an add-on daughter card to BlueICE's real-time hardware. The $2,000 daughter card enables After Effects users, for example, to digitize, preview, and layoff in real-time, all while staying within the AE environment. With the card installed, users can capture uncompressed 8-bit 4:2:2 YcrCb SDI video directly to disk.
Now in version 4.1, the API for Adobe After Effects has been extended, yielding better integration between AE and plug-ins. Nothing Real, for example, developed an exporter module for AE that enables AE to create a project file directly in Shake. All the layers, timings, and keyframes from the AE job patch to related modules within Shake. This means less-experienced (read "cheaper") staff can rough out jobs in AE, an inexpensive software platform, porting the results to Shake. Then, more experienced graphic artists can work on them.
At NAB, Nothing Real will be demonstrating its latest version, Shake 2.2, released earlier this year. Also expect a sneak preview of Shake 2.5, as well as a preliminary version of the company's new product line focusing on the postproduction of ITU-601, HDTV, and digital filmmaking. In addition, announcements of strategic technology partnerships will be made. (For example, Nothing Real currently sells a video-res version of Shake through a partnership with Media 100.)
Building on its successful real-time nonlinear editing system, dpsVelocity, Digital Processing Systems will release dpsVelocity 7.5 at NAB. The new release will feature MPEG-2 and Web-streaming capabilities, as well as a host of enhanced editing features. DPS will also highlight Version 2.0 of its Reality package. Reality 2.0 supplies animators, compositors, and effects artists with more powerful editing functions, a networked virtual file system, and support for multiple real-time Web-streaming output formats, such as MPEG-1, MPEG-2, and RealVideo.
At NAB Discreet will announce a new business structure designed to better market Discreet products to four key markets: broadcast, post-production and production, video games/interactive, and Web media.
Company officials say this move is designed to reflect the growing importance of new media and lower-cost tools in the overall production equation, and to emphasize the company's belief that it can offer seamless, soup-to-nuts integration of editing, effects, compositing, and other post functions, between its various high-end and desktop offerings.
On the high end, the company will announce feature improvements or new versions of existing effects and editing tools, including Inferno, Flame, Flint, Fire, and Smoke. But, as part of its new strategy, Discreet will also put a new emphasis on software-based, desktop effects and compositing tools. Teresa Ragan, Discreet's post products marketing manager, says the company is planning what she calls "a major announcement of a new NT- and Mac-based compositing and effects system" at the show. Ragan couldn't disclose details at press time, but says the new product will include "inherited Inferno technology" to permit desktop compositing.
The company will also demo new workflow solutions including Backdraft, which performs background digitizing, archiving, and media management functions. Another tool, called JobNet, is designed to improve functionality for users of Edit, by permitting editors to exchange project data in a secured, high-speed, networked environment.
Discreet is not planning to unveil any specific, new products at NAB as part of its evolving Internet strategy, but Ragan say the company will be offering demos of what she calls "new content creation solutions for the Internet." Discreet will also devote a portion of its booth to luring show-goers into what Ragan calls "a whisper dialogue" about future Internet solutions.
Dave Warner, General Manager, Click 3X, Atlanta HOT: Lower-cost solutions in nonlinear finishing. New media-Flash animation, compression technologies, streaming media-anything that speeds up broadband applications. And, of course, high-def technology: That's the only thing that will support the traditional postproduction model. NOT: Million-dollar boxes. This business won't support high payroll and high overhead anymore. It won't support anything that requires high rates and many hours to see return in investment.
Howard Schwartz, Howard Schwartz Recording, New York HOT: Bright new inexpensive solutions and ideas to make my life better. Specifically, I'd like three of four providers of DTV to say, "We've decided to have one format." I'd also like to see a motorized walkway between the Convention Center and Sands and edible food in either one. NOT: Mag recorders. I'm also tired of seeing stuff that looks great but won't work until the third quarter of 2001.
Tom Angell, Interface Media Group, Washington D.C. HOT: Booth reps who can answer three questions: 1) What does this product do? 2) How can it make me or save me money? 3) Why should I be interested enough in this to spend any more time here? About five years ago, someone took the total amount of time the show was open and divided it by the number of booths. It came out to six minutes per booth, and I bet it would be way less time if you did that today. Give me a 30-second commercial at the booth. NOT: Products being called "solutions" when I don't even know what the problem is. We need education on nontraditional technology and less of a litany of tech specs. People are talking the language of computers, but many of us hear in the language of broadcast.
Mitchell Brill, Director of Operations, Lifetime Studios, New York HOT: Multi-format digital equipment (cameras, switchers, VTRs, etc.) for studio production, digital-server and asset-management solutions, and any equipment and systems to support new media like broadband production. NOT: What's getting old besides me? The presentation of equipment that isn't really available, doesn't really work, and doesn't really offer total system solutions.
Doug Cheek, President and CEO, GTN Inc., Oak Park, Michigan HOT: Network and distribution technology. The issue of the management of assets is important right now. NOT: The proliferation of tape formats. Also, I really like to get into a demo unofficially, under the radar. But if you're not a focused customer, you can be involuntarily moved 35 feet. Oh, and I'm sick of nasty hotel rooms which allege to be smoke-free.
Carlo DiPersio, President, ViewPoint Studios, Needham, Massachusetts HOT: Non linear editing systems that offer more real-time layering capability and more tools for the creation and delivery of streaming media and DVD mastering. NOT:Demo artists who don't know what they're doing and hardware that doesn't work as advertised.
Will Hoover, President, Realtime Video, San Francisco HOT: I don't have to buy anything. Our clients are not clamoring for us to buy some new, ruinously expensive toys. We have all the toys we need (and they work!); we have all the compression codecs we need, high-speed data transmission and the infrastructure to support everything. This also means that we haven't been forced into making one high-def commitment or other. With a great sigh of relief, I realized we wouldn't have to trash everything in the facility in favor of an HD upgrade -an upgrade which our industry clients nationally had made abundantly clear they were not interested in paying for. NOT: It's time to acknowledge that a "No Commitment to New Technologies" attitude is viable. The hardware manufacturers are like sharks constantly driven through the water to survive. Manufacturers must constantly come out with streams of new products to (theoretically) titillate our clients. We don't even have the time to learn the new (software) tools that we already have!
Solid State Logic's new toy is the Aysis Air Mobile. It's a compact console for broadcast production vehicles and studios with space restrictions. SSL's channel-layering technology allows for a fully specified 96-channel console in a 48-fader frame that measures in at less than 92 inches wide. See for yourself at Booth R2074. In the meantime, go to www.solid-state-logic.com.
NEC claims its GigaStation is the first optical disk-based (MVDISC) DVR. The product is not pitched at the professional market; it's a retail item in Japan, designed for capturing standard-definition video. But the technology provides inexpensive storage possibilities for video-on-demand and streaming. Each MVDISC (Multimedia Video DISC) cartridge holds 5.2 GB of video and audio on one side. That's about 2 hours' worth of S-VHS-quality video.
Innovative chip makers are helping to drive streaming products. NEC uses TeraLogic's TL750 graphics processor to deliver a detailed graphical interface. On the fly, the chip captures and scales incoming video into thumbnail stills that can be used for navigation.
OBVIOUS Technology launched its Media Manager last fall, providing an end-to-end system for creating, distributing, searching, and viewing rich multimedia files over the Internet. Obvious designed the server-based software (client software runs on PCs, Macs, and Unix gear) to help integrate digital video with other types of media content, including text, graphics, sound, and HTML. The user creates OBVI media "containers," which can be queried and distributed over LAN/WAN networks.
Sun's Java technology continues to broaden in appeal for Web-graphics development, including virtual-world building. Sun's Java 3D API allows developers to quickly build, render, and control the behavior of 3D objects and visual environments across Windows, Macintosh, and most UNIX platforms.
Now, the Java 3D API is available on SGI's IRIX operating system. Version 1.2 enables control over animation and motion and includes collision detection, 3D spatial audio, morphing, and the ability to connect to various input devices. There's also support for continuous action devices such as head and body trackers.
REALVIZ, developer of 2D image processing and 3D modeling tools, will showcase at NAB its full suite of software products, The Image Processing Factory. The Factory includes four integrated applications: MatchMover, Image Modeler, Retimer, and Sticher.
MatchMover, REALVIZ's 3D camera tracker, allows users to align live-action footage with 3D animation. The software tracks designated 2D points in a live-action sequence and then computes a 3D camera path from this information. It also calculates the 3D coordinates of objects in live-action footage, allowing users to insert 3D objects that are properly synchronized to object movement in the original footage. The company claims that MatchMover is the only 3D camera tracker running standalone on both Windows NT and SGI IRIX.
With Retimer, REALVIZ's "time warper," users can slow down or speed up sequences and create new frames between existing frames. The software interpolates new frames by analyzing the pixel motion between frames. Users can edit these frames in real-time and before processing the entire sequence, which the company says saves processing time.
Image Modeler, which had just begun shipping at press time, is the newest addition to The Image Processing Factory. The company touts the product as the first high-end "image-based modeler" to produce photo-realistic 3D models from photo, video, or film images. The software analyzes an unlimited number of images to capture the 3D geometry and textures of objects in the scene. REALVIZ says that this technique speeds up the modeling process because it automates the definition of both geometry and textures.
Sticher combines still photographs to create high-resolution panoramic images, useful for the creation of matte paintings and environment mapping. The software calibrates camera parameters from original images-without requiring additional information about the camera or the scale of the scene. Users can export created panoramas into MatchMover or ImageModeler for calibration to a 3D coordinate system.
In January, IBM and Avid announced plans to offer the Complete Solution, an all-in-one, turnkey digital-video editing and publishing solution. The idea? To simplify many of the logistical challenges of editing and distributing video communications, especially over the Internet.
The alliance marries Avid's editing know-how with IBM's extensive service-oriented Internet network. The product uses an IBM IntelliStation M Pro workstation, Avid Xpress DV video editing software, and IBM's Web-based video hosting and distribution services. Avid Xpress DV software creates MPEG1, MPEG2, AVI, and QuickTime for use in CD, DVD, Internet, intranet streaming applications and presentation tools like PowerPoint.
The solution is pre-installed with the Matrox Millennium G400 4X AGP graphics card and the Canopus DV Raptor Adapter IEEE 1394 interface. The Avid/IBM solution includes two Ultra 2 SCSI hard drives: a 9.1GB drive for the operating system and programs and a 18.2GB drive for data.
Audio features include real-time mix and monitor of up to eight audio tracks, real-time rubberband gain adjustments, waveform display in timeline, adjustable audio input/output levels, and eight audio tracks with real-time audio EQ (presets "filter noises that are often present in corporate environments").
Designed to hit today's hot-selling video-over-the-Internet market, the Complete Solution allows "mainstream" professionals to communicate more effectively with video on the Web and other media. How much? $8,750.
With that relatively low price, the Complete Solution hits the new sweet spot in the post market. Industry research firm META Group says that sales of digital-video editing systems in the sub-$10,000 category doubled from 1997 to 1998 alone. Meanwhile, the mainstream market for digital-video systems is expected to grow at a pace fast enough to support the more than 400,000 Web sites that are already video-enabled.
Complete Solution includes IBM's Web-based video hosting services. When the video is ready for distribution, users can send it back out to DV tape or compress it into one of three Web-based, video-streaming formats (RealNetworks G2, Windows Media, or QuickTime). Then, users can upload it to a server maintained by IBM Global Services and place streaming and download information about the video on a customized Web page. Those wanting to view the video can then stream it or download it to their own personal computer.
Customers of Avid Xpress DV on IBM IntelliStation can obtain up to 100MB of video storage and distribution service (approximately five hours of compressed video) without charge for three months. The service is fee-based after three months.
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