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January 30, 2007

Easier Editing: Adobe Premiere Elements 3.0

More power! But also easier to use. More formats and more devices! And yet drag-and-drop simplicity. It's a tough challenge for the developers of consumer-oriented video editing software. We want to import from any camcorder, edit with ease and sophistication, share to any portable device, and burn nice-looking DVDs -- and not have to spend any time fussing and learning about the software.

The latest evolution in this trend is Adobe Premiere Elements 3.0, announced in September 2006. In this release, Premiere Elements still keeps much of the underlying power of Adobe's professional Premiere Pro product, but further simplifies the editing experience by adopting more features from traditional consumer-only editing, including Sceneline (storyboard) layout and direct editing in the Monitor window.

Full article: Easier Editing: Adobe Premiere Elements 3.0


February 13, 2007

Basic Video Editing and DVD Authoring with Ulead VideoStudio 10

It's easier than ever to create good-looking productions using consumer video editing software, turning your video into a nice movie production, complete with transitions between scenes, background music, title text, and fun video effects. And you can share movies as video files for computer playback, or post for friends to view over the Web, or download to a iPod to take with you, or even burn on DVD to watch in the living room.

Let's walk though the video editing and DVD authoring process, using Ulead VideoStudio 10 to demonstrate some of the latest capabilities in these applications. VideoStudio uses a nice step-by-step approach in its interface, which makes it easy for beginners (and occasional users) to figure out what to do and how to do it.

Full article: Basic Video Editing and DVD Authoring -- with Ulead VideoStudio 10

February 18, 2007

SmartSound Quicktracks for Adobe Premiere -- free!

SmartSound Software announced that it is giving away its Quicktracks for Adobe Premiere software as a free download for users of Adobe Premiere Pro and Premiere Elements (on Windows).

Quicktracks is a plug-in that works within the Premiere timeline to automatically compose royalty-free music soundtracks, adjusted to fit the exact length of your clips. You search the available music by style, intensity, and other attributes, select a variation within the selected score, and then generate the resulting soundtrack for your production. The resulting score not only fits your timeline, but also is composed with a clear musical beginning and ending.

The Quicktracks download includes ten royalty-free music scores, although SmartSound hopes that you then will be interested in purchasing some of its extensive music and sound libraries to generate different styles of audio for your productions. As a result, it also has put its entire collection of more than 90 Professional-Quality (44k) stereo music and sound effects libraries on sale for half price -- $49.95.



Continue reading "SmartSound Quicktracks for Adobe Premiere -- free!" »


February 27, 2007

Intelligent Video Surveillance with SightLogix

You would think that computer-based video surveillance would be a no-brainer -- just point the camera outside and have the computer alert you when it detects anything interesting. But it turns out that "understanding" activity in outdoor scenes is horrendously difficult for computers. The world is full of complex motion, from trees and leaves blowing in the wind, to dramatic lighting changes from clouds passing overhead and shadows popping into view, to birds or other wildlife flashing through the view.

As a result, simple motion detection with consumer cameras like the Creative Live! Wireless Internet Camera is best used to monitor static indoor scenes, and even professional intelligent video surveillance systems can generate many false and nuisance alarms.

Even worse, setting up such a system for a large site becomes a messy logistical undertaking, requiring installation of the cameras and associated runs of cabling, plus establishing what is essentially an IT data center for the video and computer equipment required to monitor and process all that video.

A Princeton-based company, SightLogix, Inc., has a better idea -- taking advantage of the relentless miniaturization of technology to move the intelligence into the cameras themselves. The camera then does the processing locally, taking advantage of all the detail available in the camera, and then requires only a low-bandwidth, even wireless, connection to report alerts. As a result, cameras can be deployed quickly around a site, and even run stand-alone with solar power.

Full article: SightLogix: Intelligent Video Surveillance, the smart way

March 9, 2007

Audio Editing for Video: Adobe Soundbooth

Video editors are focused on video, and yet we all realize the importance of audio in setting the emotional tone of a production. But what's the best way to work with audio within a video production environment? You can capture, edit, and enhance audio clips within video editing tools like Adobe Premiere Pro, but these really are designed for assembling, mixing, and enhancing a production across multiple tracks, and really are not focused on preparing the individual clips.

To address this need, Adobe acquired the Cool Edit Pro audio editor from Syntrillium Software in May 2003, and soon integrated it into the Adobe Video Collection suite, renamed as Adobe Audition. But as Audition has evolved and grown as a powerful tool for audio editors, it has expanded beyond the basic needs of video editors to just clean and enhance audio clips.

So Adobe has taken the next step and developed a new product, Adobe Soundbooth, building the key features of Audition into a more focused tool for the needs of creative professionals. Soundbooth is all about quick and efficient preparation of audio tracks -- recording, editing, cleaning -- but without the need for training in sound production.

Adobe will then include Soundbooth -- for Windows and also Intel-based Macintosh -- in the new Adobe Production Studio bundle, due to be officially announced as part of the new Adobe Creative Suite 3 on March 27, 2007. Meanwhile, Audition will live on, as Adobe plans to continue to develop it as a standalone product for audio professionals working in markets such as broadcast radio.

Even more interestingly, Adobe has started releasing preliminary versions of some of its products as public betas through its Adobe Labs website -- including Soundbooth for Windows and Mac, and the new Adobe Photoshop CS3 for the Macintosh.

So let's take a look at the new Adobe Soundbooth, as a sneak preview of Adobe's big announcement later this month.



Continue reading "Audio Editing for Video: Adobe Soundbooth" »


March 27, 2007

Adobe Creative Suite 3

Adobe's Creative Suite 3 was just announced today -- March 27, 2007-- at the formal launch event in New York City.

This is a huge upgrade of the Adobe Creative product line, with design and development tools spanning the creative workflow -- to create, deliver, and play back -- across print, web, video, interactive and mobile.

Beyond the upgrades to all the Adobe (and now Macromedia) applications, the tools are even more tightly integrated, especially with extensive support for Flash design and export from Adobe's recent acquisition of Macromedia. CS3 also marks the return of the video Production tools to the Macintosh platform.

CS3 includes some 13 applications, bundled in 6 suites (Design, Web, and Production), plus 6 additional technology components:

New versions of the Adobe Design tools
- Photoshop CS3, Illustrator CS3, InDesign CS3 -- Plus new Photoshop CS3 Extended
New versions of the Adobe video Production tools
- After Effects CS3 Professional, Premiere Pro CS3, Encore CS3
- Plus new Soundbooth CS3 (replacing Audition)
- Plus new tools from the Serious Magic acquisition
- OnLocation CS3, Ultra CS3 (Windows only)
Plus integrated Web tools from the Macromedia acquisition
- Flash CS3 Professional, Dreamweaver CS3, Contribute CS3, Fireworks CS3
Plus Acrobat 8 Professional
Plus additional bundled technology components
- Adobe Bridge CS3, Adobe Acrobat Connect, Adobe Stock Photos
- Adobe Version Cue CS3, Adobe Device Central CS3, Adobe Dynamic Link

The Design and Web applications ship in April 2007, and the Production tools ship in the third quarter 2007.

For more, including a summary chart of the suites and applications, see the full article:
Adobe Creative Suite 3: Summary.

    Check out Adobe Creative Suite 3 on Amazon.com.

April 1, 2007

Pinnacle PCTV HD Pro Stick

For TV on your PC, the Pinnacle PCTV line has been updated to now support HDTV. Yes, you can watch over-the-air HDTV on your computer with the new Pinnacle PCTV HD Pro Stick.

This is not a PCI board or a big external device, it's just a small stick (around 1 1/4 x 2 3/4 inches), with a USB connector at one end and a TV antenna input (F-connector) at the other.

There's also an A/V adaptor cable with inputs for composite video (RCA), S-Video, and stereo audio (3.5mm headphone plug).

The product includes all the other parts you might need, with a telescopic antenna to set up near a window, and a USB extender cable to reach from your computer.

The PCTV HD Pro Stick uses the Pinnacle MediaCenter software to set up the available analog and digital channels, connect to the included remote control, and then watch and record TV and listen to Internet radio. And it includes Pinnacle Studio QuickStart to edit your captured video and recordings.

See full article: Pinnacle PCTV HD Pro Stick

Pinnacle Studio MovieBox Plus

Pinnacle has refocused as a consumer brand after Avid acquired Pinnacle in early 2005 and then integrated Pinnacle's professional broadcast products with Avid's product line (Liquid Edition is now Avid Liquid).

There's the flagship Pinnacle Studio home video editing software, plus Studio bundled with video capture hardware. And the affordable Dazzle hardware for easy video archiving, editing, and TV viewing. Plus the PCTV line to watch, record and time-shift TV on a PC. Pinnacle also has added a Mobile Media line for place-shifting -- managing and moving videos, photos and music to portable devices, including the Apple iPod, Sony PSP, and DivX devices.

The Pinnacle Studio software is available stand-alone, or bundled with video capture hardware -- both PCI boards and external USB break-out boxes. The Studio MovieBox is the USB version -- a palm-sized external device with analog and digital connectors, easy to connect to a desktop or laptop PC, especially for analog capture.

The MovieBox has inputs for composite video (RCA connector), S-Video, and stereo audio (2 RCA) for NTSC, PAL, and SECAM. There's also a FireWire in/out connector for hooking up a DV camcorder, and the USB connector to the PC.

Studio MovieBox Plus then is the enhanced bundle, with video and audio output connectors on the back side of the box, especially to connect to a TV for real-time preview of your edits. It also upgrades the software to support HDV editing with Studio Plus Titanium Edition.

And for studio and videocast productions, Pinnacle also adds a professional hand-held microphone with a small table stand for narration and interviews, plus a 10 by 12 foot green-screen cloth to use as a chroma-key backdrop for compositing overlay effects. Pinnacle even includes USB and FireWire cables.

See full article: Pinnacle Studio MovieBox Plus / Studio 10.5

April 23, 2007

NAB / Deliver Everywhere: Adobe's Creative Suite 3

One of the themes of this year's NAB conference last week in Las Vegas was the continued proliferation of formats, channels, and devices that content developers need to support for delivering media.

This broad range of needs for even today's independent and corporate content developers is demonstrated by the focus on suites of creation tools from companies including Apple, Avid, and Sony -- and in the highly-integrated new Adobe Creative Suite 3 line.


Just look at the range of delivery options for today's markets -- high-definition with surround sound to tiny screens with headsets, long-form productions to snackable clips, huge flat-screen monitors to hand-held portable players and mobile phones, streaming Internet to physical disc, lean-back passive entertainment to lean-forward interactivity, Windows to Macintosh to Linux to embedded CE devices, set-top to desktop to portable.

Adobe has been working on the next generation of its design and development tools since the release of the previous version, Creative Suite 2, in 2005. While Adobe typically releases major updates on a two-year cycle, it added to its workload for this release by pre-announcing that it would be bringing its full suite of production tools back to the now Intel-based Macintosh platform.

But even Adobe's tool set was not broad enough in this age of Internet media and interactivity, so Adobe acquired Macromedia in 2005 in order to add Web tools and especially Flash to its portfolio.

The result of this effort was officially announced in March 2007 -- the Adobe Creative Suite 3 product line, addressing production across the range of print, web, interactive, video, film, and mobile. This collection includes full upgrades of 13 major applications, several new applications, plus some 6 additional technology components.

The Design and Web components of the suite officially shipped on April 16, with the Production (video) tools due to ship in the third quarter 2007.

What's so compelling about Adobe's strategy is the way the need for different delivery mechanisms has driven the applications to both extend into new domains and to integrate more tightly with each other...

See the full article -- Deliver Everywhere: Adobe's Creative Suite 3

April 26, 2007

Jan Ozer's Adobe Digital Video How-Tos

With the impending arrival of the new versions of Adobe's Production suite as part of Adobe Creative Suite 3 -- featuring Premiere Pro CS3 and After Effects CS3 Professional -- this is a good time to think about brushing up on your skills with these applications.

(See Adobe Creative Suite 3: Summary for an overview of the applications, suites, and pricing.)

Jan Ozer's recent book, Adobe Digital Video How-Tos: 100 Essential Techniques with Adobe Production Studio, provides a great resource for new ideas and more efficient workflow with these applications. This skips past all the obvious stuff -- like the basics of opening files, working on the timeline, and exporting in multiple formats -- to focus on tips for taking better advantage of these applications for a more efficient workflow and better results.


In particular, Ozer is great at exploring multiple ways of achieving specific results like text animation, chroma keying, motion tracking, and stabilization -- moving from quick fixes to more custom solutions, and from Premiere Pro to After Effects.

Along the way, Ozer includes sidebar notes to explain some of the fundamentals that you may have missed. And he speaks in a friendly tone, for example explaining in "Five Things You Don't Know About Premiere Pro Transitions" that he's actually provided 11 concepts, but he's only promising 5 since he assumes that "you know at least several of them."

Ozer, of course, is the ridiculously prolific author of multiple books and regular articles in PC Magazine and EventDV. He also teaches courses in digital video production, and keeps his hands dirty and his mind in the game by shooting and producing DVDs for local musicians.

Order from Amazon.com


Contents and more details below ...



Continue reading "Jan Ozer's Adobe Digital Video How-Tos" »


April 27, 2007

Adobe CS3: Upgrading to Master Collection


Want the whole Adobe CS3 Master Collection?
You can get the Design or Web suite now, and then pay the difference in price to add the video production tools when they ship this summer.



Adobe's recent release of Creative Suite 3 should make design folks happy (with the new Photoshop, InDesign, and suitemates) as well as please Web developers (with rebranded and rebundled Flash, Dreamweaver, and friends from Macromedia). But video production folks are still patiently waiting for the new After Effects, Premiere Pro, and companion tools, which are due to be released this summer.

But the whole point of this suite is that today's developers need the full integrated set of applications -- to work on stills and video and animation -- and then deliver across documents, video, and the Web.

So what you really want is the full CS3 Master Collection -- some 13 applications, plus 6 additional technology components, bundled into one package for US $2499. And you want to get started with them now.

So how can you buy the shipping part of the package now, and upgrade to the video production tools when they become available?

The answer from Adobe is that you can do just that -- buy a CS3 Design or Web suite now, and then you will be able to step up to the full Master Collection for the difference in price (Adobe's estimated street price). This offer holds for both new purchases at full price and upgrades.



Continue reading "Adobe CS3: Upgrading to Master Collection" »


April 30, 2007

Adobe CS3 Production Suite: Summary


A summary of the Adobe CS3 Production Studio, with quick summaries of the included tools and technology components, highlighting the new features of each:



- Adobe After Effects CS3 Professional: Motion graphics & visual effects

- Adobe Premiere Pro CS3 Video editing

- Adobe Encore CS3 - Author professional-quality DVDs
- Adobe OnLocation CS3 - On-set monitoring and direct to disk capture
- Adobe Ultra CS3 - Quick, effective keying

- Adobe Soundbooth CS3 - Audio production tasks

- Adobe Media Encoder: Compress to media formats
- Adobe Device Central CS3: Preview for mobile devices
- Adobe Bridge CS3: Manage media visually

See full article: Adobe Creative Suite 3: Production Suite Summary

    Check out Adobe Creative Suite 3 on Amazon.com.

May 10, 2007

Summary: Ulead VideoStudio 11

Ulead VideoStudio 11 was released in April 2007, still focused on easy consumer editing with more automated assists for creating quick movies and snazzy-looking movie-style opening sequences.



VideoStudio is also bulked up with the latest technologies, especially for editing high-definition formats including AVCHD, with Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound, authoring to HD DVD discs, and exporting to portable devices like the Apple iPod and Sony PSP with MPEG-4 and H.264 format support.

VideoStudio is available in two editions:

- The base Ulead VideoStudio 11 for capturing video and images from any source, editing movies, and sharing on tape, DVD and the Web (USD $89.99 suggested retail).

- The full Ulead VideoStudio 11 Plus with MPEG-4 support, new high-def technology (HDV, AVCHD, HD DVD, Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound), enhanced portable device support (MPEG-4 and H.264), and the full set of easy corrective and creative filters ($129.99).

You can download trial versions of VideoStudio and related applications over the Web, so go ahead and give it a try.

See full article: Summary: Ulead VideoStudio 11

See the Video Editing Software Gallery with related products, consumer and professional.

    Check out Corel / Ulead VideoStudio 11 on Amazon.com.

May 29, 2007

Archos 704-WiFi Update: Wireless Media Playback

After further discussions with Archos, it's become clear that the Archos 704-WiFi supports wireless playback of media files only from files on a local network, and not over the Web using the Opera Web browser -- but the details are a bit odd.

To play files over the network, place them in a shared folder on a networked Windows machine. From the 704, use the file Browser application (not the Opera Web browser) and tap on Network to view available shares, listed under the Windows workgroup name. Then tap the networked machine and then shared folder name to browse and play stored media files.

However, when surfing the Internet with the Opera Web browser, there's no built-in support for playing media files over the Web. If you click on a link to a file with a known image file format like JPG or GIF, it displays the file. If you click on other file formats it recognizes like PDF and WMV, it offers to download them, so that you then can play them back locally. But if you click on a link to a media file with an unrecognized media format, the browser happily displays the contents of the file as if it was a Web page -- showing all the binary data as unprintable text. That can be a long download ... and there's no obvious list of which file types are handled in which way.

Oddly, there's no general way to check what a link points to, and then specify that you want to download the target of a link -- even though the software is already capable of downloading files. So you can view image files, but not download them; and you can download some video files, but not view them directly; and you can't download files that the browser does not recognize.

See full article: Video Players Go Wireless: Archos 704 WiFi

June 18, 2007

ZoneAlarm Crashes and Slow Boot

I'm a long-time user of the Check Point (formerly Zone Labs) ZoneAlarm firewall, so it was the first thing I installed on a new Dell Precision 490 workstation.


However, this time ZoneAlarm exploded into a frustrating series of crashes and hangs, which I never really got resolved even after lots of testing with the help of Zone Labs and Dell (gory detail below for fellow sufferers).

But out of all this testing came another discovery that was more of a doh! event -- ZoneAlarm adds a huge delay to startup, like 20 to 30 seconds, even on hot new machines.

Even on the new multi-core Dell Precision 490, I see a 20 second delay at the Welcome screen.

And an older Dimension 8200 desktop (P4 2.53 GHz), spends 22 seconds at the Welcome screen, then another 30 seconds hanging after initially drawing the gray desktop background!


But if I disable ZoneAlarm from running at startup, the Welcome screen flashes by in only a second or two. This is particularly odd, because manually launching ZoneAlarm after boot takes more like 6 seconds.

There's plenty of discussion of this on the Web and on ZoneAlarm's own forums, but it was helpful to have Check Point officially confirm this to me, saying that a 20 to 30 second delay is typical for firewall / anti-virus applications, and that the benefits of the protection ZoneAlarm provides outweighs the inconvenience of slower boot-up times.

So now at least I finally understand why I need to take a coffee break whenever I reboot a machine ...



Continue reading "ZoneAlarm Crashes and Slow Boot" »


June 26, 2007

Dell's New Inspirons -- Colorful Media

Dell announced its new consumer systems (and associated marketing campaign) today in a press event at Macy’s Herald Square in New York City. Dell has installed a Dell Lounge at Macy's to demonstrate these products for the next two weeks, as part of its ongoing but still-to-be-fully-disclosed push into augmenting its online business by adding sales through retail stores.

Dell also premiered its new consumer marketing campaign, with the slogan "Yours is Here" (www.dell.com/yoursishere), which "promises customers that Dell can deliver personalized devices that enable a great digital experience, virtually anywhere in the world."

Key themes in the announcement were personalization through color -- Dell notebooks now come in pink! -- and additional emphasis on addressing its customer support issues.


This is also the end of the line for the Dell Dimension brand: the Inspiron brand will now be used for the broad consumer line of desktops and notebooks, much as the XPS brand is already being used for both higher-end consumer desktops and notebooks.

I'll review some highlights and trends here, especially the digital media features which are being deployed more widely across the product line, and refer you to the Dell site for more information.



Continue reading "Dell's New Inspirons -- Colorful Media" »


July 1, 2007

Dell Colors on CNET TV

Rich DeMuro of CNET TV covered the Dell event that I blogged earlier in the week at Macy's Herald Square in New York City -- introducing the colorful new Inspiron notebooks.



I have a cameo starting at around 38 seconds in -- don't blink or you'll miss it ...

CNET TV - Dell's new colors - 6/26/07 - http://www.cnettv.com/9710-1_53-28104.html

July 2, 2007

Summary: CyberLink PowerDirector 6

CyberLink PowerDirector 6 is designed to make video editing straightforward and simple, especially for home users who want good results quickly and with a minimum of fuss.



While PowerDirector supports higher-end features like the new high-def formats and widescreen DVD, its focus is on "magic" automated assists for video editing, and sharing through portable devices (Apple iPod and Sony PSP) and the Web (YouTube).

Key new features include improved Magic editing tools, advanced options for PiP overlays, support for high-definition video and widescreen aspect ratios, a new DVD template designer, and easy publishing on the web.

There's now just a single version of PowerDirector priced at $89. Released in March 2007, it's available as a boxed retail product, or as a 417 MB download.

You can try out CyberLink PowerDirector for yourself by downloading the trial version from the CyberLink website -- it's a 30-day trial with some other limitations, and 192 MB.

The PowerDirector interface is built around a four-step workflow, using the Mode buttons at the top of the screen:

Capture mode: Capture from camcorders (DV, HDV), TV, PC cameras, CD, DVD
- Batch capture, Detect scenes
Edit mode: Import Media, Trim, Fix/Enhance with Magic Tools
- Add Effects, PiP Picture in Picture Objects, Titles, Transitions,
- Audio Mixing, Voice-Over Recording, DVD Chapters, DVD Subtitles
Produce mode: Export to Video File, Streaming Video
- Write to DV/HDV Tape, Upload to YouTube/MediaMax
Create Disc mode: Author and burn DVD, Design menus

See full article: Summary: CyberLink PowerDirector 6, on these workflow modes and highlighting the new features.

See the Video Editing Software Gallery with related products, consumer and professional.

    Find CyberLink PowerDirector 6 on Amazon.com.

July 5, 2007

Adobe Soundbooth: Audio for Video (Updated)

Adobe has just shipped the last part of its Adobe Creative Suite 3 -- the CS3 Production Premium suite of video tools -- including the new Adobe Soundbooth for audio editing

Adobe Soundbooth is targeted for creative professionals without the deep audio expertise of users of Adobe Audition. Soundbooth is all about quick and efficient preparation of audio tracks, so it focuses on the key tasks in preparing audio clips for use in video productions -- recording, editing, cleaning, and enhancing.


Soundbooth brings the magic of Audition's advanced technology into specific tasks, and allowing you to experiment dynamically with adjustable parameters. As a bonus, it also provides looping tools and the AutoComposer for customizing royalty-free soundtracks.

See my updated article: Adobe Soundbooth: Audio for Video

See Hart's Audition blog for updates from Hart Shafer, the product manager for Adobe's audio products.

    Find Adobe Soundbooth CS3 on Amazon.com

    Find Adobe CS3 Production Premium on Amazon.com

Adobe CS3 Production Premium Ships

Adobe has shipped the last part of its Adobe Creative Suite 3 -- the CS3 Production Premium suite of video tools -- with After Effects, Premiere Pro, Encore for DVD, plus the new Soundbooth for audio (replacing Audition in the suite), plus the new tools from Serious Magic: OnLocation for video monitoring and recording. and Ultra for video keying.


CS3 includes some 13 applications, bundled in 6 suites, plus 6 additional technology components.

Besides the Production suite focused on video editing, Adobe also offers Design suites (featuring Photoshop, Illustrator, and InDesign), and Web suites (featuring Flash and Dreamweaver). Or if you want them all, the full Adobe CS3 Master Collection is also now available.


See the Adobe Creative Suite 3: Summary article for details on the suites and the individual applications.

If you already have a Design or Web suite, see the earlier Adobe CS3: Upgrading to Master Collection post for information on upgrading with the Production tools.

See the Video Editing Software Gallery and DVD Authoring Software Gallery for information and links to editing and authoring tools.

See the Adobe Blogs site for insights on using the Adobe CS3 applications

    Find Adobe CS3 Production Premium on Amazon.com

    Find Adobe CS3 Master Collection on Amazon.com

July 8, 2007

Nero 7 Ultra Edition ENHANCED

Nero has continued to upgrade and expand its Nero 7 suite of tools for working with CD/DVD discs and digital media files. However, it's sometimes hard to keep track of what's going on with the product, since Nero confusingly does not use version numbers to identify its releases. By now, the current product release is identified by appending several superlatives to become Nero 7 Ultra Edition ENHANCED.


Nero is particularly strong with its core CD/DVD tools -- especially with disc burning using Nero Burning ROM, testing and understanding discs and drives with Nero ToolKit, and video and DVD conversion with Nero Recode.

And, like the Roxio Easy Media Creator (EMC) suite, Nero has expanded its suite to provide a broad collection of tools for handing digital media -- from data backup, to photo and audio editing, to video editing and DVD authoring. Plus, these suites offer tools to organize and manage all your media files, and share them across your home network. However, as with Roxio EMC, the Nero suite grown so large (Nero 7 is up to some 20 applications) that it includes a Nero StartSmart mini-application to help you figure out which tool to use to carry out a particular task.

The latest ENHANCED version adds Windows Vista support and additional high-def video formats, with editing and playback of AVCHD video and Blu-ray Disc (BD-AV), and enhanced Xbox 360 streaming capabilities. (The HD DVD Plug-In adds support for HD DVD playback for $24.99.)

If you want all-in-one collection of digital media tools, the Roxio Easy Media Creator suite has a broader collection of more powerful tools, including full VideoWave and PhotoSuite applications for video and audio editing. And Roxio has worked diligently to bring a friendly and consistent user interface to its collection of applications.

But the Nero 7 suite shines with its core capabilities and technology, including solid disc burning, media file format conversion, and support for high-def video, surround sound, and HD disc formats. So try it out.

Nero 7 Ultra Edition ENHANCED is available at retail for $99.99, and via download for $79.99. The additional HD-DVD plug-in costs $24.99. Nero offers free updates for users of previous versions of Nero 7. You also can download a 15-day trial version (173.57 MB).

See the DVD Authoring Software Gallery for more on DVD tools.

See my earlier article on Roxio Easy Media Creator 9

    Find Nero 7 Ultra Edition ENHANCED on Amazon.com

    Find Roxio Easy Media Creator 9 on Amazon.com

Details on the applications in the Nero 7 suite below ...



Continue reading "Nero 7 Ultra Edition ENHANCED" »


July 11, 2007

Downloading Clips from YouTube and Converting Flash Videos

YouTube and other short-form Web video sites are a huge hit, partially because of the way Flash Video makes them so easy to use -- just click on the video window, and the clip just starts playing. There's no fuss -- no separate player, no additional downloads, just the video playing right there in the browser.

Of course, it doesn't hurt that the Flash Player is "the world's most pervasive software platform," according to Adobe, reaching 98.7% of Internet-enabled desktops worldwide.


As Flash Video has become an extremely popular format for delivering video on the Internet, it is starting to be added as a video output format by both consumer and professional video editing tools -- Much as MPEG-2 become ubiquitous with the growth of DVD, and then MPEG-4 become an important feature with its use on the Apple iPod, Sony PSP, and mobile phones.

Yet, also like the MPEG formats, Flash was originally designed as a delivery format -- the final output to be played for the viewer -- and not as a general-purpose editing format like DV or AVI or QuickTime that could be saved, edited, and otherwise repurposed.

Sound familiar? Remember the early days of MPEG-2, when the DVD was a huge impenetrable block of stuff with the original content locked up inside -- playable, but not otherwise accessible? And then the early days of MPEG-4, when you could capture and play files on your mobile phone, but then struggled to find any solution for playing them on a computer (kudos to Apple QuickTime).

And now, of course, most video tools easily can crack open a DVD to extract the content, then edit MPEG-2 and even MPEG-4 files, and export clips with presets for the iPod, PSP, and more.

Now we're in the same beginning situation with Flash Video -- you can easily play it while browsing the Web, but there's no easy way to download those clips (.FLV and .SWF), much less play them on the desktop, or convert them to other formats.

Adobe is addressing this developing need with the Adobe Media Player,
a desktop media player due as a free beta later in 2007, which will provide the
ability to download and play back locally stored FLV files.

For professionals, the new Adobe Creative Suite 3 suite features the integration of Macromedia Flash into the Adobe product line, including exporting video (and even entire DVD productions) in Flash Video formats. And the Adobe Bridge media manager included with the CS3 suite can preview Flash Video files. But the CS3 tools do not import and edit Flash Video as a standard video format.

So, as in the early days of other new formats, the first answers are coming from small developers who can bring new technology into the market more quickly.

See full article for more details: Flash Video: Downloading from YouTube and Converting Video Files

Here's a summary of some of the alternatives to get you started, with more to follow ...



Continue reading "Downloading Clips from YouTube and Converting Flash Videos" »


July 14, 2007

Freeware Flash Tools: KeepVid, VLC, SUPER

To continue with our discussion of downloading and using Flash video on the desktop -- While this need is relatively new, the world of open source and freeware software has already responded with handy solutions. These are great for occasional use, but you may want to move up to the commercial tools for more options, friendlier interfaces, and more extensive production use.


The first step is to grab the Flash video off the Internet and download it as a file on your computer. This is not a typical feature for today's video sharing or even commercial sites with video, since the sites are focused on the video streaming experience -- and want to keep you in the browser to stay on the site (and view ads).

To grab a clip, the Keepvid site provides a free Web service to download videos as FLV files. Just enter the clip's URL, click the Download Link, and the browser saves the clip as a file on your computer.

Once the clip is downloaded as a Flash video ".flv" file, you still can't just double-click to play it, since today's video players were not designed to consider Flash video as a desktop format. You could set up a Web page to play the FLV file, but it's handier to just be able to play files directly.


To play FLV clips, download the free VideoLAN VLC Media Player. This is a highly portable multimedia player for multiple audio and video formats and DVDs. It also can be used as a streaming server.

Dive into the menus for options such as screen capture and displaying information about the file. The VLC Player also offers profusion of settings to customize both the interface (playlists, skins, gestures, visualizations) and playback options (codecs, filters).

Finally, to convert your Flash video files to other formats, download another free tool -- eRightSoft SUPER © for Windows.

SUPER © (Simplified Universal Player Encoder & Renderer) is a user interface to play and convert media formats, built on a collection of open source codecs.The interface is very busy, and studded with detailed options. Drag and drop to load the files to process, then click the Play button to preview the file.

Then to convert a file, you need to choose the general output file type (AVI, WMV, MPG, 3GP, etc., and then the specific compression parameters within that format. There are some presets (i.e., iPod and PSP), but for other formats you'll need to know the right options to choose. To help with this, double-click on the file's name to display a Analysis window with information on its audio and video streams.

See full article for more details: Flash Video: Downloading from YouTube and Converting Video Files

July 15, 2007

Applian Replay Tools: Record, Play, Convert Flash Video

To continue with our discussion of downloading and using Flash video on the desktop -- beyond the open source / freeware tools covered in the last installment, for more packaged solutions for recording, playing, converting, and editing Flash and other streaming formats check out the Replay line of Windows tools from Applian Technologies.



This discussion focuses on the three primary Applian tools for Flash video, which are also available as part of the Applian Audio Video Streaming Capture Suite ($99.95):


- Replay Media Catcher - Record streaming Flash and MP3 ($39.95)
- Applian FLV Player - Free Flash player
- Replay Converter - Convert video and audio files ($29.95)
plus:
- Replay A/V - Record and convert streaming Internet TV and Radio, Windows Media or Real ($49.95)
- Freecorder Upgrade - Record audio from sound card / speakers. as MP3 files
- Replay Music - Record streaming music to MP3 (via sound card) , auto ID songs
- Radio Wizard - Pause, rewind, fast-forward and record live Web radio
- Replay Player - Play recorded audio, skip ads
- Replay Screencast - Screen capture videos
- Replay Media Splitter - Extract / edit captured audio and video files


Applian Media Catcher is focused on grabbing streaming Flash video and MP3 audio ($39.95). It works with both progressive download (HTTP) as found on sites like YouTube, and with true streaming (RTMP) as found on commercial sites.


To use Media Catcher, launch the application and click the big green Start Recording button. Media Catcher than watches your Web activities, notices when you play a streaming file, and starts capturing it. You can go on to surf to other clips, while Media Catcher completes the capture in the background.

Once you've captured the Flash video files, you can view them with the Applian FLV Player -- available as a free download to play files or from a URL.


The FLV Player has nice clean interface with play controls under the video window. You can drag the (rather tiny) playhead to smoothly scan around in the clip. It also displays additional details on the video and audio format.

Once you have a Flash file on your desktop, you can use Applian Replay Converter to convert Flash and other media files to a variety of popular formats ($29.95).


You can build a list of input files to convert in the main window, select from the long drop-down list of output format presets, and then click the big button to start the conversion. Replay Converter exports to WMV, MPEG-4, and Flash Video, with multiple presets for different quality levels and the iPod, PSP, and mobile phones. It also can import video formats including AVI, QuickTime, Real Video, and DVD, and audio formats including WAV, MP3, WMA, AAC, and OGG.

See full article for more details: Flash Video: Downloading from YouTube and Converting Video Files

July 16, 2007

Flavors of Flash: Adobe Flash Uses and Formats

To continue with our discussion of downloading and using Flash video on the desktop -- Adobe Flash is all about animation, interactivity, and video. But Flash is not just one thing -- it's a range of Adobe tools for creating, delivering, and playing content; packaged in several file formats for animations and video; delivered using several steaming technologies; using two different video compression formats; and augmented with additional tools for video encoding.

Here's a brief summary -- see the full article and references for more information.

Flash Tools

- End users run the cross-platform Flash Player in their Web browser.

- Content creators and developers use the Adobe Flash CS3 Professional multimedia authoring tool.

- Internet hosting sites run the Flash Media Server to provide fully-interactive Flash streaming.

Flash File Formats

Flash files are typically packaged in two different file formats:

- ".swf" ("swiff") files are complete packaged Flash animations (known as "Flash movies"), ready to download from a website and view in the Flash player.

- ".flv" (Flash video) files are compressed video clips, ready to play from Flash animations, or stand-alone. We're interested here in downloading and converting these Flash videos on the desktop.

Flash Delivery

When you click a Flash video in a Web browser and have it play back, the content can actually be delivered in three different ways: embedded, progressive download, and streaming.

(Note that while we talk generally of "streaming" Web video when you play a clip on YouTube, Flash video may actually be delivered by progressive download from a standard Web server, or using true streaming from a dedicated Flash server.)

- Embedded video: The video is actually included in the Flash SWF file (best only for very short clips).

- Progressive download: The main SWF animation references video clips in external FLV files, accessed from standard websites. While the server just downloads the file, the player is smart -- so the Flash Player can provide the ability to skip around within the video. This is the best approach for getting started with Flash, and is still used by sites like YouTube.

- Streaming video: The FLV files are hosted on a server running the Flash Media Server, which provides true real-time streaming, including real-time broadcasting.

Flash Video Formats

Flash video actually uses two different video formats (the audio in Flash is primarily MP3):

- Sorenson Spark: Was used up through Flash Player 7. It is still used for sites like YouTube that are focused on ease of use with older browsers and players, and are not so demanding for video quality.

- On2 TrueMotion VP6: Was introduced for use with Flash Player 8 and later. Adobe recommends VP6 as the preferred video codec, providing the best combination of video quality while maintaining a small file size.

Flash Video Creation

Adobe offers thee paths for encoding video and audio into Flash Video format though its Adobe Flash CS3 Professional authoring tools: through the built-in Flash Video Import wizard, the stand-alone Flash 8 Video Encoder, and through the Flash Video QuickTime Export plug-in, which lets you encode audio and video into the FLV file format when exporting from third-party video editing applications that support QuickTime exporter plug-ins.

Other tools that can be used for encoding Flash video include Sorenson Squeeze and On2 Flix.


See full article for more details and references: Flash Video: Downloading from YouTube and Converting Video Files


    Find Adobe Flash CS3 Professional on Amazon.com

July 18, 2007

Creating Flash Videos: Sorenson Squeeze

To continue with our discussion of Flash video -- Sorenson Squeeze is a great encoding tool that supports encoding Flash video in both the older Spark and newewr VP6 video formats.


Squeeze is now up to version 4.5.6, with enhancements and fixes since Sorenson Squeeze version 4.5, released in November 2006, which integrated Apple’s H.264 MPEG-4, added new presets for Sony PSP, cell phones, and Blu-ray and HD-DVD disc, as well as boosting compression and preprocessing speeds.

The Squeeze software is available in several versions: the base Squeeze Suite application for Windows or Macintosh ($499), the enhanced Squeeze PowerPack ($649 Windows, $799 Mac), and Squeeze for Flash ($249) with just output to lash video in Spark and VP6 formats.

The PowerPack adds a command line interface, the On2 VP6 Pro encoder for Adobe Flash 8 video, and the Nate Caplin Training DVD. Mac users also receive the Telestream Flip4Mac encoder plug-in for Windows Media 9 .

Squeeze provides a clean and straightforward end-to-end workflow for importing, processing, and encoding media files.

First build a list of Input clips, including Windows Media, QuickTime, MPEG-1, MPEG-2, MPEG-4/H.264, 3GPP, AVI, DV, MP3, ASF, AAC, and WAV.

Next apply Filters to enhance the input. Squeeze supplies presets for brightening/darkening, and for cleaning up analog clips for use on the Web. Or apply your own filters, including contrast, deinterlace, noise reduction, and fade.

Then select the Output formats and adjust their compression settings. Squeeze can export to Windows Media Video, QuickTime, Real Media, MPEG-1, MPEG-2, MPEG-4, and Flash Video (FLV and SWF). Each format has a variety of pre-defined presets, for different data rates, streaming vs. progressive download, high-def to specific portable devices, and VCD / DVD / HD DVD / Blu-ray disc.

Finally, click Squeeze It! to start the encoding process. You can output a file to a directory, or upload via FTP or to VitalStream for hosting. Plus, Squeeze can add the resulting files to iTunes for iPod playback, transfer to Sony PSP, and burn to DVD.

You can set up Squeeze to batch process a group of files with pre-defined templates, and even have Squeeze monitor a Watch Folder and automatically process any videos that are placed there.

See full article for more details and references: Flash Video: Downloading from YouTube and Converting Video Files

July 20, 2007

Converting Flash Video: TMPGEnc 4.0 XPress

To continue with our discussion of Flash video -- One of the first compression tools to address importing clips in Flash video format is TMPGEnc 4.0 XPress, which converts between most popular video formats, with assists like color correction and enhancement filters.


You may remember TMPGEnc from the original MPEG-1 encoder for VideoCD, which grew into the TMPGEncPlus video encoder tool and TMPGEnc DVD Author (also sold under the Tsunami brand). The TMPGEnc technology and products are now sold though the parent company, PEGASYS, as retail products and bundled by major manufacturers.

To convert files with MPGEnc XPress, use the Source tab to add clips to be processed. It imports video formats including AVI, DV, MPEG-1, MPEG-2, MPEG-4, Windows Media, Windows XP Media Center, QuickTime -- and now Flash Video. It also extracts content from DVDs.

As you import, use the Clip Editing tools to trim and apply enhancement filters including deinterlace, color correction, and noise reduction -- with a color histogram and vectorscope to help analyze the results. You also can create slideshows from photos or extracted video frames, complete with audio track.

Then use the Format tab to select the list of output formats to be created. The input clips can be processed individually, or can be combined together as a sequence into one file. MPGEnc XPress provides output templates for burning to disc and for exporting files in different formats. You also can create your own custom templates.

MPGEnc XPress exports video in MPEG-1, MPEG-2, AVI, Windows Media, and DivX, as well as supporting high-definition MPEG-2, and MPEG-4 / H.264 file for export to the iPod, PSP, and other portable devices (but not output to Flash video).

Then click to the Encode tab to preview the output and start encoding. You can also transfer your project to the MPGEnc XPress Batch encode tool to process a collection of encoding projects as you continue to work. You can reschedule and prioritize the jobs, and reedit the parameters in MPGEnc XPress.

See full article for more details: Flash Video: Downloading from YouTube and Converting Video Files

July 27, 2007

Summary: Sony Sound Forge 9

While video editing tools like Sony Vegas+DVD Production Suite and Adobe Premiere Pro have strong support for audio, dedicated audio editing tools like Sony Sound Forge and Adobe Audition can do much more for cleaning and enhancing existing tracks, and creating, recording, and mixing new material.

Sony Sound Forge 9 is a professional digital audio production suite designed for the entire audio workflow: record, analyze, and edit.


Key features include: Record multiple sources simultaneously and surround sound, edit down to the sample level, work in high-fidelity 24-bit and 32-bit/64-bit float 192 kHz quality, edit from stereo to native multichannel surround sound, clean and enhance tracks with over 40 professional studio effects and processes, tune MIDI sample loops and loops for Sony ACID, model acoustic environments, design sound for multimedia, synchronize to video and export videos at HD, and master replication-ready CDs.

Sound Forge version 9 features end-to-end multichannel support, to record, edit, process, and export to multichannel Windows Media and Dolby Digital AC-3. It also includes workflow enhancements such as drag-and-drop editing between channels and new wet/dry mix and crossfade options for effects; plus audio analysis tools including phase scopes, mono compatibility meters, and multichannel spectrum analysis.

Version 9 also bundles three additional components now included with the product:
- Sony Noise Reduction 2 adds plug-ins for Noise Reduction, Audio Restoration, Click and Crackle Removal, and Clipped Peak Restoration.
- iZotope Mastering Effects Bundle adds four professional audio plug-ins: Mastering Reverb, Multiband-Band Compressor, IRC Limiter loudness maximizer, and Analog EQ parametric equalizer.
- Sony CD Architect adds professional mastering and layout for burning Red Book audio CDs with control over timing and tracks.

Sound Forge is available for Windows from Sony Creative Software ($319 boxed, or $299 downloaded). Sony also offers free trial downloads.

See full article: Summary: Sony Sound Forge 9 for Professional Audio Production

    Find Sony Sound Forge 9 on Amazon.com

August 14, 2007

Apple iLife '08 - iMovie and iDVD

Apple has released Apple iLife '08, with major new version of iPhoto and a "completely reinvented" iMovie.

The complete suite includes iPhoto, iMovie, GarageBand, iWeb, iDVD, and the new .Mac Web Gallery. It's included with all new Macs, or available for $79, or as a Family Pack (5 computers) for $99.


iMovie '08
introduces an iPhoto-like video library to display and organize all your clips, stored on internal or external drives.


Like the new iPhoto, iMovie automatically groups video by Events, based on the day shot. And you can preview clips “skiming” the mouse as with a dynamic filmstrip.

Import video from latest AVCHD, HDV and DV camcorders, digital cameras, SD and HD, from tape-based and tapeless camcorders (including Flash-memory, hard disk drives, and DVD cams).

Export movies on iPod, iPhone or Apple TV, and share on YouTube.


iDVD '08
features better performance and additional customization.


iDVD add 10 new Apple-designed themes with animated menus, 16:9 and 4:3, plus advanced menu customization, with a new button library, drop zone editor, and dynamic alignment guides. Combine video and photos in slideshows and use higher-quality photos.

Better performance offers faster switching between themes and menus. Pro-quality encoding offers higher quality with more movies and slideshows on a single DVD.

iLife requires a Mac computer with an Intel, PowerPC G5, or PowerPC G4 processor.
iMovie requires an Intel processor, Power Mac G5 (dual 2GHz or faster), or iMac G5 (1.9GHz or faster. iDVD requires a 733MHz or faster processor.

See more in the Video Editing Software Gallery and DVD Authoring Software Gallery

September 8, 2007

Adobe CS3 -- Soundbooth and Audition

The new Adobe Creative Suite 3, now available on Windows and Macintosh, includes the CS3 Production Premium suite of video tools -- with After Effects, Premiere Pro, Encore for DVD, plus the new Soundbooth for audio (replacing Audition in the suite), plus the new tools from Serious Magic: OnLocation for video monitoring and recording. and Ultra for video keying.


- See the updated Adobe Creative Suite 3: Applications, Suites, New Features article for details on the suites and Production video applications.

Besides audio recording, editing, and enhancement, Adobe Soundbooth includes a new AutoComposer feature to create customized music using customizable Soundbooth Scores, adjusting the length, mood, and instrumentation to match your production.


You can use the Adobe-provided scores, or now create your own scores -- Adobe has just released the Soundbooth AutoComposer Toolkit with tools and documentation for content developers to create their own Soundbooth Scores for use with the Soundbooth AutoComposer feature.

- See Adobe Soundbooth: Audio for Video for an overview of this new sound tool for video editors.

Meanwhile, Adobe Audition continues as an independent high-end audio editing tool on a separate development schedule.


The new Audition 3 also was just announced, and is due before the end of the year. It provides improved multitrack editing, new effects, enhanced noise reduction and phase correction tools, and VSTi virtual instrument support. You can now edit in the amazing spectral frequency mode with paintbrush selection and healing brush.

- See Hart Shafer's Adobe Audition blog for more information.

See the Video Editing Software Gallery and DVD Authoring Software Gallery for information and links to editing and authoring tools.

    Find Adobe CS3 Production Premium on Amazon.com

    Find Adobe CS3 Master Collection on Amazon.com

September 9, 2007

High-Performance Systems for High-Def Editing

Only a few years ago, we were struggling with configuring desktop systems to support editing DV video, with its then-huge demands for real-time video capture, streaming to hard disk, and video-rate decompression and processing. Today, even mainstream consumer systems don't break a sweat for editing standard-definition video. But we've also moved on -- and now we're back demanding more with the step up to high-def video.

While high-end consumer systems can handle advanced SD editing and some HD work, if you're getting serious about HD video (and DVD and animation), you should think about moving up to a workstation-class system that takes advantage of the latest technology, including multi-core processors, fast PCI Express interfaces, DDR2 SDRAM FBD memory, and SATA hard drives.



So what kind of system should you be looking at to edit HD video, and what are the best cost / performance trade-offs in today's market? We'll take a look at the recommendations from video editing software vendors including Adobe, Avid, and Apple.

And we'll step through configuring two representative workstations -- the Apple Mac Pro and Dell Precision workstation -- including base configurations, processor, memory, storage, hard disk, and graphics / display.

You can check out the basic system requirements for your preferred video editing software, and use the recommended system configurations as a starting point. Then tweak the configuration to fit your needs, allocating your budget to bulk up key components like the processor, memory, and hard disk to fit both your current plans and to give headroom for the future.

So pull the trigger on the purchase and step up to the full-powered system you really need. Of course prices will drop the next day, and a new product line will be announced the next week, and totally new technology will appear in the next month -- but meanwhile you can be effective and productive on your new video editing workstation.

See full article: High-Performance Systems for High-Def Editing.

See PC Technology Resources for a glossary and references for PC system and peripheral technology.

September 11, 2007

Editing AVCHD Video -- With Today's Consumer Software

The good news is that high-def video is now accessible to consumers -- with sub-$1000 camcorders, today's computer power, and now $100-range consumer video editing software.

The new AVCHD consumer video format promises better compression than HDV, especially for camcorders recording to DVD disc and memory cards.


But just as with the adoption of previous new formats -- DV to MPEG-2 to MPEG-4 -- the software applications need time to catch up.

Not too surprisingly, I found varying support of AVCHD when I tested the current versions of today's consumer video editing tools. As a result, before you dive in to the new formats, you'll need to experiment before you settle on the right approach for your specific camcorder or collection of clips.

The best of the current bunch in my testing were:

CyberLink PowerDVD Ultra
for playing high-def AVCHD and HDV files,
including fast response for skipping around in clips

(Find CyberLink PowerDVD on Amazon.com)


Pinnacle Studio 11 Plus
for importing and editing AVCHD and HDV files
including mixing formats and resolution on the same timeline

(Find Pinnacle Studio 11 on Amazon.com)


(See below for a summary of all the applications)

The applications varied wildly in their handling of these formats: importing HDV and/or AVCHD; capturing from a camcorder over USB/Firewire and/or importing directly from files; importing individual sub-clips and/or the entire folder of shots; recognizing the file formats or requiring them to manually selected; and importing the files directly or needing them to be renamed (i.e., to .MPG).

The applications also varied wildly in their ability to process the formats in real-time: some allowed me to drag the slider and instantly scan back and forth in the clip, while others delayed for seconds when jumping to a new point in the clip, even when paused.

However, because these formats do require a bulked-up system, some of the applications are twitchy about running on possibly underpowered systems. For example, Pinnacle Studio displayed a warning on my ultraportable notebook, but then did its best to play the videos as well as it could. On the other hand, CyberLink PowerDVD flat-out refuses to run if it decides it does not like your system -- in my case rejecting a new quad-core workstation until I had downloaded an updated display driver. Other applications played and edited AVCHD fine on this system, but PowerDVD apparently was hard-coded to require only specific configurations.



Continue reading "Editing AVCHD Video -- With Today's Consumer Software" »


September 14, 2007

Summary: Pinnacle Studio 11

As discussed in my previous post on working with AVCHD video, Pinnacle Studio 11 provides great support for editing high-def video. You can browse, preview, and import HD clips, mix high-def and standard-def formats edited together on the timeline with no fuss, and then export to a profusion of formats.


Studio 11 features a more scalable user interface, a new Scorefitter music generation tool to automatically create soundtracks to match the length and mood of a video, and simplified Web publishing to Yahoo! Video for public viewing or to the new Pinnacle StudioOnline.com private viewing service.


Studio is actually available in three versions.
- The base Studio 11 application is designed for simplified video editing ($49)
- Studio 11 Plus adds advanced editing and effects, especially for high-def video with native HDV and AVCHD editing ($99).
- Studio 11 Ultimate bundles add-in tools for lighting and film effects, panning and zooming, and audio cleaning -- plus a green screen backdrop for shooting chroma key effects ($129).

See full article: Summary: Pinnacle Studio 11

    Find Pinnacle Studio 11 on Amazon.com


September 16, 2007

Gallery: Miraizon Cinematize 2 Pro for DVD Extraction

DVD was originally designed as a write-only delivery format, with the video and audio and menus all glommed together into obscure VIDEO_TS folders and humongous VOB files. But these days DVDs are just another video format, and many video editing and DVD authoring tools can easily crack open an (unprotected) disc and extract chunks of content.

But if you mess with DVDs a lot, or want more precise control over the exact segments that you extract, or need to extract to specific formats in the full original quality, then check out Miraizon Cinematize -- a dedicated tool for DVD clip extraction and conversion.


Cinematize is available for both Windows and Macintosh, and is now up to version 2, in two editions:

- The base Cinematize 2 extracts DVD video and audio to QuickTime codec, which can then be imported by common video tools for editing, download to portable devices, or uploading for Web sharing ($69 box / $59 download).

- Cinematize 2 Pro, announced this month, adds advanced features including menu and subtitle extraction, batch extraction, multi-channel audio extraction, and custom QuickTime compression options ($149 box / $129 download).

See my Video Editing Software Gallery under Video Processing Software for details on these and related products.

    Find Miraizon Cinematize on Amazon.com

Gallery: Sony Vegas Pro 8

Sony Creative Software has released the latest version of its professional video, audio, and DVD creation tool, Sony Vegas Pro 8.

As in previous versions, the Vegas Pro product is actually a suite of products: the Vegas Pro 8 editor, DVD Architect Pro 4.5, and Dolby Digital AC-3 encoding software.


Vegas is designed to provide an integrated environment for all phases of professional video, audio, DVD, and broadcast production -- to process DV, AVCHD, HDV, SD/HD-SDI, and XDCAM formats in real time, fine-tune audio with precision, and author surround sound, dual-layer DVDs.

New features include 32-bit floating point video processing, multicamera editing, and ProType titling. There's also additional HD editing support with Sony AVCHD workflow and Blu-ray Disc burning.

Sony Vegas Pro 8 is priced at $699, and available for $499

See my Video Editing Software Gallery for details on this and related products.

    Find Sony Vegas Pro 8 on Amazon.com

October 15, 2007

Pinnacle PCTV HD Ultimate Stick

TV on your PC? Even better: high-definition television on your laptop! The USB 2.0 interface is actually fast enough to handle streaming HD TV on your computer display, so you can plug in a small external USB device and be watching live TV.

And Pinnacle has just augmented its PCTV line of USB HD tuners with an interesting new feature: the PCTV HD Ultimate Stick requires no software installation -- the included Windows TV tuner / DVR application runs directly from memory on the device. So it's a lot easier to just plug it and use it, on desktops and laptops. It's also compatible with Windows Media Center.


The Pinnacle PCTV HD product line includes PCI cards and USB Sticks for PCs, and the Pinnacle TV for Mac HD Stick -- and all supporting HDTV.

- The base PCTV HD Stick records in MPEG-1 and MPEG-2 formats, from both analog (NTSC) and digital (ATSC) TV ($79.99).

- The PCTV HD Pro Stick adds an AV adapter for capture from external analog sources, plus recording to MPEG-4, DivX, and direct-to-iPod or PSP formats ($99.99). It also includes a mini remote control.

- And the new PCTV HD Ultimate Stick adds the "Plug-&-Watch" feature to run the application directly from the stick($129.99). It's also hardware-ready for Clear QAM (unencrypted digital cable TV).

A few provisos: While you don't need to install the TV software application, you actually do need to install the required drivers the first time you use the hardware -- a quick operation from the memory on the device. And pushing HD video can still be a big stress on a PC, so Pinnacle recommends a Pentium 4 at 2.6 GHz or equivalent, with Windows XP or Vista. The Ultimate Stick ran great on my test Xeon quad system at 2.6 GHz -- HD TV played easily, using only some 15% of the processor.

See previous article on the Pinnacle PCTV HD Pro Stick (3/2007).

    Find the Pinnacle PCTV HD Ultimate Stick on Amazon.com

More on using the PCTV HD Ultimate Stick ...



Continue reading "Pinnacle PCTV HD Ultimate Stick" »


November 1, 2007

Summary: Adobe Premiere Elements 4

Adobe Premiere Elements 4 was released in September 2007, with new emphasis on a cleaner interface for quick and fun editing. It includes integration with Photoshop Elements 6, new automated Movie Themes, and an updated Sharing Center with export to mobile devices, websites, and HD video.



Key new features include:
- Updated interface: clean, easy-to-use
- Tight integration with Photoshop Elements
- Shared Organizer: common database accessible from both applications: sort, tag
- Apply movie themes to make a polished movie, event- or style-based
- Audio Mixer like a mixing board in a recording studio
- Edit to beat: Automatically syncs slideshows and movies to soundtrack beats
- Sharing Center: upload and share on disc, Web, mobile devices, Apple iPhone
- Export to Web sites in Adobe Flash Player compatible video
- Movies in high definition, including Blu-ray Disc

The pricing is unchanged: Premiere Elements 4 is $99 list ($79 street); or $149 list ($135 street) bundled with Photoshop Elements 6.

See my full article for a summary of new features and enhancements, plus a visual tour of the Premiere Elements 4 interface and features.

See more video applications in my Video Editing Software Gallery

    Find Adobe Premiere Elements 4 on Amazon.com

December 16, 2007

Logitech MX Air Cordless Laser Mouse

Computers are for work, and for play -- "lean-forward" to engage in focused work, and "lean-back" to relax and enjoy entertainment. But we do both of these activities on the same machine, so we need interfaces that supports both kinds of usage models -- a keyboard and mouse for desktop use and a remote control for living room style fun.

Yes, you can try controlling a computer from a chair by taking a wireless mouse off the desktop and running it on your pants leg, but the result is a rather unsatisfying experience. Instead, the Logitech MX Air Cordless Laser Mouse breaks free into the air -- you can use it on the desktop, or hold it free in your hand and use gestures to control your computer, especially for playing media clips.

The MX Air Mouse is a single device that fits both usage models: desktop and remote control.


It's a desktop mouse with high-precision laser tracking, designed to work on most high-gloss surfaces. And it's a handheld, off-the-desk navigation device designed especially for digital media enthusiasts, with built-in support for common functions like skipping through clips and adjusting the audio volume.

The Gestalt -- by Josh Page

The tagline for the MX Air is "On the Desk. In the Air," and the statement couldn't have been more true. The design is slick black and silver, very elegant, even when just charging (it reminded me of those "Kone" Dirt Devil vacuums that are exhaustingly advertised on television for being beautiful enough to sit out on a coffee table). The mouse sits dark until you move it, when neon orange lettering illuminates to mark the functions of the six button buttons and the motion-sensitive scroll panel.

The MX Air starts with the expected usages of a standard mouse, with a few perks. Logitech has addressed two of the main uses for computers nowadays, the Internet and media, and equipped the MX Air to help with both. It has a Back button for Internet browsers, as well as Play/Pause and Volume buttons that are designed to work with media players. The scroll panel is a motion-sensing strip that scrolls at different rates when swiped by a finger (with a simulated clicking sound -- a really nice touch).

The true beauty of the MX Air is where it gets is name -- when lifted off a flat surface the mouse becomes like a remote control. The cursor on your computer screen follows the direction you point with the mouse (something like the Nintendo Wii remote). To make holding easier, there is a Select button on the upper center of the device which is comfortable to click while still holding the device like a remote.

Then the MX Air adds nice perks with gesture controls like volume control. If you're listening to a song on your PC, but are sitting on the other side of the room, just hold the Volume button and move the mouse to the left or right to lower and raise the volume.

You also can imagine using the MX Air for a slide show or PowerPoint presentation, though you may need to tweak the sensitivity of the buttons and scrolling to fit your clicking style. The accuracy is quite good (though it did take a while to really get used to it). It can take some time to steady your hand to click on very small icons or links, though again you can adjust the movement with the Logitech software.

But the bottom line is that the Logitech MX Air Mouse is quite an impressive and fun tool that really changes how you can use a computer. It was released in August 2007 for $149, and is now available for around $129.

    Find the Logitech MX Air Mouse on Amazon.com

More details on the design and controls below ...



Continue reading "Logitech MX Air Cordless Laser Mouse" »


January 3, 2008

Adobe Audition 3

Adobe has released the new version of Adobe Audition 3, its flagship stand-alone tool for professional audio production -- recording, mixing, editing, and mastering.


Adobe replaced Audition in the Adobe Creative Suite 3 collection last year with the new Adobe Soundbooth, which provided task-based tools for everyday audio editing and cleanup, sound design, and music creation.

Meanwhile, Audition continued as an independent high-end audio editing tool, designed for professionals including sound designers, recording and mastering engineers, and musicians.

Audition 3 picks up some of the enhancements in Soundbooth, with improvements to individual features, and in enhanced performance and more efficient workflow:

- Quicker and more powerful editing with direct on-clip drag-and-drop editing. And the amazing Frequency space / Spectral editing view now supports the Photoshop-like Effects Paintbrush and Spot Healing Brush.

- New effects and tools including Convolution Reverb, Analog Delay, Mastering tool, and Tube-modeled Compressor, along with iZotope time stretching. Plus improved noise reduction and phase correction tools.

- MIDI support, with a piano roll editor for recording and mixing MIDI tracks, using industry-standard VSTi virtual instruments.

Bottom line: While Audition 3 is not a huge re-write or re-design of the product, it provides a broad range of significant enhancements that make it well worth the upgrade -- for more powerful tools, time-saving editing, and enhanced performance.

See full article -- Summary: Adobe Audition 3 - Professional Audio Production

See Adobe CS3 Production Suite: Summary for more on the CS3 video and audio tools

See Adobe Soundbooth: Audio for Video on the new Soundbooth CS3

    Find Adobe Audition 3 on Amazon.com

January 19, 2008

Sony Music Studio 7 / Audio Studio 9

Whether you already are working with music and audio, or are interested in getting creative and learning more, the Sony Music Studio and Sony Audio Studio software products from Sony Creative Software are a great way to get started. These Windows applications are $59 each (download) or $69 (packaged).

Sony ACID Music Studio 7 is for creating music, with music recording, multi-track mixing, loop-based soundtrack creation, and MIDI processing.

If this sounds daunting, you can start out with the sample mixes and experiment with the more than 3,000 professionally recorded loops to build up your own custom mixes. Or customize simple MIDI tunes such as ring tones on your mobile phone, and then explore the included 1,000 MIDI files in a variety of genres.


Sony Sound Forge Audio Studio 9 is focused on end-to-end audio editing -- recording, editing / restoration, encoding, and mastering.

Again, you don't have to be an expert to get started working with audio clips. Explore the 1001 Sound FX library to customize sound effects for your productions. Or import tape or vinyl recordings, or audio tracks from video shoots, to clean up and enhance the sound.


Sony Creative Software develops these consumer tools in its Studio line, plus higher-end professional tools for digital video, music, DVD, and audio production.. The product lines are built around three core product names: Vegas for video editing, Sound Forge for audio editing, and ACID for music creation. See the Sony website for documentation and downloads of trial versions you can check out.

See full articles -- Summary: Sony ACID Music Studio 7
    and Summary: Sony Sound Forge Audio Studio 9

    Find Sony Music Studio 7
    and Sony Audio Studio 9 on Amazon.com

February 5, 2008

HD on the Desktop: HDV and AVCHD

High-definition video has arrived -- in under-$1000 consumer camcorders, and supported by sub-$100 consumer video software that can run on your desktop.


Camcorders are moving from tape to disc to memory cards, like the Panasonic HDC-DX1 DVD camcorder (back) compared to HDC-SD1 memory card camcorder (front). And new memory-card camcorders -- around the the size of a soda can -- also can shoot HD video.

However, while today's computers can easily handle the demands of standard-definition video, the advent of HD places heavy demands on a standard computer. HD video is big -- some four times bigger than standard def -- so it takes more storage and bandwidth just to move clips around. And HD uses new video compression formats like HDV and AVCHD, which require more processing power even to display the frames, much less to edit your clips.

As a result, consumer software applications again have to play catch-up with the new formats, new demands, and new hardware developments like multi-core processors.

See my article -- HD on the Desktop: HDV and AVCHD: Consumer Software for HD Playback & Editing for more on HD camcorders with these new formats, and working with them using the newest generation of consumer video software for playback and editing.

February 6, 2008

PC Video Trends: Camcorder Formats and Editing Software

Video has never been more accessible for consumers -- and more confusing. It's even easier to use -- and harder to understand and master. It's all about "one-click" simplicity -- and an overwhelming profusion of options.

If you're ready to dive into making own videos, there are two key questions: the type of camcorder to shoot with, and the video editing software to use to create your productions.

Camcorders: There are four main options for digital video camcorders, as Mini-DV tape is augmented by 3-inch mini-DVD disc, hard disk drives (HDD), and solid-state memory (SDHC) -- as well as various combinations of the above.


In particular, solid-state memory is coming on fast as almost the best of all worlds for camcorder storage, offering the instant-access convenience of hard disks, and the easy removability of tape and DVD. And today's higher-capacity formats can hold 80 minutes of high-definition video on an 8 GB card.

Software: Meanwhile, today's consumer video editing software provides amazing capabilities at around a $100 price point -- importing a profusion of formats, real-time editing and effects, export to mobile and Web, and burning DVD and high-def formats. At the same time, these applications also package impressive technology for automating editing, clean-up, enhancement, and music creation.

See my article -- Video Trends 2008: Mobile to High-Def for more on camcorder formats and video editing software.

And for more on high-def camcorders with the new HD video formats, see HD on the Desktop: HDV and AVCHD: Consumer Software for HD Playback & Editing.

February 10, 2008

SoundTech LightSnake Audio Cables

The SoundTech LightSnake audio cables are cool, and sensible. If you need to capture analog audio -- for example from a microphone, or a guitar or other instrument -- these are a "soundcard in a cable."


Just plug one end into your analog audio source, and the other into a USB port on your computer, and the cable delivers digital audio, using its embedded analog-to-digital converter. The audio is CD quality -- 16 bit, 48 / 44.1 KHz sampling rate, with audio signal boost. The cable is 10 feet, shielded, and as a bonus the ends glow green when it is connected, and flash when data is being transferred.

SoundTech has expanded its line of LightSnake cables -- there's an Instrument to USB Cable with 1/4" mono plug, a Microphone to USB Cable with XLR connector (though no phantom power draw from the USB port), plus MIDI, stereo RCA, and many more lighted cables.

These cables are also bundled in several interesting products:

- The SoundTech Podcasting Kit, includes a high-quality professional microphone, tripod microphone desk stand, the LightSnake XLR Microphone Cable, and Sony Acid XMC software with 1-year Acidplanet Prozone membership -- for $129.

- The SoundTech Vocal Trainer features Carry-A-Tune Technologies SingingCoach software to help singers of all levels to improve their abilities in the privacy of their own home. The kit also includes a professional microphone, tripod microphone desk stand, and the SoundTech LightSnake XLR Microphone cable -- for $89.

SoundTech also announced the Ediface Digital Guitar Interface, a pick-up and converter that attaches directly to a guitar and promises to deliver digital MIDI data, targeted for "early 2008."

See my Portable Audio Accessories Gallery for details and comparisons.

    Find the SoundTech LightSnake Instument Cable,
    and SoundTech Podcasting Kit on Amazon.com

July 4, 2007

Turtle Beach Ear Force AK-R8 Surround Headphones

(with Brian Dixon)

Whether you're a dedicated gamer who loves the excitement of chasing through virtual worlds, or a movie fan who enjoys playing DVDs on your widescreen PC, it's the power of 5.1 surround sound audio that gives the you-are-there feeling to make the entertainment come alive.

But we don't all have room to set up five speakers plus a subwoofer around our rooms, or we use notebooks that don't even have 5.1 connections. In addition, the neighbors might not appreciate our cranked-up audio, especially late at night. So we resort to stereo headphones, and miss out on the full surround experience.

So welcome the Turtle Beach Ear Force AK-R8 -- a "Professional Surround Sound Gaming Headphone System." The AK-R8 bundles surround-sound headphones with a USB audio interface to provide an immersive and personal listening experience on desktops or notebooks.



Key features include:
- True 5.1 surround sound from 8 discrete speakers
- Dual sub woofers for deep vibrating bass
- High fidelity large diaphragm drivers
- Detachable boom microphone -- removable and flexible
- Monitor outside sounds while wearing headphones
- USB audio interface with multi-channel amplifiers
- DSP surround sound environments with presets
- Comfortable, cushioned ear cups, self-adjusting headband
- Professional grade, durable construction

The surround headphones actually have eight separate speakers to provide more accurate audio positioning -- each earpiece has individual speakers for the front, center, rear, and subwoofer channels.

The Audio Advantage SRM USB audio adapter works as a USB sound card to add 5.1 / 7.1 channel surround sound to your system. Beyond built-in amplifiers to drive the 5.1 headphones, it also has an impressive array of analog and digital inputs and outputs. And it comes with Control Panel software to adjust virtual speaker configurations, equalization, environment, and effects.

TheTurtle Beach Ear Force AK-R8 is priced at $149.95, including surround headphones and USB audio adapter. The box also includes a USB cable, and optical S/PDIF adapter for connecting to home theater equipment.

See full article: Turtle Beach Ear Force AK-R8 Surround Headphones

See more on headsets and headphones in the Portable Audio Accessories Gallery

    Find the Turtle Beach Ear Force HPA2 (headphones only) on Amazon.com.

March 13, 2008

Acer Aspire Multimedia Notebooks

Yesterday in New York, Acer introduced its new generation of multimedia notebooks -- the desktop replacement 18.4" Aspire 8920G (press release) and more portable 16" Aspire 6920G (press release).

Both feature 16:9 widescreen displays, with the option of Full HD 1920x1080 resolution.


With the acquisition of Gateway last year (joining its eMachines and Packard-Bell brands), Acer is now the world’s third largest PC company.These new notebooks continue Acer's focus on the consumer market, building on its "Gemstone blue" design for image-conscious consumers. For looks, the case features a sexy Holographic 3D cover with a starlit backlight. And for convenient control, the CineDash media console to the left of the keyboard provides a touch-sensitive interface for navigation and media playback.

The blue theme carries through to the integrated Blu-ray disc drives (Super Multi Blu-ray/DVD/CD double-layer), for playback of high-definition widescreen movies. For the full audio experience, the 16" 6920 has stereo speakers plus the Acer Tuba CineBass booster, and the 18.4" 8920 actually has 5 surround speakers plus the bass. There's also an integrated HDMI interface for playback on external HDTVs.

For more media fun, use the available TV Tuner to watch digital television, or the integrated Acer CrystalEye camera and stereo microphones for videoconferencing.

Acer suggested pricing from $900 / $1,700, and said these should ship around April.

More specs below ...



Continue reading "Acer Aspire Multimedia Notebooks" »


March 21, 2008

Adobe Premiere Elements 4 and Photoshop Elements 6

       
Adobe continues to pull off a difficult trick with its Elements applications: providing an accessible interface for novice editors (at under $100) that still provides access to the underlying power and flexibility of its high-end Premiere and Photoshop CS3 tools (at $799 and $649).


The idea with these applications is to provide a growth path as you get more experienced -- so you can start simply, but then not hit a dead end in the application as your editing gets more sophisticated:

- In Premiere Elements 4, you can start with simple drag-and-drop sceneline (storyboard) editing of clips using Movie Themes to automatically apply transitions, music, layouts for titles, credits, and disc menus. Then grow into the multi-track Timeline, synchronizing multiple events with overlays, keyframed animation, and audio mixing.

- In Photoshop Elements 6, you can start in the Organizer browsing your photos and using the one-click Fix tools to automatically clean up and enhance your images. Then use the Guided Editing mode to walk though the steps of improving a photo, and grow into the full Edit mode to make more sophisticated adjustments, including selectively enhancing, retouching flaws, and even removing unwanted elements.

The pricing is the same as the previous version: the individual applications are $99.99 each, or are available together as a bundle for $149.99 (U.S. estimated street price). A version of Photoshop Elements for the Macintosh is expected in early 2008.

Compare video tools in my Video Editing Software Gallery

See my full article: Editing in Adobe Premiere Elements 4 and Photoshop Elements 6

(See also Summary - Premiere Elements 4)
(See also Summary - Photoshop Elements 6)

    Find Adobe Premiere Elements 4 and
    Adobe Photoshop Elements 6 on Amazon.com

April 1, 2008

Media Suites: Nero 8 and Roxio EMC 10

More and more consumers are facing growing collections of media stuff -- music and photos and video -- and facing the desire to get organized, be creative, and share their digital content. But there are some many media formats, stored on a bewildering variety of mediums, and so many ways to share, electronic and on physical devices.

Thus the attraction of digital media software suites like Nero 8 Ultra Edition and Roxio Easy Media Creator 10, which have grown from their origins in CD copying and burning to add an array of tools for media management, editing, and sharing, along with more general data backup and archiving.

The latest releases also have have picked up on the hot trends in digital media, building in support for importing and editing new formats, and sharing even more broadly across discs, portable devices, and electronically.

But all these new features results in piling on even more functionality to already-bursting suites: Nero 8 now includes some 22 applications, and EMC 10 has some 12 major applications plus 18 additional utilities/assistants. As a result, these new versions have also focused on refining the user interface, especially with the new look of Windows Vista. They provide a main launcher / control panel to help users choose the task they want to achieve, and now build in direct connections to the product websites for information and updates.


Roxio regards EMC 10 as a substantial upgrade to its flagship suite of digital media applications, with the focus to "enable consumers to quickly and easily turn their photos, video and music into impressive multi-media projects that can be shared on CD, DVD, the Web, or a range of mobile devices."



And Nero has reworked the interface for consumer ease of use, and focused on "extending content beyond the PC" with "easy-to-use features for the creation, management, and protection of multimedia projects" -- To create and edit, convert and share, rip and burn, and backup and protect digital media.


So if you're looking for this kind of all-in-one solution, with the broad range of capabilities -- import, edit, and share -- across images, music, and video -- then check them out.

I've worked on helping to show how they are organized, and how to think about using them --

- Overview article: Digital Media Suites for Mobile Media: Nero 8 and Roxio EMC10

- Nero 8 suite features and visual tour: Summary: Nero 8 Ultra Edition

- Roxio EMC 10 suite features and visual tour: Summary: Roxio Easy Media Creator 10

    Find Nero 8 on Amazon.com
    Find Roxio EMC 10 on Amazon.com


April 2, 2008

New Roxio Media Products for Discs, DVD, and Music

After releasing Roxio Easy Media Creator 10 in September 2007, Roxio now has shipped three subsets of the full EMC suite for specific applications: Disc copying (Easy DVD Copy), DVD authoring (MyDVD), and music creation (RecordNow Music Lab). Released in February 2008, these are designed to "enable consumers to make the most of their digital libraries," so that users can "easily turn photos, videos and music into impressive digital media creations that can be shared on CD, DVD or enjoyed on a variety of portable devices."

Roxio DVD Copy 4 Premier is focused on DVD copying and video conversion ($49).

Copy non-encrypted DVDs, shrink dual-layer DVDs to fit on single-layer discs while excluding unwanted content to optimize video quality. Convert popular audio and video formats for playback on portable devices. Also copy TiVo shows, and copy unprotected videos from the iPod to hard disk.


Roxio MyDVD 10 Premier is designed to make it easy to quickly turn photos and home movies into polished video or DVD productions ($69).

It features MyDVD for creating movie or slideshow discs, VideoWave for video movie creation, and PhotoSuite for photo editing and sharing -- along with associated tools, especially for automated production and enhancement, and sharing to portable devices.


Roxio RecordNow Music Lab 10 / Premier is designed to, rip, convert, transfer and enjoy music on your computer, and share on disc and portable devices ($29, Premier suite for $69 adds DVD music discs).

Collect music from CD, DVD, LP, tape, Internet, and iPod. Capture computer audio, including Internet radio and streaming music, transfer tracks from multiple drives, capture and clean-up analog tracks from LPs and tapes. Organize and automatically tag tracks. Batch convert to digital formats. Automatically create playlists based on your preferred songs.

See full article, including a breakdown of the included applications and utilities:
    Roxio Media Products for Discs, DVD, and Music

See Roxio EMC 10 suite features and visual tour of the individual applications:
    Summary: Roxio Easy Media Creator 10

    Find Roxio EMC 10 on Amazon.com
    Find Roxio Easy DVD Copy 4 on Amazon.com
    Find Roxio RecordNow Music Lab 10 on Amazon.com

May 1, 2008

Creating Music and Editing Audio

Even non-musicians and beginning enthusiasts can collect, organize, mix and mash up, and create new music using today's inexpensive and accessible software tools, such as the Sony Creative Software tools -- ACID Music Studio for music creation and mixing, and Sound Forge Audio Studio for audio recording, editing, and encoding.

    See full article: Sony Audio / Music Studio Software

Sony ACID Music Studio 7 spans music recording, mixing, loop-based creation, and MIDI processing. It's for people creating original music using loops or recording vocals, instruments, or using MIDI -- like DJs and remix artists, home recording studios and musicians, video and multimedia producers, podcast and streaming media creators, educators, trainers, and presenters.


Sony Sound Forge Audio Studio 9 is focused on the end-to-end audio editing -- recording, editing / restoration, encoding, and mastering. It includes interactive Show Me How tutorials to help step though leaning new tasks.



Or step up to a higher-end professional high-end audio production toolset like Adobe Audition 3, through the full workflow of recording, mixing, editing, and mastering audio. Audition includes waveform editing of single clips, multi-track mixing, looping, MIDI, with extensive effects and tools for audio restoration and enhancement.


    See full article: Adobe Audition 3 - Professional Audio Editing and Mixing

    Find Sony Music Studio 7 and Audio Studio 9
    and Adobe Audition 3 on Amazon.com

May 7, 2008

CyberLink PowerDVD 8: Enhanced Movie Experience

CyberLink has released the latest version of its well-known DVD player software, CyberLink PowerDVD 8.

As you might expect, this new release adds support for the latest buzzwords in high-def video and audio formats, including Blu-ray Disk playback -- with an online patch to support the full Blu-ray Disc Profile 2 (BD-Live), with picture-in-picture display, networking, and advanced interactivity.


Plus there's AVCHD and MPEG-2 HD video, and HD audio up to 7.1 channels with Dolby Digital Plus, Dolby TrueHD, and DTS-HD.

However, the DVD player market is getting rather mature, as these applications are already well-refined for DVD and even general-purpose media playback. PowerDVD supports scads of media formats, provides fun options for video and audio enhancement, and offers helpful features including power-saving playback for notebooks, frame capture, and bookmarking for favorite scenes. What more could it do?

So the next step for CyberLink was to go beyond playback features, and instead augment PowerDVD to enhance the overall movie experience by taking advantage of your computer's storage and Internet connectivity. After all, when you pop in an audio CD on your computer, it automatically looks up the album and artist information, and helps you organize and manage your entire collection -- why not the same for movies?

So CyberLink developed the MoovieLive.com website to store and sync shared movie information with PowerDVD.

When you play a DVD, PowerDVD downloads and displays Movie Information, which you also can edit and update with your personal ratings and reviews.

As you watch DVDs, PowerDVD also updates the list of your personal Movie Collection. You can share your collection (like a playlist of favorite songs), and add other movies that you're interested in from MoovieLive.

You also can get creative with Movie Remix -- mash up scenes from a movie and then add your own creative animated graphics and subtitle text overlays, plus audio clips and voice-overs. And, of course, you can upload and share your remixes on MoovieLive, and download remixes that others have posted -- though since the remix references the movie, you can only play them for DVDs that you own.

MoovieLive is a great idea for the next step in watching DVDs -- taking advantage of the local computer and the wider Internet to enhance the movie-watching experience. However, this initial implementation in PowerDVD 8 is frustrating because the online movie database is only generated by PowerDVD users -- CyberLink did not link the site into a pre-existing DVD database to automatically load movie information. So until the population of users grows significantly, you can type in database fields yourself, or rely on partial uploads you may find from other users.

See my full article for more on these new features, and on how CyberLink has done a good job of refining the PowerDVD interface to make it very accessible for both quick playback and hands-on exploration of a disc:
    Enhanced DVD Movie Watching: CyberLink PowerDVD 8

May 29, 2008

Adobe Betas for New Soundbooth, Dreamweaver, Flash

Adobe has really opened up its development process by releasing public prereleases of its applications -- beta versions posted as free downloads for you to try out.

The Adobe Labs site provides early access to evaluate new and emerging Adobe technologies and products.

Adobe has now posted early looks at some of the new upgrades to its Create Suite 3 collection of professional for print, web, interactive, mobile, video, and film design.

  • For video editors, check out the new Adobe Soundbooth for intuitive audio creation and enhancement, with multitrack support and enhanced editing workflow.
  • For Web designers, there are betas of Adobe Dreamweaver for web design and Adobe Fireworks to prototype interactive designs. These integrate the common Adobe CS interface with tighter integration among the suite, provide deeper support for standards including CSS, and support Adobe AIR to author multiplatform desktop applications.
  • And for all of us, there's a prerelease of Adobe Flash Player 10, with 3D animation, deeper support from Adobe effects and text technology, and enhanced performance.

So go ahead and try these out -- for a limited time until they expire.

See my Video Editing Software Gallery for information and links to video editing tools.

    Find Adobe CS3 Production Premium on Amazon.com

    Find Adobe CS3 Master Collection on Amazon.com

Details on new features below



Continue reading "Adobe Betas for New Soundbooth, Dreamweaver, Flash" »


July 2, 2008

Pinnacle Studio 12: HD Video Editing

Pinnacle Studio 12 was released in June 2008, providing simplified video editing and DVD creation for entry-level users, with versions for editing high-definition video and bundled with additional pro-style tools and a green-screen backdrop for chroma key overlays.


The previous Studio 11, released last year, lead the way with solid support for the new high-def video formats, with responsive editing of AVCHD and HDV video, and burning to HD DVD disc format. Studio 12 extends the HD support with burning to Blu-ray disc, in AVCHD format with menus, and BD-MV with motion menus.

Even better, Studio (like other new consumer video editors) can burn high-def video to regular DVD discs, which then play on the Sony PS3 (and other Blu-ray players) -- So you can watch your own HD productions on your widescreen TV without requiring special new hardware.

Studio 12 also includes a variety of welcome productivity enhancements for editing, adds support for more cameras and formats (including Dolby AC3), and performance improvements.

But the big news is the new Montage feature, which creates professionally-designed multi-source composites. Choose a themed template -- Openings, Segues, Endings -- and drag and drop video clips and photos. Studio inserts Hollywood style multi-layered effects with picture-in-picture overlays, animated graphics, titles and audio. It's fun and easy.

See full article: Summary: Pinnacle Studio 12 for details on new features, the Studio interface, and the editing workflow.

See my Video Editing Software Gallery for information and links to video editing tools.

    Find Pinnacle Studio 12 on Amazon.com

July 14, 2008

Adobe Soundbooth CS4 Beta -- Environment Scores

Adobe is providing a sneak peek of some of the elements of the next major release of its Create Suite collection of design and development tools for print, video, and web.

The Adobe Labs site has beta versions of Dreamweaver and Fireworks for web design, plus Soundbooth for audio editing.

Adobe Soundbooth is designed for cleaning and sweetening audio clips, plus music soundtrack generation.

The current version, Soundbooth CS3, includes a powerful Score tool to create professional-sounding royalty-free music beds, similar to SmartSound Sonicfire.

You choose a score from a library of different genres, and Soundbooth automatically generates a coherent music clip with the duration adjusted to fit your production. And you can customize further -- the Soundbooth scores are actually built as multi-track mixes, with parameters to adjust the depth of the mix, with more layers of sound. Plus you can keyframe the parameters for more control, for example to simplify the mix during scenes with dialog.

   

Then with Soundbooth CS4, Adobe has introducing a new kind of score -- Environment scores that are multi-track sound effects. Instead of automatically generating music in a particular style, you can use scores to generate sound effects to add environmental texture to your mix, again matching the desired duration.

Plus, environment scores are also constructed as multi-track mixes, so you can layer in more elements as desired. For example, with the CityStreet score, Intensity controls the amount of traffic driving by, Construction adds noise from trucks, plus Rain mixes in drops and thunder.

Soundbooth Scores provide a quick and efficient way to add background music to a video production to help develop the general mood or feel of a piece. The new environmental scores in Soundbooth CS4 extend this idea further for ambient sound design to match your visuals. Then use the new multitrack mixer to automatically generate and customize additional tracks of music and sound -- layers of layers of texture for your production.

So download the Soundbooth CS4 beta to try it out.

See full article with additional links: Adobe Soundbooth CS4 Beta

    Find Adobe Soundbooth CS3
    and Adobe CS3 Production Premium on Amazon.com

July 16, 2008

Adobe Soundbooth CS4 Beta -- Transcripts & Metadata

You can try out the beta of Adobe Soundbooth CS4, to clean and sweeten audio clips, and to automatically generate music soundtracks (see previous post).

But there's another less-obvious addition beyond editing individual clips -- a focus on collecting and tracking metadata associated with your clips, to make it easier to search and manage your growing collection of clips and projects.

As a bonus, Soundbooth now supports speech-to-text transcription -- making it easier to search to find a particular clip, and to shuttle though clips to find a specific edit point while you watch the associated words highlighted in the transcript.

The transcription process is not magic -- It works best with professional-recorded broadcast-quality clips, and less well with more challenging clips. The product supports multiple language models, including variants such as American or British accents.

But, argues Lawson Hancock, product manager for Soundbooth in his Inside Sound blog, it's not just about the accuracy of the transcription.

... "Even with a 50% accurate transcript, the speech engine will capture enough keywords to enable you to easily search through your audio stream. ... Speech search is about speeding up the editing process by enabling you to easily locate specific words in your audio clips."

   

The transcript is only part of the extensive metadata collected and managed by Soundbooth CS4, and shared with other Adobe applications. The idea is to capture information about clips as soon as they are imported or created, and then augment and share the data though the production process.

Based on the Adobe Extensible Metadata Platform (XMP), data about each clip is embedded and stored in the file itself when saved. (Some file formats including AIFF & MPEG do not support embedded XMP metadata, which is instead saved in a separate .xmp file stored with the file.)

The power of metadata then grows over time as you expand your library of clips, as you can quickly find specific clips by searching for very detailed attributes. We are beginning to move beyond organizing files by folders, or date and project, and start to think about them in terms of how they were created, processed, and saved.

The Adobe Soundbooth CS4 beta is available as a download from the Adobe Labs site.

See full article with additional links: Adobe Soundbooth CS4 Beta

    Find Adobe Soundbooth CS3
    and Adobe CS3 Production Premium on Amazon.com

July 20, 2008

"Ultraportable" Notebooks -- Sony VAIO 2008 Line

What’s an “ultraportable” notebook? I don’t mean a tiny pseudo-PC, but a real computer. A system designed to be stripped down and easy to carry, but without too many compromises …

Stephen Manes wrote about looking for an ultraportable laptop with the right balance of features for his needs in the August issue of PC WorldLaptops: In Search of Bearable Lightness.

And now Sony has given its view of the right trade-offs for a small notebook with the introduction of its latest generation of Sony VAIO notebooks, available in August 2008.

The comparison to the Apple MacBook Air shows very different ideas about where to compromise in cutting features.


The MacBook Air is positioned as full-sized (as in keyboard and 13” display), but incredibly thin (3/4 of an inch) and light (3.0 pounds). But the MacBook Air sacrifices an optical drive, hard drive capacity (only 80 GB), and most connectors (including video out and Ethernet).

In comparison, the existing Sony VAIO TZ (still in the product line) at about the same price point, shrinks the display (11.1”) and keyboard, but piles on more storage (to 320 GB) and a CD/DVD burner, and still comes in weighing less, at 2.7 lbs.

And the new Sony VAIO Z, also in the same price range, matches the MacBook Air display size (13.1”), and further increases the available processor (1.8 to 2.53 GHz), and memory (up to 4 GB), although coming in slightly heavier with the DVD burner (3.42 lbs.).

So we have general agreement on a 3 pound notebook starting under $2000, but with significantly different approaches to getting there — and while not compromising on at least one key feature.

Another alternative could have been to be more aggressive in reducing features to drop to around 2 pounds, both shrinking the display (as in the VAIO TZ) and omitting the optical drive (as in the MacBook Air), but still retaining sufficient performance to be a useful system. After all, you can always hook up to a larger display at your desk, and access storage though a flash drive and the network.

Sony actually took a shot at such a system with its Sony VAIO X505 notebook introduced in May 2004 as a limited experiment. It was thin like the MacBook Air, and smaller, with a 10.4” screen (so it fits comfortably in a regular 8 1/2 x 11 envelope). As a result, it weighed just 1.84 lbs. But the price started at a hefty $2999, and the power and storage were limited to a 1.10 GHz processor, with 512 MB RAM, and 20 GB disk.

However, the X505 did not catch on, and it seems that Sony still believes that users need an optical drive, even in this age of near-ubiquitous networking. Of course, Sony is heavily invested in supporting the Blu-ray format, so its new models support HD movie playback and burning 25 GB (or more) of data to a disc.

Even so, there’s a huge difference between carrying a 3+ pound notebook and system under 2 pounds — it’s like throwing a paperback book in your bag versus lugging around a big hardcover tome. So I am still interested in system that can slim down for the road, and yet with enough power to be my main working machine when docked on my desk.

See my full article, with specs on the new models: The 3-pound Ultraportable: Sony 2008 VAIO Notebooks.

    Find the Sony VAIO TZ and
    Apple MacBook Air on Amazon.com

August 2, 2008

CyberLink Steps Up PowerDirector 7

CyberLink, best known for its PowerDVD player software, has really stepped up the latest version of its consumer video editing application -- CyberLink PowerDirector 7 is a convenient and powerful tool that combines a friendly and straightforward interface, "Magic" tools that apply smart technology to assist with common editing tasks, plus the power to edit high-definition video formats and author to Blu-ray disc. For a consumer-priced tool, it's easy and quick, even when working with HD material.

The PowerDirector 7 interface makes video editing straightforward and simple, especially for home users who want good results quickly and with a minimum of fuss, including the "magic" automated tools, and sharing through portable devices (Sony PSP) and the Web (YouTube).

The Ultra version adds end-to-end support for high definition / widescreen video, from importing to editing and output, with advanced authoring features for burning to DVD and Blu-ray Disc. As with similar applications like Pinnacle Studio 12, you also can edit high-def video from the new HD camcorders and burn HD productions to regular DVD discs -- and play them in beautiful widescreen HD on the Sony PlayStation 3 and other Blu-ray players (see previous post).

PowerDirector is available in two versions: Deluxe for $69, and Ultra for $199, with AVCHD disc support and Blu-ray disc authoring. Released in May 2008, it's available as a boxed retail product or as a download.

You can try out CyberLink PowerDirector by downloading the trial version from the CyberLink website -- it's a 30-day trial with some other limitations.

See my full article: Summary: CyberLink PowerDirector 7 for a summary of the editing workflow, highlighting the new features.

See my Video Editing Software Gallery for information and links to video editing tools.

    Find CyberLink PowerDirector 7 on Amazon.com

New Features ...



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August 3, 2008

Delivering Video with Sorenson Squeeze 5

So you've shot and edited your video. Now what? There are just so may different ways that you'll want to deliver video these days -- over the Web, burned to disc, played toyour PC -- from high-res on a widescreen TV to low-res on a mobile phone.

Which means you'll need to understand how to best deliver your productions to your indented audiences, in the appropriate video file format, and compressed to fit the constraints of the different delivery mediums.

But, each video format can support a variety of compression algorithms, resolutions, data rates, and other attributes. And each delivery medium supports only some of these formats, with additional constraints for the compression settings. Yeesh, what a mess!

Today's video editing applications typically support exporting a production in most of these formats, and provide packaged presets to set the appropriate options for common delivery options.

But if you're finding yourself repeatedly exporting videos using a variety of formats, and need a more efficient way to package up compression options and then apply them as a batch to a group of files, then check out Sorenson Squeeze 5, the latest version of this convenient and powerful compression and encoding software, for both Windows and Macintosh.


Squeeze has a simple three-step interface, with deeper options: Import (or capture) one or more video clips, apply compression format presets, then press "Squeeze It" to export them. Even better, build a list of clips, apply enhancement filters, select and customize the output compression formats, and then sit back while Squeeze batch-processes the whole job.

Sorenson Squeeze version 5 was released in March 2008. It includes faster multi-file encoding, improved MPEG1-2 and H.264 codecs plus Microsoft VC-1 codec for Blu-ray, new video filters (watermark, hue and saturation, sharpen), improved audio with VST audio plugins, AC-3 compatible surround sound encoding, and new duration and volume filters.

Sorenson Squeeze 5 is available packaged or as a download for $499. Squeeze 5 Pro is $599 with the On2 VP6 Pro Encoder and Bias Soundoap plugins, plus the Complete Squeeze 5 Training DVD. Squeeze 5 Pro with the WMV Component for Mac is $779.

If you're creating Flash video for the Web, Squeeze 5 for Flash also is available for $119, and Squeeze 5 for Flash Pro is $299.

You can try out Sorenson Squeeze by downloading the trial version from the CyberLink website -- it's a 14-day free trial.

See my Video Editing Software Gallery for information and links to pro video editing tools.

Formats and Options ...



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August 28, 2008

Sony Vegas Movie Studio 9

Sony Creative Software features a well-respected line of higher-end professional video and audio tools, including Vegas Pro for video editing, Sound Forge for audio editing, and ACID for music creation, plus the newer Cinescore for professional soundtrack creation. Sony also has developed the corresponding Studio family of consumer applications for digital video, DVD, audio, and music production.

The latest update to the Studio line is Sony Vegas Movie Studio 9, released this month with expanded support ranging from YouTube uploads to high-def editing. It's available in three versions -- the base Vegas Movie Studio 9 lists for $69.95, the higher-end Platinum Edition for $99.95 adds expanded HD video support, and the Pro Pack bundle for $129.95 includes Sound Forge Audio Studio 9 plus additional libraries of sounds and effects.


The Movie Studio 9 product still includes the separate DVD Architect Studio 4.5 for DVD authoring (not updated), and adds the new Cinescore Studio for automated music soundtrack creation.

Version 9 also adds integrated upload to YouTube, and improves support and performance for native HDV and AVCHD high-def formats. You also can burn menuless Blu-ray Disc directly from the timeline. The Pro Pack also adds more Cinescore themes, 1001 Sound Effects, New Blue Transitions and effects plug-in, and even a free 2 GB Sony flash drive (while supplies last).

The Movie Studio interface is based on Sony's professional Vegas Pro editor, simplified to remove complexity, and enhanced with consumer-friendly Show Me How interactive tutorials and new New Project and Make Movie wizards. But the higher-end product design still shows through -- this is not a basic step-by-step interface to walk you though the editing process, but instead provides the tools and elements for enthusiasts who want to dive in to editing.

Visit the Sony site for Trial Downloads to try out the Studio (or pro) products for yourself.

See full article -- Summary: Sony Vegas Movie Studio 9 -- for more on the product versions and features.

See my Video Editing Software Gallery for details on this and related products.

    Find Sony Vegas Movie Studio 9 on Amazon.com

September 1, 2008

Summary: Adobe Premiere Elements 7

Adobe has announced new versions of its Elements line of consumer digital photo and video software -- Adobe Premiere Elements 7 and Photoshop Elements 7, due to be released in October.

Adobe has worked diligently with each release to make these applications consumer-friendly, while still retaining significant strength and capability from the underlying professional Premiere Pro and Photoshop CS tools. Adobe describes these as the best-selling consumer video- and photo-editing software.


With Adobe Premiere Elements 7, Adobe has focused on powerful technology assists, and integrating with online storage and sharing though Photoshop.com. For example, the new Smart Tags technology extends the technology used for scene detection, quality analysis, and face detection to automatically analyze clips and assign a variety of attributes.


(Yes, the Premiere Elements version number has bumped from 4 to 7 to match Photoshop Elements -- see Adobe Press Release 8/08.)

But the big news in this release is the integration with online access though Photoshop.com. The desktop Premiere and Photoshop Elements 7 applications can push photos and clips to online storage on Photoshop.com, so you can share and access your media from any Web-equipped computer. Changes you then make in the online Organizer then are synced back to your desktop.

Photoshop Mobile also can sync photos from a cell phone to your online storage, and from there to your desktop. Basic Photoshop.com membership is free, and Plus membership for $49 per year offers additional online storage, automated backup, and regular updates of creative elements for the desktop applications.

The pricing is unchanged: Premiere Elements 7 is $99 list, or $149 bundled with Photoshop Elements 7.

See my full article for a summary of new features and enhancements, plus a visual tour of the Premiere Elements 7 interface and features.

See more video applications in my Video Editing Software Gallery

    Find Adobe Premiere Elements 4 on Amazon.com

More on New Features and Photoshop.com ...



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September 29, 2008

Roxio Creator 2009 - With Blu-ray

If you're a fan of the Roxio Creator suite of digital media tools, you have only one more day to snap up a free copy of the Blu-ray/HD plug-in for the new version.

Roxio Creator goes back to Easy CD Creator for disk burning, which expanded to Easy Media Creator with support for DVD burning, and then into a full suite of digital media tools for working with video, audio, and photos -- and sharing to portable players and online.

Roxio Creator 2009 continues this progression as a market-leading suite for media creation, editing, sharing, and management -- capture and import, organize and manage, edit and author, convert and burn and upload and transfer.

And it continues its consumer-friendly design, with a main launcher for quick access to tasks and creation tools, plus how-to articles and video tutorials for creative inspiration.

Creator 2009 adds integrated access to online services (sharing via Roxio Online), High-Def support (AVCHD import and burning HD to standard DVD discs), and fun audio features including the Audiobook Creator for portable players to convert an entire audiobook to a single file with chapter markers.

Roxio Creator 2009 Suite is $99 (less $20 online discount).
The High-Def/Blu-ray Disc Plug-In is $29 to author to Blu-ray discs.
Roxio Creator 2009 Ultimate for $129 (less $20 online) includes the HD/Blu-ray plug-in plus audio and backup tools.

See press release (8/08) - Roxio Launches Creator 2009

See my DVD Authoring Software Gallery for more on Creator 2009, DVD authoring, and media suites.

    Find Roxio Creator 2009
    and Creator 2009 Ultimate on Amazon.com

September 30, 2008

Nero 9 - Digital Media and Home Entertainment Suite

Nero has just released the latest version of its digital media suite, Nero 9, featuring an updated StartSmart launcher that has built-in quick media playback, ripping, burning, copying, and backup.

The suite still is based on Nero's long-established disc ripping, burning, and backup tools, including Nero Burning ROM and associated drive information and analysis tools. There's also a new Autobackup for scheduled local or online backup.

And like the Roxio Creator suite (see previous post), Nero includes tools for digital media creation and editing -- photos, audio, and video. There's some nice new features including Tape-scan high-speed preview of scenes from DV or HDV tapes, Movie Wizard template-based movie creation, Music Grabber to automatically extract music clips in a video, and Ad Spotter to remove commercials.

Nero 9 also now supports high-def editing from AVCHD camcorders, with Nero SmartEncoding for efficient compression, and burning of HD projects to standard DVD media -- or to Blu-ray discs with the additional Blu-ray Disc Authoring Plug-in.

Nero also continues building its support for home entertainment across multiple devices in the networked home. Use the new Nero Live to watch and record live TV/HDTV (two channels at once). And check out the now trial version of Nero MediaHome to stream media files between your PC archive and other connected PCs and set-top devices (including the PlayStation 3 and Xbox 360).

Nero 9 is 99.99, or $79.99 download.
The Blu-ray Disc Authoring Plug-in is $9.99 download.

See press release (9/08) - Nero Releases Nero 9

See my DVD Authoring Software Gallery for more on Nero 9, DVD authoring, and media suites.

    Find Nero 9 on Amazon.com

October 2, 2008

Nero Move it: Convert and Transfer Your Media Collection

We love our media -- music, photos, videos -- and we've got so much of it. We've got photos and video shot on digital cameras and cell phones. We have copies of some of these copied up to our PCs and laptops, along with music that we've ripped from CDs and miscellaneous other stuff we've received from friends over the Internet. And we've then uploaded and shared some of all this media to online communities like YouTube and MySpace.

But what if you want copies of some of our MySpace photos on your cell phone to show to friends, or your favorite music and videos on your Sony PSP for a trip, or a collection of stuff from different sources on your iPod? Now you're caught in a mess of format conversions, figuring out which formats are compatible with which devices, and which tool will convert and/or transfer the files where you want them.

Along with Nero 9 (see previous post), Nero has released a new application, Nero Move it, to attack this problem head-on. You plug in your devices, choose the source and destination, and it takes care of converting and transferring the files.


And Move it is a media organizer, so you can rip from CD, rename and categorize files, and preview clips. It collects your media files even across devices that you have unplugged, so it can convert media offline, and then sync later when the device is connected again.

The software is designed to be easily updated to support new devices. The current list includes lots of mobile phones (including the iPhone), iPods and a handful of other portable players, the HP iPAQ PDA, and Sony PSP game consoles.

However, while I was impressed by these applications when I saw them demonstrated last week, I'm currently having trouble installing them. According to Nero, the installer for Nero 9 has a known problem that makes it run very slow when installing from CD, and another problem which blocks the further installation of other Nero applications(!) After running into these, I'm now having problems cleaning up my system to get these to install. Nero is working on updates to resolve these problems.

Nero Move it is available for $49.99, or download for $39.99.

See press release (9/08) - Nero Launches Nero Move it

See my DVD Authoring Software Gallery for more on Nero 's software, DVD authoring, and media suites.

    Find Nero Move it on Amazon.com

October 21, 2008

Adobe Creative Suite 4 Now Available

Adobe has done it again -- Adobe Creative Suite 4 shipped on October 15, 2008 for Windows and Macintosh, with a major update to its to its collection of design and development tools, spanning the creative workflow across print, web, video, interactive and mobile.

This is another impressive piece of software engineering and project management by Adobe -- CS4 includes upgrades to 13 core applications, a year and a half after the release of CS3.


CS4 features full version upgrades of 11 stand-alone applications that are available individually, 2 more applications bundled with Premiere Pro, and 4 additional components.

CS4 is available bundled in 6 suites (with Standard and Premium versions, as was CS3), including the full Master Collection with all the applications.

- The Design suite includes Adobe Photoshop CS4, InDesign, and Illustrator
- The Web suite includes Adobe Flash CS4 Professional, Dreamweaver, Fireworks, and Contribute
- The Production suite includes Adobe After Effects CS4, Premiere Pro, and Soundbooth, plus Encore and OnLocation (bundled with Premiere)

The additional components are Adobe Bridge CS4, Version Cue, Device Central, and Dynamic Link

PR - 10/08 - Adobe Creative Suite 4 Now Shipping
PR - 9/08 - Adobe Introduces Creative Suite 4 Product Family

See full article: Summary: Adobe Creative Suite 4 for a summary of the CS4 suites and individual applications.

See summaries of video applications and versions in my Video Editing Software Gallery.

    Find the Adobe CS4 Design, Web, and Design Suites
    and the CS4 Master Collection on Amazon.com

November 9, 2008

Pinnacle PCTV HD Mini Stick

(with Tim Geoghan)

Watching Internet video on your computer is great, with amazing stuff on YouTube and network shows on Hulu.com. But sometimes there's use for old fashioned broadcast TV, especially for breaking news, live sports, and new episodes of favorite series -- when you're traveling, or just want to watch some TV in a cramped home office or dorm room.

So hook up an antenna to your computer, and start watching. OK, you'll also need some TV tuning hardware, which can't get much smaller then the new Pinnacle PCTV HD mini Stick -- A compact USB dongle only around 2 inches long.

Connect the HD mini Stick to the included telescopic TV antenna, install the Pinnacle TV software, and you're watching digital over-the-air TV (ATSC), standard-definition SDTV and high-def HDTV up to 1080i. The stick also can connect to your cable TV to watch unencrypted digital cable (ClearQAM).


But the Stick does not work for legacy analog broadcast TV (NTSC) -- which is due to be turned off in February 2009 anyway in the last step of the Digital TV Transition.

The somewhat larger PCTV HD Ultimate Stick (see previous post) supports both analog and digital TV, plus Clear QAM -- and the software runs directly from the device, with no installation required ($129).

The PCTV HD mini Stick pulls in great-looking TV with the included antenna, including full-screen HDTV -- as long as you are in range of digital broadcast signals (see AntennaWeb.org), and you have a recent computer with enough processing power. There's even a mini remote control to help you sit back and enjoy and a program guide to see what's on.

The Pinnacle software also supports TV recording / time-shifting (pause and rewind) [but not HD], and TV recording straight to DVD. The product also includes Pinnacle VideoSpin to trim recorded clips.

The Pinnacle PCTV HD mini Stick is $119 for Windows, $129 for Mac.

See my Home Media Gallery for more on PC TV and video in the home.

    Find the Pinnacle PCTV HD Mini Stick on Amazon.com

November 14, 2008

Trial Versions Available for Adobe Creative Suite 4

Adobe has just released trial versions of the applications in the Adobe Creative Suite 4 product family (see previous post), which are available online for download.

Or you can order a trial DVD of the complete Creative Suite 4 Master Collection for $15.99.


The CS4 applications are available in several suites:
- The Design suite includes Adobe Photoshop CS4, InDesign, and Illustrator
- The Web suite includes Adobe Flash CS4 Professional, Dreamweaver, Fireworks, and Contribute
- The Production suite includes Adobe After Effects CS4, Premiere Pro, and Soundbooth, plus Encore and OnLocation (bundled with Premiere)

See full article: Summary: Adobe Creative Suite 4 for a summary of the CS4 suites and individual applications.

See summaries of video applications and versions in my Video Editing Software Gallery.

    Find the Adobe CS4 Design, Web, and Design Suites
    and the CS4 Master Collection on Amazon.com

December 30, 2008

DVI Technology - Digital Video on a PC, circa 1982

Sometimes you get lucky, and are in the right place at the right time to have the chance to get involved in a great experience.

This month marks the 20th anniversary of the Intel's acquisition of our DVI (Digital Video Interactive) Technology group from the RCA Sarnoff Labs in Princeton, N.J. This was great and ground-breaking project that ran from 1982 to 1992 -- a decade of moving our ideas from research ideas to simulations to prototypes to real products.

So I've posted a set of DVI Technology pages to highlight our efforts. Comments, corrections, and additions are welcome.


The environment at Sarnoff in the early 80's combined deep expertise in analog television, image processing, and the new wave of digital signal processing. But still imagine the hubris of our research group in 1982, suggesting that you could compress video down to the 150 KBps data rate of a CD-ROM, and then play it back on a 6 MHz PC / AT -- full-color, full-screen, full-motion, interactive digital video.

Starting in 1983, we prototyped and demoed our concepts on our huge DEC VAX 11/780 minicomputer (a timeshared system that ran at an amazing 1 MIPS -- we used it as a personal computer), using expensive Ikonas graphics systems to simulate what we claimed we could do with PC add-in boards.

By 1985, we were working with outside developers to create pilot applications that ran on PCs, simulating our hardware with a Truevision Targa graphics board and videodisc player.

Then, even with the churn of the General Electric acquisition of RCA in 1986, we built our first DVI chips and boards, and held the public unveiling of DVI at the Second Microsoft CD-ROM Conference in March 1987. Ta da!

G.E. sold the DVI technology to Intel in November 1988, and most of our original team transferred to Intel to productize the technology, shipping several generations of chip and board products through 1992, when DVI morphed into Intel products including the Indeo video compression codec, Smart Video Recorder boards, and ProShare video conferencing systems.

This was a great team working together to do things that were thought impossible -- Digital video at audio data rates?! Real-time video on a PC?!

It turns out that crazy things are possible, and can make working hard fun too... There's a lesson in there.

January 4, 2009

Preventive Maintenance with iolo System Mechanic

I'm a big believer in preventive maintenance for PCs. Windows systems just accumulate cruft over time, as the disk fills up with junk files, disk access slows down with files broken into multiple fragments, and more and more applications want to be part of the start-up process to run background tasks. And even when you try to be good and uninstall old applications, they still leave remnants of orphaned files, broken shortcuts, and unneeded entries in the Windows Registry file.

And that's when things are going good ... Crashes and bugs can cause corrupted files, and malicious attackers can do even more damage. Since I don't want to wipe my disks and reinstall Windows every year or so, I run variety of tools like Symantec / Norton WinDoctor and CCleaner (freeware) to try to keep the mess to a minimum.

Recently, I've been trying out iolo technologies System Mechanic as a all-in-one approach to keep my systems under control, with PC system and security analysis, optimization, and repair.

System Mechanic has been developed for 10 years and through eight major versions; iolo reports that it is the the #1 best selling PC tune-up product according to NPD Reports.


System Mechanic has some 40 tools to fix, speed-up, and maintain PCs. But it organizes these in an integrated console, so you can just run them all automatically to fix problems, or drill down to individual tools to examine problems and customize the repairs.

And System Mechanic features ActiveCare technology to run in the background to monitor your system status and optionally fix problems. System Mechanic 8.5, released in December, has improved ActiveCare options to stay out of your way when you are working, so it only runs when the system is idle. I have it set to only collect status, which it insists on doing at least once a day.

Version 8.5 also adds a Defragment and Compact Registry tool to clean out bloat, a new DriveSense tool that provides real–time data about the status of hard drives (requires internal SMART drives), and tools to find unnecessarily startup programs and to detect potentially dangerous software.

The System Mechanic interface is a bit confusing in its desire to serve all types of users -- novice, intermediary, and more advanced. The main Dashboard provides one-click display and repair of problems. The ActiveCare tab shows options for automatic fix-up in the background. Then the Power Tools tab offers one-click PC Total Care to run all the tools, or four wizards to run collections of tools: Accelerator, Repair, Cleanup, and Security.

Finally, the Individual Tools tab then reveals all the 40-some tools, but organized slightly differently into seven categories. Plus, there's a Reports tab for IntellStatus information on system resources, and the History of recent changes, including the SafetyNet option to undo changes.

Some of the more interesting tools are Optimize Startup, to suggest removing unnecessary startup programs; and Fix Security Vulnerabilities, including Widows services, network settings, and exploitable file type associations.

Most tests provide options to run quick or complete automatic test and repair, or customize the process by generating a report and then manually choosing items to repair. System Mechanic also provides nice visual status reports on system usage and performance, and clean listings of system elements such as startup programs.

iolo is currently running deals on its website: System Mechanic 8 is $49.95 list, $34.97 on the website, with annual renewals for $29.95, or $14.95 for a limited time. You don't need multiple copies: one license can be installed on up to three machines. And iolo provides free, unlimited technical support and customer service.

There's also a System Mechanic Professional bundle for $69.95 list, $48.97 on the website, with $39.95 annual renewal. It includes other iolo tools: iolo AntiVirus, iolo Personal Firewall, DriveScrubber to securely erase data, and Search and Recover to rescue deleted files from hard drives, CD/DVDs, portable devices, and memory cards.

You can download a trial version to check it out.

    Find iolo System Mechanic and
    iolo System Mechanic Professional on Amazon.com

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January 30, 2009

The Little Digital Video Book

Consumer video has gone YouTube. -- It's so easy and fun to shoot a short little clip on your camera phone, grabbing a brief slice of life (cool -- the cat in the toilet!), and then upload it to enjoy and share with the world. However, that's not terribly creative, compared to the kinds of productions we see on TV and at the movies. But the step up to doing video editing is so daunting -- getting your video into a computer, learning editing software, figuring how to get it back out again -- as well as putting yourself in a position to having your amateur production skills compared to broadcast series and Hollywood movies.

But if you are interested in creating your own videos, then Michael Rubin's The Little Digital Video Book is a great way to get started. Rubin lays out the basics of shooting and editing video, along with good advice about how to keep the process enjoyable.

One of Rubin's key points is to not overreach -- not to try to make "movies," but instead create what he calls "video sketches," shorter pieces that start with around 20 minutes of raw video and can be edited down to around a 4 minute enjoyable sketch.

This is a much more reasonable target -- you can shoot for a while at an event to try to capture a sense of it, and then spend a couple hours editing it. You're then not feeling the pressure to shoot an entire event, and you don't have a big production with days of work hanging over you. Instead, you can tweak it for a couple evenings, and then declare it done.

For the same reason, Rubin recommends not loading yourself down with extra equipment while you are shooting -- tripods, lights, special filters -- but instead provides extensive descriptions of how to get a good selection of shots that you can later edit into a clean production (close-up, medium, wide, establishing, cutaway).

After you're done shooting, Rubin has an extensive discussion of organizing and logging your tapes and then getting the clips captured and organized on your computer so that you're ready to edit. It's easy to take shortcuts at this point, but you'll regret it later, when you can't find a certain clip that you remember in a pile of unmarked tapes, and as your computer fills up with large unidentified video files scattered around the disk drive.

Rubin finishes with advice on the process and art of editing, with a series of "assignments" to lead you though shooting different types of videos (interview, music video, slice of life).

In some ways this is an old-fashioned book, focused on the art and process of editing instead of instant-gratification uploading, using tape-based (DV) camcorders (which are disappearing in favor of memory card and hard disk drive formats), and ignoring the exotic new high-definition formats.

Instead, Rubin is interested in making video editing fun and enjoyable, so you can be creative in shooting interesting material and then editing it into enjoyable vignettes.

The book is indeed little, and approachable for beginners, at 7 x 7 inches and 240 pages. And it's particularly well illustrated with shots of the different components and controls of a camera, visuals explaining different shooting styles and types of shots, and screen shots illustrating the basics of editing.

Plus there's plenty of good advice here even if you already have a camera and some editing experience.

Order The Little Digital Video Book from Amazon.com


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February 3, 2009

Netbook or Notebook or Not: Sony VAIO P Lifestyle PC

Netbook or notebook? Between the One Laptop Per Child (OLPC) project (see previous post), and products like the ASUS Eee PC, there's a new kind of Internet device in town -- the "netbook" -- a highly portable wireless-connected small form factor notebook.

Netbooks are intended to be easy to carry almost anywhere, and therefore are reduced in size to around 2 to 3 pounds, with 7 to 10 inch displays and scrunched keyboards.


Netbooks are focused on online access, browsing websites and keeping in touch with e-mail, but run versions of Linux or Windows so you can also edit documents and the like, albeit a bit sluggishly with low-power processors like the Intel Atom.

But notebooks can be ultraportable too, with products like the Apple MacBook Air and Sony VAIO TZ series weighing around 3 pounds, but offering larger displays and/or more processor and storage, and at premium prices ($1800 and up).

However, while Sony has experimented with very lightweight systems like the VAIO X505 from 2004 at only 1.84 pounds, its VAIO line from last summer was more focused on bigger systems, with larger displays, enhanced performance, and even Blu-ray disc drives (see previous post).

Then last month at CES came the introduction of the Sony VAIO P series Lifestyle PC -- with 8 inch display, but weighing only 1.5 pounds, and measuring 4.72 x 9.65 x 0.78 inches.
Sony describes it as the length of business envelope and as thick as a cell phone, so you can slip it into a jacket pocket or a handbag.


To go online, the VAIO P includes both Wi-Fi and mobile broadband (with cellular subscription). And it has a built-in webcam and microphone for Internet calls, plus GPS tracking. It's powered by a 1.33 GHz Intel processor, with 2 GB of internal memory and up to a 60 GB hard drive or 128 GB solid state drive (SSD).

Interestingly, the VAIO P runs Windows Vista (Home Premium or Home Basic), so you can run your standard desktop applications, although visibly slower. It also has an Instant-mode option to rapidly boot up into the Sony Xross Media Bar interface to access your music, video, photos, plus the Web.

Sony quotes a 4 hour battery life with the included standard capacity battery, or 8 hours with the optional large capacity battery.

Yet the VIOP P avoids the premium pricing of the ultraportable notebooks -- it's $899 with a 60 GB HDD, $1199 with a 64 GB SSD, and $1499 with 128 GB SSD. It should be available this month, in snazzy colors (garnet red, emerald green, onyx black, crystal white, classic black).

Just don't call the VIOP P a notebook -- Sony is carefully avoiding the term. Instead, the Sony reps describe it as a second system to compliment your existing notebook, since you can more easily bring it along with you and use it to stay in touch.

In this way, netbooks are positioned more as competition for smartphones, which do not have the larger screen and near-full-size keyboard for extended usage. But you can't really clip a netbook on your belt or slip it into your pocket, so this indeed becomes a lifestyle choice to go netbook, or not.

See Wikipedia on netbooks and product comparisons.

See my Portable Communications Gallery for information on netbooks and smartphones.

    Find the Sony VAIO P on Amazon.com

February 16, 2009

NAB Show Coming in April

If you're into the whole digital media thing, then get to The NAB Show, the event for media, entertainment and communications professionals held annually in Las Vegas. This year it's being held April 18 - 23.

While NAB is the National Association of Broadcasters, a trade association that represents local radio and television stations and broadcast networks, the show is much broader -- covering "audio, video, and filmed content across multiple platforms -- from televisions, radios and computers to phones, the big screen and beyond."

NAB's a big event, with 100,000+ attendees and some 1,600 exhibiting companies. Beyond the exhibition, NAB includes 15+ conferences, with 600+ educational events and sessions, covering content creation, management, commerce, distribution & delivery, and consumption.

For working pros, NAB also offers serious digital media training with the Post|Production World Conference -- 5 full days of sessions in 11 parallel training halls, with 230 unique sessions on the latest techniques and practices for producers, directors, editors, designers and new media professionals. These include 7 different certification courses for Adobe (After Effects, Photoshop), Apple (Motion, Final Cut Pro), Avid, and Mac:

While the sluggish economy may discourage travel, it also can help reduce costs -- Many of the official partner hotels in Las Vegas have lowered rates by 20 to 40 percent below earlier offerings during peak show dates, and are running other specials.

NAB is also offering free exhibits-only registration -- enter the Passport Code: TP01

See my updated list of Digital Media Conferences - 2009

June 8, 2009

Adobe Premiere Pro CS4 Update for Flexible Workflow

These days, digital media professionals need to do it all -- production and delivery, video and Web and print -- and work in all media -- video production, and audio, motion effects, Web and DVD. Similarly, no one tool can do it all, which leads to integrated suites like Adobe Creative Suite 4 (see previous blog posts) and Apple Final Cut Studio.

But the power of a suite is more than a collection of tools, it's also about how easily you can move media and projects among the tools. For example, Adobe provides tight integration among its tools with Adobe Dynamic Link to avoid intermediate rendering when moving assets among After Effects CS4, Premiere Pro CS4, Encore CS4, and Soundbooth CS4. Premiere Pro CS4 also includes OnLocation CS4 for initial capture with direct-to-disk recording and monitoring, and Encore CS4 for exporting productions to Blu-ray disc, DVD, and the Web.

And a suite also has to open to integrating beyond its own boundaries in order to fit into a larger workflow, so it can import and export to other tools, and work with third-party hardware.

To this end, Adobe has released updates for Adobe Premiere Pro CS4 (version 4.1) and other Adobe Creative Suite 4 tools to further open up post-production workflow options, especially though interoperability with RED Digital Cinema and Avid Technology software workflows. So Adobe now supports software-only HD workflows from capture to output in tapeless formats including RED R3D, Sony XDCAM EX and HD, Panasonic P2, and AVCHD.

Updates in Premiere Pro CS4 version 4.1 include:

- File-based workflow for RED R3D files, without transcoding or rewrapping, in Premiere Pro CS4 4.1, After Effects CS4 9.0.2, and Adobe Encore, using RED’s beta plug-in. -- See Native support of RED R3D files in Adobe tools.

- Avid project import without recapturing media files -- Improved interoperability with Avid Media Composer software through AAF and the MXF-wrapped IMX format.

- Uncompressed SD and HD acquisition and accelerated HD workflows on leading post-production hardware including AJA Video, Blackmagic Design, and Matrox, through compatibility enhancements.

- Full support for 64-bit systems with faster performance and responsiveness to accelerate compute-intensive postproduction, though bug fixes and faster project load times. -- See www.adobe.com/go/64bitsupport.

The new Creative Suite 4 versions are available at no cost via the Adobe updater and from adobe.com. Trial versions are available online for download.

See summary of the Adobe Premiere Pro CS4 4.1 Update

See my full article, Summary: Adobe Creative Suite 4, for more on the CS4 suites and individual applications.

See summaries of video applications and versions in my Video Editing Software Gallery.

    Find the Adobe CS4 Production Premium
    and Master Collection on Amazon.com

July 21, 2009

20th Anniversary of DVI Technology Commercial Product

It was hubris, of course, to imagine in 1983 that we could play video on a PC (see previous post). It took six more years of prototyping and engineering what we called DVI Technology (for Digital Video Interactive) -- but twenty years ago today, July 21, 1989, we shipped the first commercial DVI product, the Intel Pro750 ADP.

This was real video on a PC -- real-time, interactive, full-screen, 30 fps motion video playback with stereo audio -- and streaming from a CD-ROM. And it ran on the 386-based PC/AT platform, under DOS, almost a decade before the introduction of DVD (around 1996 / 1997).


Our group at RCA Laboratories / David Sarnoff Research Center in Princeton had a unique mix of skills to conceive and create this vision: analog television pioneers and digital TV designers, image / video processing scientists, plus hardware and software engineers with deep experience working on a broad range of products. And we kept the project going though major corporate turmoil: The project started in RCA Laboratories in 1983, G.E. acquired RCA in 1985/86, SRI acquired the Sarnoff Research Center from G.E. in 1987, and finally Intel acquired the DVI Technology and team in 1988.

This was a non-trivial task. Getting real-time CD-ROM streaming and video and audio decompression running on the PC platform of the time required serious custom hardware -- two DVI Video Display Processor chips (microcode pixel processor and display), and three DVI boards (Video, Audio, Utility / CD-ROM), plus piggyback boards for video memory and video and audio capture.

And it required custom system software for reliable continuous real-time data flow under DOS, plus associated custom authoring tools for digital media (video, audio, image capture and compression) and CD-ROM layout.

This first commercial product introduced in July 1989, the Pro750 ADP (Application Development Platform), was designed as a turn-key system for developing multimedia applications. It included an IBM PC/AT-compatible computer with 40 MB hard drive, the full DVI board set, and the DVI software, all for $22,000. The DVI board set, without the digitizers, also was available as the End-User Kit for configuring delivery systems.

Also, this was before standard video formats like MPEG, and before video architectures like Microsoft AVI or Apple QuickTime, so we developed our own compression algorithms to fit the constraints of the available processing power (12.5 MIPS microcode engine) and CD-ROM data rate. The Production-Level Video (PLV) algorithm provided full-screen 30 fps video, but required the use of an off-line compression facility. The Edit-Level Video (ELV) algorithm supported real-time video capture and compression directly on the Pro750 system, to preview the application during development with stand-in video at 10 fps.

See my DVI Technology pages for more on the development of DVI, including chronology, products, pilot applications, publications, and photos and videos.

See Intel Pro750 Product Family for more on the Pro750 product from 1989, including specifications and marketing brochures.

July 24, 2009

Apple Updates Final Cut Studio

Apple has announced and released an updated version of Final Cut Studio, with new versions of Final Cut Pro 7, Motion 4, Soundtrack Pro 3, Color 1.5, and Compressor 3.5 (see press release). The price has dropped by $300 to $999, and the upgrade is $299.

(There's no identifying version number associated with this flavor of Final Cut Studio, although the last update in 2007 was version 2, so draw your own conclusions.)

One major focus of the new Final Cut Studio is web-based output and sharing. Final Cut Pro 7 adds Easy Export to continue working on projects while encoding in background, and Compressor 3.5 can share to YouTube and MobileMe, or export for iPhone, iPod, Apple TV, and mobile phones.

Final Cut Pro also has new iChat Theater support for real time Web review and approval of timelines or individual clips with iChat users, even if they don’t have Final Cut Pro.

However, Apple remains unenthused about delivery on old-fashioned optical disc -- DVD Studio Pro 4 still has not been updated, and is still only for authoring standard-def DVDs. However, you now can export HD material from FCP/Compressor to Blu-ray disc, albeit with simple menus and chapters.

FCP also adds three new Apple ProRes codecs for more efficient editing of complex formats, including for offline and mobile editing, general purpose broadcast quality editing, and high-quality editing.

Apple states there are more than 100 new features in the new Final Cut Studio, with deeper support for HD / high-quality formats, and tighter integration within the suite.

See Jan Ozer's First Look Review: Apple Final Cut Pro 7 (registration required for full access)

See my article, Summary: Apple Final Cut Studio for a summary of the suite's applications and new features.

See more video applications in my Video Editing Software Gallery

August 7, 2009

MotionDSP vReveal -- Easy Video Enhancement Software

Do you want to enhance video like on CSI, so you can read the writing on a shirt collar a block away in a camera phone video? Well not exactly, but more of this kind of technology from forensic video enchantment tools is becoming available in professional and even consumer video editing software, with auto enhancement and clean-up features as found in photo editing tools.

But who wants to do video editing on a short clip from a cell phone or pocket camcorder? -- Today it's all about shooting and posting to share on the web. So MotionDSP, a developer of forensic technology for law enforcement, has released MotionDSP vReveal, $49 software for quick enhancement of consumer videos.

With vReveal, just import your clip, select and preview the enhancements, and then save the result. It's made for quickly fixing up clips, without requiring firing up a full video editing application (although you still can trim the beginning and ends of clips).

The interface is clean and simple, with a split-screen preview of the enhancements. Besides sharpening blurry clips, enhancing contrast, adjusting brightness (without blowing out the bright areas), and general cleaning of noisy video, vReveal adds two especially interesting options typically found only in pro software: super-resolution, to double the dimensions of a smaller clip with more detail from adjacent frames, and stabilization, to smooth out jitters from hand-held cameras.

vReveal can process video files in MPG video and Windows formats (AVI, WMV), and more with QuickTime installed (MOV, MPEG 2, 3GP). You than can upload your video directly to YouTube, or save as a file, but only in WMV (Windows Media Video) or uncompressed AVI format. You'll then have to use a separate tool to convert clips to other popular formats for web, DVD, mobile, and other uses.

vReveal is a nice quick path to cleaning up videos. But the real test is to try it out to see how it works with your own videos. You can download the free 30-day trial version, which applies a watermark to exported and captured videos.

See my article, Summary: MotionDSP vReveal Video Enhancement Software for a tour of the software.

See more video applications in my Video Editing Software Gallery

August 25, 2009

Roxio Creator 2010 Available

Roxio Creator 2010 shipped today (press release). This is Roxio’s flagship suite of digital media applications -- Roxio describes it as the top selling multimedia software suite, with over 350 million copies shipped worldwide. It's a deep collection, with some 15 major applications to handle data, video, music, and images, plus some 20 additional Assistants and Express tools for specific dedicated tasks (see post on previous version).

The Creator suite has a long history, from its beginnings with Easy CD Creator for data copying and disk burning, which expanded to Easy Media Creator with DVD, and now is plain Creator. Roxio is the consumer brand of Sonic Solutions, so the suite also includes Sonic's MyDVD for disc authoring and BackOnTrack for backup.

Plus, the suite contains digital media editing tools for working with music, photos, and movies, built around a core of rather comprehensive applications including VideoWave and PhotoSuite (originally from MGI).

Recent versions of the Creator suite have added more sharing options, from converting to portable devices and uploading online, plus support for high-definition video, especially though AVCHD camcorders and Blu-ray Disc drives.

Creator 2010 continues the emphasis on consumer-friendly design, with an approachable and friendly design, a main Home / launcher application for quick access to tasks and creation tools, plus a new integrated Learning Center with video tutorials and how-to articles.

Use the main application to access the right tool for the job: Capture and import video, audio, and photos, from analog and digital devices, including HD camcorders. Edit and transfer directly to CD, DVD, and Blu-ray, or convert to other formats. Create projects and compilations. Then Enjoy and share your movies, music, and photo mixes on disc, on your TV, online on YouTube, and on portable devices like the iPod.

Key new features include Web video capture and conversion, graphics acceleration for fast video encoding especially for HD video, Blu-ray playback and on-disc editing, and Windows 7 support.

Roxio Creator 2010 is priced at $99.99 ($79.99 with mail-in rebate, $59.99 upgrade).

Roxio Creator 2010 Pro, priced at $129.99, adds Blu-ray playback and authoring, plus additional applications: LightZone photo enhancement, Sonicfire soundtrack creation,
SoundSoap audio noise reduction, and BackOnTrack 3 backup and recovery

The additional Blu-ray features in Pro also are available a separate plugins:
- Blu-ray Playback Plug-In - Full HD quality, with interactive features - $49.99
- High-Def/Blu-ray Disc Plug-In - BD-RE editing on disc - $19.99


And to help convert your older tapes and other media, the Roxio Video Capture USB is a separate hardware device for $49.99 that is designed to work with Creator 2010 to capture older analog material and convert into digital formats.

See full article - Roxio Creator 2010 Digital Media Suite

September 13, 2009

Logitech Performance / Anywhere Mouse MX -- Work on Glass

Who needs a mouse pad? Cordless mice are wonderfully handy for using your laptop around the house and on the road. And wherever you set up, laser mice can work great on a variety of unusual surfaces, from the fabric on the couch to the jeans on your leg. But traditional lasers just don't work well on some common surfaces, like high-gloss desktops or glass-topped tables.

Enter the new Logitech Performance Mouse MX and Anywhere Mouse MX, with Logitech's Darkfield laser tracking -- Instead of depending on the texture details of the surface, Darkfield uses an invisible infrared laser that detects microscopic particles and micro-scratches on surfaces, so it even works on glass or transparent plastic.

Both of these mice feature Logitech's sculpted designs to naturally fit the hand, with a flexible scroll wheel and multiple additional thumb buttons for rapid scrolling, web browsing, and application switching.

The Performance Mouse MX is full-sized, with a scooped right-handed shape, for $99.99. It uses a single rechargeable AA battery, and recharges through USB. The Anywhere Mouse MX is the compact portable version that runs on two AA batteries (or just one in a pinch), for $79.99.

The scroll wheel can be switched with a button press between precision click-to-click scrolling and hyper-fast scrolling to zip through long pages with a single spin. It also tilts left/right to scroll horizontally. On the Performance MX, the wheel presses to work as a middle button, and there's a Zoom thumb button that works while spinning the wheel.

Both mice have Forward / Back thumb buttons for actions like navigating your web page history or browsing folders, and an Application button to view open windows, or Expose on the Mac. However, the advanced functions require installing the Logitech SetPoint software -- so you won't be surprised by accidentally pressing a button as you are getting used to the mouse.

Finally, these new mice use Logitech's new Unifying wireless receiver, which can work with up to five other compatible Logitech keyboards and mice. The receiver itself is tiny and protrudes only a quarter inch from the USB port, so it can be easily left in your laptop.

See my Peripherals and Accessories Gallery for more on mice and other peripherals.

Find the Logitech Performance Mouse MX
and Logitech Anywhere Mouse MX on Amazon.com

September 24, 2009

Adobe Announces Premiere Elements 8

Adobe has announced its annual update to its consumer digital media editing software -- Premiere Elements 8 for video (Wiindows only) and Photoshop Elements 8 for photos (Win & Mac) -- see respective press releases.

The pricing is unchanged: the applications are $99 each, or $149 bundled together. The Plus versions add stronger online integration -- increasing the online storage from 2 to 20 GB, and providing ongoing updates of new tutorials, themes and artwork. The Plus versions are $139 each, or $179 bundled.

The most visible change in this release is a more-integrated Elements Organizer, now a separate application for importing, organizing, and tagging both photos and video. You can rate the best clips, group clips in nested Albums, and apply Tags to clips.

The next major theme of this release is automated analysis to determine the video quality, including video features, audio characteristics, and video content. And for photos, the Auto-Analyzer not only finds multiple faces in each images, but then does people recognition -- prompting you to enter the names of different people, and then finding additional matches to those faces.

Of course, this analysis requires significant processing time, so the Organizer will crunch away in the background as you import new collections of media (and, by default, will continue running even if you close the application). This is similar to the background processing in Premiere Elements conforming the audio and rendering the timeline.

The pay-off for this automated analysis, and your work in organizing albums and manually tagging clips, is not just a warm and fuzzy feeling. Given all this information about your clips, Premiere Elements then can be much more intelligent in performing a new level of automated editing, creating a polished movie using a specified theme, and with new assists for trimming lower quality footage, fixing shaking and lighting problems, and balancing across audio tracks. The new motion tracking also adds overaly graphics that automatically moves with subjects in footage.

The third theme in the new Elements application is even stronger support for online backup and sharing though Photoshop.com. New online albums use Adobe Flash animated themes to create dynamic online presentations. And the online catalog can be used to sync media across multiple computers running Elements.

Adobe describes Premiere Elements as consumer software, but the Elements applications are not for beginners. These tools actually provide a surprising depth of the power of Adobe's Premiere Pro CS4 and Photoshop CS4 professional applications, including video timelines with keyframed effects, and images with layered effects.

Yes, these tools add a friendlier interface with extensive tips and tutorials, and simplified editing modes like the video storyboard and one-click photo quick fixes. But the interface is not overly simplified to just big fat buttons -- the depth is still visible in the many smaller controls and icons.

The bottom line is that Adobe has designed the Elements tools for motivated enthusiasts who want to do more than a quick occasional edit. If you're the type who is organized about shooting and managing your footage, and willing to put in the effort to tag and analyzer it, then Premiere Elements 8 will help you do more, doing guided edits with the new automated assists, and then doing more sophisticated work with the depth from the Adobe CS pedigree.

See more- Adobe Premiere Elements 8 Reviewed (Videomaker Magazine)

See my full article - Summary: Adobe Premiere Elements 8 for more on the new features and a visual tour of the applications.

See summaries of video applications and versions in my Video Editing Software Gallery.

    Find Adobe Premiere Elements 8
    and bundle with Photoshop Elements 8 on Amazon.com

October 1, 2009

Sony Vegas Pro 9 for Pro Editing

Sony Vegas Pro 9, the latest version in the Sony Creative Software line of professional video and audio editing software, was released in May 2009. The product also includes DVD Architect 5, which adds support for Blu-ray Disc authoring.

Vegas demonstrates interesting developing trends in professional video editing software, from the interface to features to performance.

The most visible change is to the interface, with a darker palette. The more muted look fits better in darkened editing rooms and provides a more neutral background for working with clips. This has become popular as well in consumer applications like the Adobe Elements products, since the colors pop more against the plainer background.

Inside, Vegas is showing the way into higher performance computing and extended precision by including both the standard 32-bit application, and a native 64-bit version of the application, opening up the ability to address and processes more frames and higher-res frames directly in memory. And for extra precision during final rendering, Vegas supports shifting up from the standard 8-bit video mode to 32-bit floating point arithmetic and extended color space modes.

Another clear trend in Vegas Pro 9 is broader support for professional camera and imaging formats beyond broadcast to motion pictures, now supporting up to 4K resolution (4096x4096). Vegas supports import and native editing from the RED ONE digital cine camera, and has native import of Sony XDCAM EX cameras. It captures XDCAM-compatible MXF files from SD/HD-SDI sources. It has native import and export for the DPX and OpenEXR high-precision image formats. And it supports working with gigapixel-sized images.

More generally, Vegas tracks the transition from capturing from linear tape to importing from digital cameras with the new Device Explorer to browse AVCHD and XDCAM cameras to select clips for native import and editing.

For actual video editing, Vegas Pro 9 adds new professional lighting effects and workflow enhancements to work more efficiently. But it also adds automated assists, including automated adjustments to the source media to better match your project or rendering settings (i.e., though cropping or padding the frame size or adjusting the interlacing).

And Vegas continues to build on its heritage in audio editing -- Vegas 9 extends the precision of audio edits so that audio-only edits are no longer quantized to the nearest frame boundary by default.

The range required for professional videographers continues to broaden, from broadcast to film resolution, SD to HD to Internet videos -- and Vegas Pro 9 steps up to meet those needs for professional formats and higher performance.

Sony Vegas Pro 9 is currently available for around $599. Sony also has released a separate Vegas Pro Production Assistant plug-in with automation and productivity tools for broadcasters and editors, priced around $169. This automates a variety of frequent tasks and processes and creates customized presets for batch processing.

Sony offers trial version downloads of its products from its website, including Vegas Pro and DVD Architect. Current users can download the recent product updates for the latest versions and bug fixes.

See my full article: Walkthrough: Sony Vegas Pro 9

See summaries of video applications and versions in my Video Editing Software Gallery.

    Find Sony Vegas Pro 9 on Amazon.com

November 5, 2009

Sony Vegas Pro 9.0c Software Update

Sony Creative Software continues to release updates for its Sony Vegas Pro 9 nonlinear HD video and audio editing software. Now that video editing tools have settled into support for the new HD formats like HDV and AVCHD, the focus of this new 9.0c update is enhancing the editing workflow and extending support for native editing of specific camera formats, round-trip from import to delivery.

Camera support includes the Device Explorer for directly browsing and importing RED ONE (.r3d) files, round-trip support for the XDCAM EX with MP4 file rendering back to the camera SxS media, and additional support for Blackmagic and AJA cards for capture and output via SDI, HD-SDI, and HDMI.

The update also adds Smart Rendering of MPEG-2, which provides faster encoding and less generation loss for projects with minimal, cuts-only editing.

Additional audio enhancements include élastique Pro Time Stretching for flexible timestretching and pitch shifting, and Import Stereo Audio as Dual Mono, for example to split separate channels with interviewer's and subject's voice.

The Sony Vegas Pro 9.0c software update available is a free download.

See my full article: Walkthrough: Sony Vegas Pro 9

    Find Sony Vegas Pro 9 on Amazon.com

November 12, 2009

Adobe Premiere Pro CS4 Update for AVC-Intra

Adobe has announced a new free update to its Adobe Creative Suite 4 suite, Adobe Premiere Pro CS4 version 4.2.

The previous update to Premiere Pro in June enhanced support for the RED camera, popular video hardware, 64-bit systems, and interoperability with Avid software (see previous post).

This 4.2 update to Premiere Pro adds native support for Panasonic’s AVC-Intra format, so you can work natively to import, play, and edit AVC-Intra clips with no transcoding or rewrapping. WIth this tapeless workflow, you can edit directly off the P2 cards, or on your local drive. Premiere Pro supports the 50 and 100 Mbps data rates, and 1080 and 720 resolutions at the 24 to 60 frame rates.

You also now can transfer Final Cut Pro 7 projects directly to Premiere Pro CS4 with FCP XML interchange, without conversions or re-rendering, and while preserving common effects and transitions.

For more details, see the Premiere Pro CS4 version 4.2 datasheet, and a video demo on Adobe TV showing the end-to-end workflow.

The CS4 updates are available at no cost via the Adobe updater and from adobe.com. Trial versions are available online for download.

See my full article, Summary: Adobe Creative Suite 4, for more on the CS4 suites and individual applications.

See summaries of video applications and versions in my Video Editing Software Gallery.

    Find the Adobe CS4 Production Premium
    and Master Collection on Amazon.com

December 5, 2009

Compress and Deliver with Sorenson Squeeze 6

With all the different ways to share your videos these days, do you find yourself spending more and more time converting files to different formats with your video editor, and waiting for files to be compressed?

Then take a look at Sorenson Squeeze, a stand-alone video encoding tool that is designed to off-load your compression work (see post on previous version). Instead of exporting and compressing each clip from your video editing tool, you can use Squeeze to package up compression jobs, taking a group of clips and encoding them into multiple delivery formats.

Sorenson Squeeze version 6 was released in November, and expands Squeeze into a "total workflow solution for video professionals" -- to not only encode and publish video files on the Internet, but now with email and text notifications of job completion and an integrated review and approval process.

Squeeze supports direct publishing to social media sites, such as YouTube and Twitter, and content delivery networks, including Akamai and Limelight. And it includes a complimentary one-year Review & Approval account to the Sorenson 360 Video Delivery Network.

The base Squeeze engine also adds optimized video codecs, for H.264 and VP6, and new filters for improved video quality and encoding speed. The interface also has been updated for direct access to the various features. Sorenson also has developed a Preset Exchange site to import additional professional "video encoding recipes" or presets.

You can download trial versions of Squeeze 6 and Sorenson 360

See my full article - Walkthrough: Sorenson Squeeze 6 for more on what's new in Squeeze 6 and a walkthough of the workflow and interface.

And see Jan Ozer's Test Drive article for compression speed and quality results

See my Video Editing Software Gallery for information and links to pro video editing tools.

Update: See review article for Videomaker Magazine -- Sorenson Squeeze 6 Reviewed

December 10, 2009

Sony Sound Forge Pro 10 -- Audio Editing Suite

Sony Sound Forge Pro 10, the latest version of Sony's professional digital audio production suite, was released in September 2009. It's a full suite of tools for professional audio editing and mastering, including recording, sound design, audio restoration, and Red Book CD creation.

Sound Forge is part of Sony's professional line of video and audio software, including Vegas Pro for video editing (see previous post), Sound Forge Pro for audio editing, and ACID Pro for music creation including mixing, loops, and MIDI.

Sound Forge Pro 10 adds new precise event-based editing, musical instrument file processing, integrated disc-at-once CD burning, and professional noise-reduction tools. New processing tools include iZotope 64-bit SRC (sample rate conversion), iZotope MBIT+ dither (bit-depth conversion), and the élastique Pro timestretch/pitch shift plug-in. Interface enhancements include new customizable window layouts, metadata editing, performance optimizations, and interactive tutorials.

The product also includes Noise Reduction 2, CD Architect 5.2, and the iZotope Mastering Effects Bundle 2.

Sound Forge Pro 10 is currently available from Sony for $359 as a packaged product, or downloaded for $337. It's listed on Amazon for around $311.

You can download a trial version of Sound Forge Pro from the Sony website.

See my full article -- Walkthrough: Sony Sound Forge Pro 10 for a tour of the Sound Forge Pro workflow from import to editing to effects, with summaries of new and key product features.

See summaries of video applications and versions in my Video Editing Software Gallery.

Update: See review article for Videomaker Magazine -- Sony Sound Forge Pro 10 Audio Editing Software Reviewed

    Find Sony Sound Forge Pro 10 on Amazon.com

January 17, 2010

NAB and Digital Media Conferences for 2010

Now that CES is done, we can look forward to The NAB Show (National Association of Broadcasters), coming up April 10 - 15, in Las Vegas (see last year's post).

NAB is much more then broadcasting -- it covers the broad range from content acquisition and creation to distribution and delivery.

There's plenty to see and do, with some 85,000 attendees and 1,500 exhibitors. Check out the latest equipment, including cameras (e.g., Canon, JVC, Panasonic, Sony) and capture hardware (AJA, Matrox), and see tutorials on the new creative software (Adobe, Avid, but not Apple).

For working pros, NAB also offers serious digital media training with Post|Production World -- five days of training on the latest techniques and practices for producers, directors, editors, designers and new media professionals, plus Apple and Avid official certification training.

If you're interested in more shows, I've also updated my list of Digital Media Conferences for 2010, including regional events around New York City.

March 21, 2010

NAB Conference in April

The NAB Show (National Association of Broadcasters) is coming up fast, on April 10 - 15 in Las Vegas (see my post from last year).

NAB is much more then broadcasting -- it covers the broad range from content acquisition and creation to distribution and delivery.

There's plenty to see and do, with some 75,000 attendees and 1,500 exhibitors. Check out the latest equipment at the exhibition, including cameras (e.g., Canon, JVC, Panasonic, Sony) and video hardware (NVIDIA, AJA, Matrox), and see tutorials on the new creative software (Adobe, Avid, but not Apple). (There's a nice searchable exhibitor list online, with the option to print the list as PDF.)

Besides a variety of special sessions, NAB also includes focused conferences on Broadcast Engineering, Broadcast Management, Broader-casting, Digital Cinema Summit, and Military & Government Summit.

For working pros, NAB also offers serious digital media training with Post|Production World -- five days of training on the latest techniques and practices for producers, directors, editors, designers and new media professionals, plus Apple and Avid official certification training.

And there's the Post Pit, which "brings together users, rock stars and creators of the most savvy and dynamic post-production software available" -- with perspectives on equipment and software and workflow.

UPDATE:

As a bonus, NAB has provided a special registration code for free exhibits-only pass to the 2010 Show. This includes the Opening Keynote and State of the Industry Address, Info Sessions, Content Theater, Destination Broadband Theater and Exhibits. Use code A913 on the NAB registration page -- or code UG44 for a $100 discount off of the Post|Production World Conference.

April 1, 2010

Corel VideoStudio Pro X3 for Beginner and Enthusiast Video Editing

Corel VideoStudio Pro X3 is intended as a complete consumer video editing program, to import, edit, burn and share standard or HD video.

However, over time even consumer tools like VideoStudio have bulked up with a wide range of features and options for more experienced enthusiasts, which may then overwhelm beginners and occasional users.

As a result, Corel has split its VideoStudio Pro product into four separate applications, for easy vs. more advanced editing, and for video and DVD:

  • VideoStudio Express 2010 - for easy video editing and sharing
  • VideoStudio Pro X3 - for advanced video editing
  • DVD Factory Pro 2010 - for easy disc authoring and burning
  • DVD Movie Factory 7 SE - for advanced disc authoring and burning

(Yes, the product names are somewhat inconsistent, with two DVD "Factory" products, and using "Pro" for the entry-level DVD tool. In addition, DVD Movie Factory was a late addition to the product after it shipped, so it's a separate download, and not integrated with the other tools.)

The key features of the new VideoStudio Pro include new templates and filters, broader support for high-definition file and disc formats including Blu-ray, and faster editing and rendering with support for multi-core processors and graphics acceleration.

The entry-level tools included in the product, VideoStudio Express and DVD Factory Pro, share a common design built around a Media Organizer hub to import and organize clips.

But somewhat confusingly, these are actually two-in-one tools -- supporting direct editing and sharing of individual clips within the Organizer, as well as the video editing or DVD authoring for a collection of clips as the product names suggest.

The more advanced tools then have more traditional interfaces, with VideoStudio Pro built around operations on a timeline, and DVD Movie Factory using a three-step process to assemble media, edit and preview the menu design and navigation, and then burn the resulting disc.

Corel offers free trial versions of its products as downloads from its website. These are full versions, so you can fully explore the software, and experiment with how it runs on your particular system and with your specific kinds of video clips.

Corel VideoStudio Pro X3 was released in early 2010 for $99. VideoStudio Express 2010 is available separately for $49. The venerable PaintShop Photo Pro X3 also was recently released for $99, or is available with VideoStudio Pro X3 as the Corel Photo & Video Pro X3 Bundle for $149.

See full article - Walkthrough: Corel VideoStudio Pro X3

See my Video Editing Software Gallery with related products, consumer and professional.

Find Corel VideoStudio Pro X3, VideoStudio Express 2010, and the Photo & Video Pro X3 Bundle on Amazon.com.

April 10, 2010

Adobe Launches Creative Suite 5 on Monday - Watch Online

Hmmm ... The NAB Show is starting in Las Vegas (see earlier post), and it's been about a year and a half since the last release of the Adobe Creative Suite, version 4 (in October 2008).

Adobe has just announced Adobe Creative Suite 5 (CS5), due to ship within 30 days (see press release). This is the next generation of Adobe's collection of design and development tools, spanning the creative workflow across print, web, video, interactive and mobile.

Adobe will be broadcasting its global launch event online on Monday, April 12, at 8 a.m. PST / 11 a.m. EST. You can register online to view the event live, and to see the top new features of each CS5 suite, Photoshop, and the new CS Live online services.

Unlike some companies that keep all the details of new products super secret, Adobe is relatively open in sharing important information with its customers. For example, Adobe has previously released beta previews of several related components of CS4 and CS5 on its Adobe Labs site, including the new Flash Catalyst tool for interactive design without coding, and the new Adobe Story collaborative script development tool.

In addition, last October Adobe alerted its customers that Premiere Pro and After Effects will be accelerated as 64-bit native applications in this next release, and would therefore no longer support 32-bit operating systems. This was a continuation of the evolution to 64-bit processing that has occurred over the past several releases of video production tools and operating systems, and will allow users to edit much larger clips and work between multiple applications much more efficiently.

So, to get you in the mood, here's a sneak peek video of the amazing new content-aware fill feature in Photoshop (YouTube) -- This goes way beyond the healing brush to make entire trees disappear against a complex background, with just one brush stroke.

See my article, Summary: Adobe Creative Suite 5, for a breakdown of the tools and suites, and highlights of what's new with the CS5 applications.

See my earlier article, Summary: Adobe Creative Suite 4, for more on the CS4 suites and individual applications.

See summaries of video applications and versions in my Video Editing Software Gallery.

    Find the Adobe CS4 Production Premium
    and Master Collection on Amazon.com

April 13, 2010

Adobe Announces Creative Suite 5

Adobe has just announced the new Adobe Creative Suite 5 collection of publication, Web, and production tools, spanning the creative workflow across print, web, video, interactive and mobile (see previous post). These are due to ship within 30 days.

This release is another impressive piece of software engineering and project management by Adobe, following a year and a half after the release of CS4 -- CS5 includes upgrades to some 14 core applications from CS4, plus new Flash tools, plus additional components and services.

Adobe offers the CS5 applications as individual tools, or bundled in five different suites, including the full Master Collection with all the applications. There's also upgrade pricing to move up from older versions of the suites or from individual tools. The pricing of the individual tools is unchanged from CS4, while several of the suites have been adjusted up or down $100.

- The Design Standard suite is priced at $1299, including Adobe Photoshop for image editing, InDesign for page layout, and Illustrator for vector illustration. The Design Premium is $1899, and adds Photoshop Extended with 3D, plus the core Web tools (Flash Pro, Flash Catalyst, Dreamweaver, and Fireworks).

- The Web Premium suite is $1699, featuring Flash Professional for interactive authoring, Flash Catalyst for interactive design, and Flash Builder 4 for Web coding, plus Dreamweaver for website design, Fireworks for Web graphics, and Contribute for Web publishing. It also includes the core Design tools (Photoshop Extended and Illustrator).

- The Production Premium suite is $1799, featuring After Effects for motion graphics, Premiere Pro for video editing, and Soundbooth for audio editing, plus Encore for DVD and Blu-ray authoring, and OnLocation for shooting (both bundled with Premiere), plus Dynamic Link. It also includes the core Design tools (Photoshop Extended and Illustrator) and Web tools (Flash Professional, Flash Catalyst, and Flash Builder 4).

- The full Master Collection includes all the tools for $2599. All these suites also include Acrobat 9 Pro and access to the Adobe CS Live online services.

See my article, Summary: Adobe Creative Suite 5, for a breakdown of the tools and suites, and highlights of what's new with the CS5 applications.

Visit the Adobe CS5 Launch site for videos of the launch event and demos of the new tools.

See my DVD Authoring Software Gallery for more on Adobe Encore and other DVD authoring tools.

Find Adobe Premiere Pro CS5, Adobe CS5 Production Premium, and Adobe CS5 Master Collection on Amazon.com.

April 14, 2010

Upgrading to 64-bit for Video Production

Are you 64 bits? If you're working with video, and especially high-def video, it's time to take the step up to 64-bit processing and performance. Older systems just are not up to the demands of efficiently editing today's HD video, much less running multiple applications so that you can switch effectively between longer tasks like capturing, rendering, and encoding.

Companies including Adobe, Avid, and Sony have been making this transition for several product generations, and now the newly announced Adobe Premiere Pro CS5 and After Effects CS5 in Adobe Creative Suite 5 are optimized for 64-bit only, and will no longer run on 32-bit systems (see previous post).

So how much more is 64 bits?

Under traditional 32-bit versions of Windows, your computer can only use up to 4 GB of memory. Moving up to a 64-bit address space means your that computer can theoretically address 2^64 chunks of data, corresponding to 16 billion gigabytes (also known as 16 exabytes). With current operating systems, Mac OS X Snow Leopard is ready to support up to 16 terabytes of RAM, and the 64-bit version of Windows 7 Ultimate, Enterprise, and Professional editions can use up to 192 GB of memory (a big step up from 4 GB).

The good news is that the chip, computer, and operating system vendors also have been making this transition to 64 bits, so your current system may already be 64-bit ready, so all you need to do is to add more memory and possibly upgrade your operating system.

The situation is especially easy on the Apple Macintosh, as all but the oldest Intel-based Macs are 64-bit capable, and Mac OS X comes in one version that runs both 64-bit and 32-bit applications. In Snow Leopard, nearly all system applications were rewritten in 64-bit, with support for addressing massive amounts of memory. Even better, 64-bit applications still work with your existing storage devices, PCI cards, and compatible printers (see New in Snow Leopard: 64-Bit).

On PCs, computers have been shipping with 64-bit capable processors since around 2005, including the Intel Core 2 Duo and Xeon, and subsequent processors. You can check the capabilities of your system's CPU with the Intel Processor Identification Utility.

Then you need to install an upgrade to a 64-bit edition of Microsoft Windows Vista or Windows 7. This requires a "Custom" re-install, not a simple upgrade. You will also need to upgrade to 64-bit drivers for your hardware devices (32-bit drivers do not work). Use the Windows 7 Compatibility Center to check your system for hardware and software compatibility.

And there are further performance gains to be found from upgrading your system. For example, Premiere Pro CS5 also is optimized to take advantage of specific NVIDIA Quadro graphics cards with CUDA technology to further accelerate video processing and effects on the graphics co-processor

So step up to 64 bits, and pile on the memory. The result will be a system that opens and runs your applications faster, and plays and processes video much more efficiently, at higher resolution and with greater precision. Even better, you can keep many applications open at the same time to quickly switch between different tasks, and even leave complex operations running without dragging down your system.

See the Adobe notes, Speed up production with CS5 Production Premium, and associated whitepaper, Accelerate HD workflows with native 64-bit
support in CS5 Production Premium
(PDF), for more on upgrading your system for greater editing performance.

For more on optimizing for the Adobe CS5 Production Suite, see my article, Editing for the Future: Moving to 64-bit Video Production, in the May issue of Videomaker magazine

See my article, Summary: Adobe Creative Suite 5, for a breakdown of the tools and suites, and highlights of what's new with the CS5 applications.

April 18, 2010

Sony Vegas Pro 9.0d Software Update

One big splash at last week's NAB Show (see earlier post) was the release of Adobe Creative Suite 5, an impressive update of Adobe's entire collection of 14-plus tools (see previous post).

Meanwhile, Sony Creative Software continues to update its set of tools on independent schedules -- including Vegas Pro for video editing, Sound Forge Pro for audio editing, and ACID for music creation.

And last week, Sony announced the Vegas Pro 9.0d update (see earlier post), with new closed captioning and PSD layer support, enhanced import support for devices and files, and numerous other fixes and enhancements.

- New Closed Captioning support provides a full end-to-end workflow for importing, editing, and exporting captioned data in HD Sony XDCAM MXF material and via .SCC files.

- New Multi-layer Adobe Photoshop Document (PSD) support provides individual control over the separate file layers from a single PSD file, for complex animation and composting in the timeline.

- Enhanced Device Explorer support for additional cameras and devices includes CompactFlash-based memory recording units such as the HVR-MRC1 and hard-disk-based recording units such as the HVR-DR60.

- Enhanced direct Timeline Burning to DVD support joins the existing Burn to Blu-ray.

- New PreSonus FaderPort Control Surface support for touch-sensitive hardware control and automation, including volume and pan, play, stop, start transport and manage markers.

This is a free update for current owners of Vegas Pro 9. See the Vegas update site for the release notes and download.

See my full article: Walkthrough: Sony Vegas Pro 9

    Find Sony Vegas Pro 9 on Amazon.com

April 29, 2010

NAB Wrap - Mobile DTV, 3D Cameras, Editing Tool Updates

The NAB Show (National Association of Broadcasters) wrapped up a week ago, with an announced attendance of 88,044, up from 82,650 in 2009, and including 23,000 international attendees from 156 countries (press release, see earlier post).

Major themes at the show included momentum behind Mobile DTV, production equipment and tools for 3D TV, and broader support in editing tools for new HD camera formats.

Mobile Digital DV

Live broadcast TV is coming is coming to portable devices, via your local broadcast stations. As described by the Open Mobile Video Coalition (OMVC), TV stations can simultaneously deliver the primary HD channel and multiple additional digital multicast channels to homes, plus now multiple mobile digital television channels to “on the go” viewers.

Mobile DTV products demoed at NAB showed the range of possibilities for adding TV broadcast reception to mobile devices, including:
- a demo version of the Samsung Moment mobile phone, built on Google Android
- Dell Inspiron Mini 10 Entertainment prototype netbooks with HD display
- Portable DVD Players from LG Electronics
- Tivizen Mobile DTV receivers from Valups, which receive over-the-air Mobile DTV and beam it via Wi-Fi for reception on products like the iPad, iPhone, and laptops.

3D TV

3D Cameras from companies including Sony and Panasonic provide the eqipment needed to produce content for all those 3D TVs announced at CES (see earlier post). The conference sessions also included fascinating discussions by broadcasters on early experiences shooting major events in 3D.

- The Sony 3D Production System covers from cameras to recorders and processors, to monitors and projectors (Sony NAB site, PDF brochure).

- The Panasonic AG3DA1 Full HD 3D Camcorder ($21K) uses SD media card recording (press release).

Editing 3D Video

Amazingly, you can edit 3D video today, even in your favorite editor. For example:

- Sony lists several third-party add-ins for Vegas Pro -- CineForm Neo 3D, Medtron Make3D, and Pantarheon Bororo 3D

- Adobe Premiere Pro CS5 is already tightly integrated with CineForm (also available for Final Cut Pro)

- Sony has released a whitepaper on Editing Stereoscopic 3D in Vegas Pro 9, showing how to edit 3D directly in Vegas Pro using synchronized tracks

Video Editing Tools

NAB also saw updates to popular professional video editing tools.

- Adobe Creative Suite 5 (press release) updates some 14 core applications, with major performance enhancements from 64-bit processing and GPU acceleration, especially in Premiere Pro and After Effects, at $2599 for the full suite (see earlier post).

- The Sony Vegas Pro 9.0d update (press release) adds new closed captioning and PSD layer support, enhanced import support for memory and disk cameras, and numerous fixes and enhancements (see earlier post).

- Avid Media Composer v5 (press release) features expanded format support through Avid Media Access (AMA), including direct editing of RED R3D and QuickTime video formats, plus mouse-based editing through drag and drop in the timeline.

- Autodesk has brought its high-end Smoke software to the Mac (press release) for finishing work beyond Final Cut Pro -- plus applications including editorial, color correction, paint, cleanup, titling, and 3D compositing -- all in a single tool, for $14,995

More Links for NAB Wrap-Ups ...



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June 29, 2010

Authoring HD Productions to Blu-ray Discs

It's the era of high definition, shooting with equipment from professional video cameras and video DSLRs, to HD consumer camcorders, and even small pocket camcorders.

Video-editing software also has stepped up to the challenge, so you can edit even HD video comfortably on today's computers, from consumer applications like Corel VideoStudio Pro X3 (see earlier post) to professional tools like Adobe Encore CS5 (see earlier post),

But how can you share these productions in their full HD glory? One answer is to export your HD video clips to play back directly on a PC, for example in QuickTime or Windows Media Video format. You also can share online by uploading in HD to video sharing websites, usually in Flash or MPEG-4 / H.264 formats.

Or you can view and share your production in your own home, and with others, in full HD quality on your big widescreen HD display by burning to Blu-ray disc.

With new releases of video tools like Corel VideoStudio Pro X3 and Adobe Encore CS5, you now can choose from several varieties of HD disc designs, from authoring basic Blu-ray discs with DVD-like menu screens, to Blu-ray pop-up menus overlaid on video, and even burning in widescreen AVCHD format to standard DVDs.

For more on your options in using Blu-ray to share your HD productions on physical discs, see my full article, DVD Creation within the Blu-ray Format, Videomaker magazine, August 2010.


Menu editing in Adobe Encore CS5

- See my article - Walkthrough: Corel VideoStudio Pro X3, for a summary of the VideoStudio Pro applications and features.

- See my article, Summary: Adobe Creative Suite 5, for a breakdown of the tools and suites, and highlights of what's new with the CS5 applications.

- See my Video Editing Software Gallery with for more on Corel VideoStudio Pro X3 and other video editing tools.

- See my DVD Authoring Software Gallery for more on Adobe Encore and other DVD authoring tools.

Find Corel VideoStudio Pro X3, VideoStudio Express 2010, and the Photo & Video Pro X3 Bundle on Amazon.com.

Find Adobe Premiere Pro CS5, Adobe CS5 Production Premium, and Adobe CS5 Master Collection on Amazon.com.

August 27, 2010

Blue Microphones Yeti USB Multi-Pattern Mic

(with Brian Dixon)

USB provides a handy interface to easily add speakers to your laptop, as with products like the Logitech Clip-on USB Laptop Speakers (see earlier post), and Altec Lansing Orbit USB Portable Speakers (see earlier post).

But you can also feed audio in the other direction, with sound flowing into your computer from a USB microphone. With plug and play ease, you then can turn your laptop into an audio recording station, for interviews or podcasts or even performances. There's no drivers or specials software required -- just fire up your favorite audio recording software.

But you still need a quality mic, and preferably a flexible mic that can be used in a variety of situations. This is the idea behind the Blue Microphones Yeti USB Microphone, part of a family of innovative and interestingly-named audio recording equipment from Blue.

The key innovation in the Yeti design is the use of three internal condenser microphone capsules, which allow you to customize the pickup pattern for different recording situations. Turn the pattern selector switch on the mic to choose stereo recording, or to select one of three polar patterns: Cardioid to capture a single source (e.g., vocals, podcast, voiceover), Omnidirectional for groups (musicians, conversation, conference table), or Bidirectional for front and rear (musicians with presence, interview).

For example, we used the cardioid setup to record voiceover for video, since we did not want room ambience. The Yeti delivered excellent sound quality, with great presence in the recorded voice that required very little post-processing to fit with the video.

The Yeti provides additional handy controls, with master volume, mute, and microphone gain. And it has a headphone output jack for real-time monitoring with a volume control, along with the mini USB jack.

The Yeti should work well with almost any standard recording software. It's flexibility is in the recording pattern -- the recording format itself is fixed at 48 kHz, 16 bit digital audio format.

It's also not particularly portable at 3.4 pounds with the stand -- the mic itself is 1.2 pounds, with a threaded mount for a mic stand. You can't just carry the Yeti around and hope to record something on the spot. But it's great for quick setup on your desk for recording podcasts and other voice work, and certainly transportable for other similar work at other controlled locations.

The Blue Microphones Yeti is a quality mic (it's THX Certified) that provides recording versatility and good sound quality with quick and easy USB plug and play connection, for around $149. You'll find it to be the quickest / easiest / best-sounding option for a variety of recording projects.

See my Audio Accessories Gallery for more on audio components and portable speakers.

Find the Blue Microphones Yeti USB Mic on Amazon.com

August 31, 2010

Video Editing Software Buyer's Guide

The range of the video editing software market has been remarkably stable over the past decade or so, with a clear divide between "consumer" tools in the $50 to $100 to $150 range, and "professional" tools from the likes of Adobe, Apple, Avid and Sony, starting at around $700 to $800.

While the pricing has held, the capabilities have soared, as new technology has poured into the pro products, especially:

  • Higher quality - from HD video, surround sound, deep color and 24p film editing
  • Expanding format support - from DV to MPEG-2 to HDV, to tapeless AVCHD, to video DSLR and pro cameras
  • Faster workflow - from real-time preview to graphics acceleration and 64-bit editing
  • Broader sharing - via syncing to portable devices, uploading online, and burning to DVD to Blu-ray

Even better, these technologies not just for the high end -- New capabilities are flowing down even more quickly from the professional tools into the consumer tools, and at the same time some of the interface improvements are propagating up from the entry-level tools.

So "consumer" no longer means "beginner" for video editing. Consumers no longer want to be limited to an easy step-by-step tool. Instead they want access to the kinds of effects they see on television, with multi-track editing and lots of effects.

And professional tools provide more creative freedom from more precise controls, deeper integration with pro cameras and capture equipment, optimized performance for heavy-duty editing, and a focus on the entire end-to-end workflow, including integration with a larger suite of tools.

For an overview of consumer and professional tools, see my Video Editing Software Buyer's Guide in the October issue of Videomaker Magazine:

Also see my Video Editing Software Gallery for more on consumer and professional products.

September 20, 2010

Roxio Creator 2011 Goes 3D

Roxio Creator is Roxio’s flagship suite of digital media applications -- Roxio describes it as the leading toolset for digital media. Creator is a deep collection of media tools, with over 10 major applications to handle data, video, music, and photos, plus 20-some additional tools for dedicated tasks.

The latest edition, Roxio Creator 2011, was released in August 2010 for $99.99 ($80 street), with two major additions -- 3D video and home media sharing, within the home and across the Internet.

Yes, that cool 3D that the movie industry has been promoting with blockbusters like Avatar, and that the consumer electronics industry has been pushing with 3D HDTVs and 3D Blu-ray players, is now already available in a sub-$100 consumer software for you to create your own content.

And this is not a partial implementation -- Creator has tools for importing, editing, exporting, and displaying 3D, for video and photos, in a variety of formats.

Even better, you don't need to buy any additional new equipment. You can get started by displaying in 3D using simple anaglyph (red / blue) glasses, to view on your existing PC monitors and TVs, and share on DVD, Blu-ray, and online. And you can even use your existing 2D photos and videos -- Creator will convert them to 3D, and you can tweak the depth adjustments.

Creator is also available bundled with additional applications, as Roxio Creator 2011 Pro for $129, which adds Blu-ray Disc authoring, Roxio Secure Burn for backup and disc encryption, SmartSound Sonicfire Pro for custom soundtracks, Bias SoundSoap for noise reduction, and BackOnTrack for backup and disaster recovery.

See my full article -- Walkthrough: Roxio Creator 2011 Digital Media Suite -- for more on the Creator suite, applications, and 3D support.

    Find Roxio Creator 2011 and Creator 2011 Pro on Amazon

October 1, 2010

Adobe Premiere Elements 9 for Video Editing Enthusiasts

Adobe has released version 9 of its top-selling consumer applications, Premiere Elements for video editing and Photoshop Elements for photo editing.

The big news for Elements 9 is the full availability of both products on the Macintosh platform, in addition to Windows, including the integrated Elements Organizer.

These are not entry-level consumer applications -- Adobe has designed the Elements tools for motivated enthusiasts who want to do more than a quick occasional edit -- people who are motivated and organized about shooting and managing their footage, and willing to put in the effort to tag and analyze it.

The Elements applications do feature an accessible interface for enthusiast consumers, with extensive tips and tutorials, and simplified editing modes like the video storyboard and one-click photo quick fixes. But underneath they provide access to significant chunks of the underlying power and flexibility of Adobe's professional Premiere Pro CS5 and Photoshop CS5 applications, including video tracks with keyframed effects, and images with layers and effects.

The idea is to provide a growth path as you get more experienced -- so you can start simply, but then not hit a dead end in the application as your editing gets more sophisticated.

For example, new features in Premiere Elements 9 include Import from compact HD camcorders, including Flip camcorders and DSLR still cameras, optimized SD and HD editing including AVCHD, new effects for cartoon animation and audio cleaning, and export online to Facebook, to Online Albums, and as Web DVD.

And Premiere Elements is about more than accessible editing -- It's built around three major themes: organization of all your media in the included Elements Organizer tool, background automated analysis of your videos and photos to help drive smart editing assists, and online sharing, backup, and even syncing between multiple computers.

The application pricing is unchanged: Premiere Elements 9 and Photoshop Elements 9 are each $99 list ($79 with rebate) individually, or bundled together for $149 ($119 with rebate).

Adobe also offers the Plus upgrade bundle with more online storage and access, including ongoing delivery of new tutorials, themes and artwork. The basic applications include 2 GB of online storage for backup, sharing, syncing, and the Plus upgrade increases to 20 GB online storage (for up to 15,000 photos or 4 hours of DVD-quality video). The individual applications with Plus are $139 ($119 with rebate), or bundled for $179 ($149).

See my full article for details on the new Premiere Elements: Walkthrough: Adobe Premiere Elements 9

See summaries of video applications and versions in my Video Editing Software Gallery.

    Find Adobe Premiere Elements 9
    and bundle with Photoshop Elements 9 on Amazon.com

Premiere Elements 9 - Animated Cartoon look

November 26, 2010

Stereo Maker Tools to Get Started with 3D Imagery

If you're intrigued by the possibilities of 3D stereography, then you can get started experimenting with making and viewing your own stereo images and videos without requiring buying expensive new equipment and software.

As described in my article on 3D - The Next Dimension (see earlier post), you can download sample 3D files of images and video to try out, and even use your existing 2D digital camera and camcorders to create your own stereo imagery.

Then to view and edit and share the 3D material, you can get started with the 3D software tools from the Stereo Maker site. This extensive collection of tools is being actively updated, and includes StereoPhoto Maker, StereoMovie Viewer, Stereo Movie Maker, and Stereo SlideShow Maker.

StereoMovie Player is a 3D video player that works with the common video file types supported by Windows Media Player, including MPEG, AVI, and WMV. It supports a variety of stereo file formats, including side-by-side, above/below, and interlaced, including the 3D-AVI format used by the Fujifilm Real 3D W3 digital camera (see earlier post).

And StereoPhoto Maker is an extensively-featured photo viewer and editor, again supporting a wide range of still image file formats (including MPO from the W3). It has tools for image correction and enhancement, including auto alignment and color correction.

Even better, these extensive processing options also are available in batch mode to process, auto align, auto correct, and convert entire folders of files. (Show here is the the Multi Conversion dialog with extensive batch processing options.)

You then can add stereo text, logos, and borders to your images, and share the results as a slideshow, animated GIFs, or HTML, or print hard copy as multiple images, or stereo cards.

The Stereo Maker tools also support a wide range of stereo display types, including free-viewed side-by-side, monochrome or color anaglyph, horizontally-interlaced, vertically-interlaced (Sharp 3D LCD), and page-flipped (shutter glasses). They also are listed as NVIDIA 3D Vision Ready.

I found these tools very helpful for quickly showing files for demos, and, in particular, StereoPhoto Maker is great for demoing the different common 3D formats. You can also set it up to flip back and forth between the left and right image to help show the difference between viewpoints only a few inches apart.

For creating more extensive productions, you can move on tools like Roxio Creator 2011, which takes the venerable digital media suite into stereo, with 3D video editing and sharing your 3D productions on DVD or Blu-ray disc (see earlier post). Creator also supports 2D to 3D conversion to add a sense of depth for both photos and videos.

See my accompanying article on 3D - The Next Dimension
    - Part 1 - Seeing 3D: Market, Technology, Formats
    - Part 2 - Using 3D: Products, Shooting, Editing

    Find Roxio Creator 2011 and Creator 2011 Pro on Amazon

December 21, 2010

Imation Link Wireless Audio/Video Extender

Wireless is a big topic for my Holiday Gadget talks this year, so part of the demo is decoupling my laptop using some of the wireless peripherals that I've been covering this season, including wireless broadband networking through the Verizon MiFi cellular hotspot, a wireless mouse like the Microsoft Arc Touch Mouse, and wireless audio with the Logitech Wireless Speakers.

But what about showing the video display? Video requires another cable plugged into the laptop, and at two recent talks the projector was set up halfway up the aisle, which makes running a cable even more clumsy.

Luckily, I had along another piece of equipment to demo -- the Imation Link Wireless Audio/Video Extender. This wirelessly transmits video, and audio, from a PC or Mac to a television or projector, for only $149.

And showing the video over wireless does not require compromises -- The Imation Link supports HD video (720p / 1280 x 720), stereo audio, and still photos at 1080p.

The Imation Link is easy to set up. You connect the fin-shaped receiver unit to the projector or TV using a standard VGA cable (the same cable that you would otherwise plug in to your laptop), or using HDMI.

Then plug in the USB transmitter dongle to your PC to send the display to the receiver. This pivots vertically as a directional antenna to transmit up to 30 feet. It requires a line-of-sight path, but actually worked great for my talks for periods of up to an hour -- without any glitches, even with occasional obstructions as people moved through the transmission path.

To set up the new display on Windows, the Imation Link simply appears as a new available display device in the display properties. You than can choose to replicate the desktop on both your laptop display and on the projector, or you can extend the desktop across both displays, to work privately on your laptop and then drag windows to the second display in order to share them. (Actually, on my laptop, this can give me a third display -- the built-in laptop display, an external monitor connected to the laptop's VGA port, and the wireless Imation Link.)

The result is pretty impressive -- even through the desktop is typically rather static, you're actually wirelessly streaming HD video in real time, so there's no lag or glitches when you move the cursor, or drag a window, or launch an application, or play some video.

So how does this work? You can't stream video with Bluetooth, which was designed for lower-bandwidth devices like mice and printers and streaming audio. And we've all seen streaming video over Wi-Fi, which can have glitches from transient network hiccups or interference from multiple users.

Instead, the Imation Link uses Wireless USB (also known as Ultra-WideBand / UWB -- see the USB Implementers Forum and Wikipedia). Wireless USB provides a reliable connection, with faster speeds and lower power than Wi-Fi, with dedicated, one-to-one connectivity between the transmitter and receiver.

The Imation Link Wireless Audio/Video Extender is an early example of the promise of higher-speed wireless interconnections, with lower cost, power, and size requirements that are designed to span consumer electronics, PC peripherals, and mobile devices. Wireless USB performance is targeted at 480 Mbps at 3 meters (i.e., delivering the same bandwidth as wired USB 2.0), lowering to 110 Mbps at 10 meters.

The bottom line is that the Imation Link has already saved me from setup hassles and panics in unfamiliar facilities -- I now can literally carry around my laptop while giving a demo or talk, wirelessly streaming the video and audio to the projector, whatever its location across the room.

See my article on Holiday Gadgets 2010: Portable and Wireless for more on portable and wireless trends, devices, and accessories.

See my Consumer HDTV Gallery for more on High-Def TV, displays, and projectors

   Find the Imation Link Wireless A/V Extender on Amazon

January 4, 2011

Avid Studio Products Get You Started With Pro Tools

Avid Pro Tools is a big name in Digital Audio Workstation (DAW) software, for professional film scoring and composition, and sound production for film, TV, video, and broadcast. Formerly developed by Digidesign, and now part of Avid, Pro Tools is available in a variety of versions with integrated audio interface hardware.

And now Avid has brought Pro Tools to first-time Pro Tools users and music creators interested in musical composition, editing and production. These three Avid Studio systems provide what you need to create and record music at home, with new Pro Tools SE software for Windows or Mac plus bundled M-Audio hardware:

  • Avid Vocal Studio with USB microphone for $99 includes the M-Audio Producer USB microphone and stand to capture vocals for songs, soundtracks, podcasts, or voice-overs. The mic includes a headphone connection for monitoring the input sound and the output from Pro Tools.
  • Avid KeyStudio with keyboard for $129 includes the M-Audio KeyStudio 49-key, velocity-sensitive, synth-action keyboard, to play music with the included library of virtual instruments, from piano, organ, and synth, to guitars, bass, strings, and percussion.
  • Avid Recording Studio with a USB interface box for $129 (shown here) includes the M-Audio Fast Track USB interface box, with XLR input for microphone and vocals and a 1/4 inch input jack for electric guitar, bass, and other instruments.

These systems are designed for music creation and expression -- for creative hobbyists with an interest in musical composition, editing, and production. You choose the appropriate interface to record your instrument (vocal, keyboard, guitar), and then can leverage the power of the Pro Tools interface to edit and mix, compose and instrument your compositions.

These Avid Studio products can get you going quickly for recording your own audio and then mixing your own musical compositions. You get both the M-Audio interface hardware and the real Pro Tools experience, so you can learn the interface as you grow. And your Pro Tools SE projects will open in the more advanced versions when you are ready to move up.

See my article in Videomaker magazine:
Avid Studio Music Creation Systems with ProTools SE Review

Find the Avid Vocal Studio, KeyStudio, and Recording Studio on Amazon.com


March 2, 2011

Avid Pinnacle Studio HD Version 15

Pinnacle Studio is a venerable name in consumer video editing, and Avid is continuing that tradition with the release of Studio version 15 (while starting to depreciate the "Pinnacle" name). This new version focuses on "empowering hobby videographers and editing enthusiasts to make professional-quality movies at a fraction of the cost."

This is a year of consolidation in consumer editing, without huge new technology upgrades as in the past with HD, AVCHD, and Blu-ray. As a result, the focus is on enhancing the user interface to make editing easy for casual users, while still providing impressive capabilities for more advanced users.

Studio 15 adds new technology with Intel processor optimization for improved playback speed and performance, and support for additional formats including DivX Plus HD, YouTube HD, QuickTime HD, and AVCHD Lite.

And it includes a new Archive/Restore feature to back up all your project data in a single location, and conveniently transfer projects between multiple PCs.

Plus, the Studio 15 products pile on additional content and plug-ins to enhance your projects, starting with more than 1800 built-in effects, titles, and transitions.

As with previous releases, Avid has released Studio 15 in three versions:

Studio HD for $59 is the base product.

Studio HD Ultimate for $99 adds Blu-ray burning, Dolby Digital 5.1 surround sound, Keyframe effects, and the Motion Titler, plus two Red Giant plug-ins and a content pack of more than 200 more titles, sound effects, and DVD menu templates.

Studio HD Ultimate Collection for $129 includes a 5 x 6 foot green screen for creating chroma-key effects, plus another four Red Giant plug-ins and another effect pack.

The base Red Giant plug-ins are Knoll Light Factory for light and lens flares and ToonIt for video animations. The additional four are Trapcode Shine for light ray effects, Particular for 3D smoke, explosion, and rain effects, Magic Bullet Looks for looks and mood, and Trapcode 3D Stroke for animation and 3D effects.

The Avid / Pinnacle Studio 15 line provides clear options for different kinds of users, from entry-level basic editing (albeit still with HD video), to taking advantage of more advanced built-in motion titles and effects, to learning the Red Giant plug-ins for professional-style looks. (A variety of plug-ins and content packs are also available separately.)

Avid also has announced a new Avid Studio product for the next step in consumer editing, extending the Pinnacle Studio approach for editing enthusiasts.

You can download a free 30-day trial edition of Pinnacle Studio Ultimate version 15 to try it out for yourself.

See my Video Editing Software Gallery for information and links to video editing tools.

Find the Avid Pinnacle Studio HD 15 on Amazon.com


April 18, 2011

MAGIX Movie Edit Pro 17

MAGIX offers a broad range of multimedia software (photo, graphics, video, and music), especially by pouring impressive technology inexpensive consumer tools.

In this tradition, MAGIX Movie Edit Pro 17 packs an impressive punch for a $59 video editing tool, with the Plus version for $99 adding even more sophisticated features including effects masks, MultiCam editing, and Dolby Digital 5.1 mixing -- plus stereo 3D editing with photos and video.

This is serious video editing, not an "E-Z" consumer application -- Movie Edit Pro provides deep support for the latest technologies and devices. It supports direct import from portable devices and HD camcorders (including native AVCHD), editing with extensive transitions and effects, and audio dubbing, and then export to portable devices, online, and to DVD and Blu-ray with animated menus.

The traditional (albeit somewhat idiosyncratic) video editing interface supports storyboard and timeline editing, including keyframed effects. But the real reward comes from digging deeper in the menus and options to find and explore a plethora of other features, wizards, and ancillary tools, from ad removal and map travel animation to 3D character and scene animation.

If you want to explore and grow their movie making skills, Movie Edit Pro should keep you occupied and exploring for quite a while. MAGIX offers a trial download of the Plus version so you and see for yourself how it could work for you.

See my full review for Videomaker Magazine.

See my Video Editing Software Gallery for information and links on video editing tools.

Find MAGIX Movie Edit Pro 17 on Amazon.com


May 5, 2011

Adobe Releases Creative Suite 5.5

Adobe has released its Creative Suite 5.5, a year after the release of CS 5 (see earlier post). This is a new direction for Adobe, which typically releases major new versions of its CS line every couple of years, followed by interim updates to the individual tools.

With CS 5.5, Adobe is releasing a point upgrade to its full CS Design, Web, and Production suites (and the full Master Collection with all the applications), with significant updates to some -- but not all -- of the key applications:

  • Design - InDesign
  • Web - Flash Pro, Flash Catalyst, Dreamweaver
  • Production - After Effects, Premiere Pro, Device Central, Media Encoder

The other big change is the replacement of Soundbooth with the full Adobe Audition application for audio recording, editing, multitrack mixing, mastering, and sweetening with noise reduction and effects.

The CS 5.5 Design and Web suites feature support for developing mobile and tablet applications that run on iPhone, iPad, Android devices and the BlackBerry Playbook, as well as new HTML5 support.

And while Photoshop was not updated, CS5.5 supports building tablet applications that interact with Photoshop from Android, BlackBerry and iOS devices. Adobe has released demonstration iPad applications including Adobe Color Lava, Adobe Eazel, and Adobe Nav for Photoshop.

For the Production suite, CS5 featured performance improvements from 64-bit support in Photoshop, Premiere Pro, and After Effects, plus the Mercury Playback Engine in Premiere Pro for GPU-accelerated real-time editing and playback (see earlier post).

Besides the addition of Audition, CS 5.5 extends this GPU acceleration, and enhances file-based workflow for RED and other tapeless cameras and project exchange support for Final Cut Pro and Avid Pro Tools. After Effects adds powerful Warp Stabilizer, Camera Lens Blur and Light Falloff effects. Media Encoder also steps up to 64-bit, with background rendering and watch folders.

The price for the suites and individual applications remains the same as CS 5, with upgrade pricing for previous versions of the suites or applications. But with CS 5.5, Adobe also is introducing subscription access to the CS suites and individual applications. This should be particularly useful for a short-term project, or a peak in staffing, or to try out to the latest version of the software. You can install the applications and use them month to month, paying for the specific software that you need, when you need them.

A subscription for the entire Master Collection for $195 a month (or $129 with a one-year commitment), the Design or Web or Production suites for around $135 ($90) a month, or individual tools including Photoshop, Illustrator, InDesign, Flash Pro, Dreamweaver, After Effects, and Premiere Pro for around $35 - $50 ($50 - $75).

See my article, Summary: Adobe Creative Suite 5.5, for a breakdown of the tools and suites, and highlights of what's new with the CS5.5 applications.

See my Video Editing Software Gallery for more on consumer and professional video tools.

Find Adobe Premiere Pro CS5.5, CS5.5 Production Premium, and CS5.5 Master Collection on Amazon.com.

May 13, 2011

Avid Studio for Video Editing Enthusiasts

Video editing for consumers is a tricky business, since the software needs to be easy to use for beginners, and yet have enough depth to allow enthusiasts to grow and experiment. There are simple tools to quickly trim clips and upload online, but if you want to make interesting and creative productions then you need something better -- a more complete interface with a traditional timeline to assemble and layer video and audio, apply interesting transitions and effects, and enhance with titles and animation.

For example, Avid has updated its venerable Pinnacle Studio HD product line to version 15 (see earlier post), with expanded HD format support, performance optimizations, and bundled professional-quality content, starting at $59.

That's an impressive collection of capabilities and technology, and should be enough to keep enthusiasts happy for quite a while. Yet consumer tools can cramp your style as you're being creative, especially with a fixed number of tracks and limited support for managing a growing collection of clips and assets.

So Avid has introduced a new product, Avid Studio, which builds on the familiar and friendly look of Pinnacle Studio, but breaks through typical consumer limits to help organize your assets, correct and edit your clips, assemble layers on the unlimited timeline, and enhance with an extensive package of content and plug-ins. Yet this is still a consumer / enthusiast product, priced at $169, or as a $99 upgrade from Pinnacle Studio.

Even in its first release, Avid Studio is a well-designed step up for advanced enthusiasts, breaking through the sometimes-frustrating limitations of consumer tools to help you be more creative with your productions. It extends the accessible Pinnacle Studio interface style to allow managing larger collections of media assets, more controlled editing of individual clips, and headroom for creative freedom. Plus, it includes an extensive collection of additional content and effects.

See my full review for Videomaker Magazine.

See my Video Editing Software Gallery for information and links on video editing tools.

Find Avid Studio on Amazon.com

May 17, 2011

Jan Ozer on Video Compression for Flash, Apple Devices and HTML5

If you're making video and sharing it online or on iPhones / iPads / iPods then you need Jan Ozer's new book, Video Compression for Flash, Apple Devices and HTML5.

Ozer is best known for his profusion of articles for magazines including PC Mag, Event DV, and Streaming Media, as well as his popular seminars at the Streaming Media Conference and other events (see earlier post).

His expertise comes not only from shooting and producing video, but also from working with manufacturers for product evaluations and with application developers for in-depth reviews and comparisons, plus his ongoing surveys and analysis of how major sites are using video for streaming and download.

And now Ozer has packaged up his experience and advice in his new book, chock full of detailed information and practical advice for getting the best video for today's most important distribution mediums: Apple iOS portable devices and H.264 Web streaming (just in time for the new HTML5 browsers).

The book starts with an introduction to streaming production and encoding parameters. The next set of chapters focuses on H.264 encoding and production, with specifics for preparing material for Apple QuickTime, Adobe Flash, Microsoft Silverlight, and HTML5. The section on producing for iDevices and other mobile platforms then covers both video for download delivery via iTunes and for steaming over Wi-Fi or cellular.

Next Ozer digs further into related issues for producing videos, including adaptive streaming (adjusting quality to the download bitrate without requiring a dedicated streaming server), choosing an encoding tool (for Mac and Windows), producing for related formats (Google WebM and VP6, and Microsoft Windows Media / WMV), and accelerating encoding on dedicated workstations.

Finally, Ozer provides specific guidance on actually distributing your productions, both online through video hosting sites, and via live streaming. And there's a nice concluding chapter on useful video file analysis tools.

Throughout the book, Ozer provides his trademark depth of information:

  • Discussions of encoding options are made concrete with screenshots from a variety of encoding tools, side-by-side comparisons of video encoded with different parameters, and tables with details of options for different compression targets.
  • Specific advice is grounded in the results of his encoding and playback testing, showing the real-word performance of different encoding resolutions and options on different platforms.
  • Detailed recommendations are complemented with the results of his analysis of a variety of popular sites, showing how each has chosen to prepare video for different types of audiences.

Video Compression for Flash, Apple Devices and HTML5 is available now for $29.95. Ozer is great about sharing his expertise and experience in his articles and seminars, and the book goes further to organize and expand what you need to know to make great-looking and efficiently-compressed video. It's a must-have for people concerned with sharing video to where the audience is, on iDevices and over the Web.

You can find more about the book and Jan Ozer's writings online at his StreamingLearingCenter.com site, along with video tutorials, sample comparison images and videos, and information on his webinars, seminars, and consulting.

Order from Amazon.com

June 23, 2011

Apple Final Cut Pro X


Apple has released its new Final Cut Pro X video editor, after a teaser preview at the NAB conference in April. And this is not just an update, or a re-engineering for 64-bit processing -- It's a complete rewrite and reinvention.

Final Cut Pro X is priced at $299. Its companion apps are now available separately for $99 each: Motion 5 for professional motion graphics, and Compressor 4 for advanced media encoding.

FCP X features some interesting new ideas in video editing (as well as some Apple-style rebranding of ideas previously seen in other applications). These include a new "Magnetic" Timeline which auto-adjusts as you arrange clips, Clip Connections to link related elements so they can move together, grouped Compound Clips, and Precision Editor to trim directly in the timeline. There's also an interesting Auditions feature to group alternative shots to compare different takes.

FCP X also stresses media organization, with background Auto-Analysis on import to tag clip attributes for later searching and organization, Smart Collections based on search criteria, custom Range-Based Keywords that you can assign to a time range within a clip, and built-in Content Library Browsers.

Then, not surprisingly, FCP takes advantage of the latest Mac hardware and software for real-time playback, starting with the completely rebuilt 64-bit architecture to work with larger projects, larger frame sizes, more frames in RAM, and deeper multilayered effects, Grand Central Dispatch for multi-threaded processing using all CPU cores, and GPU acceleration for real-time effects previews and rendering.

But this is also a big change for FCP fans, as Apple seemingly refocuses on a less high-end, professional customer base, perhaps best demonstrated by the lack of support for importing old FCP files (although you can import from iMove).

For example, check David Pogue's review article and follow-up post for a sense of the resulting uproar, as he puts Apple's behavior in perspective:

"Apple has followed the typical Apple sequence: (1) throw out something that’s popular and comfortable but increasingly ancient, (2) replace it with something that’s slick and modern and forward-looking and incomplete, (3) spend another year finishing it up, restoring missing pieces."

So you can think of FCP X as a somewhat beta release of a significant new pile of software, with some shiny new stuff, major disruptions for current users, and promises and hopes for improvements to come.

For more, also visit Creative Cow for reviews, discussions, and details on missing features.

See full article: Summary: Apple Final Cut Pro X for more on the new features.

See my Video Editing Software Gallery for information and links on video editing tools.

July 2, 2011

Adobe 50% Discount Offer for Final Cut Pro Users (Plus Avid and others)

Adobe has responded quickly to the kerfuffle over the new Apple Final Cut Pro X (see previous post) with a new switcher / upgrade program offering 50 percent off on the Premiere Pro CS5.5 video editor or the Creative Suite CS5.5 Production Premium bundle (see previous post on CS 5.5).

This is something of a culmination of Adobe's strategy to return its suite of production tools to the Macintosh platform starting with CS3 in 2007, after the Mac's transition to the Intel architecture. CS3 also saw the integration of Flash and other tools from the Macromedia acquisition.

The key features in Premiere Pro that Adobe is promoting to FCP users include:

  • Tight integration to import native Photoshop and Illustrator files complete with layers, and to move directly between After Effects, Adobe Premiere Pro, and Encore without delays for intermediate rendering using Adobe Dynamic Link.
  • Native editing, especially for tapeless and advanced formats including RED, DPX, P2, AVCHD, and XDCAM, without requiring format transcoding or rewrapping.
  • Open workflow for projects using other tools, including roundtrip editing with files from Avid Media Composer, Avid Pro Tools, and, yes, Apple Final Cut Pro.
  • Native 64-bit Mercury Playback Engine for multicore optimized and GPU-accelerated real-time effects, color correction, and rendering.
  • Plus higher color fidelity, and real-time 3D editing with CineForm.

In addition, Premiere Pro also includes the revamped Adobe Media Encoder for batch background encoding, OnLocation for direct-to-disk recording and on-set monitoring with associated metadata, and Encore for Blu-ray Disc authoring with motion and multipage menus plus interactive web DVDs.

The offer is good for owners of any version of Apple Final Cut Pro or Avid Media Composer, and ends September 30, 2011. And previous Adobe users are not left out -- the 50% deal also is available for owners of various earlier versions of individual products and suite editions, even going back to Adobe CS 2 and Macromedia Flash.

See my article, Summary: Adobe Creative Suite 5.5, for a breakdown of the tools and suites, and highlights of what's new with the CS5.5 applications.

See my Video Editing Software Gallery for more on consumer and professional video tools.

Find Adobe Premiere Pro CS5.5, Adobe CS5.5 Production Premium, and Adobe CS5.5 Master Collection on Amazon

July 11, 2011

Adobe CS5.5 Production Premium: Themes and Trends

The new Adobe CS5.5 Production Premium portion of Adobe Creative Suite 5.5 update (see earlier post) steps the core production tools to new 5.5 versions, including Premiere Pro, After Effects, Media Encoder, Device Central, Flash Professional, and Flash Catalyst.

CS5.5 also adds the full Adobe Audition audio editor into the suite, replacing the simpler Soundbooth tool from CS5. Audition provides deep support for multi-track recording, nondestructive editing, and mixing, plus audio restoration and effects. The new Audition now is native on Mac and Windows, with a rebuilt multi-threaded playback engine to import and edit and apply effects in parallel.

The improvements in CS5.5 Production Premium extend themes that we have seen developing in previous versions of the Creative Suite, including straightforward workflow editing directly in native file formats, 64-bit performance with more GPU-accelerated effects for powerful editing even on a laptop system, integration across Adobe applications and with other products, and delivery beyond conventional computer and Web formats to smartphones, portable devices, and Internet-enabled televisions.

So what does the new CS5.5 Production Premium tell us about Adobe's ambitions and the state of video editing?

Part of this is a continuation of trends across previous Creative Suite releases -- smoother workflow in response to customer feedback, focus on cross-platform performance (Mac / PC and workstation / laptop), interoperability within the suite, and open formats to work with other products.

There's also a strong push by Adobe further into the broadcast and film markets, with end-to-end metadata starting with scriptwriting, RED camera support, and rapid editing and multi-format delivery in news broadcasting.

But at the same time CS5.5 expands options for independents, with fully-accelerated editing on laptops, native support for DSLR video cameras, and Audition now on the Mac with deep audio correction and enhancement tools.

And don't forget the subscription access to any or all of the suite of CS tools, available when needed, or just to experiment.

See my full article for Videomaker magazine: Adobe CS5.5 Production Premium Advanced Editing Software

See my article, Summary: Adobe Creative Suite 5.5, for a breakdown of the tools and suites, and highlights of what's new with the CS5.5 applications.

See my Video Editing Software Gallery for more on consumer and professional video tools.

Find Adobe Premiere Pro CS5.5, CS5.5 Production Premium, and CS5.5 Master Collection on Amazon.com.

August 11, 2011

Sony Vegas Movie Studio HD Platinum 11

Sony Creative Software continues to enhance its collection of consumer media editing tools with Sony Vegas Movie Studio HD Platinum 11 for "professional-quality" video editing and disc authoring, at a consumer price just below $100.

This new version features end-to-end support for stereoscopic 3D editing, along with enhancements including GPU-accelerated AVC rendering and the Blu-ray and DVD authoring in the separate DVD Architect Studio 5.0.

This splitting of functionality into separate focused applications is a trademark of the Sony venerable Home Studio line, which also includes two other separate audio tools, focused on audio vs. music (see earlier post): Sound Forge Audio Studio 10 for audio editing and production ($64, see earlier post) and ACID Music Studio 8 for music creation and mixing ($64).

Vegas Movie Studio is designed for people who want to do significant editing -- It's not an "EZ" editor with lots of one-click fixes and step-by-step wizards. Instead, it's a pro-style editor, with timeline editing, keyframed video effects and transitions, text animations and effects, and audio effects down to the event level. Plus it incorporates pro technology including stabilization, green screen, color correction, and support for pro cameras including DVCAM.

Another Sony trademark is deep access to options and features, with a wide range of options and features available in the menus and dialogs. The profusion can sometimes be overwhelming, especially with Sony's sometimes idiosyncratic design and terminology.

But Vegas Movie Studio continues to satisfy if you're looking for a consumer-priced editing tool that will keep offering options instead of getting in your way as you fine tune the subtle details of your production.

The core Vegas Movie Studio HD Platinum 11 is priced at $94.95, with AVCHD video, 5.1 sound, and DVD Architect Studio. And the Vegas Movie Studio HD Platinum 11 Production Suite for $124.95 bundles Sound Forge Audio Studio and more effects.

See my full article: Summary: Sony Vegas Movie Studio 11

See summaries of video applications and versions in my Video Editing Software Gallery.

Find Sony Sony Vegas Movie Studio HD Platinum 11 and Movie Studio HD Platinum 11 Suite on Amazon.com

August 26, 2011

Samson Zoom H1 Handy Recorder

Samson Zoom H1 Handy Recorder is a small and light and relatively inexpensive professional handheld audio recorder with a smart design that makes just the right trade-offs -- at least for my needs.

At around 5 1/4 inches long and 1 ounce, it's easy to carry for capturing events, and it's lightweight enough to attach to a camera (with a tripod mount, plus a line out jack to feed directly into the camera audio input).

But the key to the H1 is the ease of use -- It has the controls and options that you need, all implemented with physical buttons and switches. You can set and check the settings directly, without needing to page through menus to make sure you don't have some options messed up.

The key recording features provide clean control over monitoring and recording the input signal:

  • Onboard directional stereo microphones, configured in X/Y pattern for 90 degree stereo imaging
  • 1/8" stereo input for external recorders, at Line or Mic levels
  • 1/8" stereo output to monitor the input, for Headphone of Line level -- plus a mini built-in mono speaker in the base of the unit
  • Live stereo recording level meter, with recording / peak LED (blinks if input too loud)
  • Input level controls to adjust recording gain, with optional Auto-Level adjustment
  • Optional Lo Cut input noise reduction filter
  • Volume controls for output jack or speaker
  • Play controls to review and delete files, add track marks

The H1 records in high quality in WAV (PCM uncompressed) format at 44.1 / 48 / 96 kHz at 16-bit or 24-bit, or use MP3 for longer recording time at 44.1 / 48 kHz, from 48 to 320 kbps. The audio files are saved to a removable microSD memory card. A 2 GB card is included, or you can go up to a 32 GB microSDHC card (around $50) for over 50 hours of recording at 16-bit / 44.1 kHz WAV, or 555 hours in 128 kbps MP3 format. There's also a mini-USB port to transfer files, and also to power the unit externally.

The result is a nice compact package that's quite light, but doesn't seem cheap or less durable. The straightforward controls let you set up the recording the way you want, confirm the set-up by visually checking the switch positions, and then monitor the live recording status and levels on the LCD display.

Even better, the Zoom H1 Recorder is priced around $99. Also check out the Zoom H1 Accessory Pak for around $20 that includes a nice compact and secure padded-shell case, windscreen, adjustable tripod table stand, mic clip adapter, and USB AC adapter and cable.

See my Audio Accessories Gallery for more on audio components.

Find the Zoom H1 Recorder
and H1 Accessory Pak on Amazon.com

September 22, 2011

Getting into GPUs -- Hardware Acceleration for Video Editing

Today's video editing software running on mainstream personal computers can handle even high def material with aplomb. But we demand more -- beyond HD to 2K and 5K cinematic resolutions, real-time editing of complex compressed formats like AVCHD, and building multitudes of layers on the timeline while applying sophisticated effects like color correction. And then we'll move on to 3D video...

So how can we keep up?

One answer is raw speed from the CPU (central processing unit), but the growth in GHz is peaking, as chips are expanding instead with multiple processing cores. Luckily, this parallel processing capability matches nicely with the demands of video editing, particularly decoding and encoding video stored in multiple blocks of data.

Meanwhile, the CPU-sucking needs of the gaming market has lead to the development of sophisticated GPU (Graphics Processing Unit) chips to off-load drawing in the frame buffer, including shapes, textures, and blending. Working together, multi-core CPUs plus parallel GPUs can allow PCs to challenge the performance of dedicated gaming systems.

Even better, GPUs also do the kinds of things that we want for video editing -- not just drawing pixels, but transforming and warping, merging and blending.

So while CPU chips have been adding integrated graphics capabilities, which are particularly useful for lower-cost and lower-power systems, the combination of a powerful multi-core CPU and video card with parallel GPU can provide a serious kick to accelerate your video editing experience.

Today's video editing tools, including Apple Final Cut Pro X, Adobe Premiere Pro CS5.5, and Sony Vegas Pro 10 leverage the capabilities of GPUs from AMD and NVIDIA for tasks including accelerated AVC / H.264 encoding and rendering, real-time effects, and specialized tasks such as motion and scaling, time remapping, compositing, opacity, deinterlacing, and the handling of multi-format timelines.

If you're thinking about accelerating your video editing, see my full article in Videomaker Magazine for more on evaluating your options for GPUs.

See my Video Editing Software Gallery for information and links on video editing tools.

September 25, 2011

Apple Updates Final Cut Pro X

Apple has released its first incremental update to Final Cut Pro X, modestly numbered 10.0.1 (see earlier post). This is a start at addressing the anguished response of its customers to this gloriously re-imagined application -- that also lost favorite features and removed support for interchange with other tools (see comments from Apple at Loop and MacWorld).

This is a free upgrade to the $299.99 application, available at the Mac App Store. Apple also now is offering a 30-day free trial for you to try out.

Apple describes this software update as offering the expected improvements to "overall stability and performance," plus:

- For better compatibility with your other tools, it adds project import and export in XML format to third-party applications and a camera import interface for camera manufacturers to write plug-ins for importing native media.

- To assist the editing workflow, it adds full-screen support on OS X Lion, single-step transitions on connected clips, and faster GPU-accelerated export.

- And for more complex projects, it supports shared media and projects and events on Xsan, and new Roles tag to label clips and export as a single movie or as separate stems.

Apple also has pre-announced two important features now promised for "early 2012" -- Multicam editing and broadcast-quality video monitoring.

But there's no news on other key missing features, such as importing projects from previous versions of Final Cut Pro.

See full article: Summary: Apple Final Cut Pro X for more on the re-imagined application.

See my Video Editing Software Gallery for information and links on video editing tools.

New Features in the Final Cut Pro X 10.0.1 update ...



Continue reading "Apple Updates Final Cut Pro X" »


October 1, 2011

Corel MotionStudio 3D for Video

Corel MotionStudio 3D brings 3D animation to video enthusiasts, including flying and popping text, bouncing, twisting, and exploding 3D objects, and even fire and smoke particle systems.

What Corel has done with this new product is to build on the base of a traditional object modeling and animation tool, and enhance it for use by video editors.

Instead of needing to become a 3D export, you can get started with the library of hundreds of pre-built objects, and then apply hundreds more looks, effects, and animations.

Then customize the objects with deep control over the 3D attributes, and customize the animation with keyframe control in the timeline.

Plus, you can add your own elements by importing your own 2D graphics which are extruded to 3D, or create your own 3D objects by building solid objects from shapes.

Add more elements to build an entire scene, with global effects including fire, shadow, reflection, glow, lens flare, motion blur, and depth of field.

The result can be a single animated 3D object (flying text or spaceship), a mini-story overlay (with multiple objects, fire, smoke), or a fully animated scene.

You then can export in common video formats to play or include in other productions, especially with alpha channel for blending. Or export animations for the Web, or direct as 3D videos.

MotionStudio 3D is an impressive new product, making cool 3D effects possible for video enthusiasts. It's available as a download for $99.99 from Corel. Download the fully-functional trial version to try it out.

See my article for more on the features and interface --
Walkthrough: Corel MotionStudio 3D

    Find the Corel MotionStudio 3D on Amazon.com


October 3, 2011

Configuring Your Next Video Editing Computer

Does your computer feel sluggish when you're editing? Maybe it's time to upgrade to take advantage of the latest round of technology so you can reach 64-bit, multi-core, GPU-accelerated, warp-drive video processing nirvana.

While it's always the situation that "there's never been a better time to get a new computer," this is more true than ever -- with the completion of the transition to 64-bit computing, widespread support for multi-core CPU and GPU acceleration, and major boosts in disk interface speeds.

Even better, there's an even broader range of options for configuring a system to your particular needs, not only with dedicated editing workstations and cutting-edge desktop systems, but also with powerful laptops that can support intensive video work.

The goal is to provide the right combination of hardware to assist your editing software in providing the best editing experience -- with real-time playback of layered timelines, instant preview of edits and effects, and background rendering for export while you continue to work.

So what are the best trade-offs to best invest for your needs?

Your first priority with today's 64-bit software clearly is to bulk up on the local memory to provide more elbow room to directly process sequences.

You'll also benefit from a faster processor with more cores, especially if you often edit native compressed formats like AVCHD, or encode to multiple compressed formats.

Stepping up the GPU (see earlier post) can significantly speed up your workflow, especially if you have effects-heavy timelines with multiple tracks with multiple effects.

And the disk drive capacity and performance has become more important when editing multiple files and higher resolutions, especially if you tend to composite many layers in your timelines.

But the real question is how well your preferred video editing software takes advantage of these capabilities, so build up from the system requirements for products like Adobe Premiere Pro CS5.5, Apple Final Cut Pro X, and Sony Vegas Pro 10. These companies also work with partners to recommend step-up systems for more advanced editing.

See my full article in Videomaker Magazine - Recommendations for the Best Video Editing Computer - for more on configuring a video editing system.

And see my previous article - Getting into GPUs - for more on accelerating video with GPUs (Graphics Processing Unit).

See my Video Editing Software Gallery for information and links on video editing tools.

December 10, 2011

Corel MotionStudio 3D Editing Software

The new Corel MotionStudio 3D offers great power for adding 3D text and graphics animations to your video productions - with animated extruded text, flying and exploding 3D objects, and naturalistic fire and smoke. Even better, it is designed for enthusiast video editors, with an accessible interface to help you quickly create sophisticated animations from pre-built components, and it's priced at only $100.

MotionStudio 3D comes with an extensive library of more than 140 pre-defined objects, including spinning globes, turning gears, and flying spaceships. Then you can select from hundreds of materials, object styles, and animated effects to customize the objects in the scene. Plus, all this power also works with 3D animated text, plus particle effects including bubbles and snow.

After you assemble your scene, you can add global effects, including lightning, fireworks, and clouds, and add realism with lens flares, shadows, reflections, motion blur, and even depth of field. Then set the final scene view with backgrounds, global lighting, and camera settings.

Of course, you also can dig in further to customize the object attributes and fine-tune the keyframed animation. But all the heavy lifting of setting up the objects, attributes, motion, and scene can be done as simply as drag and drop from the library.

Underneath, MotionStudio 3D is built on a core of a quite powerful traditional 3D modeling and animation tool. You can import and export 3D geometric models in common modeling formats (DirectX and 3D Studio), build complex models from scratch with detailed materials, and combine objects into hierarchical structures (such as tires on a car). You then can keyframe animate the object shapes and motion, and build entire 3D scenes, complete with lighting and camera control.

Corel MotionStudio 3D is an impressive re-packaging of traditional 3D modeling into a nicely accessible tool for video editing enthusiasts. You can create quite effective text and graphics animations without being a 3D expert by using the supplied models, styles, and effects. And the underlying 3D modeling architecture provides lots of headroom to further customize your productions with your own objects, textures, and motions.

See review in Videomaker magazine: Corel MotionStudio 3D Editing Software

See my article for more on the features and interface --
Walkthrough: Corel MotionStudio 3D

    Find the Corel MotionStudio 3D on Amazon.com


December 12, 2011

Sony Vegas Movie Studio HD Platinum 11 Editing Software

This is the year for 3D, and Sony Creative Software has stepped up with Sony Vegas Movie Studio HD Platinum 11, with import from 3D video and still image formats, editing and previewing on 3D monitors, or on standard monitors with red/cyan glasses, and sharing on YouTube 3D or Blu-ray 3D disc. It also adds improved GPU-accelerated AVC rendering, support for more progressive HD project formats, title and text animations and effects, and other workflow improvements.

Sony has continued its legacy of providing a family of consumer applications instead of a single integrated tool, with DVD Architect Studio 5.0 for DVD and now Blu-ray authoring included with Movie Studio HD Platinum, plus the separate Sound Forge Audio Studio for audio editing and production ($65), and ACID Music Studio for music creation and mixing ($65).

Movie Studio is offered in several versions and bundles: The base Movie Studio HD 11 is focused on easy editing and sharing for HD media ($50). Movie Studio HD Platinum 11 supports higher-end features including 3D editing, GPU-accelerated AVC rendering, color correction, 5.1 audio, and disc authoring ($100). The Movie Studio HD Platinum 11 Production Suite bundles Audio Studio and more effects ($130). The Imagination Studio 3 bundle completes the set with Music Studio and Photo Go ($180).

Movie Studio helps casual users get started with Show Me How tutorials, wizards for easy sharing online, and extensive collections of templates, themes, and soundtracks. But Sony's focus with Movie Studio is not so much on organizing and combining clips, it's on refining a production through precise control of the assembly and animation of your clips.

See review in Videomaker magazine: Sony Vegas Movie Studio HD Platinum 11 Editing Software

See my full article: Summary: Sony Vegas Movie Studio 11

See summaries of video applications and versions in my Video Editing Software Gallery.

Find Sony Sony Vegas Movie Studio HD Platinum 11 and Movie Studio HD Platinum 11 Suite on Amazon.com

January 24, 2012

Adobe Premiere Elements Goes To 10

The tenth edition of Adobe's best-selling consumer video and photo editing products, Premiere Elements 10 and Photoshop Elements 10, continues Adobe's focus on providing deep technical power to create impressive results, but packaged behind a friendly interface and extensive automated assists (see post on previous version).

Both Premiere Elements and Photoshop Elements include a separate common Organizer tool, used to import media files from various devices and then organize and tag them. You can also apply basic photo fixes and create photo albums, and share photos and videos directly online. Then you can launch the individual applications for more extensive photo or video editing.

The applications prove a consumer-friendly interface with tabs for different processing steps, plus how-tos and Guided Edit support. Plus, they apply enhanced technology from professional editing, including People Recognition in photos and the Three Way Color Corrector for video.

However, these Elements applications are not for the casual user. They are designed for photo and video enthusiasts interested in investing effort to organize and manage your media with the assistance of automated analysis. This investment then pays off as you can leverage the media information to do a better job of finding the right clips and enhancing your productions.

See my full article in Videomaker Magazine - Adobe Premiere/ Photoshop Elements 10 Editing Software Review

See summaries of video applications and versions in my Video Editing Software Gallery.

    Find Adobe Premiere Elements 10
    and bundle with Photoshop Elements 10 on Amazon.com

Premiere Elements 10 - Autotone effect

April 15, 2012

Sony Vegas Pro 11

This past year, video editing tools have been adding flashy features including 3D video editing, but the real focus has continued to be on the underlying machinery -- taking advantage of both today's 64-bit architectures to work efficiently with large clips in memory, plus leveraging GPU (graphics processing unit) hardware to significantly speed up video processing.

For example, Vegas Pro 10 from Sony Creative Software was released last year with both 32-bit and 64-bit versions, and with GPU acceleration for rendering to AVC format.

Now Sony Vegas Pro 11, provides full-up GPU acceleration that supports both NVIDIA and AMD hardware for video processing, effects, and rendering, providing speed-ups across editing, playback, and output.

Besides the under-the-hood improvements, the Vegas 11 also enhances editing with workflow improvements including Sync Link to keep child events associated with the main track, and technology upgrades including advanced video stabilization for all three axes of camera motion.

And it provides deeper support for editing 3D material including 3D Titler Pro.

Sony Vegas Pro is a classic and comfortable vehicle for video editing. Version 11 adds some nice refinements with the same comfortable feel, but the real action is under the hood with a significant turbo-boost from GPU acceleration that makes this a welcome upgrade.

It's available for $599 online, or via upgrade for $199.

See my full article in Videomaker Magazine - Sony Vegas Pro 11 Advanced Editing Software Review

See summaries of video applications and versions in my Video Editing Software Gallery.

Find Sony Sony Vegas Pro 11 on Amazon.com

July 8, 2012

Audio Engineering 101: A Beginners Guide to Audio Production

Audio Engineering 101: A Beginners Guide to Audio Production, by Tim Dittmar is a really great book, both for novices interested in getting into audio work, and for enthusiasts who want to do a better job editing audio with video.

Dittmar covers the technology of audio engineering with clear explanations and friendly illustrations, and also spends significant time on the business and practice of being an independent producer, sharing his knowledge and skills as a teacher and from his more than twenty years as a professional sound engineer, producer, songwriter, and musician.

The book starts with the basics of sound and how the ear works, and then immediately turns practical with advice on how to listen to music, with ear training tools and techniques, including sample audio and video clips provided on the companion website.

Another chapter on the details of equalization and frequencies is then followed by advice on people skills, including tips on how to handle yourself when working with sometimes difficult clients in the recording studio. Dittmar is particularly good at describing the lingo used in the field and in the studio, to help you better communicate how the sound may be a bit too muddy or fuzzy or shiny or wet.

The middle of the book then is filled with practical advice on microphones, mixing consoles, and signal processors, including extensive details on specific equipment and numerous tips on solving problems, like using a chorus effect to help out-of-tune vocals.

Dittmar then brings these elements together in a wonderful pair of chapters -- one on signal flow, working through typical end-to-end recording scenarios, particularly for laptop recording, and then the second on studio recording sessions, full of practical advice on planning and executing a full recording session, including lists of tasks and sage advice on details of each step in the process.

The book then takes a step back, delving into the basics of acoustics, and the impact of science on making your recordings sound better, including ingenious do it yourself projects for making diffusers and baffles. There's also a section with perspective from the history of audio, including recognition of the contributions of Les Paul and others, and considerations of analog vs. digital sound.

If you've gotten this far, you might be serious about getting into audio production, so Dittmar concludes with three chapters of practical advice: on taking advantage of internships (including a tip on how to roll up a mic cable so you look professional); different types of jobs in the field, including starting your own home studio; and a final chapter of frequently asked questions on gear, skills, and the industry, with answers from a variety of working pros.

This is a fun, friendly book that reads like the warm-hearted audio master passing on his wisdom to a favored pupil -- with not just the facts, but the practical advice from long experience. It's worth listening.

Order Audio Engineering 101 from Amazon.com


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September 9, 2012

Pivothead Video Recording Sunglasses

Whatcha looking at? With the Pivothead Video Recording Sunglasses you can capture the scene and the action in videos and photos -- as you look around.

Pivothead actually has several lines of stylish sunglasses, some with interchangeable lenses (gray, yellow, clear; polarized and not), or you can order prescription versions.

But these glasses also sport a camera lens at the center of the bridge between the lenses, plus slightly oversize areas on the front of the arms for the electronics, behind the hinge.

So go ahead and look around, or head out on a bike ride, and the glasses will shoot as you go.

And this is not crummy, low-res video -- It's stunning quality 1080p HD quality, plus 3 MP photos. And you can take photos at the same time that you are shooting video.

(Click photo for full 1920 x 1080 res shot simultaneously with HD video while sailing on a tall ship on Lake Michigan.)

Of course, you do have to think about the viewer for your video -- Watching the viewpoint of someone else's bopping head can be rather disconcerting. Actually, watching even the natural motion from walking can be troublesome, while it seems fine to the person who was wearing the glasses.

The glasses are easy to control. Power them on from the side, and then push the video/photo toggle on the left side to start/stop recording and to shoot photos.

You do need to pay attention to your presses, though, since the LED indicators for power and recording are set back so they don't interfere with your vision as you wear the glasses. (They automatically stop video recording after 30 minutes, just in case.)

To access your videos and photos, connect to your computer through the microUSB port, and copy the files as you would from any external storage device. The Pivotheads have 8 GB of onboard memory, enough to store approximately 60 minutes of 1080p HD video.

Amazingly, the Pivothead glasses actually support a wide range of video and photo shooting options, including resolution, auto focus and exposure modes, macro and ISO levels, burst / time lapse photos, and face tracking.

You can change the video res and shooting mode though button presses, but it's a lot easier to download the Control Settings Dashboard Software for PC or Mac.

Even with today's ubiquity of cameras and camcorders, the Pivothead glasses bring even more fun and freedom to shooting your activities. They're an impressive combination of design and function, ease of use and customization.

The Pivothead Video Recording Sunglasses are available for $349 in 4 models and 16 styles. Take a look.

See my summer update on gadgets -- Portable Accessories - Mid 2012 -- for more on portable devices and accessories.


Find the Pivothead Video Glasses on Amazon.com


January 19, 2017

Video Encoding by the Numbers by Jan Ozer

Jan Ozer's new book, Video Encoding by the Numbers: Eliminate the Guesswork from Your Streaming Video, is a wonderful resource for anyone doing video compression, from beginner to advanced.

The book packages up Ozer's deep knowledge and experience into a comprehensive review, with special emphasis on the latest technologies, including H.264, HEVC / H.265, and adaptive bitrate streaming.

That in itself would make this book tremendously valuable, but Ozer has augmented the text in two important ways -- by providing extensive examples of using FFmpeg to batch process videos, and by demonstrating the application of objective quality metrics to analyze the video and report its visual quality.

For too long, video compression has seemed to be a form of alchemy, with extensive folklore of mystic incantations required to produce video gold. Even if you could successfully penetrate the basic secrets (including formats and codecs and rates, CBR vs VBR, kbps vs bpp), you would only discover even more obscure deeper levels of parameters (including GOP structure, I-B-P, IDR, and adaptive streaming).

And even if you get the formula correct, how can you then package it up for use, and verify that it's working properly? Video Encoding by the Numbers attacks all these issues, end to end.

First, Ozer covers the basics of video compression and associated tools. He does not just provide advice, he backs it up by discussing the results of his extensive testing of compression tools and options with real-world videos. This work is based on his background in video shooting and production, in reviewing and testing video tools, in consulting to build real-world solutions for compression pipelines, and then sharing his discoveries -- in articles, talks, on his Streaming Learning Center website, and in his books.

Then, to package up the compression process, Ozer demonstrates how to use the free cross-platform FFmpeg tool to perform batch compression, providing example scripts with each technical chapter, again tempered with discussions of his experience in experimenting with the various options.

And most importantly, Ozer grounds the compression process in science by applying objective quality metrics that analyze the video and report its visual quality. This is a huge advance driven by new metrics and tools, moving from simple PSNR to newer metrics including VQM and SSIM. Now you no longer need to sit and watch each compressed video you produce in order to check them (which obviously becomes impossible with multiple output formats and resolutions). Instead, Ozer shows how to use these tools to look for anomalies, and then focus in on the trouble spots.

As a further example of the exhaustive coverage in this book, the final section covers scaling up to streaming delivery, exploring adaptive bitrate approaches, discussing setting up your "encoding ladder" for streaming formats and resolutions, and then concluding by discussing the importance of per-title encoding, using these tools and metrics to find the best solution for each individual video.

It's hard to overstate the usefulness of this book -- as a reference for understanding compression technology and trade-offs, as a checklist for best practices, as a guide to more efficient batch compression, and as a path forward to a more scientific and objective approach to video compression.

In my case, Jan kindly provided an electronic copy of the book for review (available in PDF format), and I quickly purchased two more paper copies, one to keep and one to share. The book is available for $49.95, and the PDF download is $39.95. It's 330 pages with extensive discussion, tables of test results, screenshots of tools, and, of course, example video frames. Now you too can transform your video clips into compressed gold.

See more on the book at Ozer's StreamingLearingCenter.com site.

Find Video Encoding by the Numbers on Amazon.com

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