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News in Brief

Video, image and DVD software developer U-Lead Systems, has reached an agreement to bundle its DVD MovieFactory software with Acer’s Aspire notebooks for global sales. DVD MovieFactory performs as a DVD drive and a player with video editing functionality. The company also said it has reached similar agreements with two leading PC vendors in South Korea for bundling the software package with their desktop and notebook PCs. Ulead expects sales of its DVD software to increase 20% in 2004.

Cheerful Scout, the film production, DVD authoring and computer graphics firm which is listed on London’s Alternative Investment Market last year,has reported a full-year loss of almost £70,000, compared with an £85,000 profit the previous year, following a downturn in the corporate video market.

In Singapore, HP unveiled its long awaited HP Media Center PC series, destined first for the Asia Pacific market. The new PC will be available in Korea and China and will bring together the latest digital entertainment and computing technology into one, all-inclusive system, It will deliver live television with free electronic program guide, up to 90 hours of personal video recording (PVR), digital music, digital video, DVDs and pictures – in an easy-to-use, remote-controlled interface similar to the simple, point-and-choose menu screens found on today's DVD movies.

Macrovision announced December 19 that Galaxy Satellite Broadcasting signed an agreement to use Macrovision's technology to protect Near-Video-On-Demand programmes from unauthorised copying. The Galaxy Satellite Broadcasting service is to be an all-digital, multi-channel service featuring a range of premium Cantonese and Mandarin content programming to subscribers in Hong Kong. Said Carol Flaherty, Macrovision's senior vice president: "Macrovision's technology should help Galaxy and their content partners maximise their NVOD revenue by inhibiting unauthorised set-top box to DVD-recorder copying and set-top box to hard-drive recorder copying.”

Walt Disney, Microsoft and Sanyo Electric were elected to the directorship of the DVD Forum by a worldwide postal vote of over 220 Forum members. The result will become official in February 2004 at a scheduled general assembly. Disney, Microsoft and Sanyo will be joining 17 companies making up the executive committee. Observers have noted that ten of them are proponents of the Blu-ray standard while only two back the HD-DVD format. The addition of the three new members, generally seen as neutral in the standards' battle, will alter the balance of power within the DVD Forum, lessening the dominance of the Blu-ray camp.

In an effort to beat pirates at their own game, legitimate copies of Infernal Affairs III were released Monday (15 Dec) in Mainland China, just three days after the theatrical release of the film throughout the nation. Vendors, who had previously stocked poor-quality DVDs shot inside cinemas, are reportedly opting for the real DVDs, which are marked "For Sale in Mainland Only."

The European Parliament has voted a resolution which includes the provision of films recorded on audiovisual formats in the list of goods and services allowed to be taxed at a lower VAT rate. Movies thus join music, already benefitting a lower VAT. The French video publishers association (SEV) is calling for all kinds of works published on video and DVD to be treated as "cultural goods" and thus enjoying a lower VAT taxation as well, not just movies.

Eddy Cue, Apple’s VP of applications and Internet Services, who is responsible for iTunes Music store, iLife, .Mac and the Apple Store Online, will be joining a prestigious line-up of key executives who are set to participate in MidemNet, Music & Technology Forum 2004. The one day MidemNet event, which precedes Midem, is set for January 24 and will kick off at 9.30am in the Palais des Festivals.

DaTarius is to hold its European Optical Media Technology Seminar for the industry in Reutte, February 16-20, 2004. The company, which has been involved with the optical media manufacturing industry since its infancy, will be introducing guest speakers from the industry at the event. The aim, says DaTarius, is to offer firsthand, valuable information from a team of in-house specialists and celebrated guest speakers on topics such as: optical media production processes, test equipment strategies, test equipment calibration, production process troubleshooting, DVD recordable, Blu-ray, copy protection and more.

DVD Video sales in New Zealand are expected to double to $100 million this year, according to research by Columbia TriStar Home Entertainment. National sales and marketing manager Keith Simnor said a surge in DVD player sales and strong promotions were behind the rise. About 120,000 DVD players would be sold in New Zealand this year, bringing total numbers to about 370,000 by January.

Sanyo may enter the market for DVD recorders in the future, according to company officials. Based in Osaka, the company is the largest Japanese supplier of a key component used in DVD and CD products, called an optical pickup.

The leaders of the Writers Guild of America have signalled that upcoming negotiations with studios will have a strong focus on improved DVD residuals.

Growing competition and client pressure to lower prices for integrated MPEG-2 chips used in DVD recorders means prices are expected to drop from about $40 currently to below $30 in the second half of 2004, according to some international chip suppliers. The integrated MPEG-2 solution for DVD recorders combines the functions of a decoder and encoder. Companies including ESS Technology, Philips, LSI Logic and Cirrus Logic, are currently selling MPEG-2 and servo IC chipsets at $40-45, but expect the prices to drop to about $35 in the first half of next year beore dropping to around $30 in the second half. Major Taiwanese optical storage IC design firms, including MediaTek and ALi, are expected to join the competition in the second half of 2004.

NewSoft has brought to market the $70 Presto! DVD PowerSuite that is designed to provide consumers of all experience levels with a fast and easy solution for capturing, editing, authoring, and burning DVDs. PowerSuite's MPEG-2 codec provides full video capture capabilities with real-time MPEG-2 encoding to all leading video file formats. Users can also connect a camcorder or VCR direct to the notebook or PC's IEEE 1394 port or USB 2.0 port to capture raw video footage direct to DVD±RW or DVD-RAM for immediate direct-to-disc editing.

Mitsubishi plans to increase red laser diode production by 40% next March even though the company has already ramped up production from 1 million to 3.5 million units per month this year. Mitsubishi, which has a 70% share of the global market in such diodes, estimates this supply is insufficient to meet demand created by the rapid adoption of recordable DVD drives.From next March, Mitsubishi will produce 5 million units per month. It expects sales of around 20 billion yen ($183 million) from its DVD laser business in fiscal 2004.

Ulead Systems, Inc. is to upgrade its professional video editing and DVD authoring software with High Definition Video (HDV) capabilities. Ulead's professional video editing software MediaStudio Pro 7, is expected to support HDV by the end of 2003. Gradually, all Ulead professional video and DVD software will support HDV. Move comes on the heels of the announcement that Ulead Systems will debut DVD Workshop 2 at DV Expo West on December 10. DVD Workshop 2 contains professional DVD authoring features like eight multiple audio and 32 subtitle tracks for DVDs with multiple languages, music tracks, commentaries, subtitles, programming, and other messaging

Sony Corp. has plans to open a DVD production facility in Moscow, Interfax reported. Sony board member Goran Lindahl was quoted as saying that the Japanese electronics giant will start rolling out 17,000 discs per day sometime next year at the new facility. Lindahl provided no details, saying only that Sony was looking for other investors to participate in the project. Fujio Nishida, a vice president at Sony Group, told the local press that Russia is a big and important market and that Sony "should concentrate its investment energy there."

Finding Nemo, Pixar’s blockbuster animation movie set a new record when it sold 17 million DVDs and videotapes in its first week in US retail. Via distributor Buena Vista Home Entertainment, the title earlier became the single-day, best-selling DVD and video (in retail outlets) with a total 8 million units sold its first day. This surpassed the first-day 7 million DVD/VHS sales of Spider-Man from Columbia Tristar. Spider-Man sold 11 million DVDs and videos through its first weekend at retail stores, but the total combined DVD and video units Spider-Man sold in its first full week is unreported.

LaCie and Roxio have launched a new bundle for Apple computers, combining LaCie's external d2 Dual DVD±RW drive with Roxio's Toast Titanium 6. The new bundle will be available this month for Mac OS X. LaCie's d2 Dual DVD±RW drive comes in two configurations, one with a FireWire port and one with both FireWire and USB 2.0 ports. The bundle applies only to the Mac-specific FireWire version, which includes support for DVD-R, DVD-RW, DVD+R, DVD+RW, CD-R and CD-RW. It offers DVD±R speeds of 4x, DVD±RW speeds of 2x, DVD-ROM speeds of 12x, CD-R speeds of 16x, CD-RW speeds of 10x and CD-ROM speeds of 32x. It includes a 2 MB buffer with an average DVD access time of 140 ms and an average CD access time of 130 ms.

Sony Corporation recognizes the importance of global environmental issues and wishes to ensure that preservation of the earth for future generations is maintained. It has therefore demanded of all their suppliers to fulfill certain requirements to be part of the Sony Green Partner Programme. Nexpak has been awarded one of the first certificates among media packaging. The green partner program comprises the whole business chain, from raw material through the whole production process till the final goods. At every step, the green partner has to fulfill carefully defined environmental requirements.

20th Century Fox’s broadcasting limb is talking to programmes suppliers about experimental releasing patterns that would bring Fox television product to its after-market faster than at present. Video-on-demand technology has created a buoyant new revenue stream for television content owners and Fox is offering to shorten the window for the release of shows on DVD, also a rapidly growing new market that is already producing significant ancillary revenue. "People are acknowledging that video-on-demand is an area that has to be pursued," said Ira Kurgan, president of network business operations at Fox Broadcasting Co. "We're just dipping our toe into this as we look at the changing landscape. Hopefully, we'll all start experimenting and learn from it."

The release of Tubular Bells 2003 will be subject to a lengthy delay, it was confirmed by Warner Music Group. Apparently, Tubular Bells 2003 is one of the first DVD-Audio discs being authored in the UK and this is largely to blame for the delays. Frank Brunger of Warner Music Group’s London office told High Fidelity Review that “…as was the case in the early days of DVD-Video, they are experiencing ‘teething’ problems in authoring for the DVD-Audio format.”