Europe's online source of news, data & analysis for professionals involved in packaged media and new delivery technologies

News in Brief - june 2003


Pacific Digital is marketing an internal dual-format 4x DVD burner ($219) for PCs. The drive supports DVD+RW, DVD+R, DVD-RW and DVD-R formats. The dual-format DVD burner can record an hour of video onto a DVD-R or DVD+R disc in 15 minutes. It writes to DVD+R and DVD-R discs at 4x; to DVD+RW at 2.4x; to DVD-R at 2x; to CD-R at 16x; and to CD-RW at 10x speeds. It reads DVD-ROM at 12x and CD-ROM at 40x speeds. Drive comes with Roxio EZ CD and DVD Creator Basic 6.1 and Intervideo WinDVD 4.0 playback software. An external model (U-30183) will be available at the end of July.

2d3, a UK developer of 3D camera-tracking software, said July 10 that its new SteadyMove plug-in will be bundled with all copies of Adobe Premiere Pro. SteadyMove is shot stabilisation software for video professionals. SteadyMove is available free with Adobe Premiere Pro but an advanced version of the plug-in will be released on July 25 ($99). SteadyMove smoothes out shaky video sequences by studying the image sequence and calculating the relative camera movement from one frame to the next and removes unwanted movement.

InterVideo, Inc. announced July 9 the release of WinDVD Creator Platinum 2, an integrated software solution that eliminates the need to switch between video editing, authoring and burning software programs, reduces wait times and addresses consumer compatibility issues. WinDVD Creator Platinum 2 provides a single, user-friendly interface for capturing, editing, authoring and burning videos to DVDs and CDs

An affordable production package that seamlessly integrates all the DVD elements is a rare beast. Sonic Foundry’s Vegas+DVD is being touted as a DVD production package that’s powerful, relatively inexpensive and easy to use. The package comprises three components: Vegas 4.0 (a full-featured video- and audio-editing program), DVD Architect (a DVD-design and-authoring program) and Sonic Foundry’s Dolby Digital AC-3 Encoder (a 5.1 audio codec that converts multi-channel audio into a DVD-compatible format). Vegas 4.0 adds support for 5.1 audio by adopting the same interface Sonic Foundry introduced with ACID Pro 4.0. Vegas+DVD includes MPEG-2 and AC-3 templates designed specifically for DVD output

Verbatim announced July 9 that it will ship its DataLifePlus 4x DVD+RW media in August. Certified to write and rewrite at 1x to 4x speeds, the 4.7GB media incorporates a new proprietary recording layer technology that provides accurate recording at high speeds and noise-free playback. At 4X speed, the fastest recording speed of any current ReWriteable DVD format, users can record 120 minutes of video or 4.7GB of data in approximately 15 minutes. Verbatim DataLifePlus 4x DVD+RW media is compatible with the Sony DRU-510A 4X DVD+RW drive as well as announced drives from BenQ, Philips, Ricoh and others that support 4x +RW write/rewrite speeds.

Kano Technologies is giving portability a new look with the introduction of its SLIM-K2Xtreme portable DVD+RW drive. The FireWire/USB 2.0 combo drive allows users to add external DVD burning capability to a laptop or desktop. This small drive measures 5.5" x 6" x .75" and weighs 10 ounces. It features on-the-fly video, audio and data recording – and it burns up to 4.7GB of data on a DVD. Its write speeds are 2.4 x 2.4 x 8 for DVDs and 16 x 8 x 24 for CD-RWs.

At a time when the Linux open-source code is being considered as an operating system for DVD players and other consumer electronic products, Linux users are keeping a watchful eye on a lawsuit against IBM. The SCO Group – the owner of the UNIX Operating System Intellectual Property that dates back to 1969, when the UNIX System was created at Bell Laboratories – has alleged that IBM violated a Unix licensing agreement by feeding Unix source code to the Linux community. It has taken Big Blue to court. If proven, the case could threaten companies that have become active with the open-source operating system.

LG Electronics took the wraps off a 71W-inch screen, the world's largest plasma-display panel, due to be marketed in 2004. The screen featured with more than 20 new digital television-related technologies and products demonstrated for members of the Korean media and distributors at LG’s manufacturing plant in Korea. The 71W-inch plasma panel is said to produce 1,000 candelas of brightness and a 1,200:1 contrast ratio using a new advanced KK module.

Sony Corp is to replace free of charge the DVD+RW discs that were included worldwide in its DVD/CD rewriteable drive DRU-500AX and DVD/CD rewriteable drive DRX-500ULX. The company says said it will replace some 18,000 DPW47L1 discs as some of them may not be able to record information or have data read off them because the disks' memory layer may oxidize after a certain period of time.

Adobe Systems’ new desktop multimedia software indicates that the company has thrown its weight behind the Windows platform at the expense of Apple's Macintosh operating system thus breaking traditionally strong ties with the latter. The latest versions of Adobe’s Premiere digital video-editing tool (Premier Pro) and a new audio-editing application called Audition will run on Windows XP-based PCs only. These products are components of the Adobe Video Collection, which also includes the Photoshop 7.0 digital-imaging application and is being offered as a Windows-only package. Adobe also updated its After Effects digital-video software that will be offered for both the Windows and Mac operating systems.

ArcSoft, Inc. to release July 14 ArcSoft ShowBiz DVD ($99.95), described as a complete DVD authoring and video creation application. ShowBiz DVD is a step-based program with video editing functionality, numerous video capture options and advanced DVD authoring features presented in an easy-to-use way. The application has thorough video capture and image acquisition options, along with features that allow users to fully customise their DVD menus. ArcSoft's ShowBiz editor is integrated within the application, allowing the user to create and edit new video clips by combining still images, existing video clips, audio, scene transitions, text, and special effects. Additionally, ShowBiz DVD has a new "QuickDVD" option, an automatic DVD creation tool that runs unattended.

Tvia, Inc. sold its software business and software-related assets to MediaTek, Inc. of Taiwan. Tvia's software assets included its Home IT, advanced digital video broadcasting (DVB), MPEG4 software player, SDK software, and software drivers. As part of this acquisition, MediaTek hired approximately 75 software-related personnel, all former employees.

Pinnacle Systems, which will not support hardware drivers for future editions of Adobe’s Premiere product line, has introduced Power of Five, a competitive upgrade program designed to move its DV500 and Pro-ONE video-editing customers to Pinnacle Edition version 5, the company's new video editing and DVD authoring software for advanced hobbyists and professional users. For no charge, Pinnacle DV500 and Pro-ONE family customers can evaluate a 55-day trial version of Pinnacle's Edition software. During the trial period, customers can get the full upgrade for $55.00.

RealNetworks added to the Helix Community, the source code for Synchronized Multimedia Integration Language (SMIL, pronounced 'smile'), the standard for synchronized display of digital presentations. With the source code of SMIL 2.0 and the Helix DNA Client, Helix community developers can support display of complex presentations in their products. The Helix DNA Client is already in use by major middleware and consumer electronics companies to enable Internet media on consumer electronics devices such as DVD players, set top boxes, PDAs, and mobile devices.

In a move that would mean the sale of Warner Chappell, AOL Time Warner’s publishing arm, along with its CD manufacturing business, AOL Time Warner and Bertelsmann are talking about merging their music businesses and creating the world’s biggest music company, which they would jointly own. So say US reports. The groups are understood to have agreed a 60-day period of exclusivity that ends later this month. The deal would bring together Warner Music and BMG, the label behind Britney Spears and the Elvis Presley back catalogue. Given there are no objections from European regulators, the announcement may be imminent. Together Warner and BMG would have a 20% market share in Europe

Pioneer, which has a monthly capacity to produce 600,000 recordable DVD drives, says it will ship DVD-RW and DVD-Dual solution kits in August and expects to launch its first slim-type, notebook-use DVD-RW and DVD-Dual drives in the second half of this year. News follows Pioneer’s May announcement that it would launch a new desktop-use recordable DVD drive supporting both the DVD+RW and DVD-RW standards in June. Pioneer’s total desktop recordable DVD drive shipments in 2003 is expected to reach 4 million units, compared to 2.2 million in 2002.

Sonic Solutions sold NEC Europe the Sonic MyDVD 4 and Sonic CinePlayer 1.5 as the DVD creation and PC playback software to power the ND family of DVD recordable drive products. NEC MultiSpin DVD Writer ND-1100 and ND-1300 are the first products concerned. They will also feature OpenDVD technology that enables created DVD projects to be re-edited at any time with content added or deleted and menus changed. NEC's MultiSpin DVD Writer ND-1100 is a quadruple-speed DVD-recordable drive supporting the DVD+R(W) format, and the new ND-1300 DVD-recordable drive is a quadruple-speed multi-format writer that supports both DVD+R(W) and DVD-R(W).

The Recordable DVD Council added a European branch to its Asian and US bureaus by opening an office in the UK. The RDVDC is an association of 87 companies active in research, development and manufacturing of rewriteable DVD. The organisation aims to foster new technologies for rewriteable DVD.

Toshiba Europe GmbH Storage Device Division added the 16X4X2 desktop DVD recordable drive SD-R5112 to its product line. Supporting faster read and write speeds for CD-R, CD-RW, DVD-R, DVD-RW, CD-ROM and DVD-ROM, Toshiba's SD-R5112 comes complete with everything needed to create a home movie-making suite. The kit contains the drive itself, the Intervideo WinDVD, DVD Playback software, VOB Instant CD/DVD Writer software, Pinnacle Studio Version 8 SE video editing software, media accessories and all necessary cables and leads.

As sales of data storage specialist Verbatim’s 4x DVD recordable media continue to rise, the company has launched the 4x Omnia DVD+R/ReWritable drive (€260). Verbatim says it has adopted a flexible approach to this high-speed drive solution as Omnia can write not only to 4x DVD+R and DVD+RW media but can also write to CD-R, CD-RW and high-speed CD-RW. Both DVD+RW and DVD+R disks that are recorded in the Omnia drive can be played back on a wide variety of DVD players. This also applies to DVD-ROM drives and it can read DVD Video, DVD-ROM, CD Audio and CD-ROM. Software supplied with the Omnia drive includes Ahead’s Nero 5 Burning ROM for drag ‘n’ drop CD authoring and Sonic My DVD Video Suite and Cine Player with Arcsoft’s Showbiz.

The Optical Storage Technology Association is to host its second annual Optical Storage Symposium, October 13 -14, 2003, at the La Costa Resort in Carlsbad, California. The event is co-located with the Consumer Electronics Association's Industry Forum. This will enable attendees from both conferences to attend selected joint activities, including a joint CEA/OSTA session "What's Fuelling the Digital Video Recording Fire?" on Monday, October 13. OSS 2003 attendees will also have full access to the joint CEA/OSS Marketplace exhibit area. The OSS Optical provides a venue at which business and technology leaders from a diverse range of industry segments including consumer electronics, digital photography, entertainment, music, personal computers, and optical storage can exchange ideas.

Toshiba's first notebook PC featuring a 17-inch diagonal wide-screen (1440 x 900) display – the Satellite P25-S507 – looks set to create a new era of home entertainment unique to the mobile computing industry. Now shipping, the new Satellite P25-S507 combines digital media, wireless Internet access and a personal theater experience into a single device. The unit's built-in CD, DVD-R/RW functionality and stereo sound eliminates the need for a separate CD and DVD player, the company says.

Early in June the Steering Committee of the DVD Forum voted against adopting the Advanced Optical Disc proposal offered up by Toshiba Corp. and NEC Technologies. The blue-laser-based AOD proposal garnered only six out a possible 17 votes, three short of a needed majority. Eight voters abstained. The Steering Committee is expected to meet again in September, and Toshiba is expected to mount an intensive lobbying campaign on behalf of AOD between now and then.

Iomega says consumers can register online for automatic product updates and availability of the new Iomega Super DVD Writer Drive, which received the "Best of CeBIT America Award" for personal hardware at the CeBIT America technology trade show held last month in New York City. The Iomega Super DVD Drive supports all the major DVD and CD formats.

Microsoft contracted with Warren Lieberfarb, the former Warner Home Video president who has formed consultancy WNL Associates, to advise on matters relating to HD-DVD. Microsoft recently released (through Artisan Home Entertainment) the first DVD products viewable in HD, the Terminator 2: Extreme Edition and Standing in the Shadows of Motown.

In the US, weekly rentals of DVDs outpaced videos for the first time in June 2003, as movies and entertainment on discs continued their steady conquest over VHS videocassettes. California-based Video Software Dealers Association said 28.2 million DVDs were rented in the week ended June 15 compared with 27.3 million VHS cassettes. "Since the advent of video rental 25 years ago, videocassettes have been the dominant format for video rental. Just over six years since its launch, DVD has supplanted that pioneering technology in the rental market," said VSDA President Bo Andersen.

321 Studios released an upgrade to its DVD-copying software despite a court case contesting its legality. The company said June 20 that DVD X Copy Gold, an improved version of the software that includes all of the features of two previous products, DVD X Copy and DVD X Copy XPRESS, is now available. New features in DVD X Copy Gold let users copy most DVDs within an hour, and can record all features of an original CD or compress a DVD-9 to a DVD-5, fitting each backup copy onto a single DVD disc.

In a new twist in DVD marketing, Miramax, which plans to theatrically rerelease Confessions of a Dangerous Mind in August, now also plans to return Oscar best picture Chicago to theatres in July. In both cases, the moves serve to hype the films' home video release in the following month. The Chicago run will feature a new version of the movie that includes an additional song-and-dance number cut from the original theatrical release. The home video version of the awards-laden musical, which hits stores August 19, also will feature the additional scene.

Sonic Solutions announced June 27 a public offering of 1 million shares of its common stock at a price of $8.50 per share to institutional investors, is expectation of gross proceeds of $8.5 million. The Company plans to use the cash for working capital, possible acquisitions, and/or other general corporate purposes.

A top-level executive panel at the recent Cinema Expo trade show in Amsterdam reiterated the concern of film studios over piracy. Copyright thievery was termed by Jack Valenti, president of the Motion Picture Association, as "a very dark and clinging shadow" over the film industry. Recently pirated DVDs include the latest Harry Potter film and Matrix Reloaded. UK-based pirate hunter Spencer Moss revealed that a pirate copy of Hulk was in circulation a full two weeks in Europe before its US theatrical debut.

Consumers can now get TiVo services in a DVD recorder via new products from Pioneer. Two combination DVD recorders with TiVo services are being targeted at viewers who want to store television programming on a hard drive and transfer it to DVD for longer-term storage. Coupled with the recently announced DVR-A06 DVD/CD writer offering multiple recording formats, Pioneer says the launch solidifies its position as the leader in recordable DVD. The next target is in-car DVD-Audio. Pioneer has developed easy-to-use touch-screen capabilities for in-car navigation and audio/video as well as multi-channel DVD-Audio for the car.

The Final Cut Pro User Group will host the third FCPUG Network Theater showcase at the Macworld CreativePro Conference & Expo July 16-18, at New York City's Javits Center. Original works created by FCPUG Network members will be shown every 15-minutes. The theatre schedule will also feature educational programming by talented artists and digital video gurus.

Sonopress has installed in its US plant manufacturing and media replication equipment for the new DVD 14 and 18 format media. The new line is capable of replicating up to 10,000 large-format DVDs each day. The larger DVD 14 and 18 formats provide more storage capacity, allowing publishers to add multiple aspect ratios and other supplementary content on each disc. At 14GB and 18GB, respectively, DVD 14 and 18 offer 40-80% more capacity than DVD 9, which is currently the most common format.

The Alliance Against Counterfeiting and Piracy believes it may be close to a breakthrough that will enable Trading Standards Offices to "earmark" funds to combat pirates. Alliance chair Lavinia Carey: "We may be close to unblocking an near 10 year logjam on this point about enforcement and funding and we are holding our breath for further developments." Carey unveiled a report, Proving The Connection, that documents the link between theft of intellectual property and organised crime. The Alliance wants the DTI and Patent Office to amend Section 107A of the Copyright Designs and Patents Act to give trading standards professionals the power to enforce copyright law and find a way of providing earmarked funding.

Samsung is pitching the first mass-market DVD player to feature a new type of output, the Digital Video Interface (DVI), which allows the video to remain digital from disc to the display. The DVD player ($299), aimed specifically at HDTV owners, optimises standard DVD video performance to make better use of the capabilities of new high-definition displays. The Samsung DVD player uses a smart digital imaging chip to fine-tune the image and to ''upconvert'' the video to 720 or 1,080 lines, both of which are considered high-definition. But the chip is adding resolution that doesn't exist on the disc.

Rumoured in the UK that US distributors are dropping their rental windows in favour of a two-tier retail system. Paramount Home Entertainment is expected to move to that policy with the release of Star Trek Nemesis. The release has been moved back from July 7 to August 11 in order to introduce the strategy to rental dealers. Another distributor expected to embrace the two-tier strategy in the UK is Universal. Dealers believe the release that is most likely to start the two-tier process is the British comedy Johnny English, which has had its rental release date moved forward to August 11 from its slated release date in October.