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News in Brief

A rancorous dispute in the boardroom of the German media giant Bertelsmann, which is planning to merge its music business with Sony, prompted the resignation on Wednesday of its chairman, Gerd Schulte-Hillen.

According to the British Video Association, the UK video market continues its run of success with sales up 34%, to 119 million units, for the first three quarters of 2003. The growth in the market continues to be driven by DVD video sales – up 83% so far this year, and 75% in September alone. The complete Top 3 so far (with estimated retail sales volume based on UK OCC data for the first three places) is as follows: The Lord of the Rings – The Two Towers (1.7m units), Two Weeks Notice (307,174) and Titanic (274,463).

Infodisc Technology, one of the top two manufacturers of pre-recorded optical discs, is to spin off its business division producing blank DVDs to form a subsidiary called Infomedia. Infodisc set December 19 for the spin-off. Move is prompted by the parent company's optimism about the global DVD market and concern about potential conflicts of interest with existing clients. Frank Tien, president of Infodisc, is to be the chairman and temporary president of the new subsidiary.

Apple unveiled G5-optimized versions of Final Cut Pro 4, Shake 3 and DVD Studio Pro 2 which have all been fine-tuned to take advantage of the performance and architecture of the Power Mac G5 and Mac OS X version 10.3 – “Panther.” The new version 4.1 of Final Cut Pro now delivers simultaneous playback of seven fully uncompressed standard definition (SD) video streams with real-time effects using a dual 2.0 GHz processor Power Mac G5 and Xserve RAID. The new G5-optimized Final Cut Pro 4.1, Shake 3.0.1 and DVD Studio Pro 2.0.2, with the new Compressor 1.1 update, are immediately available for current Final Cut Pro 4, Shake 3 and DVD Studio Pro 2 customers as free software updates.

Microsoft plans to launch an online digital music store in 2004 to compete with existing services, such as Apple's iTunes and Roxio's recently-opened Napster.

CDR-Info has determined that DVD-R is the most compatible DVD recording format on the market. To assess the compatibility level of DVD Formats the organisation created video content on a DVD writer using DVD-R/RW and +R/RW media. These discs were then played back in other DVD players and DVD-ROM drives – over a 1,000 combinations of drive, media and player were tested. The content created on a DVD-R/RW writer using a write once DVD-R disc played back in virtually all (96.1%) of the DVD players and DVD-ROM drives used in the research. DVD+R discs played back in 87.6% of the devices tested.

The Federation Against Copyright Theft seized 1,225,654 pirate DVDs in the UK so far this year - up 389% on this time last year. The organisation estimates one third of UK DVDs are illegal copies bought at car boot sales and markets. Seizures could hit 1.5 million DVDs by year’s end, FACT says. In a new initiative, FACT has produced a cinema advertisement that is due to be screened in UK theatres next month and during peak cinema-going periods in 2004.

Word from Taiwan is that contract manufacturing prices for 4x recordable DVD+RW drives have declined by another 9%-10% since the beginning of the fourth quarter after declining 30%-40% over the previous two quarters. The Digitimes reports that Taiwanese manufacturers are now quoting 4x DVD+RW drives at below US$100, compared with US$100-110 in the third quarter and US$130-150 in the second quarter. Price falls have been widely expected as DVD-Dual drives have become mainstream and as many South East Asian companies have begun delivering more advanced 8x DVD+RW drives. Leading OEMs, including Sony, NEC, Hitachi-LG Data Storage (HLDS) and Pioneer, are now focusing on the production of DVD-Dual drives, according to sources.

Distinctly different preferences exist between age groups when buying personal technology products, according to the latest CNET Personal Tech Radar survey from CNET. Buyers over 35 love the idea of turning old videotapes into DVDs (63% over 35 vs. 51% under), and look for products with good video editing capabilities and progressive scan to make this task easier. Buyers under 35 also want to use a DVD Recorder to have fun and be creative, but they are more interested in starting from scratch -- combining their favorite music and/or video to create a home video (31% under 35 vs. 22% over).

The 36th Brasilia Film Festival is preparing to host the first Brazilian Film Market (November 19-24) that will present 200 Brazilian titles made available in a videolibrary in a DVD format (with English subtitles). Organised by Brazilian sales and promotion company Grupo Novo de Cinema e TV, the market has confirmed the attendance of buyers from Europe, North America, Latin America and Australia. Among buyers are RAI, Italy, ARTE and One Plus One from France. Representatives from airlines in search of product for in-flight screenings include Varig, Air France and American Airlines.

DVD manufacturer Deluxe has selected WAM!NET's fully managed networking service to enable them to receive DVD masters from its movie studio customers. As the motion picture industry shifts home video release dates closer to the theatrical release date for movies, the entire DVD supply chain must reduce turn times for all aspects of DVD production. WAM!NET services can remove days from the production cycle for DVD.

At the 2003 CEATEC show in Japan, Microsoft announced that leading audio and video chip makers and consumer electronics manufacturers are adding support for Windows Media 9 Series to provide new digital media experiences to consumers. This brings the total number of devices that support Windows Media to more than 400, double what was announced at the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) in January. These devices span the consumer electronics industry, including DVD players, CD players, car stereos, portable audio devices and set-top boxes.

Maxtor QuickVIEW Consumer Electronic hard drives have been chosen for Toshiba's HDD & DVD Video recorder, RD-XS41 – the industry's first DVD multi-drive video recorder. QuickVIEW hard drive provides the new Toshiba device with up to 208 hours of recording time and enables viewers to record and playback simultaneously.

Accesstek, a Taiwan-based optical drive manufacturer, will start mass-production of an 8x DVD-Dual drive this month, according to company officials. the new drive will offer 8x DVD+R, 4x DVD+RW, 4x DVD-R and 2x DVD-RW. About 90 per cent of Accesstek's 8x DVD Dual models will be made under OEM contracts at an average price of about $180, compared with $130-140 charged for the 4x models.

NEC Electronics has developed a new chipset for rewritable DVD drives supporting an 8x recording speed in DVD-R and DVD+R formats. The chipset comprises the uPD63630, a DVD signal processor with ATAPI interface, and the uPC3330, an analog signal processor that controls the servo system of the optical pickup. (see Product Launches section).

UK band Coldplay have insisted the release of their upcoming DVD be packaged with 100% recycled paper. It will be released as a special limited edition pack with bonus features and well as the standard double disc on November 10.The show was filmed at Sydney's Hordern Pavilion in July but will include a tour diary taking you to Los Angeles, Madrid, Denver and London.

Warren Lieberfarb, an architect and early champion of the DVD format during his nearly 20 years at Warner Home Video, with experience as well in the development of pay TV, home video and cable, has joined the board of Sirius Satellite Radio Inc., a US digital satellite service company. Lieberfarb sits on the boards of Digital Theater Systems and the American Film Institute where he chairs its executive committee.

Sony is scheduled to unveil its all-in-one PSX game device to the public next week. The PSX, which packs a TV tuner, DVD recorder, hard-disk drive, and the PlayStation 2 game player into a single white box, will be unveiled at the CEATEC Japan 2003 industry show. The company plans to launch the machine in Japan before the end of this year, and in Europe and the United States early next year.

Japan's Matsushita Electric Works Ltd., which began producing Panasonic DVD recorders in Germany in July, is to finance fund a $160 million upgrade of its existing factory in Bedok, Singapore during the next three years to make recorders.

THX, the quality assurance and standards maintenance scheme set up by fame director George Lucas, cebrates 20 years of application. The company's Burbank office opened in 1998 and was a pioneer in assisting Hollywood studio clients who were moving feature films to the nascent digital video disc format; since then, THX has certified 198 titles, including 54 during the past 12 months. Including all versions of all titles, the company has certified more than 325 DVDs.

Encyclopaedia Britannica has launched its 2004 Ultimate Reference Suite on DVD-ROM – a multimedia reference library comprising 100,000 articles, a 2,775-map World Atlas, with maps hot-linked to encyclopedia articles, over 21,000 photos and illustrations, 520 video clips, 136 sound clips and 167,000 web links. Customers get free quarterly updates via the Internet as well as a free 90-day subscription to Britannica’s online (see Product Launches section).

Roxio updated its Easy CD/DVD Creator software to version 6.2, adding support for burning to 90 and 99 minute media and a new compression engine to reduce the size of DVD movies so they will fit on DVD discs. The latest release includes functionality that enables consumers to make personal back up copies of non-protected or unencrypted DVDs, compress dual-layer DVDs and burn them onto DVD recordable media, automatically search for valid DVD-Video content on a hard drive, work with VIDEO_TS folders, and back up DVDs to recordable DVD media.