Category Archives: Random Thought

Things I think about, tend to be essay length.

An industry divided

From recent announcements and manoeuvrings, it would seem like there are two content creation industries: the one that sees new forms of distribution as an opportunity to promote and extend brand, and the other that feels every new use, every feature has to be charged for – including, if the MPAA gets its way on Capitol Hill, some that have been free to date.

For the moment I only want to consider what some call “high value” content. Without wishing to denigrate videoblog/RSS subscription content and the important opportunities it opens for non-mainstream content, the industry I’m talking about here is the network/movie company/record company hegemony who make the content that the mainstream enjoy, and pay to enjoy: television, movies and recorded music.

In a week where Apple announced one million sales of videos through the iTunes store in 10 days and NBC said they will be releasing the nightly news free; the MPAA have been working hard in Washington to re-introduce the Broadcast Flag legislation, defeated in May 2005, with super-enhancements. Blu-ray has gained support from more studios because their Digital Rights Management was more draconian than the competing HD DVD camp, and Sony are in trouble for their spyware-based CD DRM. See my recent blog article When a good format “wins” for all the wrong reasons. Another take on the MPAA resurrection of the Broadcast Flag is at the Electronic Freedom Foundation .

Clearly a good part of the mainstream content creation industry considers the only way to protect their content is to lock it up, but even the MPAA has no delusions that they will actually prevent large scale piracy. As quoted in the Cory Doctorow article at Boing Boing above, they believe it will “keep honest users honest” or more accurately, prevent honest users doing what they do now – watch, store, time-shift, space-shift or format shift – without permission and payment in the future. I believe that they are really so caught up in their own world viewpoint that they cannot see how that will drive people to pirated copies that have no restriction. They are surely realistic enough to figure that all DRM will be broken. If you can watch it or hear it piracy can happen.

DRM will only cause dissension and force people toward pirated copies of the content. Actions like Sony’s that open holes for worms and viruses to take over the computer, without warning people that it’s installing such problematic software will likely cause law suits that diminish the reputations of the companies. In short, there’s nothing to be gained by excessive locks and controls on content. It will, if nothing more, drive people further from existing sources, to new and developing alternatives. Every failed mainstream movie, opens an opportunity for an independent. Every locked down TV broadcast opens the way for episodic entertainment delivered direct to customers that can be directly charged with micropayments or supported by advertising.#

Apple have established a beachhead with $1.99 television episodes (similar to the cost-per-episode of the DVD release, although not as high quality*); NBC are using a “top and tail” advertisement to support the free nightly news videos. There are new payment alternatives coming that will, in turn, open new production alternatives. It’s time the MPAA, RIAA and their associates stop treating their customers as criminals, and embrace new technology – use some imagination (OK, that’s a stretch for Hollywood I know, at least based on recent movie releases) and find the opportunity. If they don’t others will, and the losers will be the entrenched industry. Who knows, that could be the best possible outcome.

# Further thoughts on these ideas are in my February post.
* The iPod is capable of higher resolution video so I suspect that the 320×240 size was chosen deliberately to not compete with DVD sales. At that quality it’s better than VHS but less than DVD quality for most content.

And finally, just to demonstrate the utter stupidity of the “DRM crowd” – Sony have not only done themselves huge PR damage with their rootkit virus-like protection that opens the computer to other viruses based on the protection installed by Sony, but it will do nothing to prevent piracy as there are 20 million or so Macs that can rip the files off those CDs without any protection: the rootkit protection only works on PCs!

When a good format “wins” for all the wrong reasons

Although I’m definitely in the group of people that sees Blu-ray as the undoubtedly superior technology of the two high density optical disc competitors, and should be happy that the tide seems to be turning toward Blu-ray “winning” the war before a shot is fired or product released, it seems the reason Paramount and Warner Bros “defected” to Blu-ray was because of the Digital Rights Management (DRM) supported in that format is much more restrictive than for HD DVD.

Both formats support Advanced Access Content System (AACS) as the primary DRM and Blu-ray has two additional DRM control agents included. However the point of difference, and the reason Bill Gates said Blu-ray was “anti consumer” is because HD DVD mandates that all discs support Managed Copy, while Blu-ray leaves the option to activate Managed Copy to individual disc authors and studios – meaning in practice that no Blu-ray disc will be allowed to be copied to a hard drive or sent around a home entertainment network. Managed Copy allows this extended use, although the amount permitted beyond a basic single copy to a hard drive, is still up to the content owner.

Blu-ray’s non-requirement for compulsory Managed Copy is why 20th Century Fox came exclusively to Blu-ray and apparently why Paramount, and then today Warner Bros, opted to support both formats, leaving only Universal Studios supporting only HD DVD (while other parts of the Universal group are already in the Blu-ray group).

Forrester Research are declaring Blu-ray the winner but that, given Forrester’s previous record that could be the best news Toshiba has heard recently! Even though Forrester Research are predicting it, Blu-ray does seem to have the momentum now, mostly because of the draconian DRM they’ve chosen to apply.

Which is sad. Blu-ray has a longer future than HD DVD and more interactive tools in the specification. However, even with the momentum, the DRM will probably cause both formats to be declared Dead On Arrival in the face of more flexible media delivery, with reasonable DRM, from suppliers like Apple. Sure Apple’s doing 320 x 240 now but it could do HD “any time” they decided to and had the product for.

The net result of restrictive DRM will be that more programming opportunities open for independent producers who bypass the studio and networks going straight to their customers with new distribution models and payment methods.

Broadcast Flag (again) and WIPO

Despite being defeated thoroughly in May this year, the media oligopoly (aka the RIAA and MPAA) are once again trying to reinstate the Broadcast Flag that will take away existing media usage rights and attempt to control every consumer electronic device to be built in the future. The Broadcast Flag, if ever passed into legislation, would allow media companies to control every piece of consumer electronics. In their world, if we’re video recording in the street and a car drives past playing copyright music, the video camera shuts down. Existing Fair Use rights will go out the window.

But, as the Electronic Freedom Frontier points out the Broadcast Flag was soundly defeated and Congress are reluctant to get involved in meddling between the American consumer and their TV, so the industry has encouraged 20 suicidal Representatives to attempt to slip the revised legislation through the “back door” – on the back of a budget bill.

Here’s what they’re attempting to slip through unnoticed:

The Federal Communications Commission —
(a) has authority to adopt such regulations governing digital audio broadcast transmissions and digital audio receiving devices that are appropriate to control the unauthorized copying and redistribution of digital audio content by or over digital reception devices, related equipment, and digital networks, including regulations governing permissible copying and redistribution of such audio content….

Courtesy of Boing Boing

I don’t know why the entrenched media companies think that attempting to lock down media this way is in their best interests. At best it’s a serious lack of vision or understanding that everything changes and the only way they have a future is to adapt. These are the same industries that fought tooth and nail against “Betamax”. Jack Valenti testified to Congress that:

“…’the growing and dangerous intrusion of this new technology’ threatened his entire industry’s ‘economic vitality and future security.”

And yet now, the VHS and DVD sales, the successor to Betamax, is worth more to the movie industry than theatrical distribution, and has expanded the industry dramatically with direct-to-DVD movies.

Why would anyone think they’re any more right this time? Why would they have any credibility? They don’t. This is a case of dinosaurs attempting to prevent an ice age. Attempts at broadcast flag and other DRM will fail, whether they’re implemented or not. DRM will probably kill Blu-ray and HD DVD before they’re even out the door (another blog article there!).

There’s another good article on the Broadcast Flag in Susan Crawford’s Blog.

Even if your Representative is not one of the 20 suicidal ones, contact them now and tell them why supporting the Broadcast Flag (and all DRM) is a bad idea. It’s already been knocked out once, it shouldn’t come back, and it shouldn’t come back hidden in a budget bill. If this is to come to pass, let’s have it out in the open, debated in public, and a reasonable decision made.

And if the Broadcast Flag is not bad enough

If you really want to get a feel for the nature of the established media people, consider what the United States official delegation to the World Intellectual Property Organization proposed. Reporting on an article in the Financial Times BoingBoing.net summarizes it this way:

James Boyle’s latest Financial Times column covers the Webcasting provisions of the new Broadcast Treaty at the World Intellectual Property Organization. Under these provisions, the mere act of converting A/V content to packets would confer a 50-year monopoly over the underlying work to ISPs. That means that if you release a Creative-Commons-licensed Flash movie that encourages people to share it (say, because you get money every time someone sees the ads in it), the web-hosting companies that offer it to the world can trump your wishes, break your business and sue anyone who shares a copy they get from them. This is a way of taking away creator’s rights and giving them to companies like Microsoft and Yahoo, whose representative at WIPO has aggressively pushed to have this included in the treaty.

Even if we publish under a Creative Commons license, or even just publish our own content through an ISP, the ISP owns copyright in our work for 30 years. Fortunately this didn’t get saluted this time but that’s what’s being pushed. Is this what you want? It’s certainly not what I want. Does it protect the rights of the artist as copyright is intended in the US Constitution? I think a resounding “No way” is the only possible answer. Well, does it serve the public good – the other provision in the Constitution? I sure can’t see how.

Follow up note added October 13: The delegation to the WIPO conference, a.k.a. “the forces of radical protectionism” were seeking a “diplomatic conference” in Q1, 2006, which is the last step before a treaty is ready for signatures. Instead they were denied and the proposal will be dissected in at least two more WIPO meeting before a diplomatic conference gets discussed again, allowing for time to make sure this level of protection for carriers is never enacted. /addition

Make your opinion known to your Congressional Representatives now. Otherwise we’ll end up with these things in law, just like the reviled Digital Millenium Copyright Act. Most probably Unconstitutional, but who’s going to “stand up for pirating” and stand against established legislation?

Soon I’ll write on why Digital Rights Management, as it’s planned for Blu-ray, HD DVD and the “Trusted Computing” initiative will stifle creative endeavors and end up killing promising technologies. And why it’s bad for the MPAA and RIAA, if only they had a little vision.

Don’t panic! Apple adopts Intel processors

The confusion and furor surrounding Apple CEO Steve Jobs’ announcement at the WordWide Developers Conference that future Mac, after Jun 2006, will use Intel processors inside is totally unfounded. Nothing changes now, very little changes in the next year and longer term the future for the Mac got a little brighter. Although the decision caught me by surprise, as I thought about it, and listened to what was said in the keynote, I could see why it made sense.

If we look short term, the decision makes little sense. Right now a G5 (Power PC, aka PPC) PowerMac has very similar performance to the best workstations on the PC/Intel platform running Windows and the G5 will cost less than a similarly performing PC workstation. At the low end the Mac mini is competitively priced to a cheap Dell or other name brand. (Macs are not price competitive with off-brand PCs, the so called “white box”.) So, why put the developer community, and developers within Apple, through the pain of a processor shift?

For the future (“we have to do it for the children”) and because it’s really not that painful for most developers.

Right now a G5 PowerMac is very performance competitive with the best offerings from Intel. What Apple have been privy to, that rest of us haven’t, is the future of both Intel processors and PPC processors. Based on that future Apple decided they had no choice but to make the change. In the future, the performance-per-watt of power of a PPC chip will be “15 units of processing” according to Mr Jobs. The same watt of energy would give 70 units of performance on an Intel processor. Without knowing exactly how those figures were derived, and what it means for real-world processing power it seems like a significant difference. It was enough to push Apple to make the change.

Not that there’s anything wrong with the PPC architecture: IBM continue to develop and use it at the high end and PPC chips (triple core “G5” chips) will power the Microsoft XBox360. The sales of chips to Microsoft will well and truly outweigh the loss of business from Apple. It is, however, a crazy world: next year will see a Microsoft product powered by PPC and Macintoshes powered by Intel!

Steve Jobs demonstrated how easy it will be for developers to port applications to OS X Intel. In fact, he confirmed long-term rumors that Apple have kept OS X running on Intel processors with every development on OS X – Mr Jobs demonstrated and ran his keynote from an Intel Macintosh. For most applications a simple recompile in the Xcode developer environment will suffice – a matter of a few hours work at most. Moreover, even if the developer does not recompile, Apple have a compatibility layer, called Rosetta, that will run pure PPC code on an Intel Mac. Both platforms are to be supported “well into the future”.

During the keynote Mathematica was demonstrated (huge application, 12 lines of code from 20 million needed changing, 2 hours work) as were office applications. Commitments to port Adobe’s creative suite and Microsoft’s Mac Business Unit software were presented. Apple have been working on Intel-compatible versions of all their internal applications according to Mr Jobs. [Added] Luxology’s president has since noted that their 3D modelling tool modo took just 20 minutes to port, because it was already Xcode-based, and built on modern Mach-0 code.

Remember, these applications are for an Intel-powered OS X Macintosh. No applications are being developed for Windows. In fact, after the keynote Senior Vice President Phil Schiller addressed the issue of Windows. Although it would be theoretically possible to run Windows on an Intel Macintosh it will not be possible to run OS X on anything but Apple Macintosh.

Apple’s Professional Video and Audio applications might not be as trivial to port although most of the modern suite should have no problem. LiveType, Soundtrack Pro, DVD Studio Pro and Motion are all new applications built in the Cocoa development environment and will port easily. Final Cut Pro may be less trivial to port. It has a heritage as a Carbon application, although the code has been tweaked for OS X over recent releases. More than most applications, Final Cut Pro relies on the Altivec vector processing of the PPC chip for its performance. But even there, the improvement in processor speeds on the Intel line at the time Intel Macs will be released are likely to be able to compensate for the loss of vector processing. At worst there will be a short-term dip in performance. However with Intel Macintoshes rolling out from June 2006 it’s likely we’ll see an optimized version of Final Cut Pro ready by the time it’s needed.

[Added] Another consideration is the move to using the GPU over the CPU. While the move to Intel chips makes no specific change to that migration – Graphics card drivers for OS X still need to be written for the workstation-class cards – Final Cut Pro could migrate to OS X technologies like Core Video to compensate for the lack of Altivec optimizations for certain functions, like compositing. Perhaps then, finally we could have real-time composite modes!

Will the announcement kill Apple’s hardware sales in the next year? Some certainly think so but consider this: if you need the fastest Macintosh you can get, buy now. There will always be a faster computer out in a year whatever you buy now. If your business does not need the fastest Mac now (and many don’t) then do what you’d always do: wait until it makes sense. The G5 you buy now will still be viable way longer than its speed will be useful in a professional post-production environment. It’s likely there will be speed-bumps in the current G5 line over the next year, as IBM gets better performance out of its chips. We are waiting for a new generation of chips from Intel before there would be any speed improvement. If Apple magically converted their current G5 line to the best chips Intel has to offer now, there would be little speed improvement: this change is for the future, not the present.

So, I don’t think it will affect hardware sales significantly. As a laptop user I’m not likely to upgrade to a new G4 laptop, but then there will be little speed boosts available there in the next year anyway. But as a laptop user, I’m keen to get a faster PowerBook and using an Intel chip will make that possible.

Although I have to say I initially discounted the reports late last week because, based on current chip developments, there seemed little advantage in a difficult architecture change. With the full picture revealed in the Keynote as to the long term advantages and the minimal discomfort for developers, it seems like a reasonable move that will change very little except give us faster macs in the future.

How could we have any problem with that?

[Added] Good FAQ from Giles Turnbull at O’Reilly’s Developer Weblog

E3 and what it means for the future of production

This week was my first visit ever to an Entertainment Electronics Expo, usually written as E3. Entertainment in this context means gaming – computer games. My desire to visit E3 was driven by a deep-seated feeling that I was ignoring an important cultural trend because it doesn’t intersect my life direction – I don’t play “video games” and I don’t have children, nieces or nephews nearby. But it’s hard to ignore an industry that reportedly eclipsed motion picture distribution in gross revenue last year. It hasn’t – Grumpy Gamer puts things into perspective.

That doesn’t mean that the gaming industry statistics are anything but impressive: Halo 2’s first day sales of US$125 Million eclipses the record first weekend box office (Spiderman 2002) of $114 milliion – a statistic the gaming industry likes to promote but isn’t as impressive when you consider whole-of-life revenue. Grumpy Gamer again. Gaming is a huge business and E3 had many booths that represent a multi-million dollar investment in the show by the companies exhibiting. E3, like NAB is an industry-only show (18+ only and industry affiliation required) and this year attracted 70,000 attendees (vs NAB 2005 with about 95-97,000) in a much smaller show area. This is big business.

But what has this got to do with “the present and future of production and post production”? There are three “game” developments that will, ultimately impact video production, post production and distribution. This is quite aside from the fact that, right now, video production for games is a big part of the expense of each game. Most games have video/film production budgets way above those of a typical independent film’s total budget. This presents an opportunity for savvy producers to team up with game producers for “serious games” – games aimed at education or corporate training. Video production alone is rapidly becoming a commodity service so working with a games company for their acquisition is a value add and opportunity in the short term.

Microsoft’s Steve Ballmer

Take today’s passive video content, add a little interactivity to it. Take today’s interactive content, games, and add a little bit more video sequencing to it. It gets harder and harder to tell what’s what…

In the longer term three trends will impact “video” production: graphics quality and rendering, “convergence” (yes, I hate the term too, but don’t have a good alternative), and interactive storytelling.

Graphic Powerhouse

We all owe the gaming community a debt of gratitude for constantly pushing the performance of real-time graphics and thus the power of graphics cards and GPUs. The post-production industry benefits from real-time in applications like Boris Blue, Apple’s Motion, Core Video in OS X 10.4 Tiger and other applications. Without the mass market for these cards they’d be much more expensive and would not have advances as quickly as they have.

The quality of real-time graphics coming from companies like Activision with their current release F.E.A.R. in a standard definition game, and the quality of their upcoming HD releases for next-generation gaming consoles is outstanding. In one demonstration (actual game play) of a 2006 release, the high definition graphics quality, including human face close-ups was really outstanding. Extrapolate just a few more years and you have to wonder how much shooting will be required. If we can recreate, or create, anything in computer simulation in close to real time (or in real time) at high definition, what’s the role of location shooting and sets? Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow and Sin City have shown that it’s possible to create movies without ‘real’ sets, although both movies seemed to have needed to apply extreme color treatments to disguise the lack of reality (or was that purely motivated by creativity).

Actors could be safe for a little while, because of the ‘Uncanny Valley’ effect, although the soldiers in Activision’s preview were close-to-lifelike in closeup, as long as you didn’t look at the eyes – the dead giveaway for the moment. Longer term (five + years) realistic humans are almost certain to come down the line. At that point, where is the difference between a fixed path in a game, and a video production?

Convergence

NAB has, until this year, long been “The Convergence Marketplace” without a lot of convergence happening. However, the world of gaming has converged with the world of movies a long time ago. It is standard practice for a blockbuster movie release to have a themed game available – Star Wars III: Revenge of the Sith and Madagascar have simultaneous movie and game releases. Activision’s game development team were on the Madagascar set and developed 20 hours of game-play following the theme of a 105 minutes movie!

Similarly Toronto-based Spaceworks Entertainment, Inc. announced at E3 a Canada/UK co-production of Ice Planet the TV series and game are to be developed together, again with the game developers on the set of the TV series shoot. Although the game and TV series can be enjoyed independently the plan is to enhance the game via the TV show and the TV show via the game. Game player relevant information can be found throughout each of the 22 episodes of the series’ first season – the first of five seasons planned in the story arc.

Whether or not Spaceworks Entertainment are the folks to bring this off eventually it will happen that there is interplay between television and related game play. Television will need something to bring gamers back to the networks (cable or broadcast) if there’s a future to be had there. (Microsoft, on the other hand, wants to bring the networks to the gamers via the Xbox 360.)

Interactive Storytelling

The logical outcome of all this is an advanced form of interactive storytelling that could supplant “television” as we know it. Or not. Traditionally television has been a lean-back, turn my mind off medium and I imagine there will continue to be a demand for this type of non-involved media consumption in the future that won’t be supplanted by a more active lean-forward medium. However, the lean-forward medium will be there to supplement and, for many people, replace the non-involved medium.

Steven Johnson’s Everything bad is good for you makes some valid points that suggest that the act of gaming might be more important than imagined (and less bad for you). From one review:

The thesis of Everything Bad is Good for You is this: people who deride popular culture do so because so much of popcult’s subject matter is banal or offensive. But the beneficial elements of videogames and TV arise not from their subject matter, but from their format, which require that players and viewers winkle out complex storylines and puzzles, getting a “cognitive workout” that teaches the same kind of skills that math problems and chess games impart. As Johnson points out, no one evaluates the benefit of chess based on its storyline or monotonically militaristic subject matter.

In the same vein, and a little aside, I was amused by this comment posted in Kevin Briody’s Seattle Duck blog that hypothesises how we would have contemplated books had they been invented after the video game.

“Reading books chronically understimulates the senses…
Books are also tragically isolating…
But perhaps the most dangerous property of these books is the fact that they follow a fixed linear path. You can’t control their narratives in any fashion: you simply sit back and have the story dictated to you…”

How far will we go with non-linear paths? Most games today have fairly limited, linear paths to a single destination, with a lot of flexibility in the journey. I’m no fan of first-person shooter games but can imagine becoming more involved with another type of story. Don your 3D immersion headset, or relax in your lounge with the 60″ wall-mounted flat panel, and join me in this week’s episode of (say) Star Trek TNG. Choose your character and participate in the story appropriately. Clues as to your behavior would be an optional “cheat” track (not dissimilar to the podcasts accompanying this year’s Battlestar Gallactica episodes). The rest of the characters would guide the story and respond to your participation, to whatever outcome. Whatever character role you took, would control the perspective of the show that you saw (when involved a scene).

Is this a game? Is it “television”? Is it something else? Storytellers have adapted their stories for specific audiences from the first day there were stories. Roaming storytellers would adapt details for kings or commoners, for this geographic region over that (often for their own self-preservation) so adaptive (interactive) storytelling isn’t new, just new to modern electronic media. Do a search for “interactive storytelling” at google.com and you’ll find many links. I just found that my hypothesis above has a name Mixed Reality Interactive Storytelling! The marketing people will have to massage that into something that would capture popular imagination.

None of this will have much impact on typical production this week, next year, or the five years following that, but some time in the future, at least some elements will have crossed over. In a very real sense, I went to E3 last week to get a sense of “the future of video production”.

iTunes becomes a movie management tool

iTunes has been doing movies for some time now – trailers from the Apple Movie Trailer’s website have been passed through iTunes for full screen playback, leading many to believe that Apple were grooming iTunes for eventual movie distribution.

Well, iTunes 4.8 will do nothing to dispel the rumor mongers – in version 4.8 iTunes gains more movie management and playback features, including movie Playlists and full screen playback. Simply drag a movie or folders of movies (any .mov or .mp4 whatever the size) into the iTunes interface and they become Playlists.

Playback can be in the main interface (in the area occupied by album artwork otherwise); in a separate movie window (non-floating so it will go behind the iTunes main interface) or to full screen. Visual can be of individual movies or of playlists – audio always plays the playlist regardless of the setting controlling the visuals.

If one had to speculate (and one does, really in the face of Apple’s enticement) it certainly seems that Apple are evolving iTunes toward some movie management features. The primary driver of this development in version 4.8 is the inclusion of “behind the scenes/making of” videos with some albums. For example, the Dave Matthews Band “Stand Up” album in the iTunes Music Store features “an (sic) fascinating behind-the-scenes look at band’s (sic) creative process with the bonus video download.” The additional movie content gives Apple the excuse to charge an extra $2 for the album ($11.99 while most albums are $9.99).

There is a lot of “chatter in the channel” about delivery of movies to computers or a lounge room viewing device (derived from a computer but simplified). Robert Cringely, among others, seem to think the Mac Mini is well positioned for the role of lounge room device. Perhaps, others like Dave TV think a dedicated box or network will be the way to go. Ultimately it will be about two things: content and convenience.

Recreational Television and movie watching is a “lay back” experience – performed relaxed on a comfortable chair at the end of a busy day with little active involvement of the mind. Even home theater consumption of movies is not quite the same experience as a cinema (although close enough to it for many people.) It will take a major shift in thinking for the “TV” to become a “Media Center” outside of the College Dorm Room. We’re still many years from digital television broadcasting being the norm, let alone HD delivery to in-home screens big enough to actually display it at useful viewing distances. (If you want the HD experience right now on a computer screen Apple have some gorgeous examples in their H.264 HD Gallery. QuickTime 7, a big screen and a beefy system are pre-requisites but the quality is stunning.)

Apple do not have to move fast, nor be first, with the “Home Media Center” to ultimately be successful. Look at what happened with the iPod and iTunes in the first place. The iPod was neither the first “MP3 Player” nor some would argue “the best” but it had a superior overall experience, aided by a huge ‘coolness’ factor. So, even if Apple are planning an ‘iTunes Music Store for Movies” some time down the path, it’s not something I’d expect to be announced at MacWorld January 2006 or even 2007!

In the meantime, the new movie management features in iTunes are great. This is not a professional video asset management tool, we’ll have to look elsewhere for that (something I hope the Pro Apps group would be working on) but it is a tool for organizing and playing videos. I have collected show reels and other design pieces I look to for creative inspiration but until now there was no way of organizing them easily. Now I can import them all to iTunes, create play lists for “titles”, “3D”, “design”, “action” and so on for when I need inspiration. Movies can be in multiple play lists, just like music.

I can wait to see what Apple have planned in the future, in the meantime, I’m happy with a new tool in my toolbox.

JVC confirms ProHD strategy

As reported previously in the Pro Apps Hub, JVC’s ProHD strategy is a marketing catch-all for all their HD offerings based on MPEG-2 transport streams. Included in the stragegy is the HDV KY-HD100U and the HDV+ GY-HD7000U.

Available in “early summer” the KY-HD100 is a professional-level HDV camcorder with solid camera-operator-friendly features that justify the ProHD moniker. Three 1/3″ CCDs sit behind a removable lens, although standard is a Fujinon 16x lens developed with JVC. The GY-HD100 records at 30p and 24P at 1280 x 720 resolution in HD and at 29.97 in DV. 24P is accommodated within the 60i standard framework by repeating a 2:3:3:2 pulldown like the only used by Pansonic in the AG-DVX100using MPEG2 “flags” to flag certain whole frames need to be duplicated, so it does 3 frames and then 2 frames (not fields like the DVX would do) and hence embeds 24p in a 60p video stream, but only records 24p frames of data to tape – quite clever really. This allows JVC to offer 24P even though it was not part of the original HDV specification, without deviating from the specification. [Thanks to Graeme Nattress for the correction.]

See Hub news on March 10 for more details on both cameras. At US$6295 JVC have come in well “under $10,000”.

Panasonic announce P2 Camcorder

Panasonic generated a lot of buzz at NAB with the announcement of the AG-HVX 200 multi-format camcorder expected to sell for $5949?? without media. The AG-HVX 200 camcorder is a small-form-factor unit with a built in DV deck for DV25 recording and P2 solid state media support for DVCPRO 50 and DVCPRO 100 recording. Reportedly the FireWire output is also active for recording DVCPRO 50 or HD to a tethered FireWire deck. Panasonic are talking with Focus to develop support for the FireStore HD.

The camera itself is an impressive, multi-format, multiple frame rate device. In DVCPRO HD it supports 1080 i at 30i (60 fields), 1080 p at 24 frames/sec, 720 P at 60 or 24 Progressive frames. In 720 P mode is supports variable frame rates like the Varicam to the P2 media. It has 3 x 1/3″ native 16:9 CCDs.

Panasonic plan a bundle with two 8 GB P2 memory cards for US$9999 – an indication of just how far we have to go before solid state media becomes a viable proposition outside news gathering and other niche markets. While P2 media can be used directly as a source in many NLEs- Final Cut Pro adds native support for this media – it’s not viable to retain the P2 memory cards during editing. Most commonly the card’s contents is immediately dumped to hard drive. Panasonic announced a unit specifically for the purpose recently: the AJ-PCS060 portable hard drive with a P2 card slot. [Hub news February 14th]

Having the media on hard drive makes it instantly available for editing, but does not address the need for archive. Either the hard drives need to be permanently retained for archive or the media needs to be copied to another format for archive. This is more handling than most people are used to.

The AG-HVX 200 won’t ship until some time in the fourth quarter of the year, leaving JVC and Sony a long lead time for the competing HDV to become established. With 37,000 FX1 and Z1U units sold, according to the Apple presentation, in just the first six months, that’s a huge lead for Panasonic to catch up with, particularly since JVC will be shipping their KY-HD100U nearly six months ahead.