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Kibitzing from the Sidelines
Innovative Technical Developments at NAB
New Englanders Star at the Show

By Bob Lamm

Every year, the products introduced at NAB get better, faster and cheaper. Nothing wrong with that, but the products that really excite me are the ones that advance the state-of-the-art in some way: They do something entirely new or in an entirely new way. This year, I was really excited to observe that many of these pioneers came from New England or have local connections...

Web-Streaming in a Box

One of the most innovative products at the show was the E-Studio Live (Chelmsford) web-streaming switcher. This is a small TV studio-in-a-box that lets you broadcast a live show over the internet.

What really makes this product so compelling is the nice way this system has been integrated into a complete web-studio: It not only has a complete switcher assembly with character generator, DVE and clipstore in a portable case, it also has software to place the video in a configurable web page, the ability to take back feedback from viewer form responses (and present it to the studio talent) and to integrate video from disparate sources.

We hope to get the E-Studio Live people to cover one of our meetings next season, so keep your eyes peeled to the SMPTE/New England web page!

3D Compositing

For out-and-out ambition, you'd have a hard time finding a company looking to make a bigger change in the post-production world than SynaPix in Lowell. Their SynaFlex wants to make it possible to composite the dinosaurs for 'Jurassic Park' behind some of the trees in the live background footage without having to make a matte!

SynaFlex does this by creating a detailed 3D model of the scene by analyzing the shot footage for variable object movement as the camera moves. The 3D representation of the scene not only allows you to position the animated elements in your scene in true 3D, you can also relight it, have true reflections/refractions/radiosity interactions, stabilize shaky camerawork, and even change the camera trajectory through the scene entirely!

We recently had a meeting up at Synapix, hopefully we'll have another one up there soon as this product continues to develop.

TARGA 3000

One of the most significant developments of the last few years has been multistream capture/playback cards: They allow nonlinear video editing systems to do realtime dissolves, wipes, keys and other effects. However, the number of streams and complexity of the effects was limited by the ability of the computer's 32-bit bus and the number of dissolve/wipe/channel chips that could fit on a board. And they could only handle standard-resolution video.

The new Pinnacle Systems TARGA 3000 changed all this: What makes this product so unique is the way it handles video: Instead of circuitry for the separate streams, it has a central processor that operates fast enough to create nine separate effects, and these can be programmed to appear in sequence or in parallel on separate streams. The number of streams that can be read off the drive has changed too: The TARGA 3000 is the first capture/playback card to use the new 64-bit computer bus architecture, allowing up to three separate streams of true uncompressed 4:4:4:4 video and 6 graphics tracks.

But the real power of the central-processor approach is that the video isn’t limited to standard 720x486: It can be any of the standard advanced TV formats, have 10-bit 4:4:4:4 resolution, and even be in a different color space (such as RGB).

The board is currently available in two flavors: An HDTV version for Final Cut Pro on the Mac and a Premiere version for the PC. Realtime effects include spline-based RGB color correction, chromakey with shadows and more...

So what's the New England angle? I used to work for the company and have been eagerly awaiting the introduction of this exciting new product.

Better/Faster/Cheaper

Okay, there's nothing like a good value to make going to NAB worth while. This year, my vote for best new product in this category is the Matrox RT2000. This is an inexpensive ($1295 list) dual-channel video capture playback card with an additional animated graphics channel. It provides native DV and MPEG-2 editing for videotape, DVD and web streaming program creation. It even has broadcast-quality 3D effects.

We just got our first units in, and I've opened one up for a special project: We videotaped our NAB Wrapup meeting and I'm going to use one of these units to post the recording up on the SMPTE/New England web site. And now that I don't have to make any more newsletters this season, I should have the time to do it!

HAVE A NICE SUMMER, EVERYBODY!

Bob Lamm is Manager at CYNC Corp., a professional video equipment dealership. He can be reached at 617-277-4317, rlamm@cync.com.

Posted: June 2000
Bob Lamm, SMPTE/New England Newsletter/Web Page Editor
blamm@cync.com