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Hottest news:
• Sorenson 3 coming to QuickTime within a few weeks

• ICE for Cleaner going into beta testing

• Pinnacle CineWave real-time option just around the corner

• SRS technologies available for streaming audio

Most annoying moment: Coming out to my car to find a company's prospectus on my windshield.

Most shocking moment: Seeing a Mac on display (and getting the most attention) at Microsoft's booth.

Overall impression: This show is dead. Looks like folks will have to find another venue for scamming venture capital.

 

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OPINION JUNE 25 , 2001
Talkin' Smack: QuickTime, SRS, CineWave & ICE
The juicy bits from an otherwise dry Streaming Media West

by David Nagel
Executive Producer
[email protected]

So guess where I went last week. Go on, guess. Give up? It was Streaming Media West out in Long Beach, home of my alma mater and some of the best bars in California.

Now, I already know what you're thinking: "Dave, what in the name of the Great Bejeezus Above were you doing at Streaming Media West? Isn't that one of those annoying conventions where the only thing people talk about is how their revolutionary end to end solutions synergize with my market space paradigm?"

Well, yes, it is. And, frankly, I was going to skip out on it this year, based on lessons learned at the last Internet World I attended. You know, I don't like dealing with "solution" providers. They're all so very lame. The only thing interesting in streaming media happens on the front end, and the rest is just junk for suckers. Unfortunately, it's the merchants of junk who dominate these kinds of shows.

But then Apple called up and invited me to meet with some of the QuickTime folk, and I couldn't pass it up. First, I've screwed up too many meetings with Apple in the past, and I didn't want to do it again lest they start thinking me a flake. And second, Apple's QuickTime P.R. person gave me a tantalizing teaser about QuickTime and MPEG 4. How could I pass it up?

So I resolved to go, but I also resolved not to make meetings with anyone I didn't really want to see. This was difficult, since, when I registered as press, I was immediately barraged with calls and e-mails from just the kinds of companies I didn't want to deal with. In the end, I managed to weasel out of every meeting except four: the four I wanted to see. The result was that I spent my show time with nary a "synergy" or "paradigm" to be heard.

Apple 'n' me
First came Apple. While I didn't get all the goods on MPEG 4 as I had hoped, I did get a little juicy piece of information, namely that the Sorenson 3 CODEC is coming to QuickTime in just "two or three weeks," according to Frank Casanova, the director of QuickTime product marketing. It will be a free option. There might also be a couple bug fixes for QuickTime at the same time, according to Rhonda Stratton, the senior product line manager for QuickTime. We'll see.

So what's up with MPEG 4? Well, as you know, Apple is very closely tied in with MPEG and particularly MPEG 4. Seems the issue now is just finalizing some specs to make it a truly open standard. And it doesn't seem too far off, as I got to see a build of QuickTime 5 with MPEG 4, complete with support for playback and export. Look for more on MPEG 4 sometime around October.

Casanova, incidentally, was also the product manager for the Mac IIfx, to this day the single greatest computer ever manufactured. As we reminisced about this engineering marvel, I suggested bringing it back in the form of a G5fx—the ultracomputer among supercomputers™. While the suggestion met with the kind of laughter that suggests ridicule rather than shared enthusiasm, I nevertheless will go on believing it will happen. We'll see.

More info: http://www.apple.com/quicktime.

Low bandwidth, high-quality audio
Next on the tour came an unexpected find. I met with some folks from a spinoff of SRS Labs (the audio company) called SRSWOWcast. They're a separate company from SRS, but they get the rights to license SRS Labs' technologies for the Web. They had two technologies they were showing off. First was a piece of software for Windows (unfortunately) that does all kinds of effects with audio to produce high-quality sound at low bandwidths, including the ability to break down 5.1 audio into stereo while retaining an awfully good approximation of surround. It also can just pump up audio quality, clean up and add bass, make speech more intelligible, etc.

Now, normally, because this is Windows software, I'd yawn and walk away. But they also had a piece of prototype hardware that's platform-independent. It does everything the software does, but it does it on the fly with four switches and three knobs. The thing is awesome. No client software required other than QuickTime or whatever other audio source a listener chooses to use. It'll even work in conjunction with video. Slick.

SRSWOWcast also has a technology that will encode 5.1 into stereo channels and then decode it back on the client end into a true surround format. SRSWOWcast launched about a year ago with a completely different (and apparently unsuccessful) focus. Last week marked the brand new relaunch of the company as a straight licenser of audio technology. Look for very cool stuff from them in the near future. Also look for me to be badgering them into coming out with a Mac version, since I found out their offices are right around the corner from me, complete with a surround sound video game "testing" lab that includes a joystick-controlled surround system. Yes, I think I will be spending quite a bit of time there....

More info: http://www.srstechnologies.com.

The Pinnacle of Final Cut Pro
I also had a chance to meet with Pinnacle Systems, makers of the very delightful and drool-inducing CineWave system. Most of what they were showing off was Windows-based, so I politely scooted away toward the CineWave system they had set up. CineWave, as you probably know, is a Final Cut Pro-based hardware editing system for SD and HD video. It's by no means new, but I always love to grab hold of vendors' hardware at conventions so I can mess around with the cool stuff I have yet to get my undeserving hands on.

While I was gawking at it, I went ahead and clicked on a few menus. What do you suppose I found listed under Final Cut Pro's Video Transitions and Video Effects submenus? I'll tell you: Some of the effects listed were in bold. Do you know what that means? Effects in bold always mean real time.

So I went ahead and queried a bit further on the matter, and it turns out the real-time option for CineWave is just around the corner. A Pinnacle reseller at Intelligent Media hinted at the possibility of a special introductory deal for existing customers. Dual-stream, uncompressed, real-time video in Final Cut Pro—layer upon layer of it. So keep your eyes open for that.

More info: http://www.pinnaclesys.com.

ICEing on the cake
Finally, I had a chance to meet with Media 100. Of course, at Streaming Media West, they were there to talk up Cleaner Live, which, again, is not for the Macintosh. So I cautiously steered the conversation over to the Mac, when the subject of ICE came up. You'll recall that Media 100 now owns all the ICE technology and that they're planning to come out with a board called Crystal ICE to accelerate Cleaner 5 (much like the Blue ICE did with Media Cleaner Pro 4). It seems this solution is mere weeks from beta testing.

As for Ultra Blue ICE and After Effects 5 acceleration, well, we didn't get much info on that. But you know Media 100 is working on bringing the new Blue ICE up to speed for AE 5. There's also a chance that older Blue ICE boards will get updated drivers to support AE 5. The official word on this is "maybe."

More info: http://www.media100.com.

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Dave Nagel is the producer of Creative Mac and Digital Media Designer; host of several World Wide User Groups, including Synthetik Studio Artist, Adobe Photoshop, Adobe InDesign, Adobe LiveMotion, Creative Mac and Digital Media Designer; and executive producer of the Digital Media Net family of publications.

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