Videoguys Top 10 Products of 2005

2005 has been a very good year for Digital Videographers. We had some really magnificent new software, hardware and production tools come out that have all had a significant impact on producing video.

We've seen a bunch of new HD camcorders finally start shipping, and the NLE software guys are right on target with support for all of the new formats. In 2006 we anticipate Sony, Canon, Panasonic & JVC will be shipping several different HD camcorders each. Perhaps we’ll also see a couple of new vendors roll out HD cams as well.

2005 was also a year that saw tremendous consolidation in the industry. Avid purchased Pinnacle. Adobe bought Macromedia. Thomson buys a controlling interest in Canopus. We feel that this will result in better products, with more features than ever for our customers.

On the technical side we've seen the adoption of PCIe, a much faster bus architecture that our vendors are just starting to tap into. Dual-core processors began shipping this year, and while we're still ahead of the curve, we have no doubt that by this time next year they will be our top recommendation. Hopefully by then we'll have a new 64bit operating system from Microsoft and more importantly, 64bit drivers and optimization from our vendors. Then we'll be able to unleash video editing workflows and features that will truly revolutionize video production.

The HD DVD vs. Blu-Ray format war for the next generation of High Def optical disc wages on. We don’t care who wins anymore – we just want someone to start shipping products we can all use. Everyone I know with an HDTV wants to be able to watch HiDef DVDs, and we all have customers wanting us to produce them. The Videoguys’ are committed to keeping you up to date with the latest information in this ongoing saga. Pioneer has just announced that they will begin shipping the OEM version of the BDR-101A Blu-Ray DVD burner for Japanese system builders in January. Hopefully they’ll have the retail version available for us to sell in the USA before NAB 2006.

Videoguys Top 10 new products of 2005

1. Focus FireStore FS-4

2. Avid Liquid 7

3. Azden 200UPR

4. Serious Magic Ultra 2

5. Sony Vegas 6+DVD Production Suite

6. NewTek TriCaster

7. Avid Xpress Pro 5.x

8. Sorenson Squeeze Compression Suite

9. Sonic DVDit6 Pro

10. Boris FX8
Here we go - Videoguys Top 10 new products of 2005:

1. Focus FireStore FS-4
Click here for more FireStore FS-4 info and to order
This was the year that Focus finally delivered on all of the promises of their DTE technology. The FS-4 is a hard drive recording unit that attaches directly to your DV or HDV camcorder via FireWire and records your footage directly to disk. Each time you start and stop your camcorder, the FireStore creates a new file. When you are done recording, simply attach the FireStore to your computer and all your video is immediately available for you to edit!

What separates the FireStore from all other imitators is its DTE (Direct To Edit) technology. DTE allows you to immediately edit your footage using your NLE of choice. You can either edit the footage directly from the FireStore, or drag and drop it onto your video drive. This means that you no longer have to waste time capturing video from your camcorder to your computer! Think about it. If you are an event videographer who shoots twenty-five 4-hour weddings a year – that means FireStore will save you over 100 hours per year!!

What makes the FS-4 so great is that Focus delivered all this technology in a compact, robust solution. You can mount the FS-4 to your camcorder or wear it on your belt. The unit ships with a 90-minute battery. An extended play 180-minute battery is also available. Once you start shooting with an FS-4, you’ll wonder how you ever got by without it.

2. Avid Liquid 7
Click here for more Avid Liquid 7 info and to order
Back at NAB 2004 we weren’t sure what the future of this product would be. Avid had just announced they were purchasing Pinnacle Systems, and no one seemed to know what they would do with Liquid. The folks at Avid listened to what Liquid users were saying about the product, and then they started playing with it themselves, and digging into the technology. They discovered what thousands of Liquid users already knew – Liquid Rocks.

Avid not only decided to keep Liquid around, they wanted to make a statement that would show experienced, new and future Liquid users that they were committed to the software. They could not have made a bolder statement - Version 7 launched in November with a new name Avid Liquid. Believe me, putting the Avid name in this product is more than marketing hype, it is a clear sign of Avid’s ongoing plans to support and develop Liquid. With Liquid 7, Avid has a product that dollar for dollar offers more features, performance and bang for the buck than any other NLE in its class.

Of course Avid did more than just put their name on the box with version 7. One of the most requested features by Liquid users has been for SmartSound integration. SmartSound is a very easy way for you to create custom soundtracks for your videos that fit perfectly. Each track has an intro, middle, and outro. If you extend or shorten the video, SmartSound intelligently adjusts your soundtrack to fit perfectly – while still having an intro, middle and outro. SmartSound has over a hundred audio palettes that you can purchase to enhance your soundtrack creation capabilities.

Other key features in Avid Liquid are the ability to import, edit and export multimedia formats like MPEG4, DIVX and WM9. If you produce content in any of these formats you’ll find this feature a big time saver, especially when all that is needed are small adjustments or changes. Rather than go back to the original timeline, re-edit it, then encode the entire file again, you an simply open up your encoded file, make your changes and export the new file. Avid also added a whole bunch of new transitions and effects, including real-time timewarp (the ability to adjust the speed of a clip over it’s duration) and over 50 affects from the old Commotion plug-in.

The Avid Liquid Pro professional breakout box is a great option to choose. Not only will it provide you with a complete set of professional analog I/O (including component video and SPIDF audio), you'll get real-time playback directly from the timeline. If you are editing HDV footage, The Pro breakout box will let you can monitor the timeline in SD.

3. Azden 200UPR
Click here for more Azden 200 UPR info and to order
Well it only took 5 years, but Azden finally delivered a compact, camera mountable, dual-channel UHF wireless Mic system. Was it worth the wait – you betcha! Not only does the AZD200UPR deliver outstanding performance, it does it at a phenomenal price. You can get a complete 2 mic system with the AZD200UPR receiver and two lapel mics (EX503 mics and 10BT bodypack transmitters) for under $700!!

What’s so great about the AZD200UPR dual channel UHF receiver? With UHF you avoid the interference problems like hiss or drop-out that can occur with VHF based mic systems. Before the AZD200UPR you had to spend well over a thousand dollars for a dual channel UHF mic system and it would have been far too bulky to mount on your camcorder. With the AZD200UPR, Azden delivers the perfect wireless mic solution for professional videographers needing to mic two different people or areas.

Azden gives you a choice of 3 different microphones to choose from. The above mentioned lapel mics, the 10HT handheld/pass around mic with integrated transmitter and antennas, or the 10XT wireless XLR transmitter that allows you to turn any XLR mic into a wireless microphone!

4. Serious Magic Ultra2
Click here for more Seruius Magic Ultra 2 info and to order
Every year the folks at Serious Magic come up with a new product or version that keeps them on our list. Two years ago it was Ultra; last year it was DV Rack; this year it is Ultra2. With Ultra2 the engineers took their breakthrough chromakeying software and made it even better.

We’ve all seen the weatherman on TV, he stands in front of the map and points to the different weather patterns. In reality he isn’t standing in front of anything but a blank green screen. His image is super-imposed over the map. The same effect is used in making movies and putting people into far away places or dangerous situations. The talent is filmed or videotaped in front of a green or blue background, and then super-imposed onto the second video track. Most advanced and all professional video editing software will allow you to do this, but with DV footage the results are not always that great. This is because of the color space and compression used with DV footage. Without Ultra2 you need really great lighting to get a good key and lots of tweaking and playing around until it's ‘just right’.

ULTRA 2's Vector Keying™ technology blows away the basic keyer built into your video editing software. Ultra2 does more than just drop out the background color, it analyzes the background and accounts for bumps, shadows and other defects. The results are incredibly clean keying, from average lighting – and with very little extra effort.

Ultra2 not only gives you great keying, you can also purchase libraries of virtual sets that you can place your own talent into. These aren’t simple static sets. ULTRA 2's VirtualTrak™ system lets you add virtual camera moves and Virtual Zoom feature lets you scale input video sources to match the backgrounds.

5. Sony Vegas 6+DVD Production Suite
Click here for more Sony Vegas 6+DVD Production Suite info and to order
I’m happy to report that Vegas 6 is no longer the best kept secret in the video world. The word is out and videographers of every level, all over the world have discovered the power and stability of Vegas 6. What makes Vegas so cool? One of the features I like best is that Vegas works the way you do. What I mean by this is that often there are several ways to go about accomplishing the same tasks, so rather than you having to adjust your editing to Vegas, you adjust Vegas to fit your workflow and style. The Vegas interface is based on audio editing tools, and as a result experienced video editors may find it a bit awkward at first. That said, after just a few hours of editing with Vegas you’ll find it becomes very intuitive and straightforward.

The tools inside Vegas are top notch. With its audio roots you would expect great audio tools and you won’t be disappointed. The audio editing integrated into Vegas is far more powerful than any other NLE on the market. I’ve always found that Vegas is the best tool for creating sophisticated photo montages. You can pan, scan, crop and zoom in on your images – then use the 3D compositing tool to have move your photos all over the screen, and transition from shot to shot.

Vegas 6 has always been one of the strongest NLEs for creating content of all formats. It supports pretty much any format of video that you can play on your computer. With version 6 Sony added the ability to export video files to a PSP. While this initially sounds like a novelty, the possibilities of this are endless. You could give the bride and groom video clips of their wedding to bring with them on their honeymoon; Real Estate brokers could have clients download video tours of homes they want to show; portable training videos that go with you on location where you need them most.

One other feature of Vegas that sets it apart from all other NLEs is the ability to create and share your own custom scripts. These scripts can be used to automate simple tasks or to create advanced plug-in filters, effects and transitions. Vegas users have several great on-line communities where they share not only scripts, but also editing tips, techniques and their experiences. Put this together with all the great technology inside Vegas and it’s easy to understand why it’s no longer a secret!

The included DVD Architect 3 software continues to improve as a full featured DVD Authoring solution - especially for creating Dolby 5.1 surround soundtracks. While we're on the subject of audio - for those looking for even more audio editing tools, Sony released a new version of SoundForge this year as well that compliments Vegas very well.

6. NewTek TriCaster
Click here for more NewTek TriCaster info and to order
The first thing you notice about the TriCaster is how small it is, the second thing you notice is how easily and completely it handles a multiple camera production, the third thing you notice is the price. For under $5,000 it replaces equipment costing more than twice as much.

TriCaster is a turnkey digital production solution. In other words, it is a fully configured computer that allows you to mix video signals from up to 3 different cameras/ sources. Why only 3 sources not 4? Well, if it could handle 4 sources it would be called QuadCaster!! Actually my guess is that the small form factor limits the amount of I/O boards that could be installed inside it. Actually TriCaster allows you to add graphics, stored video clips and PowerPoint presentations in addition to the 3 video sources, so it is far more powerful than just a digital mixer/switcher. The image quality of the graphics and transitions NewTek provides are superb, and your productions will look like they came out of a production truck loaded with expensive gear.

TriCaster will also allow you to record your production onto its hard drive (like a Tivo) or stream it live over the Internet. Simply attach TriCaster to your local network and you can be streaming your production within minutes! After the production is over you can go back and edit what you recorded on the TriCaster’s hard drive with the included basic video editing software.

If you’ve been looking for the perfect digital mixing and production solution for your church, school or corporate boardroom – TriCaster is for you!

7. Avid Xpress Pro
Click here for more Avid Xpress Pro info and to order
This past summer Avid released some very important and significant upgrades to Xpress Pro. Xpress Pro is the only dual platform (Mac & PC) video editing program available. Avid is committed to this strategy and it will continue. Unfortunately Avid has not always gotten the support they've required from Apple to keep the feature set of Xpress Pro for Mac the same as that of PC users. This summer Avid announced support for the Tiger OS. While many Avid based Mac users were frustrated at how long this took, Avid delivered levels of integration and optimization for Tiger that went beyond anything Apple was able to do with Final Cut Pro! With Apple announcing that they were going to jump on the Intel bandwagon, Avid will once again have to wait for Apple before they can catch up the feature sets. That said, Avid has been developing for both Intel and Mac OS for years, so perhaps Apple will work closer with them in 2006.

On the PC side Avid released Xpress Pro 5.2 with native HDV support. That makes Xpress Pro the most complete video editing solution for today’s new affordable HD camcorders. Xpress Pro not only supports HDV in all its various flavors, but also Panasonics P2 based HD formats. With Avid’s open timeline you can mix HD and SD footage with all different resolutions on the same timeline, and still get real-time playback and the most productive workflow in the industry. The secret sauce that brings all this HD magic to Xpress Pro is Avid’s DNxHD CODEC.

Avid DNxHD is a loss less compression that allows you to edit, store, manage and move HD footage. While many early adopters are using uncompressed HD footage to edit, to me this is actually a giant step backwards, not forwards. You shouldn’t have to invest thousands of dollars to store terabytes of data just to edit HD. With DNxHD your HD footage is compressed into files that are much easier to mange and use. With Xpress Pro your graphics and compositions are rendered using DNxHD for superior image quality without requiring massive storage. This is only scratching the surface. Down the road you’ll see DNxHD become more and more advantageous as we migrate from SD to HD.

Avid Mojo adds real-time output directly from the timeline in both analog & DV. If you are editing HD footage, Mojo provides SD previews. Mojo also enables you to capture and edit uncompressed video footage and graphics. For high end graphics and compositing work, this is a very important feature that takes Xpress Pro to another level.

8. Sorenson Squeeze Compression Suite
Click here for more Sorenson Squeeze Compression Suite info and to order
If you need to create video content for multiple purposes there is no better encoding solution than Squeeze. This year Sorenson released version 4 of the Squeeze Compression Suite, their all-purpose Swiss-Army-Knife encoding tool.

Today as a digital videographer you have so many ways to deliver your content: on tape, DVD, CD, Web, email even via a USB thumb drive. Next year we’ll be downloading video into video equipped MP3 players, handheld videogames, cell phones and who knows what else. You put so much effort into editing and producing your video, why settle for anything less than the best, highest quality compressions. Squeeze now supports not only MPEG-1 & MPEG2 and the various web streaming formats, but also High Definition video with Quicktime H.264, MPEG-4 and Windows Media 9. You can also turn your video into high quality Flash files.

You would think that creating video in all these flavors would be complicated, but the Squeeze interface is actually very straightforward and easy to use. You can also automate encoding to automatically have the output go to a specific application or remote ftp server.

Considering all the different flavors of video you may be asked to deliver in the years ahead, Squeeze is a must have utility for serious digital videographers.

9. Sonic DVDit 6 Pro
Click here for more Sonic DVDit6 info and to order
Sonic has been the leader in DVD authoring technology since the first DVD burners hit the market. They have products at every level of DVD production, from the cheap software bundled with your DVD burner up to stuff used by Hollywood to put together the latest blockbuster movies on DVD. Sonic DVD authoring technology is an integral part of Adobe Encore DVD, Avid DVD and many other DVD production solutions.

With DVDit! Pro, Sonic has taken one of their best selling professional applications, DVD Producer, and made it dramatically easier to use and affordable. A couple of years ago DVD Producer sold for over two thousand dollars, today you can get the same level of authoring in DVDit 6 Pro for under $350.

But that’s not all, Sonic has made it very easy to use, with template driven themes and a customizable workspace that lets you set up DVDit6 Pro the way you want it. If you don’t want to use the provided templates you can create your own using layered PhotoShop images or any other graphic elements. DVDit6 Pro also gives you the ability to create motion menus and buttons, slideshows, and advanced interactive navigation such as “first play,” timed auto-play menus and “end actions.”

DVDit6 Pro also includes Sonic eDVD software. This allows you to create a custom playback environment with links that go beyond the video content when your DVDs are played back on a computer. You can add links to websites, Hi-Res stills, presentations, spreadsheets, or just about any other type of file. You can also create a custom skin for the player with your own branding and embedded marketing, sales or promotions. DVDs that you create with eDVD include the InterActual player that opens up automatically when the DVD is loaded into a Mac or PC.

10. Boris FX 8
Click here for more Boris FX 8 info and to order
This past year Boris updated one of my all time favorite NLE plug-ins Boris FX. In version 8 they brought down some very cool features from their Award winning Red professional NLE plug-in. The motion tracker, stabilizer and corner Pin tracker bring a new level of visual effects to prosumer and event videographers.

The Motion Tracker filter allows you to generate motion path data from an object in your media. You can then use this data to control the motion of another aspect of the effect. For example, with Boris FX, you can track a logo on a t-shirt and use the Motion Tracker to obscure the logo with a blur or mosaic.

The Corner Pin Tracker allows you to map media to a specific area on a moving object. For example, in the example below, the Corner Pin Tracker was used to replace an advertisement on a moving bus with a new image.

The Motion Stabilizer allows you to stabilize shaky footage. The Stabilizer uses motion trackers to analyze one or more specified regions of motion, then adjusts the track's position to compensate. During playback, the motion appears smooth because the track moves incrementally to offset the unwanted motion.

Although Boris FX gives you some very advanced and sophisticated filters and effects to add to your projects, it is actually quite easy to use. The Library browser lets you select from hundreds of customizable presets that you can modify as you wish. Best of all, they continue to expand the NLEs that Boris FX can now plug into – so now Canopus Edius, Pinnacle/Avid Liquid, Sony Vegas, Adobe Premiere, Avid Xpress and Final Cut Pro editors can add Boris FX to their editing toolbox.

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