Jan 25

MC rebbe the Rapping Rabbi in The Technofile

With 3 major expos in rapid succession, January is always a big month for all things tech, but January 2006 seems to be taking da cheesecake.

Before The Consumer Electronics Show in Las Vegas had even opened its doors, manufacturers were already making product announcements…already…

Kodak was first with the announcement of their V570 dual Schneider-Kreuznach lens compact digital camera, which features both an optical zoom lens and a fixed wide angle lens to give a 35mm equivalent focal range of  39-120mm + 23mm.
As any cinematographer will tell you, cameras with more than one lens aren’t exactly a new idea, however, unlike 16mm cine (and television) cameras, which required you to manually switch lenses by rotating a turret, the Kodak offering zooms seamlessly between its lenses. Nice idea! Shame they didn’t go the whole hog and include two zoom lenses, one offering 17-35mm and the other offering 50-200mm, but even if it’s not perfect, they do get full marks for giving us something we have been crying out for and which will, perhaps, set the tone for future digital compacts.

The same day came an even bigger announcement, this time from Broadcom, whose BCM7411D chip has the potential to solve a major headache for everyone…

Right now there are two competing next generation High Definition DVD standards… HD DVD (inferior, but likely to be first to market) and Blue Ray. With the major movie studios split between the two standards, Sony backing one, Microsoft Backing the other and hardware and software (games, movies, etc.) scheduled for release on both platforms this year, it looks likely that the VHS v. Betamax war is about to be replayed…with all the added confusion of the DVD+R v DVD-R debacle…naturally at the expense of everyone but the manufacturers…what me cynical?

Although the two competing camps have spent the last few months making noises about agreeing upon a common format, it hasn’t happened. But never fear, Broadcom‘s here with their BCM7411D chip, which, they claim, will allow the recording and playback of both HD DVD and Blue Ray, plus all current DVD standards.

Of course, something like this was always inevitable and it leaves rival hardware manufacturers with no excuses, especially since none of them have yet released any of their much talked up products, so it’s now time for them to pick up the gauntlet and to put Broadcom‘s chips (or an equivalent solution) where their big mouths are. If they fail to do so, they will only be confirming that they care about money, power and industry politics…not the consumer…harsh but fair!

And so on to CES, where Toshiba announced they will be releasing two HD DVD players in March…for which they’ll be no HD DVDs available… and Sony announced the release of twenty Blue Ray titles…for which they’ll be no players available…

More importantly, Panasonic demonstrated a working model of a laptop fuel cell…that’s not yet ready for commercialisation…but as and when it and other such products are, expect much longer laptop life.

Products on display at CES that are actually available now (give or take…) included integrated MP3/Satellite radio solutions and a number of new GPS units, all of which will be of interest to gigging musicians/DJs…and everybody else… but the biggest product announcement was made by Intel, who released ’nuff chips…just in time for Macworld…at which Apple confirmed that the rumour sites were right (in part), by announcing they were six months ahead of schedule with their  ‘switch’ to Intel processors and were releasing high end notebooks…oops…I mean MacBooks (available in March)…and  consumer orientated iMacs (available now), based on Intel dual core technology.

OS X 10.4.2 onwards runs natively on these new machines, as does the new version of iLife, whose applications have been updated to include ‘photocasting’ (hijack that buzzword) with iPhoto and quality podcasting with Garage Band, which is now reborn as a podcasting suite complete with jingles, auto ducking et al (in addition to all of its music making abilities), but if you want to run pro apps like Final Cut Pro and Logic, you’ll have to wait ’till March…at least, that’s what Apple said at Macworld, but a week later at NAMM, they were, once again, ahead of schedule, demonstrating the native version of Logic that will ship in February.

Other major sequencer announcements came from Sony, who are going for fully fledged DAW status with Acid Pro 6, which, when it is released in March, will include a version of Native InstrumentsKompakt sampler with an exclusive 2GB sound library; Mark Of The Unicorn (MOTU), who revealed version 5.0 of Digital Performer, which is also due ‘later this quarter’ and which will include no less than five new software instruments – two analogue synths, two samplers and an FM synth and ’nuff new features for composers scoring to picture; and Cakewalk, who  were in full effect  with the 64 bit version of Sonar 5, as well as their latest wavetable based soft synth ‘Rapture‘, which is probably best described as the software equivalent of the Access Virus or Nord Lead. Anyone familiar with their Z3TA soft synth (reviewed here), which already does an admirable job of impersonating the aforementioned hardware, will want to check it out when it hits the streets around the end of the quarter.… and once you’ve finished composing your masterpiece with one of the aforementioned sequencing packages, you may be interested in mastering your CD with the new version of Wavelab (6.0), that Steinberg announced.

Continuing the audio manipulation theme, Emu announced that their superb Emulator X desktop sampler (reviewed here) will be hitting a presumably even more superb version 2.0 in the late spring and will sport a bunch of wicked new features and Tascam announced ‘GVI‘, a VSTi/RTAS version of GigaSampler with news that…wait for it (we have been…) a Mac version is in development (finally)…though, sadly, it won’t be available until the end of the year…let’s hope they’re ahead of schedule too…

In response to Apple‘s switch to Intel, various manufacturers announced native versions/updates of their apps, first off the mark being Native Instruments…who will be releasing native Native Instruments…

NI also announced details of their new host system, ‘Kore‘. Designed to work out of the box with all of their plug-ins as well as all VST and Core Audio plug-ins, both in stand alone mode and as a plug in for all major sequencing packages, it sports a hardware interface designed with both easy programming and live performance in mind. Full technical details, pricing and availability will be released this spring.

Hardware audio interfaces and control surfaces were everywhere. Cycling ’74 announced the latest version of  JazzMutant‘s Lemur hardware control surface, recently updated to V1.3, while CME & Yamaha jointly announced the ‘Bitstream 3X‘…the world’s first 3 axis (X, Y and Z) control surface, which  features 35 knobs, 8 sliders, 16 buttons, a joystick, a cross-fader, an infrared controller, transport functions, and an LCD display….not to mention presets with which to control practically every sampler, synth and plug-in in existence.

At the opposite extreme of the hardware spectrum was synthesize…don, Don Buchla, who unveiled a new module for his old school 200e modular synthesizer…on synth pioneer  Dave Smith ‘s stand no less…who was, in turn, unveiling  his new Mono Evolver Keyboard.

Continuing the old school theme, veteran music tech company, Roland, were reviving old monikers a plenty, with no less than thirty new products on show, including a ‘Juno’, an ‘SH‘ and an ‘808‘ (the MC808…named after me…)…complete with motorized faders noch, but their piece de résistance was the VP-550, a keyboard based hybrid vocoder, harmonizer and variphrase processor that aims to turn solo singers into The Vienna  Choir…and then some…

…and talking of hybrids, Neumark announced their X2,  a high torque record deck, with exchangeable straight and S shaped tonearms…that also plays CDs, allowing you to scratch vinyl, CDs and MP3s (but not WAVs), all from the same deck! They are not the first company to do this…that honour goes to Gemini, whose CDT-05 hybrid deck I mentioned almost exactly a year ago in The Technofile…but the X2 look like the better bet. Give it another year or so and I expect every other manufacturer will be jumping on the same bandwagon…

…and that was just on the first day of NAMM, although it wasn’t just in the convention hall that the announcements were coming in thick (or perhaps ultra thin) and fast…On the day that NAMM opened its doors, Panasonic announced it was exiting the analogue television business…which was pretty big…and Konica Minolta announced that they were exiting the photo business entirely and selling part of their assets to Sony…which was huge (Sony digital SLR, with full frame CMOS sensor, optical image stabilizer built into the body and Interchangeable Konica Minolta & Carl Zeiss Lenses anyone?)…though nowhere near as earth shaking as the announcement one week earlier by Nikon, that they would be dropping production of all but two of their existing film cameras…as well as most of their range of existing lenses, to concentrate on digital…WTF?

First Nikon spectacularly fail to deliver a camera with a full frame sensor, now this…talk about handing it to Canon on a plate! Although bearing in mind the news just in from the Joint PhotoImaging Enterprises Association International that Exports of 35mm colour print film from Japan fell 46.8% in volume and 37.4% in value in November 2005 (compared to November 2004), can you blame them? Yes! After all,  even if rumours of the life of film have been greatly exaggerated, it’s not dead yet and won’t be for a long time to come (it will probably end up as a very specialist cottage industry), so while you could forgive Nikon for rationalising their range of bodies, ceasing manufacture of a range of lenses upon which a whole generation of photographers have come to depend, because of a pathological inability to produce a digital camera with full frame sensor (don’t believe their hype about nature and sports photography) is as stupid as it is short sighted and something they will live to regret (The Rebbe tells it like it is!).

One thing’s for sure though, whether or not you take pics using film,  somewhere down the line, you’ll be processing digitally…and when it comes to digital image processing, Adobe are determined not to give an inch to Apple, as they demonstrated earlier this month with the announcement of ‘Lightroom‘, their answer to Apple‘s ‘Aperture‘, which allows professional photographers to work with digital images intuitively, using familiar paradigms. Although Lightroom is currently in public Beta, its full release is bound to result in a healthy battle of the heavyweights…and if we’re really lucky,  perhaps Adobe will finally get the message and release a version of Photoshop that’s made for photographers…not computer programmers…though I doubt it…unless Apple really decides to put the boot in…

Adobe also announced ‘Production Studio‘, the newly renamed version of their video suite, which incorporates all new versions of Premiere Pro (V2.0), After Effects (V7.0), Audition (V2.0) and Encore DVD (V2.0), bundled with the latest versions of Photoshop CS2 and Illustrator CS2 and, courtesy of their recent takeover of Macromedia, sporting Flash video support across all of its components (a killer feature for both web designers and VJs).

Available in a variety of confusingly named permutations (or as individual applications), it will be released some time this quarter (probably) and anyone buying it will, of course, want to check out the latest discs announced this month by top DVD  tutorial company, Total Training…not to mention Sony‘s announcement of a new range of professional optical HD  camcorders and decks which record to either single or dual layer XDCAM, in the case of the top of the range PDW-F350, at 4-60 Frames Per Second (including, unusually for a Sony camera, real 24p), via three 1/2-inch 1.5 MP CCDs…though at $25,000, I think I’ll stick with the Panasonic AG-HVX200 which is finally shipping now and which, media prices aside, looks to be a far better bet at a fifth of the price…or Canon’s XL H1, the HDV camera they quietly released in the US this month, which features a removable lens and uncompressed HD-SDI (SMPTE 292M) and SD-SDI (SMPTE 259M) output, as well as Genlock input and SMPTE time code input and output for multi-camera shoots…also at a fraction of the cost of Sony’s forthcoming cams…

Or if you’re really out there, how about the new 3DVX3, stereoscopic motion picture camera announced just under a week ago by 21st Century 3D.  Consisting of twin Panasonic AG-DVX100A bodies, modified to record RAW CCD data in 4:4:4 RGB colour space at 10 bits per channel, to paired sets of 7200 RPM, 100 GB removable hard drives…via the two onboard Apple Mac Mini computers…it shoots 3D images, at a resolution of 1280 x 720 (per eye), at 24 fps!

Told ya…and there’s still almost 25% of the month to go…

© 2006 – 2010, The Technofile. All rights reserved. Moral Rights Asserted.


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