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Wednesday, July 27, 2005
High Definition DVD Authoring?

As both HD-DVD and Blu-Ray technologies continue to emerge, the need for authoring of high definition video content intensifies. Until recently, setting up a HD authoring facility required the use of limited and specialized hardware-based equipment. Now, things are slowly changing, as the first software HD authoring packages appear.

Some may feel that talking about authoring of HD content is premature, since the majority, including semi-professional or corporate users have not yet had any hands-on experience with HD hardware equipment, while it's pointless to mention PC users yet.

However, the "HD concept" will no doubt become a part of our everyday PC use, even if this may happen in a couple of years from now. So what software packages are currently available or are due out soon?

Final Cut Studio Pro

Macintosh users are being offered Final Cut Studio Pro, which features the Final Cut Pro 5. Final Cut Pro 5 includes SD, DV and HD editing capabilities, as well as audio creation and SD and HD DVD authoring features of DVD Studio Pro 4. The software is compatible with the HD formats produced by Sony and Panasonic HD cameras, capable of converting DV and native HDV to fully uncompressed HD. The software is capable of producing HD discs that meet the HD-DVD standard requirements, convert PAL to NTSC content and vice-versa, or even convert HD content to SD. In addition, the package includes Apples DVD Studio Pro 4 DVD Authoring software.

Final Cut Pro Studio is available online from Apple's store for $1299. Final Cut Pro is also available for $999.

Canopus Edius

As an alternative to Apple's packages, semi-proffesionals can purchase the Edius HD package from Canopus. The software is also compatible with formatted HD content from JVC, Sony and Panasonic cameras.

The Canopus HD software codec provides realtime compression, processing, filtering and decoding of multiple HD streams. The Canopus HD software codec supports HD signal recording, using the Canopus HDRX-E1 board, and playback from the hard disk to HD-D5, HDCAM or DVCProHD VTRs.

Editing is powered by the Canopus EDIUS Pro 3 software. EDIUS Pro 3 provides editors with realtime, mixed format HD/SD editing, including HD, HDV, DV, MPEG-2, lossless and uncompressed video. EDIUS Pro 3 also features realtime playback and DV output of all effects, keyers, transitions and titles, and can export projects to any format or medium required, including DVD-Video.

The Blu-Ray side

Back in April, Sonic Solutions and Microsoft demonstrated the iHD concept, originally developed by Microsoft and The Walt Disney Studios. The concept aims at delivering the potential of advanced interactivity for new HD-based disc formats. Sonic demonstrated at NAB a preview of the future of high definition video entertainment, showcasing Sonic?s patented InterActual technology which enables viewers of HD video discs to experience interactivity along with access to movie-synchronized content that can come from disc or the Internet.

Many of the features highlighted in the demonstration build on the same type of capabilities already supported in Sonic?s authoring systems and workflow solutions for interactive DVDs, and are being integrated into Sonic?s systems for HD-based discs to facilitate the planned launches of next-generation formats in 2005 and 2006.

Sony Pictures has also started up its own in-house Blu-ray Authoring Group in Culver City to develop authoring software, but Sonic Solutions and Panasonic are collaborating on their own Blu-ray authoring systems.

Sonic Blu-Ray Creator is the first commercial authoring system to enable high-end production facilities and major motion picture studios to create titles for the Blu-ray Disc format. The software fully supports the Blu-ray Disc HDMV specification but its authoring environment is based on familiar DVD authoring workflow.

Blu-Ray Creator offers support for the latest high-definition codecs for video and audio, up to 32 audio tracks for multi-language titles and expanded interactivity, including pop-up menus, full-color subpictures, subtitling and tools to provide internet connectivity.

Sonic DVD Producer HD

Incorporating Microsoft's iHD features, Sonic DVD Producer is capable of creating WMV HD DVD-ROM titles, encoding HD video and audio in real time, author menus and navigation.

Supporting Microsoft's WMV HD DVD technology proposal (http://www.wmvhd.com), Sonic DVD Producer HD delivers high definition 720P or 1080P video content for playback on Windows PCs. In addition, the software is able to produce WMV HD material to standard DVD titles. We are talking about a hybrid title with standard DVD-Video for playback on set-top players and HD content for playback on PCs.

The HD-DVD side - Sonic Scenarist HD

Possibly at the top of Sonic's packages, Scenarist HD is the first HD DVD authoring system. The software features the same logical workflow and user interface already familiar to the majority of professional DVD authors.

Main new features and capabilities of Scenarist HD include support for the latest high-definition video codecs (H.264 AVC, VC-1, and MPEG-2) and audio codecs (Dolby Digital +, DTS HD, and MLP), menus with up to 48 buttons each as well as 256-color subpictures and expanded navigation capabilities.

Ulead Systems Inc. has also received the endorsement of Toshiba Corporation for the company's work in developing HD DVD technology for high definition video. However, there is not much information available on the progress of this colaboration.

Avid Xpress Pro HD

Another software that will support HD-DVD authoring. The software supports capturing and output in native DV25, DV50, and DV100 (DVCPRO HD) media, mix DV, SD, and HD in the same timeline, and export to formats such as MPEG-1, MPEG-2 SD/HD, MPEG-4 AVC (H.264), WM9/WMV HD, Macromedia Flash, Real and Quicktime.

Avid Xpress Pro HD is available online at AvidStore.

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