Tuesday, April 20, 1999

Avid excites NAB crowd

By Matthew Rothenberg

Las Vegas -- Avid Technology Inc. rolled out a battery of new video-editing products at this week's National Association of Broadcasters show here.

The company's announcements, which spanned Mac and Windows NT systems as well as turnkey solutions, took aim at professional video and audio production.

At its sprawling, teeming booth in the Las Vegas Convention Center, Avid offered demonstrations of Unity, a new line of products for sharing various media types across platforms and network protocols, as well as Media Composer XL 8.0, a cross-platform version of the company's offline editing and finishing software. The company also offered a preview of new post-production features that it said are in store for Digidesign's Pro Tools.

Broadcast professionals on the show floor expressed particular excitement over Unity. Avid said the new line will be based on Unity MediaNet, open networking and central storage technology that supports real-time, simultaneous sharing of high-bandwidth media and lets dedicated systems offload media-management and media-manipulation tasks.

MediaNet, scheduled to ship in the second quarter, will support file sharing among Mac, Windows NT and SGI IRIX systems as well as among networking technologies such as ATM, Gigabit Ethernet and Fibre Channel, Avid said. It will support any application that employs standard file-system calls as well as such standards as Advanced Authoring format and Open Media Management.

Unity MediaNet will cost $8,000 per seat plus storage; the price will include an NT server, fibre channel card, a switch, a hub and Avid Unity software.

"It's cool," said show goer Carter Carter with Paul Stojanovich Productions of Los Angeles. "Being able to share all your media and change the size of partitions seamlessly is very nice." Carter said his company has had to devise ad-hoc solutions to link heterogenous workstations across its Fibre Channel network. "This is finally a working network," he said.

In other Mac news, Avid shook up its Media Composer line with Media Composer XL 8.0 for Power Mac G3 models and Windows NT systems, due to ship in the second quarter. Via the new Avid Meridien video subsystem, both the $47,500 Media Composer Offline and $67,500 Media Composer 1000XL support a single stream of 1-1 uncompressed video as well as high-resolution compressed images in real time. The systems support component, composite, SDI and S-video and feature eight channels of analog and AES/EBU digital audio and a separate I/O box. Each system comes loaded on a Power Mac G3 equipped with Avid LVD drives or an IBM Intellistation, Avid said.

Media Composer XL 8.0 for the Mac will support Unity MediaNet as well as the 32-bit Avid QT codec for working with QuickTime applications. In addition, the Mac version of Media Composer 1000XL will feature soft drop shadows on titles; batch re-import of graphics; import and export via drag-and-drop controls; and ExpertRender, a new rendering feature. Avid said these capabilities will be available to Windows NT users with Media Composer 1000XL 9.0, scheduled to ship for NT in the third quarter.

Media Composer XL 8.0 users can also purchase the FX Bundle, a $17,500 software-and-hardware add-on for 3-D effects; the FilmScribe Bundle, a $5,500 package that lets users create a 24-frame-per-second cut list from a 30- or 24-fps video sequence and apply automatic syncing controls; and the Uncompressed Bundle, a $15,000 option that lets users add uncompressed 601 video images.

Avid's Palo Alto, Calif.-based Digidesign division announced Version 4.3.1 of its Pro Tools software, which the company said adds support for Apple's blue-and-white Power Mac G3 models and allows PostConform, Digidesign's edit-decision-list import and autoconform software, to run on Pro Tools|24 and Pro Tools|24 MIX systems, the company said. Digidesign also showed off Pro Tools|AV, a forthcoming line of PCI cards that will let users of current Pro Tools systems import, capture and play back Avid video media. The Pro Tools|AV options will ship this fall, the company said.

At the low end, the company also shipped Avid Cinema for Macintosh with USB, a version of its entry-level video-editing package with a hardware interface for Universal Serial Bus-equipped Macs.

Avid Technology Inc. of Tewksbury, Mass., can be reached at (978) 640-6789 or (800) 949-2843; fax (978) 640-1366; http://www.avid.com/.

Editor's note: For a QuickTime fly-through of Avid's NAB booth, check out the company's Web site.

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