Digital Dreams: A work in progress
by Jim Bennett (April 22, 2001)
Digital transmission is increasing the need for new and better measurements for a wide variety of formats and standards. Both standard and high-definition formats require objective measurement to optimize bandwidth quality for the best end user experience.
Tektronix has over 50 years of experience in this area and applied it to an interesting Windows Media 7 Image application. I saw a demonstration of a football game where the original image was 320X240 resolution. This data was then compressed and encoded for a 256 kb/s transmission. The Tektronix human vision model then objectively identified the compression artifacts (impairments) that were most detectable by viewers, by using eye-tracking measurements to establish where viewers focus their attention the longest. The information obtained from these human vision and attention models is then used to optimize key areas during the final encoding process which improves the perceived image quality.
Looking at comparative images, I could see notable quality improvement to the processed images -- they appeared much sharper. Microsoft also demonstrated this technology at their booth (i5921 in the Sands).
Sony is branding its 2001 sales efforts as "Sony Anycast" in the quest to become the ultimate broadband entertainment company. They are pursuing a consumer centric approach according to one of their SVP's and are forming new alliances and relationships quickly. The market is changing so quickly they admitted they couldn't keep up with the change.
One of the most interesting Japanese products I saw was the AV IP Gateway Tablet device. It's a dockable personal use device for the home and elsewhere, operating in the 2.49 MHz range. It plays MPEG 4 it doesn't require a keyboard. Sony says this device begins a new era of multiplex devices. My first impressions are favorable but I need to look at it closer, examine its specifications and see its real world performance in home and business applications.
Other products that will receive my personal attention during NAB include the $4,200, DXC-990 three CD video camera that should provide 850 TV lines of resolution at 63 db S/N ratio. Travel and outdoor shooting immediately come to mind at an affordable price.
Sony will be debuting two new HD cameras in the HDW 730 and 750 series, which should acquire high definition images at lower prices than in 2000.
The biggest surprise of the Sony event was an appearance by George Lucas, who shared his very favorable opinions on Sony's high definition cameras and equipment.
Lucas even said, "Digital is so good that I've done my last film based feature." Costs and overall production speed were among the many positive attributes cited by Lucas.
Equator Technologies is an emerging technology company that focuses on media processors (MAP-CA) and digital signal processors (DSPs) on smart silicon platforms. It couples fully functional system-on-a-chip solutions with software tools to provide high performance video and audio-intense systems quickly. The hardware and software inter-relationship remind me of Transmeta's approach.
Avi Katz, CEO said "Equator offers a customizable system on a chip solutions to manufacturers that makes multiple consumer broadcast applications such as time shifting, Internet services and interactive television a cost effective reality for the masses".
Judging by one of their set top box demos, the approach seems to have merit. Also, looking at names of their high profile partners such as Acer, Snell & Wilcox, Media 100, NDS, ON2 and Optibase, it looks that they feel it has potential as well.
" Panasonic is driving the unification of information, networking and broadcast technologies to create new broadband media networks" according to Frank DeFina, President, Panasonic Broadcast. He was especially proud of the of his unit's large venue, high contrast DLP projectors after I just viewed an impressive demonstration of their new system.
Other exciting products shown include: the HD Cinema Camera AJ-HDC27V, a 3 hour DVCPRO Camcorder Model AJ-D410 and the DVD-RAM/R Drive LF-D311 for under $1000. WOW!!!
Avid rocked Sunday night at the Hard Rock Hotel and Casino with some stunning images and sounds over a wide variety of applications.
Among the announcements was Avid Xpress DV 2.0 for notebooks and workstations for $1,699. The company plans to attract new users to their family featuring low cost and ease of use, even in a mobile application.
At the other end of the scale was an interesting and informative video on a new SOA digital news production center at WKYC in Cleveland, Ohio. Using Avid's NewsCutter XP system's DV 23 format, nonlinear editing solutions and AirSPACE (formerly Pluto) production servers they helped underscore how "digital" has transformed and forever changed the way news is gathered, produced and viewed.
The key elements in this are reliability, ease of use, quality and unmatched efficiency.
Discreet capped off the press day with a well-attended user's conference, one floor above the evening press conferences and showed impressive clips from its high profile clients. Paul Lypaczewski is the new GM of Discreet and brings 20+ years of varied experience and a passion for the craft. Judging by the demos and client testimonials, these folks are going to have fun crafting their virtual manipulation skills and adding revenue to the parent company Autodesk.
© 2001 Jim Bennett All rights reserved.