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NAB 2007: Apple Expands Production Tools, Now Offers VC-1, Windows Media Video, and Flash Encoding

Apple claims that the format is seeing early adoption and that acquisition product companies—including Panasonic, Sony and the new camera sensation RED—are embracing ProRes 422; as part of that message, AJA demonstrated an early glimpse at the IO-HD, an external breakout encoder that has the ProRes 422 codec built in for real-time input of and conversion. According to sources, the performance and file compression of the device allows direct editing of even 4K HD video in the field on a MacBook Pro. Apple says it will up- or down-convert the video resolution to match the intended editing environment. At an MSRP of $3,495, AJA’s IO-HD will end up costing about 1/5 the price of the next lowest priced HD video encoder. The unit is set to ship in July.

Expanded Encoding Choices
The final announcement of interest to streaming content creators is the expansion of encoding choices in Compressor 3. While the Cleaner products dominated early OS X transcoding toolboxes, the advent of Compressor—and Popwire’s Compression Suite, which was purchased by Telestream to flesh out the latter’s Macintosh offering—has muddled the field a bit. With the announcement of Compressor 3, which includes the ability to expand encoding choices for Compressor via a third-party plug-in option, Compressor now has the ability to draw from Telestream’s full encoding offerings via the new Episode Pro plug-in. Episode Pro, renamed after Telestream acquired Popwire just prior to the IBC trade show in late 2006, supports VC-1, WMV, GXF, and FLV output as well as proprietary formats for broadcast servers.

All in all, Apple’s announcement of the 8-Core machines two weeks back and this week’s announcement of Final Cut Studio 2 are good incremental steps forward. The biggest question remaining, though, and one that is already being raised on message boards, is the impact on expanded features that the delay of Leopard will have, given that it will not ship until late in 2007, almost a year after Microsoft’s Vista was released.

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