Archive for the ‘Cool Tech’ Category

Verizon gets serious with it’s Fall Lineup of Phones. By Jenny Zwick

October 3, 2007

LG Voyager the Verizon iPhone Alternative - Cool Tech Preview

Verizon finally gets serious about the competition and has some sweet phones coming this Christmas. The LG Voyager is the first phone offered by Verizon Wireless that–like the Apple iPhone–has a large external touch screen. Flip up the screen and there’s also a full QWERTY keypad underneath. The LG Voyager, which is exclusive to Verizon Wireless, is at the high end of Verizon’s new lineup. It comes with many features including an HTML browser, access to VCast Music and Verizon’s live mobile TV service offered over Qualcomm’s MediaFlo network called VCast Mobile TV. (more…)


Zune could finally compete with the iPod. By Jenny Zwick

October 3, 2007

Zune 2.0 Announced - Cool Tech

Last year Microsoft launched the first version of its wannabe iPod killer, the Zune last year to a big fat yawn from the public and tech critics alike. The original device was pretty fugly from a hardware standpoint, its colors muted and drab, and the software itself pretty lame. There was just no compelling reason to get a Zune over an iPod. But the one thing I’ve always admired about Microsoft is once they make up their minds to get into something, they keep at it until they get it right – usually it takes about 3 or 4 iterations for this to happen, but it does happen. Yesterday they announced the Zune 2.0 and it’s shaping up nicely. (more…)

Alienware Area 51-7500, the Ultimate Dream Desktop. Michelle Alexandria’s Review

October 2, 2007

Alienware Area 51-7500

A few months ago I asked my friends at Alienware to send me their latest and greatest desktop computer, the Area 51-7500 ALX, and the minute I received it, I remembered why I decided to go with Alienware’s m9700 beast of a laptop for my personal computer – which I paid for out of my own pocket. It’s pretty amazing how industrial and American this machine is. No small or lightweight components here. It feels solid and runs amazingly silent thanks to its Dual-Zone liquid cooling system. (more…)

Adobe CS3 Production Premium Bundle Rocks! Michelle's Review

August 30, 2007

On the Mac professional video editors have Final Cut Studio, on the PC we have Adobe CS 3 Production Premium. An all in one video editing package that throws in everything the video professional needs but the kitchen sink. 


Toshiba To Out Mainstream Notebook Computers with HD DVD Playback

June 20, 2007

Toshiba's New Qosmio G45

The folks at Toshiba today announced that the Satellite(R) P205, Satellite X205 and Qosmio(R) F45 will be the company’s first mainstream mobile solutions to incorporate HD DVD drives, while the Qosmio G45 will be the first U.S. notebook computer with a writeable
HD DVD optical drive, and will be available to consumers in time for the back-to-school season. 

Adobe’s Creative Suite 3 does it again! Michelle’s Review.

June 19, 2007

Adobe Creative Suite 3 ReviewEvery spring time is like Christmas for Graphic designers as that’s when Adobe rolls out a new crop of its leading edge tools that takes Web and Video Development to new heights. First out of the gate this spring are their web design tools. Industry standards like Flash, Dreamweaver, Illustrator, Acrobat, InDesign, and Contribute have all received upgrades this summer. Instead of pushing these tools as separate applications, they are bundled into conzillion different bundle packages (I think 6 different variations).  (more…)

Michelle Tells You About Digital Video Made Easy and Cheap

May 2, 2007

Have you ever wanted to create the great American movie, or just spice up that Home movie, but didn’t know where to begin, or how to start? Or maybe you knew where to start, but you simply didn’t want to spend thousands of dollars on a professional editing system? Well thanks to lower cost and higher quality Digital Camcorders and the advent of low-cost powerful computers with high storage capacity, the dream of opening up the movie making process to the masses have become a reality. It’s truly an exciting time for budding artists; no longer do you have to spend a fortune to bring your creation to life. All you need is a simple mid range computer, large hard drive (at least 60 gigs), a camcorder, and editing software.

Seeing where the trend is going, both Apple and Microsoft has started a war of words by featuring lightweight video editing tools as part of their operating system. While these tools are free and are certainly worth a look, you may find that you need a more robust editing package, and for many novices, a package like Adobe Premiere would seem like the obvious choice, but its $2,000 price point makes people wince. Well, there must be a happy medium. A small Taiwan based company called Ulead has stepped in the fray and created that happy “”middle.”” Their video editing software tools are fabulously simple to use, cheap, yet powerful enough to actually compete with more expensive and complicated solutions like Adobe Premiere, all at price points that don’t hurt your pocketbook. Although Ulead recently sent me their entire product line up, I’m going to focus on one of their most impressive and ambitious products “”Ulead Video Studio 5.0 DVD Edition.”” Their other video editing packages are all derivative of this excellent piece of software.Ulead’s “”Video Studio 5.0 DVD Edition”” is a superb editing package that includes hundreds of pre built transitions, animations, and some other neat features. This is the very first editing package that supports DVD editing, so you would-be filmmakers can actually create feature rich, multimedia based projects and output them in MPEG-2 format for DVD distribution. Imagine the possibilities. What’s even more amazing is the price point, this package could easily go toe to toe with Adobe Premiere, but currently retails for a mere $120.The obvious question is who is using recordable DVD drives these days? The technology is so new that the price point is still out of reach for most average consumers, and then there is the whole issue of compatibility problems with other DVD formats. “”Three years ago we were the first company to create video editing software for consumers, now with the recent launch of recordable DVD Rom drives, we think now is a good time to release a product like this,”” said Travis White, Product Marketing Manager.For now Ulead sees the potential for the future of DVD Recorders as being bright. According to Mr. White, when they first launched Video Studio, Camcorders where still too costly for the average consumer and the biggest hard drive you could find was only 5 gigs. Now you can get a high quality Digital Camcorder for under $1,000 and a 100 gig hard drive under $200. “”For now the DVD Editing feature would be used primarily by early adopters, until the cost of DVD Recorders come down, which we’re already seeing,”” said Mr. White. Indeed, you can now find some DVD Recorders for under $1,000. Video Studio 5.0’s cousin product is called, well; “”Media Studio Pro”” and was created to compete directly with Adobe Premiere and features everything you need to get going with your film project all for less than $500. Pro includes not only a beefed up editing package, but it also includes 3D Graphics Generating ability, a character/imaging software tool, more effects, etc. It’s actually more akin to a “”software bundle”” than anything else. “”Ulead’s goal is to make affordable feature rich editing tools that are easy to use, yet powerful enough that the average and pro user can use,”” said Mr. White.All of this is well and good, but how does it work? Well Video Studio’s intuitive, easy to use interface, is broken down into eight areas: Start, Capture, Storyboard, Effects, Title, Voice, Music and Finish modes. “”Our interface was created to be as user friendly and intuitive as possible,”” said Mr. White. As a matter of fact, I was able to load the software up and start editing video without too much trouble, it’s just that simple. The user manual for Video Studio is thankfully small, only about a hundred pages, and is nicely laid out. While the manual for its cousin is over 300 pages. The interface in the Pro product also isn’t easy or intuitive at all. As a matter of fact, everything that works so well about Video Studio seems to have been forgotten with Media Studio Pro. As a matter of fact I installed Pro and took one look at its horrid interface and went back to my new friend Video Studio. This is an example of a bigger, beefier package isn’t always better.In order to create a video project, you must first create your project template. The project Template is used to set your render properties. Then you have the option to use the software package’s built in Capture capability to capture your files. Beware, always make sure you have it set to capture MPEG video, its AVI files are bloated. I rendered a 1/2 hour project at 320/480 size in AVI format and the thing ended up being 15 gigs! After you create your video files then the fun can really start. The “”Storyboard”” area is where you layout your project, after you import all your clips into the media library you can move your clips to the project timeline and start rearranging your order, set your “”mark in/mark out”” points, trim your clips, set your video filters and a whole lot more. In the “”Effects”” area you can add all your fancy transition effects and 3D effects, in the “”Music”” area you can lay down your background music, in “”Voice”” you can record and lay down your voice over tracks. In the “”Title”” area, you can create original titles and credit lists and superimpose them over your video project. Once all the elements are created, then you go to the “”Finish”” area where you select your final file project, whether you want to output it to tape for broadcast, or streaming, DVD, CD, etc.One of the main drawbacks to editing on a computer is the painfully slow and tedious rendering process that all editing software makes you go through. Ulead’s video editing software package touts a technology called “”Smart Render,”” which theoretically is supposed to speed up rendering times. Talk about a poorly implemented and executed feature. For “”Smart Render”” to work all files must be exactly the same format, size, etc. Otherwise it doesn’t work that well and even if you do somehow manage to get all of your files to be the same, for example the weekly half hour television show that we produce, has an average of 15 video clips all of various lengths, that come from disparate sources, i.e. AVI, MPEG Formats, and can range in size from 320/480 all the way to 640/840, for “”Smart Render”” to be effective each video has to be standardized to say, a 320/480 mpeg 2 video file. Ulead’s Video Studio DVD factory doesn’t offer an easy solution to converting these files, while the Media Studio Pro version does offer a convert all feature.In order to render an 1/2 hour video project be prepared to have a large chunk of your computer’s resources tied up for at least 8 or 9 hours. If you output your video file to a low quality streaming format then the time is a little less, like 4 or 5 hrs. I’m running a Win 2K Server with an AMD Athlon 800, 512K Ram, on an All In Wonder 8500 Radeon Card and this thing still sucks the life out of my computer and takes 9 hrs to render. The truly frustrating thing is, when you realize there’s a small mistake in your project that needs to be edited and you are forced to re-render everything. Again, this is even IF all your files are standardized. Or worse, when you your computer crashes about 8 hours into the render process and you have to re-render everything all over again. It makes you want to scream. It can literally take several days to save a project (this is before you even discover the little mistakes), simply because of the extreme length of rendering a project.This is a very major sore point with me, as I haven’t tested Adobe, MS’s, or Apple’s products yet, I don’t know if slow rendering is an inherent problem with Video Studio or just digital editing in general. I would suspect its digital editing in general. So I won’t downgrade the software package’s score because of this extremely irritating by product of digital editing. Don’t let its simplicity and cost point fool
you, Ulead’s “”Video Studio 5.0 DVD Edition”” is truly an amazing piece of software. It’s well worth a look for any “”serious”” minded budding filmmaker and regular folk who just want to play around with digital editing. And hey at $129, you may discover a new talent that you never had. Review byMichelle AlexandriaFinal Grade B+

Serious Magic’s “Ultra 2” Brings Chroma/Vector Key Technology to The Masses! Michelle’s Review!

September 6, 2005

Everyone who goes to the movies are dazzled by the special effects offered in today’s big budget Hollywood films. Directors like Robert Rodriguez and George Lucas are in love with them, especially a relatively “recent” SFX development called Chroma Keying or Blue Screen. And yes, I know that “technically” using Blue Screen has been around a very long time, and I believe was used in the original Superman movie, but work with my basic premise here. The technology has only been available for the “common” man/woman for the last decade. (more…)

The Folks from Canon Tal!k Digital Filmmaking with EM!

November 8, 2004

Many independent and great film industry professionals started their careers off just like many of you do

Ulead Brings Professional Level Editing To The Masses with Studio Quartet

September 16, 2003

Everyone who watches a movie secretly wants to be the next Spielberg. Come on, you know you do. Don’t lie to me or yourself. Most amateur and professional video editors have heard of industry standard editing tools like Adobe Premiere, or Final Cut Pro.

But how many folks have heard of a small company called Ulead? While Ulead doesn’t have the marketing muscle or mindshare that their competitors have, their latest release should change all of that.

Ulead Studio Quartet is an amazingly rich suite of editing tools that combines Ulead’s entire (mostly) lineup of leading edge software products into one tidy package. You want multi-track Non Linear Editing? USQ got you covered with the stellar Media Studio Pro 7.0. You want 3D Titling and Scene Effects? USQ gives you Cool 3D Production Studio. You want to make professional level DVDs? Again, no worries; USQ comes bundled with DVD MovieFactory 2.0.

I’ve been working with Ulead’s toolset for about two years now, and I’m constantly amazed by the sheer power of it. And I’m talking just about the Video Editor portion of Media Studio Pro. When I originally got 6.5 last year I was a total neophyte when it comes to editing. I took one look at the interface and went running for the hills, or in this case running towards the Ulead’s User friendly, yet feature rich Video Studio package.

Video Studio is the editor for complete morons (of which I was proudly one), people who barely know how to use Windows that alone tackle the intricacies of editing a video project. To be honest to review this entire package would probably take me about 20 pages, so I’m going to stick with the app that I spent the most time with, and that’s Media Studio Pro 7.0

Media Studio Pro 7.0

After a few months with Video Studio, I decided to give Media Studio Pro another shot. And man am I glad. Once you get over the intimidation factor (for newbies) you will find MSP’s interface more intuitive and user friendly than it’s competitor’s Premiere and Final Cut Pro.

Media Studio Pro is actually four programs in one, it comes with it’s own Text Generating program called CG Infinity, a Video Paint program called appropriately enough Video Paint, A Separate program for Video Editing, and it’s own built in Video Capture program.The programs work well together, but switching between all of these open programs can become a pain in the butt real fast. So for practical reasons each program should be treated as it’s own separate entity.

For the sake of argument I will only talk about the Video Editor as that is where all the fun in the program can be had, and to be honest I haven’t spent too much time working with the other three, although I will say that I have yet to figure out how to get Video Capture to work.

I totally dig the Video Editor application. To say this program is powerful is an understatement. The editor comes with more than 200 built in transitions, 100 filters, a ton of moving path options, and the ability to have up to 99 editing tracks. If you want to do video compositing, you can use a program like After Effects to make some truly stunning compositions, but with a little careful planning and logic you can create a lot of the stuff that After Effects is used for right on your Timeline.


Video Editor has it’s own built in Overlay system that allows you to do blue-screen, chromo-key, transparency effects and more. And all of this is out of the box functionality! You don’t have to go off and purchase a Chromo-key or Blue-Screen add on, in MSP it is a simple matter of a couple of clicks and you can do all sorts of high-end nifty effects.

One of the reasons that I don’t use the CG Infinity is that, unlike MSP 6.5 (one of the few real material differences between 6.5 and 7.0), MSP 7.0 includes a professional title editor that includes more than 100 title effects, everything from creating animated fly-ins, to fadeouts, to making your text “drop-in,” or “bounce-in” can be done with a simple button click. No more overlaying moving paths over your text track. You can use the editor’s built in title engine to create professional level movie titles or 3 quarters with minimal headache or hassle. This was one advantage that Adobe Premiere had over MSP, and now they are on the track to catching up with Premiere.

To fully be useful it would be nice if MSP incorporated Premiere’s Title Template System – while I never could get that to work in Premiere 6.5, I still love the concept of being able to scroll through a list of 100 sample templates and simply dragging and dropping them into my timeline. Instead with MSP you are forced to be (dare I say it?) creative and come up with your own titles and title bars.MSP 7.0 now includes its own built in Audio Editor – which, when it works, is pretty darn nifty.

You can now edit your audio levels, sweeten the ambiance, and mix your tracks live on the fly. It’s a very nice addition to the system; unfortunately I could never get it to work with any consistency. It would randomly freeze and crash my computer. Eventually I just stopped using it. I’m hoping they come up with a patch that addresses this problem soon. Their last patch fixed issues with the title app, and some other minor quibbles, but the audio mixing panel will be a major issue for some.

When your project is all set to render your project, the sheer number of available output options will amaze you. MSP supports direct export through firewire as well as DV1 & DV2 encoding, the latest streaming technologies (Windows Media, Real, and Quicktime), MPEG, AVI, something called AutoDec Animation (I have no idea what this is), about the only major format that it doesn’t export to is Flash. But if you are doing video why would you want to export to flash format, although, I could probably think of some cool uses for such a feature.

Now my only major issue with Media Studio Pro is the incredibly long render times. I’m running a P4 1.8, with 768 Megs of Ram, with an ATI 8500DV Capture Card. I like to think that my system is no slouch in the speed department, but when it comes time to rendering video, the system comes to a slow crawl. MSP 7.0 seems to suck up a lot of system resources, our show – EMTV, is cut using MSP. It’s a 1/2 hr show, that normally utilizes about 7 – 10 tracks on the timeline, primarily because I’m doing real time compositing, and generally it’ll take about seven to nine hours to render.

This is assuming all the files are in the same format, if you have footage in different formats your render time will increase by another several hours and god forbid those be quicktime files. For some reason MSP doesn’t handle certain quicktime file types all that well. This probably won’t be big deal some professional level producers and editors, but for the hobbiest, well it just may be. But then MSP isn’t made for the hobbiest, it’s made for the professional editor, or large scale production houses, but is easy enough where just about anyone can sit down and start editing with quick and fast results.

Media Studio Pro, and especially the Video Editor is worth the price of admission alone. By throwing in DVD MovieFactory 2, Cool 3D Production Studio – which went from being an easy, user friendly 3D design application to being simply ponderous, and PhotoImpact, the folks at Ulead have created a truly irresistible suite of editing tools. And you can’t beat the $800 price point.

Final Grade B

Ulead Studio Quartet
Review by Michelle Alexandria9/15/03-


[url=]Click Here For The Official Company Line[/url]

[url=]Click Here To See the Comparisons Between MSP and Premiere 6.5.[/url]