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Casting the right image

Casting the right image

This week ARN takes a look at some of the wide variety of imaging products on the market. These range from inexpensive personal scanners through video capture cards to software that puts it all together. Durelle Fry and IDG writers report . . .

Kodak USB video camera

This must be one of the first Universal Serial Bus (USB) cameras on the market, and it's certainly Kodak's first USB product. It provides the computer with the full, uncompressed video signal, which happens to be 640 x 480 pixels. It is designed to sit in front of the user, such as on the monitor, but because it comes with a 3m cable, it's suitable for handheld operation. A USB-powered hub can be used to extend this to much greater cable lengths. Applications include real-time video such as videoconferencing or capturing video to files, or for capturing high-quality still photos.

An advantage over other cameras is that no separate plug-pack is needed to power the camera, as this is a feature of USB.

The camera is also available for OEM distribution. The specs include:

Bundled software ranging from videoconferencing to fun photo editing24-bit colourAuto-exposure, auto white balanceClose-up to infinity manual focusThe RRP for the camera is $360.

BBF

Tel (03) 9761 4299

Fax (03) 9761 4001

Info: bbf.com.au

Kodak

Tel 1300 656 365

Info: www.kodak.com

Video editing on a PC

Rainbow Runner Studio is a daughter card for the Matrox Mystique graphics accelerator card. It lets the user capture and edit high-quality video with full-resolution MPEG. It takes input from live video cameras, off-air TV or VCR, in PAL, NTSC and SECAM formats. It also has PAL and NTSC output, allowing the user to display anything from the computer on a TV or record it to tape. Video files can be recorded in formats such as AVI and MOV, but still images can also be saved in just about any format imaginable. Software included ranges from videoconferencing to video editing. There's even a full-feature remote control. It also replays MPEG movies with hardware decompression.

The RRP is $510.

Revenge of Matrox

Many people believe the Matrox Millennium to be a standard by which to measure video boards. But the design is a couple of years old now, so you may be glad to know that Millennium II is now available. The maker calls it a "must for Windows NT, 2D/3D CAD and 3D animation users". RRP is $512.40It offers up to 1800 x 1440 resolution with a 16Mb frame buffer. If these specs mean something to you, then here they are:

65 million Winmarks at 1025 x 768 24-bit Pentium ProTrue scatter gather PCI bus mastering for accelerated 3D and videoFast 220MHz RAMDAC or 250MHz RAMDAC for ultra-high refresh ratesPowerful dual-ported WRAM for consistent performance in high resolution and colour depths 16 or 32-bit buffer for high degree of depth precision in 3D applicationsvideo scaling in X and Y with inter polation for high-quality video playbackenhanced, powerful 3D engine with new hardware accelerated perspective correct texture mapping and faster Gouraud shaded rendering.

Focal Point Computing

Tel (03) 9525 1144

Fax (03) 9525 1925

INFO: www.matrox.com/mga

Multimedia projector

3M's MP8630 is a take-anywhere multimedia projector. It weighs just 8.2kg, yet has a bright 500 lumens of output. SVGA resolution (800 x 600), at 16.7 million colours, makes for high-quality projections. It has a zoom lens, inbuilt stereo speakers and audio outputs for external speakers. It has a universal power supply, and the two video inputs accept PAL, NTSC and SECAM, making the unit suitable for use around the world. It has a "virtualmouse" remote control which also allows users to zoom and focus the image. A monitor loop-through allows a monitor to be simultaneously used, such as for the presenter's use.

The RRP is $9875.

3M Corporation

Tel (02) 9498 9333

Fax (02) 9498 9621

Info: www.3com.com.au

Video capture dongle

QuickVideo Transport is a small box that plugs into the parallel port of a PC. It accepts a video input from sources such as video camera of VCR. One of the five bundled apps can be used to edit, compress, enhance and share the video or snapshots. For instance, the user can create a videogram that contains its own player (just 110K), so any recipient can play it. 60 seconds of videogram fits on a single diskette. Video capture is up to 30fps at 320 x 240 pixels. Still capture is up to 1600 x 1200 pixels. It gets power from a keyboard passthrough connector.

The RRP is $380 including software.

Multisource

Tel (07) 3287 2555

Fax (07) 3287 1122

Info: www.alaris.com

Photo Studio products from Epson

Epson's new FilmScan 200 is designed to capture 35mm slides and film strips to file. It also works with the new APS film cartridge system with a simple adapter which will scan the whole film in one operation if needed. The resolution is 1200dpi but output can be up to 4800dpi using software interpolation. It uses a Twain driver for PC and Mac operation. The RRP is $999.

Epson Stylus Photo is an inkjet printer for pre-proofing, photo-quality printing and advanced photo-editing output. It's aimed at advanced home and small-run office use. It uses a six-colour printing system for high-resolution, colour-accurate printing. Paper size is from A6 to A4, ranging from plain paper to photo-quality glossy film stock, transparencies and Epson's new perforated 6 x 4in photo paper. It works with PC and Mac.

RRP is $999. Contact your nearest Epson distributor or visit www.epson.com.auThe MGI video software rangeMGI currently has seven products: MGI PhotoSuite; MGI PC PhotoStarter Kit; MGI PhotoGallery; MGI VideoWave; MGI MPEG Encoder; MGI Calamus and MGI Star Screening. It plans a new package later this year, MGI 3Dvision, a 3D graphics package.

VideoWave is a $199 desktop video publishing package, capable of combining video clips, audio, still images and computer graphics to create full video productions. It takes advantage of the proliferation of video input cards in home PCs and some of the newer high-end MMX machines with video input. Features include transitions, animated text, narration, music and real-time playback. It comes with a starter kit of video clips and effects and the manufacturer says more source material is being made available on the Internet each day.

Marketing Results

Tel (02) 9899 5888ÊFax (02) 9899 5728

E-mail: mresults@mpx.com.au

Images by the bucketful

QV Software has three new CD-based graphics collections from Global Software Publishing in the UK. They are: 1000 Borders; 2000 Backgrounds and 2000 Cartoons. Themes range from animals and arrows to transport, religious, ethnic themes, geography and music. Supplied in Windows metafile (for borders and cartoons) or BMP (Backgrounds) format, they suit most Windows applications. A clip art browser is supplied with each package to make choice easier. Each package is $49.95 RRP.

There are also three other packs: Cover photos; Fonts and Pictures (general clip art).

QV Software

Tel (02) 9748 4847

Fax (02) 9748 2990

E-mail: sales@europress.com.au

Info: www.europress.com.au

Digital video editing

Miro DC30 is a professional, studio quality, non-linear digital video and audio editing system.

It can be used to capture, edit, add effects and titles, mix audio and then output the result to videotape. RRP is $1799.

Specs include:

PCI bus mastering

Video data rates up to 6Mb per second

Studio quality resolution up to 720 x 480 pixels (NTSC) and 768 x 576 (PAL)Compression from 1:1 to 3:1 or up to 32:1 for saving disk spaceIntegrated CD quality audio for perfect lip-syncVideo overlay for real-time monitoring on the PCSupports all video standardsInput and output for SVHS and compositeProfessional video editing software with hardware accelerationPlug and play installationThe DC10 model allows you to record video on the PC at a full broadcast of 50 fields per second. Compression is up to 6:1 and video can be outputed to a VCR or monitor via SVHS or composite connectors. Software allows video editing, special effects, overlay, text and so on. RRP is $749.

Multimedia Technology also distributes Kodak's DC50 and DC120 zoom digital cameras. RRP is $1199 and $1799 respectively.

Multimedia Technology

Tel (03) 9419 6600

Fax (03) 9417 5799

Info: www.mmt.com.au

HP's PhotoSmart System

All the components won't be available in Australia for another couple of months, but HP's new PhotoSmart system should be a hit. It consists of a complete solution from input to output: digital camera; scanner; photo printer and photo papers.

The PhotoSmart scanner is different to other flatbed scanners in that it isn't designed to take full A4 images, but the sorts of pictures people are likely to have in the home: anything up to 130mm x 180mm prints, including negatives and slides. The output quality is excellent and HP promises "richer colours and greater detail in shadow areas".

Supplied software is part of the solution. HP PhotoSmart photo scanning software lets users move and change the size of the crop window so they can use more of the photo's total image area than photo labs do. The software lets them fix exposures, change colours and make multiple copies of photos. It also comes with Microsoft Picture It! software for fun photo manipulation such as red-eye removal, background changing and creative output.

The printer and scanner will be available in August/September at an ESP of around $899 each.

. . . and the camera

Like the scanner, HP's new PhotoSmart camera is TWAIN compatible. (How many of you remember that TWAIN stands for Technology Without An Interesting Name?) That means it works with most current graphics software, including that great shareware package PaintShop Pro.

The camera has a flash, autofocus lens, three resolution levels, takes storage cards, holds 30 standard pics on one supplied 2Mb card and works from four AA cells or a plugpack. A LCD display shows details like resolution level and number of exposures.

Automatic exposure and three-mode flash (auto, on, off) Supports 37mm camcorder lens attachments Optics: 6mm f2.8 (equivalent to 43mm lens in the 35mm format) 10 second self-timer JPEG compression saves card space Fast picture transfer via serial interface (RS-232) Works with standard Windows 95 and TWAIN-compliant applications Power supply: four AA alkaline batteries or optional AC adapter Dimensions: 153mm x 85.5mm x 64mm Weight: 0.55kgThe digital camera will be available in August/September at an ESP of around $649.

Hewlett-Packard

Tel 13 1347

Fax (03) 9898 1968

INFO: www.hp.com.au

Agfa StudioStar

The StudioStar is aimed at professional graphics and office applications, as well as high-volume document management. Its fast scanning speed produces colour previews of photographs or artwork in less than 10 seconds. The software checks the image and automatically adjusts settings to ensure optimum results. Using 30-bit super-sampling, StudioStar is claimed to "seek out the faintest details in shadow and highlight areas to generate colour images with striking clarity". A lift-off hinge mechanism on the scanner lid allows scanning of magazines, books, and three-dimensional objects. De-screening utilities remove the dots from halftone printed images to eliminate unwanted patterns in the reprinted image. It can also be used to form a PC-based copier. Place a document or book on the scanner bed, click the copy button in the SOFT copy utility supplied with StudioStar, and the scanned image is sent directly to the chosen printer. StudioStar also includes a fax utility that scans full-colour documents or books and transfers these images directly to your modem fax software. RRP $1599.

Features:

One-pass flatbed desktop colour scanning, US Legal/A4, 216 x 355mm1200ppi x 600ppi optical resolution, 2400ppi interpolated10-bit per colour (30-bit)Density range: 2.8DComplete scanning and application software package included (Mac or PC).

Agfa Scanner CD-ROM includes FotoLook and FotoSnap (easy-to-use driver software), FotoFlavor selective colour correction software, FotoTune Scan colour management software, Fax/Copy/Print UtilityCaere OmniPage Limited Edition OCR software on CD-ROMAdobe PhotoShop, LE or full version, image editing software on CD-ROMOptional transparency module and automatic document feeder (10 pages) Scanning speed: Grey: 5ms/line colour: 6.5ms/line Interface: SCSI-2 25 and 50 pins SCSI-connector Dimensions: 488 x 368 x 132mm, 8kgNew Microtek distributorInnoVision Technology Australia has been appointed as exclusive distributor for Microtek's personal range of scanners. Until now Microtek, a Taiwanese company, has been best known in Australia for its professional and pre-press range, which is distributed by Proscan.

InnoVision claims to hold the number two position in distribution of scanners in Australia, after Hewlett-Packard. It distributes other digital imaging and Internet conferencing products such as TekPal digitising tablets and the complete range of Altec Lansing multimedia products including microphones, headsets, and the ACS-45 PowerCubes.

This new scanner, designed specifically to compete in the new, price-sensitive end of the market, has features not normally found at this end. For instance, it has a choice of parallel or optional SCSI interface (which works with Mac). It also has Microtek's APD (Automatic Paper Detection) which senses when you have placed a new picture on the scanning glass, automatically activating the pre-scan. ScanWizard shows real-time effects, so the users can choose the best settings before the image is scanned into memory, saving time and memory.

The batch scanning feature automati-cally scans multiple areas of multiple documents placed on the scanner glass, saving them as separate files, allowing for semi-automatic batch processing of a series of images or documents. Software included is OCR from Xerox, image editing from Ulead, and Visioneer's PaperPort package. The scanner offers 600dpi 24-bit scanning and interpolation up to 4800dpi. RRP starts at $299.

InnoVision

Tel (03) 9853 3544

Fax (03) 9853 5388

Info: www.innovision.com.au

(operational soon)

Info: www.microtek.com

Proscan

Tel (02) 9904 1244

Fax (02) 9904 1099

Info: www.proscan.com.au

ScanWizard

ScanWizard is Microtek's scanning software. With ScanWizard, users can capture images placed on a Microtek scanner, adjust or enhance those images for maximum impact, then place them in a target application, such as Adobe PhotoShopFeatures of ScanWizard include:

Advanced Image Enhancement functions, which let you see before-and-after versions of an image even before you scan.

Two kinds of Previews: Full Preview for better viewing of image enhancements - which is especially useful for large monitors. Zoomed Preview for high-resolution preview.

Filters such as Blur, Sharpen, and Emboss for special effects.

De-screen function removes moirés or dot patterns that appear on images scanned from magazine or previously printed photos. Especially useful if originals have been lost.

Smoked Glass effect visually identifies only those images (or portions of an image) to be modified. Other distracting elements are masked out.

Batch scanning lets you scan several images at once whether in colour, greyscale, or line art modes.

Works in full 32-bit mode with Windows 95 and Windows NT 4.0, and works in 16-bit mode with Windows 3.1x. Also works with Macintosh PowerPC native mode or non-PowerPC mode.


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