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Coolness Roundup 2004: The Well-Appointed Edit SuiteCool off this summer with neat stuff in our annual nest of quick-draw reviews
It's turning into another long, hot summer -- time for us to provide chilly relief with our twice-annual Coolness Roundup, your touchstone to all things hip that will make your life easy in and around your edit suite or production facility. Presented in no particular order, here are items that tickled our fancy here at the Midwest Test Facility, including do-dads that you can use as you work, some that you can use around work, and some that will actually keep you from working. And that's OK, too, because after all, it's summer and everybody could use a little coolness.
Bella 4100 Keyboard
Long ago there were shoes that were advertised as being able to make you run faster and jump higher. Yeah, right. But if you're looking for the P.F. Flyer of keyboards that really can make you edit faster, look no further than the Bella 4100, a $190 wonder that works on both Macs and PCs. Good for just about any editing software, the 4100 has a shuttle wheel with special keys that can be mapped for any shortcuts you wish, in addition to 14 customizable buttons on-board. Modify those hot buttons and you'll never have to leave the beloved shuttle wheel, conveniently located right-of-center exactly where you need it. And, if you're rough on keyboards, have no fear, the 2 lb. device is built like a truck. For more on this remarkable input device, see Douglas Spotted Eagle's review right here on Digital Media Net.
Bluetake BT420 EX Bluetooth Hi-Fi Sports Headphone
Finally, the Bluetooth specification seems to be coming into its own, and an example of that renaissance would be these new wireless headphones that are also hiding a small microphone that flips out when you need it. Just plug the tiny (2-inch square) audio dongle into whatever device you choose, pop these sleek phones on your head, and then you're free to roam to distances approaching 20 feet away. We can see using these babies for audio monitoring in the edit suite, and maybe even for voice commands for nearly hands-free editing. Meanwhile, when the phone rings, well, you can use them for that, too. Too bad they cost so much -- $249 -- but as it always is with such whiz-bang devices, that high price is about as volatile as the U.S. economy. Best of all, the quality of these cans is said to approach that of wired headphones. Worth a listen, at least.
4GB Pen Drive
We're always enamored with small objects that can do big things, and the Pen Drive 4GB key drive ($1,039 street price) is the latest in miniaturization wizardry that sets our pulses racing. Connecting to your computer via speedy USB 2.0, this tiny trinket is big enough to hold an entire DV editing project, clips and all. Imagine carrying all your often-used footage, along with your edit software preferences in this minuscule keychain companion, always ready to jump in there and edit something together fast. Although Pen Drive's quoted 7Mbps transfer speed won't quite let you edit DV directly to and from itself, that's still fast enough to transfer loads of footage from one place to another, letting you walk away with everything you need to get your work done -- somewhere else. Store 4GB, on a device the size of your thumb? Believe it.
Panasonic LB10NTU Wireless Projector
So there you are, making your pitch to those fat cat suits in the ivory tower, showing your finest Powerpoint presentation along with a DVD containing your show reel, when you walk around to shake hands with the late-arriving CEO, and oops! You just tripped over the VGA cable, slinging both notebook and projector from table to floor with a sickening crash. To the rescue comes the Panasonic LB10NTU ($2399 street price), a notebook-sized wireless projector that will solve that pesky problem by eliminating that VGA cable altogether, as well as allowing multiple presenters to play tag-team notebooks. This new 1024x768 LCD-packing powerhouse lets you wirelessly connect four PCs at a time, where each can contribute data to the screen separately or all together in a quad-split configuration. Another handy feature is its short-throw lens, letting you project a 100-inch diagonal image from less than 10 feet away. Look for a full review of this promising new projector soon here on Digital Media Net.
Serious Magic DV Rack
We're eagerly anticipating the release, perhaps by the time you read this, of a remarkable new software package from Serious Magic called DV Rack ($495). This clever idea lets you record DV onto a notebook's hard disk, and even allows you to buffer shots before you're recording. Push the record button on your camcorder, and your PC notebook starts recording, no tape necessary. Then, you can make notations on your notebook as it stores the unadulterated DV clips on the hard drive. A unique aspect of this software is that for the first time, you can actually look at a scope that's telling you exactly what's happening with your DV footage. The software's capabilities look like a DV laundry list, with a digital video recorder, pro field monitor, DV waveform monitor and vectorscope, automated quality monitor, audio spectrum analyzer, video analyzer and a frame grabber all in one. Can't wait to try it.
Now here's a kick in the pants for the PC platform, and it's set to take the world by storm. We were all getting tired of that old PCI standard, where cards plugged inside our computers were limited to only 133MB per second of throughput. Heck, that seemed like a lot when it was rolled out back in the previous century, but now it just chokes data in a skinny little bottleneck, especially when you're talking about speedy gigabit Ethernet interfaces and UltraATA/133 and SerialATA devices. Now, PCI Express (not the same as PCI-X) will boost those speeds as high as 16GB per second. That's even faster than the AGP 8x that we all thought was quick-like-a-bunny. Well, it's about time, and not a moment too soon, because hey, we're in a hurry and we're tired of waiting around for these old PCI-packing PCs to catch up with us.
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