More on Digital Imaging...

There's actually lots of choices in digital cameras -- 17 under $1,000. Major computer retailers and camera stores are the best places to find knowledgeable people and  buttons you can push.

The next generation will come late next year. Guidelines for camera design have just been released by a group comprising Intel, Kodak, Mirosoft and others.Portable PC Camera '98 Design specifies use of certain technologies. FlashPix, a file format; USB, Universal Serial Bus connection and MMX, are examples.

It's believed that cameras with today's performance could be under $200, with the new specs. They dictate 640x480 resolution, removable flash card memory, electronic strobe, and indoor/outdoor operation. That would be nice, no? 

One Clue

One indication of the strength of digital imaging technology is that people are interested in studying it for market research. A recent study, by Jon Peddie Associates (JPA), concludes that it'll be a $1 billion market by 2000.

The 3D Tools and Applications Study '97 predicts that professional 3D animation packages alone will create that large of a market.

JPA predicts 51% growth for products running under Windows (Windows/NT will take the lion's share) and steady growth of 34% for the total animation tool market. JPA is market research and publishing firm tracking digital media technologies.

Interesting for education, the study notes that a lack of skilled workers is holding back content producers. Colleges and others are now offering instructional programs in animation, mutimedia and video authoring and production, so the graduates are on their way. 

Push vs. Pull Technology

Now that compression schemes are much improved (with MPEG-2 offering broacast-quality motion video for PCs), makers look to yet other ways to boost performance. "Push" and "pull" technologies are part of the complex equation.

For example, CineView --  a new PCI-based plug & play MPEG-2 decoder board to deliver broadcast-quality video to the desktop from Vela Research, uses "push."

CineView is a new line of low-cost decoders, featuring MPEG-2 decoding direct to a PC VGA monitor and an NTSC or PAL monitor (optional). A half-length PC card, its designed for distance learning, computer-based training (CBT), video on demand (VOD) and other applications of broadcast-quality video on the PC.

In addition to standard decoding via "pull technology," a key feature of CineView is "push technology." Push technology is the ability to, as a client, receive data without requesting it when operating in a client/server environment.

Decoders typically rely on a pull technology, whereby the decoder pulls MPEG data from a local hard drive or other media where the file is stored. CineView allows the developer to design an application that in essence "waits" for video to be "pushed" or broadcast to the decoder via Internet, intranet, LAN or WAN. When CineView senses the networked broadcast video, the decoder is activated for immediate playback without user intervention.

CineView decodes MPEG-1 and MPEG-2 system, program, transport, audio elementary and video-only streams at 30 frames-per-second at SIF and 60 fields-per-second resolutions. By enabling the full range of MPEG playback, it may serve as the basis for a complete digital video solution. It also offers stereo audio output via a standard phone jack -- the expense and hassle of integrating a sound card is unnecessary.

Vela Research offers a robust and versatile application programming interface (API) for CineView. The CineView API gives developers the tools they need for enhanced interactivity and complete control over the CineView decoder board. CineView is Windows 95/NT based.

The CineView decoder boards represent the fourth generation of professional quality real-
time MPEG-2 decoders from Vela Research, a leader in video compression technology development for the cable and broadcast industry. Vela Research, Andover, MA, (508) 794-3320,

Matching Your Screen to Print

While inexpensive digital cameras & such steal most of the limelight, there's advancements for professional users as well.  Hard-core uses of digital imaging have very high-end needs, Pre-press for print media production, for example, requires its own set of special tools.

A long-time provider of these tools is Radius.  Maker of PC & Mac displays for professional users, they have a software program that calibrates one's monitor to the output device -- WYSIWG --in other words, so that what you see (onscreen) is what you get (printed), really.

Using an updated color-transform model, their new ColorMatch 3.0 profiles and Adobe Photoshop separation tables will enable users to accurately "soft-proof" and professionally separate RGB color images in preparation for high-quality printing.
This improved release of ColorMatch includes SWOP coated and uncoated profiles, as well as 3M MatchPrint and Fuji ColorArt profiles. ColorMatch 3.0 is free to all owners of a PressView SR monitor or ProSense colorimeter.

Plus, their new ProSense Version 1.8 software automaticaly calibrates the PressView SR to the ColorMatch RGB colorspace at the press of a single button, including black level and white luminance.

Video Production

Radius is also aggressive with its digital (motion) video products. Now shipping in volume is their VideoVision ML. The Macintosh product provides full-motion, full-screen, real-time capture, playback and output of video to tape. It includes a QuickTime solution well suited to the demands of media creators, editors and 3D designers who rely upon the scalability of both image size and data rate to efficiently produce movies for broadcast, 3D, the Web or CD-ROM. These needs are identical to that educational institutions.

VideoVision ML is priced at an SRP of $2,499, a new low-price point for professional video production compared to competing offerings, which sell at a 50-100% premium.

VideoVision ML allowing seamless work with any QuickTime-compatible 3D, editing or animation application. It also includes a frame buffer that provides a second desktop on a video monitor -- thus graphic artists, animators and editors can work directly with their material in the correct NTSC or PAL color space on a flicker-free, video display.

One can capture quarter-screen media at any data-rate, saving both rendering time and disk space. This media can be output to tape at full size in realtime using hardware-based resizing to create draft copies and approval tapes. High-quality, quarter-screen media can be used immediately in Web or interactive productions.

New imaging technology in VideoVision ML includes SoftStudio, proprietary software technology, built by Radius, that allows users to view movies on any Mac, share media with others and render on any machine, even on those without video hardware installed.

This article originally appeared in the 09/01/1997 issue of THE Journal.