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BitJazz Newsletter
May 2003

Hi,

Today we released another upgrade to the SheerVideo Pro Preview for Mac. We expect this to be the last preview version before the first commercial release of the product. So if you find that any essential features are missing, please speak up now! You can download the free preview from

http://www.bitjazz.com/en/

The new version, 0.9.8, introduces the following changes and new features:

Y'CbCr[A] 8bv 4:4:4[:4] ('r408', 'v408')

We've added a new SheerVideo codec for Y'CbCr 8bv 4:4:4. In contrast to the broadcast-quality Y'CbCr 4:2:2 formats, which omit the chroma information at half of the pixels, the studio-quality Y'CbCr 4:4:4 formats store the chroma components (Cb, Cr) at every pixel. Thus whereas 4:2:2 formats are most useful for archival, recording, and broadcasting, Y'CbCr 4:4:4 formats are ideal during the video production process, although they take up 50% more space. Note that RGB formats, which are used mostly for film and CGI material, are always 4:4:4.

The new codec supports the two most popular Y'CbCr 8b 4:4:4 pixel formats: 'v408' and 'r408'. In the 'v408' pixel format, all the components adhere to the ITU-R BT.601 standard. In the 'r408' pixel format, luma has the same range, but is zero-based, while alpha is full-range. The two pixel formats also differ in byte order.

To encode Y'CbCr[A] 8bv 4:4:4[:4] video, select
        Sheer Y'CbCr[A] 8bv 4:4:4[:4]
in the Video Compressor menu.

alpha compression

The Sheer RGB 8b and Y'CbCr 8bv 4:4:4 codecs can now store an alpha channel, denoting opacity/transparency or coverage, for use in compositing applications. Accordingly, they have been renamed as
        Sheer RGB[A] 8b
and
        Sheer Y'CbCr[A] 8bv 4:4:4[:4]

To compress alpha in addition to the color information, select
        Millions of Colors+
instead of
        Millions of Colors
in the Compression Settings dialog box. Using the correct setting is especially important for Y'CbCr formats, since QuickTime is otherwise likely to convert the video to RGB[A].

faster, more-robust interlaced codecs

The interlaced versions for all SheerVideo codecs now work purely intrafield, making them more robust in the presence of extreme interfield motion. As a bonus, the interlaced codecs are now generally faster than their progressive-scan counterparts.

To use the interlaced version of a SheerVideo codec, select
        Interlaced
instead of
        Progressive
in the Sheer Settings dialog. To let SheerVideo choose the scanning method according to how the source video is labelled (with the Field Info image description extension), select
        Automatic
But be aware that some software, including Apple's own Component Video codec, omits the required Field Info label.

It's okay to use the Interlaced codec for progressive-scan video, or the Progressive codec for interlaced video. In fact, the "wrong" codec may actually compress some source material better. And you may prefer to use the Interlaced codec just for the extra speed. However, note that SheerVideo labels the video as such. Please let us know if this is a problem.

Videos created with earlier versions of SheerVideo are still supported with free readers.

interlaced RGB[A] 8b i

An interlaced option has been added for Sheer RGB[A] 8b. This is useful for interlaced Y'CbCr[A] video that has been converted to RGB[A] for postproduction; for computer-generated imagery that is preinterlaced for broadcast; and for video cameras that output raw interlaced RGB.

faster decoders

The SheerVideo decoders have been sped up by up to 10%. In particular, the RGB[A] 8b and Y'CbCr[A] 8bv 4:4:4[:4] decoders are now nearly as fast as the encoders. For current speed statistics, see the page

http://www.bitjazz.com/en/products/sheervideo/speed/

This improvement necessitated a slight change in coding format. In most cases, the compression power has also increased slightly. Free decoders are available for videos encoded with previous versions of SheerVideo.

alpha-value for Y'CbCr 8bu 4:4:4 ('r408')

When decompressing to Y'CbCrA 8bu 4:4:4:4, the Sheer Y'CbCr 8bu 4:4:4 codec now sets the alpha component to 255/255 (opaque) instead of 219/255, since alpha uses the full range in 'r408'.

fixed expiration date in Y'CbCr encoders

In version 0.9.7, the Y'CbCr encoders misinterpreted the expiration date. This has been fixed.

improved settings synopsis

The Sheer settings summary displayed in the Compression Settings dialog has been augmented and simplified. It now includes the name of the selected Sheer codec. The scan mode, when known, is now simply indicated by a p (progressive) or i (interlaced) after the codec name (i.e. RGB 8bp versus RGB 8bi). If alpha output is to be included, that is now indicated by an A after the color space name (i.e. RGBA or Y'CbCrA).

extended preview period

This release of SheerVideo expires on 30 May 2003.

feedback, please!

No further preview releases are planned, so please evaluate this version thoroughly and let us know immediately if it lacks anything essential for your application!

The PC/Windows edition has been delayed by changes to the Sheer Engine code, but it's still coming soon. We've also had numerous requests for a Linux/PC edition. Do you need support for any other platforms? Please let us know!

I hope this update is helpful. This bulletin is also available in German, French, and Spanish.

Cheers,

Andreas Wittenstein
President, BitJazz Inc.

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