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February 2002, Week 3 --  Look Who's Talking

 

 Conference Phone

   A new teleconferencing phone from Spracht (German for "said" or "spoken") is designed to be at the center of any group participating in the conversation, and thus avoid the leaning over dance common in many conferences.

   The phone is triangular, looking much like a piece of equipment from a Star Trek show, with a microphone built into each apex. A central speaker provides the return sound for all to hear. Aside from its odd shape the three-way phone operates like any other telephone, with volume control and numerical touch pad. Sound quality is good, but don't place it next to a wall; you'll get some echo interference. This phone was voted best of its type by the editors of Wired Magazine. The price is $200, from Spracht; phone: 888-350-0132; web: www.spracht.com.

 

It's in the script.

 

   So you saw a bad movie and think you could write a better script than that (looking at some of these things, anyone could write a better script). Give it a shot. I think it was studio head Sam Goldwyn who said: "If it ain't on the page, it ain't on the stage."

   "Final Draft, version 6" is out, and among several new features is professional screen writer Syd Field's tips for working out the parts where you're stuck. The program has endorsements from Academy Award winning actor/director Tom Hanks, director Robert Altman, actor/writer John Cusack, directors Terry Gilliam, Oliver Stone and a host of others. The program covers script forms for film, TV and the stage.

 

   An audio-visual version of Final Draft is designed for the business and educational users producing videos and commercials. Final Draft is $200, for the PC or Macintosh; Final Draft AV is $150. Phone: 818-995-8995; web: www.finaldraft.com.

 

Movies for home and business

 

 Pinnacle Studio

   Pinnacle's new $99 Studio 7 program for Windows has emerged as best of breed in the hotly competitive area of video editing software for the PC. There are about a dozen makers knocking heads here, including well known products from Adobe and Ulead. I'm sure to get letters from readers pointing out that Adobe's Premiere is meant for professional editing, and Pinnacle for less demanding users. Yes, yes, I know, but users often find Premiere too much to learn and too complicated.

   Among the new features are a compression routine that can store one hour of digital video in just 360 megabytes. (Without compression, storing an hour of digital video would require 14,000 megabytes, an impractical size.) The program also handles the common problem of background music in an unusual way: if you don't have a selection of music ready to hand, Pinnacle Studio will compose it for you. In order to get fast input and output for digital video you will need a so-called "FireWire (IEEE 1394) adapter card, which generally costs around $70-$100.

 

   Pinnacle is the winner of seven Emmy Awards for technical excellence in video (though not directly for this program). A free trial version is available from their web site: www.pinnaclesys.com.

 

Internuts

-- www.rinkworks.com/said. Funny quotes. Actress Brooke Shields: "Smoking kills. If you're killed, you've lost a very important part of your life." Sam Goldwyn: "An oral contract isn't worth the paper it's written on." and "Gentlemen, include me out." Former U.S. Vice-President Dan Quayle: "What a waste it is to lose one's mind. Or not to have a mind. How true that is."

-- www.comedy-zone.net  Some very funny stuff here. You can look for quotes (Paul Goodman on business: "Few great men would have gotten past the personnel department."), cartoons and photos (on the back of a motorcyclist's jacket: "If you can read this, she fell off.").

 

-- www.ewg.org The call letters stand for "Environmental Working Group" and what you find here is a gold mine of information on federal subsidies, air and water pollution and chemical additives in food. Here we find, for example, that states in the Midwest reap the lion's share of federal crop subsidies. Though California produces 90 percent of the nation's fruits and vegetables, it receives only one-third the farm subsidies devoted to Iowa, which produces largely grains.

   (By the way, spare me the stories of the struggling small farmer. When I was a reporter for the Philadelphia Inquirer, I did a long story on a Pennsylvania farmer selected for being in the exact median of the nation's small farmers. He had a taxable income of only $6,000, but his net worth was $2.5 million. Everything he ate, wore or drove was deductible. Did you know even race horses are deductible? They're considered farm animals)

-- www.archive.org  Lets you see what a web site looked like in the past, from 1996 to the present. Archive covers early sites, even if they no longer exist. Got an endorsement from the Smithsonian Institution.

 

Books

  The Macintosh Bible

 

-- "Final Cut Pro 2 for Macintosh," by Lisa Brenneis; $25, Peachpit Press www.peachpit.com. A nearly exhaustive primer for the superb Final Cut Pro program used for video editing on the Mac. A great program for serious video editors.

-- "The Macintosh Bible, 8th edition," by Colby and Cortinas; $35, Peachpit Press www.peachpit.com.

   This is pretty much the definitive work on getting the most from your Mac and what to do when it has problems. I remember reviewing the first edition of the Mac Bible when it came out in 1987, and the title has sold an astonishing 1.1 million copies since then.

 

NOTE: Readers can search nearly four years of columns at the "On Computers" web site: www.oncomp.com. You can e-mail Bob Schwabach at bobschwab@oncomp.com or bobschwab@aol.com.