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Pinnacle Unveils Digital Video Solutions

MOUNTAIN VIEW, CALIF. -Pinnacle Systems, a developer of software solutions for broadcast and consumer video, announced its first Personal Video Recorder (PVR) system and a new home video archiving tool that transfers videotapes to CD-R and CD-RW media for playback on computers and DVD video players.

The company’s first PVR, called Bungee, is billed as “a video tool that gives users control over what, how and when they watch TV, thanks to the power of the PC and the Internet.”

Pinnacle Bungee is expected to ship in the second calendar quarter at a $349 anticipated retail price.

Unlike existing set-top PVRs such as TiVo or ReplayTV, Bungee is said to allow consumers to use their TV screens to view Internet video content downloaded from the Web, in addition to programs delivered by more traditional means.

In a process Pinnacle calls Shared TV, users connect the Bungee device to the Internet via a PC to download video content in MPEG-1 and MPEG-2 file formats to the PC’s hard drive. Video quality of recordings made in MPEG-2 format is said to rival that of DVD movies.

The Bungee then connects to TV sets for playback on big video screens. The system is dependent on broadband Internet access, such as cable, satellite or DSL modems.

In a process reminiscent of Napster music-file swapping, Pinnacle said Shared TV will allow viewers to “swap full-quality video programming over the Internet, and share their TV.”

“Bungee makes recording and sharing video files as easy as sharing audio files,” the company said it a prepared statement. Presumably, this will apply to in-the-clear content such as home videos and independent films that is not copy protected.

“Pinnacle Bungee unleashes a new world for TV viewers,” said Bill Loesch, Pinnacle Video Web Division product marketing VP, “bringing them a way to watch what they want, whether it’s a blockbuster movie being broadcast nationally or an obscure independent film only available on the Internet.”

As with other PVRs, the Bungee will pause and replay live TV programming, as well as record entire programs for playback at a later date.

Bungee connects to any desktop or laptop PC via a USB port for two-way video streaming. Advanced TV viewing software, called the Pinnacle Systems Vision application, enables the video to be played on both interlaced TV screens and progressive-scan PC monitors. It also includes the PVR command functions. A remote control is supplied with the Bungee unit.

Pinnacle also announced new Pinnacle Express software that allows users to convert their videotapes to interactive discs that can be played on most DVD players.

The system uses a variety of media formats. “In addition to recording DVD discs with DVD-R and DVD+RW drives,” the company said, “Pinnacle Express is unique in its ability to create DVD player-compatible discs using inexpensive CD-R drives and media.”

Developed in partnership with Philips Consumer Electronics, Pinnacle Express incorporates proprietary “DVvdisc” technology, and the system will enable owners of PCs equipped with CD-R/RW data drives to create, record and share up to 20 minutes of DVD-quality video on CD-R or CD-RW media.

To take advantage of the random-access capability of optical media, Pinnacle Express software automatically creates chapter menus so that users can quickly go to the scenes they want to see, repeat and freeze.

The Pinnacle Express system is designed for use with DV or Digital8 camcorders equipped with IEEE 1394 “FireWire” digital connectors and FireWire-enabled PCs. Users can select from a variety of menu layouts and backgrounds or type in a title for each scene. Scenes can also be trimmed, split, combined, deleted or re-ordered within the menus.

A version of Pinnacle Express supporting output to CD-R and CD-RW drives will be available this summer at an expected retail price of $99.

A version of Pinnacle Express supporting output to DVD recorders will be available in the fall at a price to be announced.

“Express offers a perfect bridge as the world moves from CD-R drives to DVD-R technology,” said Loesch. “Even without a DVD drive, users can begin authoring DVD-player compatible discs today and are equipped for tomorrow.

“Express is a way for these users to start putting DVD-quality video onto discs now, even while they are waiting for the new DVD+RW drives and media to come down the price curve.”