WHO’S ENTITLED?: Getting music rights will be easier when Clearing House Ltd. brings a new system on line for finding out who owns what songs and various recorded performances.

The Hollywood-based service already works with broadcasters to collect data and report it to ASCAP (the American Society of Composers, Authors & Publishers) , one of two national royalty collection houses.

Ron Gertz, Clearing House founder and president, said his task is to find out how many people own rights to a piece of music and how royalties are divvied up.

His new on-line system will permit producers, via computer, to call up a title, locate the owners and determine the fees.

The system, he said, will aid new multimedia titles developers. First, there are no set rates on using music for a multimedia title, and if the title is tobe sold anywhere in the world, royalties may have to be paid to more than one owner. Gertz can help untangle this. “What’s going to happen when you decide to distribute this?” Gertz asked. “In music, rights are controlled in territories. The only time problems will be solved is if multimedia producers can find out who owns what quickly, the price, and what the alternatives are. Everything else is negotiable.”

Clearing House’s system started testing this week in New York and L.A. It will be up to 24 hours a day by year-end.

MUSICAL CHAIRS: Interactive music videos have a free agent with Phil Van Allen opening up his own shop.

Van Allen, head of Philip Interactive’s MusicWorks production unit, left the company last week.

One of the Philip’s CD-I titles to go with Van Allen is on U2’s Zoo TV Tour, which relied on Philips’ technology for in-concert visual effects.

According to Philips Interactive Media president Bernie Luskin, PIMA will continue to fund Van Allen on several music titles, including U2, depending on details. “He wanted to go off on his own,” said Luskin. “He’s one of the best software engineers I know.”

ROCKIN’ CDs: An interesting CD-ROM has come out of Medior Prods. in the Bay Area’s El Granada, that lets users build their own soundtracks from samples in several styles. Called Rock Rap N Roll, the disc offers up riffs and back-beats ranging from cool blue jazz to Santana-flecked salsa, to blistering gangsta-like rap. The music samples were created by Nick Tenbrock at San Francisco’s Interactive Audio.

At first, Medior president Barry Schuler thought the CD would be just for fun to play music on.

Then the Rock Rap N Roll fell into the hands of Hollywood. Now some TV producers who use the Macintosh are thinking about using the CD for quick sound intro’s and background fills. To give them a hand, Schuler will add a piece of software to take the soundtrack from Rock Rap N Roll and transfer it to a Macintosh file. Another Medior title is Tastemade Video Selection System, which should give Microsoft’s Cinemania CD-ROM competition. Tastemade has 42,000 movie titles and an artificial intelligence component that will choose videos for you.

By picking six movies that are appealing, the Tastemade will conjure up a list of similar films based on genre or talent.

HD EXPANDS: Barry Rebo, head of New York’s REBO Studios, is developing a high-definition facility at TVN Entertainment Corp. in Burbank. The move makes this the only HD production outside of Sony on the West Coast.

According to TVN chief executive officer Stuart Levin, “We’re looking to satellite delivery for high definition in the future.”

The most recent work in HD has been large venue shows like music concerts or sporting events. The first market for TVN, then, would be closed-circuit customers like bars or hotels. Currently, TVN delivers 11 channels of pay-per-view programming such as movies to satellite dish owners.

MICROSOFT’S IN TOWN: The world’s largest software company has contracted with Pacific Interactive Design Corp. in Santa Monica for a top-secret entertainment-based title. Creator of the “Earth Project” prototype title for Turner, Pacific is making headway on a number of projects, including one for the Federal Reserve.

Pacific’s president Jonathan Stroum and partners Scott Fillingham and Scott Palamar can claim experience on Bob Abel’s Ulysses title and work on Synapse Technologies’ Columbus title for IBM.

GET OUT THE VOTE: Academy members get a look at Sony Digital Prods.’ handiwork tomorrow night with the short film “Contact.”

The film by TriStar senior production VP Jonathan Darby, was pre-visualized at the in-house unit at Sony Pictures.

The production designs for the 25-minute short were scanned into AutoDesk 3-D Studio program, while it was still a prototype.

But once in the computer, Darby said, “It helped with the shot design, choosing the lens, and also helped rehearse the blocking and laying dolly tracks.”

Much of the lighting schedule for the tight six-day shoot was worked out on the system by Sony Digital’s Frank Foster and director of photography Eric Goldstein.

More critical, said, previsualization was changing a key shot for more visual impact. The story is of two soldiers in the Persian Gulf War, one American, the other Iraqi, trapped in a mine field overnight. All Foster is willing to divulge is that a body drops into the scene, rather than being found by one of the soldiers.