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Information Today, Inc.

The Moving Picture: Deja Vu? Not Really
Posted Aug 1, 2003 - April 2005 Issue Print Version     Page 1of 1

When I attended DV Expo in July, it was a little like being in a time warp. There I was again in New York's Jacob Javits Center, with escalators heading down to the lower level on the right. Hall 1C was about two-thirds full of digital video exhibitors and equipment just as it was ten years ago this September. Back then it was a trade show called ImageWorld, a name that had just replaced Video Expo to mark the early transition from analog-to-digital video and create a somewhat forced connection between video and computer graphics.

When I walked into DV Expo, Adobe was at the front on the left. I remember ten years ago, the front left spot found Radius demonstrating its VideoVision Studio expansion hardware. Adobe's Premiere was in that booth, too, as the editing software for VideoVision, but Radius was the star because of its 60 field-per-second hardware that allowed a desktop Mac user to edit serious, full-frame video. That seems like nothing today, but at $6,000, the VideoVision was probably too cheap back then. If I remember right, Adobe did have its own booth just behind Radius, but it was a much smaller one. This year, the lucrative left-front spot was all Adobe's, in one of the biggest booths at the show. There they sported the new, PC-only version of Premiere Pro, which sells for about one-tenth the price of the VideoVision card.

Of course, there are still expansion cards that work with Premiere Pro, now expanding its real-time capabilities, including several on display at DV Expo. Matrox, for example, was on-hand with its $1,099 RT.X100 Xtreme, a card that adds support for real-time visualization of multiple compositing layers in a Premiere timeline. Ten years ago, Matrox was front and center showing the Matrox Studio, the four-layer, A/B/C/graphics roll linear, VTR-controlling editing system that cost over $10,000.

Pinnacle Systems commanded the marquee booth off to the right at DV Expo in just the spot that used to belong to NewTek, with its groundbreaking Video Toaster. But the spot really belonged to Kiki Stockhammer, who held almost continuous court through the entire three-day show, as she did at every NewTek trade show booth back then. With an unrelenting combination of shrewd presenting skills, short skirts, and an often overlooked, but genuine, command of video technology, she never failed to draw in a crowd and was easily the hardest-working exhibitor at the show. Arguably, Kiki, as much as anyone, launched the digital studio movement. (Visit www.patswayne.com for more on her legend.)

Pinnacle Systems had no such demo queen or king, but it did have editing software, the consumer-oriented Studio 8, that goes far beyond the old $2,500 VideoToaster effects engine, and for less than $100. A little higher end, Pinnacle had Edition 5, a software-editing product gained with the acquisition of Fast Electronic, which coincidentally had the booth right behind NewTek at ImageWorld. Of course, Edition wasn't around ten years ago; back then it was the linear A/B roll, VTR-controlling Video Machine for about $4,000. Still, Edition ultimately grew out of Video Machine intellectual property. It now starts at just $699, software only, with hardware bundles moving up the Liquid line for more layers, more I/O, and networking support.

Of course, it's no surprise that prices are a mere fraction of what they were ten years ago and functionality a decade's leap forward. Today you can buy an entire digital studio with software, state-of-the-art desktop computer, and a capable DV camcorder (although, if you're a pro you may want to spend a little more for a 3-chip camcorder) for less than the cost of almost any of the old hardware cards. Maybe it's only mildly more surprising that thanks to digital camcorders, getting pro-quality, full-frame video into a desktop no longer requires anything more than a FireWire port, and thousand-dollar hardware gets you more than $100,000 hardware from back then.

I'm sure visionaries from ten years ago would have predicted that today digital video would have become just another data type for desktop computers to manipulate, unlike the digital islands of those days that digitized analog video, edited it, then either spat the finished video back to tape or offered an EDL back to an online linear studio for finishing. Maybe some would have known that the digitizing would be done in the cameras and that companies like Sony, Panasonic, and JVC—for whom ImageWorld was too low end—would now target the same audience with what they once claimed were exclusively professional formats: DVCam, DVC-Pro, and JVC's HD on DV.

I think that many of us who recall those early days wouldn't be surprised by the democratization of making video. It was a common marketing line for our four- and five-digit products. I think many of us wouldn't even be surprised that video editing has reached the consumer level in both price and user-friendliness.

In fact, I'd bet many of those exhibiting at ImageWorld 1993 would be surprised that it's taken so long and that there's still work to be done. While products like Premiere, Edition, Studio, After Effects, and Sony Screenblast Movie Studio (based on Vegas Video from Sonic Foundry, whose desktop software division Sony Pictures Digital recently acquired) are all in at least their respective fourth revisions, new applications like Adobe Encore, Canopus Edius, InterVideo's WinDVD Creator, and a store-load of plug-ins continue to add new tools and capabilities to the digital studio of today and tomorrow.

And still, with all the advancements of the last ten years, there is much more for digital video professionals to do, and many opportunities for innovations in terms of finding ways to use video and motion media in business, personal, and entertainment communications. The 21st century is just beginning, but we're still a long way from what science fiction and its fabulists once promised.

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