User Stories and Reviews
The Videoguy’s Top 10 new products
This was a banner year for new and exciting video editing gear. Computers and video are starting to merge. The power of silicon chips and software genius is making an incredible impact on video production. All of the products I have chosen this year use digital technology. Here are my choices as the best of 1995/96.
By far, the most important new products are the digital camcorders. I have listed the next 9 in alphabetical order by manufacturer, because I really like all of them, and I just couldn’t rank one over the other. All of these products use cutting edge digital technology and they all are available to you at prices below $1000.
No video product of the year award could begin without special achievement honors to Sony and Panasonic. These two giants each introduced their first digital camcorders. These technological marvels record the video on special cassettes digitally, as bits of data, just ones and zeros. The video production possibilities these camcorders will create are incredible. They have a special jack, called “firewire”, that lets the digital video information to be input directly into a computer for playback, processing, editing and manipulating the video. No one has released any “firewire” computer cards or black boxes designed specifically for these units and their new technology yet, but once they do, the impact is going to be huge. These camcorder are bigger then a product of the year, they are a giant leap forward in technology.
Aver Video Editor
This is the first external plug, play and edit system for computers. It lets you view video on your computer monitor, mark your favorite scenes, capture a thumbnail image (a Picon), create an edit decision list, then automatically build your video while superimposing fantastic computer generated titles and graphics. The windows based system requires no boards to install inside your computer. You can even use it with a Laptop. The editing system is Gold Disk Video Director, and the titles are created with Curtain Call software. Curtain Call lets you use any true type font and import computer graphics and images from any Windows drawing program such as Corel Draw, Photoshop or Paint Shop Pro. The interface is easy, set up is a breeze.
Fast has long been recognized as a leader in commercial non linear editing systems. The Video Machine is being used by TV stations, professional sports teams and commercial editing suite throughout the globe. Fast this year brought some of that technological know how to consumers and video professionals on a tight budget. The FPS60 is a complete non linear editing system. It lets you capture and playback video to your hard drive using Motion JPEG compression technology. The FPS60 comes with Adobe Premiere 4.0 LE, a limited edition of the best selling video editing software. Other software includes Photoshop LE, Simply 3d for creating animated titles and Xing, an MPEG conversion utility for those making CD ROMs and multimedia presentations. The FPS60 has both regular and SVHS video input and output, plus it displays the video in real time, in a window on your computer monitor. The FPS60 stands for fields per second. A second of video is made up of 30 frames, and each frame has two fields. By capturing both all 60 fields, you get a smooth jitter free playback. Best of all, the FPS60 is one of the easiest video capture boards ever made to install. It includes an automatic optimization feature which makes getting great looking video a snap.
Gold Disk VideoDirector 2.5
Video Director has been the leading home video editing software for the past several years. It combines an easy to use graphical interface with linear assemble editing. Version 2.5 has sported several improvements that make it an even stronger program. The first, and most significant, is the addition of IR edit control of camcorders. Earlier versions only worked with 8mm camcorders that had Control L (LANC) an edit control protocol found in all Sony camcorders, Hi8 Canon and other 8mm cams. Version 2.5 supports most camcorders that have IR (infra red) remote control. This makes Video Director much more universal. Unfortunately, it will not work with an IR VCR as the source. This is because of the different way VCR and Camcorder heads operate when paused.
This clever device is not a video production device in the usual sense. It is a frame grabber that lets you capture very sharp and colorful images from your camcorder to your computer. The grabbed frame can then be used to create screensavers, wall paper, desk top publishing documents or even graphics for your World Wide Web site. The most incredible thing about Snappy is the price. For under $200 you can capture great looking images for any number of uses. A comparable scanner will cost two to 5 times the price!
Miro DC20 & Quadrant Q-Motion PCI
These are the first PCI video capture card for under $1000. By using the PCI bus, you can get higher throughput to the hard drive. This means you can get higher resolutions without dropping frames. You can get down to a compression ratio of 5:1 if you have SCSI wide A/V hard drives. Not everyone needs these resolutions, but if you are creating videos for broadcast or commercial purposes, the PCI technology can give you the edge you are looking for.
The Miro DC 20 comes with a fantastic software bundle for under $1000. You get Adobe Premiere 4.0 LE, Photoshop LE, Assymetrix 3D FX titling and Xing Mpeg encoder.
Quadrant packages the Q-Motion PCI in several different bundles. You can save money by getting the card alone if you already have non-linear editing software and you are looking to upgrade your system. If you are starting from scratch, you can get your choice of two complete bundles. One bundle with the industry standard Adobe Premiere 4.0 LE, the other bundle includes Ulead Video Editor 2.5, the NLE heart of their Media Studio 2.5 software, including 32 bit Win95 optimized software.
Nogatech Notebook TV
This PCMIA card lets you watch TV on your laptop computer. Now you can catch up on the latest news, sports and weather when you are stuck on the road. Best of all, this is more then just a TV tuner, it is a powerful tool for creating better presentations! You get 30 frames per second video capture at 320×240 resolution from either the tuner or A/V input jack, plus you get a hi resolution 640×480 frame grabber. This is the ultimate laptop accessory for the business traveler.
This digital video mixer combines a great price with excellent feature and ease of use. For under $700, you get a powerful mixer, providing the most important video on video transitions you need for professional quality video production. You can dissolve one image into another, wipe from source A to source B in hundreds of different patterns, and even superimpose one video image over another using the blue screen chroma key. Other digital features include freeze frame, strobe, mosaic, paint, and color negative. One of my favorite digital effects is an A/B wipe with a soft edge. The border of the wipe becomes a dissolve, mixing both images together. Once you start using soft edge wipes, you will wonder how anyone could make a video without it. With a sale price of $599, digital mixing is now affordable. In addition to low cost, the SFX-M is really easy to use. The controls are simple, well labeled and straight forward. You don’t need a degree in engineering or a huge bankroll to add fantastic digital video transitions to your videos.
Ulead Media Studio 2.5
This complete non linear video editing software package is great for making video’s that take full advantage of digital technology. In addition to a very easy to use graphical timeline editing decision list, you get some really dazzling effects. The Morph Editor creates an animation of one image changing into another. This effect can be great for family videos. Watch junior morph into dad, or have the family car morph into a Ferrari. Morphing is fun!! Another cool feature of the Media Studio is the wide range of digital transitions. Rather then just a wipe, these transitions add an animated transition effects. Page turns, video rolling up, or spiraling onto the screen, or combination dissolve/wipe effects are just a few of the amazing effects you can create. You also get titling, animation and a great photo album organizer for all your captured multimedia clips. Best of all, Version 2.5 has been optimized for Win95. The 32 bit capture and rendering software gives you increased quality, power and speed.
Note: Media Studio 2.5 requires a video capture card. The cards mentioned in this article from Fast, Miro and Quadrant both work great, as do many others.