If you believe that a short video is a good video, you have until February 1 to submit your short videos to the 14th Annual Video Shorts competition. Entries must be no longer than six minutes and presented on either VHS or 3/4-inch videotape. All subjects are acceptable for the general category. This year's special category: PSAs promoting public cccess. The fee is $20 per entry; each additional entry on the same tape is $10. For more information, write to: Video Shorts, P.O. Box 20369, Seattle, WA 98102; or call (206) 325-8449.
Toronto Film and Video Club
200 Eglinton W.
Toronto, Ontario M4R 1A7
Tropical Video Club of South Florida
13903 NW 67 Ave., Suite 410
Hialeah, FL 30014
Seeking Group or Will Organize
P.O. Box 1028
Ellijay, CA 30540
3851 Hazelwood St. #4
Las Vegas, NV 89119
User Groups: let us know you're out there. For inclusion in our listings, submit your request to "User Groups," c/o Videomaker, P.O. Box 4591, Chico, CA 95927. For a list of existing user groups and/or videomakers seeking or willing to organize a group in your area, send a stamped self-addressed envelope to the same address.
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In Japan, Hitachi recently introduced a prototype of the world's first digital solid-state camcorder with no moving parts. The tiny 10-ounce, palm-sized camcorder uses flash memory instead of tape. According to Hitachi, the production model's 400MB multilayered flash memory--about the size of a sugar cube--will provide 30 minutes of color video recording. The digital camcorder should be available to consumers within five years. In the meantime, Hitachi engineers are working on a proprietary compression algorithm they can use to upgrade the unit's one-chip MPEG-1 encoder/decoder, which may produce less-than-adequate picture quality.
Philips has licensed the Macrovision anticopy technology for its first digital set-top converters. Cable and telco program providers will activate the anticopy technology remotely.
Gold Disk is providing the video editing software for GO-Video's new PC-compatible 8mm/VHS dual-deck VCRs. Gold Disk will customize the software currently sold under its VideoDirector banner; this customization will allow users to control the dual-deck VCRs during editing from their PCs. Look for the analog videotape editor, Dual-Deck Director ($299), by year's end. GO-Video's first 8mm/VHS deck ($999) is due to ship this month, followed by a second model in 1995.
GO-Video has also teamed up with Intel, Creative Labs and Smartz Labs to develop a similar PC-dual-deck package based on Intel's Indeo video compression technology for the corporate market. The difference: a digital videotape editor featuring a Creative Labs digitizing card and Smartz Labs' specialty software. The price: under $2000, including the deck.
Minolta is introducing two palm-sized 8mm camcorders. Made by Hitachi, both models feature 12x optical zoom, digital zoom, a color viewfinder, electronic image stabilization (EIS) and digital signal processing. The standard 8mm unit sells for $1328; the Hi8 model with hi-fi stereo and weatherproof construction retails for $2523.
Sony has premiered two new camcorders in Japan. The top-of-the-line model boasts an ultrabright LCD viewfinder that uses natural light as well as backlight for illumination. Sony claims this doubles the brightness of the viewfinder, even outdoors on bright summer days. This $1760 unit also features a "three-capsule" stereo mike which picks up sound from the center as well as the left and right. Other pluses: digital 20X zoom, optical antishake system and a low-power LSI and lithium ion battery that increases recording time by 60 percent. The basic model ($1060) comes with a 10.3 million-pixel color LCD viewfinder, 10x zoom and mono mike; add a wireless remote for $1090.
JVC may break into the low end (under $300) of the video editor market. Known for its high-end video editors, JVC is reportedly studying low-priced video editors; look for a JVC model in January 1995.
A new "diamond-like carbon" coating reportedly will extend the life of VCR head drums nearly three times longer than the traditional titanium coating. Developed a consortium including Daewoo, the Korea Institute for Science & Technology (KIST) and the Physical Academy of Ukraine, the coating will appear on all of Daewoo's VCRs. Daewoo and KIST are applying for international patents on the coating as well as the equipment required for the process, which Daewoo claims suits many other applications. The first Daewoo VCR to feature this coating is now available in Korea.
Panasonic Introduces ViewCam-style Camcorder
Panasonic is throwing its LCD hat into the ring with the introduction of its NV-LC1. Like similar models from Sharp, Fuji and Sony, this camcorder features a 4-inch, built-in color liquid crystal display (LCD) screen with 122,000 pixels. According to Panasonic, this color LCD screen delivers an image 50 percent brighter than that of its competitors, thanks to an improved backlight system.
The unit also offers: 1) a small, retractable 1/2-inch black-and-white LCD viewfinder; and 2) a 580,000-pixel, 1/3-inch CCD image sensor that allows you to use a digital image stabilizer with no loss in picture quality.
The first ViewCam-style unit to use the S-VHS-C format, the NV-LC1 retails for 208,000 yen (about $2080) in Japan--the only place you can buy it at this time.
--Paula Munier Lee
Video Cameras Identify School Bus Vandals
Now armed with video cameras, school buses in Worchester, Massachusetts are fighting the good fight against vandalism.
The local school district installed the cameras to prevent vandalism of the buses and ensure the safety of all of the students on the bus. Each bus comes equipped with a video camera box; the box holds the video camera. The box sits at the front of the bus above the driver. Leads connect the box to the ignition of the bus. A red flashing light warns students that the camera box is on when the bus is running, recording their actions. School officials save the tapes so they can study them later if the need arises.
The boxes cost $180 each; the cameras run between $600 and $950. Unfortunately, budget constraints mean that not every bus has a camera. There are only a few video cameras that bus drivers pass from bus to bus. Students can't tell which bus has a camera, because the box housing the camera operates the same way with or without one.
When threatening letters and phone calls don't work, some creditors turn to video to make people pay up. A growing number of banks and financial agencies have found sympathetic videos succeed in collecting past-due debt when other methods fail.
The friendly videos tell customers that the bank understands their problems and wants to help. These videos urge the customers to call their creditors and work out a payment plan.
The rationale behind these video collections: many people become depressed or afraid when they owe money; that's why these gentle messages work better than harsh ones. A nonthreatening video offering people help with financial problems can convince them to get into contact with their creditors again.
In a recent test, Chase Manhattan sent seven-minute collection videos to credit cardholders at least three months behind on payments. The result: a 28 percent boost in response.
Nickel-Cadmium Batteries Here to Stay
Despite inroads made by their lithium-ion competitors, nickel-cadmium batteries are as popular as ever. Recent studies of the nickel-cadmium battery market predict strong sustained growth for the rest of the decade.
According to the Freedonia Group, Inc., of Cleveland, Ohio, shipments of nickel-cadmium batteries will experience above average growth--bolstered by improving performance, increasing demand for both direct consumer sales and original equipment manufacturing (OEM) applications. A proliferation of cordless devices will help fuel shipments of these batteries for the OEM market. Direct consumer sales of nickel-cadmium batteries will be driven by increasing consumer acceptance of rechargeable batteries, technological improvements (e.g., longer service between charges and longer charge retention time), declining prices of both batteries and chargers, improved chargers and intense promotional efforts. The Freedonia Group study predicts that the total value of nickel-cadmium battery shipments will increase from $360 million in 1993 to $530 million in 1998.
The renewed strength of the NiCd battery market is the result of a number of factors, not the least of which are the industry-driven programs to collect and recycle spent NiCd batteries. The regulatory agencies, OSHA and EPA, have also recognized the benefits of NiCd battery recycling, and have adopted proposals and rule interpretations which encourage rather than discourage recycling of these spent batteries.
HelmetCam Saves Soldiers at War
Video is coming to the battlefield--not to record the fighting, but to help save injured fighting men and women.
Medics will wear special helmets outfitted with video cameras and microphones, which allow doctors back at the field hospital to see and hear what's going on. The doctors coach the medics, helping them stabilize patients before the dangerous move to the field hospital.
The medics will pull the wounded into a lightly armored vehicle that functions as a miniature trauma center. There, with the help of these so-called "telementoring" helmets, medics will even be able to perform lifesaving surgery.
--Paula Munier Lee
VJ Music VooDoo
woos viewers with hallucinogenic video
There's a new kind of video jockey at work today in clubs all across America.
These club VJs are very different from their MTV counterparts, whose goal is to sell music videos. The club VJ's goal is to incite the audience.
"We want to give people the experience of being on hallucinogens without taking any drugs," says San Francisco club VJ Alan Aronoff.
Aranoff and partner Tony Grant make up Synergy, a VJ team with a soothing, freeflowing style.
"We're trying to create a synergy," says Grant, "a synergy between the music and the video, the audience and the VJ, and the art and the technology."
And exactly how do they do this? By updating the psychedelic visuals of the '60s, combining original graphics, ancient symbols, video footage, 3-D models and sampled elements--creating an intoxicating visual brew.
The next step: interactivity. According to Grant, he looks forward to the day when the audience can use something like an infrared device to interact with the visuals themselves, triggering changes in transition tempo, patterns and so on.
--Paula Munier Lee
Amateur Videomaker Captures Bomber Crash on Tape
In the wake of the Rodney King video, more and more amateur videomakers are shooting the news as it happens. At a recent air show at Fairchild Air Force Base near Spokane, Washington, an onlooker with a home video camera captured the terrible descent of an Air Force B-52 bomber as it spun to the ground and exploded into a fireball. All four people aboard died.
--Paula Munier Lee