Camcorder imports for the first eight months of 1994 were roughly the same in overall numbers as in 1993. The supply of 8mm models is slowly increasing--up 5.7% as of August--while the non-8mm category showed a drop of 3.5%. That leaves the 8mm market at just over 40% of camcorder imports.
For the first time in years, blank tape manufacturers are thinking about boosting the retail price of their audio and video cassettes. The reason? Rising costs of raw materials. The largest cost increases include cobalt at 67% and plastic components at 28%. Among those considering a 2.5-3.5% rise in retail prices for videotapes in the first quarter of 1995 are Maxell, Memtek, 3M and TDK's consumer division.
Duracell, Toshiba and Varta, partners in a joint venture to produce nickel-metal hydride (NimH) batteries, have announced that they will open their first manufacturing plant in Mebane, N.C. by the middle of 1996. Duracell had originally planned to offer the NimH battery for camcorders in 1994, but the increased demand for laptop PC and cellular phone models kept them busy. At present, it appears that the NimH camcorder batteries won't hit the market until 1996.
In the meantime, Ovonic Battery, a company based in Troy, Michigan, is filing a complaint with the International Trade Commission (ITC), claiming that the partners have infringed upon one of their patents for the NimH battery. The hearing is scheduled to take place on Feb. 6, 1995.
The Electronic Industries Association (EIA) is working out a set of guidelines to establish a standard measure for lux sensitivity in camcorders. At present, each company sets its own criteria for this characteristic, making it impossible to compare models from different manufacturers. The new standard, which will probably be based on minimum chrominance and luminance levels, will go to ballot within the EIA soon, if it hasn't already. Most major manufacturers will do more than simply go along with the results; they may even go so far as to actively pressure those who don't.
Two Hour Compact VHS Tapes
JVC announced in September that they will introduce two new compact video cassettes that can record up to two hours in EP mode and 40 minutes in SP. To be launched in Japan, the longer-lasting tapes are the ST-C40XZB S-VHS-C video cassette and the TC-40HGB VHS-C video cassette.
JVC also claims three advances in tape technology: proprietary high-packing density technology, CF (ceramic filler) backcoating and ultra-thin Super Polystone base film.
With these video cassettes JVC aims to meet users' demands for long recording times while also increasing tape strength, enhancing durability and maintaining a stable tape transport.
The new compact VHS tapes also work for VCR recording. At less than one-third the size of full- sized VHS tapes, they're easier to store and carry.
Other features include Super Cobalt magnetite particles (for clearer sound and sharper image) and new visco-elastic binder (for added strength).
Panasonic Sneak Peek
Panasonic has revealed some of the features it will present in its 1995 line of camcorders. The company will offer many impressive technological advances over previous versions of their product, including 20% less power drain, a color LCD viewfinder that is 15% brighter and boasts 270 lines of resolution, and 120:1 digital zoom capability.
They also intend to begin using a proprietary A/V connector to input and output video signals, rather than sticking with standard RCA cables. Other companies have done this before with bad results: when you lose the cable, you can't use the camcorder as a VCR until you replace the cable.
Panasonic's version of the long awaited two-hour VHS-C tape is on the way. Called the TC-40, the standard VHS version of this product should be on the shelves by the time this sees print, with the S- VHS version expected in March 1995. The prices are $6.99 for VHS-C and $9.99 for S-VHS-C.
Video Sends Message to Legislators
When Gerald Herrick of Sun City Center, Florida, wanted to let legislators know his thoughts on health care, he didn't bother sending a letter. He sent them a video instead.
Herrick has had a long time interest in health care, and he wanted legislators to remember his ideas. He thought sending a video might attract more attention and make a longer lasting impression than a letter.
He first tried this idea when his alma mater asked alumni to send in recollections of their post- WWII school days. Herrick produced a video about student housing on Army barracks, and the overwhelming response (173 letters) prompted him to try this in the realm of politics.
Herrick sent a 30-minute health care video to Hillary Clinton and members of congress, including Bob Graham, Connie Mack and Dan Miller. Herrick received a letter back from Congressman Miller
Virtual Public Access
Looking for a place to show your work? Try your neighborhood virtual drive-in.
Nick West, a researcher at NYU's Interactive Telecommunications Program, has developed a clever interactive interface for his public access show, "Yorb: The Electronic Neighborhood."
Up to four viewers at a time can navigate through an eerie 3D landscape using their touch tone phone keypad; press 2 to go north, 6 to go east, etc. As you navigate, the television screen shows you an over-the-dashboard view of the virtual neighborhood.
West's imaginary world includes an online bulletin board chat center, a digital art gallery and a drive-in theater that features video clips by New York artists.
Perhaps the best feature of West's program is the lack of hardware requirements. All you need to plug into Yorb are a cable TV and a touch tone phone.
Headphone Audio Enters the Third Dimension
Sony has introduced a set of headphones that recreate a three-dimensional listening environment. Dubbed the Orbit VIP-1000 Video Headphones, they are the first consumer product of their kind. Utilizing digital gyroscopic positioning and 360 degree binaural technology, the Orbit headphones place the listener in the middle of the sound, and can even alter the audio "point of view" as the listener's head moves. The headset, priced at $699, targets video game players and sports enthusiasts as well as television, VCR and camcorder users.
The Digital Wave Approaches
According to William Sims, General Manager of JVC Video, the DVD (Digital Video Disc) will have a profound impact on the video industry.
Expected to arrive in the late 1990s, the DVD may well be the ticket to the digital future that many videomakers now dream of.
Matsushita, JVC's parent company, will play a key role in developing the new technology, which should be able to store 120 minutes of video on a 5" disc using MPEG-2 data compression.
Advantages of the new technology include random access storage, no generational loss from dubbing and ease of transfer to DTV systems.
Play As You Go
A new generation of Japanese car navigation systems is sweeping the land of the rising sun. Previously designed as driving aids complete with roadmaps and other navigational equipment, the systems now feature several entertainment options, including CD-ROM drives for game playing, karaoke, TV and video playback. Screen sizes range from 6" to 10"
Sony, Pioneer and Toshiba have all had some success with these units in Japan, but don't expect them to take the US by storm; many states prohibit systems with TV screens visible to the driver.
Ultrasound Video Unapproved
If you have used or plan on using ultrasound equipment to shoot video of your unborn child, beware: the FDA has announced that they consider this "...an unapproved use of a medical device," and that they "...are prepared to take action against those who engage in such misuse of medical equipment." The FDA's Center for Devices and Radiological Health has asked a number of health professional organizations and the National Electronics Association to notify them of any such misuse of ultrasound equipment so that they can take action.
Stock Footage Exchange
Would a shot of the Statue of Liberty enliven your production? How about the Golden Gate Bridge? If you're looking for such footage, or if you have some to offer, try Videomaker's new stock footage exchange.
Here's how it works. We match up videomakers looking for stock footage with videomakers who have it. Then you're on your own. You can trade, barter or sell.
If you have footage, send us your list of specialties and the numbers of the regions your footage covers (numbers 1-8; see map). We'll forward your name to those who need your footage.
If you're looking for footage, tell us the numbers of the regions you need. Send us your wish list and a stamped self-addressed envelope.
Forward information and inquiries to "Stock Exchange," c/o Videomaker, P.O. Box 4591, Chico, CA 95927. No phone calls please.
The 27th Annual Media Awards Competition gives you opportunity to focus your camcorder on the family. A long list of categories includes aging, mental health, addiction, stress, AIDS, and many more family and social issues. Submissions must arrive by March 1 on half-inch video. Entry fees range from $72 to $210.
For more information contact: The National Council on Family Relations, 3989 Central Ave. NE Suite 550, Minneapolis, MN 55421; (612)781-9331.
College students can tell their story at the third annual America's College Video Competition presented by Blackboard Entertainment, Inc. There are no formal categories, so comedies, musical videos, dramas, documentaries and just about anything else is acceptable. First prize is $5000; Blackboard will also award other cash prizes and professional internships with production companies.
Entries must be in by March 15 with a $15 entry fee. Videos must be on half-inch VHS (SP speed) and no longer than 10 minutes. For more information write to: Blackboard Entertainment Inc., 35 Stillman St. Suite 210, San Francisco, CA 94107.
California Videographers Association
P.O. Box 620198
Orangevale, CA 95662-0198
Media Project Video 8 Users' Group
5215 Homer St.
Dallas, TX 75206
Seeking Group or Will Organize
897 Oak Park Blvd. #290
Pismo Beach, CA 93449
3452 Blue Oak Ct.
San Jose, CA 95148
26001 Avenida Romero
San Juan Capistrano, CA 92675
User Groups: let us know you're out there. For inclusion in our listing, submit your request to "User Groups," c/o Videomaker, P.O. Box 4591, Chico, CA 95927. Seeking a User Group? 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.