This spring, Thomson Consumer Electronics will release the world’s first commercial-free VCRs. The
technology, developed by Arthur D. Little enterprises, will allow users to record programs in the usual way, but skip
the commercials on playback.
The system works as follows: it marks the beginning and end of commercials in the tape’s control track. Then it
reads these marks during playback, going into fast forward edit search mode during the commercials and showing a
blue screen to mask the picture.
According to Japan’s Finance Ministry, the average price of camcorders exported to the U.S. dropped $40 between
October 1993 and October 1994. During this time, the average camcorder price reached an all-time low in yen–
49,405, or $501.57. Since the value of the dollar against the yen reached an all-time low in 1994, this was history’s
third lowest camcorder price in dollars.
Japanese brands account for more than 90% of the camcorders imported into the U.S.
In the fight for the as-yet nonexistent market for the DVD (Digital Video Disc), Sony and
Philips have claimed that Toshiba’s design would be difficult and costly to manufacture, owing
to differences between the new design and existing CD technology.
In response to this claim, Toshiba defended the viability of their design, stating that their 0.6mm-thick DVD
requires a shorter amount of time to manufacture than the Sony-Philips version, which has a thickness of
Meanwhile, Pioneer continues work on a DVD player that will use conventional CD technology. The
system currently shows a data rate of only 3.4 Mbps, not considered fast enough for high-quality video. However,
blue laser technology (at least 5 years away from commercial distribution) could boost the data rate to an acceptable
Videonics has announced its initial public offering of stock on the Nasdaq National Market. The 2 million
shares of stock (which will trade under the symbol VDNX) hit the market at $11 per share.
Zenith has decided to stop selling its products through independent distributors. Facing the realities of the
1995 marketplace, the company severed ties with 15 distributing companies, some of which had relationships with
Zenith going back 60 years.
As recently as 15 years ago, almost all major TV and appliance brands worked through distributors. Zenith’s
decision effectively ends this "2-step selling" phase in the history of consumer electronics; the market is now
dominated by large national retail chains and buying groups that have taken the place of the independent
An increasing number of Japanese TV manufacturers have moved their production facilities overseas as a hedge
against stronger yen. Companies that have made (or plan to make) the move include JVC (increasing its
Thailand production by 25%); Pioneer (planning to establish bases in China and Mexico);
Kenwood (will expand Malaysia facilities); and Aiwa America (increasing production in UK,
China, Malaysia and Singapore).
Casio has released its least expensive LCD color TV to date, a 1.8" model using thin film transistor (TFT)
technology. The 61,380-pixel unit is currently available in Japan for $175, and will ship in the US by the middle of the year.
Do you have an educational video that you’re proud of? Submit it to the ninth annual National Educational Media
Market, which will be accepting entries until April 13, 1995 (late submissions until May 10 with a $25 late fee).
Eligible works include film, video and multimedia presentations; and yes, they will accept works in
progress, series and previously distributed works. Entry fee is $80 per entry; $40 for works already submitted to the
1995 National Educational Film and Video Festival Competition. For an entry form, contact the National
Educational Media Market, 655 Thirteenth Street, Oakland, CA 94612-1220; or call Kate Spohr at (510) 465-
No matter what your style, genre or level of expertise, the 4th annual Lucky Charm Video Awards will accept your
entry. This contest has gained a reputation for its quirky, irreverent approach; Moviemaker magazine says it "proves
that there are a lot of sickos out there with video cameras." The only guidelines are that the work be shot on video–
any length, any format. For an application, write to Lucky Charm Awards, Attn: Festival, 2319 N. 45th st., #181,
Seattle, WA 98103.
Long Island Movie Makers
1642 Wales Ave.
Baldwin, NY 11510
Quinte Videography Club
561 Victoria Ave.
Canada K8N 5MI
Seeking Group or Will Organize
P.O. Box 13073
La Jolla, CA 92039
Henry N. Perella
279 Nelson St.
Providence, RI 02908
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.
Clear It First
For videomakers who absolutely must incorporate the work of others into their productions, there’s Total Clearance,
a company that provides full clearance services for reuse of all types of media worldwide. The company offers full
international clearance services, a staff fluent in eight languages and a track record that includes such clients as
Microsoft, Oracle, Sun Microsystems, PBS and Lucasfilm.
Of course, if you expect to be able to use your favorite scene from Star Wars in a low-budget production, you’ll
probably be disappointed. But if you have the means, contact Jill Alofs at Total Clearance, P.O. Box 836, Mill
Valley, CA 94942.
The Digital Wave Breaks at CES West
Amid all the glamour, lights and Elvis impersonators, there’s another side to Las Vegas–one which routinely
calls in thousands of suits and ties for one type of annual schmoozefest or another. This January, it was the mother
of all of electronics shows–Winter CES, held in and around the Las Vegas Convention Center.
Every trade show has some sort of underlying current sparking impromptu conversations between complete
strangers; at this year’s winter CES, the buzzword was digital. Have you seen the Digital Satellite Systems?
Did you check out those Digital Audio Tape machines? How about all those new ideas for Interactive Digital
And, of course, did you see Kiki Stockhammer at the Play, Inc. booth?
There she was, showing off Play’s new Snappy! still frame digitizer, illustrating the product’s capabilities with
pictures of herself in various stages of dress and undress. As veterans of Comdex may recall, Kiki used to do this for
Newtek, who (as usual) was conspicuously absent at winter CES.
Sony, too, was the talk of the show with their impressive display of digital merchandise for the present and
future. From their new digital cordless telephones to their recordable digital MiniDisc, they helped set the tone for
many of the smaller, less affluent companies.
Of special interest to videomakers was their first semi-public unveiling of Sony’s Digital Video Disc (DVD)
system. Amid all the hearsay and rumors, actually seeing the product goes a long way toward convincing us that
such a thing actually exists.
There were several other items of interest to videomakers, not the least of which was at the Videonics booth.
Their new low-cost A/B-roll editor was there, promising unprecedented bang for the buck. (For more on this, see
this month’s Product Scene.)
A host of DTV companies were there as well, but one still wonders: why no Newtek? Sure, they don’t do CES,
but why not? The new Toaster Flyer would have fit right in with the digital buzz of the show.
The all-analog Kiki was there, though, pushing a product that runs on the PC. And if that doesn’t make you
wonder about the future of the Amiga platform, nothing will.
Broadcast-Quality "Video Palette" Brings the High End Lower
The makers of the popular MX-1 video mixer have introduced yet another product that boasts high-end features at
an affordable price. The Video Palette, an all-in-one TBC, video analyzer, processor, enhancer, special effects
generator and color corrector, will be available this summer at a suggested retail price of $899.
A product of this caliber at this price could help open the door to success for independent cable programmers and
video prosumers. But video hobbyists are also included in the target market for the Video Palette.
"We believe the Video Palette is what today’s videographers have been waiting for," says Jack Aiello, Videonics’
vice president of marketing.
For more info, call Videonics at (408) 866-8300.
Swiss Company Needs Programming
Just as the cable/satellite market is exploding in the US, so too the broadcast/satellite market is booming in many
other parts of the world.
Covisa, a company based in Switzerland, is seeking innovative programming of all sorts to help fill this niche.
Types of work they’re looking for include documentaries, nature, children’s, special interest and how-to programs. If
you’d like a chance to see your work distributed in Europe, Asia, the Far East, South America and Africa, write
Covisa USA, 3943 San Nicolas Court, Newbury Park, CA 91320; or call (800) 626-2478 ext. 6432.
Buyout Music for Cowboy Videomakers
Musi-Q Productions has announced the release of a new buyout CD of country music. Appropriately titled Hot
Country, the new CD incorporates the work of several Nashville studio musicians, including Terry Crisp, who
is currently working with Reba McEntyre, and Bruce Watkins, who has worked with Dolly Parton, Randy Travis
and Alan Jackson.
Like most buyout CDs, Hot Country includes a few longer cuts and numerous shorter cuts for versatility
in post-production sound editing. If a little down home twang is what your video needs, call Musi-Q at 305-572-
The End of the Flashing 12:00
The term "user-friendly" used to mean you didn’t need a degree to operate a given device. These days, VCRs have
become so easy to use, they’ll even set their own clocks.
Utilizing a signal broadcast by PBS stations across the country, Sony’s Auto Clock Set VCRs will go so far as to
make sure you spring ahead or fall back with daylight savings time.
Other new Sony features include adaptive picture control, which adjusts recording parameters for best
performance; auto station ID, which displays the call letters of compatible TV broadcasts (where available); and on-
screen help menus to assist the novice in troubleshooting problems in setup and operation.
The auto clock-set and auto station ID features are available through Extended Data Services, the same signal
that delivers closed-caption broadcasts for the deaf.
By Doug Polk
Teaching Your Camcorder To…
Arthur C. Matthews (1994, Self-published, 24514 Cypress Drive, Willits, CA, 95490, 120 min., 300
This is a self-training package that uses three separate booklets, a VHS tape, and two audio tapes to
help you learn about video production. The package covers a wide range of topics, including scripting,
shooting, interviewing, two-camera shoots, sound, lighting, accessories, stabilization, and editing.
The first two books contain ten lessons each, which include many references to the video and audio
tapes. The third book contains scripts, forms, and other info referred to in the lessons.
There were some problems in the shooting of the VHS tape, and the textbooks point this out. Were these
problems part of the lessons, or did the author simply not want to re-shoot? It’s unclear. If it’s not part of
the lesson, whoever shot and edited the tape should take this course and try again.
Although there’s some good stuff here for the novice, there are plenty of high quality products of this
kind on the market with lower price tags. 2
The New Age Of Video Compression
(1994, Shelburn Films, 54545 S.R. 681, Reedsville, OH, 45772, 71 minutes, $149)
Though this tape is a little on the techie side, it offers a great deal of basic data about digitally
Part one begins with a history of digital compression. This is followed by an explanation of many of the
cutting-edge ways to transmit digital TV, including video-on-demand services through phone lines. The
tape also looks at desktop video conferencing, CD-ROM production and the new "small dish" satellite
Part two begins with a simple history of MPEG, followed by a complete run-down of how MPEG
works. You may need to dust off your degree to follow all of this, but you’ll be an MPEG master if you
This well-made tape won’t teach you about JPEG, the digital compression scheme often used in desktop
video editing. But it does offer some good insights into the future of video on the information highway.
The price is steep, but not beyond the budgets of video, business or educational libraries.
Creating Videos For School Use
William J. Valmont (1994, Simon & Schuster Co., Needham Heights, MA, 02194, 243 pps,
Video is a powerful tool for learning, and many teachers either make their own tapes to show in the
classroom or involve their students in video projects. This book is for those teachers who would like to use
video as a learning tool, as well as for those who currently make video for their classes and could use some
The first few chapters delve into the reasons why educators should use video in the classroom, both as a
passive teaching device and as an active project for students. Following these are chapters on equipment,
shooting techniques, special effects, editing, and scriptwriting. Appendices in the back of the book offer
useful production forms such as talent releases, story boards and flow sheets.
I was a little surprised by the book’s complete lack of photographs and only minimal use of graphics to
explain the more difficult concepts. In many of these cases, a good visual breakdown of the subject would
have been worth the proverbial thousand words.
Nonetheless, this book should prove useful to teachers, scoutmasters, camp counselors or any other
leaders of bright young minds willing to learn. 3
-by Doug Polk