Viewfinder: 25 Years

Welcome to our 25th year anniversary issue. I have written this Viewfinder column around 300 times during the past 25 years. Many readers have sent messages thanking me for inspiring or encouraging them. There are some interesting reasons why I started this company, Videomaker, and why I write to encourage people to make video.

When I first started making video in 1975 there were many challenges, but I was always hopeful that the medium held great promise to serve society if more people were able to participate in shooting and editing video. Some challenges were technical, it was time consuming, the image quality was inferior to broadcast TV, editing with VCRs was complicated and the cost of video gear was sky-high. However, the most vexing problem was access to gear. Back then, very few people owned camcorders and editing VCRs, so you had to share equipment that was owned by a public access center or a school. Many communities had at least one facility with video gear, but getting access was problematic.

Video has become so ubiquitous today that it’s easy to forget just how powerful it can be. After all, it seems like anyone can shoot video with their mobile phone and easily upload it to the web. But look to the current situation in the Middle East, where some leaders desperately struggle to suppress video clips out of fear that they could inspire people to revolution.

In 1975, some of those who controlled video gear and facilities seemed similarly threatened by the democratization of video. While they weren’t worried about a government revolution, they were afraid of losing that exclusive control. What if some young kid like Steven Spielberg or Spike Lee were to come along and produce a fantastic video that put their own abilities to shame? Back then, many video facility managers blocked access to equipment almost as jealously as some fearful leaders in the Middle East block participation in democracy today.

We have always known that it is important to encourage beginners to believe in themselves. Though video gear is abundant today, envy in the hearts of lesser skilled producers continues to challenge newcomers.

I was excited to launch a magazine in 1986 and reach an audience of 20,000 with our first issue! We launched our web site in 1994. Back in those days, we could hardly have expected to see the day that more people would be using the Internet rather than print to get their news. We don’t know how many people were visiting www.videomaker.com in the beginning, but we do know that the largest monthly audience for Videomaker Magazine was about 92,000 in 2002. Today in 2011, the magazine reaches less than 51,000, but the largest monthly audience for our website was just shy of half a million in December. Here at Videomaker we are an encouragement machine and we’ll keep doing that for the foreseeable future!

Matthew York is Videomaker‘s Publisher/Editor.

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