Some videographers are good equipment operators; some are good communicators. To make good video, youve got to be both.

When it comes to making video, there are two main activities involved. To make a video we must set up, operate, and adjust video equipment, and we must convey a message. The first activity–setting up, operating and adjsuting video equipment–is also known as tweaking. The second activity–conveying a message–is communicating. For those of us who travel the road of video, tweaking is the journey and communicating is the destination.

But some of us are enamored more with one than with the other. At one extreme we have video producers that invest most of their energy into tweaking. They are up to date on the latest technology and product choices, even if their gear is not. Their equipment is fine-tuned, they are very familiar with its user interface and everything works really well. These people tend to dream up excuses to use their gear, so they make videos for the sole purpose of exercising their abilities and their gear. For them, communicating a message is almost an afterthought.

At the other extreme, we have the communicators that want or need to use the video medium to convey a message, but their gear and their knowledge of it may not be up to the task. A good example of this type is a teacher. Many teachers take on the task of creating a video-production class with no background in the art of making video. Perhaps they were picked because they teach electronics, or because they teach English, or maybe just because they were willing to take on the added responsibility. Another example of this type is a parent who wants to communicate a personal message or make a documentary (a.k.a. home video) of a period in his familys life.

But to make good video, a person must be both a tweaker and a communicator. Most people fall somewhere in the middle of these extremes, and we all must keep both of these activities in mind when we are making video.

These two activities require entirely different skill sets. In fact, they call upon different parts of the brain. Developing a message through script and storyboard is a creative endeavor that calls upon the right side of the brain. Diagnosing the performance of equipment is an analytical pursuit that calls upon the left side of the brain. Most of our readers run a one-man/woman show, so they get to exercise both halves of their brain. But some video producers are lucky enough to have friends, partners or colleagues that share the responsibilities. Such collaborators will gravitate toward the skill set in which they excel.

For those of you who are a one-person operation, I encourage you to try and seek the middle ground here. I fear that some of you skew in one direction or the other. I think it is easier for the communicator lacking technical skills to recognize his shortcomings because, if his technical skills are poor, he realizes that he cannot produce a finished video, or one that is worthy of release. For those who err toward tweaking, it may be harder to see that he has any shortcomings at all. This is because he can see that he has indeed produced a video, but he may not see that he did not communicate his message well (if at all).

I suppose that making video as a hobby–or in this case, tweaking all the gear to make video–is just as valid a pastime as miniature trains, ham radio or coin collecting. But I bring up the possibility of tweakers having shortcomings in their ability to communicate a message because, in spite of that, many of them possess a very valuable set of tools and talents. I strongly encourage tweakers to volunteer their services to a non-profit organization.

For the communicator with no interest or ability in tweaking, there is a solution. This solution comes in the form of turnkey systems. Turnkey systems are so named because they operate very simply, like a lock on a door–just turn the key and you’re in. There are two new turnkey video editing products on the market. These products are video editing appliances. They need about as much tweaking as a microwave oven. Both units are random-access devices–nonlinear editors. That menas that they store video footage on a hard drive, and the user can access any portion of the footage almost instantaneously. The user interface on both products is user friendly, and the process is simple. The user transfers video from his camcorder onto the editing system, performs the editing, and then transfers his finished video from the editing system onto a video cassette in his VCR.

The first of these products is Apple’s new computer, the Performa 6400 Video Editing Edition–a Macintosh computer that also edits video. It’s a turnkey nonlinear editing system, ready to use right out of the box. The second of these products is a video editing appliance called Casablanca, made by a company called DraCo. Casablanca is not a computer; it ‘s a stand-alone turnkey nonlinear video editor. The two products differ in price and in the video quality they deliver, but they both are ready to use right out of the box. This new category of video products will surely have a dramatic impact upon anyone interested in making video. The learning curve is easy. And, unlike linear (tape-to-tape) editing systems, there is no time wasted waiting to shuttle to and from the desired video clips. And there is little or no tweaking.

The video editing appliance delivers an easy editing experience (graphical user interface and random-access editing) without the need to tweak a computer. Desktop video editing with a computer is a great concept, but it normally requires a major commitment to tweaking. Turnkey products, like your microwave oven, are pre-tweaked at the factory. These video editing appliances will enable millions of people–even the non-tweakers–to make video. Let’s hope they use them to communicate.

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