Viewfinder: One-minute Video

The one-minute video is becoming a popular project for people making video. It is not exactly a new genre. Many early short films were originally played at arcades, in small coin-operated boxes which could not hold more than a minutes worth of footage. These were the kiosks or video arcade machines of yesteryear, and they show us that the idea of the self-contained media player is really nothing new. Theyre about the size of a typical vending machine, each having a specific storage capacity. Todays video arcade game machines and information kiosks are often digital, and their potential storage capacity (silicon chips, laser discs or hard drives) is much larger. However, the actual duration of a visit to any of these self-contained media players, old or new, is about the same. In the case of the old arcade film machines, the limiting factor was the holding vessel: you simply could not fit very many images into the machine. The images were on flip cards or on film–both of which take up lots of room. In the case of the modern video arcade game machine or the kiosk, the limiting factor is user endurance. The viewer typically stands up to use these devices while other people wait for their turns.

Whats all this got to do with making video? I am predicting a revival in the one-minute video genre for camcorder owners. As we all know, TV commercials are the touchstone of this genre. Some have risen to an art form; initiating their own awards ceremonies and even an Emmy category. But TV ads are also limited by the two factors I mentioned: the vessel and the endurance of the users.

TV spots cost lots of money to air and, as a result, they are short and to the point. Since theyre essentially interruptions, viewers are anxiously waiting to get back to the program that they tuned into. TV commercials are designed to capture attention; theyve adapted us to the short-attention video clip. But there are a few other reasons why I think the one-minute video revival is underway.

First, cost plays a major role. The holding vessel for video used to be almost exclusively a two-hour VHS tape. These are a real bargain; two hours of media for as little as $2 (less than two cents a minute) is about as cheap as moving image storage has ever been. However, in recent years there has been a trend to edit and store video on digital media (hard disks or CDs) and the cost to store digital video is far more than two cents a minute.

Second, many people are sharing their video in a digital format by using the Internet. People visiting Web sites can download video files (QuickTime, for example) and since these files are large and modems perform poorly with large files, the result is a long wait time. Also, until recently, the user would have to download the entire file before he could view the video.

In the past few years, there have been many developments in the process of downloading video and viewing it in real time over the Internet. Video streaming applications allow users to click on the Web site and begin playing video immediately–well, almost immediately; you still must wait for the other site to respond to your request. (Vivo and RealVideo are examples of video streaming software formats.)

Each time someone downloads one of these large video files, a significant burden is placed on the Internet. Due to the unique nature of the Internet, this burden actually causes a reduction in performance not only for the person seeking video, but for lots of other people as well. Consequently, many software developers and Web site owners are reluctant to allow people making video to create streaming presentations that span more than about a minute.

To add to the problem of slow delivery, the quality of most streaming video today is poor. The images are smaller than full screen, the resolution is grainy and the motion is jumpy instead of fluid. The performance is a far cry from broadcast TV or even VHS tape. It is very convenient for the creator of video to share his or her program with the entire world via the Internet. But the bottom line is that not too many viewers will be interested in watching much more than one minute of this quality of video.

I see two significant advantages in one-minute videos. They are relatively easy to create and distribute and you can inexpensively and instantly share them with the world. I am not suggesting that the creation of a typical TV commercial is easy. These have very large budgets and entire production crews. However, to the typical camcorder owner, a one-minute video is truly an achievable and comprehensible endeavor. Too often, we get bogged down trying to produce 30-minute videos, which have been the standard TV program length. Thirty-minute projects are labor- and time-intensive. As a consequence, many projects begin with great ambitions and peter out before they are complete. A typical camcorder owner can create a one-minute video in as little as an hour. A hobbyist can create a great video in the same time their fellow hobbyist devotes to a round of golf.

I am convinced that short videos are the coming rage. Look for tips and competitions in future issues.

The Videomaker Editors are dedicated to bringing you the information you need to produce and share better video.

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