Viewfinder: It's Getting Better All the Time

Editing video is getting better, easier and cheaper all the time. In the twelve years that we’ve been publishing Videomaker, it is unbelievable how much better editing has become. In the past, there were so many obstacles that made editing more technical than it should have been. As a consequence, people who edited video were required to have a high technical aptitude. Artistic or expressive people (often lacking a high technical ability) were less likely to produce video.

Years ago the camera operator was required to manually set the white balance, focus and set the iris. Today all of these settings occur automatically. Image stabilization and powerful zooming capabilities are also helpful features. When capturing video is so easy, camcorder users tend to collect lots of videotapes that ultimately need to be edited.

Years ago video editing was plagued by the infamous "glitch". This was a disturbance in the video image that lasted only a few seconds. It was enough, however, to brand the finished product "amateur". Glitches occurred at every edit point. It was ridiculous. The flying erase head was the feature that was added to camcorders and VCRs to address this problem. Nowadays, that feature is as elementary as a rewind button. Desktop video editing products never had glitches. However the early DTV devices did include "compression artifacts", that can still be seen today on some DTV systems.

Transitions were almost nonexistent back in the days before desktop video or stand-alone digital video products. A fade to black was about all you could get. Camera users had to manually close the iris to get a fade. Today, transitions like dissolves and wipes are a dime a dozen. In the old days SEGs (Special Effects Generators) accomplished dissolves and wipes through a process called "genlock" (using one video source as a reference and locking the sync of a second video source to it to synchronize the two signals). Today’s consumer effects generators use digital frame sync technology and genlock has become something only broadcasters, high-end post-production houses and people using real-time switchers have to think about. The array of transitions offered today is so wide, it staggers the imagination of anyone who tried making video in the 1980s. Some desktop video software on the market today allows users to actually create their own wipe patterns. Producers of a video on the topic of surfing can create a wipe pattern that looks like an ocean wave. Even the simplest effects generators that connect directly to a VCR have more than enough effects to satisfy the beginner. The options for transitions in editing used to be so limited that it was easy to determine the level of expertise or the "budget" of a video just by looking at the transitions. Today the choices are so extensive that this is no longer a tip-off as to the level of sophistication.

Video editing has always been time consuming. Locating a scene on a videotape requires fast forwarding and rewinding. If the tapes are long (two hours or more), the shuttling process eats up the clock. If there are many source tapes, additional time is consumed while ejecting and inserting tapes. This time-consuming process has been addressed in a few ways. Some VCRs and camcorders have faster speed shuttling that saves time. But clearly the most exciting innovation to come along is nonlinear editing. Nonlinear products employ hard disk drives in computers. The random access capabilities of the hard drive are simply fantastic for people editing video. It saves so much time that it transforms the editing process into a much more fulfilling and immediately gratifying experience. Nonlinear editing is fundamentally different from tape-to-tape editing, especially regarding the user interface. Operating a camcorder, a VCR or an edit controller is, for some, more cumbersome. For many people, nonlinear editing products are easier to work with. For a series of tips for nonlinear editing, see Nonlinear Tips and Tricks by Don Collins on page 102 of this issue.

Preparing to edit video has always been a stumbling block for would-be video producers. The process of hooking up a VCR to a camcorder is not as easy as it could be and it intimidates some non-technical people. Installing and configuring a desktop video editor is even more frightening for people. Even though nearly half of all homes have a computer, most people are uncomfortable installing computer hardware. Clearly desktop video software and peripherals need to be simpler to install, maintain and to operate. For more details on what is actually involved in setting up a computer for nonlinear editing, read Power Up Your PC by Loren Alldrin on page 84 of this issue.

Millions of people are making video today. As the process of editing video gets easier in the next few years, millions will join the ranks. It really is getting better all the time.

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