Viewfinder: Caught "In-between"

Talking with people at our Videomaker Workshops and Expos, I am beginning to understand that many people editing video are "in-between." This condition is also something I notice when I read messages on the Videomaker.com forum, in Usenet groups and when I talk with people on the phone. When I say "in-between," I mean the inability of many people to make equipment-buying decisions. They can’t make a decision because they are concerned whatever approach they take will be the wrong one.

These people are not very excited about embracing tape-to-tape editing solutions. They are concerned that editing with VCRs and "black boxes" (like special effects generators, audio mixers, switchers, video enhancers and so on) will soon be a thing of the past. They read that DVD will soon be capable of recording video and that camcorders can record video to miniature hard disks and they wonder if "tape-to-tape" will become obsolete. At the very least, they realize that even if they continue to use a tape-based camcorder, they will soon be expected to edit with a computer.

It makes sense, after all, with the prices falling so drastically. The prices for computer memory (RAM and disk space) seem to fall weekly. RAM makes editing faster and disk space enables computer editors to store more video for random access. The central processing unit (CPU) is also falling in price even as it becomes more powerful. Both of these factors are extremely important to anyone considering computer video editing. Another key component of computer-based editing is the digitizing card, which compresses the video so it can be stored on the computer hard drive. The prices for digitizing cards are also falling even as they are getting more powerful.

But even as these prices drop, the "in-between" people are not very excited about computer-based editing either. Perhaps the most important factor concerning the decision to pursue computer-based editing is technical know-how. Many "in-betweeners" realize that they do not possess extensive technical computer skills. They read the pages of this magazine and manufacturer literature and they believe configuring and maintaining a computer-based editing system will be a daunting task.

Being "in-between" is the wrong place to be. People who find themselves in this position should "get off the dime" and make a decision. Both tape-to-tape and computer-based solutions are very viable and time is not standing still. Their lives are passing them by and making video is a really great thing to do. Tape-to-tape editing products will still be useful for making video decades from now. Computer-based editing may be more challenging, but it is achievable with a modest technical commitment.

The manufacturers of video equipment need to pay particular attention to this category of consumer, however. Many people in this "in-between" category don’t read this magazine. They are not professionals or hobbyists. Making video is not very important to them. If achieving the goal of "communicating" or "expressing themselves" through video is too challenging, they will simply achieve that goal through other media. They will turn to or stick with still photography, paper and ink, slide shows, computer-generated imaging or Web pages. Those people even less committed to explicit communication will choose to "express" themselves with watercolor painting, clay or origami. Others might even prefer to play golf or a video game.

The manufacturers in this industry must make editing easy enough for this class of "lightly committed" people to become involved. Our society is in the middle of an information revolution. Communicating with moving images and sound is the richest medium of all. Our culture and society need the creation of video to be easy enough that an average person will consider pursuing it.

I am certain that most of the manufacturers understand this and are hopefully working on developing products that achieve this goal. There are a few things video manufacturers need to pay close attention to.

  • Satisfied customers are the lifeblood of this endeavor. Do not disappoint them by not meeting the date that you claim your product will be available for purchase.
  • Do not ship products that are incomplete, thereby using your customers as guinea pigs to test your not-quite-ready products.
  • Educate your customers in every way possible, including through magazine advertising, Expo sponsorships, seminars, effectively trained retail sales people and excellent telephone support.
  • For those people manufacturing computer editing components, you should work with bundlers, PC makers or whomever so that it is reasonably easy to purchase a PC with all of the editing components pre-installed.
  • Devote more resources toward market research on non-customers; that is, those people who aren’t buying your products, but would, if you designed them differently.
  • Devote more resources to research and development.

I predict that this "in-between" condition will be over very soon and when it is, millions and millions of people will be making video. Until then, keep your wits together and make your videos the best they can be with what you already have.

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