Viewfinder: A Lost Opportunity

As Videomaker enters its 15th year, I remember each of the various steps that have led to the current state of affairs, where anyone, with the proper skills, can now make great video. For most of the 15 years, producing video was not so easy. This was due, primarily to the lack of easy access to video editing gear. Up until just a few years ago, most people used to edit video using two VCRs. In today’s environment, people editing video are using hard discs, whether in a computer or an editing appliance. We all know how convenient video editing is with hard discs. The instant availability of every scene and even every individual frame, the powerful titling software packages and the easy addition of perfectly timed music are just three examples of how hard discs make video editing an enjoyable experience.

In the past, video and audio was available only on linear tape. There was no easy way for two "consumer" VCRs to stay in sync or even start at the same exact time. What we really needed was some "other connection" between the two VCRs so that they could "talk" to each other. This "other connection" was available on professional VCRs called "editing protocol." The costs to add this connection to a consumer VCR was trivial, yet very few VCRs included this feature. As a result, video producers were forced to purchase a professional VCR (at nearly four times the price) or accept imprecise video edits.

Why bring this up now? Because I think that it helps explain why there seems to be a lack of loyalty to the companies that make camcorders and VCRs. Most video producers are purchasing video-editing gear from companies that do not make VCRs. These include Apple, Draco, Applied Magic, Adobe, Pinnacle and Dell, just to name a few. For years, ambitious video producers were poorly served by the VCR manufacturers. High-quality editing solutions were priced much higher than necessary, because these companies also had "professional" video divisions that offered products with much higher profit margins.

As the cost of VCRs plummeted, the price for editing VCRs did not seem to drop much. As soon as video producers saw an alternative solution (i.e. hard discs) they left quickly and decided to stop using VCRs for editing.

For all those years, not only did the VCR makers lose a chance to cultivate a loyal following, but something else was lost that we now take for granted, the expression of various opinions by way of video presentations. The rich diversity of viewpoints that we see as a result of hard disc-based editing solutions could have been much more abundant over the past 15 years rather than just over the last 15 months.

I hope I don’t come across as a grumpy old geezer complaining about the past. I am really an overjoyed, middle-aged guy who is in awe over the wonderful things that hard disc-based editing gear has done for video production, taking a moment to reflect on a missed opportunity.

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