Viewfinder: Getting Your Video onto a DVD

The DVD player was the only consumer electronics category that showed growth last year. At least three factors fueled the rapid adoption of this new video device.

First, the quality of DVD, especially the sound quality, is far superior to VHS. Second, most video rental stores carry a wide selection of DVD titles. And third, DVD player prices have plummeted, making them quite affordable. In just a few years, we have crossed into "everyone knows someone who has one" territory. This is important to videographers, because there is now another distribution medium to choose from.

VHS videotape has been the standard video distribution format for years, since nearly every home has a VHS VCR connected to a TV. Now, there are enough DVD players in use for video producers to consider making duplicates on both VHS and DVD. The price to duplicate DVDs has dropped dramatically within the past year. The cost to duplicate 1,000 copies of a DVD is about the same as for 1,000 two-hour VHS tapes. DVD will fast become the new standard video format for distribution. But what will that mean for videographers?

Navigation menus may be the most important attributes of DVD for video producers. With VHS, the "menu" is on a VCR’s hand-held remote control. The menu choices are crude and inaccurate: Pause, Stop, Rewind, Play and Fast Forward. The viewer has little control over navigation and therefore, it is assumed that the viewer will simply play the video from the beginning to the end in "linear" fashion. Using the fast forward button to attain "random access" is out of the question. The fast forward button is imprecise and the TV screen is blank for two or three minutes while the tape is fast forwarding to another spot on the video.

Because it is disc-based, DVD is nonlinear by nature. Viewers can jump to any chapter of the video at any time. While it is not required, a menu is strongly advised to enable navigation. This one seemingly simple capacity will actually transform the entire video production experience.

Throughout our lives, we’ve become accustomed to watching videos, on TV or movie screens, as beginning-to-end stories. The linear nature of videotape was perfectly suited for this purpose.

This fundamental idea of a video being, in essence, a series of short stories is something that videographers have not pursued. The nature of their medium, VHS tape, does not lend itself to this possibility. The advent of DVD authoring will challenge all videographers to consider the idea of nonlinear not only as a means of editing, but also as a means of presentation. Creating this type of video is an entirely different endeavor. I know that you are up for this challenge. Please examine our special focus on DVD in this issue.

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