Viewfinder: A Peek at the Future

I recently attended the latest CEATEC trade show in Japan. The acronym stands for Combined Exhibition of Advanced Technologies-Providing Image, Information and Communications. The show is similar to the Consumer Electronics Show (CES) held in Las Vegas. Many of the products featured at CEATEC are marketed initially in Japan and then, many months later (if ever), these same products arrive on the market in the USA. The result is kind of a sneak peek at things to come.

The phrase "ubiquitous network" was prevalent at the event and describes a network that consumer electronics users can access from their mobile phone, office PC, TV set or car. Today, some of us have various services available through a home network, but in the future, we’ll have access anytime, anywhere and reach anybody easily, conveniently and securely. The products surrounding the living room television might today be described as the entertainment network. In addition, of course, there is the creative network surrounding our computers.

As video creators, we might use the creative network, which allows us to make video, for people to view on the entertainment network. Today, these two networks are connected by a sneaker-net, where we create video on a PC, copy it to a videotape or DVD, and walk from our PC to our couch to watch the video on our television. Most of us distribute the video from our special-format camcorders to our friends and family with VHS videotape. More and more of us are using recordable DVDs, but next year we may be using solid-state memory cards.

The DVD battle will be unique in that the physical media is identical for all competing solutions. When users want to write-once and re-recording is not desired, DVD+R and DVD-R are ideal. DVD-RAM, DVD-RW and DVD+RW are used for applications where the user wants to read-and-rewrite. For video producers you might use DVD-R to make copies of a wedding video for distribution to the viewers of the video, but you might use DVD-RAM to store video while you are editing.

Another battle for recording media is occurring in the solid state arena. MP3 audio players, PDAs, mobile phones, digital still cameras all use flash memory cards (such as SD cards or Compact Flash) for storage. Some devices (even some camcorders) use solid-state memory to capture highly compressed video, often for the stated purpose of sending video emails. There are a number of device-dependent formats available and we expect to see capacity increase dramatically in the next few years.

The avalanche of smaller, cheaper, faster consumer electronic products is showing no signs of slowing down. It certainly is an exciting time to be a video enthusiast.

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