Rewind: 10 Years Ago in Videomaker

Early Videophone Attempt

Who says video streaming is a new technology? In 1987, a company named VideoPhone
offered an early method of transmitting video and audio over telephone lines.
Images were black-and-white, 128 by 128 pixels with 16 levels of grayscale.
Oh, and the frame rate? One image every 5 or 10 seconds. The system operated
with any standard video camera and an ordinary telephone line.

Boxy Camcorders Everywhere

The typical VHS-C camcorder, circa 1987, was anything but compact by today’s
standards. Looking more like lunch pails with lenses attached than serious
camcorders, models from JVC, Sharp, Minolta, Panasonic, Magnavox and Zenith
looked nearly identical. Note, however, two common features that are very
hard to find on today’s camcorders: each model shown here has both a manual
focus ring and a zoom lever. The average price for one of these VHS-C beasts
was around $1600.

The Road to Stability

In 1987 (just as in 1997), quirky video stabilization devices were everywhere.
This one looks like it attached to your elbow, shoulder, chest, torso and
thigh all at once. The theory behind this device was that if you distribute
the weight of the camcorder evenly, your hand won’t shake it–or perhaps
a properly immobilized camera operator won’t be able to shoot shaky video.
The problem with both theories is that the main cause of camera shake has
more to do with the camcorder’s small mass than the stability of your body.
Immobilizing the videographer may have other merits, but it does little
to cure camera shake.

We’ve Come A Long Way, Baby

Looking into the past is an excellent way of interpreting the present–and
predicting the future. As this ten-year-old video titler shows us, we need
only look back a few years in the world of consumer electronics to gain
a renewed appreciation for the equipment that’s available to us today. It
also gives us something to look forward to; if people willingly spent $500
a decade ago on a titler that looks like this, just think how much potential
improvement in consumer-level hardware we have to look forward to in the
next decade.

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