Editing equipment is becoming smaller, less cumbersome and, in some cases, consolidated within the camcorder itself.

Have you ever noticed how video professionals seem to have a different tool for every possible step in a production? And it’s not just cameras and edit controllers. Highly specialized lenses, monitors, effects generators and audio mixers seem to be the norm, not the exception, in the pro video world. Maybe its because they have more people to operate these gadgets. For every nifty video gizmo, there are scores of highly trained people ready to make it perform magic in a production.

You probably wear more than one production hat, and perform most, if not all, of the production tasks in your videos. Wouldnt it be easier to use just one production tool to get everything done?

It looks like video manufacturers agree. As you read this, some of the biggest names in video have products on the market that can change when, where and how you edit your videos. The technologys still new, and may not be as polished as youd like, but it works. And its worth a serious look because, as with everything hi-tech, the improvements will be here faster than you expect. You can also bet that companies that dont have these products available now will have them very soon.

“Smart” Cassettes

Video manufacturers seem to release more-advanced, more- capable versions of their products every couple of years. After the original 8mm format came Hi8, which offered better picture quality and improved sound. The same was true for VHS, which led to its higher-quality cousin, S-VHS. We’ve seen a handful of edit-control protocol “standards” over the years, and additional audio tracks on many video formats. Even something as sacred as time code has been through more than one version in the last decade.

These changes are the reality of the technology race. Companies try to stay ahead of their competitors by constantly improving the current state of the art. Each improvement pushes the limit of how people use technology a notch higher. Unfortunately, it can also make last years models obsolete.

The latest leap in this ongoing pursuit of better technology is the new DV format. The DV format, with its set of standards agreed upon by a consortium of 55 companies a few years ago, provides many advantages over the tape formats weve come to know and love. Unlike Hi8 or S-VHS formats, which record analog video signals, DV camcorders record signals digitally, as groups of ones and zeros on the tape.

Because its digital, DV gives users like you the superb picture and sound quality that once belonged only to the high-end industrial and professional users. Pictures degrade much less across multiple generations, and dont suffer as much from dropouts or other tape damage.

New technological improvements dont stop with great picture and sound, however. The surge of desktop video technology and nonlinear editing tools has changed how people use videotape in general, not just how they edit. Tape used to be the focus of all video production. Everything anyone did on video or with video happened on videotape. Thats not the case anymore. Tape is still the standard for image acquisition and distribution, but the work in-between doesnt always happen on tape. Its common to see people using computers to edit videos, with the “footage” residing on hard drives instead of cassettes.

But DV camcorders still use videotape to capture images. And despite the digital enhancements, videotape in any form has one great drawback: its linear. To get from point A to point C on a tape still means going through point B. Looking for specific scenes or “takes” on a reel of raw footage becomes a chore because of all the back-and-forth shuttling required.

But there are some improvements in this area as well. Sonys consumer DV tapes have small ICs (integrated circuits) embedded into the cassette itself. This allows Sonys DV camcorders and VCRs to locate specific scenes on the tape very rapidly.

And Sony added a feature called ClipLink to their professional DVCAM cassette to help minimize shuttling and improve editing efficiency. The foundation of the ClipLink technology is a small memory chip inside each DVCAM cassette. The chip can store a MARK IN and MARK OUT point for up to 198 scenes on the cassette. In the field, a videographer using a DVCAM camcorder can mark scenes “OK” or “NG” (No Good) on the fly, as the tape rolls. When it comes time to edit, he can upload the “OK” scenes–and only those scenes–to the computers hard drive for editing. In a sense, the DVCAM cassettes are “smart” because they can tell the computer what scenes on the tape are worth keeping. That saves you from hunting through the tape to find the good clips to digitize.

All Sony DVCAM camcorders and VCRs support the ClipLink feature. In the near future, you can expect to see desktop-video software that supports the ClipLink chip as well.

Controllers Inside the Camcorder

JVC wants to take editing outside of the edit suite by putting an edit controller inside the camcorder. Their new GR-AX510U, GR-AX710U and GR-DV1 camcorders have a feature called Random Assemble Editing, or RA Editing, that turns the camcorder into a no-frills edit controller. With the RA Editing system, you can create complete edited videos with nothing but the camcorder and a JVC VCR that supports the feature. Buttons on the camcorder store the in and out points of up to eight scenes on a tape. After you choose the scenes you want to keep, connect the camcorder to a second VCR, press a button and it edits the scenes together for you. You can arrange the eight marked scenes in any order on the edited tape. You can also choose from five digital effects and 17 scene transitions to get from one edit to the next. (The special effects vary, but some include Sepia Tone, Strobe, Classic Cinema and Black and White, as well as slow-motion playback.)

JVC calls this system the Video Album Maker, and it puts a surprisingly capable edit control system into the palm of your hand. While not the most powerful system around, its perfect for quick-and-dirty editing projects, or ones for which you dont have lots of time to burn planning the edit.

Canon has developed a similar system–IR Auto Edit–that allows you to use any VCRs infrared control codes to edit your tapes. All you have to do is enter up to eight sets of in and out points, connect the camcorder’s video and audio output to the VCR, aim the back of the camcorder at the VCR, press a button on the camcorders remote control and watch while up to eight scenes are copied automatically to the destination tape. This feature is currently available in the ES900 8mm camcorder, as well as the ES3000 and ES6000 Hi8 models.

Putting Them to Work

So what will this new wave of editing technology do for you? Its really anyones guess. It looks like technology will slowly take the entire editing process outside of the typical edit suite and into the field.

As it matures, videographers will find themselves holding camcorders with features once thought only useful for editors. Youll no longer have to watch your footage a second time to find the good scenes. Youll be able to mark the scenes you like when you shoot them. When you get home, you can either have the camera create the program for you from those scenes, or transfer them into a nonlinear editing system for editing later.

Either way, it eliminates one of the least interesting parts of the process. It gets you further from the technical details and closer to the fun of telling a creative story with video.

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