Quick Focus

Quick Focus

The EIA (Electronics Industry Association) has developed the first-ever uniform standard for measuring a camcorder's light sensitivity. Under the new agreement, units that currently boast a 1- or 2-lux sensitivity will probably have their numbers bumped up to between 5 and 7 lux. This agreement, which should affect marketing decisions for 1996-model camcorders, will mark the end of a 2 1/2-year effort to standardize lux ratings.

Truevision has begun shipping a Mac PCI version of the popular Targa 2000 video digitizer card. The new Targa 2000 PCI will include all of the functionality of its NuBus counterpart, including up to 700 percent acceleration of some Adobe Premiere transitions, NTSC and PAL (European) video compatibility, support for 24-bit monitors up to 1,152x870 pixels, 16-bit audio I/O, and hardware motion- JPEG compression and decompression.

"I fully expect the PCI system will surpass the NuBus in throughput over time as we tune it to take advantage of the extra bandwidth," said Louis Doctor, president of Truevision.

Video dialtone (VDT) programmer FutureVision has announced plans to cooperate with Internet service provider XE.Com Inc. to offer video programming over the Net. FutureVision president Mark Lafferty said that his company intends to "fuel the convergence of full-motion video, audio, text and graphics" on personal computers.

Umax Technologies is now shipping the Maxmedia TV mini, a pocket-sized television scan converter for IBM PC-compatible systems. The VGA-to-television converter measures 5-by-1.75-by-1.5 inches, and weighs less than half of a pound. The unit, which requires no external power supply, plugs directly into a host computer VGA card. The Maxmedia TV mini supports resolutions of up to 640x480 pixels for NTSC, and 800x600 pixels for PAL. Suggested retail price: $179.

With the rapid convergence of computers and consumer electronics, there's a real need for a high-speed, low-cost method of transferring large amounts of digital information between pieces of equipment. At present, it seems that the multimedia pathway of the near future will be serial protocol IEEE 1394--called "FireWire" by Apple computers. According to Apple's New Media Senior Business Development Manager Jonathan Zar, the FireWire will become "the RCA jack of the '90s and the next century."

The first products to make use of the FireWire are Sony's two DV camcorders, the DCR- VX1000 and the DCR-VX700. In 1996, we can expect to see a lot more of the IEEE 1394 serial bus, from CD players, VCRs and digital TVs sets to personal digital assistants and video digitizing hardware.

NEC recently developed the world's first video player with no moving parts. The pocket-sized device uses flash memory (which retains data even when you remove power) and MPEG-1 encoding to provide "VCR- quality color images and CD-quality sound." Currently, the unit will only store four minutes of video, but an NEC spokesman said that in five years, the price of flash memory will come down enough to allow one hour of playback time.

Entry Deadlines
Southern Illinois University at Carbondale will be hosting the 17th annual Big Muddy Film Festival from February 25 through March 5, 1996. The festival welcomes entries in animation, documentary, experimental or narrative categories. If you've produced a video of film that doesn't fit these categories, don't worry. The festival welcomes all works. The entry deadline is February 2, 1996. Accepted video formats include 16mm, 1/2-inch VHS and 3/4-inch video. For an application, write to: Big Muddy Film Festival, Dept. of Cinema &amp Photography, Mailcode 6610, Southern Illinois University at Carbondale, Carbondale, IL 62901-6610; or call (618) 453-1482.

In its 19th year, the Hometown Video Festival is one of the nation's oldest and largest video competitions. Hometown accepts video programs that are produced by or for public, educational and government access facilities and by local departments of cable systems. This year's competition consists of more than 100 categories, including four "overall excellence" categories which honor public, educational and government access facilities and cable systems. All entries must be postmarked no later than March 1, 1996. The only videotape formats allowed for entry are 1/2-inch VHS (standard "SP" speed only) and 3/4-inch. For an entry form, write to Hometown Video Festival, 666 11th Street N.W., Suite 806, Washington, DC 20001- 4542; or call (202) 393-2650.

DV Update
Three new digital videocassette (DV) machines are now available in the Japanese market: JVC's ultra-compact GR-DV1, which is about a third the size of other compact camcorders and looks like it came straight out of a James Bond film; Matsushita's NV-DR1, which boasts a 4-inch LCD monitor; and Sharp's Digital ViewCam, which includes a way to capture and manipulate DV images with a personal computer.

Features of the JVC "Mini DV" camcorder include a single 570,000-pixel LCD and a number of special effects (including digital zoom) that will be available on playback. The Matsushita DV model will offer an optional modem and video printer package for reproduction and transmission of digital stills.

Sharp's digital ViewCam is a 3-chip unit with 5-inch LCD monitor and personal computer interface. The interface, called the "system expansion terminal," will allow users to "cut, paste, manipulate and edit documents using ViewCam images." Suggested Japanese retail price puts the unit at around $3500.

The manufactures have not as yet announced plans to release these products in the States, but if current trends continue, they'll be on our store shelves within a few months of the Japanese release.

Color Viewfinder Trends
Consumer camcorders have grown quite a number of new features in the past few years. Among these, perhaps none has become so prevalent as the color viewfinder.

As the chart shows, the number of camcorders with color viewfinders continues to grow steadily, though not as rapidly now as in earlier years. This indicates that even though professionals prefer the sharpness and clarity of a monochrome viewfinder, a large number of consumers prefer to set up their shots in color.

KinderVision: Camcorders Helping Children
At supermarkets and shopping malls, children are learning how to protect themselves with a little help from police, a fluffy bear and videotape.

In response to the kidnapping of a seven-year-old San Diegan girl in April of 1991, a group of concerned citizens, with help from law enforcement, set out to recover the abducted child.

During their search for the girl, the group conducted extensive research regarding child abduction. They discovered that no educational programs existed that taught parents and children how to avoid dangerous situations. The group members took the experience they gained, met with law enforcement officials and developed a program to prevent child abduction. Now in its fourth year, KinderVision is leading the field in the prevention of child abduction.

Using donated camcorders provided by Sharp, the company has produced an educational video that is narrated by law enforcement officers with child actors and an animated character, KindiBear.

At the conclusion of the KinderVision presentation, volunteers fingerprint and videotape the children (again, with camcorders that Sharp has donated). Parents receive the cassette and an information card to help locate their child if he or she were to become lost or missing.

KinderVision is funded solely through corporate sponsorships and is a free community service. KinderVision holds events at various locations throughout the country; venues include regional shopping centers, community festivals and major sporting events.

--Alex Karolyi

MTV News UNfiltered
If you've ever wanted to tell a particular news story on a global TV network, but lacked even the most rudimentary equipment and know-how, perhaps MTV News UNfiltered is the show for you.

Since July of 1995, MTV News has solicited viewers around the country for interesting stories. Videomakers--or even non-videomakers--can simply call (800) 296-2445 and leave a short message pitching their ideas. MTV then provides a camcorder to a few select individuals and asks them to document their story on tape; MTV then edits this footage for broadcast, and includes commentary from the show's host, MTV News correspondent Alison Stewart.

Show topics have varied from the world's largest convention of bike messengers to a teenager's highly personal account of a friend's suicide. But however much they might differ, the stories all have one thing in common: a fresh perspective, brought to the screen by people who don't look into a viewfinder for a living.


The Video Producer's Marketing Guide
Mitch Lang (1994, Columbia Video Services, P.O. Box 86891, Portland, OR 97286-0891, 82 pp., $37)

Whether you want to break into corporate video or you already have an established production business, this book is full of creative marketing ideas to help you increase your client base. Video producers are constantly stepping on each other in the tough competition for corporate production dollars and the best way to differentiate oneself is with clever promotion and marketing techniques. This book teaches marketing basics and advanced concepts tailored specifically to the corporate and industrial video production business owner.

Written by an experienced producer in a conversational, easy-to-read style, the book's coverage of marketing basics is a useful review even for experienced videomakers. Lang supports his theory of client- centered marketing by analyzing both good and bad examples. Chapters on how to design and produce low-cost marketing materials, direct mail and Yellow Pages ads include sample ads and sales letters.

The final chapter on how to write a project proposal is a little weak but the majority of The Video Producer's Marketing Guide contains good, sound marketing advice. If you want to get all the clients you can handle, then this book will certainly get you started. 5

--Karen Mele Director

Producing and Directing the Short Film and Video
Peter W. Rea and David K. Irving (1995, Focal Press, 313 Washington St., Newton, MA 02158-1626; 325 pp, $35)

For those interested in dramatic film and videomaking, Rea and Irving's book provides a well-ordered collection of industry insights, gleaned from the actual experiences of award-winning producers and directors.

The book proceeds chronologically, walking the reader step by step through three complete projects. Interspersed throughout this structure are a series of useful quotations from the producer/directors of these award-winning shorts, providing plenty of real-world examples of the film/videomaking process.

The only problem with this book is that it's too much a film school textbook; though this is in fact what it aims to be, it hits the mark perhaps too directly. The recommended $22,500 budget for a thirty-minute work, for example, leaves out a wide range of would-be producers and directors who don't have access to such budgets.

Still, a thorough reading of Rea and Irving will help any potential Hitchcock on the road to success. 4

--Joe McCleskey


Mon, 01/01/1996 - 12:00am