Zoom In, Zoom Out
In the DVD (Digital Videodisc) format wars, the Sony/Philips Multimedia
CD format has acquired a powerful new ally: the mail-order PC giant
Gateway 2000. A recent press release stated that Gateway 2000 was the
first manufacturer of home computers to endorse either DVD system.
According to Ted Waitt, president of Gateway 2000, The Philips-Sony
multimedia CD format will enhance applications like multimedia research,
interactive home entertainment, business and finance, on-line storage and
backup. For DTV videomakers, this could mean the embracement by the home
computer industry of a new type of recordable CD-ROM thats highly
video-compatible. But dont expect them soon–word is that the recordable
Sony/Philips DVDs wont be available until 1997.
According to a recent market report, 1/2-inch videotape is still (and
will continue to be) far and away the worlds leading video format. The
report predicts that the worldwide consumption of T-120 VHS videotapes
will exceed 2.4 billion this year, and remain above that number through
1999. The study also shows that pre-recorded video programming will total
1.4 billion units this year, with continued growth through 1998; new
optical disc formats are expected to have relatively little impact on VHS
pre-recorded programs through 1999.
Twenty years ago this October, Sony shipped the worlds first consumer
VCR–the $2,295 Betamax. Today, the average VCR costs nearly one-tenth as
much (about $250), and includes many features the original Betamax
machine left out: RCA-style A/V inputs, four playback heads, universal
remote, graphical menus for easy programming and a pre-set digital clock
that wont blink 12:00 continually.
Samsung has entered into an agreement with General Instruments to begin
development of a new dual-mode video decoder chip. The new chip will be
able to decode both MPEG-2 and DigiCipher-II compressed video, and will
be used in a wide range of next-generation multimedia systems, including
set-top boxes for cable and satellite television, video on demand, Video
CD players and digital videodiscs.
According to an EIA (Electronics Industries Association) report,
consumers will buy more than 3.3 million camcorders by the end of 1995.
As of May, dealers purchased 13 percent more units than in the first
quarter of 1994.
Jon Clemens, president of the new consumer electronics research firm
Sharp Laboratories of America, says digital video will be high on the
list of Sharps future priorities. Video is tied to multimedia as well as
to high-definition TV and other displays, so we will build a digital
video department, Clemens said in a recent interview. The new research
firm will engage in cooperative research with other companies, research
labs, universities and research personnel.
Even though they’ve added color viewfinders, digital circuitry, image
stabilization, digital zoom and a number of other features, Japanese
manufacturers have succeeded in reducing the yen cost of the average
camcorder exported to the U.S. more than 50% since 1990. In the same
amount of time, the dollar has dropped 47% in value against the yen.
According to officials at Sharp, half of all camcorders will have
built-in LCD monitors by the year 1997. They base their prediction on
recent advances in LCD manufacturing methods, as well as preliminary
reports of this year’s sales. Last year, 7.8% of all camcorders sold had
LCD monitors built in; Sharp officials expect that number to double this
year, and increase to 22% in 1996.
Sharp, whose ViewCam started the LCD-monitor trend a few years
ago, also predicted that total camcorder sales would steadily rise over
the next few years. They predict this year’s sales will reach 3.34 million
units, up from last years 3.22 million.
Despite calls for peace in the DVD (digital videodisc) wars, Sony
chairman Norio Ohga recently announced that his company intends to stand
behind its format. Ohga responded to the industry’s requests for a common
standard between the Sony/Philips and Toshiba/Time Warner DVD
designs, stating that the two formats should compete, leaving the final
choice to the consumer. At present, Toshiba’s SD (Super Density) design
has gathered more than a dozen supporters in the film and consumer video
industry; the Sony/Philips alliance has three.
Canon has laid the groundwork for a joint venture to manufacture and
sell compact video cameras in India. A high-ranking Canon delegation visited
New Delhi in early June for talks with Mahatta and Company, one of
India’s largest distributors of photographic products.
The domestic camera and camcorder market in India brings in about
four billion rupees yearly (about 125 million dollars). At present,
sophisticated cameras and equipment have to be imported (or smuggled)
into the country. This venture will make Canon the second foreign camera
manufacturer to set up base in India; the first was Kodak. Ricoh, Pentax,
Nikon and Leica have also made plans to set up shop in India.
In a recent television interview that aired on the Discovery Channel,
Bill Hendershot of Prime Image said that the push for High Definition
Television (HDTV) is a push in the wrong direction. According to
Hendershot, “The end user isnt demanding HDTV. Consumer products should be
driven by consumer demand, and HDTV is not.” Hendershot also claimed that
an upgrade of image quality under the current NTSC system would provide
almost as much improvement at a fraction of the cost.
RCA‘s 1995 camcorder lineup includes 11 models (up from 7 last year),
with a strong showing in the 8mm category. All 5 8mm models (with prices
ranging from $699 to $1,099) will include 24:1 digital zoom and alkaline
battery operation. In addition, 3 VHS-C units ($699-$999) include one
high-end model with a built-in video light and electronic image
stabilization. In the full-size VHS category, 3 models offer low price
($599-$799) and a wide range of features.
In a recent survey of camcorder sales in 1994, Sony led the pack with
24.25% of the world market, followed by Panasonic (15%) and
RCA (13%). These three companies have led the camcorder market in
sales for a number of years, only occasionally switching places within
the top three positions.
Covert Video Operations
For investigative reporting, private eye work or spy-versus-spy intrigue,
nothing beats the video camera as an intelligence-gathering device.
Problem is, most camcorders are too large to easily conceal. The
recorder is the hardest part of the device to hide; the camera itself can
shrink to a very small size and fit inside just about anything–from a
pair of sunglasses to a lipstick case.
But once they’ve gotten their hands on a microcamera, where do
spies and private eyes go to find a microrecorder? Sony, that’s where.
One of the most popular microrecorders for investigative use is
the Sony EVO-220, an 8mm model about the size of a Walkman. To use it,
investigators simply run a cable underneath their clothing from the
microcamera to a fanny pack that holds the recorder.
Sony also offers the EVO-220 as part of a new product called the
ZBOX-1. About the size of a paperback book, the ZBOX-1 includes both the
EVO-220 and an incident recording adapter that can tell the recorder when
to start taping–when someone enters a room, for example.
TR Manufacturing of Spring Valley, NY, is using the ZBOX-1 in its
Video Illusions systems. These systems bundle the ZBOX-1 with a
microcamera, microphone and motion sensors; the entire unit is then
disguised to look like a book or a waste basket.
Undercover videomakers can contact TR Manufacturing at (914) 425-1800.
This Is Me Missing You
James House, a rising new country music star on the Epic Nashville label,
has recorded a song (and a video) about the role of camcorders in
The song, titled “This Is Me Missing You,” tells the story of a
young enlisted man who exchanges videotapes with his wife and young son
while hes away from home. In the video, House portrays an enlisted man
who uses the Sony TRV30 Handycam Vision camcorder to create–and
instantly play back–his messages to and from his family.
“Home videos are the way people now capture and share their
memories with family and friends,” House said. “And the Handycam Vision,
with its built-in LCD monitor, let us tell this story in a moving way
that speaks directly to everyones emotions.”
Canine Video Patrol
The Essex police force in Great Britain has come up with a novel way to
sniff out criminals: strap a video camera to a German shepherd, send him
into the crime scene and watch the video from a safe distance.
The dog-cam device is simple. Consisting of a lightweight camera,
microphone, transmitter and battery pack, it sends images and sound back
to a small hand-held monitor. This allows cops to check out everything
from a crack house to a bombed building, and many other places that are
inaccessible to humans.
“No way would we put dogs in danger,” said Inspector Rod Barrett,
who introduced the devices at Essex in April. “But this could help reduce
risks to police and public.”