Zoom In, Zoom Out
Will there be war? Toshiba and Time Warner have arrayed their forces against the
Sony/Philips design of the DVD (Digital Video Disc); the result has been a showdown that reminds
many in the industry of the battles between VHS and Beta.
On January 24, the Toshiba/Time Warner alliance launched an offensive: a press conference, at which a
host of presidents and CEOs from Matsushita, Thomson, Pioneer, MCA, MGM/UA,
Hitachi and (of course) Toshiba and Time Warner discussed their visions of the future of home
"The format must have the potential to become the accepted worldwide standard," said Richard Kraft,
president of Matsushita corporation of America.
On a similar note, Philip Kent, president of Turner Home Entertainment, has announced that "while both
the Sony/Philips and the Toshiba/Time Warner formats have their own individual characteristics, there must
be one software standard developed and offered to consumers and retailers. We believe the Toshiba/Time
Warner technology comes closer to meeting Turner Home Entertainment’s criteria."
The main technical differences between the two DVDs are storage capacity, MPEG encoding and
playback techniques and manufacturing costs. The goal is to achieve playback quality similar to that of D-1, a
digital videotape format in use by Hollywood engineers. Because the Sony/Philips design holds only 3.7
gigabytes of data (as opposed to Toshiba/Time Warner’s 5.0 gigabytes per side on a two-sided disk), there’s a
concern that it doesn’t have the capacity to maintain D-1 quality for two hours or more. But Sony spokesman
David Kawakami claims that their encoding technology "…is so efficient that it allows us to achieve better
picture quality at lower transfer rates."
There have been rumors of high-level talks between Sony and Toshiba to establish standards that both can
live with and avert an all-out format war. If it comes to that, we should recall a lesson that the VHS/Beta wars
taught us: the better format won’t necessarily win.
A recent survey of European homes asked families which consumer electronics products, if any, they planned
to buy next. Camcorders topped the list at 11.2% of homes surveyed planning to buy one at some point in the
future, followed by CD players (9%), home computers (8.8%) and cordless phones (8.8%).
Sanyo has introduced the VM-PS12, a no-frills camcorder that will sell for one penny under $500.
One of the lowest-priced video cameras ever produced, the VM-PS12 is in line with the recent trend toward
simple point-and-shoot models.
Meanwhile, Fuji has announced that it has "no immediate plans" to introduce new camcorders in
the U.S. market. This leaves Minolta as one of the few traditional camera companies that still offer
camcorders; this year, they will offer three new VHS-C models. Look for them in next month’s buyer’s
According to USA Today, about one-fourth of U.S. households own a camcorder. Of
these, only about 10% shoot one hour or more of video per month, with 40% shooting 15-59 minutes and
50% shooting less than 15 minutes.
College students are invited to enter their best work in the country’s only touring student festival. Now in its
third year, the Annual UFVA Student Film and Video Festival offers a total of $2,500 in prizes as well as the
chance to have your work seen around the world. Entry deadline is May 31, 1995. Fee is $15. For complete
rules and entry forms, contact the festival by phone at (800) 499-UFVA; if outside the U.S., please call (215)
Get judged by the best at the Visions of U.S. video contest. Sponsored by the American Film Institute and
Sony, this year’s panel of distinguished judges includes film director Francis Ford Coppola, actor Tim Allen
of T.V.’s Home Improvement and producer Kathleen Kennedy. Winners will receive valuable Sony
gear and supplies. Entry deadline is June 15, 1995. For complete rules and entry forms, contact Visions of
U.S., care of The American Film Institute, P.O. Box 200, Hollywood, CA 90078.
Michigan Independent Videographers Association
P.O. Box 7
Bancroft, MI 48414-0007
New York Amateur Videomaker User’s Group
211 East 43rd Street
New York, NY 10017
Seeking Group or Will Organize
607 S. 56th Ave, #8
Wausau, WI 54401
6935 Wisconsin Ave, #300
Chevy Chase, MD 20815
504 Greenlee Dr.
Indianapolis, IN 46234
User Groups: let us know you’re out there. For inclusion in our listing, submit your request to
"User Groups," c/o Videomaker, P.O. Box 4591, Chico, CA 95927. Seeking a User
Group? For a list of existing user groups and/or videomakers seeking or willing to organize a group in
your area, send an S.A.S.E. to the same address.
TCI: Cable Content Shifting to the Right?
TeleCommunications Inc. (TCI), owners of over 1,000 cable systems nationwide, has been charged with
biasing its programming to favor powerful right-wing interests.
"Just look at this biased line-up," said John Schwartz, president of the Boulder, Colorado-based 90’s
Channel. "There’s National Empowerment Television, starring Newt Gingrich and the NRA; The American
Conservative Network; and two non-partisan channels, C-SPAN2 and the American Political Network. TCI
also has long carried Pat Robertson’s Family Channel, and owns part of it."
But Jedd Palmer, TCI senior vice president for programming, says Schwartz’s allegations of right-wing
bias are false. "We’ll make channel space available to anybody at FCC-prescribed rates. Our position–and I
told John Schwartz this–is that we’ll negotiate with anybody that comes to us with a 24-hour-a-day satellite
The 90’s Channel, which has been on the air since 1989, has taken a liberal stance on issues from the
Persian Gulf war to corporate pollution. The show airs on seven TCI systems and reaches about 600,000
This is the second time The 90’s Channel and TCI have come to blows. In 1992, TCI told the network it
was dropping it from all its systems; the network sued in a Colorado District Court, a move which resulted in
negotiations for their current contract.
When that contract expires in October, Schwartz expects TCI to try to dump the network again, using the
FCC’s leased access guidelines of 60 cents per subscriber to raise their monthly rates to $360,000–far more
than they can afford to pay.
If Schwarz’s allegations are true, this shift to the right could affect videomakers who hope to air their
programming on leased access cable networks.
As Bob Dylan once said: "The times, they are a-changing."
BNC: Call It What You Will
We’ve heard dozens of versions of the origins of the term BNC, but nailing down the correct one is
A story from the early 40’s states that AT& T was looking for someone to assist in the design of a new
locking connector. They enlisted the aid of one Neal Cofflin. In the end, they developed the Bayonet Neil
Cofflin, or BNC, connector.
The International Electronics Commission (IEC), which sets the technical standards for all connectors
designed and manufactured in the U.S., assures us that the B has always stood for Bayonet—
but they don’t know the meaning of NC.
Perhaps the best answer comes from King’s Electronics, long-time makers of BNC connectors. They
smugly say (with considerable backup from other manufacturers) that BNC has always stood for
Bayonet Nut Coupling.
Though we may never know the full truth, the King’s Electronics story seems most likely. If you think you
know a better version of the BNC acronym, please let us know.
Are Videomakers "Members of the Media?"
At what point does media begin and where does it end? Fritz Luensman, a non-profit freelance videomaker,
would like to know.
A skeptic by nature, Luensman records the day-to-day workings of government with his camcorder–
which often involves him in a confrontation with the powers that be.
Recently, Luensman submitted a formal written request to tape the proceedings of Judge Gregory
Peterson’s court in Eau Claire County, Wisconsin. His response: "The only people allowed cameras in the
courtroom are members of the news media. Not freelancers or members of the public–members of the news
media." The reason? Camcorders create disruption.
Luensman, wondering who exactly the "media" are, argued that even if he’s just a member of the public,
why shouldn’t the public have permission to tape court proceedings? And how would a qualified amateur
who formally requests permission be any more disruptive than a professional?
"My complaint," says Luensman, "isn’t only about not being considered a member of the media. It’s also a
constitutional question, because the press is an extension of the public’s right to know."
By Doug Polk
VCRs And Camcorders For Dummies
Gorden McComb and Andy Rathbone (1994, IDG Books Worldwide, Inc., 919 E. Hillsdale Blvd., Suite 400, Foster City, CA, 94404, 365 pages, $14.99)
This little video reference book claims to be "ideal for the mechanically impaired." Indeed, if there’s anything you don’t understand about the basic operation and uses of your VCR or camcorder, this book will take you by the hand and guide you through it. The authors don’t adopt a condescending style, but they do assume that you don’t know a lot about the subject.
The book covers, among many other things, basics about hookups, knobs and controls, clocks, programming, videotape, shooting and problem solving. To help the reader find what he or she is looking for, one or more of three icons appear alongside the text, based on whether the subject is a technical explanation, a tip, or a warning.
The final chapter is a collection of lists of tens–the ten most common mistakes and how to fix them, ten answers to the ten most common questions, etc. A few useful appendices and a glossary appear at the end of the book.
This is a great little book for the beginning videomaker. It’s easy to read and follow and the writers made a serious effort not to use technical terms. Strongly recommended for beginners. 4
Off-line Editing: An Introduction
(1993, First Light Publishing, 8536 Venice Blvd., L.A., CA, 90034, 45 min., $49.95)
Off-line editing refers to the making of all artistic decisions on working copies of your camcorder tapes. The results become a guide for editing your originals into a final master tape–the on-line edit.
This professionally-made Australian video uses 3/4-inch industrial gear with a stand-alone analog controller to illustrate the mechanics and aesthetics of editing. Subjects covered include time code, edit decision lists, logging, insert editing, assembly editing, professional techniques and troubleshooting.
One technique covered is insert editing using pre-blacked tapes. This means that you apply a control track and video black to the record deck’s tape prior to editing. If you’re using high-end S-VHS gear, you can make use of this technique, but it’s of little use to Hi8 editors.
This tape should be of interest to semi-pros. It offers very good general information about editing and many of the techniques it covers apply to all editing formats. However, considering the wealth of materials available to teach basic editing, the beginner might want to pass on this tape until later. 3
Camcorder Tricks & Special Effects
Michael Stavros (1995, Amherst Media, Inc., P.O. Box 586, Amherst, NY, 14226, 128 pages.,
Who says you need thousands of dollars and tons of whiz-bang goodies to do special effects? Okay–so maybe it does take some real dough to have a T-Rex flip the family sedan. But everyone’s got to start somewhere, and with this book, a camcorder, and some simple household materials, you’ll be doing simple special effects in no time.
This collection of forty easy tricks range from simple disappearances to illusions often used in Hollywood. Reading this book, you’ll learn how to create the illusion of fire, or make someone appear to be hanging off the side of a tall building. You’ll also learn how to change any room in your house into a number of different on-screen locations, as well as how to create a live split-screen effect.
The book begins with tips on terms, gear and shooting methods. The main body of text follows, which is broken into chapters based on the type of effect. Each trick the book covers starts with an example of its use and a list of tools and props you’ll need. Step-by-step instructions then take you through the effect using pictures and drawings where helpful.
This book is fun to read, and as the author says, it should inspire you to move on and create your own effects. Some of the effects are a bit too simple, but I’ve personally added some others to my own videomaking arsenal. To me, that makes it worth the price. 3
–by Doug Polk