It’s like a videomaker’s dream. A place designed to give you a hands-on experience with cameras, editing systems and audio gear before you buy. It is called hands-on retailing and it’s becoming a reality for the video consumer. With today’s rapidly changing technology, it is all the consumer can do to just be aware of new product lines in the stores, not to mention make intelligent purchasing decisions. It’s a dilemma. For the first-time buyer, there has always been a lack of knowledge about new equipment or software, sometimes leading to frustrating and expensive mistakes when you get a system home. Knowing your own needs is the most important factor in choosing something like editing software. After all, speed and flexibility mean different things to the hobbyist than they do to the professional.

B&H Photo and Video in New York is a forerunner in the area of hands-on retailing. Their new store in Manhattan features a consumer video department designed to let videographers compare dozens of cameras for features and applications, edit footage on a variety of systems and try out the latest in audio gear. The Video Edit showroom is a place where customers have the chance to play around (in the most professional way of course) with systems by manufacturers like Videonics, Pinnacle and Fast. In fact the Video Edit Showroom has six operational non-linear editors including gear from Avid and Media 100, ready and waiting for your examination. Bring your own footage along and after staff members demo the products you can have a go at it yourself. Using your own footage allows you to determine which programs suit your style and needs.

Store Manager Gary Eisenberger says the new 25,000- square-foot store was needed to provide customers with the level of service B&H believes in. Sales staff do not work on commission and have no incentive to sell you something you don’t need or which is outside of your budget. Eisenberger says staff never recommends a product unless the customer asks for help, so consumers can test equipment without feeling intimidated.

What if you can’t get to New York every time you want to try out equipment? Well, you might want to keep your eyes on the road in your area for the DraCo Systems’ Casabego. Would we kid you? DraCo Systems, the maker of the Casablanca nonlinear editing system has designed a demonstration vehicle that travels around the country giving demonstrations to interested consumers. According to DraCo’s National Sales Manager David Sloan, "The whole purpose of the Casabego is to meet end users in their home states as well as provide demonstrations for local dealers who want to invite their clientele." The 36-foot motorhome contains the DV Casablanca (their latest version), Panasonic monitor and a Sony VX1000 Mini DV camcorder.

While slightly different from the hands-on approach to retailing that B&H has adopted in their New York store, DraCo is taking it to the streets in the hope that more consumers will gain a clearer perspective of the new generation of video editing technology.

A videomaker’s dream? Well, if it is, it’s a dream coming true thanks to the insights of these consumer- minded establishments. Maybe this will be the beginning of a hands-on retailing trend that we can all benefit from.

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