Now that another year’s worth of video products have been through the pages of Videomaker, it’s time to look back and reflect on the changes that 1999 brought to the industry. Though it’s clear that not every new video gadget we got our hands on was worth remembering, some stand out as important milestones in the continuing development of the industry. For each of those products, the editors offer the Videomaker Best Product of the Year award, in recognition of the manufacturers’ commitment to provide a quality videomaking experience for consumers.
Here is a list of the criteria Videomaker magazine uses to select a product for best product of the year:
As in the past few years, 1999 saw an increase in the availability of digital video formats. An entirely new digital format, Digital8, was released, and the number of all-digital DV-based editing solutions increased dramatically in number, while the price steadily dropped. Likewise, turnkey nonlinear editing systems – pre-configured computer-based editing platforms – had a similar upsurge in popularity and a downward trend in price. And the advent of affordable real-time nonlinear editing, which eliminates the dreaded rendering time that comes along with most computer-based nonlinear editing projects, has made a big splash in the 1999 marketplace, and hopefully will continue to do so on into 2000 and beyond.
But before we look forward to the future, let’s take a pause and look back at those products that made 1999 such a good year for home video.
|Best Mini DV Camcorder Less Than $3000|
This compact, accessible 3-chip DV camcorder is Canon’s answer to the recent trend in powerful yet affordable gear. With its 20:1 optical/100:1 digital zoom lens, Pixel Shift CCD technology, 3 shooting modes (Movie, Photo and Frame Movie), 2.5-inch LCD monitor and a design that’s reminiscent of its big brother, the XL1, Canon’s GL1 is a Mini DV winner.
|Best Mini DV Camcorder More Than $3000|
JVC Pro GY-DV500
JVC’s long awaited GY-DV500 professional camcorder puts a Mini DV tape transport/recording mechanism inside a full-blown pro camcorder body. Complete with XLR microphone inputs, audio level meters, C-mount lens system, a 3-chip imaging system and several other advanced features you’d expect to find in a camcorder that costs several times as much, the GY-DV500 is an excellent choice for the entry-level pro.
|Best Hi8 Camcorder|
Though Hi8 camcorders lost a little more ground to their Mini DV counterparts in 1999, Canon remained committed to providing a quality Hi8 solution for those who still want to shoot in this format: the ES8000. With its 22:1 optical/440:1 digital zoom, IR auto editing, NTSC or PAL playback, 3-inch LCD monitor and Flexizone AF/AE, the ES8000 has many features that have garnered Canon our best Hi8 camcorder award in the past.
|Best 8mm Camcorder|
Hobbyist videographers still like the affordability and accessibility of the 8mm camcorder format, and Sony provides them with a very nice set of features with the TRV16. Its combination of low price, 2.5-inch color SwivelScreen LCD monitor, 18:1 optical/180:1 digital zoom, NightShot infrared recording, a mike jack and headphone output provide an excellent feature set for the beginning videographer.
|Best VHS Camcorder|
RCA’s CC4392 full-sized VHS camcorder combines many point-and-shoot features with the convenience of the VHS format. Its flip-out 3-inch LCD monitor, built-in automatic light, electronic image stabilization and selection of digital effects make it a good, affordable choice for the videographer who wants a camcorder format that matchs the home VCR format.
|Best VHS-C Camcorder|
Though still-image capture capabilities are common on digital camcorders, Panasonic brings high-quality digital stills to its VHS-C line with the PV-L859. Boasting the ability to store up to 60 images in Normal resolution mode (or 15 images in Fine mode), the PV-L859 is a good choice for home videographers who also might want to purchase a digital still camera as well. Video features of the PV-L859 include 26:1 optical/300:1 digital zoom, a 4-inch color LCD monitor, electronic image stabilization and a 480,000-pixel CCD.
|Best S-VHS Editing VCR|
Whether you need a good record deck for a low-budget linear editing system, or you need a high-quality input/ouput deck for nonlinear editing, the Mitsubishi HS-U790 has got you covered. With its jog/shuttle controller, PerfecTape tape-copying technology, pre-roll and audio/video dub capabilities, the Mitsubishi HS-U790 is an excellent choice for those who need a good S-VHS home VCR for high-quality edits.
|Best Mini DV VCR|
Panasonic entered the Mini DV VCR field in 1999 with the release of the AG-DV2000, a unit that boasts a built-in edit controller, Panasonic 5-pin control and the ability to record and play back full-sized 2-hour DV tapes. Also included are front and rear mounted audio/video inputs, a jog/shuttle controller, and the ability to control Mini DV camcorders via an IEEE 1394 FireWire connection.
|Best Computer Video Hardware Less Than $1000|
Pinnacle Studio DV
The latest in Pinnacle’s easy-to-use, inexpensive Studio line of video editing products, the Studio DV includes an IEEE 1394 FireWire adapter, simple editing software aimed at the consumer, and powerful TitleDeko titling software in a package that costs less than $200. Among its many impressive features is its ability to capture a low-resolution version of an entire one-hour DV tape in only 150MB of hard drive space, which saves precious space for editing.
|Best Computer Video Hardware More Than $1000|
Matrox RT 2000
Matrox, long a player in the high-end nonlinear video editing market, released the RT 2000 in late 1999, a (relatively) low-cost DV-based video capture card that’s capable of performing real-time 3D transitions on two streams of video and one stream of titles or graphics simultaneously. The RT 2000 also includes a built-in VGA card, plus support for optimizing 3D graphics as well as animation composites.
|Best Computer-based Turnkey Nonlinear Editing System Less Than $5500|
Apple G3 with Final Cut Pro
Apple’s new blue G3 was one of the hottest products of the last year. The G3 with Apple’s Final Cut pro software was even hotter for videographers. Incorporating built-in FireWire ports, and the ever-so-cool pull down side panel for easy access to the motherboard, cards and RAM, the blue G3s were as innovative as they were fast. The QuickTime-based Final Cut Pro quickly won over the hearts and minds of many editors with its superb filters and composition.
|Best Computer-based Turnkey Nonlinear Editing System $5000 – $10,000|
Canopus Rex Rack
Canopus returns to the Videomaker Best Products awards this year with its Rex Rack turnkey nonlinear editing system, which incorporates the Canopus DV Rex audio/video capture card (winner of a 1998 Best Products award). The Rex Rack’s rack-mount design makes it easy to incorporate the unit into a professional rack-mount system, and the price-to-performance ratio it represents is very difficult to match in today’s nonlinear editing marketplace.
|Best Computer-based Turnkey Nonlinear Editing System $10,000 – $25,000|
DPS Perception RT
DPS brings real-time functionality to the professional turnkey nonlinear editing market with the Perception RT real-time bundle. Incorporating DPS’s popular Perception audio/video capture card, the DPS Perception RT includes a rackmountable breakout box with component, composite, S-video and stereo audio inputs and outputs, as well as three 9GB hard drives for audio and video storage.
|Best Turnkey Nonlinear Editing Appliance|
Applied Magic Screenplay
The second-ever product in the nonlinear editing appliance category (formerly dominated solely by the Draco Casablanca), Applied Magic’s Screenplay brings real-time functionality and the ability to import graphics and animations via CD-ROM to the table. Based on a wavelet codec, and incorporating PC-like features (such as file folders and a drag-and-drop interface), this product is well-targeted at industrial videographers and other entry-level professionals who want nonlinear editing power, but don’t want to mess with a computer.
This latest version of Adobe’s popular After Effects compositing and effects software package adds some very powerful features to an already awesome package. New features include a flowchart interface (similar to the one found on Maya and other high-end compositing software packages), 3D Z-axis buffering for working with 3D images, and a rendering engine that’s capable of using multiple computers on a LAN for parallel distributed processing.
|Best Stand-alone SEG|
Videonics MXPro DV
Already an award winner, the Videonics MXPro stand-alone special effects generator/switcher is the first-ever SEG to incorporate IEEE 1394 FireWire inputs and outputs, making it possible to retain DV quality in a live switching environment. It’s the latest in a long line of quality stand-alone linear editing products from Videonics, and an important first for the industry.
Sony DVMC-DA1 Media Converter
For those who have a FireWire-based nonlinear editing workstation, but would like to incorporate analog footage in their productions, Sony’s DVMC-DA1 Media Converter fills an important niche in the market. Its simple design and straightforward approach also provide a good way to digitally archive analog tapes onto Mini DV.
Apple iMac with iMovie
At the release of the DV iMac in late 1999, Steve Jobs proclaimed that the era of simple, affordable nonlinear editing had arrived. After reviewing the DV iMac, we concluded that he wasn’t far from the mark. With the easiest editing interface we’ve ever seen and DV quality throughout, the DV iMac should serve to inaugurate a number of beginners into the exciting field of nonlinear editing, at a price ($1499) they can afford.
|Most Innovative Technology|
The year’s most innovative consumer video technology was undoubtedly Sony’s Digital8, which incorporates the best of Hi8 and digital video technology in a single format. With Digital8, it’s possible to use a single camcorder to record and play back either analog or digital tapes – an impressive and worthy attempt by Sony to bridge the gap between the two technologies.