The Nonlinear Video Summit: Excerpts From the Videomaker Expo Nonlinear Editing Panel

At every Videomaker Expo, representatives from the leading manufacturers of nonlinear editing equipment convene in a room with several hundred Expo attendees. Their purpose: to hash out some of the issues that have faced the nonlinear editing market in the past twelve months–issues like where the market has been, where it’s headed and what the industry can do to resolve some of the problems it’s faced in recent times.

This year, Joe McCleskey led the discussion on January 24 at the Burbank Airport Hilton. In attendance were Lloyd Fugate of Truevision, Don McDonell of Medea Corporation, Paul Streffon of DPS, Brent McKendrick of Ulead Systems, David Slone of DraCo Systems, Christian Jorgensen of Fast Electronic U.S. and Matt Douglas of Adobe Systems. Let’s listen in on the proceedings:

Joe McCleskey, Videomaker: There has been a lot of discussion lately about what exactly is "enough" resolution for home nonlinear editing. While professional customers undoubtedly will want the highest resolution they can get, some consumer nonlinear products have come out with 320×240 resolution (1/4-screen), while others provide 640×480 or greater resolution for a little more money. Where does your company stand on the issue?

Matt Douglas, Adobe: I think I know what most other members of this panel are going to say: they’re going to argue that 640×480 is what you need. I’m going to start by disagreeing. I think you need to acknowledge the large majority of folks who are starting to get interested in video, due in part to the large number of video-related applications that are becoming available on inexpensive home computers. I think that 320×240 is roughly VHS quality, and that’s fine for most applications. To state that 640×480 is necessary is going to discount a lot of the up-and-coming folks who are just getting started in video editing.

Christian Jorgensen, Fast: Matt brings out some good points. Once again, the issue is: what are you trying to achieve? If you’re interested in producing streaming video programs on the Web, 320×240 is more than adequate. One of the things that I feel from my heart is that if you’re going to edit video, you’re going to want to make sure that your video is of the highest quality possible. Today, it’s possible to get a DV camcorder and obtain broadcast-quality resolution, then edit that footage on a home computer without losing any of that resolution. I actually believe that 720×480 is the resolution that a lot of you should be paying attention to, because the investment you make today in equipment will be reaped 5-6 years down the line as the new digital format becomes more prevalent. You can always bring the quality down if you need to, but to work at the highest quality possible would be my recommendation.

Joe McCleskey, Videomaker: Just to clarify: 720×480, the resolution that Christian is discussing, is the resolution used by DV camcorders.

David Slone, DraCo: I probably would have answered this differently a couple of days ago, but after talking to so many people on the show floor, it appears to me that many of you in the audience have gone or are wanting to go DV, because it’s becoming very affordable. Looking at it that way, I think that I’d have to agree with Christian and say that 720×480 is the only way to go.

Brent McKendrick, Ulead: I think that I would agree with that as well. Full-motion video in the DV format is 720×480, and 640×480 is certainly here already. With the price point dropping so much, you can get cards that will do full-frame, full-motion video for under $300. It’s becoming very cost-effective, so those on a budget can actually get that output quality right now. DV is just a year around the corner for most people.

Paul Streffon, DPS: At DPS, all of our products are 720×480 resolution. That being said, who is your audience? If 320×240 is good enough for what you want and what your audience wants, that’s great. You’ll be able to put that much more information on your hard drive.

Don McDonell, Medea: But of course that’s not an issue anymore. [Editor’s note: Medea manufactures the VideoRaid system for digital video storage.] (The audience laughs.) Hard drive storage is becoming so affordable that everyone will benefit from better video resolution. As Brent says, the costs are coming down across the entire technology spectrum, so my advice is to get all the quality you possibly can at today’s price point. Buy now before the price goes down. (More laughter.)

Lloyd Fugate, Truevision: I think you need to differentiate between distribution resolution and editing resolution. For the Web, 320×240 is high resolution. For editing, more pixels are better than fewer, because that allows you more flexibility and allows you to do more things with the images.

Joe McCleskey, Videomaker: I’d like each of you to share your thoughts with us on the topic of square pixels vs. rectangular pixels. Let’s start at the other end with Lloyd on this one.

Lloyd Fugate, Truevision: I think that in the computer world, we have a lot of flexibility. For most situations, we can do things either way. As far as our products are concerned, we’re capable of handling both, and what it really comes down to is what’s in front of us: what kind of decks you’re working with, what kind of cameras you’re working with, and so on. The computer has more flexibility than these peripheral devices it deals with in nonlinear editing.

Don McDonell, Medea: Storage devices deal with pixels in the same way regardless of shape. It’s just digitized information, so I really don’t have a recommendation in that regard. Except that I would suggest you use a lot of pixels. (Laughter.)

Paul Streffon, DPS: Our cards also handle either square or rectangular pixels. It’s really a non-issue for us. There are some scaling issues, but it’s really not that big a deal.

Brent McKendrick, Ulead: As an editing application, our product supports both square and rectangular pixels, but we would like to see the industry moving more in the direction of the square pixels.

Joe McCleskey, Videomaker: Can you say why, Brent?

Brent McKendrick, Ulead: Primarily because in the new digital broadcasting industry, the major players are moving in that direction. We believe there will be a convergence towards square pixels in the future. By the year 2006, broadcasters will be delivering digital video that has square pixels.

David Slone, DraCo: Our product puts out 720×480, so obviously I think that’s the way you should go. I don’t know that it’s really an issue in this market. In the broadcast market, it’s probably more of a big deal, but as for what small production facilities and hobbyists do, I don’t know that it’s really an issue.

Christian Jorgensen, Fast: In one of our products, we feature the ability to show an overlay on your computer monitor as well as an output onto a video monitor. Using this system, you can actually get a live demonstration of the differences between a square pixel and a rectangular pixel.

Matt Douglas, Adobe: I have to agree that the convergence is going to be on square pixels. After Effects supports both square and non-square pixels, whereas Premiere is square-pixel based.

Joe McCleskey, Videomaker: How will the growth of the DV format influence the development of nonlinear editing systems in general, and your company’s systems in particular?

Matt Douglas, Adobe: The effect of DV is absolutely huge. Let’s take a scenario five years from now: FireWire in the motherboard of a home computer. 6 gigabyte internal hard drive, if not more. 100 megabytes of RAM, standard. All of a sudden, machines that you’re capable of buying will be machines that are capable of handling the DV format. We are betting on DV becoming the standard because our products are already capable of handling the DV codec. We’re willing to bet that Premiere and After Effects will be the editing system of choice, because they already work closely with the DV format.

Christian Jorgensen, Fast: I’ve gotta say that DV without a doubt for everyone in this audience is something that if they haven’t looked at yet, they must. The writing is on the wall. Since we’re doing a little commercial poking and prodding here, as the world’s first DV nonlinear editor manufacturer, we’d like to say that it’s just remarkable what you can achieve. Looking at DV in comparison to other technologies like Motion JPEG, you should know that if you move to DV from a Motion JPEG system today, you will effectively triple the amount of storage capacity you have available. This is something that hasn’t been addressed much since DV became available. It’s not just a tape format–it’s a compression technology as well. Also, when you’re looking at DV technology, don’t forget about where you’ve been. Don’t forget about those rooms full of tapes that you already have, and don’t forget about the ability to integrate your analog and digital source material. Be sure to select an editing system that will allow you to bring your analog material into the DV world, and keep it in the DV world.

David Slone, DraCo: The major benefits, again, for this market, are cost. Now, you can buy a DV camera for a few thousand dollars, and obviously the picture quality is beautiful. Another thing that hasn’t been mentioned is storage ability–the ability to back up digital video from the hard drive via the FireWire. The first panelist said that five years from now, we’ll have standard internal 6-gigabyte drives, but we have that now. We can have an 18-gibabyte hard drive with digital input and output right on our product. The ability for you to use digital video is growing amazingly fast. Look at the number of players that have entered the market just since last year. I look at it as a production studio owner, and the biggest thing for me is the backup capability. Being able to take my project and back it up on DV, then two years from now be able to pull it off the shelf and re-edit it, that’s a great thing.

Brent McKendrick, Ulead: DV does introduce a whole lot of ease-of-use into capturing and editing video. With our product, MediaStudio Pro, we do DV now. We’re not planning to do DV; we are DV, right now as we speak.

Paul Streffon, DPS: I would say that, keeping with the 5-year plan here, where do you want to be in 5 years? My guess is that you want to be digital, and you want to be DV. You wouldn’t want a VHS camcorder now when you could have DV. We’ve got the Spark card, and it’s been very successful. The pictures are excellent. If you haven’t seen them yet, go over to the show floor and look at them.

Don McDonell, Medea: Last year, there were about a half a million DV camcorders sold in the United States. This year, that number will jump to two and a half million. It’s an emerging technology. As a storage manufacturer, I don’t care. I deal with it all digitally anyway. I’d love to see you stay with analog because it uses more disk space. (Laughter.)

Lloyd Fugate, Truevision: As we move toward FireWire, we’ll see FireWire available on the desktop, and it will be available not only on the back of the desktop, but probably on the front of the desktop too, so you can plug your camcorder directly into your computer, without even having to change the format. It’s a coming technology with a tremendous benefit for all users.

Joe McCleskey, Videomaker: Thank you all for coming here today to discuss the state of the nonlinear editing market.

What do you think?Let us know what you’d like to hear manufacturers discuss at the next Videomaker Expo. Write to In Box, Videomaker, P.O. Box 4591, Chico CA 95927 or send e-mail to editor@videomaker.com.

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