Counterpoint: Technophilia or Laziness? I DON’T Miss Analog Media

Yesterday Videomaker’s own Jennifer O’Rourke wrote an article professing her love of analog media. While I respect and acknowledge her many good points, I just can’t get on board. I learned to edit video using the linear tape-to-tape method, and trust me, there are no rose tinted glasses here. The thought of having to go back to the days of capturing video from tape nearly gives me an anxiety attack. Tape vs film? NTSC vs PAL? Give me a break!

Jennifer makes a great point in that compatibility issues with digital video files can be a pain, but remember that analog media formats had compatibility issues as well. Anyone who has a box of Super 8 reels can attest to this fact. Let’s say you wanted to edit video in the 1980s. You had a box of Beta tapes, a few film reels, and tons of VHS tapes. A tech savvy editor could make the Betas and VHS play nice together, but forget about those super 8 reels. If you wanted that footage, you could expect to spend a bundle sending it out to be converted to tape. Today working with two compatible video files takes a quick trip through your favorite transcoding software and you’re set.
For those unfamiliar with analog NTSC and PAL, the two are the different video formats used by the United States (NTSC) and the rest of the world (PAL). We could write a whole article on this issue alone, but the long and short of it is that NTSC uses a 4:3 aspect ratio and is 29.97 frames per second. PAL is 5:4 and 25 frames per second. Just try and plug your PAL player into a VHS recorder. No editing for you!
Multiple Generation Quality Loss
Here’s something we don’t have to deal with anymore. Every time you made a copy of a tape, the copy would be slightly lower quality than the tape it was copied from. For any video professional, making a copy of a copy was unthinkable. Today that can most closely be compared to compression. If you don’t copy a file, but rather open and re-save, you will compress a compressed file and therefore experience quality loss. You can, however, use lossless or uncompressed file types to avoid this. You’ll have bigger files, but you don’t have to worry about generational quality loss.
It’s Not All Bad
There are a few good things about analog media. When I didn’t have the greatest signal on my TV, I could still watch my favorite shows with a bit of static here and there as long as I was receiving an analog broadcast signal. My digital cable is now either a perfect picture or no picture at all. The same is true for my mobile phone. And film is pretty great too. The picture quality is still unmatched by digital images and it can be edited non-linearly. Plus, being the technophile that I am, I kind of miss all the gear, cables, and adapters that I needed to edit video. Now I just need a computer (don’t get me wrong, I love my computer).
OK. I don’t HATE analog media, I just really don’t want to have to work with it again!
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Mike Wilhelm
Mike Wilhelm
Mike is the Editor-in-Chief of Videomaker and Creator Handbook

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