Saturday, June 21, 2003

George Mindling Column 6-21-2003

Burning desire


Before attending a sales presentation for a PC video production system several years ago, 1 had visions of doing custom. upscale videos for home consumers. I wanted to do specially edited wedding videos and family special events. I was going to be the Steven Spielberg of home videos.

After seeing what I wanted to do was going to cost me a cool $30,000 investment for software and an Apple computer with a stacked array of hard drives, my enthusiasm vanished. I had tried different types of PC analog video capture cards and programming for output to VHS tapes as a hobby.

My first capture card set me back almost $900 and required a state-of-the-art 486 megahertz processor with 8 megabytes of memory. It was a hog that had miserable-quality output.

I tried again several years later with a Pentium with 64 megabytes of memory and a video card dedicated to video capture. Only $250 this time, but the output was still limited to VHS tapes that never played back the way I recorded them! It took many long hours to produce a short, half-screen presentation I was too embarrassed to show anyone. After attending the video workshop, I finally put it all away.

The new generation of personal computers now allows the average consumer to make nice-looking home video productions, within certain expectations. The fast computers in the 2-gigahertz operating range bring output rendering, the bane of all video productions, down to four or five minutes of PC processing time for each minute of output video.

Not nearly as fast as the television ads would like you to believe, but it beats letting your PC run all night, only to get up in the morning and find the rendering still isn't done! Don't be surprised though, if the 60-minute video you want to render still takes until the wee hours of the next morning.

Most new PCs also have a standard 256 megabytes of memory, and that will put you in the ballpark for decent video production system. The need for special audio-visual hard drives has diminished with the new high-speed, large-capacity hard drives. The best improvement in the PC video arena is the firewire (IEEE 1394) cable input from Digital Video Cameras. The old analog inputs, even USB I. I, arc just too slow for decent full-screen, full-speed video images.

Best of all, there is now an alternative to the fickle VHS tapes: DVD or the Digital Video Disk. As always, there is a hitch. There are two major competing formats for DVDs, DVD-R and DVD+R. Check out everything you ever wanted to know about DVD at: http://dvddemystified.com/dvdfaq.html

You certainly want to be able to show your award-winning production on any DVD player, even if you have to buy and install it for your parents yourself

If this all sounds like Greek, pass on spending huge sums of money on video production. If it sounds exciting, get out the old checkbook .... Again.

George Mindling © 2003

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