DAVID D. THORNBURG
Video Whizzes and Musical Mavens: Don't Overlook Your Most Useful Money-Making Tool
Computer enthusiasts often find themselves putting more and more of their extra cash into improving their systems. But there are ways you can make your personal computer pay you back. Last month we explored ways to make money with your home computer, focusing on applications involving words and numbers. Of course, home computers are used for many tasks other than word processing and number crunching. This time we'll take a look at some ways to supplement your income using graphics and music applications.
If you have a flair for photography or making videos, a graphics-based computer system can complement your talents and be the basis for a fun, profitable business.
For example, you can use an Apple IIGs with the new video-overlay card to create professional special effects on home videos. Your personal computer gives you a distinct advantage over those who work only with video equipment. Using tools like Broderbund's VCR Companion, you can create titles and special effects that can be edited into videos of weddings, anniversaries, and birthdays. You'll need a spare VCR with decent editing capabilities to make truly professional programs, but if you're really devoted to your craft, you've probably already invested in good equipment.
Apple's video overlay card can mix computer graphics with traditional video to produce some spectacular effects. One of these is called chroma key. You start by creating a video in which the action takes place in front of a monochrome background. When you play back the video through the overlay card, your image will appear super-imposed on a computer graphic background. This capability opens the doors to a lot of exciting applications.
If you have a flair for the fine arts, you can sell high-quality color prints of your video creations at art fairs to supplement your income. While it's possible to get fairly decent photographs from the front of your monitor, you are much better off borrowing or renting a video printer. These special cameras perform electronic color separation of graphic images by exposing the film one color at a time from a very high-quality monitor. Once your images are on 35mm film, they can be enlarged to any size.
If you are very enterprising, you can create live pieces by digitizing an image of the customer and then performing video magic with the aid of your favorite paint program and color printer.
The availability of low-cost video digitizers and heat-transfer printe ribbons can also put you in the custom T-shirt business. Capture faces with your computer, add a message to the picture, print it, and iron the result onto a white shirt.
I've tried a variation of this idea using a Macintosh: Create a hand puppet outline onscreen. Capture the image of a child's head using MacVision. Paste this image where the puppet's head should be and print the image with a special ribbon designed for heat transfer. The parent can iron this image onto any piece of cloth and make a puppet with the child's face on it.
If your talents run to riffs and your strength is in sonatas, you can team up with MIDI-based synthesizers and your computer to become a one-person band. Whether you perform live or in a studio, there are many ways that your musical skills can bring in some money.
First, as a performing musician, you can take your place in line for club dates and parties. However, if spending your evenings at the Fern Room of the Bye-dee-Bye Motel isn't your cup of tea, here is another idea.
Many local producers of radio, video-tape, and audiotape programming need short musical segments they can use to separate portions of their programming or to help set moods. Listen to the soundtrack of any TV show to see how often this is done. They typically use libraries of prerecorded music that contain minute-long segments of many musical styles.
Unfortunately, the customer only has a choice of using these recordings unmodified or not at all. You can't do much editing once music is on a CD or tape. On the other hand, if you were to compose a variety of short selections and record them using a piece of sequencer software, the customer (who would need a MIDI rig) could play the music back with any combination of instruments, at any tempo, and in any key, Scan the professional music magazines and you'll get an idea of just how large this market is.
I offer all these only to get you started thinking of your own ideas. If you've thought about using your computer as the basis of a new part- or full-time business venture, I hope these ideas provide the spark you need to get started.
Remember, though, that your success in any business isn't determined by the technology you are using. It's purely a function of your personal skills and your dedication to making your project work.