Fast forward: desktop video lurches ahead. (Multimedia PC)
by David English
When Microsoft's Video for Windows was released, many industry pundits predicted a revolution in desktop video. A year later, most computer users aren't even aware of Video for Windows, So what happened?
Too few people are buying Video for Windows or the video input cards that let you bring video clips into your computer. There seem to, be two reasons for this. First, as originally released, the program pretty much restricted you to a stamp-sized video image (160 pixels x 120, pixels). It's hard to get excited about video images so small can barely see them. Second the actual video files take up a huge amount of space on your hard drive. Even compressed, a 30-second video clip takes up about 4MB - and that's at the 160 x 120 size and a slightly jerky 15 frames per second. So is it time to declare the revolution over, even before it begins?
Some revolutions take time and occur quietly, almost without notice. The main effect of this quiet revolution has been on CD-ROM titles. If you have a CD-ROM drive and regularly try out new titles, you probably have the drivers for Video for Windows and QuickTime for Windows without even knowing it. Many of the CD-ROM titles released in 1993 (and an larger percentage of scheduled for 1994) a video clips. When you install one of these CD-ROMs, you receive the playback drivers for the video clips, but you don't get the video capture utilities. The video input cards include the video capture utilities, so there's no longer any reason to buy the Video for Windows package.
The PC industry is making real progress in overcoming desktop video's too-small image size and too-large storage requirements. You can buy several video input cards (Creative Labs' VideoSpigot, Media Vision's Pro MovieSpectrum, and Intel's Smart Video Recorder) that let you work with 320- x 240-pixel video clips. Cards that offer the Holy Grail of full-screen video (640 x 480) are still expensive but are quickly falling in price. Sigma Designs' $449 ReelMagic card, which should be available by the time you read this, will boast full-screen playback with MPEG compression - but has no provision for recording video.
What else is needed to bring you and me into this new world of desktop video? Powerful but easy-to-use video-editing grams. The first two of what will be many such programs are Adobe Premiere (Adobe, 415-961-4400, $295) and MediaMerge (ATI Technologies, 416-882-2600, $295). Both let you combine video clips with a variety of special effects and save the result as a new video file.
Adobe Premiere 1.0 is a subset of the highly respected Adobe Premiere 3.0 for the Macintosh, which offers a larger set of professional features for a hefty $795. The Windows version supports both Video for Windows and QuickTime for Windows files, allowing you to mix the formats and save to either format program comes with over 35 image-processing filing including antialias, emboss, and sharpen edges, as well as 35 effects and transitions, including cross-dissolve, and venetian blinds,
Even though it doesn't have all the features of the Macintosh version, the Windows version is still a powerful program. The manual shows you how to insert one video image into another (for a picture within a picture), superimpose a person to the Chroma key techique used to place a TV weatherperson in front of a weather map), and even create a 360-degree video presentation (simulating a three-dimensional space with
Compared to Adobe Premiere, MediaMerge is easier to use, but that's mainly because it offers fewer features. For example, MediaMerge offers only nine transitions - though you can alter their direction, color, and duration. In its favor, MediaMerge offers a separate WAV file audio editor, an integrated text animator, and a CD-ROM full of videos, animations, sounds, photos, and backgrounds that you can use in your video productions.
With a new generation of cards that offer full-screen video and with powerful editing programs such as Adobe Premiere and MediaMerge, desktop video should finally arrive for the PC - a bit late for the revolution, but just in time for the victory celebration.