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Video in Educational Research

The Near Future

 The Digitial Revolution

Two years ago when Jermey Roschelle and I began to prepare these materials for educational researchers the new digital camcorders had just hit the market. Even though I had only seen one of them, we recommended them to any new new researcher about to become a video purchaser. Two years later, more units have been developed and they are each more and more wonderful at accomplishing the work that we need. If you already have Hi8 or VHS or BetaCam, you will eventually switch to digital, the only question is when. The place to start is with one of the digital online editing systems. 

As to camcorders,  Sony,  Panasonic and JVS have  released new units. I am very impressed with the new Sony's. All of these CamCorders record a fully digital signal on tape; copies are as clean as original tapes. As if that were not enough, most of the cameras interface directly to computers via the new standard for external devices, FireWire. You want to be sure to get this direct interface.

 This is one of those critical points in technology where everthing makes a quantum leap in quality.  PCI based computer boards using the new FireWire connectors are included with these new cameras. Apple plans to offer FireWire as a standard connection in some models, and we list a number of inexpensive FireWire boards that you can add to your Mac. FireWire was designed as a standard replacement for the SCSI interfaces to external devices, this has not happenend yet, but you can now connect your digital camcorder directly into your PC or Mac with no loss due to conversion or multigenerations.

 It might seem odd that camcorders would show up on the market before the home recorder. The facts tell an emblematic story of this transition to digital from analog. The new digital standard is part of the development of 16:9 NTSC film release on video. Reportably there is a switch on the existent home decks for 16:9. Further the new HDTV (High Definition TV) standard will also rely upon this digital standard. In fact, the home decks exist, but their release is being withheld from U.S. consumers. The restraint comes from Hollywood. Hollywood's concern is the loss of revenues that would arrise from perfect illegal copies made from these high quality digital tapes that will eventually replace our home VHS tapes.

 In sum, these digital cameras and their FireWire interface standard will produce a sea change in the way we work with video at home and in the classroom. While we have yet to see this equipment in person, these recommendations are developed from online discussions and from written publications. Stay tuned for more!

 With the new digital recording standard one gets:

  • No generation loss with copies
  • 54 db signal to noise (compared to 45 db with Hi8 and superVHS -- each 3db is about a generation difference)
  • 500 lines of horizontal resolution (compared to 300 from VHS)
  • Audio can be either a set of very high quality signals or two sets of good fidelity signals
  • Edited versions that are as clean and clear and crisp as original tapes.
  • Simple integration into a new desktop standard for video on the Mac
  • Two cameras can be tied together for a simple but powerful editing system
  • Editing or copying down to VHS or Hi8 will produce excellent results
  • Editing or copying up to profession BetaCamSP will produce excellent results
  • Ease of movement into a whole new line of video/computer products
  • FireWire Compatibility via industry standard connector

The new units from Sony include a under $3000 unit and a three CCD unit for $4100, the DCR-VX 1000

 This unit's specifications include:

  • Digital Video Recording
  • FireWire Digital input and output via industry standard connector
  • Three 410,000 pixel CCD image sensors
  • Advanced image stabilization
  • 20X zoom lens
  • 500 lines of horizontal resolution
  • Color Viewfinder
  • 12 bit PCM Stereo Audio tracks
  • Low Light capability

New editing systems are becoming available. Sony at it's Web site has the following picture of a new digital editing system.

 This system uses two cameras aseditors and includes computer controllers and switcher/character generation equipment. However the big revolution will be complete with total computer-based desktop units. It may seem too soon to be suggesting the purchase of these brand new units. However if your needs will extend into 1996 and 1997, these are probably the cameras for you now.

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