There’s a touching scene in the Minority Report where Chief John Anderton (Tom Cruise) gets stoned in his high-tech apartment and takes a visual trip down memory lane.
He doesn’t look at snapshots or read old letters. Instead, he pops a video chip in a holographic projector and watches home movies from his lost family life. The ghost like figures seem so real, so near, yet they are nothing more than memories projected into thin air.
This week, the National Association of Broadcasters (NAB) is holding its annual conference in Las Vegas, NV. If you’ve been to this show in recent years, you know that it covers just about anything that moves in the world of media. And the world of media is indeed moving closer to the hands of serious enthusiasts.
For example, Apple unveiled a new version of Final Cut Pro. Among its breakthroughs, FCP now has native 24-framesupport for Panasonic’s AG-DVX100. In short, this represents a step closer to producing film-like big screen movies on the home desktop. The Panasonic camera was a breakthrough announcement a while back and made a big splash at the Sundance Film Festival.
As Hollywood production moves into the home studio, consumer-level tools are becoming easier to use too. January’s announcement of iMovie 3, Final Cut Express, and iDVD 3 mean that motivated hobbyists can create professional-looking DVDs with a Mac and a $500 DV camcorder. But I think “can” is still the operative word here. Just because you “can” doesn’t mean that you will.
Maybe we are moving in the direction that Speilberg portrayed in the Minority Report where life-like video serves as our personal link to the past, our family history, and even our memory itself. Moving toward… maybe. But not quite there yet.
Until consumer-level DV camcorders get cheaper and better at recording life-like sound (you still have to use an external mic for quality), and until hard drives get a helluva lot bigger and cheaper too (you need a whopping 13 GBs for one hour of digital video), decent DV libraries will remain on the shelves of the serious enthusiast and not the casual user.
Cell phones are ubiquitous communications tools because everyone can use them well (manners notwithstanding). Digital still cameras are becoming more popular because the prices have dropped and people realize that they can take better pictures with them than with their film counterparts.
But for the moment, good digital video still requires a modest equipment investment and some technical savvy. I want DV to be easier because I think it’s a valuable communication tool, historical recorder, and lots of fun. I want to see the day when we use video to record our lives the way our grandparents wrote letters and told stories — not instead of the other media, but in addition to.
I’m working on a pocket guide right now to help make shooting video as easy as possible. But the tools still need to improve for the average consumer. Hopefully in the next year or two, mass market video will see the same kind of progress we’ve seen recently in digital still photography. We’re getting close, and it’s exciting.
For the technically-minded, now seems like a good time to jump in. The computer tools are interesting, somewhat affordable, and produce solid results. If you’re interested, take a look at what’s happening at the NAB show in Las Vegas. It really is amazing.
Now, about those home holographic projectors…