A Look Back: Web Video Expo

The market for streaming media is expanding every day. Each new DSL or cable modem connection expands the audience for streaming media. At the same time, new high-quality, low-cost media creation tools appear on the market every week, bringing to budding auteurs and independent videomakers the kind of high-end production tools previously only available to well-funded video producers. Take a rapidly growing new outlet for multimedia content, add the increasingly affordable means to supply that outlet, and you have the audience for the recent Web Video and DV Expo held at the Long Beach Convention Center, October 2-6.

The technical-oriented conference was presented in conjunction with a trade show demonstrating the latest in digital video (DV) and streaming hardware and software. Classes and workshops for the novice included beginning audio and video production techniques, streaming media fundamentals, and basic business practices, while more advanced seminars examined subjects such as video databasing, advanced SMIL applications, and streaming server architectures. Many of these sessions offered invaluable information, while others led by company representatives, degenerated into thinly disguised sales pitches.

Attendees emerging from the seminars with newly acquired knowledge had only to walk to the convention floor to find the gear and applications they needed to turn their visions into realities.


New Hardware and Software

Videographers roaming the aisles paused to fondle the latest digital cameras. While Sony and Canon retain the lion's share of the "prosumer" digital video camera market, neither introduced new image acquisition products at the show. JVC offered two new digital cameras - the GY-DV700W (mini-DV; 3 - 2/3" CCDs; 4:3/16:9 switchable; $11,000) and DY-70U (D9; 3 - ½" CCDs; $11,000) - as step-ups from its successful GY-DV500U (3 - ½" CCDs; $5,000 w/lens).

Panasonic's challenger to JVC's camera is its AG-DVC200 camera (standard or mini-DV; 3 - ½" CCDs; $5,000 without lens), due out in early 2001. Panasonic targets the lower end consumer market with its AG-DVC10 (mini-DV; 3 - ¼" CCDs; 4:3/16:9 switchable; $2,500), scheduled to appear in the next few months.

Millions of consumers are already shooting video with affordable, single-CCD DV camcorders. Yet, for many, the cost of high-end non-linear editing (NLE) programs like Adobe Premiere and Final Cut Pro is prohibitive. Adamation (www.adamation.com) is addressing this market with the introduction of its new Personal Studio NLE software ($50). For now, Personal Studio is only available for the BeOS operating system with a Windows version due out next month. Personal Studio - or one of the low-priced, entry-level products offered by competitors - will likely become a valuable weapon in the arsenal of many novice video warriors. Recent releases of more robust NLEs, such as Sonic Foundry's Vegas Video (www.sonicfoundry.com) ($699), were targeted at professional video editors.


How To Make Money

No conference on web video would be complete without a seminar on how to make money with streaming media. At the conference, the seminar was titled "The Business of Webcasting." Unlike attendees at some content or business-oriented gatherings, many in the audience were motivated in large part by love of the technology and what it can create. Still, most seemed to recognize that a business model must eventually be found to support the passion for the technology and the process. On the revenue side, panelists suggested pay-per-view distance learning and pay-per-stream events targeted at specialized niche markets, as models that might be profitable in the not-too-distant future.

On the cost side, video producers in the audience acknowledged that finding people skilled in streaming technology is more of a challenge than acquiring the right hardware. At a separate workshop, "Budgets for Web Video," Scott Koslosky, VP of production at iBEAM, offered producers planning to stage live webcasts, a sobering list of potential pitfalls that novice webcasters would be well advised to avoid.


Talent Not Toys

The advent of the term "prosumer" is indicative of the reality that falling hardware and software prices have blurred the distinction between consumer and professional in the world of digital video.

The crowd at Web Video Expo saw further evidence that economies of scale notwithstanding, it is no longer necessarily the case that those with the most toys win. Rather, he or she who has the most talent and dedication - and the most inspired business model - will be most likely to succeed.

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