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Streaming Media's Gear of the Year, 2013-14

Rather than tempt you with the Next Big Thing, in this "Gear of the Year" feature we invited three contributing writers—and producers in their own right—to choose four products each, all released in the last year, that have proven themselves indispensable to professional online video production and webcasting workflows, or represent the best currently available choices in their particular category.

When I was a kid in the 1970s, one of the most popular records in my house was a 1965 LP called That Was The Year That Was by Tom Lehrer. A Harvard graduate who later taught mathematics at Harvard and MIT, Lehrer rose to modest fame in the late-’50s for his satirical songs and singing and dextrous piano-playing, eventually winning a regular gig as in-house songwriter for the BBC TV show "That Was The Week That Was" (aka TW3). A live album recorded in San Francisco, That Was The Year That Was consisted of 14 songs Lehrer had written for TW3 in 1964. These included his most topical material, offering wry commentary on nuclear proliferation, Vatican II, pollution, American militarism, and the like. Listening to this record marked my introduction to not just political satire but to irony itself (much of which I missed).

For most of my elementary school years, knowing nothing of the last decade’s British TV programming, I also misunderstood the title of the record (for reasons that seem inexplicable now), reading it as a complete sentence: “That was the year that was Tom Lehrer.” In 1965, I surmised, this guy must have been huge.

I didn’t start attending technology trade shows until three decades after Tom Lehrer’s heyday. But an equally credulous reading of the bold type at the shows I attended might have left me similarly deluded that 1995 was The Year That Was Interactive Television; 1997 was The Year That Was WebDVD; 1999 was The Year That Was Live Streaming Everywhere; 2002 was The Year That Was Blu-ray; 2004 was The Year That Was HDV; 2008 was The Year That Was 3D Home Theater; and 2013 was The Year That Was 4K. (Probably 2014 too.)

In most of these cases, the “Year That Was” misfire wasn’t so much about technologies that would never have their day (or year) in the sun, but typical cases of the hype and excitement running a few months (or years) ahead of the reality, or some enabling technologies simply arriving ahead of others. But that’s what makes trade shows fun. Who wants to go to a video trade show like this month’s NAB to see last year’s gear, and handle products that you’ve already handled, and hear about stuff that everyone is already using?

Trade magazines (and their associated websites) are a little bit different. To serve our readers responsibly, we need to walk a fine line between foreshadowing what’s coming and explaining what works. In truth, we need to do both.

So, at the risk of ceding the cutting edge to the carnival barkers at NAB and looking retrograde by planting two feet squarely in the present, Streaming Media is proud to present a “Gear of The Year” comprised entirely of products introduced in 2013. That’s right: Rather than tempt you with the Next Big Thing that may someday knock you off your feet and render all you know obsolete, in this production-focused issue we’ve invited three contributing writers—and producers in their own right—to choose four products each that have proven themselves indispensable to professional online video production and webcasting workflows, or represent the best currently available choices in their particular category. It’s a highly subjective list, and one that’s sure to start arguments. But so be it.

This is the gear that is The Gear of the Year.
--Stephen Nathans-Kelly

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The Canon XF205 pro camcorder resembles the acclaimed XA25 consumer model introduced last year in several respects, but adds welcome features such as individual rings for iris, zoom, and focus; 2 additional channels of internal microphone recording; 1080/30P HD-SDI output in the XF205, and more. As such, the XF205 comes highly recommended as a camcorder well-suited to webcasting workflows.
The 12 products and technologies described in this article reflect what four of our writers found when they unraveled the industry developments of the past 12 months and picked Streaming Media's Gear of the Year.