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Back Next Contents Digital Video for Multimedia: Considerations for Capture, Use and Delivery

Section 5: The Future

Digital video is a rapidly changing field. We report here on some of the changes that have taken place since the beginning of the project.

PCI bus capture cards:

These are beginning to appear on the market and include FAST AV Master and MicroVideo DC20. Both offer much better performance in terms of frame size, frame rate and lower initial compression, than most ISA cards which are severely restricted by the bus bandwidth available. Additionally, the FAST card, with its on-board sound capture, can eliminate lipsync problems. Current costs (ex. VAT) are approximately £750 for the DC20 and approximately £1000 for the AV Master. Note that both are PCI bus cards and that the FAST card requires a computer that supports PCI bus masters.


New codecs for Video for Windows and Quicktime from Intel: Indeo Interactive and from Horizon: Power!Video. Indeo Interactive has many features, the most important of which is its ability to scale the quality of the video depending on the capability of the computer’s CPU. This will result in smoother motion videos during playback.

Iterated Systems, known for their fractal still image compression software and FIF file format, should be releasing Q3-Q4 1996, a fractal-based video codec ClearVideo. This codec will analyze the image for structures that are reducible to fractal equations. Claims are that it will give acceptable video at 15 frames per second with data rates in the tens of kilobytes per second (compared to the hundreds of kilobytes for standard codecs). It will use standard algorithms for the sound component.


We have already mentioned elsewhere the high capacity removable cartridge drives, but the high capacity ‘floppy’ is being resurrected again. Ultra SCSI cards are beginning to make an appearance, with transfer rates up to 40MB per second. Ultra SCSI will make moving and editing large video files a lot faster.

Built in support for multimedia

For those who use Intel processor based computers, the built-in support for multimedia-type operations in their next generation of processors should offer an all round performance increase without needing to add specialist hardware. However this will need additional support in the operating system.

The future of digital video

A new development which has already arrived; the wait for one piece of hardware to become more common; and the need for some software to be written. When the three components come together there is likely to be a huge impact on digital video production.

The component that is already here is the digital video camcorder. The camera uses a new format tape called the Digital Video Cassette (DVC). The first ‘prosumer’ cameras (from Sony and Panasonic) arrived on the market place at the end of 1995. Although much more expensive (£2.5k - £3.5k) than a standard camcorder, it offers quality comparable to Betacam. The tape format offers, amongst other things; 500 line resolution, time codes and 16 bit stereo audio (similar to DAT). Not all digital video camcorders may make full use of all DVC features. The tape format is digital, a form of MPEG2. Error correction mechanisms are built into the format meaning a much greater freedom from such defects as tape drop-out and generation loss. The Sony camcorders come equipped with Firewire (also known as P1394 or Apple’s serial SCSI). Connected to a computer with the Firewire interface, the contents of the DVC can be loaded onto hard disc without having to be digitised via a capture card. The Firewire hardware is the second link in the chain and the one that needs to become more common place.

The final link is the software for editing DVC format video. One thing we can be fairly certain of is that there are a few companies with products in development. Software codecs may well be fast enough for quarter screen playback, but hardware codecs would help the editing process. Once all this arrives we will have a video production system where the digitisation takes place just once, early on in the process at the time of shooting, and can remain in the digital domain until presented to the viewer. This should enable the quick production of high quality video, lower overall cost and without the difficulties associated with some video digitiser cards.

The future means:

But who knows……

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