I check my clock: a quarter to midnight. I look over all the machinery, webbed together by an elaborate spaghetti of cables, glance at the screen, take a breath, and hit the return key. Nothing to do now but go to sleep. I'll see how it all comes out in the morning.
The year is 1995. A friend and I are working on a project to create our own set of training videotapes. A consulting gig has just earned me the whopping sum of $15,000, the entire amount which I have sunk into a truckload of new video equipment that should allow me to master and rough-edit our videotapes and then digitize the footage so I can run it through sophisticated video-editing software on my computer, a dauntingly huge task...
The world as we knew it in 1995 was not a digital world. Cell phones (those paltry few that existed) were all analog. Cameras (at least, consumer-affordable cameras) all shot on film. Ditto video cameras. Because of this, if you wanted to manipulate video in a software program, like Adobe Premier or CoSA's After Effects (the holy grail of desktop video-editing), you first had to take your raw tape footage, which was all analog, and turn it into digital video, a process called rendering. Sort of like scanning a photograph—only way, way more data-intensive.
Which is exactly what I was doing that night in my home office–turned video-processing lab. My machines chewed on that data all night long, and when I got up for breakfast—mirabile dictu!—it had nearly finished rendering my footage.
How much footage? About thirty seconds' worth. And it had taken eight hours. Hey, just two years earlier, rendering one scene of the T. Rex in Jurassic Park, one of the first tentpole movies to use dinosaur-sized digital effects, had taken Spielberg's massive computers six hours per frame. And film uses twenty-four frames per second. (Render those numbers!)
With my $15,000 set-up, digitizing five minutes' worth of my far more humble talking-head video would take me eighty hours, or ten full overnights.
You know how long it takes today to create five minutes of digital video? Five minutes. In other words, no time at all: it's all already digital as you shoot. Total cost of the equipment needed? Hint: it's less than $15,000. In fact, it costs zero: all the equipment you need is already built into your laptop—built into your phone.
Upon discovering the principle of leverage, Archimedes said, "Give me a place to stand, and I can move the world." Digital video is one seriously big lever.
Go move the world.
JOHN DAVID MANN is Consulting Editor of Networking Times.