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Predictions for 2003

Personal helicopters, wristwatch editing, stealth clothing? Naah. By Charlie White
As is the custom with lots of technology columnists, it's time to dust off the old crystal ball and offer our prognostications for the new year. What will happen in the world of digital video editing? I see big things on the horizon, with the economy recovering, television commercial production on an upswing and technology getting faster, cheaper and easier-to-use. It's going to be a good year, indeed! Here are my predictions for 2003.

I don't know about you, but I can just smell an impending HDTV explosion in the air. All the signs are right: First, HDTV sets are getting cheaper all the time -- I saw a 1080i monitor advertised in last Sunday's paper for $600. Second, all the major networks are producing all their prime time dramas in HD, with many cable companies agreeing to pass through these HD signals. Third, the killer-app programming of HD, live sports, is coming up to bat, pointing toward the center-field fence with a grand-slam assurance. Fourth, tools for HD editing, however flawed and expensive, are on the edge of actually being practical, roughly comparable to NTSC "broadcast quality" digital video editing gear's usability in about 1995. Yep, I hear that techno-train a-coming, and its whistle's blowing an HDTV tune.

Speaking of HD, I predict the raising of the quality bar for DV camcorders, where a new HD-DV format will come into existence, on a limited basis. There are already rumblings about JVC's HD-DV camcorder coming soon, and I think that's just the beginning of a new product category we'll see budding in 2003. The trick will be stuffing all that HD data down the DV format's slim 25Mb/s data pipe that we've come to know and love. Could that thin DV straw be enough to figuratively suck up the comparatively basketball-sized HD, perhaps by using MPEG-2? Well, editing MPEG-2 is no piece of cake, but by the end of this year, I think we'll actually be raving about consumer-level HD DV camcorders, costing less than $2000, and editing systems that can keep up with them, all without spending more than $10K for the whole kit.

By the way, I also think HD DVD (blue laser) will come into its own in 2003, and by the time the ball drops in Times Square on January 1, 2004, all formats of recordable DVD will be as commonplace and easy to use as CD-R is now, just in time for them all to become completely obsolete, which I will explain to you in detail with my "Predictions for 2004" column, coming up 12 months from now right here on Digital Media Net.

Anyway, all this easier, more-accessible HDTV spells bad news for high-end production houses and edit boutiques, all of whom are banking on the difficulty of dealing with HD to continue their infrastructure-based business models. Things might get better for the high-enders, at least for a while, but I predict their downhill slide will continue in the long term, especially when the aforementioned HD-DV format starts to take hold in a couple of years. Nor does the continuation of this slump bode well for high end system vendors like Quantel, Discreet and parts of Avid, who will be sweating bullets when they see HD shooting and editing gear getting within the reach of John Q. Public.



What about processor speed? Well, duh, this is an easy one -- the chips will be getting faster. I think we'll see Intel processors go through another name change -- they'll be called, of course, Pentium 5, and my prediction is we'll see them hit 5GHz by the end of 2003. AMD will struggle to keep up with Intel, with some success, particularly in the 64-bit area with its new backward-compatible Hammer chip.

Another development I'm seeing for the new year: Gigantic hard disks. I think we'll be able to buy terabyte-sized drives at a reasonable price before the sun goes down on 2003.

Then we turn to Adobe, which has been sitting there letting Apple march all over it with its Final Cut Pro hipster parade. The new year will see the sleeping giant from San Jose rise up with a new version of Premiere, which will either be integrated so tightly with After Effects that the interaction between the two will be seamless, or will combine Premiere and AE into one application that will finally be able to mount a serious challenge to Final Cut Pro. I also think that, contrary to rumors of the cancellation of Premiere for Mac, Adobe will bring the battle right up into Apple's face with their honking-new FCP-killer. I do think Adobe might start thinking different(ly), too, and re-name Premiere/After Effects. Even though I think Premiere is a perfectly good name, it's picked up some lousy, consumer-y baggage along the way that I'm sure it would like to shed, pronto -- maybe it was that pathetic early iteration of Premiere for Windows, stuck at version 1.x for a few years while the Mac version went all the way past 3.0. What will Adobe's new dragon-slaying editing and compositing app be called? Maybe they'll just name it Final Cut Killer Pro.

But don't expect Apple to take this competition lying down, no sir/ma'am. No matter what Adobe does, it's not going to kill Apple's fine, fine NLE software. The new Final Cut Pro 4 will be the order of the day by mid-year, and it might be announced as soon as January's MacWorld. Don't expect it to ship for a while, though, given that it's not even in Beta testing at this writing. I expect Apple to build in 24p features, along with support for DV50. We'll hopefully see better dual-processor support in the new version, the ability to play back real time previews on an NTSC monitor, and probably more compositing features, too, courtesy of Apple's newly-acquired Shake compositing technology.

And, for all those digital video vendors who called themselves Internet companies before the big dot-flop bubble-popping party, I predict they might be considering dusting off their "streaming" hype once again before 2003 draws to a close, because on the horizon I see a resurgence of the Web -- as a video delivery medium, vehicle for commerce, and especially as a conduit for information of all kinds. Even though morons and charlatans with money-losing business "plans" ruined the Web (temporarily) for the ones touting true innovations, the underlying idea of information lubrication was a sound one. People are starting to realize this as the Web makes a slow recovery back into top-of-mind status for early adopters. By the end of the year, dot-com may not be an epithet anymore.

And finally, as DV continues to move into the mainstream, more beginning DV shooters will try to edit those 30-minute-long crib shots of their little sleeping angels, and suddenly realize they don't know how to cut video. "Hey," they'll exclaim to their yawning, nearly comatose friends, "I'm starting to realize this doesn't look like those Hollywood-produced DVDs I rent every weekend." These neophytes will be needing more training, more information to show them just how to edit and produce videos like the pros. We'll be seeing more training facilities for DV editing, and surging interest in learning about all things DV. Heck, we're seeing it already here on Digital Media Net, where everybody and his brother comes wandering onto our site at the rate of a million people per month, looking for the latest info about this fast-moving world that is digital video. One thing I can predict for sure -- even promise: We'll be here to help. Have a happy new year, everybody!

Charlie White, your humble storytellerCharlie White has been writing about new media and digital video since it was the laughingstock of the television industry. A technology journalist and columnist for the past eight years, White is also an Emmy-winning producer, video editor, broadcast industry consultant and shot-calling television director who has worked in broadcasting since 1974. Talk back -- Send Chazz a note at cwhite@digitalmedianet.com.

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