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What Will We See in 2003?

By John Virata
With the year 2002 finally behind us, now is a good as time as any to prognosticate on what 2003 will bring the digital media creator. So without much further ado, let's take a look at what may be for 2003.

DV Filmmaking Will Hit its Stride
For a few years now, the DV camcorder has been one of the most liberating pieces of equipment available to the digital artist. 2002 was a breakout year for DV camcorders and those who use them. Many feature films were shot on DV in 2002 from notable directors, and consumers snapped up quite a few DV camcorders as well. The ability to just plug your DV camera into your computer via FireWire and edit that video on your computer, burn it to DVD or output it back out to tape, will feed the creative minds of the next John Woo or Peter Jackson. There is no doubt that a future Academy award winning director is in a high school lab, cutting his or her teeth on DV right now. On the software front, non-linear editing software is becoming more powerful. Expect more integration with output mediums such as the Web and DVD. Has the DV camcorder hit critical mass? Well, you can now find DV tape at your local Target. If that isn't a notion of critical mass, at least its safe to say that you can get a DV tape in virtually every discount department store in America.

DVD Authoring Will Become Like that of CD Burning
Creating and burning a DVD will improve to the point that it'll be as easy as burning a CD. There is no question that DVD authoring will be the breakout app for 2003. The plethora of DV content being created combined with the market penetration of the DVD player will have virtually everyone with a DVD burning capable PC creating motion menus and chapter points on a DVD to send to Grandma Julie in New York. The only sticking point is the DVD-R/RW versus the DVD+R/RW war that is currently vying for your dollars. It would be nice to see one of these formats go away and the other become the standard, like that of CD-R/RW. This would surely lead to less confusion in the marketplace, and better compatibility with the millions of DVD players out there. It would also be nice to see the capability to burn a DVD on a PC and have it play on a Mac. That would be cool.

Digital Cameras for Every Application
Digital cameras are pushing 5 and 6 Megapixels. Imagine just a few years ago, digital cameras were outputting 640 x 480 images at 1.2 megapixels. The market is now saturated with hundreds of digital camera models to meet every budget. The 1.2 megapixel camera can now be had for less than $200. The higher end 5 megapixel cameras are around $500. And image editing software has become more user friendly and more powerful at the same time. Expect to see more digital cameras at higher resolutions at much less cost. This market is also saturated with competing storage mediums; CompactFlash, SmartMedia, Memory Stick, etc. Could we have a unified digital camera storage solution for 2003? No way that would happen, but at least the prices have come down on the storage media. Let's hope for better digital cameras with less confusing menus, and how about a single push button resolution implementer, so you can set the resolution without having to go through a series of menus to change the resolution?

Better, Stronger, Faster
Workstations now sport CPUs exceeding 3GHz. Computer systems now feature a boatload of RAM and massive hard drives, a far cry from the days when RAM and hard drives were an afterthought. The latest Hyper Threading technology from Intel holds promise to make digital media creation apps (most of which are CPU hogs), run even faster on such machines that support Intel's new technology. The current generation hard drives are spinning at speeds starting at 7200rpm, plenty fast for the latest DV editing and acquisition gear as well as image editing and multimedia applications. Graphics card vendors have gotten into the business of enhancing the user experience as well. Multi-monitor support is becoming standard right out of the box, as is the capability to mix and match between analog and digital displays. Graphics cards that support such configurations are heaven sent--not only are such pieces of equipment easy on the creative process, they are easy on the pocketbook as well because your legacy monitor doesn't necessarily have to be replaced by a digital display. You can hook up both and expand the real estate. The new year should play host to even faster machines with better integration of peripherals and technology. It would be nice to see high speed USB as well as FireWire built into the front and rear of every media workstation that ships. Some manufacturers are doing this with select models. It would be great to see all models sport such capability.

3D Companies Seed Their Future
This past year we saw 3D software companies get generous. Or was it a way to seed their future? Regardless, the year 2002 saw some of the major vendors of 3D software offer versions of their 3D animation programs for free. Call them learning editions or tools for the apprentice, these moves can be seen a way to gain more users in a very competitive field as well as to seed their future. It could be a way to grow the animation community while at the same time, hook 'em while they are new to 3D. Previously, in order to learn these tools, you had to go to a school that offers classes on the application, or be fortunate enough to work at a facility that is willing to train on the toolsets. Now, you can download versions of the latest tools and learn them at a fraction of the cost of previous methods of access to these tools. Expect more 3D companies to offer "training" versions of their tools. It is good for the community, and even better for the 3D companies.

The Comeback of the Boutique Effects House?
Will 2003 see a resurgence in the boutique effects shop? The last few years have been brutal on digital effects facilities. Not unlike the dot.com bust, in which there were hundreds of "executives" who had no business savvy in running a company, spending company money as if it grew on trees, there were likewise many "digital artists" in the effects business who had no business being in the market, let alone creating crappy looking effects. The stories are out there of companies outbidding other companies for jobs, only to realize that these interlopers were way over their head in terms of the quality shots required as well as the complexity of the shots. Oftentimes it was a competent company that stepped in and fixed the job while the interlopers took all the credit. For the most part, the bad seeds, if you will, have been weeded out, and there is a strong core of moderately staffed effects facilities that do great work. The posers in the effects world, not unlike the failed executives of the dot.com bust, have for the most part fallen by the wayside watching the world go by.

There is a lot of hope that 2003 will fare better than 2002. Let's hope that the new year brings fresh perspective on business and how it is done. Let's also hope that the sputtered economy of 2002 paved the way for a revival in 2003. Let's also pray that cool heads, killer art, and Peace prevails in the year to come.

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John Virata is senior editor of Digital Media Online. You can email him at jvirata@digitalmedianet.com
Related Keywords:digital editing, DVD authoring, 3d animation, effects facility

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