At the end of the month, Avid Technology Inc of Tewkesbury, Massachusetts begins shipping three products that may make videotape in news-gathering a thing of the past. Until now off-line editing had been something of a half-way house; pictures and sounds were digitised from videotape into a disk file, but this was not of suitably high quality for broadcast. Instead the files are used by editors to select and piece together the video and audio segments quickly. Then once the editors had done their work, all the edit points were saved to disk and slotted into the tape machines, which followed the instructions to produce a finished tape-based programme. Thus the editors were able to carry out their work without all the very tiresome spooling around long video tapes; instead they could instantly jump to the requisite part of the file. All that will begin to change with the release of the new Media Recorder, NewsCutter and AirPlay machines, all of which, once again are based on Apple Computer Inc’s Quadra, and were developed with advice from the British Broadcasting Corp and Cable News Network. Media Recorder, costing a little under $30,000, sits at the beginning of the chain, taking video and sound input and recording it digitally on disk, rather than on tape. NewsCutter, a $50,000 digital edit suite has been especially designed for news work and has been optimised to work with these disks. Finally AirPlay, which costs $109,000 enables the final disk output to be played at broadcast quality resolution. There’s some way to go before reporters are going to be humping Media Recorders around wars zones, since a Quadra is not the most portable of machine. Nonetheless Avid say that it tucks nicely into an outside broadcast vehicle. The most important breakthroughs have been in video compression – one second of broadcast airtime can be squeezed into 3Mb and up to 20 minutes worth can be held on each removable hard disk – comparable with the tape lengths used in conventional news gathering.
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