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IMAG Revolution

  • When I got started in video for large shows, IMAG was a new idea. Although we had the cameras and capabilities, CRT projectors held us back for a while. But when they got brighter (near the end of their lifespan as a staging item) we began to couple them with cameras. The term IMAG hadn't been coined yet - at my first company we referred to the technique as "Video Reinforcement". At this point, most of the time IMAG was as simple as a camera hooked directly to a projector, or alternated with our other sources using simple crash switchers.
  • But the real explosion in IMAG came with the digital revolution of the 1990's. The introduction of chip cameras and high-brightness projectors made IMAG more practical and better looking. And the availability of smaller, less expensive titlers and SEGs added a lot of pseudo-broadcast look. Anybody remember the Video Toaster? Newtek can be credited with a lot of the boom in IMAG by making the necessary transitions and titling easy, portable and affordable. Even those of us who couldn't stomach the idea of risking a show to an Amiga benefited, because other products quickly came along to compete.
  • So the 90's gave us the ability to conveniently switch multiple cameras, add titling, and perform basic transition effects.
  • Now the big question: Why did we stop there?
  • I see a lot of shows, both my own and other people's. And most of it is a straight-ahead, effects switch between PowerPoint and cameras. Technicians seem to have become satisfied now that we have the availability of dependable, low-cost multisynchronous effects switchers. So we go from a stored opening logo to camera to PowerPoint to camera and back to Powerpoint, and repeat it until the closing logo.
  • Now, I'm not talking about the annual meeting that has a producer and a real budget. But most of the corporate shows I see really do fit the above description. In fact, one of the biggest things I hear is excitement about moving this same process to high definition.
  • So what? So the screens get wider, and the picture gets sharper. What are we going to DO with it? In fact, I think a lot of clients have resisted moving their shows to HD simply because, for the average show, we haven't given them a good enough reason. Most of us talk as if HDTV was an end in itself, and believe clients should take it up just because it's available.
  • So where are the compelling new applications for IMAG? What's on the horizon to create a new use of the medium, or even a new paradigm?
  • Well, there are a few that I see in the broadcast (or narrowcast) world that could create interesting shows. One of the best is object recognition software like the new interactive television channels use to allow a viewer to select an object in the show and find out more about it. This could allow for a really dynamic show where objects on stage (or off stage) are related to their web page, catalog information, etc. Sure, this software is expensive now - but just look at what has happened to non-linear editing prices and tell me it won't become available soon.
  • Another interesting idea has been put forth by Microsoft Live Labs at this year's TED (Technology, Entertainment, Design) conference. It's Photosynth, a software system for intelligently tying images and videos together by relating the contents as objects. It could have the capacity for tying the presentations and video together in such a way as to eliminate the constant transitioning between PowerPoint and video, making the whole presentation more interesting and cohesive. For a really great demo of the technology in its very early stages, take a look at www.ted.com/index.php/talks/view/id/129.
  • This is certainly not the sum of all the video technologies that are certain to hit us in the future. But the real question is: will we do more with them? We need to break out creativity from the large show, and help bring it back to ALL shows. And I think we need to do it for a great reason: if we let these meetings deteriorate to the point where there an endless parade of same-template-everywhere bullet slides, there will be lots of compelling reasons to eventually eliminate a lot of them as time-wasters. In fact, the online meeting sites like WebEx have a LOT to offer for those kinds of meetings. And, as the internet generation takes over, they're having a natural inclination to use them more, because they grew up chatting anyway. But a website can't compete with an exciting, imaginative event.
  • But have you looked at "Second Life" recently? Maybe, in the long run, they CAN compete.
  • Let's get busy.