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APAR's WORKING WEEKEND: Where Have You Gone, Nam June Paik?

23 Feb, 2001 By: Bruce Apar

Las Vegas -- DVD has arrived. At McCarran Airport in Las Vegas, I was impressed to see a display with 10 facings of MGM DVDs prominently placed at the entrance to the omnipresent W.H. Smith sundries shops. There were The Usual Suspects, as well as James Bond, When Harry Met Sally, plus destinations from Fargo to (Escape From) New York, which is what some visitors in Vegas no doubt were doing. I was amazed to not find the one MGM title ideal for this venue: Leaving Las Vegas.

Kudos to MGM for a smart move. DVDs are both cheap and compact enough to buy on impulse, then easily stuff in a carry-on bag just before boarding a plane. Nice gift for a business or vacation traveler to bring home, or to watch in flight on a DVD laptop.

Six weeks after the Video Software Dealers Association convention left Vegas, I was back to check out a conference hosted by a more obscure organization: the DVD Association, or DVDA, not to be confused with DVD-A(udio). Obscurity, I quickly discovered, is in the eye of the beholder, as many of the 100 or so folks at this event were not particularly familiar with VSDA (leading one DVDA official to start spelling it out to me as “Video Store Distribution …”).

The vestpocket conference, occupying a couple or three meeting rooms at The Riviera Hotel, also was a reminder that size does not matter. Dedication and talent rule. DVDA is comprised of passionate people engaged primarily in the authoring and post production of DVD-Videos and DVD-ROMs for business, education and data storage, as well as enterainment.

No studios were present. No retailers. Just a core group of developers intent on pushing the DVD envelope way beyond the currently dominant repurposing phase epitomized by the transfer and supplementing of box-office fare, which has served the vital function of building a critical mass of DVD end-users.

Part of my DVDA education was learning that in addition to consumers, those end users increasingly include businesses and educators, in whose hands DVD is a highly effective, interactive teaching tool, and government workers, for whom DVD can store and retrieve vast volumes of data at a fraction of the space and cost of CD-ROMs. Where retailers are fired up by hit movies, catnip for developers is authoring tools like DVDIt!, to which they apply techniques of their own devising, in the process devising a new visual language.

To them falls the challenging and necessary task of creating content native to the media-rich platform that is unlike any other, including the hype-inflated Internet, although one of the prevailing topics was web-connected DVD.

Conversely, the art and craft of making DVDs is a learning curve benefitting consumers as well as professionals. At the show, I saw off-the-shelf authoring software that allows anyone with a PC to grow their own digital programs, using videotaped home movies, stills, and sounds. Compared with videotaped home movies, self-made DVDs are interactive multimedia, and are much more versatile, portable, and of higher quality.

Twenty years ago, visionary video artist Nam June Paik (pronounced “Pike”) told me that someday consumers would construct their own entertainment media by mixing images from different optical disks. Today, we have DVD-recorders poised to come on the market, videogame set-tops with DVD drives and DVD changers that can shuffle, program and play up to hundreds of discs.

The revelation I walked away with from DVDA’s Las Vegas meeting is that that day has arrived, with the technology accessible to turn Nam June Paik’s prescient prediction into a full-motion, high-definition reality.

For everyone else, a new company called LifeClips (www.lifeclips.com) converts self-recorded home videos to DVDs, replete with menu and chapter stops. It includes retailers in its distribution channel.

The digital disk is a magical mirror that reflects a world of infinite, individual possibilities. The more democracy there is to DVD distribution, the more diversity in DVD content, and the more DVD is woven into our daily existence, the better it is for all those who produce and peddle it.

Comments? Contact Bruce directly at:bapar@advanstar.com

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