At 9:30am, Thursday, February 24,Apple's 'Solutions for video' event reached London. Set in the conference centre across the road from Westminster Abbey, 500 people braved the morning rush hour to reach the event before the doors opened. Apple opened the doors ten minutes late.
The Solutions for Video event was designed by Apple, with the help of partners, including LaCie, Sony, Astarte, Sorenson, Puffin Designs, Digit magazine and Media 100, to showcase the innovative technology that simplifies the video-creation process. The focus went from capturing images, editing them and applying effects to distributing the finished product by means of DVD, Webcasting or broadcast.
Digital video for broadcast? Angie Taylor, a digital-media consultant, was adamant: "Digital video can reach broadcast quality. I have had work screened on Channel Four made entirely digitally. It is broadcast quality."
From school to the newsroom The attendees came from diverse backgrounds. Students, Web designers, video and music professionals, Apple fans, dealers - a combination of hobbyists and decision-makers from key fields in this fledgling industry. Apple's strong and sustained work over the years in the British education market again bore fruit, as many attendees came from that sector.
One university lecturer remarked: "We have had fast network access for years and can run online projects easily. We have the infrastructure."
How successful was the event? One video professional, who refused to give his name, was dismissive: "We use Avid machines and Windows NT workstations. I can see how these systems could work for wannabe film-makers, but I don't think it's suitable for high-end work."
Tony Davis, Apple's broadcast and new-media sales manager disagreed: "At the high-end, all people are doing is selling a service. They'll see a solution and say, this looks good. If it works we'll co-opt it. At the end of the day they'll use whatever is appropriate to meet the customers needs."
Move to Macs Martin Presage, of Harlow College, had different needs: "I'm here because we're trying to set up a project for Internet broadcasts, I've learned a lot about the different technologies available. We're currently using PCs but the Mac is looking good. A Mac server is an option, particularly because you don't have to pay a fee per stream"
He continued, "We're working on a project, the Harlow online learning initiative HOLI). We've set up ten computer centres around Harlow so people can learn computer skills. We are looking into live streaming, so people can learn about the technology and so we can offer tuition online. People can learn at their own pace in their own time. It's been very enlightening."
Most of the wide cross-section of attendees agreed that the event had been informative. Russ Liley, a freelance graphic designer, said: "I gained a lot of information. I'm involved in desktop publishing myself, but I see video as the next big thing. Though we are not involved yet, I feel we should be, as the signs are that this technology will soon become mainstream."
Donald Kaye, Apple's manager, creative markets explained that he "hopes we've changed the minds of some of the key players through the breakout sessions."
No limits As a mark of success, an anonymous educationalist from the University of East Anglia said: "I think Final Cut Pro has been somewhat underestimated. It's easier to use than many solutions. What I think is most interesting is that the event itself is bringing the idea of video online closer to reality. We are looking at how we can best apply resources to deliver high-quality educational experiences, to create opportunity for our students - everything from remote viewing of a microscope to delivering lifelong educational opportunities. There are no limits - it's the content that counts, not the delivery mechanism."
Rupert Cook, an independent record producer, said: "I thought it was good, though it's not my industry. I am interested in it because it's a service my bands need."
Another response from an attendee was also typical, and summed up the hopes and needs of the early adopters of the new technology: "I am a teacher, I want to freelance and make my own DVDs. To see everything I need in one place has been very useful to me."
An art student added: "I'm looking at doing some offline editing, and the event has confirmed what I thought - it's a lot cheaper as an alternative, very tempting. I learnt a lot."
Real solutions, real people The exhibitors enthused too, adding to the mood of enlightened enthusiasm: "Its been good for us", said Richard Milligan of Puffin Design. "We've met a good cross-section of people, students and a lot of professional people."
Andrew Rust of Sony agreed, adding: "Initially we met a lot of consumers, but then we got approached by many professional people, with some unusual ideas. For example, an estate agent is interested in using the technology to offer virtual tours of houses it has available on DVD-ROM."
LaCie's Herve Petit summed up the event: "This is for the vertical market. It no longer makes sense to do events that are too big - its better to show people how existing solutions work together to improve their workflow."
Regarding the impact of new video technologies, Petit said: "We are talking with a major news broadcaster to develop a mobile solution for the company - PowerBooks and Final Cut Pro from Apple, LaCie for storage, Sony for cameras. The idea is to be able to drop a journalist in a jungle, with the tools to act as a small mobile independent news-gathering unit."
Apple leads revolution... again With this in mind, one thing remains true. The future will be televised, and not necessarily by a huge, bureaucratic, news-gathering team. The constantly repeated axiom of the day was one of simple, flexible and affordable solutions. A desktop video explosion - equal perhaps in magnitude to the desktop publishing explosion that did so much to create a wide field of opportunities in publishing - will help drive the success of the computer industry. As with DTP, Apple is determined to be first and fastest in desktop digital video from consumers to broadcasters.