Mad about PC video

by Alan Zisman (c) 1994. First published in Our Computer Player, April 15, 1994

PC Video Madness
by Ron Wodaski
SAMS Publishing
ISBN 0-672-30322-1

$49.95 CDN

It seems like we're into the second generation of multimedia, at least if book publishing is any indication.

Last year, it seemed like every book publisher with a computer line had to put some kind of 'Multimedia for the Millions' volume into print... I think I reviewed three of them in these pages.

Of those, my favorite was Ron Wodaski's "Multimedia Madness". Now Ron is back with "PC Video Madness"... sort of 'Son of...' that first volume.

It moves beyond the 'gee whiz, isn't multimedia neat?' of the first generation of books, to a more focused how-do.

As the title suggests, the focus is on digital video... specifically for PC (Windows) users. Mac users, or devotees of IBM's OS/2-based UltiMedia should look elsewhere. For the most part, this 667 page book centers around things you can do with Microsoft's Video for Windows.

Despite that, Ron manages to cover a wide spectrum... from lighting effects shooting with a camcorder, to reviews of current (as of early 1993) video capture hardware, to programming samples (using Visual Basic, Toolbook, and C++).

I find the style of this book, like the earlier volume, a nice combination of chatty and informative. The book succeeds at pointing out some of the shortcomings of this still-new technology, without getting nasty.

It also includes a CD-ROM. Both this disk, and the one included with Wodaski's earlier volume were samples of Nautilus-- a monthly, CD-ROM magazine. The disk with his other book, however, seemed better integrated with the text; it included a range of demos and working models that were discussed in the printed text.

This time, while the disk does include a large number of brief video samples (but does the world REALLY need more clips of Wodaski's dog, Sparky?), basicly it's a promo/sample of Nautilus, unrelated to the book. I like Nautilus, and always find stuff worth playing with in every issue, but I would have preferred more stuff directly related to the book.

Digital video on PCs is a moving target... new products and technologies are announced daily. In a year or two, this book, like many technology-oriented volumes, will seem, at best, dated. But for many readers right now, intrigued by the possibilities of video production on PCs, or wanting to integrate this aspect of multimedia into traditional presentations, this book will provide a solid introduction.

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Alan Zisman is a Vancouver educator, writer, and computer specialist. He can be reached at E-mail Alan