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The Videosphere

August 1971September 1971

Few people complaining about the rotten tv on the box realise they can get out and make their own. The machines are around - it just needs people to use them. They're being used now, but their applications are far wider than those that control them at present allow.

There is tv in this university – at present being used as an extension of the one-way teaching system. There are machines in the other universities, in hospitals, schools, factories, shops (those spy eyes that watch for shoplifters). Their potential is sadly ignored. So it is up to people to seize them, and use them for valuable communication and discovery. After hours for a start. Most of the machines are switched off at 5 o'clock and lie unused until next morning. Students, workers, people with access to the buildings in which the machines are housed can easily use them in this dormant period. Students at this university might consider some quasi-legal tactic, demanding the use of the machines as part of their tuition - it seems far more valid in this decade to make videotapes than write essays.

And there is another possibility: buying the equipment. New Akai equipment puts video in your hands for $1500. That may seem a lot for one person, but it shouldn't be beyond a group or co-operative. The Akai machinery is light and portable. Camera weighs only 41 1bs, and has a 4:1 zoom lens. It runs off batteries built in to the portable videorecorder (weighing only 10 Ibs). It can record 24 minute tapes (which cost $7 for top quality tape - but any quarter inch magnetic tape will do), and these tapes can be erased and used again. There is a 3” monitor with the recorder, and the picture recorded has 200 lines, which can be played thru an adapter on to your home tv screen. The picture doesn't match 625 line studio transmission, but it makes up for this in instant replay, stop-start control, rewind etc. There is a microphone on the camera so synchronous sound is recorded with the picture. No problems with processing and printing as in film, and no chance of censorship. Its portability means that the machinery can go anywhere - the recorder fits snuggly over the shoulder, and the tiny camera is held easily in one hand. So far it needs more light than is usually available for a good picture, but in emergency situations, where the picture has to be recorded regardless, a deciferable picture can be recorded with available room lighting.

The Akai equipment is the beginning of a hardware revolution that will increase the range of video software available in our community. At present tv is mostly movies, if not replays of old Hollywood classics, then filmed dramas and comedies following the same esthetics. But portable video opens up new areas, provides the possibilities of recording aspects of daily existence that often escape scrutiny. Feedback potential is infinite, with instant replay bringing time-past and time-present into a common time scale. Reportage and analysis of events and situations gain in exactness thru video, with the answer to the question "what did you do today” being a videotape replayed to show what took place a few hours or minutes before. Advances in two-way communication are increased, for portable video enables people to talk back. The one-way television at present on our screens can be replayed by dialogue, in which one person's tape can be followed by another's, in which a video letter can be erased and the reply sent back on the same tape, in which children can press the buttons of the machines and record their statements in a way that is direct and personal.

The hardware is here now. How long before we enter the videosphere depends on how soon people overcome their fear of machines and start to use them for their own liberation rather than allow them to be used for their enslavement. Video hardware is all around us. Start pressing the buttons now!



[Tharunka is the journal of the University of New South Wales Student Union. August 1971. Volume 17, No. 17. Price 5 cents.]