Multimedia Software Performance

Creating custom video and burning discs is an all-consuming task for your computer

Lately, I've found myself recommending Windows XP for, of all things, video editing. Windows Movie Maker is a user-friendly application, and combining it and a digital video camera with an IEEE 1394 connection to your computer affords a simple and easy to way to create video content for yourself, your friends, your Web site, or your business.

I've been creating extended-length content, averaging about an hour, for performance artists to use as part of their theatrical resumes. Even with a fast Pentium 4 processor, 1GB of memory, and Ultra SCSI hard disks, creating a .wmv file with a decent bit rate (usually 1.2Mbps) means I might as well go out for coffee and probably lunch if I want to use my fast computer with its state-of-the art multitasking OS for anything more than creating this content. What's worse is that if I work on this task on one of the SMP-capable computers in my office, I gain no appreciable increase in performance. Despite 10 years of developers writing applications for Windows NT and its derivative OSs, almost no progress has been made in leveraging the capabilities of the OS to use multiple processors for anything other than server-based applications such as Microsoft SQL Server or Microsoft Exchange Server.

Now that software for image and video editing is becoming commonplace, these applications need to offer the best possible performance. Microsoft isn't the only offender in this category--most of the top-selling video-editing tools share the single-CPU orientation. And don't get me started on CD- and DVD-burning tools. Not only do these applications want to be the only software running, some of the less-capable tools produce corrupted, useless discs if they don't get uninterrupted access to system resources.

Because I'm doing a lot of video and image editing and burning the results of my efforts to disc, I've dedicated a system to the task. But that's not a practical solution for most small office/home office (SOHO) users. Video is a powerful tool, whether you're creating a permanent record of a child's school graduation or applying the technology as a business or sales tool to give customers and clients a more interactive view of your work. But if video applications can't happily integrate with average office automation tools, customer acceptance of multimedia development as an everyday task will be slow.

As a user, all you can do is ask vendors to address the multimedia software performance problem. Using custom-edited multimedia in business presentations introduces a big "gee whiz" factor, which makes learning how to make use of multimedia worth your time and effort. Just keep in mind that creating your own custom video and burning discs is an all-consuming task for your computer.

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