Posted by: digitalpelican | April 26, 2009

Digital Video for Dummies, fourth edition

The For Dummies… series of books invoke a mixed response in many people.  Some are relieved to find an information source that comes without expectations of prior knowledge placed on the reader.  The assumptions are that the reader does not have a background in the field.  On the other hand, some are offended that by the act of purchase, they are self-identifying themselves as a “dummy.”  Such are the struggles of book jacket design and marking strategy.

Digital Videos for Dummies, fourth edition, was a mixture of useful technical explanations, silly humor, and irrelevant detailed descriptions on applications I’ll never touch.  On the good side, I liked the way the author started with details of system requirements for both Mac and Windows PCs to do video editing.  The memory, CPU, Firewire, and other details and photos were appreciated.  His descriptions of video formats, standards, codecs, and aspect ratios of computers versus computers were all just, what I was looking for as a basic introduction to the field.

Every so often, an interesting or useful detail would drop out of otherwise simplistic or silly text.  For example, he mentions video compared to computer RGB color space.  I had heard somewhere that the computer RGB color space was wider than video, that’s why you need to review your program on a TV to make color/saturation/contrast decisions.  In this book, he adds a useful explanation to why this happens in a very simple detail: Video operates between about values of 20 to 230 in terms of RGB’s 0-255 color space.  OK, now I’ve got it.  In another area, equipment purchase recommendations, he was appropriately vague describing desirable characteristics rather than specific model reviews.  A good approach given a market area with so many choices and product lines that can change at the drop of an executive’s whim.

Technique descriptions (e.g., lighting, sound recording, camera work, etc.) were all pretty much simplistic, which was to be expected.  Still, there was the odd useful detail here and there that kept me interested.

My conclusion: I would recommend this book for someone with no or limited background in digital video as a place to start their education.  The weakest area of the book, as far as I was concerned, was detailed descriptions of specific computer applications for editing. Although not without links or references for more information, I wish the author had provided more along these lines.



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