Techniques: Off the Shelf

You'll certainly want to use QuickVideo Pro to keep the grandparents up to date. But think twice before using it as a sales tool

Although its business applications are not entirely obvious to me, I have to say that QuickVideo Pro makes it simple to create and send "videograms" --video clips made on any home video camera or camcorder--as E-mail attachments. What is most impressive about this product is that as long as your recipients have PCs with Video for Windows, speakers, a sound card, and a standard E-mail program, they don't need to make special preparations to view your videograms; each videogram contains all the software necessary to run it.

I did spend awhile working my way through the manual, but actual installation took only about an hour. The first step calls for opening the computer and inserting the package's ISA video-capture card--the hardware that interprets videos for the computer. Computer surgery was an entirely new experience for me, but the manual's instructions are clear enough to guide even a neophyte through the operation.

Make sure you turn the speakers' playback volume all the way down when you are making your video, or you're in for some nasty feedback. Otherwise, I had no problems. The manual describes how to control more aspects of video images than I even knew existed, and I entertained myself by fooling around with contrast and color intensity. Because you don't want your videos to gobble up too much computer memory, it's worth following the straightforward instructions for reducing the image resolution, size, or frame-per-second rate.

I was amazed at how effortlessly I was able (even the first time) to record, attach, and successfully E-mail a videogram from home to my office--a short clip of me wishing a good morning to my assistant. She reported that it took her all of two minutes to retrieve and view the file.

The package recommends using QuickVideo Pro to deliver presentations, but the resolution is inferior to what you usually get with a TV and a VCR. I'm still not so sure I'll use it to promote sales. As an experiment, I did send some customers a videogram of our newest products. They were impressed by the technology, and they assured me that the sound was as good as anything else they had heard over the Internet.

Of course, it helps that we do make great-sounding wind chimes.

The Product
QuickVideo Pro, from Alaris Inc., Fremont, CA (800-317-2348; $599), an integrated package for making video-clip attachments to E-mail

Garry Kvistad, founder and CEO of Woodstock Percussion Inc., a 17-year-old maker of wind chimes and distributor of other musical instruments in West Hurley, NY

486 DX2/66 or higher with Windows 3.1x or Windows 95, 8 MB RAM, 4 MB available hard-disk space