This article was published in the late 1980's, but may still provide some insight to the present day.

Although still relatively new tools in the architectural office, videotape presentations are nevertheless changing the way design teams explore and evaluate building products. To be sure, the number of VCRs in architectural offices has not yet approached the 70 percent penetration some experts estimate the video medium has achieved among America's households Yet, when viewed in the context of today's electronic office, videotape is making significant gains.

A recent study of design industry professionals showed that more than 30 percent of the design and construction office  surveyed used a VCR in day-to-day office operations, Respondents also indicated that they viewed some three videotapes each month as part of their regular office duties. Perhaps most significant is the fact that nearly 99 percent of these same designers said that over the next half decade, they fully expect to substantially increase their reliance on new automation and communication technology, including VCRs.

Building product manufacturers and trade organizations have long recognized the one two punch packed by a sight-and sound medium like videotape Accordingly, 34 percent of all product videos that architects' and their associates reported viewing over the past year were screened at trade shows and  industry meetings for design professionals.

Construction product videos afford manufacturers the ability to pitch a story through memorable images, on-site demonstrations, and direct visual comparisons. For architects with limited opportunities to get out into the field, video also offers an electronic alternative for seeing products being fabricated and, most important, being put to the test on actual job sites. And as many manufacturers cut back on field staffing, video enables their experts to present knowledge on tape.

Construction product videos are even serving new purposes quite removed from the architect manufacturer sales cycle. For example, many architects now use videotape productions provided by product manufacturers as part of presentations to building owners. The tapes often help design professionals explain to their clients why a particular material has been selected for a specific application. In the process, such tapes provide background on the products covered, while simplifying the architect's potentially difficult mission of conveying important considerations to a nontechnical audience.

Also, members of the design or construction team with less than a thorough working knowledge of a product's finer points can quickly be brought up to speed through the use of tapes. Increasingly, videotapes are finding a prominent place on the agenda at many architectural firms' project team meetings, luncheon seminars, and in-house training programs.

Frequently free for the asking to qualified design professional construction product videotapes are best put to use by firms &at have a systematic approach to their procurement and cataloging. Whether they are left behind following a sales call or requested in response to advertising, videos carefully organized as part of a firm's reference library get the most use and provide architects and their clients with the greatest benefits. A staff member should be assigned to solicit, then organize and catalog product videos as they arrive at the office. Cross-referencing videos to printed volumes on file is a prerequisite to making design team members aware the tapes are on hand to assist them in the completion of their duties.

One notable result of the explosive growth in the home video market has been the willingness of design professionals to check out materials from an office library for viewing after business hours at home. Away from the demands of an office, people are often more receptive to absorbing and retaining information without the traditional drudgery of poring over pages of printed text and graphics.

For all that they offer, construction product videos are not a substitute for printed reference manuals and guides. With video, there is no opportunity to edit specifications, extract engineering formulas, or trace detail drawings. Rather than serving as a replacement for traditional reference documents, videos are most valuable when used as an electronic source of supplemental data.

As the inherent value of videotape continues to gain widespread recognition, look for new and different uses for these communication tools. Fresh applications already starting to emerge include video magazines for architects, cinematic tours of manufacturing and testing facilities, concise summaries of round table discussions and, of course, new and innovative presentations of products and their performance.

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By Michael Chusid
Originally published in Progressive Architecture, Copyright © 1988