The Tangible Video Editor— Looking through the Lens of RBI and Fishkin’s Taxanomy

The Tangible Video Editor (TVE): Collaborative Video Editing with Active Tokens” developed by Zigelbaum, Horn, Shaer, and Jacob is a “multi-user, tangible interface for sequencing video.” It uses physical tokens representing video clips and transition, allowing users to physically manipulate a video sequence, which can be played on a screen using the play controller. This TUI can be analyzed by using two of the conceptual frameworks I have presented in my previous post, the Reality Based Interaction (RBI) framework and Fishkin’s taxonomy. I will be analyzing TVE’s tangibility through Fishkin’s taxonomy, and adding on to that will be weighing the effectiveness and shortcomings of the TUI in the lens of RBI.

TVE has great tangibility in its sense that it effectively uses the two axis in Fishkin’s taxonomy: Metaphors and Embodiment. The TVE utilizes an embodiment that is both distant and full. The physical tokens fully embodies the actual clips on the individual screen, allowing users to be aware of what are being manipulated. However, the actual edited sequence is played on a distant screen. This distant embodiment is effective in this TUI since the distance of the output of the sequence allows users to have a broader scope on the timeline as a whole, which is necessary in the video editing process. The degree of embodiment of the tokens thereby allows users to naturally apply the important skill of shifting focus: focusing on a fully embodied individual clips while editing, and looking the sequence as a whole at a distant monitor for the overview.

TVE also effectively presents metaphors of both noun and verb. The tokens, representing segments of the video clip in a shape of a “physical film” is an intuitive noun metaphor, and the action of adding transition, cutting and pasting the clips is a great verbal metaphor of the traditional film editing process (when we used to edit films by physically cutting the films and taping them). There is also another playful metaphor of the jigsaw puzzle, matching clips like a puzzle piece, and the literal actions of matching and removing the pieces to create a “complete” sequence. These metaphors allow the users to intuitively interact with the device without having a steep learning curve.

The among tangibilities of the TVE builds on top of and adds on to the realism of the device in many different perspectives. With separate tokens, the jigsaw puzzle metaphor extends the user’s social awareness for a collaborative setting. The tokens’ positions and the monitor allows everyone in the process to be aware of the status of the sequence. The sense of direction of the timeline, as reading left to right is natural for most Western cultures, facilitates the creating process to feel natural. The organization of the device extends on the user’s sense of space and body awareness. The users naturally organize their space into sections of timeline (“main area”), transitions, unused clips, physically embedding digital information into a space organized in user’s preference, relative to their own body positions.

Despite the above effectiveness of the TUI , there are also some tradeoffs by as the RBI framework mentions. The device has a problem of efficiency and versatility for expert editors as they may prefer hotkeys or succinct command lines for faster editing process, with more functions such as color correction, audio editing, different types of transitions etc. This problem of versatility also creates a problem of practicality as editing a long sequence may use up too much physical space and cost for developing multiple physical tokens. Finally, the process of physically moving around and matching the clips may be ergonomically disadvantageous, inducing fatigue. As most TUIs do, it also has the problem of accessibility for people with movement disabilities.

Nonetheless, the simple intuitive system has great expressive power. Because editing video clips using software is a highly individualized process, I love how the tangibility of TVE allows for collaboration. In short, the TVE envelops great tangibility features with expressive metaphors and extension of user’s natural understanding of the real world, but it also has tradeoffs in its efficiency and practicality.