One hundred and twenty-one years after people started watching moving images on screens, millions of moviegoers have turned into moviemakers. At Maple Park Middle School in North Kansas City, Mo., teenagers shoot a ”video yearbook.” On arts-and-crafts day at Camp Yomi in Rockland County, N.Y., kids make video movies instead of Popsicle-stick coasters. In backyards all over the country, weekend golfers tape their swings. So do other swingers: Professionally packaged compilations of home-recorded porn scenes now account for 30 percent of some adult-video distributors’ sales.
With 12.5 million camcorders in use, in more than 13 percent of U.S. homes, Americans are shooting much more than the birthday parties and visits to Mount Rushmore that dominated home movies in the age of Super 8 film. In fact, Sony estimates that the number of camcorder owners using their equipment primarily to shoot family events has declined from nearly 100 percent in the mid-’80s to about 70 percent today. Everybody else is shooting assorted forms of entertainment videos. ”Talk about the media revolution,” says Renee Hobbs, a Harvard lecturer who’s an expert on the cultural impact of video. ”It’s not going to be interactive videodiscs or computers. It’s the camcorder, and it’s right now.”
The results have been infiltrating the airwaves, from the rise of amateur- recorded news footage (notably the Los Angeles police-brutality video) to sheer entertainment such as America’s Funniest Home Videos and spin-off America’s Funniest People. Together these two shows receive 400 to 600 tapes a day, according to Vin Di Bona, executive producer of both programs. ”I’m amazed at the variety,” he says. ”Camcorders have touched some creative nerve in us.”