Video Education in the 21st Century

Aug. 1, 2009
Close-up of a GM six-cut lock demonstrating decoding principles.

Back in the 1890s, when Thomas Edison patented the device that would give birth to the motion picture industry, he truly believed that the real value in motion pictures would be in education. Even after movies caught on for entertainment, he continued to believe that they were a passing fad and that one day movies would be used primarily for education. I guess that just goes to prove that no mater how brilliant you are, you still don’t know everything. But today’s DVD technology is finally making at least a part of Mr. Edison’s dream a reality for more and more people.

I’ve been at the forefront of video education for locksmiths since 1988, when I started Tech-Train Productions. I can tell you from personal experience that video education for locksmiths is getting better all the time. The advent of cheap DVD players and DVD players that are built into almost every laptop computer is giving us all access to unprecedented educational opportunities, if we will only take advantage of them.

The real beauty of the DVD system over the older VHS tapes is the “random access” feature. A well designed DVD will include a menu structure that will let the viewer jump to any point on the disc in seconds. With this one powerful tool, you now have the ability to quickly pull up specific segments of educational videos, either at home or on the job. You can also pause and review the material as much as you need in order to get the information that you want. It’s almost like having an expert in the truck along with you to answer your specific questions.

As an example “Safe Deposit Locks Volume 3 – Box Opening” has a three-level menu. When you launch the video, you can choose to watch the video from the beginning, or to jump to any part of the disc. The menu will let you select the type opening procedure that you want to see, such as door pulling, nose pulling, or picking, and then you can select from a list of the most common types of locks.

Suppose that you had never opened a safe deposit box that was equipped with a Mosler 5700 lock. With this video, you could quickly see how the job is done, and the best tools to use for the job. Or suppose that you had to unlock 20 Diebold 175-70 locks for a bank. With this video, you could quickly check out different methods for opening these boxes. You would find that a picking tool is available for this lock that does not damage the lock in any way, and you could see exactly how the tool works. You would also learn that another method of opening the boxes would be to pull the door and destroy the lock. After viewing the video, you could decide whether it would be better to open the boxes by pulling the doors, or to invest in the picking tool. You could learn all of this in the comfort of your own living room, or in the front seat of your truck if you have a laptop that will play DVDs.

As the founder of Tech-Train Productions, I’ve published more than 50 educational videos. Now that I’ve joined forces with Lockmasters, Inc., I’m able to provide more and better educational videos, as well as update and improve on my earlier work. Recently, I’ve completely revised and updated several of our more basic videos, including videos on GM 6-cut locks, GM steering columns, and VATS. When these videos were first made, they were intended for VHS and therefore had no menus. In the process of revising and updating, I not only fixed the imperfections, I also rearranged topics and built elaborate menus so that you can quickly pull up just the information that you need. I’ve also elaborated on the original information by adding on-screen graphics and text to clarify anything that I thought needed a better explanation.

Our newer videos include an “Introduction to Transponders” and several DVD instruction manuals for our various tools. All of these titles were designed with menu-driven DVD features in mind, and have an easy-to -use menu structure built in. With these newer videos, it’s easier than ever to teach yourself or your employees to handle the new technology that is driving our industry. In an hour or so, you can get the basics of transponder technology, but more importantly, and you can go back and brush up on your knowledge at any time.

Now that DVD technology has become so affordable, we can easily offer a DVD along with a tool so that you can actually see how the tool is used in the real world. Being able to see how a tool like our High Security Flip-Pick works shows you the specific techniques that people who are familiar with the tool use when they operate the tool. Just being able to see the way you need to hold the tool can often mean the difference between success and failure.

I have included a DVD video manual with each car-opening tool set that I’ve sold for quite a few years. If the user takes the time to watch those videos, he’ll learn a great deal about how to use all of the tools in the set, including how to use the car-opening manual. When choosing the video for a particular tool, I’ve always tried to select challenging examples that I think my viewers would want to see. Through the years, I have also updated the vehicles covered in these video manuals to keep the content current and show how the older tools still work on many of the newer vehicles.

It’s my hope that these video manuals get used in training sessions for new employees as well. With the tool set video, Jiffy-Jak video, VW-EZ Pick video and others, any shop has access to a wealth of training materials. In these days of tightening belts and sky high gas prices, video education is a bargain when you compare it to taking time off work, driving or flying somewhere, and paying to attend a convention or a class.

Back in the mid 90s, I had a very busy time producing videos on the new lock systems that GM and Ford introduced. Those videos are now available in an updated DVD format and are still one of the best assets a locksmith can have for learning about the lock systems on domestic vehicles. At the moment, I’m producing a DVD on the new high-security lock systems that GM has just introduced on vehicles such as the Camaro, Equinox, LaCrosse, G8, and Astra. I suspect that these new lock systems are going to change the landscape of automotive locksmithing yet again.

In addition, I’m working on the second installment of the transponder series and a long-delayed picking video that uses computer animation to go inside the locks. The computer animation is particularly challenging and rewarding at the same time. I did my first computer animation back in the early 90s and included it in my impressioning video “Mastering the Art of Impressioning,” but the technology has come a long way since then. I also used computer animation in my “Basic Locksmithing – Knoblocks & Deadbolts” video, now updated for DVD. The animation for the upcoming picking video builds on both of these projects and hopefully will provide the viewer with a much greater understanding of the topics.

Video for the web seems like it will be the next big thing and I’m in the process of converting much of my video into a format that can be accessed through the web. Of course there is the problem of restricting access to locksmith videos to professionals only, but that problem is also being solved. Soon, I hope to be able to offer online and interactive video for locksmiths in a very affordable format. But in the meantime, we’ve already started adding video to our online store so that you can see some of the tools in our catalog in use.

As locksmiths, we get paid more for what we know, rather than what we do. The future is always uncertain, but the more you know how to do, the more options you have. Video education for locksmiths is giving us all more options. Are you making the most of your educational opportunities?