How to Select Capture Cards?

on Wednesday, February 27, 2008

nalog video-capture cards are usually installed inside your computer in much the same way. That means you’ll have to have some expertise in upgrading computer hardware, and you should follow the computer upgrade guidelines I detail in that earlier section of the chapter. Okay, it may seem obvious, but I’ll say it anyway: Make sure your computer has an available expansion slot of the correct type in which you can install the card.

Many capture cards have neat little accessories called breakout boxes. The space available on the back of an expansion card is pretty small, and may not provide enough room for all the needed audio and video ports. Instead, the ports will reside in a breakout box — which can sit conveniently on your desk. The breakout box connects to the capture card using a special (included) Cable. This product allows both digital and analog video capture because it not only has two FireWire ports on the card, but also S-Video and composite video ports on a breakout box.

How to Choose Analog Capture Hardware?

on Tuesday, February 26, 2008

If you want to capture video from a digital camcorder, the best way to do so is with a FireWire port. But if you want to capture analog video — whether from a VCR, Hi8 camcorder, or other analog source — you’ll need some specialized hardware. You can install a video-capture card in your computer, or (possibly) use an external analog video converter that connects the analog device to your computer’s FireWire or USB port.
Read the packaging carefully before you buy any video-capture hardware and make sure that it is designed to capture analog hardware. Some FireWire cards are marketed simply as video-capture cards, even though they can only capture digital video.
When choosing an analog video-capture device, check the packaging to make sure your computer meets the system requirements. The device should also be capable of capturing the following:
  • NTSC (North America, Japan, the Philippines) or PAL (Australia, South America, Southeast Asia, most of Europe) video, whichever matches your local video standard (see Chapter 3 for more on broadcast video standards)
  • 30 frames per second (fps) for NTSC video or 25 fps for PAL video
  • 720 x 534 (NTSC) or 768 x 576 (PAL) video frames
  • Stereo audio
Although you don’t have to get a device that can capture and export S-Video as well as composite video, try to get one if possible; S-Video provides better image quality than composite video. Composite video uses the standard RCAstyle jacks, color-coded yellow for video and red/white for audio; S-Video connectors look like Figure 2-6. S-VHS VCRs have S-Video connectors, as do some higher-quality analog camcorders.

How to adjust power settings and screen savers?


Your computer is probably set to power down after a period of inactivity. Normally this is a good thing because it conserves energy, but it can cause problems during video capture and some other video-editing actions. To temporarily disable power-saving options, follow these steps:
  1. Choose Start➪Control Panel.
  2. In the Windows Control Panel, click Performance and Maintenance if you see that option, and then double-click the Power Options icon. If you do not see a Performance and Maintenance listing, simply double-click the Power Options icon. The Power Options Properties dialog box appears.
  3. On the Power Schemes tab, set all four pull-down menus (near the bottom of the dialog box) to Never.. Alternatively, you can just choose the Always On scheme from the Power Schemes pull-down menu.
  4. Click Save As, name the power scheme Video in the Save Scheme dialog box that appears, and then click OK.
  5. Click OK again to apply the changes and close the Power Options Properties dialog box.
If you want to conserve power in the future, you can turn on the power saving features by simply choosing a different power scheme in the Power Options Properties dialog box.

I also recommend that you disable screen savers when you are getting ready to work with video. To do so, right-click an empty area of the Windows desktop and choose Properties. In the Display Properties dialog box, click the Screen Saver tab and choose (None) in the Screen saver menu. Click OK to close the Display Properties dialog box.

How to update VGA Card?

on Saturday, February 23, 2008

Windows operates the various components in your computer by using software tools called drivers. Outdated drivers can cause your computer to run slowly — or even crash. This is especially true of video display drivers in Windows XP. The display adapter (another name for the video card) is the component that generates the video image for your computer’s monitor. Hardware vendors frequently provide updates, so check the manufacturers’ Web sites regularly for downloadable updates. If you aren’t sure who made your display adapter, follow these steps:
  1. Choose Start➪Control Panel.
  2. In the Windows Control Panel, click Performance and Maintenance if you see that option, and then double-click the System icon. If you do not see a Performance and Maintenance listing, simply doubleclick the System icon. The System Properties dialog box appears.
  3. Click the Hardware tab to bring it to the front, and then click Device Manager. The Windows Device Manager opens.
  4. Click the plus sign next to Display Adapter. More information about the display adapter appears in the list, including the manufacturer and model of your display adapter.
  5. Click the Close ( X ) button when you are done to close the Device Manager.
To check for updated drivers, I can do a Web search for the manufacturer’s name, and then visit their Web site to see if updates are available. The Web site should contain installation instructions for the driver updates. Make sure that any driver updates you download are designed specifically for Windows XP (or specifically for the version of Windows you’re using).

Optimizing Windows for video work


Even if you have a brand new computer with a wicked-fast processor and lots of RAM, you may experience problems when you work with digital video. Perhaps the most common problem is dropped frames during capture or export. A dropped frame occurs when your computer can’t keep up with the capture or export process and loses one or more video frames. Pinnacle Studio and most other video-editing programs report dropped frames if they occur. If you encounter dropped frames (or you just want to help your computer run more efficiently for video work), try the tips in the following sections to improve performance.

I recommend running Windows XP for digital video work, and the following sections assume you are using XP (whether the Pro or Home version). If you’re using an earlier version of Windows (such as Me), you can still follow along, though some steps may be slightly different.

Choosing Windows video software


Perhaps the nicest thing about using a Windows PC is that no matter what you want to do, lots of software is available to help you. Countless video editing programs are available.Video-editing software for Windows breaks down into three basic categories:
  • Basic: At the low end of the price-and-feature scale are free programs (such as Windows Movie Maker) or programs that come free with cheaper FireWire cards (such as Ulead VideoStudio or Roxio VideoWave). These programs are usually pretty limited in terms of what you can do with them; I recommend moving up to the next level as soon as your budget allows.
  • Intermediate: A growing number of video-editing programs now offer more advanced editing features at a price that is not out of the average consumer’s reach. Pinnacle Studio — featured throughout this book —is one good example. Studio retails for $99 and offers more advanced editing than most basic programs — plus you can expand the capabilities even more with the Hollywood FX Plus plug-in ($49).
  • Advanced: If you’re willing to spend $400 or more, you can get some of the same programs that the video pros use. Advanced video-editing programs include Adobe Premiere, Avid Xpress DV, Pinnacle Edition, and Sonic Foundry Vegas.

Installing a FireWire card

on Monday, February 18, 2008

If you have a PC and want to work with digital video, perhaps the one upgrade you are most likely to perform is to install a FireWire (IEEE-1394) card. A FireWire card is crucial if you want to capture video from a digital camcorder into your computer.

To install a FireWire card, you need to have an empty PCI slot inside your computer. PCI slots are usually white and look like the open slot. If you have an empty PCI slot, you should be able to install a FireWire card. Numerous cards are available for less than $100. Most FireWire cards also come packaged with video-editing software, so consider the value of that software when you make your buying decision. Pinnacle (, for example, sells Pinnacle Studio DV — which includes both a FireWire card and a full version of the Studio editing software for a retail price of $129. Shop around and you may find an even better sale price!

When you purchase a FireWire card, read the box to make sure your computer meets the system requirements. Follow the installation instructions that come with the card to install and configure your FireWire card for use. After the card is installed, Windows automatically detects your digital camcorder when you connect it to a FireWire port and turn on the camcorder’s power. You can then use Windows Movie Maker or other video-editing software to capture video from the camcorder.

NuTech Digital Video Broadcast product launches wireless


Richard Greenberg announced the establishment of SDI-2 line fixed wireless point of video products. The SDI-2 give reliable multicast video wireless over distances up to 50 kilometers in a single hop. It integrates advanced digital video format in the medium and high-performance radios, security systems and remote monitoring data outposts can now give real-time, full color, full motion video. The SDI-2 can be fitted into the current existing wireless Supervisory Control and Data Acquisition (SCADA) for video surveillance in high definition of remote sites which is not currently available.

Mr. Greenberg said: "The SDI-2 is the first of a series of new products that we expect to launch in the coming months, both for wireless and wired network. The SDI-2 meets the requirements of modern security systems for surveillance."

Camera equipment could give Fayetteville patrol the chance to travel through time


Updated camera equipment could soon give Fayetteville patrol the chance to travel through time.

"With the new cameras recording pre-event incidents," said Police Captain Fayetteville Brown Casey. "So if I am at a red light and a car blasted through it, he turns, I can turn to my [video mobile], and it will track the car for 30 seconds to two minutes."

Brown said the Police Department hopes Fayetteville equip all 28 patrol cars with digital video recorders. The request, he said, is listed as a consent to the agenda for Tuesday's City Council meeting.

Fayetteville police units are currently equipped with mobile video recorders, which require VHS tapes. The department purchased the 23 recording devices in 2003

Installing Windows XP for Video Editing

on Wednesday, February 13, 2008

Earlier I recommended that you run Windows XP if you plan to work with digital video. Windows XP is vastly more stable than previous versions of Windows (especially Windows 95, 98, and Me) — and it does a much better job of managing system memory, which is crucial when you work with video. If you don’t already have Windows XP, you’ll need to upgrade.

If you already have a version of Windows on your computer, you can purchase an upgrade to Windows XP Home Edition for $99 or Windows XP Professional for $199. If you don’t already have Windows, the Full Version of XP Home will set you back $199, and the full version of XP Pro costs $299. Windows XP Professional is nice, but so is XP Home. If you don’t need the extra networking tools built into Windows XP Pro, XP Home is just fine for video work.

You may have heard horror stories from friends who tried to upgrade their old computers to Windows XP. To be honest, I have a horror story of my own (but I’ll spare you the gruesome details). For now, I can offer these three pieces of advice:
  • Avoid installing Windows XP on any computer that is more than five years old. XP is a snob about modernity, and may not support some of your older components and hardware. Service Pack 2 (SP2) is mandatory for today’s working environment.A quick way to check the hardware in your computer is to use Microsoft’s online Upgrade Advisor. Visit advisor.asp for instructions on how to download and use the Upgrade Advisor, which inspects your system and advises whether or not your computer is ready for Windows XP.
  • Perform a “clean” installation. Although the installation CD provides an option to upgrade your current version of Windows, there is a really, really, really good chance that this approach will cause you troubles in the near future. So back up all your important data before you begin installing, and let the installer program reformat and repartition your hard drive using the NTFS (NT File System) when you are presented with these options. The rest of the installation process is pretty simple. (Oh, yeah, you’ll have to restore all the data from your backup onto that reformatted hard drive. You could be at it for a while.)
  • Check for online updates immediately after installation. Microsoft is constantly developing updates and fixes for Windows XP, and you can quickly download and install those updates by choosing Start >All Programs >Windows Update. You’ll have to connect to the Internet to do so, so make sure you have all the necessary information handy to reinstall your Internet service.

Buying a new PC for Video Editing


Countless PC vendors offer computers running Windows for just about any budget these days. For about the same amount of money as you would have spent just to buy a printer 10 years ago, you can now buy a new PC —including monitor — and if you shop around, you might even find someone to throw in the printer for free.

You may find, however, that a bargain-basement computer is not quite good enough for digital video. The hard drive may be too small, the processor may not be fast enough, the computer might not have enough memory, or some other features may not be ideal. Look for these features when you’re shopping for a new PC:
  • Windows XP: Some new PCs might come with Windows Me (Millennium Edition). Windows Me has some fundamental problems with stability and memory management that (in my opinion) make it unsuitable for digital video work. Windows XP, on the other hand, is very efficient and stable. Upgrading a Windows Me machine to XP is often challenging, so I recommend that you buy a PC that already has XP installed.
  • 1 Gb RAM: Video editing requires a lot of random-access memory (RAM) — the more the better. As if you didn’t already have enough acronyms to remember, some PCs have a type of memory called DDR2 (Double Data Rate) RAM. DDR works twice as efficiently as regular RAM, so a computer with 256 MB of DDR RAM will work about as well as a computer with 512MB of other types like SD RAM.
  • 128 Mb video RAM: The video image on your monitor is generated by a component in your computer called the video card or display adapter. The video card has its own memory — I recommend at least 128 Mb. Some video cards share system RAM (the computer’s spec sheet might say something like “integrated” or “shared” in reference to video RAM). This tends to slow down the performance of your computer, so I recommend that you avoid shared video RAM.
  • 1.5 GHz (gigahertz) processor: I recommend a processor speed of at least 1.5 GHz (equal to 1500MHz) or faster. This shouldn’t be a problem because there aren’t too many PCs still being sold with processors slower than 1 GHz. It really doesn’t matter if the processor is an Intel Pentium, an AMD Athlon, or even an AMD Sempron. The faster the better, naturally.
  • FireWire: Unlike Macs, not all PCs come with FireWire (also called IEEE-1394) ports. You can upgrade most PCs with a FireWire card, but buying a computer that already has FireWire is a lot easier.
  • 80GB hard drive: When it comes to hard drives, bigger is better. If you plan to do a lot of video-editing work, 80GB is an absolute minimum. Sure, it sounds like a lot, but you’ll use it up in a hurry as you work with digital video.
Another option, of course, is to build your own computer. For some, the act of building a PC from scratch remains a vaunted geek tradition (you know who you are). If you choose to build your own, make sure that your system meets — preferably exceeds — the guidelines given here.

I built a computer last year tailored specifically for video editing — and it only cost me about $400 plus some spare parts scrounged from my own stocks. But know what you’re doing before you start down this path; it’s definitely not the path of least resistance. Heed the wisdom of this ancient computer-geek proverb:

Building your own PC is cheap only if your time is worthless!

If you’re a Linux devotee, good for you! However, if you plan to do much with digital video, you’re going to have to bite the proverbial bullet and use either a Mac or the dreaded Windoze. Currently the mainstream offers no video editing programs designed for Linux. Although some tools will allow you to run some Windows or Mac programs, system performance often deteriorates, meaning you probably won’t be able to capture and edit video efficiently.

How to Choose Mac video software?


Apple offers a pretty good selection of video-editing software for the Macintosh — good thing they do, too, because not many other software vendors offer Mac-compatible editing programs
  • Adobe Premiere: Available for both Windows and Mac, this was one of the first pro-caliber video-editing programs for personal computers. It’s a little expensive (about $550), but provides an advanced, power set of video-editing tools
  • Apple iMovie: It comes free with all new Macintosh computers, and you can download the latest version of iMovie for free from iMovie 3 is featured throughout this book.
  • Apple Final Cut Pro: If you can afford pro-level prices and you want one of the most cutting edge video-editing programs available, consider Final Cut Pro (about $1000). Final Cut Pro is used by many professional video editors.
  • Apple Final Cut Express: This program offers many of the features of Final Cut Pro for a fraction of the price (about $300). Final Cut Express is a good choice if you want pro-style editing features but can’t afford prolevel prices.
  • Avid Xpress DV: Avid has been making professional video-editing workstations and gear for years, so it’s no surprise that they also offer one of the most advanced video-editing programs as well. And it better be good too, because it retails for $1699 (for Windows or Mac).
As you can see, if you’re a professional video editor, you can choose between several programs for your Mac. If you’re not a pro, however, your choices are a little more limited. Fortunately, iMovie is a reasonably capable program. You can even expand the capabilities of iMovie with plug-ins from Apple (and some third parties). Visit and check out the iMovie Downloads section for more information.

Upgrading your old Mac for digital video

on Sunday, February 10, 2008

If you already have a Mac that is a year or two old, you may still be able to use it with digital video if it meets the basic requirements described in the previous section. If it doesn’t meet those requirements, you might be able to upgrade it.

As a general rule, however, if your Mac doesn’t already have a G3 or higher processor, upgrading is probably going to be more expensive or challenging than simply buying a new Mac. And in the end, a very old upgraded Mac probably will not perform that well anyway. One of the biggest obstacles you’ll face involves FireWire. If your Mac does not already have a FireWire port, you may have difficulty adding one.

PowerMacs can usually be upgraded with a FireWire card, but the few Maccompatible FireWire cards available tend to be pretty expensive. The Media 100 EditDV 2.0 FireWire card, for example, will set you back about $580. If you have a PowerBook G3, a slightly more affordable option is the Digital Origin MotoDV Mobile (retail price about $300) editing suite with a FireWire card that uses the PowerBook’s CardBus interface. Before you think you can get away without FireWire, keep in mind that if your Mac is too old for FireWire, its USB port won’t be fast enough to capture fullquality digital video either.

Some parts of your Mac may be more easily upgradeable, as described in the following sections. Macworld ( also provides online articles and tutorials to help you upgrade your Mac.

Upgrading Your Computer for Digital Video


Picture this: Our hero carefully unscrews an access panel on the blinking device, revealing a rat’s nest of wires and circuits. A drop of sweat runs down his face as the precious seconds tick away, and he knows that fate hangs by a slender thread. The hero’s brow creases as he tries to remember the procedure:

“Do I cut the blue wire or the red wire?”

If the thought of opening up your computer and performing upgrades fills you with a similar level of anxiety, you’re not alone. The insides of modern computers can seem pretty mysterious, and you might be understandably nervous about tearing apart your expensive PC or Mac to perform hardware upgrades. Indeed, all the chips, circuit boards, and other electronic flotsam inside the computer case are sensitive and easily damaged.

You can even hurt yourself if you’re not careful, so if you don’t have any experience with hardware upgrades, you are probably better off consulting a professional before making any changes or repairs to your PC. But if you have done hardware upgrades before, digital video may well inspire you to make more upgrades now or in the near future. If you do decide to upgrade your computer, some basic rules include:
  • Review your warranty. Hardware upgrades might invalidate your computer’s warranty if it still has one.
  • RTM. This is geek-speak for, “Read The Manual.” The owner’s manual that came with your computer almost certainly contains important information about what can be upgraded and what can’t. The manual may even have detailed, illustrated instructions for performing common upgrades.
  • Back up your data. Back up your important files on recordable CDs, Zip disks, or another storage device available to you. You don’t want to lose work, pictures, or other data that will be difficult or impossible to replace.
  • Gather license numbers and ISP (Internet Service Provider) information.
  • If you have any important things like software licenses stored in saved e-mails, print them out so that you have hard copies. Also, make sure that you have all the access information for your ISP (account name, password, dial-up numbers, server addresses, and so on) handy in case you need to re-install your Internet service.
  • Gather all your software CDs. Locate all your original installation discs for your various programs, including your operating system (Mac OS or Windows), so that you’ll be able to reinstall them later if necessary.
  • Turn off the power. The computer’s power should be turned off to avoid damage to components and electrocution to yourself.
  • Avoid static electricity build-up. Even if you didn’t just walk across a shag carpet and pet your cat, your body still probably has some static electricity built up inside. A tiny shock can instantly destroy the tiny circuits in expensive computer components. Before touching any components, touch your finger to a bare metal spot on your computer’s case to ground yourself. I also recommend wearing a grounding strap, which can be purchased at most electronics stores for $2-3. Now that’s what I call cheap insurance!
  • Handle with care. Avoid touching chips and circuitry on the various computer components. Try to handle parts by touching only the edges or other less-delicate parts.
  • Protect those old parts. If you are taking out an old component (such as a 64MB memory module) and replacing it with something better (like a 256MB memory module), the old part may still be worth something to somebody. If nothing else, if your newly purchased part is defective, at least you can put the old part back in to get your computer running again. And if the new part works fine, you may be able to salvage a few bucks by auctioning the old part on the Internet!
Again, when in doubt, you should consult with a computer hardware professional. In fact, you may find that the retailer that sold you the upgraded parts also offers low cost or even free installation service.

Which one is better for digital video, Mac or PC?


Like the debate over whether cats or dogs make better pets, the question of whether to use a Mac or a PC has been disputed tirelessly between the true believers. It has been a largely unproductive dispute: For the most part, Mac people are still Mac people, and PC people are still PC people. But who is right? If you want the best computer for working with digital video, should you choose a PC or a Mac? Well, look at the important factors:
  • Ease of use: Macintosh users often boast that their computers are exceedingly easy to use, and they are right. But if you’re a long-time Windows user, you might not think so. Some things are easier to do on a Mac, but other things are easier to do in Windows. Neither system offers a clear advantage, so if you’re a creature of habit, you’ll probably be happiest if you stick with what you know.
  • Reliability: The Windows Blue Screen of Death (you know, the dreaded screen that often appears when a Windows PC crashes) is world-famous and the butt of countless jokes. But the dirty little secret of the Macintosh world is that until recently, most Macs crashed nearly as often as Windows PCs. Apple’s new Macintosh operating system — OS X — brings a new level of stability and refinement to the Macintosh world, but the latest Windows XP is pretty dependable as well. Reliability is important to you because video pushes your computer’s performance to its limits. Get a Mac with OS X or a PC with Windows XP and you should be just fine.
  • Digital video support: I can’t be wishy-washy any longer; if you want a great computer ready to edit digital video right out of the box, a new Macintosh is the safer bet. All new Macs come with built-in FireWire ports, making it easy to hook up your digital camcorder. Macs also come with iMovie, a pretty good entry-level video-editing program. Windows comes with Windows Movie Maker, but it is not as capable as iMovie. Also, many Windows PCs still don’t come with built-in FireWire, meaning you’ll either have to special-order it or install a FireWire card yourself.
So there you have it: Macs and PCs are both pretty good. Sure, Macs all come with FireWire, but if you shop around, you should be able to find a Windows PC with FireWire for about the same price as a new Mac. Both platforms can make excellent video-editing machines, so if you’re already dedicated to one or the other, you should be fine.
Just don’t start any brawls, okay? You never know when a computer nerd wielding an iPod stylus might take offense.

Playing your movie

on Monday, February 4, 2008

After your movie has been exported, playing it is pretty easy. Simply locate the file on your hard disk and double-click its name. The movie should automatically open and start to play. If you exported your movie from Windows Movie Maker, the movie file will be in Windows Media (WMV) format.

Despite the name, you don’t have to be a Windows user to view Windows Media video. You do need Windows Media Player to view Windows Media files, but Microsoft offers a version of Windows Media Player for Macintosh. Movies created on a Mac are also cross-platform-friendly. iMovie outputs videos in Apple QuickTime format, and Windows versions of QuickTime have been available for years.

After you have previewed your movie, you can either share it with others or edit it some more. I usually go through the preview and re-edit process dozens of times before I decide that a movie project is ready for release, but thanks to digital video, re-editing is no problem at all.

Exporting from Windows Movie Maker


Like iMovie, Windows Movie Maker also enables you to export video for a variety of applications. Windows Movie Maker is especially well suited to exporting movies for Internet playback. To export a movie for online viewing, follow these steps:
  1. Open the project that you want to export (such as the Chapter 1 project).
  2. Choose File➪Save Movie File. The Save Movie Wizard appears.
  3. Choose an export format for your movie and then click Next. For now I recommend choosing My Computer.
  4. Enter a filename for your movie and choose a location in which to save the file.
  5. Click Next again. The Save Movie Wizard shows details about the file, including the file size.
  6. Click Next again. The export process begins.
  7. When export is done, click Finish. Your movie will probably begin playing in Windows Media Player. Enjoy!

Exporting from Apple iMovie


Apple iMovie exports movies in QuickTime format, or you can export directly to your camcorder’s videotape or Apple iDVD. To export your project in iMovie, follow these steps:
  1. Open the project you want to export (such as the Chapter 1 project).
  2. Choose File➪Export. The iMovie Export dialog box appears.
  3. Choose how you want to export your movie from the Export menu. For now, I recommend that you choose To QuickTime.
  4. Choose a Format, such as Web.
  5. Click Export.
  6. Give a name for your movie file in the Save As box. Make a note of the folder in which you are saving the movie. Choose a different folder if you wish. If you remove the .mov filename extension, Windows users (you probably know a few) will have a hard time viewing your movie.
  7. Click Save.
iMovie exports your movie. The export process may take a few minutes, depending on how long your movie is.

Sharing Video and Exporting a movie


One of the best things about digital video is that it enables you to get really creative with your own movie projects. To make your work worthwhile, you may want to share your video work with others. Thankfully, sharing digital video is pretty easy too.

Modern video-editing programs are designed to make it as easy as possible to share your movie projects — often with no more than a couple of mouse clicks. For now, we’ll export a movie that would be suitable for viewing over the Internet. if you have your own edited movie, you can use. The steps for exporting your movie are a little different depending on whether you are using Apple iMovie or Windows Movie Maker, so I’ll address each program separately.

Creating special effects


Adding special effects to your video is pretty easy too. Here’s one that makes a video clip look like it came from a really old reel of film:
  1. Click a clip in the storyboard to select it. If you’re following along using the sample clips from the companion CD-ROM, choose Clip 02, which is probably the last clip in your storyboard.
  2. Open the list of video effects in your video-editing program. In iMovie, click the Effects button under the browser window. In Windows Movie Maker, click Video Effects under Collections on the left side of the screen.
  3. Click an Aged Film effect to select it. In iMovie, there is only one Aged Film effect. In Windows Movie Maker, scroll down in the list of effects and choose one of the Film Age effects. It doesn’t matter if you choose Old, Older, or Oldest.
  4. Apply the effect to the clip. In iMovie, click Apply at the top of the effects window. In Windows Movie Maker, click-and-drag the effect onto the clip on the storyboard.
  5. Click Play in the preview window to preview the effect
Again, if you’re using iMovie, you will probably have to wait for the tiny red progress bar on the clip to finish before you can preview the effect. These are just a couple of the cool things you can do with digital video. Part III of this book helps you explore the wonders of video editing in greater detail. So break out your director’s chair and get ready to make some movie magic!

Creating a transition


You can add a transition to the simple movie you put together in the previous section by following these steps:
Storyboard Clip browser
  1. Open the Chapter 1 sample project you created in the previous section if it isn’t already open. You can follow these steps using any movie project that includes two or more clips.
  2. Open the list of video transitions in your editing program. In Apple iMovie, click the Trans button just below the browser window. In Windows Movie Maker, click Video Transitions under Collections on the left side of the screen.
  3. Click-and-drag one of the Circle transitions to a spot between two clips on the storyboard. A transition indicator appears between the two clips.
  4. Click Play in the preview window to preview the transition. If you are using iMovie, the transition may not appear immediately. If you see a tiny red progress bar under the transition, wait a few seconds for it to finish. When the progress bar is complete, you should be able to preview the transition Inserted clip Pretty cool, huh? But wait, that’s not all!

Editing a short video project


Editing video is really cool and easy to do if you have a reasonably modern computer. But why talk about editing when you can jump right into it? Here’s the drill:
  1. Open Windows Movie Maker (Windows) or Apple iMovie (Macintosh). If you don’t know how to open your video-editing program, or if you aren’t sure you have the latest version, check out Appendix C for information about iMovie, or Appendix E for the scoop on Windows Movie Maker. If you are prompted to create a new project by iMovie, create a new project and call it Chapter 1.
  2. Put the CD-ROM that accompanies this book in your CD-ROM drive.
  3. Choose File➪Import in iMovie or File➪Import into Collections in Windows Movie Maker.
  4. Browse to the Samples\Chapter 1 folder on the CD-ROM. In iMovie, hold down the Ô (Mac) key and click each clip once to select all three of them. In Windows Movie Maker, click the file Chapter1 to select it.
  5. Click Open (iMovie) or Import (Windows Movie Maker). Three clips appear in the browser window of your video-editing program. The figure shows iMovie, but Windows Movie Maker is fairly similar.
  6. Click-and-drag Clip 01 from the clip browser and then drop it on the storyboard.
  7. Click-and-drag Clip 02 and drop it on the storyboard just after Clip 01.
Congratulations! You’ve just made your first movie edit. You should now have two clips on the storyboard. If your Windows Movie Maker window doesn’t look quite like this, click the Show Timeline button (if you see it on-screen). Well, okay, what’s so nonlinear about that? After all, you placed one clip after another — that’s about as linear as an edit can get. You could easily imagine doing the same thing with a camcorder, a VCR, and some cables.

Aha, but here’s the kicker: What if you decide to insert Clip 03 in-between Clips 01 and 02? If you’re “editing” with a camcorder and VCR, this move suddenly becomes a horrendously tricky edit to make. But with a nonlinear editing program like iMovie or Windows Movie Maker, the edit is easy. Just click-and-drag Clip 03 and drop it right between Clips 01 and 02. The software automatically shifts Clip 02 over to make room for Clip 03. Almost as easy as shuffling cards, edits like these are the essence of nonlinear video editing

Comparing editing methods


Video (and audio, for that matter) is considered a linear medium because it comes at you in a linear stream through time. A still picture, on the other hand, just sits there — you take it in all at once — and a Web site lets you jump randomly from page to page. Because neither of these is perceived as a stream, they’re both examples of nonlinear media. You tweak a linear medium (such as video) by using one of two basic methods — linear or nonlinear editing.

If your approach to editing is linear, you must do all the editing work in chronological order, from the start of the movie to the finish. Here’s an old-fashioned example: If you “edit” video by dubbing certain parts from a camcorder tape onto a VHS tape in your VCR, you have to do all your edits in one session, in chronological order. As you probably guessed, linear editing is terribly inefficient. If you dub a program and then decide to perform an additional edit, subsequent video usually has to be redubbed. (Oh, the pain, the tedium.)

What is the alternative? Thinking outside the line: nonlinear editing. You can do nonlinear edits in any order; you don’t have to start at the beginning and slog on through to the end every time. The magical gizmo that makes nonlinear editing possible is a combination of the personal computer and programs designed for nonlinear editing (NLE). Using such a program (for example, Apple iMovie or Pinnacle Studio), you can navigate to any scene in the movie, insert scenes, move them around, cut them out of the timeline altogether, and slice, dice, tweak and fine-tune to your heart’s content.

Online versus offline editing


A video file represents a huge amount of information — so it takes up a lot of space in the digital world. You need fast hardware to handle video, and monster hard drives to store it. To conserve storage space during editing, professionals have long used a trick called offline editing. The idea is to capture lower-quality “working” copies of your video into the computer.

After you complete all your edits and you’re ready to make your final movie, the software decides which portions of the original video must be captured at full quality — and then automatically captures only the portions you need. Conversely, if you work with full-quality video on your computer for all your edits, you are performing what video pros call online editing. Offline and online editing are techie terms used by the pros.

In practice, most affordable video editing programs don’t give you many choices. A standout exception is Pinnacle Studio for Windows, which has an offline-editing feature called SmartCapture. This feature captures large sections of video at preview-quality — which means it may not look as sharp as full-quality video, but it doesn’t take up nearly as much hard disk space. Then, when you’re done editing, SmartCapture automatically captures only the full-quality footage needed for the movie and applies all your edits automatically.

Warming up to FireWire


FireWire is one of the hot new technologies that makes digital video so fun and easy to work with. FireWire — also sometimes called IEEE-1394 or i.LINK — was originally developed by Apple Computer and is actually an interface format for computer peripherals. Various peripherals including scanners, CD burners, external hard drives, and of course digital video cameras use FireWire technology. Key features of FireWire include:
  • Speed: FireWire is really fast, way faster than USB or serial ports. FireWire is capable of transfer rates up to 400Mbps (megabits per second). Digital video contains a lot of data that must be transferred quickly, making FireWire an ideal format.
  • Mac and PC compatibility: (What a concept.) Although FireWire was developed by Apple, it is widely implemented in the PC world as well. This has helped make FireWire an industry standard.
  • Plug-and-play connectivity: When you connect your digital camcorder to a FireWire port on your computer (whether Mac or PC), the camera is automatically detected. You won’t have to spend hours installing software drivers or messing with obscure computer settings just to get everything working.
  • Device control: Okay, this one isn’t actually a feature of FireWire, it’s just one of the things that makes using FireWire really neat. If your digital camcorder is connected to your computer’s FireWire port, most video editing programs can control the camcorder’s playback features. This means you don’t have to juggle your fingers and try to press Play on the camcorder and Record in the software at exactly the same time. Just click Capture in a program like iMovie or Pinnacle Studio, and the software automatically starts and stops your camcorder as needed.
  • Hot-swap capability: You can connect or disconnect FireWire components whenever you want. You don’t need to shut down the computer, unplug power cables, or confer with your local public utility district before connecting or disconnecting a FireWire component.
All new Macintosh computers come with FireWire ports. Some — but not all — Windows PCs have FireWire ports as well. If your PC does not have a FireWire port, you can usually add one using an expansion card. Windows 98 and higher include software support for FireWire hardware. If you’re buying a new PC and you plan to do a lot of video editing, consider a FireWire port a must-have feature.

All digital camcorders offer FireWire ports as well, although the port isn’t always called FireWire. Sometimes FireWire ports are instead called “i.LINK” or simply “DV” by camcorder manufacturers who don’t want to use Apple’s trademarked FireWire name. But rest assured, all digital camcorders have a FireWire-compatible port. FireWire truly makes video editing easy, and if you are buying a new camcorder, I strongly recommend that you buy a camcorder that includes a FireWire port.

Comparing analog and digital video


Digital recordings are theoretically inferior to analog recordings because analog recordings can contain more information. But the truth is that major advances in digital technology mean that this really doesn’t matter. Yes, a digital recording must be made up of specific individual values, but modern recordings have so many discrete values packed so closely together that human eyes and ears can barely tell the difference. In fact, casual observation often reveals that digital recordings actually seem to be of a higher quality than analog recordings. Why?

A major problem with analog recordings is that they are highly susceptible to deterioration. Every time analog data is copied, some of the original, infinitely variable data is lost. This phenomenon, called generational loss, can be observed in that dark, grainy copy of a copy of a copy of a wedding video that was first shot more than 10 years ago. However, digital data doesn’t have this problem. A one is always a one, no matter how many times it is copied, and a zero is always a zero. Likewise, analog recordings are more susceptible to deterioration after every playback, which explains why your 1964-vintage Meet the Beatles LP pops, hisses, and has lost many of its highs and lows over the years. Digital recordings are based on instructions that tell the computer how to create the data; as long as it can read the instructions, it creates the data the same way every time.

Whether you are editing analog or digital material, always work from a copy of the master and keep the master safe. When adding analog material to your project, the fewer generations your recording is from the original, the better. When you consider the implications of generational loss on video editing, you begin to see what a blessing digital video really is. You’re constantly copying, editing, and recopying content as you edit your movie projects —and with digital video, you can edit to your heart’s content, confident that the quality won’t diminish with each new copy you make.



In 1996, I read a technical paper on a new technology from Apple Computer called FireWire. This new technology promised the ability to transfer data at speeds of up to 400 megabits per second. “Yeah, right!” I quietly scoffed to myself, “Why on Earth would anyone need to transfer that much data that quickly? Besides, Apple will be out of business by the end of ’97.” Yeah, right.

Thankfully I was wrong about Apple, and I soon learned about a new phenomenon called digital video that could take advantage of this new FireWire technology. Digital video files are big, too big in fact for computers of just a few years ago to handle. But FireWire allows high quality video to be shared easily and efficiently between digital camcorders and computers. Of course, more than just FireWire was needed for this digital video thing to catch on.

Personal computers still had to become fast enough to handle digital video, and prices for digital camcorders only fell within reach of mere mortals just a couple of years ago. Digital video is here now, and anyone with a reasonably modern computer and a $500 digital camcorder can make movies like a pro. With the recent advent of DVD players and recordable DVD drives, sharing your high quality movies with others has never been easier. This chapter introduces you to digital video and shows you how easy it is to edit and share your movies with others.