Setting Up Your Hardware

on Sunday, October 31, 2010

Getting your hardware ready for exporting a movie to tape isn’t so difficult, really. The easiest thing to do is connect your digital camcorder to your FireWire port and turn on your camcorder to VTR or Player mode. (Oh yeah, and insert a blank tape into the camcorder.) After your movie is recorded onto the tape in your camcorder, you can connect the camcorder to a regular VCR and dub your movie onto a regular VHS tape if you want. I strongly urge you to use a fresh tape that has black video recorded on its entire length. This will prevent errors in communication between your digital camcorder and your computer.
If your master plan is to eventually record your movie on a VHS tape, you may want to skip the middleman — that would be your digital camcorder —and record straight from your computer to a regular VCR. To do so, you have three basic options:
  • Use an analog video-capture card. Analog capture cards (such as the Pinnacle AV/DV board) can usually export to an analog source as well as import from one. When you export video using an analog card, I strongly recommend you use the software that came with that card. Most analog capture cards come with special utilities to help you import and export video. The Pinnacle AV/DV board uses Pinnacle Studio to capture and export video. To get Studio ready for analog export, follow these steps
  1. Connect the analog outputs for the card to the video inputs on your VCR.
  2. Make sure the software that came with the capture card is set to export to the correct ports. The Pinnacle AV/DV, for example, uses the Pinnacle Studio software. In Studio, choose Setup ➪ Make Tape. The Pinnacle Studio Setup Options dialog box appears. On the Make Tape tab, choose Studio AV/DV analog in the Video dropdown list.
  3. Make sure that the right analog output ports are selected. The Pinnacle AV/DV board has both composite and S-Video outputs, so choose the one to which you have connected your VCR.
  • Use a video converter.
  • Use your digital camcorder as a converter.
I know, I know, I said I was going to show you how to avoid using your camcorder as the middleman when you export to VHS tape. But if you don’t have an analog-capture card or a video converter, you might be able to connect your digital camcorder to your FireWire port, and then connect a VCR to the camcorder’s analog outputs. If nothing else, this arrangement reduces wear and tear on your camcorder’s expensive tape-drive mechanism. Some digital camcorders won’t allow you to make this connection, because some models can’t send video out the analog ports at the same time they’re taking video in through the FireWire cable. Experiment with your own camcorder and VCR and see whether this arrangement will work for you. If you are exporting to a VCR, make sure that a new, blank tape is inserted and ready to use, and make sure the VCR is set to the right channel. (Many VCRs have to be set to a special “AV” channel to accept video from composite video cables.) As a last step before you begin your export, preview your movie on a TV connected to the VCR to make sure that the VCR is picking up the signal.