Video Editing Works

Just about every camcorder based on the MiniDV tape format includes a (IEEE 1394) port on the camera so that you can load the video onto your computer quickly and easily. The following three cameras are typical of digital camcorders on the market today.

This is perhaps the least expensive digital camcorder on the market today. It uses Hi-8mm tapes instead of MiniDV tapes, but records on them digitally. This kind of camera is very handy if you have a lot of analog 8mm or Hi-8 tapes that you want to load into your computer. The camera will convert an analog tape and run it out through the FireWire port on the camera, or record in digital format onto new tapes. The only problem with some of these cameras is a fairly low resolution.

A typical MiniDV camcorder -- it has a 1-megapixel CCD that gives it great image quality. Consumer camcorders now have up to 1.5-megapixel CCDs.

This is an entry-level professional camcorder with three CCDs. It records onto DV-CAM or MiniDV tapes. It can produce broadcast-quality images and has professional features like XLR inputs and zebra stripes.

Whichever type of camera you pick, it needs to have a FireWire connection so you can hook it to your computer. A FireWire connection normally looks like this:

This sort of FireWire connector is common on digital camcorders. You attach a FireWire cable to this connector, and attach the other end to your computer.

The Computer
You can use just about any desktop computer for video editing, as long as it has:

  • A FireWire port to connect the camera to - If your computer does not have a FireWire port, you can buy a FireWire card and install it for less than $100.
  • Enough power, hard disk space and bus bandwidth to handle the data flowing in on the FireWire cable
Video processing in general uses lots of CPU power and moves tons of data on and off the hard disk. There are two different places where you will most feel the benefits of a fast machine and the sluggishness of a slow one:
  • When you render a movie that you have created or write it out to hard disk, you will definitely feel the speed of the machine. On a fast machine, rendering and writing can take minutes. On a slow machine it can take hours. You will learn more about rendering later in this article.

  • A more important issue comes when you are reading data from or writing data to the camera. When the video data stream is coming in from the camera through the FireWire cable, the computer and hard disk must be able to keep up with the camera or the computer will lose frames. When sending a completed movie back to the camera, the processor must be able to stream the data quickly enough or the camera will lose frames.
I have one Pentium 3 machine running at 500 MHz, with 512 MB of RAM and a decent 20-GB hard drive. It is right on the edge of being able to handle the data stream from the FireWire connection. It can not handle it if any other applications (like an e-mail program) are running. A Pentium 4 machine or a late-model Mac with 512 MB or 1 GB of RAM and a big hard disk is a nice machine to have when you are rendering and writing files.

The Software
There are many software packages available for editing video on your computer. Windows XP even ships with software that's built into the operating system. Machines from Sony and Apple have software that comes with the machines.

In this article, we will use a software package called Adobe Premiere to demonstrate the video editing process. We are using Adobe Premiere for two reasons:

  • There is a free demo version available on the Web, and it will run on both PCs and Macs. Click here to download a copy.
  • Adobe Premiere is a full-featured and well respected video editing package that can do almost anything you would want to do.
Once you learn about the concepts in Premiere, it is very easy to apply them to any other video editing software package.

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