Transferring Digital Video files between a digital
camcorder and a computer is a basic task that must be done
well... the data flow across the firewire cable has to go as
fast as the camcorder tape plays or stores it... in real time because the
camcorder doesn't have a variable speed.
the hard drive falls behind in putting away the data, you get
dropped frames. If when recording the hard drive can't feed the data fast
enough, you get a file on the camcorder tape with problems like dead spots.
Data flows from one place to the other with a buffer in between. The buffer
can't run dry nor can it overflow.
Movie Maker can do it well if your hard drive is a faster
one that is pretty well tuned up. If your drive is a slower one... like a
hard drive on a laptop like mine, or if your hard drive is highly fragmented so
it has to go all over the place to find pockets to store data or round it up
when exporting, you could run into file issues.
WinDV is one of those utilities that has a single purpose
and does it well... it has a well-deserved place in your software
toolbox. I've had pretty good luck capturing and saving with Movie
Maker, but as time goes by I have more reasons to use WinDV for my routine
transfers. The readme file with WinDV
says 'no dropped frames - memory buffering'.
I've been using WinDV all week as I worked on this newsletter...
capturing some footage from this past holiday weekend... and
converting/exporting 4 DVDs of video files from my son's vacation (shot on his
DVD camcorder) to tapes on my mini-DV camcorder. There were no dropped
frames or other issues, and I was doing it all on my laptop.
This issue is a tutorial about using WinDV.
... before that, here
are a few notes...
Photo Story 3.1 was
released this week as part of Microsoft's Digital Image Suite 2006 for
32-bit Windows. It has VCD burning as one of the saving options, a feature
included in Photo Story 2 but not in version 3. As VCDs are at the bottom of the
quality rankings for discs, you don't need the new version unless you have a
really compelling reason to get it... or you prefer being at the latest version
even without a good reason.
That release, combined with an email
from a newsletter reader who was having some problems with PS3 in the area
of saving project files and stories, prompted me to change the subject
of next week's newsletter to saving projects and stories in
Someone noticed that my custom
profiles which simulate WMV-HD used 29.97 frames per second
while the sample Microsoft files for download were 24 fps. I checked the
dual DVD/WMV-HD files and saw they also were 24 fps... so the profiles were
We're recording the second radio
session tomorrow. I'll be introducing a 'tip of the session' to supplement
the Q&A session... to balance the negative tone that can come from too many
questions about problems.
.... on to the main
If you don't have it yet,
here's a link to download
WinDV, a free utility created by Petr Mourek of the Czech
Republic... his readme file says "If you use my program (successfully or not),
give me some feedback, please."
WinDV has one
main working window, with two tabs... each similar in
that you select where you want the captured file to go, or select the
source file to copy to a camcorder. WinDV
automatically sees your camcorder when it's connected via firewire and
switched on in the VCR/VTR mode.
In the picture of the main window
above, see that little unlabeled check box between the Config... and
Capture buttons? Checking it is the key to having WinDV control the camcorder,
something I learned this week as I used it a lot. You can get by with capturing without it checked,
by starting and stopping the camcorder. But recording to the camcorder
is difficult if you don't check it. Check it and leave it that way for easier
As simple as this utility is, it
doesn't come with a help file and I didn't see any instructions on its website.
And without some basic instructions there are some points that can be
confusing.... that little optional check box is one of them.
Press the Config... button on the
main window and go to this configuration window:
type... select a type-1 or 2 DV-AVI
file. The type-1 file has the audio data wrapped up with the video, both in
a single stream of data. The type-2 is slightly larger in size because it
has an extra copy of the
audio data, as a separate stream. The type-2 is accepted by all video apps,
whereas the type-1 isn't... so I keep mine set to capture as type-2, just in
case I want to use it in another app besides Movie Maker.
threshold (seconds)... the 12+ minutes of footage that I was capturing
as I started the newsletter ended up as one 2.8 GB file, with the
discontinuity setting of 0 seconds. That means it's 'off', not looking for
breaks in the timecode to create multiple files.
Captured File - Discontinuity
threshold of zero seconds
By changing it to a threshold of 1 second and recapturing
the same footage, it's now set to finish the file and start a new
one whenever there's a break in the timecode data of one
Here's the file list from the second capture
session. The same footage is now in 9 separate files. And again, there were no dropped frames as I continued to do
the newsletter in Outlook Express, watch the files being created by
using Total Commander, take screen shots with IrfanView, use the
Calculator to figure out how many frames there are in an hour, and do some
note-keeping in my database... all on my laptop with a slower speed
hard drive than my desktop computers.
Max AVI size (frames)... being in an NTSC
environment, and using 62 minute tapes, I have this setting at 115000 frames.
That's 30 frames per second x 60 seconds per minute = 1,800 frames per
minute x 60 minutes per hour = 108,000 frames per hour. My setting is to stop
after a full tape to be sure it doesn't stop too soon.
Every N-th frame... this is a great feature to
get a sunset, an egg hatching, or a flower opening... instead of capturing
a full hour of video with a size of 13 GB and then speeding it up or
extracting selected frames for a speed-up effect... capture it at the rate
you want the final file. A setting of every 15th frame would mean a
one hour video plays for a duration of 4 minutes (1/15th of 60
Here's a 17 second sample snippet of a setting
sun shot in real time on the camcorder but captured by
WinDV using a setting of every 15th frame. The only editing beyond
that was a title, fading in and out, and some music.
The discontinuity setting is also followed if it's set to
make separate files.
Filename formatting... the capturing I'm
doing is using the default settings for the file names. You can see from the
list that the file names include the file name I gave it "TestCapture" followed
by the date and time that the footage was taken (looks like my camcorder is a
day and some hours off).
The dropdown list gives 6 choices for the
date/hours/minutes/seconds formatting, but it doesn't let you leave it
Starting and Stopping the
To start the capture process, setup the camcorder in
VCR/VTR mode at the point you want to start the capture, get WinDV setup,
check the option box to have WinDV control the camcorder,
and press the Capture button of WinDV.
To stop the capture session, select the Cancel button of
Be sure to have the checkbox between the Config and Record
buttons checked so WinDV controls the camcorder... it's vital for recording. If
not checked, you will see the video playing on the camcorder but it won't
necessarily be recording.
Turn your camcorder on in VCR/VTR mode, select
the file to be recorded to the camcorder, and press the Record button of
WinDV.... it'll open and show the first frame of the file but in a paused
mode... press Record again to start the recording.
When finished, use the Cancel button of WinDV. It'll stop the
Unlike the noting of the number of dropped frames when
capturing, you'll need to check the recorded file. Probably the easiest way to
monitor the quality of the transfer is to listen as the recording is being
done... your ears do a good job of sensing a missed beat.
The readme file with the app says 'easy AVI joining
- record multiple files joined to the DV device just using wildcards'. I
didn't try it, but that means you can place a number of AVI files in a
folder, name them video1, video2, video3, etc., browse to the folder
and enter video*.avi in the source file field... the asterisk is a wild
card, so WinDV would copy all of those that start with the name