PapaJohn's MVP LogoMovie Maker 2 and Photo Story
Newsletter #61 - July 9, 2005
 

 
the WinDV Utility
 
 
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.
 
If 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'.
 
WinDV - CapturingI'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...
 

 

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 PS3
 
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 revised.
 
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 topic
 

 
WinDV
 
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 computer-based control.
 
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.
 

 
Capturing Capture Settings
 
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.
 
Discontinuity 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
Captured File - one long one 
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 second.
 
Here's the file list from the second capture session. The same footage is now in 9 separate files.Captured Files - Multiple 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.
 
Setting Sun - every 15th frameEvery 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 minutes). 
 
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 blank.
 
Starting and Stopping the Capture
 
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 WinDV.
 

 
WinDV RecordingRecording
 
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 camcorder also.
 
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 'video'.
 

 
Conclusions and Closing
 
As usual, WinDV performed well. It makes a great companion tool to Movie Maker. Many people expect a single software package to do all parts of a process equally well and at the highest quality... I prefer using different apps for each of the different steps of a process. If WinDV does the copying better than Movie Maker, I don't take it as a negative about Movie Maker... but it's a positive for WinDV.
 
Remember that capturing/importing and saving/exporting a video is actually a 2-step process if you do it with Movie Maker. Capturing is first done to a DV-AVI file, followed by an importing process. Exporting is first saved to a temporary DV-AVI file which is then copied to the camcorder.
 
I'll send Petr Mourek a copy of this newsletter with a thank you note.
 

 
Have a great weekend...
 
PapaJohn