As new hardware gadgets emerge each month, the lines are
blurring between camcorders that can also take still pix, cameras that have
options to shoot video clips, and other gadgets like cell phones that can
take either stills or video clips.
Last week someone was trying to decide on the purchase
of a Canon PowerShot TX1 that can shoot 7 megapixel still pix along
with high-def video clips. Dcresource.com says it's Canon's first
true hybrid product. I downloaded and explored a sample video clip
from the camera. The compression codec was Motion
JPEG, which easily imported into my Movie Maker 2.1 in XP, and I
was able to save it to a high quality WMV file of the same 1280x720
dimensions (using a custom profile). The gadget would get along well with MM2,
provided the user know how to handle the files.
Most of the today's new cameras and camcorders are not mini-DV
models... and Movie Maker is even more tightly bound to those models and
firewire capture. That means more Movie Maker users will be wrestling with
file conversions in the years ahead... and website info about conversions will
be needed more.
I'm going to use this week's newsletter to summarize my
personal progression in cameras over the years. Nothing deep, just some
reflections on the journey.
This is a rare case of a newsletter not going out late Friday
night. About mid-week, a website visited by Bernadette clobbered her
computer with adware, spyware, viruses... those kinds of things. And at a time
when she was vulnerable because Norton Antivirus was acting up. It took a
couple days to get things back to normal. Newsletter #34 from 2-1/2 years
ago came in handy as our procedure for returning things to normal. That and a
couple removals and reinstallations of Norton until it was fully up to date
in definitions, and all features were functional again.
While working on this issue
tonight, a note from Apple popped up and asked if it could update
my iTunes and QuickTime software.... sure!!! why not? It said one of the reasons
was to support the new feature of some free tunes mixed in with the paid-for
ones. I started by downloading a 259 MB file of a Kenny Rogers video
special. Beyond free to download and watch, can I use it in my projects?
I'm guessing not, but will check.
Now that I have the hack
mentioned last week, and I can roll out Silverlight packages that
play on my website without the assist of the Microsoft service, I made
a new website page this week to show by example the 14 template styles
included with the Expression Media Encoder. Here's a direct link to the
My next personal challenge is
to figure out how to embed an actual little Silverlight player in the space
used on the page by the still picture.
Here's the history of my video devices... and other
types that I know about but haven't owned or used. It sets the structure
for the new pages in the 'Cameras and Capture Devices' types
I inherited my father-in-law's 16 mm home
video camera, projector, and reels of film. My personal camera
collection started with 8mm silent film (1969), then moved on to Super8
silent and Super8 sound (we started capturing the audio with the visual
in 1976). Film reels were 3 minutes long, and needed processing as 35 mm
negatives did. With film and developing costs, you were a lot more careful about
the footage you shot than you are today. A reshoot meant a new roll of
I used those movie cameras, along
with 35mm cameras for high quality negatives and slides, and
Polaroid cameras for instant print gratification, until the mid-1980's.
Film editing was done in essence by razor
blade and scotch tape.
Getting the video from the film
reels into my computer for digital editing was done by stand
a camcorder on a tripod next to the projector and shooting it from
the wall or screen. The more professional way would be
to use a 'telecine' transfer process.
We've scanned all of our many
thousand printed pictures... at least those worthy of hard drive
space... using an older HP ScanJet 4p flat-bed scanner, and a newer
fast processing little document scanner (one with a high quality picture
I've done, or at least started, two waves of
35 mm slide capturing.
From projected slides to the computer, using the
same camcorder on a tripod as done for the movies. It was our first digital
Recently I started the second wave, using
a Minolta Dimage Scan Speed F2800 that scans them pretty
Most of our pictures from 1962 to
1979 are 35mm slides and prints.
Analog Cassette Tape
In the late 1980's I got my
first Sony 8mm analog camcorder... it said 'digital' someplace on
it, but the recording was an analog one on a cassette tape.
With low priced reusable tapes, one didn't need to be as
careful shooting scenes, not unless you were like me. Editing was still
linear and time-consuming. I remember going to family events and walking
around doing the 'storyboarding' and 'timeline' in my head to reduce the amount
of tape/VCR editing needed later. At that time, I could enjoy an event or
do a good job on the video project, not do both.
8 mm tape
My early editing from 8 mm tape camcorders was by
starting and stopping the camcorder as it was plugged into and being dubbed to a
I did specialized opening title and closing
credits scenes on the computer using Rendersoft VRLM, and shot the scenes
onto the camcorder as it stood on a tripod zoomed into a window on the computer.
I used my stereo to play background music as it was being shot, and did
'retakes' as needed.
This was the first camcorder I used with a
connection to the computer... using some low-end low-quality little connection
box. The quality of the captured file was less than what was on the tape,
and varied with the connection and the capture device.
My Sony TRV-615 has a nice 18x optical zoom and
does much better in low light conditions than my newer digital camcorder. I'll
still use it today as the 2nd camcorder on a shoot.
It was a step up to a Dazzle 80 as a
capture device. Although the quality of the captured file was still less than
what was on the tape, it was better than the low-quality postage stamp
online files of the times. We didn't have the kind of broadband connections we
With phone line internet connections, I'd put a 10
minute movie file online, send a link in an email and tell the
receiver to start the download before going to bed and view it in the
From analog to
Movie Maker 1 was my personal break-through...
letting me shoot haphazardly and enjoy the events as I took video, as the
editing was so easy.
Last year I connected my Hi8 camcorder to my
miniDV camcorder, using RCA cords for audio and an S-Video cable for higher
quality video, and made a full set of mini DV tapes from the 8mm analog
tapes. As the 8 mm analog tapes hold two hours of video and the DV tapes
just one hour, I now have 2 DV tapes from each of the older analog 8
The transfer didn't involve my computer, just the 2
camcorders. I now treat the DV tapes as the 'originals'. In
theory at least, the digital ones will preserve the data while the analog ones
will slowly degrade over time.
As analog models, the Hi-8 camcorders output
the audio via RCA cables, and the video by either an RCA cable or an
S-video one (if the model has the S-video feature for higher visual
Once I had a digital camcorder with a 'pass-thru'
feature, I stopped using the Dazzle 80 for capture sessions and started
using the DV camcorder to do the conversion to DV-AVI, and pass the file to the
computer by firewire. The quality of the captured file from this
'pass-thru' process is as good as it is on the original analog tape. No
longer was the capture device limiting the quality.
Digital Cassette Tape
These camcorders were the first full digital
consumer models. The digital 8 camcorders were made to align with the
8mm tape sizes used by the analog camcorders... playing them
twice as quickly so it could record the full amount of data needed for
DV. The mini-DV camcorders used a newer smaller sized cassette. The DV data
recorded is the same on either.
To get the full quality files transferred to
computers, firewire (also called iLink and IEEE1394) cables and connections
are used... this is the perfect alignment of camcorders with Movie Maker.
Transferring back and forth between camcorder and computer is easy, with no
generational losses. They are the easiest and highest quality files to work
with from start to finish.
Digital 8 tape
I have one of these now... which I use as
a better player for my 8mm and Hi8 tapes, and for the occasional
project that starts with a client's digital 8 tape.
I got my first digital camcorder in Feb 2004,
a Sony TRV80... which I'm still using. With the ease of shooting and
editing high quality video today, my video footage has gone up
On a 4 week vacation to Europe last year, I shot
20 tapes... 20 hours of footage
Over 15 years of taking home video on 8 mm
film, I have about 3 hours of footage
Most camcorder users don't want to be bothered with
the chore of editing. They just want to see their footage playing on a big
TV as soon and easily as possible. For them, camcorders that record
directly on standard DVDs work fine.
But it's pretty rare home video footage that
doesn't need some editing. After seeing it once, the question is "...OK, how do
I get the video into Movie Maker for some editing?..." That's what my son asked
after he looked at his first disc.
File conversion has emerged to be a major step
in the process, right up there with editing.
The first high definition camcorders recorded
on tape... at 1980x1080i or 1280x720p, using MPEG-2 compression. Movie Maker in
XP can't handle the file captures, but Vista's Home Premium and Ultimate
Because MPEG-2 compression is much more than DV, the file
sizes are actually a bit smaller than the lower quality DV-AVI files.
Some hard drive camcorders are now recording
Hi-Def file sizes... and in formats such as Motion JPEG.
These are high definition camcorders that don't use
tapes... instead recording 1080i or 720p on hard drives (HDD) or DVDs.
Instead of MPEG2, they use the MPEG-4
AVC/H.264 codec for compression.
DVCams are Sony professional camcorders that record
at higher quality than consumer DV tapes... If you use them, chances are you use
something other than Movie Maker for the editing.
Camcorders that record directly onto small hard
drives are now popular... not having to purchase tapes or discs for the
life of the product was a compelling feature for my son who
recently purchased a Sony DCR-SR42 with a 30GB internal drive.
Of course he followed the purchase with his now standard
question "... how do I get the files into Movie Maker?..." Yes, he's
the same son who bought the DVD camcorder.
VDubMod worked fine on his XP system and mine for a direct conversions from
MPEG-2 to DV-AVI, using the Panasonic codec. Based on posts, not everyone has
been as lucky.
Vista's Home Premium and Ultimate versions include the needed MPEG-2 codec to
edit the files in Movie Maker 6, but they need conversion to AVI or WMV
files before using in Movie Maker in XP or with other versions of Vista.
Digital Cameras with video
Many camcorders have a feature to take still pictures, and
many still digital still cameras can take video clips. The
quality has gone up substantially over recent years and some small
still cameras can now shoot full sized HiDef video clips.
Webcams have been in use for many years... in specialized cases
where they sit there waiting for movement to come to them. Surveillance cameras
for traffic get a constant flow of movement... while bank vault
monitoring captures mostly nothing.
Cell phones do about everything these days... taking snapshots
and video clips is a natural extension of their other features.
The files include 3GPP and 3GPP2, the new worldwide
standards based on MPEG-4.
The file extensions and underlying technologies are:
.3gp 3GPP standard, GSM Network, Video: MPEG-4, H.263, Audio: AAC, AMR
.3g2 3GPP2 standard, CDMA2000 Network, Video: MPEG-4, H.263, Audio:
AAC, AMR, QCELP.
Analog - to transfer analog to digital
video, capturing the video from a TV, VCR, analog camcorder, etc.
Digital - Some devices process digital video to
move it from one environment to another. It's a bit like converting a file, but
conversion is usually something done in a particular environment, like on your
computer. For example, an ADS Tech device can be used to take
video which is already digital, such as that on a digital camcorder, and move it
to the computer environment in a different formal - changing its format as it
processes it. The device converts to MPEG-2 files that are ready for CD or
DVD authoring and burning.
Closing... and What's Next?
The newly re-structured section of
the website is a good step forward, but it's still not where I want it. As
always, it's a work in progress, changing as the world goes round. I
don't expect either one to stop. I try to maintain whatever value it has,
and enhance it bit more each day.
It's the many posts I'm reading from
those wrestling with file conversion issues that led me to this change. If
everyone had purchased mini-DV camcorders and used firewire connections
because editing was easier, then the changes wouldn't be needed. If Vista
auto-converted or supported all video formats, it wouldn't be needed. But the
world turns as the purchasers want it to... or the marketing people guide
Have a great week and enjoy your video work...