Video Capture

Summary: If you don’t have your video in a digital form yet, what are you waiting for? The process is relatively painless, and once it’s done you can throw out those shoe boxes of VHS tapes.

The whole reason to get your video into a digital form is the relative ease in which you can manipulate it. Part of the ease is being able to instantly access the different scenes in the video that you shot. When we say instantly, we are comparing it to traditional videotape where accessing a given scene involves fast-forwarding or rewinding to get to the specific spot on the tape. With the video stored on a computer as a digital file, you can access a given scene by clicking a spot on a time-line and boom, you’re there.

The other advantage to having the video in a digital form is that the final product that you produce will lose little or no quality compared to your original footage. Analog video editing is accomplished by taking scenes from the original footage and copying the scenes to another tape, thereby losing a generation of quality. So let’s get our video footage in a digital form, shall we.

Most camcorders made today have done away with tape. While Mini-DV camcorders are still used, and have certain advantages, flash media cards (SD cards are most common), or internal hard drives/memory is used to store video. For most people, their VHS and 8mm tapes are lying in a closet wondering if the will see the light of day again. Mini-DV tapes, which we will discuss shortly, are actually a digital version of video tape. Analog video needs to go through a process called video capture. A device attached to the computer provides inputs for the video as well as the two audio channels (left and right). You basically plug your analog camcorder’s (you can also use a VCR) output into the inputs provided by the video capture device. Run the capture software, press play on the camcorder or VCR, and press record on the software’s interface. The video signals will then be recorded to the hard drive as a digital file. The Elgato Video Capture device is shown below.

Elgato USB Video Capture device

Elgato USB Video Capture device

Mini-DV is still around, is easier to get into your computer, and it’s certainly better quality than VHS tapes. However, a computer with the right interface, known as Firewire, is required to transfer the digital data on the tapes. Sometimes a card can be installed in your computer that will enable the transfer of the video from the mini-DV camcorder. The digital transfer procedure is similar to the video capture of analog video. However, the transfer software usually allows the control of the camcorder. So you can press record in the software and the camcorder receives a signal to start playing automatically. Like analog video capture, the video signals get recorded to the hard drive as a file. This process is entirely in a digital form, so there is a direct transfer of digital data. It’s a very high quality route to go. Plus, mini-DV has a higher resolution than even S-VHS or Hi8 video. Mini-DV has about 500 lines of resolution versus about 400 for S-VHS and Hi8 (standard VHS has 240). More lines equals better picture quality. By the way, the two high-definition resolutions are over 700 lines (720p) and over 1000 lines (1080p)

A PC Firewire Card

Firewire 800 cable and port

Firewire 800 cable and port on a Mac

If you’re still with us, let’s go to the editing room.

cc licensed flickr photo shared by patrick h. lauke

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