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Why Digital VideoThe world just changed. Digital video has leapt out of the lofty heights of the film professional and landed on your desktop. Video equipment prices have dropped, and its quality has increased.
You probably picked up your video camera for well under $1,000. Now you're ready to set up your own digital studio. A whole new world of opportunity lies before you. Get ready to join the adventure.
1 Choose Your Camcorder: Digital versus AnalogDo you own a traditional analog camcorder, or do you have one of those fancy new digital video setups? Perhaps you have a lower-end digital model with just a few features. It doesn't really matter. As long as you can shoot video, you can make movies and transfer your footage to a home computer.
If your video camera belongs to an earlier generation, you shouldn't feel left out. You can easily digitize your traditional nondigital videos with a converter. Then your movies will be stored as data on your computer, ready to enhance, edit, and produce.
Digital Video Camera Features
As you would expect, the newer digital video technology has a lot to offer. Digital video (DV) cameras, or camcorders, have superb picture quality, as well as a lot of bells and whistles that you cannot find on older cameras. Keep the following factors in mind when you decide whether to upgrade your camera:
- Transfer quality When you transfer digital data, the copy you produce is identical to the original. Digital video never degrades between copies. Every copy is as perfect (or imperfect!) as the first.
Camera control Have you heard of FireWire or I -LINK? These trademarks (of Apple and Sony, respectively) refer to a single standard officially named IEEE 1394, a specification for a real-time, high-bandwidth connection between computers and electronics products. This standard allows your digital video camera to communicate with your computer at very high speeds. Now you can control your camera directly from your favorite movie-editing program. You can use your computer to play, fast forward, rewind, or pause your digital videotape to get to just the spot from which you want to record. You won't find this functionality on analog cameras.
Technological advances Technology always leaps forward. Newer digital cameras often contain higher-quality optics and sensors than their predecessors. The better these features, the better the pictures you shoot. While this isn't strictly a matter of digital versus analog, you should be aware that newer, usually digital, equipment produces better footage than older, usually analog, cameras.
Resolution Resolution refers to the degree of detail you can capture with your camera. As picture resolution increases, the camera captures more and more information. The higher the resolution, the better the image quality you'll record. Digital video cameras can produce pictures with about double the resolution that you can capture on a traditional analog video system. Read more about resolution in "Tech Talk."
Sound Digital video cameras capture CD-quality sound-that is, stereo sound sampled with 16-bit resolution at 44 kilohertz (KHz). In fact, most digital video cameras capture sound at better-than-CD quality.
Size Digital video cameras are generally much smaller and lighter than older camcorders. You can literally stick some of the newer models into a shirt pocket. This feature alone makes new DV systems extremely attractive to travelers, businesspeople, or others who value advanced technology in a small package.
Unlike the data captured with a digital video camera, analog video quality does not hold up well between transfers. With analog data, you lose information every time you make a copy. You've probably seen this when you've made a copy of a copy of a copy of a videotape. This outcome is called the generation effect. Each new copy becomes fuzzier and less watchable.
Another thing that adversely affects analog video is the digitization process itself. When you use an analog-to-digital converter (ADC), also known as a digitizer, to transfer your traditional movies to digital format, you invariably introduce random and unintended changes to your video. These changes are called noise, and like the generation effect, they tend to fuzz your pictures to some extent. Of course, once you've converted to digital format, you won't lose any more quality with subsequent copies. Still, you should be aware that the conversion process degrades your video.
But the news is not all bad. Analog cameras do offer some advantages:
- Camera cost Analog camcorders cost far, far less than digital video cameras. You can find a wide selection of analog cameras for less than $500. You would be hard-pressed to find a decent digital setup for that price.
Desktop connection cost Surprisingly enough, an ADC for your home computer can cost a lot less than an IEEE 1394 setup for connecting a digital video camcorder. You won't get the quality, but you might save a few bucks. Many of these converter cards also let you watch TV on your desktop.
Tape cost and length Cassettes for digital video cameras are both expensive and short. In general, you can record 60 to 90 minutes on a digital videotape that will set you back $15 to $25. Tapes for analog camcorders cost much less and record several hours of footage. You can easily buy a VHS-C cassette for under $5.
Convenience You're likely to find batteries and tapes for your analog camera at a convenience store, drugstore, or supermarket. For a hightech digital video setup, you may need to shop at specialty stores. Don't underestimate the value of easy access to important supplies.
2 Why Desktop Video?Digital video arrives on your desktop in either of two ways: A digital video camera can transfer the data directly, or a digitizer (ADC) can convert from analog to digital. (I use a Director's Cut converter box to bring video from my ancient analog camcorder into my Movie software.) It doesn't matter which approach you use. Once your digital video arrives on your computer, you're all set to massage, tweak, edit, and transform that footage into a quality production.
Given the power and flexibility of today's PCs, your desktop can become your own personal video-editing studio, where you can produce videos for all sorts of needs and projects. Here are just a few ideas:
- Capture the moment and the event Whether you record weddings, birthdays, parties, or trips, a video camera allows you to turn a fleeting moment into a lasting record of an important time. Use your video camera to capture those sights and sounds so you can experience them over and over again.
Build memories Your family grows and changes far too fast. Grab hold of the present. Spend time taping your children, relatives, and pets. You'll build a precious collection of memories and a record of changing times.
Share your family With today's global society, we're so spread out that it is hard to stay connected. Family videos, especially well-edited videos that are short enough to encourage viewing, can help us stay in virtual touch with friends and family. When grandma retires to Florida or cousin Bill gets posted overseas, a video can help maintain that loving connection
. Expand your business More and more companies are employing digital video in their day-to-day operations. Use video to help sell your product line, educate your customers, and train your employees. Design your own Internet- or TV based advertisements. Introduce online how-to videos to supplement customer support. Create permanent records of important meetings, especially brainstorming sessions. The possibilities are endless.
Create a school project If a picture is worth a thousand words, then a video must be worth at least ten thousand, right? Video provides the perfect accompaniment to any science fair project just use your cam- corder to help record data. Create a skit for your language class. Gather the neighborhood kids to demonstrate exactly how statistics really work.
- Introduce an online curriculum Desktop video allows you to record, edit, and rebroadcast lectures with surprising ease. Make digital video the centerpiece of your online courses or an ancillary to your classroom courses.
Edit and preserve archives Every year, we lose so many memories to time and entropy. Transfer your old analog archives to digital format to ensure their preservation. At the same time, you can add narration and other annotation to help bring living memory and recorded memory together for all time.
Make your own feature film How about making your own movie or documentary? Today's software offers enough sophistication to make this feasible. Creating your own feature can offer challenge, fun, and a great learning experience.