Your Equipment

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What do you need to make videos , edit them, and produce a final movie? Simply put, you only need a video camera, a computer, and Movie Maker. Each of the next three sections explores these elements of movie making.



This book uses the terms camera, video camera , and camcorder interchangeably.

Your Video Camera

Obviously, the more features your camera has, the more you can reduce problems at the source. For example, some cameras allow you to control how much light enters the camera during filming . If you have to shoot in poor lighting conditions, this light feature can help improve your video ”if you understand how to take advantage of it ( see 13 Light Your Video Properly and 16 Take Low-Light Movies ). However, if your camera does not adequately support controlling the entry of light, you can do some editing in a video editing program to help reduce the problem.



If you bought a video camcorder a few years ago, don't worry. It will work fine for your first foray into videography.



Given that today's bare-bones, inexpensive cameras contain plenty of the features you need to make quality videos, this section won't offer a comparison of specific cameras or features you need to look for. Instead, a broad overview of camera types is all you need to make your first purchasing decision.

The world of video cameras has dramatically changed in the past few years, and that change appears to be speeding up, not slowing down. With the rapid change, a list of desirable features from last year is now standard on this year's models. This year's desirable features will be standard next year.

Suffice to say, a video camera you purchase new today will certainly be adequate for starting out on your videography journey. After you master the basics, you might want to step up to a more expensive, but more feature-packed, camera.

Even inexpensive and older camcorders provide the basic features you need to get started making movies.


Digital Video Cameras

One feature that will make life simpler for your first movie-making forays (although certainly not a requirement), is a FireWire connection . A FireWire connection is the primary distinguishing aspect between an analog camera and a digital camera . If your camera has a FireWire connection, you almost certainly have a digital camera, or perhaps a hybrid analog and digital camera. (The hybrids are good if you have several older analog video camera tapes you shot years ago that you want to transfer to your computer.) As long as your computer also has a FireWire connection (and if it does not, FireWire expansion cards are inexpensive), you can plug your camera directly into your computer and send it all your videos quickly and easily. A program such as Movie Maker controls the process and does the job effortlessly.



FireWire connection ” Also called IEEE 1394 , a FireWire connection is a port in your camera that you can connect directly to a PC's FireWire port, allowing you to send video directly to your PC without requiring special decoding hardware, such as a video capture card.

Analog camera ” A camera that writes to film using continuous signals, requiring the analog signals to be decoded to digital signals before your computer can edit the video.

Digital camera ” A camera that writes to film using discrete signals that your computer can read directly without a decoding device.

The most important advantage to digital video as opposed to the original analog camcorder video is that you can move your digital videos from camera to computer to camera to DVD to hard disk and back again, and you can make as many copies as you want, without any loss in sound or picture quality. If you've ever seen a copy of a copy of a VCR tape, you've seen the drawback to copying analog video ”the quality diminishes with each copy.

Prosumer and Consumer

In the old days (less than a decade ago), the difference between professional video cameras and consumer models was simple to spot. All you had to do was look at the price tag. The pro models might command thousands of dollars more than a high-end consumer model, which might price at a little more than $1,000.

These days, ordinary and inexpensive consumer models that cost $500 and less have many features that used to be exclusive to the pro models. Yet there still exists a divide between high-end professional cameras and consumer models. Fortunately, consumer models produce excellent video, and can be the basis for fairly high-quality productions . Today, a third category called prosumer has arisen that can give you near-professional results at just a little more cost than everyday consumer models.



Prosumer ” Digital camcorders that offer near-professional features but are priced between the pro models and consumer models.

Here are some of the ways that prosumer models differ from consumer models:

  • Wider range of values for depth of focus, white balance ( see 14 Control Your Depth of Focus and 15 White-Balance Your Scene ), zoom, and exposure settings.

  • More dials and knobs , so you have more precise control during shooting, as opposed to the same controls on consumer models that generally require you to select from a menu on the LCD screen.

  • Greater audio options.

  • Better color depth, control, and pureness.

  • Multiple lens attachments for different shot requirements.

  • Greater camera weight.



A general rule of thumb is that a prosumer model costs about one-third that of a professional camera, and about twice as much as a typical consumer camera.

Even if you have yet to purchase a video camera, and even if you have money to burn, don't buy a prosumer model if you're just starting out in videography. There are two reasons to buy only a high-end consumer model now and get the prosumer model later:

  1. You can't know which prosumer features you need most until you've shot lots of video. Different features help different movie makers . Learn what features you need most before looking at prosumer models. If you buy a prosumer model first, you might find it lacks the feature set you need most, or perhaps it implements that feature set in a more complicated way than another model.

  2. After you use a consumer model for a while and learn the features that are most important to the kinds of videos you shoot, you not only will make a more knowledgeable prosumer purchase, but the price you pay for the prosumer model will probably be less a few months from now than it is today (that always seems to be the case).



The greater weight of prosumer models is actually a benefit in spite of the fact that manufacturers tout lightweight camcorders to the public as a benefit. Professional videographers agree that added weight helps them balance the camera and keep it steadier during filming.

Your Computer

Most of today's low-to-medium priced PCs can handle the needs of routine video editing. Higher-end models certainly are equipped to help even the most ardent video pros capture and edit their movies. If you own an older computer, you might be able to upgrade your PC to handle your editing needs.

Generally, the following specifications are the minimum you need to edit videos without too much trouble:

  • An 800MHz or faster processor, although some experts say that 1GHz (1,000MHz) is the minimum speed.



    Hardly any upgrade helps speed your video editing work more than adding computer memory. "I have too much computer memory" is not a phrase ever uttered in the history of computer video editing.

  • 256MB of RAM, although with today's inexpensive prices, you should settle for no less than 512MB if you plan to edit videos over 10 to 15 minutes in duration.

    The more memory you add to your computer, the shorter your video editing session will last, because your computer can process more information faster with the added memory space to work in.


  • A 17-inch monitor is a minimum if you want to be able to see both your movie and the video editing controls at the same time easily. The larger the monitor, the greater your ease of editing will be. Today's Windows-based PCs enable you to add a second graphics card and a second monitor to your computer. If you can do that, you will really go to town with video editing, because you can watch the video on one monitor while editing and controlling the production on the other.

  • A video graphics card with at least 64MB of memory. (This memory is sometimes called video memory, video RAM , or VRAM .)

  • A video capture card that captures analog video and converts it to digital. If you want to edit from any analog video source, such as a VCR or from an analog video camera, you must have a capture card. If all your video will come from a digital video camera, you do not need a capture card because you can use the FireWire connection to port the video to your computer. If you can get a capture card with an S-video connector, do so because the quality gained by using the S-video connector over the other video input jacks is significant when coming from a source such as a VCR. If you ever want to use a high-end video-editing program such as Adobe Premiere Pro, be sure to read the software's video card requirements to ensure that your card will work properly.



    If you have a digital video camera with analog input jacks (called RCA phono jacks), you can forgo a capture card! Connect your VCR, for example, to the camera's input phono jacks, and connect your digital camera's FireWire cable to your computer. The camera decodes the analog signal to a digital video signal that your computer can understand.

    A video capture card enables you to pull video from your VCR or older video camera into a digital video format your computer can read and work with.


  • An 80GB hard disk will get you started, but if you plan to store a lot of video on your computer, you will quickly run out of space. Consider adding 200GB to your primary editing hard disk. Today's removable hard disks, which connect to your computer's USB 2.0 or FireWire port, are large, fast, and simple to connect, so you may opt to buy them as you need them instead of spending the time and effort upgrading your computer's internal hard disk.



    It's okay if your computer has only one FireWire connection. You can plug one FireWire device (such as your video camera) into another FireWire device (such as an external disk drive), and only the first device in the chain needs to be attached to your computer's single FireWire port.

  • A DVD or CD burner is necessary if you want to store your videos on DVD or CDs. Most computers sold in the past few years have CD burning drives , but only the recent ones are equipped with DVD burners.

In addition to the hardware, you must ensure that you have either the Windows XP Home or the Windows XP Pro operating system. Movie Maker 2 requires Windows XP.

If you want to get a DVD burner, you should familiarize yourself with the formats. Unlike audio and data CDs, no single DVD standard exists. You can very easily store a video on a DVD that can play only on your computer's DVD player, but will not play in most non-computer DVD players. You want the world to be able to play your videos!

Table 1.1 describes the five DVD formats available. Pay close attention to the third column, because it describes each format's compatibility with the DVD players found in most homes today.

Table 1.1. Not All DVD Burners Are the Same


Read or Write



Multiple rewrites

Generally only readable by other DVD-RAM drives. Perfect for data storage, but not great for sharing videos.


Writable once

Compatible with most DVD players.


Multiple rewrites

Generally compatible with most DVD players sold today.



In a way, multi-format DVD burning drives are becoming the today's de facto standard, because so many DVD burning drives sold now support all these formats: DVD-R, DVD+R, DVD-RW, and DVD+RW.

Video Editing Software

As long as you have computer hardware that matches or surpasses the minimum requirements mentioned in the previous section, you can edit videos you capture to your computer. Editing involves far more than just splicing together different videos or removing pieces of them.

Video editing software enables you to do all the following and more:

  • Add narration to video

  • Add a soundtrack to the start and end of a movie

  • Add music and sound effects throughout a movie

  • Create transitions between scenes to fade in, wipe out, swirl, turn , and change from one scene to another in a fancier way than just switching from the end of one scene to the start of the next scene

  • Add opening titles, subtitles , and ending movie credits

  • Slow down parts of the movie and speed up other parts

  • Add special video effects throughout the movie

  • Capture still photo images from any frame in the movie

If you have a closet of home videos, you can finally put together a video collection that your family can watch, enjoy, and treasure . If all this sounds like an advertisement for video editing, it's only because of my excitement that the capability to edit video is finally so widely available. Computers could be used for video editing even through the late 1990s, but the process was neither inexpensive nor simple. Today, with software such as Microsoft's Movie Maker, video editing is virtually effortless.

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Digital Video with Windows XP in a Snap
Digital Video with Windows XP in a Snap
ISBN: 0672325691
EAN: 2147483647
Year: 2004
Pages: 169
Authors: Greg Perry © 2008-2017.
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