BOOT CAMP 203 (27/11/01)
VIDEO EDITING part 1
Editing video recordings, shot on a camcorder is a relatively
new accomplishment for the PC. So-called ‘Desktop Video’ has followed in the
wake of the new generation of digital camcorders and is a direct result of
faster and cheaper processors and memory chips and the huge increase in the
capacity of hard disc drives, needed to store the large volumes of data in a
video recording. Nowadays multimedia PCs with 40, 60 and even 100-gigabyte
drives are not uncommon.
We dealt with the hardware side of connecting a camcorder to
a computer in Boot Camp a few months ago (see Boot Camps 178 & 179); this
time, over the next couple of weeks we’ll be looking at how your PC can turn the
average yawn-inducing home video movie into something you, and more importantly,
friends and relatives will actually enjoy watching, and not regard as some form
Editing video on a PC is normally quite straightforward, the
tricky bit is usually getting the hardware and software up and running but it’s
getting easier. If you are still at the early stages you can avoid a lot of
traumas by making sure your system comfortably exceeds the minimum specification
required by the hardware and software, and plenty of free space on a
multi-gigabyte disc drive.
With so many desktop video editing systems and packages on
the market, not to mention PC operating systems, it’s impossible to go too
deeply into the specifics but whichever combination of hardware and software you
end up using a number of general principles apply. However, the editing process
starts long before you boot up your PC. The trouble with most home movies is not
necessarily the content, there’s usually enough material in a typical video to
put together something quite interesting. It’s all the other guff that spoils
the show, over-long sequences as you waited for something to happen, shots of
the sky and your feet, when you forgot to press the stop button, wonky, wobbly
and out of focus scenes plus all of the mistakes and awkward bits that clutter
nearly all movies.
The reasons for that are simple, unlike cine photography,
where a film cartridge lasts only a few minutes and processing can be expensive,
there’s no sense of economy with video. Tape is cheap and reusable and many
recent camcorders can record for up to an hour before the battery needs
charging. Most camcorder users tend not to plan their shots and wave the camera
about in the hope that they’ll capture something worthwhile.
The point is, all video movies need some editing but you can
save yourself a lot of time and effort by editing ‘in-camera’, as you record.
Think ahead, have in your mind what you want to see in each shot before you
press the record button. Avoid excessive panning and zooming – they look great
to you through the viewfinder but can be very tedious for others to watch –
frame each shot carefully and don’t forget you are recording sound as well.
Camcorder microphones work best when the subject is within about 2 to 5 metres
of the lens, and watch out for wind roar. Even a light breeze can sound like a
force 10 hurricane if it’s blowing across the front of the microphone, drowning
out speech or any other incidental sounds that you want to record.
If you’re really keen and want your video movie to tell a
story then bear in mind the basic syntax of film-making. Unless you’ve never
seen a professionally made movie or TV programme you are already subconsciously
aware of the most important conventions. At each new location spend a few
seconds shooting an establishing shot to let the audience know where they are.
The exterior of a famous or familiar building or a signpost etc., use your
imagination; these shots will come in very handy when you get down to the
business of editing.
Be consistent with movement. When portraying a journey,
whether it’s a person walking or a vehicle, make sure you get the direction of
travel right. For example, it can be disconcerting for your audience to show a
car going from left to right in one scene, and a moment later, going in the
The instant give-away, that you’re new to movie-making, is an
unsteady camera. Hand-held camera shots are comparatively rare in professionally
made films, unless the director or producer is using it for effect. Obviously
it’s not convenient to lug a tripod around with your but you can avoid shake and
wobble by leaning against something or resting the camera on a solid surface. If
your camcorder has an image stabilisation facility (most do these days) use
Finally, start recording a couple of seconds before you shout
‘action’ and let the camcorder record for a few seconds after it has finished,
this will provide each scene with a short buffer zone at the beginning and end
that will help in the editing and allow for scene transitions but more about
that next week, when we get down to business.
Next week – Desktop
editing part 2 -- tips and tricks
Feature on many recent camcorders that eliminates camera
shake. Twos systems are in use, ‘electronic’ stabiliser compensate for movement
by shifting the target area of the image sensor in response to signals from
motion sensors. This involves some loss of picture quality. ‘Optical’ image
stabilisation employ a flexible variable geometry optical element in front of
the lens that changes shape according to information from motion sensors,
ensuring the scene is always centred on the image sensor
Very large hard disc drives are needed to store digital video
information, footage shot on a typical digital camcorder typically consumes
around 3.6 megabytes of disc space per second!
Literally a loud roaring sound, caused by wind blowing
against the microphone
Many newcomers to desktop video are often disappointed by the
results, even when their PCs are well inside the hardware and software ‘minimum
system requirements’. In many cases the problems are caused by the hard disc
drive, video editing requires lots of space and fast access. Regularly
‘defragging’ the drive may help but the ideal solution is to install a second
‘slave’ drive that will be used exclusively for storing video clips. Fitting a
second disc drive is covered in detail in Boot Camps 87 and 88.