BOOT CAMP 203 (27/11/01)




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 of punishment...


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 opposite direction.


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 it. 


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.

Search PCTopTips 



Boot Camp Index















Top Tips Index

Windows XP

Windows Vista

Internet & Email

Microsoft Word

Folders & Files

Desktop Mouse & Keyboard

Crash Bang Wallop!

Privacy & Security

Imaging Scanning & Printing

Power, Safety & Comfort

Tools & Utilities

Sound Advice

Display & screen

Fun & Games

Windows 95/98/SE/ME






 Copyright 2006-2009 PCTOPTIPS UK.

All information on this web site is provided as-is without warranty of any kind. Neither PCTOPTIPS nor its employees nor contributors are responsible for any loss, injury, or damage, direct or consequential, resulting from your choosing to use any of the information contained herein.