BOOT CAMP 327 (25/05/04)
HOME MOVIES TO DVD, part 2
Using a PC to turn your
cherished home video movies into DVDs is really very simple, all you need is a
reasonably up to date multimedia desktop or laptop with a DVD writer, a video
input or FireWire port – see last week’s Boot Camp – plus some inexpensive and
simple to use software but before we get started a few words on what is
involved. The camcorder to DVD process breaks down into four basic steps:
capture, edit, render and burn.
The capture part is
where recordings on tape in your camcorder or VCR are copied, in digital form,
onto the PC’s hard disc drive. Editing involves splitting the video into a
sequence of short scenes, which can be trimmed and assembled into the required
order. Effects, such as transitions (fades, wipes, dissolves etc.) can then be
inserted between the scenes, titles may be added and the finished movie split
into chapters that will be accessible via a ‘menu’ to give your production that
extra polish. Rendering is where the effects are incorporated into the footage
and the movie is converted into a form readable by a DVD player. Burning creates
the finished disc.
In the past you would
have needed two or possibly three separate applications to accomplish those
tasks. Editing and rendering software has tended to be expensive, temperamental
and difficult to use moreover the results were often disappointing but within
the past few months a number programs have appeared that simplify the whole
process and make it possible for just about anyone, without any editing or
production skills, to create slick and professional looking movies on DVD.
Two programs that fall
into this category are Pinnacle Studio 9 (www.pinnaclesys.com) and Ulead VideoStudio
8, (www.ulead.co.uk) both of which can be
found selling for less than £50. (Incidentally, the numbers are important as
earlier versions of both programs were flawed).
I won’t delve too deeply
into the inner working of these programs. Suffice it to say they are both quite
similar, designed with novices in mind and reasonably intuitive so you can
create simple movies almost straight away, but if you want to add some
eye-catching flourishes, or turn your backyard epic into a blockbuster these
programs have plenty of creative features to play around with.
It’s best to start with
the default settings for both programs, which are set to create a DVD with the
highest picture and sound quality lasting for between an hour and ninety minutes
However, even an hour can seem like an eternity where home movies are concerned
so I would begin by making a few ‘themed’ DVDs – drawing together material from
a particular year or an event -- lasting no longer than 30 minutes or so. (Your
audiences will thank you!).
Once footage from your
tapes has been copied to the PC you end up with one or more very large video
files that need to be broken down into scenes. I suggest that you use these
program’s Auto Scene Detection systems. In the main they work very well,
creating natural breaks where you pressed the camcorder’s stop/start button; the
newly created scenes are then stored in a ‘Library’, the contents of which is
displayed on the screen.
The next stage is to
preview the scenes and drag and drop the ones you want to use from the Library
onto the ‘Storyboard’. Once there each scene can be ‘trimmed’ or ‘split’ into
several clips. Aim to reduce each clipped scene to 10 seconds or less, unless
something really interesting is happening. At this stage you can afford to be
really brutal; don’t worry, you can go back and change your mind as many times
as you like as the scenes in the Library remain intact no matter how much they
are chopped about on the Storyboard.
Scene transitions are
dragged and dropped from an ‘effects’ library into the spaces between scenes on
the storyboard. Both programs spoil you for choice with dozens of fancy swirls
and twirls but if over-used your movie will take forever to render and end up
looking like a dog’s dinner. Use them sparingly, stick with basic ‘cuts’ between
linked scenes and only use simple wipes and fades to signify a change of
location or the passage of time.
Both programs come with
lots of ready made templates for titles and end credits – just drag and drop the
ones you want from a library into the storyboard -- but you’ll find it much more
satisfying to create your own using the programs built in title editors. Editing
sound is easy too but for your first few attempts I would stick with the
original recording’s soundtrack that accompanies each scene or clip or just add
a simple spoken commentary or some background music.
Finally, view a
full-screen preview and when you are happy with your movie set the chapter
thumbnails and add a DVD menu from the template library. Rendering can be a very
slow business and may take several hours, depending on the length of the movie,
how many effects and transitions you’ve used and your PC’s specification. Once
that has finished both programs will then automatically proceed to the disc
burning stage, which on most recent PCs should only take a few minutes. If you
are pleased with your effort don’t forget to run off an extra copy or two for
friends and relatives before you delete the master movie files from your PC to
make room for your next production.
Next week – Mobile memory
Small still image, ‘grabbed’ from the start of each scene,
used to illustrate DVD chapter menus
TRIM AND SPLIT
Basic editing techniques for removing the dull bits at the
beginning and end of scenes and chopping out mistakes by creating two or more
clips from a single scene
Representation of a movie as a series of thumbnail images
showing the start of each scene
TIP OF THE WEEK
Video editing programs are hugely complex applications and
can really put a strain on your computer hardware and operating system, pushing
both to their limits so crashes and lockups are not uncommon. It is vitally
important that you get into the habit of saving your project every 15 to 20
minutes otherwise when the inevitable happens you will end loosing your work and
wasting a lot of time and effort.