BOOT CAMP 467 (13/03/07)

Video Tape to PC to DVD part 4


Last week we looked at some of the leading commercial video editing and DVD authoring programs but I also promised to show you how to edit your analogue video recordings from a camcorder or VCR and burn a DVD using only free software. So let’s quickly run through what you need, starting with the PC.


Personally I wouldn’t attempt to edit a video recording on a machine with a processor slower than 2GHz, less than 512Mb of RAM, a minimum of 30Gb free hard disc space and not forgetting that it needs a DVD writer. You might get away with a lower spec but there’s a greater chance you‘ll end up with jumpy or jittery recording.


Unless you are planning to get into video editing in a big way then a simple analogue video capture device, like the Belkin DVD Creator or Pinnacle Dazzle, which plugs into a spare USB socket, does a very decent job. As I indicated last week the software we’ll be using is Video DVD Maker Free and Windows Movie Maker (version 2 or later).


If you are using a single hard drive setup (see part 1, Boot Camp 464) run the Windows Defrag utility before you start recording in earnest and see also this week’s Top Tip.


If you haven’t already installed your capture device now is the time to do it. Plug it in and Windows asks you to load the driver disc. When it has finished you can download and install Video DVD Maker Free. Afterwards reboot the PC and check that everything is working properly. Connect the audio and video cables from your ‘source’ VCR or camcorder to the capture device, switch it on and pop in a tape.


You can use either Video DVD Maker or Windows Movie Maker to record video on your PC. I have used both and prefer Video DVD Maker but I suggest that you try both, make a couple of test recordings and compare the results.


We’ll run through the setup procedures for both programs. First Windows Movie Maker and you will find it on the All Programs list on the Start menu. If not go to Start > Programs > Accessories.


After it has opened, under Capture Video click ‘Capture from Video Device’ to launch a ‘Wizard’ helper program. Select your capture device and make sure it is also selected under Audio Device. The Video Input Source should read ‘Composite’ (unless you are using an S-Video connection). Click the Configure button then Video Settings and check that the Video Standard is set to PAL-I, output size is 640 x 480 and the quality slider should be on the far right. Click OK to exit the box and on the Wizard page click Next.


Stick with the defaults or give your recording a new name and choose where it will be saved on your hard drive. Click Next and this is where you set recording quality. The default ‘Best quality for playback on my computer’ is okay if your recordings are a bit whiskery or you only plan to view them on your PC, otherwise select Other Settings and on the drop-down menu choose ‘High Quality Video (Large), but once again it’s worth experimenting with the alternatives. Click Next and the Preview window opens, set your camcorder or VCR to play and the picture should appear, if not go back and check the cables and connections.


With the VCR or camcorder playing you can make a short test recording (at this stage uncheck the option ‘Create Clips when Wizard Finishes). Click Start Capture, let it run for a minute or two then click Stop Capture followed by Finish and your recording appears as a ‘clip’, which you can play back in Movie Maker. However, you will get a much better idea of the quality by locating the WMV file in My Computer or Windows Explorer and double-clicking on it. This opens Windows Media Player and playback starts automatically.


Capture setup for Video DVD Maker is slightly different. Launch the program click the Capture button, and your capture device should be displayed on the Video and Audio drop-down menus. Click the Settings button and on the Video Decoder tab check that PAL-I is selected. Finally click the Settings link and this displays your capture device Properties. PAL-I should be selected and the quality slider (if shown) is set to maximum


To make a short test recording click the Start button, wait a couple of seconds then press the play key on the camcorder or VCR and recording begins. Leave it running for a minute or two then click Stop. The location of your recording (an AVI file) is displayed just above the Start button. Close Video DVD Maker, navigate to the file, double click on it and as before Windows Media Player opens and the recording starts to play. If you want to try some alternative settings click the Setup icon and this leads to a set of options for naming your video file and changing video compression settings and codecs.


Next Week – Video Tape to PC to DVD part 5


Part 1 2 3 5 6





Audio Video Interleave, Windows standard multimedia ‘container’ format for video and audio files



Phase Alternate Line - analogue 625-line/50Hz colour TV system used in UK and throughout much of Europe



Windows Media Video, proprietary Microsoft AV container format based on the industry standard MPEG-4 compression codec




Unless you have a super fast dual-processor PC with lots of memory you should always exit any running programs before you start recording video. It is also a good idea to disconnect from the Internet or unplug your modem and switch off your screensaver as you are going to need your processor to concentrate on this one very demanding task. Any interruptions, however brief, can cause errors and this is even more important when you come to the DVD burning stage. 


© R. Maybury 2006, 0703

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