Lights! Camera! DVD Action!

Moving images, quick cuts, special effects and background music have become one of the most popular ways with which we like our memories to be cherished. Windows Middle East takes you through a step-by-step guide on how to make a DVD movie with your video footage.

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By  Vijaya George Published  March 31, 2002

I|~||~||~|From a wedding to a birth to a vacation in Bali, it has become the wont of the digital generation to capture all its special moments on little handy-cams and store them in compact, digital formats such as CDs and DVDs. The days of flipping through photo albums or replaying the past on an ordinary VCR are gradually coming to an end. Rather, moving images, quick cuts, special effects and background music have become one of the popular ways with which we like our special memories to be cherished. With the help of a PC, affordable video editing software and a couple of additional accessories, you can make your own DVD movie without stepping out of your home. Windows Middle East and MediaSys take you through a step-by-step guide on how to produce a DVD movie. Here is what it takes.

Minimum Requirements
Windows 98 SE/ 2000/ Me OS
Intel Pentium III 500 MHz (1 GHz would be better) or AMD Athlon CPU
256 MBytes RAM
Free PCI slot for video editing card
Your display card will take the AGP slot.
IDE drive 7200 RPM. (Earlier, hard drives had to be SCSI drives if you wanted to get a DVD done. Now, however, a low budget IDE drive will do. A standard IDE drive comes with 5400 RPM. If that is the case you need to upgrade to 7200 RPM. SCSI drives are more expensive.)
Separate hard drive for captured data is preferable, but not essential.
16-bit sound card
DVD - RW drive
20 GBytes HDD (40 Gbytes would be ideal)

DV camcorders are the ideal choice
Camcorders come in both analogue and digital variations. If you only intend to transfer your video footage from your camcorder to the average video recorder, this is easily done by plugging your camcorder into your TV or VCR for viewing and copying. This was the old-fashioned way of doing it. But today, most people want to store their video footage in more modern storage formats such as CDs and DVDs that allow for quality viewing on their PCs.

For any footage that needs to be transferred to the PC, the data needs to be converted to a digital format. This is a bit of a problem if you have an analogue camcorder. You require a video capture card to do this kind of a transfer. A standard video capture card comes with a video connection that plugs into your camcorder. This card fits easily into a PCI slot and will convert your footage from analogue to digital format.

You can save yourself this trouble and avoid purchasing a video capture card if you have a digital video or DV camcorder. In this case, the camcorder also records in a digital format and can converse easily with your PC. An average DV camcorder will cost you a minimum of US $ 800. A digital camera will give you good, digital quality unlike its analogue counterparts. There are several choices to pick from such as Sony, Panasonic and JVC to name a few. The most popular format for DV recording is a mini DV tape.

A PC with an IEEE 1394 connection:
This is the standard connection for digital file transfers and is commonly referred to as i.Link or FireWire. However, if your PC does not come with such a connection, get yourself a PCI expansion card for the purpose.

Software requirements

Video editing package: This is mandatory whether you choose an analogue or a digital format. A wide selection of video editing packages is available at your local retail store ranging from as little as $150 to over $2000. All of these packages, which include a video editing card, relevant cables and software, will enable you to perform the basic function of capturing video footage from your camcorder, transferring them to your PC, editing the data and adding special effects. Where the basic packages differ from the more high-end professional packages, however, is in the number of additional software tools and effects that could allow for more sophisticated editing techniques as well as real-time preview of transitions, which will, in turn, enable finer end results.

We used a high-end Matrox RT 2500 (US $1085) for this workshop. This card works only with a graphics display card called the G450, which has to be purchased separately and fitted into your AGP slot. The G450 ($165) comes with two options — single and dual monitor options. If you intend to use two monitors as one, choose a card that has dual monitor options. For those who purchase the average entry-level video editing cards, the normal graphics display card in your PC’s AGP slot should do.

A popular video editing software that comes bundled with professional-level cards is Adobe Premiere. This adds processing power, which enables your card to execute your editing effects in real-time. This is not essential but a great option if you have it. It comes with very flexible options that will enable you to do your editing easily. Licensed versions of Adobe Premiere 6.0 are bundled with Professional video editing cards such as the Matrox RT 2000 and Pro-One from Pinnacle Systems.

DVD authoring software
To burn your edited footage onto your DVD eventually, you require a DVD authoring software. One popular DVD authoring software that comes with most DVD writers is from Sonic. In this case, we used DVDit, an authoring software from Sonic that comes bundled with Matrox.

MPEG 2 Player
DVDs take an MPEG2 format. When you eventually convert your video clipping to an MPEG2 format, you will require an MPEG 2 player to view your final footage on your PC. This should come with your video editing card.
Most high-end video editing cards will enable real-time editing of audio and video and have additional software tools to use advanced editing techniques. The Matrox RT2500 bundle, for instance, includes licensed versions of Adobe Premiere, DVDit, an MPEG 2 player as well as other editing software. It also comes with a DV cable and a breakout cable, which, in turn, has input and output for composite and SVHS.

Essential cables such as a DV cable will be provided along with your video editing card. Optional cables such as a composite cable can be easily purchased from your local hardware store.

Professionals use an additional monitor to make editing easier. But for your home video, a single monitor should work just as well.
A TV monitor will enable you to preview the actual quality of your edited footage.

Install video editing card
The video editing card should be fitted into the extra PCI slot on your motherboard. Connect this card to your display card with a data cable.

Install softwareInstall all relevant software that comes with your video editing card. Ensure that you have definitely installed the video editing software and DVD authoring software. Any real-time editing tools for video and audio that you can get hold of will be helpful for editing. These should get your through basic editing.

||**||IV|~||~||~|Step 1: Keep your video footage ready
Take your video footage. At the workshop, we used a Sony DCR-PC9 digital camcorder ($1170), which has excellent features for DV filming. Plus, the camcorder accommodates a memory stick for digital still photography as well. However, the recommended current model is Sony’s DCR-PC115 ($1550).

Step 2: Setting up your connections
Set up all the connections — to the PC, the television and the camera. Although we speak here with reference to a Matrox video editing card, all video editing cards will have a basic interface to make the relevant connections from the card to the PC. A DV cable will be included. The only difference is that the card you have purchased will come with more advanced options or less depending on the price. In the case of Matrox, the interface is called a breakout box. This enables you to connect all your external equipment to your card. This is because the card is too small to take all the connections directly. The card comes with a “composite” and SVHS connection to capture video from a VCR (video cassette recording). This allows for recording from your VCR if you do not have a DV camera. Most cards come with “composite” (which means that it supports VCR), but it would help to check.

Connecting your CAMERA
A DV cable comes along with your card. Connect this from your camera to the video card (on your PC). This is to capture the clipping from your camera onto your PC. Ensure that your camera is switched off now lest the batteries drain out. We’ll make all the connections before we go to capturing and editing.

Connecting your VIDEO CARD and PCs
Next, take a look at your card’s cables. The Matrox breakout box comes with a VDU interface (the big blue interface in the photograph). Plug this into its corresponding slot on your video card, which is fixed onto your PC’s motherboard.
This interface comes with a “sound out” (blue colour, in this case) that must be plugged into the input slot of the sound card.
Next comes the final output audio from the card to the speakers. This is enabled through another cable (black) that connects your card to the speaker.

Connecting your TV
On either side of the breakout box, note that there are four ports — three for the composite plugs and a fourth for the SVHS. Connect the cable from one side of the box to your TV monitor. The other is optional depending on whether you want to record a clipping from your VCR instead of the DV camera. The composite cable does not come with the card. But it is available in most hardware shops.
Now that all your connections are made, let us go to the four important stages that go into creating your DVD, namely Capturing, Editing, Authoring and Burning.

We used Adobe Premiere along with Matrox. Go to Start/Programs/Adobe/Adobe Premiere. Alternatively, go to Start/Programs/(Your card)
Go to File/Movie capture. This “captures” the movie from your camera.
Save file. Once you have done this, import the file. Go to File/Import. If your video clip has video as well as audio, they will be imported together. Some video editing cards do not support sound editing. Check before making a purchase. Some cards such as Premiere and other high-end cards give you the additional option of adding background music.

With Adobe Premiere, you have a default DV-NTSC and DV-PAL. These will be on top of the menu when you open it. Below this, you will see the profile of the video editing card you install. Here, you will see DV-1394 along with the name of your editing card. Click on it.

This particular card gave three screens/menus on the monitor.
1. The source screen captures the image.
2. An editing screen was split into two; the first allows you to edit, the second allows you to preview your edited clips. (This feature to preview in real-time will be possible only with professional cards.) If you have two monitors , this screen can be lengthened so that you view the preview in one monitor and edit in the other.
3. The third screen, in this case, is called the timeline. Your editing card should come with a similar feature.
Most editing packages come with standard icons to represent Play, rewind, forward, and buttons to indicate the start and finish of an edited clip. As you watch the unedited footage, decide which specific areas you want to keep and which you’d rather discard. Perhaps, an embarrassing moment or a shaky shot?

Drag your first edited clip (let’s call it A) into timeline. Repeat the procedure with each part of your source clip so that you get B, C, D and more. So, you may have one lengthy footage in the beginning. But as you go along, you will have several edited clips in your Timeline. Timeline has both audio and video columns, where you can put in each of your edited clips. It allows you to see the time length for a clip, which will enable you to synchronise the audio accordingly.
It is at this stage that you will realise the significance of a video editing card and the amount of time it can save you. Instead of a long straight shot, you now have several edited portions. As these portions have been cut from the main source, one scene will not flow readily to the next unless you add a transition or special effects such as dissolve, fade in and out, tiling, titles and more.

||**||VI|~||~||~|An entry-level card will give you about 5 to 10 transition options, which is good enough for a home video. Adobe Premiere comes with approximately 300 different effects. This is where you get to play around the most. The choice of transition and how it is used will reflect on your end product. But Premiere as well as entry-level cards do not permit real-time viewing. This can be done by professional editing cards, which will show you in real-time the effects created as you apply each transition.

Do not forget to drag and drop each of your transitions into timeline as well. If you choose, for instance, to “dissolve” from clip A to B, drag the effect between A and B. The software is with you. Try out different combinations. The good thing about this is you can undo or delete earlier changes at any point.
Likewise, you can trim your audio as well if your card supports it. Background music is another option. You can title each section of your video if you like. Explore such features in your video editing package.

Saving your edited file
Entry-level video editing cards should have user-friendly save options as well. For a card such as Matrox, you will need to go to File/Export Timeline/movie. A screen pops up asking you for a file name. Don’t name your file just yet. At the bottom of this same screen, you will see an option called Settings.
Click on it.

Double check the following:
1. Each card comes with its own codec (compression-decompression) software. Choose an MPEG2 compressor in your settings to compress your edited file.
2. Ensure that your video setting is on PAL.
3. Audio settings should be at 48000Hz or 48k and 16-bit stereo.
Those are the basics. Say okay. The raw format is converted to the final MPEG2 output.
SAVE the file.

Viewing your saved file
To view your saved MPEG2 file, you require an MPEG2 player. Go to Start/Programs/Maxtor(your card)/MPEG2player.

This is the final stage where you burn a DVD. Here, you require an authoring software without which you cannot write your file to the DVD. With this software, you can create a background, enter titles, credits, design your own menu buttons and link them as well.
On a very basic level, create one background, which is what you will see when you play your DVD. Create a button with the menu provided on DVDit. Then enter your text. Say, for instance, START. Then drag and drop your saved video and audio files (if you have any-from the right window as shown in the screen shot) onto the start button on the main screen. This will enable the button to act as a link so that your video starts when you click the start button. Click on the preview icon.
What you see at this stage is what you will get on your DVD.

Put your DVD into your DVD-R drive. Go to DVDit/Build/Make DVD disk.
Select your drive, say okay.
Congratulations! You have made your first DVD movie. Don’t worry if the transitions are not very smooth and it’s taken you a while to compile your first movie. The good news is as you keep practising, you will learn to edit faster, and make better movies as well.

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