Managing Digital Home Videos

As you may know from an earlier post this year, I purchased a MiniDV camcorder. I love the camcorder, it works great. However, how do you go about managing all this video? It’s a big pain in the butt.

Well, here are the problems I’ve had and how I solved them.

My first general premise is that at some point I will do some real video editing. Even if I didn’t, I still want to archive all of the raw footage in a DVD compliant format, with the date and time in tact. There are a ton of programs out there that will suck off the video from your camera and save it on your hard disk. There is only one that I have found that will store the files based on the date and time the video was taken. This is where WinDV comes in.

WinDV is a free, dirt simple program that will look at the time stamp on your DV tape and name the AVI file based on that time stamp. It even allows you to specify the exact date format you want and you can also specify a threshold for when it moves to the next file.

So, WinDV is the first step in my process. So, now I’ve got a hundred AVI files sitting on my hard drive. And they’re HUGE. I need to convert them to an mpeg to get the size down.

This brings me to my next general premise. Video conversion is a big pain in the butt. There are SO many options and SO many programs out there to accomplish this. Many of them do a very poor job at conversion or the user interface. After wasting a LOT of time, I have finally settled on TMPGEnc to do the conversion. This seems to give me the best output and a pretty good user interface. However, there is one major flaw in the user interface and it has to do with the batch conversion. So, I’ve created a VB script to help get over this issue. This is a whole separate blog entry in itself.

Now, assuming that my first premise is correct, I have been using Pinnacle Studio 9 Plus for my video editing. I can’t say that I’ve used much of anything else, but it does the job nicely. It has a lot of features, plenty more then I will ever need for editing my home videos.

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2 Responses to Managing Digital Home Videos

  1. One thing you should know is this: if you are planning to edit the video, DO NOT convert to MPEG and then edit. You may find that your videos end up with ugly audio-video synchronization issues. I call it the “cheap Japanese horror movie effect” — remember those late night gems dubbed into English? The words spill out and then the mouths move or vice versa? Bone dog ugly.

    Editing AVI files loaded directly from the camera is a best practice. Get all of your clips loaded onto your timeline and then turn the final video into MPEG and then leave it be. If you decide to make changes, re-edit your AVI originals and then encode to MPEG one more time… Tedious? You bet. You will be happier with the end product though.

    If you MUST edit MPEG files, I highly recommend a product called VideoReDo. It is AWESOME and handles all manner of ugly MPEG files with ease. There are a host of other features that you’ll like (eventually) so it is well worth the $50 it costs. Trust me, devices like TiVo can leave you with some virtually UNEDITABLE MPEG files — two cuts to trim a commercial and you have Cheap Japanese Horror Movie!!

    There is also a useful PeachPit Press book “The Little Digital Video Book” that talks about tape/footage management options. Building an index of what is on your original tape(s) is important so you can retrieve the footage for projects. Storing ALL of your footage on your disk farm can be a very costly proposition. (Storing all of my final MPEGs on my 1.4TB – yes, terabytes – disk farm is already costly!!) Unfortunately, building the index well after the fact, like when you already have several dozen or hundreds tapes, ends up being a daunting task.

  2. Thom says:

    I have also started to use video for collecting my child’s gems. However, I have found that keeping the AVI on the hard drive is not only useless but expensive. Rarely do I go over the same ground again to edit them. My solution is to just leave them on a DV tape and store the tape with a note in a spreadsheet as to time, date, people in video, & description of event.

    I have found that mpeg edits are not any good and quickly dropped that idea. Compression of the DV AVI means loss of quality. Always better to stay at the source.

    I agree that your suggestion of Pinnacle Studio 9 Plus is ok but so is the basic video editor which comes with XP “Movie Maker” for basic use. For a professional polish adobe premiere pro really does a great job and is my program of choice.


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