Introduction to Digital
Ok, so youíve got a
digital camera. You take pictures. And then one day, you decide to
try that option for making a movie. A lot of digital cameras will
take digital movies.
Most of the time, people copy the movies to their
computers, play them a few times, and then forget about them. Thatís
Then there are those who
want to put them on DVDs and
watch them over and over. They are
todayís home movies for those of you who donít own a video camera.
Still, there are the movie nuts who love to watch
Turner Classic Movies and eventually, they start to record some of
these old classics onto DVDs.
Then there are those of us who record everything
we see because some freaking doctor changed our meds and a loud
television in the background can drowned out those strange voices
telling us to.... well, thatís a whole nother subject weíll take up
at a later date.
Because of my photography hobby coupled with the
fact that I seem to take a pretty good picture, I had received at
least sixty emails asking me about my preferences for photo editing
software, video editing, presentation software, DVD or CD creation
software and the like, and for many, I simply had no answers because
it was all new to me and I was certainly no expert.
The reviews in this section are the result of a
four year quest to find the best software to do all of the things
readers have asked me about. The reviews will be added to these
pages as I complete them, but first, some of you might want to know
how this journey started, so that you can avoid those steps yourself
and learn from my errors and eventual successes.
Beyond presentation software for all your pretty
pictures and beyond all the editing software choices to make your
pictures even prettier, I had to establish a goal in my
DVD/movie/film clip software quest.
Forget the pictures and slide shows; weíre talking
Did you know that
doesnít even use film anymore (at least to record on)? The final
product that shows up at your local theater is on film. This wonít
last forever. You can expect that in a few years that all our
theaters will have digital projectors.
So, you can bet there are some great digital movie
editing packages out there (but Iím sure you canít afford the two
million dollars price tag to get the best ones).
For this challenge, I created a simple goal: to
record something from my television, move it to the computer, edit
out the commercials, put it into a compilation with other movies,
possibly a short or two, create a menu, and then output a DVD that
could be played on my television. It sounded pretty simple.
Additionally, why waste a DVD in the process? Why
not use a DVD-RAM disk that could be recorded over and over and over
andÖyou get the picture?
Not being an expert, I sought out an expert. I
found a web site that listed at least 20 products for editing movies
and making DVDs. I began a conversation with the web owner who
seemed to be quite knowledgeable.
He told me that I would need an interim program to
turn the movie file on the DVD-RAM disk into an MPEG file and an
audio file, and then I would need to find a program that could edit
both of those together (which can be tricky if you make an error
because your film will look like a badly dubbed foreign film in
which the mouths donít quite match the audio. We conducted this
conversation for about three months, while he sent me programs to
try; my results varied.
Then, since I wasnít having much luck, I just put
the project on a back burner and did other things.
Long story short, I discovered that this character
Iíd been communicating with, whom I thought was an expert, was a
total nut who was probably communicating with me from a padded cell.
Hereís what I discovered:
An MPEG file is exactly
what you will find on your DVDs you purchase (or rent from NetFlix);
it is simply ďencodedĒ and standardized so that it will play in
every DVD player from
An MPEG file is video and audio compressed. You
canít uncompress these files without losing something in the
translation, and you could not normally edit them frame by frame
with most of the early editing software. However, companies realized
that people wanted to edit these files and they have begun creating
some very interesting programs to do this.
While I was searching for a program to ďripĒ a
movie Iíd recorded off a DVD-RAM disk and then edit that, there had
already been created software that just copied the movie onto your
hard drive and then opened it in an editor. Who knew? I had to learn
the hard way that ripping was NOT what I had wanted to do (after
buying so many video rippers too).
So, here I had accumulated about 15 worthless
programs because I was told (and I believed) it was a complex
process that required a PhD, 3 high speed DVD drives, tons of
software, a whoopee cushion, a Kalatchnikov, and exact change.
In walks TMPGEnc MPEG Editor. You put your DVD in
the drive, open TMPGEnc MPEG Editor, tell the program to go find
your movies, click on the drive and whatever movies on that disk
will appear as unnamed programs. Click on them, and they are copied
to your disk, and listed out, still untitled. Click on one and
choose to edit, and bingo, itís there on your screen with a player
below it. And editing is a breeze.
So, there you have it. All
the software here can make you into a Cecil B. DeMille or an Andy
Warhol, or you can be the next John Waters. (Always keep in mind
that no one in the world ever predicted that the
Witch Project, done entirely with a
relatively inexpensive video camera, would make millions of
dollars.) You can create photographs like Ansel Adams, Robert
Mapplethorpe, or Arthur Stieglitz. You can create DVDs with menus,
video CDs, and presentations of the new baby that Grandma will
treasure as long as she lives. The possibilities are endless,
limited only my your imagination.
One Last Thing: Learn from Others
recorder hooked up to your TV set will record in a few different
modes. One of those modes is EP which can record 6 full hours.
probably not find software that will record 6 hours of video to a
DVD (that is of any quality worth watching). I have no clue why this
is, when movies recorded from television with a DVD recorder are
just fine in the EP mode (6 hours).
I was told my an
industry expert that 8000 kbps (kilobits per second) was equal to
the SP (standard play) mode; 6000 kbps was equal to the LP (long
play) mode, and 4000 kbps was equal to the EP (extended play) mode.
However, at 4000 kbps Iíve been able to get nearly 4 hours on a DVD,
and itís not the best quality. So, what he told me was actually in
this order: XP mode at 8000 kbps (highest quality), and then SP and
This seems to be
how many software programs handle these rates. We review one
package, the Roxio Easy Media Creator Suite, and at the EP rate, we
were able to fit only 4 hours of video onto a DVD.
Then I got a
copy of TMPGnc's DVD Author 3, and found that it is the most
flexible DVD making software available. It has features that beat
out programs costing much more.
If you make
menus with ďaction,Ē such as action thumbnails for your menu
choices, or an active main menu (the movie in the menu actually
plays), or perhaps many menus listing out chapters in your movies,
and lots of sound clips, you will use up a lot of space on the disk
leaving less space for video.
creation software will allow you to transcode (turn your video into
DVD video that can be read by most DVD players) at a 2000 kbps rate,
the real EP, six hour quality, but Iíve done this and itís very VERY
bad quality. Itís not even close the EP quality youíll get from your
DVD recorder hooked up to the TV.
that DVD recorder hooked up to your TV can record one program in the
EP mode, and then the next program in the SP mode, and then the
nextÖ you see what Iím getting at.
Iíve only found
one DVD creation software package (
DVD Author 3) that will allow you to create a
DVD with videos of varying playback quality (modes). Most software
output DVDs with one transcoding rate for all the videos. This seems to be the standard in
the software industry.
Most people seem
to chose a constant rate when they transcode. However, for the best
picture, choose a Variable rate. Youíll see them listed as CBR
(constant bit rate) and VBR (variable bit rate). Choosing the VBR
gets you the consistently best video quality. Believe me.
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