Copyright 2009-2012 by djg. All Rights Reserved.

Wonky Gibbon Ramblings


What to do with Camcorder DV Video?

Posted on March 27, 2009 by danny

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Overview

(or Batch Two Pass Encoding of DV Video (AVI) with XVid and VirtualDub)

So you’ve taken hours of video of the kids, you’ve got used DV tapes lying around in piles that you can’t arsed to watch yet strangely don’t want to erase and generally don’t know what to do with them all. Short of playing dominoes with the cassettes – what do you do?

Further, if you have a family and own a camcorder you’ll know that at first you shoot quite a lot of video and then as the tapes start to build up and you don’t get around to watching them – you shoot less and less until you’re shooting practically nothing at all. And still don’t get around to watching what you have.

It’s pretty amazing that the camcorder manufacturers don’t do a better job of pointing you in the direction of some half decent software to process the results – but heh ho! They don’t – so I will try to instead.

These pages outline the resolution to the problem that I came up with for home use.

The problem is that for home video to be useable:

1) The video needs to be readily accessible (as easy as watching any other TV program)

2) It needs to be possible to both store and access a lot of it.

3) The video needs to be properly labeled (how hard can that be!)

4) The video needs to be securely archived, as you would with your photograph albums. (So some sort of home backup strategy)

(1) is relatively easily solved as we use a Windows Media Center in the house as the basis for all our Television watching. From this, it is as easy to select an individual video clip to watch as to watch a prerecorded movie, DVD or live telly. We found that once the video could be easily viewed, as with our photo albums, we did actually watch them. Shock!

(2) Involves buying some big hard drives (which these days are pretty inexpensive)

(3) and (4) are linked and revolve around the archiving and cataloguing process used for our video.

All our video is shot using a handheld Sony MiniDV digital camcorder (DCR-HC39E – if you’re interested).

There are a number of possible solutions here:

a) Just write protect, label and keep the tapes forever. This is actually a pretty good solution.

  • Very cheap both in terms of time and money
  • Quality of the video is as good as it can possibly be.
  • Backup is manual – and therefore unlikely to happen unless you are very disciplined. If your house burns down, you’re going to lose the video.
  • Because tape is less accessible than TV, DVD etc chances are that you will rarely go to the hassle of plugging the camcorder into the TV to view them (assuming the TV can do this).

b) Transfer video onto a PC via the firewire port.

  • If the PC can be left to do its work, cheap in terms of time.
  • Quality of the video is as good as it can possibly be.
  • Uses a massive amount of disk space (transferring DV to disk romps through a gigabyte in less than 5 minutes for PAL video (720 x 576)).
  • Easy to backup, if you have the disk space and a gigabit LAN connection – otherwise a bit of a pain.
  • The process of importing the video will leave you with one avi file for each “take” on the tape – so once the names have been changed to represent the content of the file and perhaps placed in appropriate folders you have a good catalogue and index system.

Since Option (a) wouldn’t require me to write this up and isn’t a lot of fun, let’s go with Option (b).

Option (b) does have two problems:

First, how do you watch the fruits of your labour on TV? You could plug a laptop or a PC into the TV, but that’s a hassle if it’s not permanently setup – a Media Center (which is a PC specialized for TV and through which you do all your TV watching) is a better solution. Think of it as a glorified VCR or Tivo.

Second, the massive file sizes – The source DV files are way too big to sensibly archive so we have to compress them to a manageable size without sacrificing quality – A huge topic and the main reason I’ve sat down to write this.

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