I can read your mind. You’re thinking… “you have got to be kidding!”. Well, if you have the basic stuff, like a PC and VCR, no—I am not kidding. With just under $250, you will be buying two components that, when added to your personal computer, will turn it into a fully professional (well almost) video editing suite. First, let’s talk some basics.
The video editing process has been undergoing a technological revolution during the past several years. This revolution started with the development of the compact disk (actually DAT tape), where the audio image, formerly recorded on records or cassette tape in an analog format, was now being digitally “encrypted” and replaced by a binary code of ones and zeros. These are the same ones and zeros that allow our personal computers to display full screen graphics and animation today.
If you stop and think about it, it makes sense that a similar type of digital encryption could be used in the video image world as well. Although the encryption methodology is somewhat different, the fact of the matter is that an analog visual image can be converted to a binary code of ones and zeros. And once this conversion is accomplished, almost any personal computer can manipulate or edit the data, or in this case a video image. This encryption process is commonly referred to as, A to D conversion and allows us to do “Nonlinear Digital Video Editing.”
Having worked with a full-blown “professional” linear video-editing suite for the last several years, I know the disadvantages of linear editing. Tape generation loss (quality of picture) from the master tape to edited tape was always a concern, but more importantly was the time lost searching back and forth over the entire tape looking for the shots needed for the final cut. For example, hours can be spent reviewing a “mission trip” videotape so that it can be edited down to a few minutes for a highlight tape to be viewed on Sunday morning. Both of these problems are eliminated with nonlinear editing.
When using nonlinear video editing you first must transfer the master videotape to your personal computer with an adapter card called a “video capture card.” This adapter card converts the analog video signal from your VCR to the binary code the PC understands. The PC stores this digital information on its internal hard drive where it can be edited without having to run the tape back and forth as was required with linear video-editing. Once the editing process is complete the resulting edited video can be played back to the VCR through the video capture card, with no tape generation loss.
As mentioned earlier in this article, you do need a couple of things before you invest your $250. First, a VHS/VCR or some other type of play back device will be needed to play the video tapes that you wish to edit into the PC. This same device will also be used to record the final version of the video once the editing process is complete. Second, you will need a personal computer, which can meet the minimum requirements for nonlinear video editing. The PC must include: a 350 Megahertz Pentium with MMX or equivalent system processor; have at least 64 Megabytes of memory; an AGP or PCI slot for the video capture card; a sound card; a CD-ROM for loading the editing software; and a BIG hard drive.
The hard drive is the device that stores the video when transferred to the PC, and the amount of hard disk space determines how much video you can transfer to your PC at a time. Depending on the analog to digital compression algorithm selected, one minute of video transfer could use from 4 Megabytes of disk space, for the most compressed digital imaging, to 60 Megabytes for the least. And the less the digital compression, the better the video quality. This means a big hard drive is a must. Think about it. If you wanted to edit that two-hour mission tape I mentioned earlier, you would need 7,200 Megabytes of storage space or a 7.2 Gigabytes hard drive, just to transfer the tape from the VCR to your PC. So consider buying an additional hard drive, just for your video files. Make sure it’s a 7,200-RPM model, to meet the faster data transfer rate requirements for video. This may add another $150 to the needed investment, but it’s still under $400.
Now we are ready to convert your PC to a nonlinear digital editing machine. It is a good idea to always “back into” the hardware, when upgrading any PC by asking the question: “What software do I want to run and what are the hardware requirements for that software?” These requirements will always be printed on the software packaging, so check them out before you buy, to verify your PC will actually meet the hardware requirements. As a rule these recommendations are minimum requirements which means the software will not run with anything less and will no doubt run better with more.
So let’s first consider the video editing software. To get started and to stay under our $250 upgrade budget, I would recommend a basic off-the-shelf package such as Ulead’s Video Studio or MGI’s Video Wave. Either one of these products can be purchased for just under $100. Now these are limited packages in that they only have one or two video tracks and only two or three audio tracks available for editing, however, they both come loaded with lots of transition effects (the things that happen between scene changes) and a character generator (for making titles). You can save the hundred bucks if you already have Windows ME installed on your PC, as it comes with a really basic nonlinear video editor called Windows Movie Maker.
How does this software work? Once the video is imported to the PC, a function of the video capture card discussed next, the software will allow you to edit the video using a drag and drop technique along a storyboard time line. You can then fine-tune the edit points, rearrange edit sequences, add scene transitional effects, and create titles with just a click of the mouse. Finally, you can add audio with either voice-over or soundtracks. Now this may seem to be an oversimplification but it’s really not, it is just about that simple. There is a learning curve, just as with any new software package, but the documentation on both products is great and very easy to follow.
When finished with your editing you can send the completed video back to your VCR via the video capture card or simply save it as a file which can be used with PowerPoint or send it to the Internet as an MPEG file.
Now that the software has been selected, the next decision will be which video capture card to use. This decision is somewhat easy because the software manufacturer of the video editing package you selected has tested the available products for compatibility and gives you their recommendations. Remember earlier in this article when I suggested checking the software box for hardware requirements?
Two of the recommended video adapter cards with video capture capability, are the ATI All-in-Wonder and the MATROX Marvel. In addition to video capture, both of these cards have an onboard TV tuner that can be used for receiving television broadcast. Special television events can then be sent to the church’s video projection system, if the same computer is used for video editing and video presentation. Either card is available for less then $150 and come with everything you need to import and export analog video.
These cards are very easy to install and the cabling to external devices is simple. Their documentation is well written and the installation CDs performed flawlessly. The cards are equipped with all of the connection ports necessary to hook-up: stereo audio in and out; S-video and/or composite video in and out; and TV broadcast in. Finally, both of these cards are also outstanding display graphics adapters, with 3D acceleration, just in case you might want to play some computer games during your… spare time.
So how does it all run together? As I indicated earlier, my prior experience with video editing was on a professional linear editing system, and at that time a new nonlinear editing system cost tens of thousands of dollars. The nonlinear system I detailed in this article was added to the personal computer I am using to write this article, and it literally cost me under $250. As for the ease of installation, it could not have gone better. I only had one problem which was my fault: something to do with actually READING the installation instructions.
The ease of learning the nonlinear editing process was incredible because of the tutorials provided with the software packages. I found it to be truly easy and fun. The best part, is any mistakes you make can be easily discarded. With another click of the mouse, you can simply start over.
Finally, and perhaps most importantly, the quality of the final edited video is clearly better than any edited second generation VHS tape. So yes, it is true. You can add nonlinear video editing to your computer for under $250. This, in my opinion, makes it one of the best investments a church can make in spreading the good news through video. And with quality nonlinear digital video editing, it will truly be GOOD NEWS.