Make HD Movies (Part 2)

You can find Part 1 in the March issue.

I consider myself a fairly intelligent person. I would say I am fairly knowledgeable in the workings of consumer electronics gear and computers. I took several film and video classes in college, and even interned at a video production house. I would consider myself qualified to work a video camera, and a computer. Then why in all things holy CAN'T I GET THIS THING TO WORK?

Call me simplistic, but to me there are only two things a modern video camera has to do. 1) Shoot video. 2) Output that video to a computer. If it can't do one of these, then it fails as a video camera. That makes it a very expensive decoration to the Future Museum of Consumer Electronics Crap. The 100+ page manual of the HDR-HC1 devotes less than a page on the subject of getting footage from the camera to a computer. If you take away all the warnings of plugging this into that, the total space is a paragraph. All it says, is that you need some external software to export the video. That makes sense. What it doesn't say, is that you need specific software for the computer to even recognize the camcorder. The beauty is, the camera doesn't come with the software. Sure, you can buy it as a bundle for an extra $100, but if you don't know that this is a requirement, you're up a smelly creak. Downloading demos for the software won't work. You need a real version of the software that contains HDV drivers. Sony's Vegas Movie Studio Platinum (the regular Vegas doesn't have the right drivers), Adobe Premiere Pro, and a few others will have what you need.

After I finally got the software, Sony's Vegas Platinum (the regular Vegas doesn't have the right drivers), everything worked as it should. The transfer goes in real time, so be ready to press the button and leave for a bit.

Editing is an art, and I won't insult the many geniuses who do it for a living by trying to sum it up here. A little advice, though, cut a lot. Most of what is shot in a movie is thrown out, and your movies should be the same. No need to show everyone walking up to the door when showing them at the door will suffice.

Sony's Vegas software will output several different file types. If you want, output an uncompressed .avi file, and then it into a Divx file. Divx files tend to be smaller, without too much loss in visual quality. You can get a Divx decoder here, and download Divx files to check out here. You'll need the Divx Create program to encode your files. It's an easy to use tool that can take whatever files you have and re-encode them as Divx files. It's $20-$30, but should save you massive amounts of space over .mpg and even some over .wmv. You can find that here. If you're looking to encode other files you have as .wmv, then you can download a Windows Media Encoder, which is free. Check that out here. Microsoft also has a pretty good primer for shooing movies here.

Ok, so once again, here are all the links I mentioned above.

Divx Decoder
Divx Movies
Divx Create

Windows Media Video
WMV Decoder
WMV Encoder

HDV Compatable Software
Vegas Movie Studio Platinum
Adobe Premiere Pro

Apple Quicktime
Movie Trailers (many in HD).

HT's Movie

After much delay, here are the video samples from the HD camera. This clip, uncompressed, is 35 gigabytes. So obviously, it has to be compressed. What’s interesting to note is the different file sizes. With DIVX, you get a 34 megabyte file. Windows Media Video gives you dozens of different resolution and compression choices. Here are a sample of three, 17MB, 25MB, and 142MB. While I would love to have been able to show you a lightly compressed demo so you can check out what the camera is doing alone, size just doesn’t permit it. So this demo is just to show what can be done with a few hours with an editing program, what different amounts of compression do to an image, and what a complete lack of talent can do to an hour of HD footage.

The Camera Feed

Uncompressed, the video from the Sony camera is quite good. There is some noise in the darker areas, which is to be expected in most consumer cameras. It isn’t quite as detailed as the more expensive cameras, which is also to be expected. There is a noticeable increase in picture quality over single chip NTSC cameras, and a definite increase in detail over the 3CCD consumer cameras (though those tend to have better color accuracy).

The Camera

The camera itself was fairly easy to use. The 16x9 screen was touch sensitive, which may sound like a good idea, but the icons were so small and close together that it took me several tries to get the item I wanted. My fingers are pretty thin, so if I’m having problems, a lot of people will (but probably not your kids).

So here you go, Home Theater’s Editing Demo. I’ll warn you now, it wasn’t worth the wait. Also, these are really big files, so if you’re still using dial-up, don’t bother. You'll need a pretty beefy computer to run this as well. Check the specs for WMV HD. It runs about 3 minutes.

HT Editing Demo DIVX (34MB)
HT Editing Demo WMV HD - Large (142MB)
HT Editing Demo WMV HD - Medium (25MB)
HT Editing Demo WMV HD - Small (16MB)