Sunday, June 22, 2008

Upload MiniDV Footage to your PC or DVD

Surprisingly, this is one of the only easy to use devices to upload old footage into your computer. In fact even I had trouble finding it because it's called a DVD Recorder. I had to have the Best Buy salesman help me find it, and even then I didn't believe him when he said that's what I needed to upload footage. It can record your DVDs but it's more useful to take your old VHS videotape and upload it to your computer hard drive. NOW...some rules:

1. When you upload footage do it in chunks, don't upload an hour's worth of footage. Computers still hate video because it takes up so much space so you will be able to manage your footage much more easily if you upload a little at a time. It will all go back together fine in Windows Movie Maker or another Video Editing software so don't worry about stopping and starting. Just make sure when you stop, you back up a little before you start recording again so you don't miss anything.
2. Don't throw away your old VHS after you have uploaded! Put it in a shoebox in a dark, dry closet but don't throw it away. You never know what is going to happen with computer storage in years to come.
3. Remember that hard drives crash. So you should edit your old footage as soon as possible, OR back it up to another external hard drive for safe keeping. (another reason not to throw away your original footage)

You can buy this Dazzle box at Amazon and then move your VHS machine close to your computer. Hook it up with the cables you use to hook your VHS to your TV. The Dazzle box has an SVHS plug which you should use if you have it. It's better quality.
If you have more questions that what I've addressed here, just post a question.

Tuesday, May 13, 2008

NEW! Pinnacle Studio Plus version 11

Pinnacle is one of the only video editing software companies that has an easy to use video converter for your home computer. It's called a Dazzle box and you can see the picture at the right of this screen. It hooks to your PC via USB and accepts your camera cables or your VHS video machine cables. Then you upload your VHS footage into your computer and edit it on Pinnacle's great Studio Plus software or Windows Movie Maker. Also the Dazzle box contains software that lets you burn straight to DVD which helps you transfer your older VHS or Hi 8 footage.
Convert and copy video to portable media players, including iPod and PSP with Mobile Media Converter!

Saturday, May 03, 2008

Video below edited using..

The star wars silent movie below was edited using the new Adobe CS3 Production bundle with Adobe Premiere Pro, After Effects, Photoshop and much more. Adobe outdid themselves with this grouping. The virtual sets in Adobe Ultra CS3 are just amazing. For media teachers, it's a package that offers unlimited tools and teaching possibilities for very little money. I want one for my home editing system.

Time for Media teacher to share what works!

For two years I have been teaching Media Production to high school students and it's been the best experience of my life. I am so often shocked at their skill with only 4 months of shooting and editing. I have some students who come into my classroom saying they are computer phobic and become the best video editors in the classroom. We've won awards, produced amazing stop motion and effects driven pieces and had a lot of fun. I am posting one of the student's work here who will surely be George Lucas one day.

Monday, April 28, 2008

Review of Windows Movie Maker Video Editing Software

For the past 2 years, I have turned countless students and adults on to the wonderful, free tool inside almost everyone's Windows based computer. Windows Movie Maker is a marvel and the majority of those I teach had no idea it was living on their hard drive. The next astonishing fact is that it's easy for almost everyone to use. I have had adults in my classes who were uncomfortable surfing the internet and googling and even they caught on quickly to WMM's ease of use. The teacher in me loves the instructions right there on the left side, called tools as they should be and completely this, do this, do this ....wah-lah you have a movie. As a broadcast professional and video editor for 30 years and someone comfortable with most video editing software, this is the best way to learn to edit video. Find some pictures and import them into collections, locate the free music in the music sample folder and begin to edit your first masterpiece. It's delightful to have students of all ages make a 30 second movie with pictures and sound and want to take it home to show everyone that they edited their very first video! That's the beauty and simplicity of Windows Movie Maker and it's exactly as it should be for a free, first experience video editing program.

I have read all of the very technical reviews on each and every version, but there is no need to take apart every little flaw in this software. I'll talk about the few drawbacks a little later but for now let's just rave about its positives. This software does what it’s supposed to, edit a simple video and output it to a CD or videotape. I think too often the reviewers are expecting too much from this free gift or expecting with later versions that it should do more and more. It shouldn’t. With more bells and whistles come more complicated instructions and functions, again defeating the purpose of this easy to use software.

Here’s what I like. It’s free. Second and actually more important is that it has many wonderful effects that are actually quite complicated even for professional editors in expensive video editing software. My students often need the wonderful old film look or the “ease in” feature so we edit our larger pieces in Adobe Premiere Pro and then import the finished piece to WMM to easily add those great effects. Premiere will do most of them and certainly Adobe After Effects will, but WMM does them effortlessly! I am especially impressed with the titles and title overlay track. To make a newspaper headline with your video inside and then fly it away to reveal new video is very complicated in professional editing software. The WMM squeeze left or right for rolling credits at the end is also brilliantly simple. One special trick I’ve learned while teaching WMM is being able to separate your video and audio and using just the audio on the music or audio track. It’s a much more versatile timeline than it first appears.

Downsides are few but I promised so here goes and there are really only two complaints. Number one is that the output instructions are too vague and complicated. When you output you need to know why you are outputting and what the quality will be and it isn’t explained very well. In the “other” section of “save this video to my computer” there are way too many choices for the inexperienced video user. It should be clearly marked that the best quality saving option is the DV/AVI. But the instructions should also warn that that file will take up a lot of hard drive space. This is a confusing issue for even professionals and it’s a new problem for video on the web, but the software authors should find a way to explain it more clearly. What ends up happening is the editor unknowingly picks a bad quality file. After working so hard on the video they get a bad outcome: a fuzzy video. That makes them blame the Windows Movie Maker software or their computer and they stop trying to edit video. Number two - none of us like the fact that you can’t move video around on the timeline (you can move audio around separately and have it stay where you put it). But when I teach it, I explain that it’s meant to be rigid so the newb editor can’t make a mistake, no matter how hard he or she tries. When you find yourself irritated about that rigidity you have learned all you can learn on WMM and it’s time to upgrade to one of the wonderful and inexpensive new softwares out on the market – Adobe Elements, Pinnacle or Sony Vegas. For more on those and the rest of the creative video and audio tools go to my website at or send me an email at In the meantime, start practicing and make some home movies!