Thursday, October 09, 2008

Aspect Ratios, HD and Windows Movie Maker

Canon HV20I'm having a lot of fun with HD video. I'm hoping that others are seeing that HD video will be the standard for home video, but with that comes challenges. The hardest part is dealing with the tools we have for editing video; it's not a seamless environment yet. I can't take stuff I've captured in Sony Vegas and easily use it in Windows Movie Maker. Similarly, if I want to capture something in WMM, it doesn't come in seamlessly into Sony Vegas.

For example, recently our family took a camping trip to Mammoth Lakes. I had set up our camera and filmed 40+ minutes of us setting up the tent. Obviously, I didn't want to have people watch a full 40 minutes, I wanted to speed it up but with variable speeds, slower at the beginning, faster in the middle, slower at the end.

Windows Movie Maker only has the ability to increase the speed by powers of 2 (double, quadruple, etc.) by applying the Speed Up, Double effect up to 6 times. Even with my custom effects for speed (that allow other speed rates), I couldn't get the effect I wanted. So I switched to Sony Vegas Pro 8. For some reason it didn't like the format that I captured in WMM. So I had to recapture it in Vegas. That was okay, but then I found that Sony Vegas doesn't let you speed up more than 4 times. Since I wanted to get our 40 minutes down to about 1 minute, it meant I would need multiple passes.

My plan was to do the first pass in Sony Vegas with variable speeds, then do an overall speed up using Movie Maker. Things were going fine... I did the first pass and saved the clip in a high-bitrate WMV format. Then I brought it into WMM and applied the speed effect to get it down to a minute. I published the movie.

What I discovered was that WMM took only the top, left corner of the video. So rather than thinking I had 1920x1080 video, it saw it as 720x480 and only took those pixels in the upper right. I'm thinking it must be related to the format that Sony exports in that it must not be *true* WMV format, or is otherwise causing WMM to get confused.

In the end, I had to do all the work in Sony Vegas with about 3 (or was it 4) passes there. The result is great, but it took a lot more time than I thought it should. I hope we get to the point where things will be seamless and all formats will be recognized. Will we get there? Who knows?

Thursday, April 17, 2008

High-definition (HDV) editing in Movie Maker works again

Canon HV20I meant to post earlier that I was able to resolve my issues regarding editing of HDV video. I still don't know why the problem occurred, but I have a fix. After several calls and chat sessions with the Windows Vista SP1 Support group I found that loading the FFDShow codec fixed the problem. I can again see my HDV video (in dvr-ms format) and can edit it in Movie Maker.

Something about the steps still leaves a weird taste in my mouth because this did work before SP1, and the MPEG-2 codec and corresponding filters should have worked after the SP1 upgrade. Why I had to load some 3rd-party codecs for this scenario is still a little puzzling.

If I get a chance, I might restore the image from my Windows Home Server just before the SP1 upgrade and try it again... or I might just leave it alone. If it ain't broke, don't fix it... right?

Monday, March 24, 2008

Still trying to get HDV video to work consistently in Movie Maker

Canon HV20Well, shortly after I finished my prior post, I realized I still had a problem. Though the Hotfix in KB 943195 fixed my green video problem (captured HDV video (.ms-pvr format) would appear green during playback in Movie Maker, in Media Center and in Windows Media Player), I discovered I still had a problem during capture. I wouldn't get anything appearing in the capture preview, yet the video was coming in fine and I was able to edit the video after the capture was done. I decided I would live with the issue for awhile and see if Vista Service Pack 1 would fix anything.

So late last week, the update to SP1 happened on my computer. The first thing I checked was playback of HD video. It worked fine. Then I tried capturing and *it worked!*. I was so excited, at least until I tried to edit the video. It now appears as all black (sound but no video) when I try to edit. This is true straight from the collection or from the project timeline. It's even true when I open up a project that just last week was working fine.

Hmm... anyone have an idea? Could it be related to the ATI HD2400XT video card or the drivers? It seems likely since swapping video cards to an nVidia got everything working as expected. However, I have the latest Catalyst drivers for the card.

Oh well, the saga continues.

Monday, March 10, 2008

What it Takes to Edit High-Definition (HD) Video

Sample Video Footage from HV20Back in 2006, I reviewed the Canon HV10 and toyed with the idea of purchasing a high-definition camcorder for our family. At the time limited availability, high cost and limited editing options were all issues. Fast-forward 18 months and these issues are being resolved. Perhaps this is the year when HD video finally turns the corner with respect to general consumer acceptance. At least it has in our family.

I've been following HD camcorder choices for awhile. I've had my eye on the HV20 since it has garnered praises from reviewers and consumers alike. But finally last month several things happened. First since Canon announced the release of the next model (HV30), the prices on the HV20 began to decrease. Several sites reduced the price a lot, and certain stores even had clearance sales where the HV20 went below US$300. That's when I picked up ours.

The second factor is that software now regularly supports editing of HDV tapes. The latest packages from Adobe, Pinnacle, Sony and Ulead can handle HDV. In addition, the Windows Vista Home Premium and Ultimate editions come with a version of Movie Maker that can handle HDV capture and editing.

Since we had one PC in the house with Vista loaded, I figured it would be a good time to test the process of capturing and editing the video. Just like standard definition video from a mini-DV camcorder, it is a simple process. You connect your camcorder via a firewire cable, turn it on and set it to VCR/Playback mode. From there on, after a prompt or two, Windows Movie Maker will automatically rewind, capture the footage and place it in your WMM collection.

Things were going well at this point, so I figured editing would go as smoothly. I was wrong. What I discovered was that our Pentium 4 (3.2GHz) with 1GB of memory was not enough to prevent some skipping and lagging in the video during editing. While I probably could have managed well enough to get it edited, I figured a new PC was in order. Several online forums recommended going for a "quad core" processor, 3 to 4 GB of memory, lots of disk space, a decent video card, etc. so that's what I got. After a hiccup or two with an incompatible ATI video card and a Windows hotfix, the system was finally able to preview and edit the HD video.

So there you are, with an HDV camcorder, a suitably modern PC and the included version of Movie Maker, you can edit HD video. If you'd like to see the results, I've uploaded some video I shot last weekend.

Windy Day Fun with Granny and Gramps

No doubt over the next few months I'll have more experiences to report, so stay tuned. This is only the beginning.