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.


  1. Im wondering how you burn and then view your hi-def movies.
    Do you need a blue ray burner on your pc and then another blue ray for your media room?

  2. So far I have only been playing them back on the PC or in Vimeo for family.

    Another option is to put them back onto tape as HDV and then play that through your HDTV.

    I don't have a Blu-ray or HD-DVD burner so I haven't gone that route yet. Maybe eventually when burners and players come down in price.

  3. I appreciate your blog, and I appreciate you taking the time to learn this stuff through trial and error, which is honestly one of the best ways to learn, even though it takes a little longer.

    I'm a professional film editor and want to add a few notes to your blog that I've learned from trial and error. You had Ulead mentioned as a potential editing software. I have used Ulead Media Studio Pro 8.0 for about three years, am relatively experienced with it, and yet recommend that you use the Ulead software as a last resort, especially when it comes to high-definition editing. There is something about the software that, despite your processing speed, is extremely slow, crashes often, and you have to constantly backup your files because of how often the originals will become corrupted.

    If you want to edit anything on a professional level, whether it be standard definition or high definition, I always suggest switching to a Mac and using Final Cut Pro. Even if you choose not to use Final Cut, Macintosh is the most stable system out there for any type of graphic or video design work.

    Take care,

    Shayne Edwards

  4. Blaine,

    Thank you for the advice. The information here really cut through the guessing and trial and error stage for us. Going to a High Definition media production was definately more than just buying the hd cameras.

    Thanks again,
    Andrew Peterson
    Western Digital Productions