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?