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Looking at Figure 1 below, you will see a typical DV software capture screen (in this case, Apple's iMovie 2). iMovie is one of the cleanest video editing applications because it eschews endless button bars, palettes and docking tool panels which might necessitate a second monitor screen. So, saying that, your actual software will vary. In this example, you can see there are three major work "windows," which do different things depending on which of the associated buttons you press. What makes this a good starting point, is that we're going to cover the common elements of DV capture (or "import") and editing which, regardless of how they're presented on your computer monitor, they are common to all applications.
Figure 1: typical DV editing workspace, shown in Apple iMovie2.
The DV Toolbox
Every DV application follows some standard conventions. These include a monitor window for viewing the playback of the clip or working movie, which will have playback, and transport (fast forward, rewind, rewind to start) buttons much like your VCR remote control; a clip shelf or window where your individual movie "clips" are stored after you capture them; an option menu of transitions/wipes/fades which can be applied in your movie where clips are joined; and a representation of your working movie which can be a timeline and/or a visual series of still frames which show the order in which you have chosen your clips to playback, and what transitions or effects have been applied.
Other common elements include the "scrub" bar, which is that little bar or arrow which moves left to right as your clip or movie plays back. By dragging this bar, you can move your playback point anywhere in your clip using your mouse. You may also have audio editing, cropping, color correction, text overlays (for titling), and additional menus or tabs. It's good to get a feel for the software prior to doing DV capture, because whenever you start the software this main work area is what you see.
Following your particular software documentation, you will need to switch to the video capture menu. Most applications have two overall modes: capture (or "camera") and edit. Luckily some software will automatically assume you want to capture, if it senses your camera is connected and switched to playback mode. It's recommended you use an AC adapter to power your DV camera during capture instead of the battery. Using our iMovie 2 example, first activate your camera, put it into VTR mode (for playback, not to shoot new video), then launch iMovie. Now, you'll notice that the image window says "Camera Connected" and the playback button underneath says "Import."
What's cool about DV capture software is that if you now click the play button on the main image window, or the other transport controls, you'll see and hear your DV camera start to playback or rewind, just as if you'd pressed the matching button on the camera. Here, you can experiment with the controls to get a feel of how well your application and your camera are communicating. Notice a timecode indicator will show the time stamp on your video tape, allowing you to follow start and stop points in your project. Once comfortable, rewind to the point in your camera tape where you want to start capturing, and press the import button. You will now see your tape playing back, and the time indicator counting up from where you started to import.
If you've previewed your tape and know where you want to stop, simply stop when you get to that point. If you have a whole series of clips, you can go into the application preferences and set the software to automatically create clips from wherever you started and stopped recording on the tape. iMovie does this and it's very handy when you have a lot of clips you want to use on one tape. (Don't forget that 30 minutes of video will eat up about 6GB of disk space, so make sure you have enough free space for your project.)
The App is the Thing
If you've gotten this far you should now have at least one or two "clips" captured and sitting in your application's "shelf" or "assets" panel. These are the scenes which you will stitch together to make a movie. It's at this point, editing and assembling your movie, that you will find a great diversity in the features of DV editing tools on the market. Some applications support robust audio editing, while others allow only rudimentary paste-in of pre-edited clips. Some allow video clip "trimming," while others don't. One of the great features of the Internet for digital authors, is the widespread availability of downloadable "demo" versions. If you never thought to use the Web to download and tryout, DV editing is an excellent reason.
Professional-oriented tools like Media100's CineStream, or Adobe's Premiere, will have a number of features which may be specifically tailored to what you intend to do with your final movie.
Media100 CineStream is targeted to the video producer who intends to publish to the Internet, with support for Windows Media, Real, QuickTime, and MPEG-1. This powerful application includes video and effects layers; pan, zoom, rotate any layer; chroma keys (bluescreen effects); titles with video effects; 200+ transitions, and support for files larger than 2GB; plus, encoding to Web streaming formats. It includes a copy of Cleaner-EZ which allows conversion to basic Web video formats. On the higher end, Media100 also offers various products for professional-level video editing. (Editor's note: shortly after this article was completed, Media100 sold CineStream and Media Cleaner to AutoDesk.)
Adobe Premiere 6 is a jack-of-all-trades suitable for DV capture and editing and high-end analog video capture, with advanced film-making tools like an asset bay which can be logged by both clips and reels; necessary when combining elements from multiple sources, and keeping them organized. Premiere also includes tools the average home-movie user doesn't need, like professional storyboarding for project layout, layers and opacity that works much like Photoshop, full-featured audio editor with industry-standard plug-in support for options like surround sound. Premiere 6 also includes a whole palette of special effects drawn from their popular After Effects application. We will be covering these more robust applications more fully later this year.
Ulead's VideoStudio 5 DVD Edition is an excellent mid-price option for Windows-PC DV users, because it offers many of the features of Premiere, plus integrated support for output to DVD and Windows media streaming format. It supports 4GB+ file sizes, scene detection (ala iMovie), extensive support for FireWire and USB (analog) capture devices, storyboard mode, library/asset folders for organization, professional titling and optimization for Pentium 4 processors. If you intend to send family members or business associates video CDs (VCD) or DVD discs instead of VHS tapes, it's an excellent integrated solution without having to use multiple applications.
A Clip in Time
So, assuming you're still with us, at this point, you should be ready to edit your movie. Here is where you will need to peruse your software manual, tutorials, and examples specifically because the actual options and sequence you will follow will vary as much as the example software titles mentioned above indicate.
Essentially, though, the process will involve assembling your clips in the order you want them to appear in your movie, making adjustments to each clip like trimming (destructive edits to clips) or specifying start/stop points (non-destructive), cropping, and/or adding music and narration which may run concurrent with all the assembled clips. An important step is making sure you know your assets from one another. You may want to name all of your clips, if you imported them automatically from your capture session(s), with something more meaningful than clip1, clip 2, etc. Luckily your clip shelf or asset list will show all the clips with a preview image. Still, when you review the list of assembled clips, or save them in a folder, it helps to know what's what by memorable names.
In most applications, you can simply drag a clip to the timeline, which is shown as either layers of elements running concurrently, or as a series of clips one after another. Many applications provide viewing your movie project in both forms. If you look at Figure 1 again, you will see in the timeline at the bottom of the screen there are several clips in a row, left to right, which are drawn from the clip window at top right. As your work in progress plays back in your viewing window, the movie follows whatever you have in your timeline sequentially, over time (hence the term).
To create the simplest movie possible, you might start with two different clips, such as your spouse brushing his/her teeth, then grimacing, and a truck going by on your street. You would drag one of the clips from the media assets or clip shelf onto your timeline, then the second. Depending on your software, you might select the first clip in the timeline and set its start and end points. You do this because you might have captured two minutes and ten seconds (00:02:10), but only want to use the middle minute and five seconds where your spouse is brushing, but you don't want the grimace. So, using the available option for this feature you would set your start point at 00:01:00, for exmple, and an end point of 00:02:05. When the movie plays back using the monitor transport controls, you will now see the movie play only the portion of the first clip you've specified and the entire second clip of the truck going by. This type of edit is called a "cut" because the first frame of the second clip appears immediately following the last frame of the first clip. This process is an example of linear editing.
Here's where the fun begins. Now, if you want to play with transitions, you have two different clips on your linear timeline. If you select them both (some applications, you click between the clips on the timeline), and choose your transition menu you should have a choice of wipes, dissolves, and perhaps more advanced transitions. Once you select the transition type, you may have options to select where it comes in at during the first clip and where it ends during the second clip. These kinds of transitions are non-destructive and can be edited and removed over and over, so experiment away.
If you want to take your first stab at directing a scene, try this: Remove any transitions, and clear your timeline. Drag a copy of your truck clip and brushing clip to the timeline. Do this twice. Add the truck clip again, so you now have five clips in a row on the timeline. Now, set your start/end of the first truck clip so that it's at the end of the block. Then cut to the teeth brushing, then cut to the truck going by nearest the camera, then cut back to the spouse grimacing, then back to the truck going away from the camera. By setting the start/end points in each iteration of the clip on the timeline until it flows like something you're used to on TV, you've now successfully assembled your first movie!