Digital Video Cameras

They're an ideal way to record footage of your family, friends and those special occasions: but which one is right for you?



Editing your video for the Web

The general video rule of 'if in doubt, leave it out' couldn't be more relevant when working with video for the Web. This means that elaborate transitions and complex 3D effects should be avoided unless necessary.

MPEG compression deals with video by creating a reference video frame, and providing information on the changes or motion taking place on the frames before and after. This means that the more action in a series of frames, the harder it is to compress the video.

Complex transitions usually create a lot of motion, which in turn limits interframe compression and the ability to optimise compression quality.

Most video editing applications allow you to scale an entire video to a new resolution such as 320x240 for video on broadband, down to 176x144 for streaming over the Internet via a modem connection.

Most DV camcorders come with a basic selection of video editing tools, although these applications are generally light versions with some features and tools removed. As you become more experienced, you may want to look at the more powerful options available.


Entry-level video editing applications

Starting out on the road to DV can be daunting when it comes to editing your video footage. The following programs provide a mix of guidance and user control to help you create a great-looking video straight away.

Windows Movie Maker 2.5 (Windows XP) is a great introductory video editing application and is available free as part of the Windows XP operating system (version 2.6 is included in Windows Vista). The 'collection' area contains all the relevant assets you need to make a movie, with a surprisingly large range of titles, effects and transitions to select from. Users can choose the AutoMovie option if they want to create a movie with a few mouse clicks. Movie Maker is only available on Windows Me, XP or Vista, so Windows 98 users will have to look elsewhere.

Click here for a screenshot example.

Pinnacle Studio 11 from Pinnacle (www.pinnaclesys.com) uses a simple, drag-and-drop interface to help new users get creative quickly. Some of the features not normally found in entry-level packages include custom audio and over 100 transitions including Hollywood FX 3D effects.

Studio 11 writes MPEG-1 and MPEG-2 files for output with presets for S-VCD and Video for the Web. It will also recognise HDV and AVCHD footage from the latest high-def handycams. The excellent Make Movie process guides the user through the whole video making process with little fuss.

There are several variations of VideoStudio, with the Plus version adding more support for interesting effects such as a Chroma Keying, where you can place yourself against another video background like a weatherman on TV.

VideoStudio 11 from Ulead (www.ulead.com) provides a series of clear steps to help the video editing novice gain confidence in the movie making process. The user is guided through processes including Capture, Editing, Effects, Overlay, Titles, Audio and Sharing (or Output). When you have completed editing, the finished movie can be output in a variety of formats including MPEG-2 for DVD-quality video or MPEG-1 for VHS-quality video.

Adobe Premiere Elements 3.0 (www.adobe.com) offers a more substantial option for video editors frustrated with the level of "hand holding" with most consumer-level video editors. Premiere Elements 3.0 provides the same click-and-create options to simply let the application do most of the work; but also allows you to add more input or control to how the final movie will look. The workspace is simple to follow and more closely resembles a more professional video editing application such as Adobe Premiere Pro.

Vegas Movie Studio+DVD software (www.newmagic.com.au) has been around for a while, known as Vegas MovieFactory until purchased by Sony and renamed. However, the feature set has remained, with an easy-to-use video editor and the most powerful audio tools available for the consumer. Capturing and organising video files couldn't be easier, and the tools to add titles, music and effects are intuitive without being simplistic.

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