Is that to watch here, or to go?

Once you have captured your precious footage, what do you do next? The options for video storage/distribution depend on whether you want everyone in the world to see your pride and joy immediately, or keep the moment forever.

VHS tapes have a recommended life of around 10 years, whereas DVD media can last up to 100 years. Another advantage is that DVD is non-linear, which means no more fast forwards and rewinds looking for a scene.

The disadvantage is that if you want to record a DVD as easily as you would a VHS tape, you need to lay down around $3000 for a home DVD recorder. However, for around the same price you could buy a PC equipped with a DVD burner and edit your own movie masterpiece.

If you want to send your video over the Web, there are some issues to understand before you click the export button. Do you want to stream the video or send it in one go? Will your audience be a select group, or will it be available to everyone on your homepage? Finally, you need to determine the quality of the file and whether the video will be streamed or downloaded over a broadband or analog modem connection.

Video on the Web

If your video has to play in real-time, or very close to real-time on a 56Kbps modem connection, then you had better be prepared to accept ordinary playback quality at around 5 to 10 frames per second at around 120x90 resolution. Streaming options include Real Video from Real Networks, or Active Streaming Format (or ASF) from Microsoft.

QuickTime is another good option, as you simply embed a MOV file into your homepage. People just need the QuickTime 4 player or better, which almost everyone has by now.

MPEG options

Devised for VideoCD, MPEG-1 also happens to be ideal for broadband Internet distribution as well, although MPEG-4 seems to be gaining a lot of momentum at the moment, with impressive video quality possible for extremely low data rates in the range between 10KBps and 1MBps.

Some camcorder makers, such as Sony, are even providing live Web streaming capabilities using an MPEG-4 encoder in their DV camcorders. This allows you to connect your camcorder to the PC through a USB connection and send live video over the Web.

Video over the Web is all about compromise: you give up quality, time or a combination of both to benefit from the ability to send your video throughout the world for all to see.

Make your own DVD

MPEG-2 is used for digital TV, video films on DVD-ROM and professional video studios, with resolution and the data rate scalable over a range to suit the intended audience. With the rollout of broadband networks across major cities in Australia, it's inevitable that you'll soon be able to watch a fully-featured MPEG-2 video on-demand with full digital sound. MPEG-2 files and DV files are of the same video resolution, which makes it a perfect format to complement your DV camcorder and DVD burner. PAL MPEG-2 (DVD) is 704x576 pixels and a two-hour movie will take up around 4GB of hard drive space.

The big issue at the moment is the battle of the DVD writing formats. Do you go with DVD+RW, DVD-RW or DVD-RAM? The only direction I can give is to go with DVD-R, because the media is supported in most home DVD players and the cost of the discs should drop to around $10 apiece in the next few months. For a comprehensive look at the DVD options visit the DVD Writers Buying Guide at www.pcworld.idg.com.au or the feature "DVDs Explained" in the May 2002 issue, page 84.

The faithful CD

Although you may want to record DVD-quality video for playback on your home DVD player, consider the other options open to you for video recorded in formats for output to CD.

SVCD is actually MPEG-2 video but recorded at a lower bit rate and resolution. The video resolution is 480x576 PAL running at 25 frames per second with a bit rate of 2.4MBps. Up to 40 minutes of SVCD video can be recorded on a conventional CD-R/RW disc. The playback options for SVCD are Windows-based PCs with a CD-ROM drive and an MPEG-2 player (such as PowerDVD), as well as some home DVD players.

DVD-quality video can be copied directly to a CD (around 20 minutes) when authored with programs such as Sonic DVD IT! or Cyberlink PowerDirector. This means that the disc can be played back on any Windows-based PC with a CD-ROM drive. However, at the end of the day, if you want to create MPEG-2 quality video to be viewed on the standard DVD player in your home, you must write your video to a DVD disc.

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Denis Gallagher

PC World
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