Complete Guide to Digital Cameras


Is there a simple video editing answer?
Dec 30, 1999

 Q: I have a Mac G4 450 and would like to be able to bring in video from a Hi8 camera, combine it with some Photoshop and/or animation images and get it back out again to a VCR or write it to the DVD-RAM unit on the 450. In the future I will be going to a digital video camera but I have a lot of existing Hi8 footage I would like to use.

What would be the best, most fail-safe way to do this ? I have been told The Sony DVMC-DA1 media converter and either Final Cut Pro, Adobe Premier or Avid Cinema would do all I want it to this true? I have also been told The Aurora Fuse card would work or the Aurora Igniter. The cards from Pinnacle have also been mentioned but others have said they won't work because of the sleep mode on the G4.

I am making the transition from years in graphic design work to video/animation and feel like I am asking simple questions but not understanding complex answers. All I want it to do is work and work well, I do not want to end up with something that does not work or needs a knowledge of computer science to work. Plug and Play would make me happy so I can get on with creativity rather than computer system research.

Any help would be appreciated.


A: Well I'm sorry to tell you, but you're not going to get a simple answer from me either, because there is no simple answer to this question!

One of the problems is that there are too many parameters in your question; you mention an analog camera, but talk about moving to DV in the future. And you also talk about using a DVD-RAM drive; are you hoping to make a DVD format movie? If so that's a further complication to your question.

The first thing you need to work out is; what are your plans for DV? When do you think you might get a camera, and what kind of camera would you want to get? I ask this because if you were starting from scratch, then I'd say buy a DV camcorder; get either Final Cut or EditDV, and away you go! It'll be simple and easy with only one caveat; make sure the camera is supported by the software. Over the years I've worked with both analog video capture cards (similar to the Igniter card) and DV, and DV with Firewire transfer is just so simple and easy to use!

Which is not to put down the analog video capture cards; some people say that with the right video camera they can do a better job than DV can. I'll stay out of that argument (a bit like the argument that records are better than CDs; it might be true, but only for .5% of the population!)

Despite the fact that you have some Hi8 footage, getting a DV camcorder may still be the best answer. Several DV camcorders have analog inputs and you could transfer your Hi8 tapes to DV, then use Firewire to get them onto the computer.

Or you could get an analog board like the Igniter. But I think DV and Firewire are a much nicer and simpler solution; and that's what you were looking for.

One important note. Most of this equipment and software should now be compatible with your G4; but check to make sure before you make your final purchase because some products have required a bit of tweaking.

Now if you really don't want to get a DV camera right now, or have hundreds of hours of analog tape, then the DVMC-DA1 may make sense. It is a great little box that converts analog video to DV and back again. I have one that I'm using with a G3 and I've used it to transfer Hi8 footage from a camcorder. It works great! Perhaps the only reservation is that it's about $400, which you could put towards the DV camcorder (though the DVMC-DA1 is still useful when you have the camcorder; you can use it to preview video during editing rather than using the camcorder.)

By the way, if you don't have one, you'll need to buy some kind of television monitor to preview your video as you edit it; even with a G4 I don't think you'll be able to playback the DV video on the computer at full frame/full motion. The video monitor (or an inexpensive television) is the best bet for preview because it also let's you know what the video will actually look like.

As to software. Well either Final Cut Pro (Apple), Edit DV (Digital Origin) or Premiere (Adobe) let you add simple graphics to video, but they are primarily editing programs. How complicated your animations are will determine whether they will be able to do everything you want. You say you want to do simple animation, but you didn't define simple. If you need transparency, rotoscoping or multiple layers then you'll need another package (see below.)

Which editing program to get? Again, that's a hard one, and personal experience and preference can factor into the decision. I have used Premiere a lot over the years, and I really liked it for editing QuickTime video. It's probably still the best for analog video, but for DV the support is a little mixed (I hear.) For example, I though Apple provides some plug-ins that add support for DV to Premiere, I hear that another company, Promax, makes a plug-in that works much better. But that would be an additional cost.

For DV, I hear a lot of good things about Final Cut Pro but I can't recommend it from personal experience. It's supposed to have better animation capabilities than EditDV and Premiere. For me, the biggest thing against it is that it's published by Apple; they have a somewhat spotty record for supporting software. The package I'm currently using -- EditDV -- does a great job as an edit application, and so far I am very happy with it.

If you want to do fairly sophisticated animation, then you will need to get either After Effects (Adobe), Commotion (Puffin Designs) or RotoDV (Digital Origin.) If you want to do serious work in video animation, then After Effects is probably the one to go for, while if you want to do video retouching then look at Commotion first.

Finally, if you want to put the video onto the DVD-RAM drive, you might have a problem. The drive won't be fast enough to play DV video or digitized analog video directly from the drive. MPEG-2 has a much lower transfer rate than DV, and DV is generally lower than high quality analog video when it's digitized. You could use the DVD-RAM drive to archive your video, but you'd have to copy it to a hard disk to play. There are some MPEG2 compression options (both hardware and software) available, but they are expensive, and probably not what you want to get involved with unless your final medium is a DVD disc.

This may seem like a lot of things to think about, but compare it to graphics; you need Xpress to do your layout, but also need Photoshop and Illustrator to create the graphics. It can be daunting when you start from scratch; so it pays to walk before you try to run.

The one thing I couldn't recommend is Avid Cinema. If you're looking to do this "seriously" then Avid Cinema is too limited. If you are only interested in editing some home videos, then Cinema may be all you need.

I can't recommend the Pinnacle cards simply because I haven't used them.

Hope this helps in some way.


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