Transferring video from a digital camcorder onto your hard drive can be difficult because of huge file sizes. Until recently, video capture was the hardest step for the home video maker as it was fraught with hardware conflicts, system crashes, and dropped frames.
Fortunately, Windows Movie Maker 2 (WMM2) makes the capture process relatively painless. This is due, in part, to Windows XP and its inbuilt support for digital video and picture. On top of that, WMM2's capture wizard is simple, straightforward, and a huge boon for the amateur video maker.
However, before you capture video in WMM2, you need to decide what format you want to capture into? WMM2 lets you capture in both the traditional DV-AVI format, and Windows own WMV format. Each has its own merits.
The DV-AVI Format
The first format you capture into is DV-AVI. This format, also known as DV or 'digital video', is the video compression format that your camcorder captures onto tape. This format is saved at 30 frames per second. You get video that is potentially of higher quality than a commercial DVD. DV-AVI is the capture and editing format of choice for most video software programs, and they will all recognise it.
However, the digital video format is not without its problems, the major inconvenience being the huge file sizes. Each minute of video takes up a whopping 200 MB of space. That means an hour long tape occupies about 13 GB of hard drive space! If you don't have much hard drive space available you're going to run into problems.
Windows Media Video 9
WMM2 offers you the ability to capture your video into its own WMV9 format. The Windows Media format is set as the 'recommended' default setting when you first attempt a capture. This video format is great, and saves your video into incredibly high-quality video that takes up a tenth of the space that DV does. The quality of WMV9 is so good that some movie theatre companies are switching to digital projectors, dumping their old fashioned film projectors, and projecting their movies from WMV9 files. The compression level of WMV9 is incredible and allows you to backup and create collections of videos on your computer.
However, the WMV9 format has problems. When first capturing your camcorder movie through a FireWire cable, to save the movie into WMV, your computer has to re-encode the video into the WMV9 format on the fly. Even if you set the compression level to highest quality, you are going to lose some of your video image quality through the encoding process. You always lose image quality when you re-encode a video, no matter how high your settings.
The other problem with the format is that it's Microsoft's proprietary format, and no other program uses or recognises WMV9. That means you're stuck using WMM2 for editing.
So Which One To Choose?
If you're going to capture a short section of video from your camcorder, say less than 10 minutes (or if the video quality must be the highest quality), we recommend sticking with the original DV-AVI format. If you are hard-pressed for hard drive space, or must capture a long amount of tape, the WMV9 format is just fine. However, if you do go with WMV9, we recommend not using the recommended setting for capture. Set the capture quality level to the absolute maximum (called 'high quality') as you should always start with the highest quality source video before you begin editing.
Improving Capture Performance In WMM2
Capturing video onto your hard drive can be frustrating. That's because digital video from your camcorder is very large, and not every system can handle the sustained capture speeds needed to transfer your movie over a FireWire cable onto your hard drive.
Fortunately, most computers today are powerful enough to capture video. For example, you can easily capture and edit video on a 1 GHz-plus laptop computer, and never run into any problems. However, if you do run into problems during capturing, there are several things you can do to speed up your system.
Defragment Your Hard Drives
Defragmenting a drive is an easy performance enhancer, and you should defragment regularly.
Get A Faster Drive
The main hurdle to capturing big video files is the speed of your hard drive. When you stream video onto your computer through a FireWire cable, the digital video is written onto your hard drive as a large DV-AVI file. This stream runs at a constant 200 MB per minute, and if your hard drive slows down while this stream is running, you will lose some of your video and get dropped frames.
To avoid hard drive hiccups, you should close any background programs, and you may need to invest in a faster 7,200 or even 10,000 rpm hard drive.
Use The NTFS Partition
If your drive is partitioned in the older FAT32 format, than this is your most likely culprit for capture problems. The older partition structure isn't optimised for video capture, and won't let you capture video files over a certain size (two or four GB).
Windows Media Codec
If you can't get rid of dropped frames when capturing in the DV-AVI format, you can always try capturing in WMM2's WMV9 codec. Because this format generates small file sizes, you won't run into dropped frames from an underperforming hard drive. However, the compression itself might be tasking on your CPU.
Turn The Preview Monitor Off
When you capture video, you can watch the video capture inside WMM2's preview monitor. However, generating this preview video is tasking on your system. You can turn the preview mode off inside the capture wizard.
Decrease The Display Settings
Try setting your display to a lower resolution (1024 x 768 is WMM2's minimum recommendation, but you can go lower if you need to) and decrease your colour depth to 16 million (or 'high colour').
Save Project Files Correctly
When you first save a project in WMM2, the program generates a 'movie maker project file' on your hard drive. You can name and save this project file anywhere you want, though WMM2 will attempt to place it within your 'My Movies' folder.
The project file is a 'linking file' that keeps track of every item in your home movie. This includes every video clip, song and picture; the project file knows where each of these items are located on your computer, how they are laid out on the movie timeline, and what effects and transitions should be applied to each.
However, these video objects are not actually embedded within the project file. The project file only links to the actual multimedia files. Because of this, you really need to organise all your files if you ever want to re-edit your project.
Why? Suppose that sometime in the future you decide to give your computer a spring cleaning, and you reorganise some of your media files. You can damage a project if you inadvertently move or delete a file that is used in one of your videos. The next time you open up your video project, WMM2 won't find the media file where it expected to find it, and your project will be forever ruined.
To avoid this problem and keep your project intact, we recommend creating a new folder for each of your video projects. You should then save every movie element into this folder before you import them into WMM2. This folder should include your captured video, background music, pictures, voice narration, and the project file itself. With all your files together like this, there is no chance of a file being inadvertently deleted or moved. Plus, this method allows you to easily transfer your entire project to another computer (or backup onto an external hard drive).
Don't underestimate the importance of organisation when it comes to editing video. Unless you stay on top of things, your hard drive can quickly become cluttered with random video clips and pictures, and you won't know what's safe to delete.
How To Remove 'Junk' Video
The most useful aspect of computer video editing is that you can weed out all the 'junk video' that finds its way into everyone's home movies. There are many kinds of 'junk video' that you might want to remove from your home videos:
Overzealous use of the camcorder's zoom function is the number one sign of a beginning videographer. Zooming tends to make your audience sea-sick and should only be used for framing shots (i.e. zooming between recorded scenes). Fortunately, you can edit these zooms right out of your videos and only show the wide establishing shots followed by close-up shots.
2. Preparing To Speak
If you are filming a narrator or filming a family member, there's always that couple of seconds where they say
"OK… is the camcorder running?" Now you can cut that part out and start right with your interview.
Good video needs motion and action-basically, something happening. For example, if you are filming a birthday and it takes your child two minutes to open his birthday present, consider cutting out the middle 1.5 minutes. Your audience wants to see the motion: your child's delight at seeing the present, and the triumph of getting it open.
There are several ways to get rid of junk video, and a video editing program like WMM2 makes it easy.
4. 'Manual Capture' Only The Video You Want
When you transfer digital video from a camcorder to your computer, WMM2 gives you the option of 'manually capturing' your video, letting you decide exactly what sections of your tape you want to transfer. This allows you to capture only the parts of your video tape that you want in your finished move, thus saving you a lot of precious hard drive space.
5. Cut Clips
WMM2 allows you to cut your video clips in half. This is a great way to get rid of large chunks of junk film. You cut your clips in two different places within the program: both in the preview monitor, and also while working on the timeline. Simply find the location you want to cut and click the 'Cut' located under the preview monitor.
6. Trim The Ends
For the finest control, you can trim the ends off your clips by setting the exact in and out points of each video clip. While working on the timeline, simply drag the ends of each clip to the exact point you would like it to start and stop. You can accomplish very fine control of each clip's start/stop points by trimming, especially if you zoom in on each clip using the magnifying glass.
WMM2 comes preinstalled with a number of video effects you can add to your movie clips. These effects are numerous and easy to apply. Despite the large assortment of effects, you'll find yourself using certain effects more often, and some of them not at all. Here are some of the most useful effects and some uses you might not have thought of.
These effects are very useful for fixing your video's exposure levels. If you filmed an indoor scene that looks too dark, you can simply brighten the video with the brightness effect. If your video still isn't bright enough, you can repeat the effect several times until you get the look you want.
2. Greyscale and Sepia
Both these effects remove the colour from your film, and the sepia effect gives your film a pleasant 'yellowed old photograph' look. You can use these desaturating effects to make your movie look classy, or to create a flashback or 'dream sequence' scene within a larger home movie epic.
There are several rotation effects, but they are not useful for video. However, they work great for photographs, and allow you to align your photos properly.
Slowing down or speeding up can be useful for creating comedy 'movies.' For example, you could make a fake kung-fu movie with your kids and use the speed-up effect to create rapid-motion fighting scenes. Likewise, the slow-down effect could be used to create the clichÃ©d 'slow motion punch'.
To apply effects to your film, open up the Video Effects collection. You can preview each effect in the preview monitor by double-clicking the effect thumbnail. To apply the effect to a video clip, simply grab the effect and drop it onto the clip in the storyboard.
Another way to apply effects is by right-clicking on the clip and choosing 'Video effects.' This mode allows you to see exactly what effects are being used. This view is useful if you have to add or remove multiple effects to your clip.
WMM2 comes with a huge selection of transitions that you can place between your video clips. There are 60 transitions to choose from, ranging from simple fades to complex geometric shapes. When first presented with such a plethora of transition options, you may be tempted to use them judiciously throughout your video. For a home movie, that's fine; however, if you are trying to create a 'professional-looking' video, you may want to go easy on the transitions.
This isn't really a transition, but a switch in movie clips: when one clip ends, the next one immediately begins. The timing of cuts is very important, and there are many funny and amazing things you can do with careful timing. WMM2 makes it easy to cut your scenes by allowing you to 'trim' the ends of your video clips.
The fade is the most used transition. It is simply a cross-dissolve between two scenes, and in movies, typically occurs when the story changes locations.
This effect is used less often than the fade, but implies the same thing-a change in location. This effect is more obvious than the fade. The wipe denotes a major change in location and even a change in time.
Adding Music To Your Video
A music background can really spice up a home movie. Music is easy to apply on your computer with a program such as WMM2. In fact, this program has an audio track specifically for music; all you have to do is import a song and drop it onto the music track in the timeline.
After your song is in place, you can trim the end of the song-so that it's the same length as the video-and adjust the volume so it doesn't drown out your video.
WMM2 can import most sound formats. If you own a CD with a song you like, you can always import that song onto your computer using Windows Media Player.
Recording A Narration
WMM2 makes it really easy to record a voice narration over your movie. The program even has an inbuilt recording wizard that allows you to record over a microphone while you watch a preview of your movie.
This feature is very useful, and allows you to quickly narrate descriptive videos. For example, if you are selling a house, you could film all the rooms and later record a running commentary to go with it. Another great use for a voice track is in creating picture slideshows. You could take pictures from your digital camera, lay them on the WMM2 timeline, and then record a narration for your slideshow!
To use this function, you'll need a microphone. Fortunately, most cheap desk microphones work fine for voice recording. For the best results, you may want to invest in a headset microphone-the earphones will give you real-time feedback of what your voice sounds like. This allows you to annunciate clearly and correct for voice-popping and inadvertent mouth noises.
To use the voice track wizard, simply press the 'Narrate timeline' button located to the left of the timeline. When you click this button, the narration wizard will pop up, and give you some recording options. Most of these are pretty obvious: you can click 'Show more options' to see more recording choices. You'll need to pick your recording device (your sound card) and plug a microphone into your computer's microphone-in jack.
In the pop-up wizard is a microphone level bar that moves up and down as you speak. If this bar does not appear to be moving, your microphone may not be set up properly. Setting up a microphone for the first time can be frustrating, but here are the major things you should check.
1. Your microphone isn't set as the recording device:
You may need to go into your sound properties panel, and make sure that your microphone is set as your recording device. You can also do this within WMM2's recording wizard.
2. The microphone boost is on or off:
If you find that your microphone sounds distorted or is too loud or soft, your microphone boost may be on or off respectively. You can find this option under 'Sound properties' under the 'Advanced settings' button. You can try altering this option, also called 'Mic 20dB up,' to get the best sound quality.
3. The sound isn't loud enough:
Make sure you're getting good sound levels within the voice wizard. Try to get the sound meter near the red, but not to the topmost red bar. If your sound is set too high, your voice will distort. You can also increase the voice track volume after you lay it down in your timeline.
Once you've got your microphone working, you can record your narration. The narration wizard will play your movie, and you can record your dialogue while watching the movie preview. When you are done talking, click 'Stop.' The wizard will try to save the voice track file onto your hard drive. You should save this audio file inside your project's main folder to keep your files organised.
WMM2 will automatically import your narration into your collections. To place it in your movie, simply drag the audio clip onto the timeline. You can then move or trim the ends of the voice track, and change the volume level with the volume button.
|Bet You Didn't Know
|Where Transitions Should Be Used
One place you might want to use fancy transitions is in a photo slideshow. WMM2 lets you import pictures from your digicam and lay them on your timeline as a 'video slideshow.' You can even add music or a descriptive voice track over these photos.
Because photos are static and non-moving, transitions are great because they add 'motion' to your movie.
Using Both Narration And Music
While it is very easy to add a music or voice narration to your movie, it is very hard to add both a music and voice track to the same movie. That's because WMM2 only comes with a single audio track, which means you have to choose between one or the other. However, if you really need both audio tracks, there are a couple of tricks you can do, though each of these workarounds has its own problems.
Method One: Render Your Movie Twice
One method you can try is to render your movie twice. After adding your first audio clip (background music), you can export your movie as a high-quality video file. Next, you can create a new WMM2 project and import that video file as one big video clip (don't let WMM2 automatically split the file into multiple clips!). You can then lay this video clip onto the video timeline and place your other audio material into the 'now empty' audio track.
The problem with this method is that your movie goes through an extra encoding step and loses some quality during this process. However, if you keep your export settings really high this degradation won't be noticeable. Another problem with this method is that you have to 'complete' your video before you can export the first file. However, this rendering method does give you a blank audio track and allows you to perform fine placement of many audio elements. If you are going to create a complicated video with music, voice track, and sound effects, then this is the route to chose.
Method Two: Superimpose The Two Tracks
Another way to create two audio tracks is to superimpose them. WMM2 allows you to superimpose two audio clips using the same timeline track, though the method for doing this is not obvious.
First, lay down your music clip on the timeline. Then, lay your second audio track on the timeline after the first one. To superimpose the two, you first have to move the second clip so that its starting edge touches the end of the first audio clip. Now, pick up the second audio clip again and move it to the left. You'll see a blue 'triangle' form over the first audio track: that means they are superimposing. Unfortunately, there's a problem with this method. If you try to completely superimpose both audio clips, so they both start at the beginning of the movie, the second clip will try to jump in front of the first one. It's really hard to get that second audio clip to start where you want it.
As you can see, running two audio tracks in WMM2 is problematic. But we should say that WMM2 is meant to be a simple video editor. If you find yourself needing multiple audio and video tracks that run concurrently, you may be better served with a professional editing package such as Adobe Premiere.
If you accidentally erase a project file, don't panic. Every time you save a project, Premiere saves over the file you're currently working on, but it will also save a copy of the previous version in its Project Archive folder-the folder that holds the actual application.
Project files are tiny compared to video files and they're worth any extra disk space you can allot. In 'Preferences (General and Undo)', you can specify how many versions of a single project Premiere will keep an archive of (up to 100), and the total number of archives Premiere will keep (up to 1,000).
In And Out
When editing clips in the Source window, holding down [Alt] and dragging the In or Out points will split them into separate Video and Audio In/Out points, allowing for an L or J cut before the clip is even in the timeline. While [Alt] is held down, the In and Out points for audio and video are edited separately.
If you have several clips that contain similar footage at the beginning, it may be tough to tell which is which. If you have a clip selected, Premiere will show you the first frame in the clip in the clip preview window. However, you can move the scrubber to a different part of the clip, and click the small screen icon in the corner of the clip window. This will tell Premiere to use that particular frame as the 'poster' frame.
If you would like to use the same collection of clips in another project, Premiere allows you to export the contents of a bin to a text file. But finding this feature is a little tricky. With the bin selected, you can go to the Project menu and choose 'Export Bin From Project'.
You can also right-click a particular bin and choose to export the contents.
To open the bin, open it as if it was any other document and Premiere will use it accordingly. When opened, the bin will exist in its own window. You can drag and drop the bin or its contents to your current project.
Premiere lets you customise the F-keys to choose options in menus. For example, workspaces can be set to specific F-keys so you can quickly switch between an audio layout of the palettes and one for effects.
Double-clicking a trimmed clip in the timeline will open that edited clip in the monitor window. [Ctrl] [Shift] double-click will open the Master clip in the monitor window with the current clip's in and out points. In this way, more than one segment can be pulled from a Master clip.
Batch capture saves you hard drive space as well as archiving space by 'previewing' the video before you capture it. Using a saved 'batch list', getting back your video is simply a matter of capturing from the original tape using the list. This feature is accessed by going to File > Capture > Batch Capture.
To anyone editing sound in Premiere, the small workspace in the audio track doesn't give you much in the way of precision. Holding down [Shift] while adjusting points in the audio will give you increments of one per cent and display a delta or offset value next to the adjustment.
|Bet You Didn't Know
|Multiple Clips In Adobe Premiere
In Adobe Premiere, you can drag multiple clips to the Source window, and choose between them in the pop-up. To clear the clips stored in the Source window, use [Ctrl] Backspace. This will delete the currently visible clip and move the others up the list-subsequent deletes will remove the later clips.
To play a clip backwards, right-click on a clip and set the 'Speed' option to -100 per cent. Alternately, you can also select a clip and choose 'Speed' from the Clip menu.
Most people don't know that if you drag a palette to just below another one, they 'dock' vertically. This is great for managing screen real estate since moving one palette moves the others with it. Press [Tab] to hide the palettes, and [Ctrl] [Tab] to toggle between the timeline and monitor panes.
Navigating through scenes and symbols can be achieved by pressing [Shift] [F2] and [Ctrl] [L], for scenes and the Library respectively.
Well, you messed it up all, the stage looks pathetic and you want to just get rid of everything. What do you do?
The easiest way to erase everything on the Stage is to double-click the Eraser tool in the toolbar. However remember that this works only on one frame at a time, i.e. if the playhead is at frame 13, it will erase everything on Stage at frame 13. To erase other frames move the playhead to those frames.
With the release of Flash MX 2004, Macromedia did some tweaking with the interface; while some were good, others were irritating. One of them was moving the Edit bar from underneath the timeline. Want to know how to get it back?
Pressing [Ctrl] [Shift] and double-clicking on the Edit bar will move it to its rightful original position-under the Timeline.
To remove the Edit bar from your workspace again, choose Window > Toolbars > Edit Bar. It's gone forever!
The Edit bar serves three basic functions Zooming in and out of the Stage, navigating through looped or nested Timelines, and navigating through scenes and symbols. These functions can be performed by some tricks without touching the Edit bar.
To zoom, press [Ctrl] then press any number on your number pad between  and . These numbers represents zoom levels. So when [Ctrl]  is pressed it represents 100 per cent zoom, [Ctrl]  zooms to 300 per cent and so on. If using shortcuts isn't your thing, you can use the Zoom tool. Click to zoom in and [Alt] Click to zoom out.
By default the stage is fixed to 550 x 400 because this is the largest size a flash movie can be, to fill the browser window at 800 x 600. But hardly anybody uses such a big stage; moreover many Flash projects require custom settings.
To modify the stage settings, open the Document Properties dialog box and change the Stage dimensions to something that you generally use for most of your projects. You can also change the background colour and frame rate as well. To make these changes permanent, click Make Default, so every time you launch a new document, the Stage will use these settings.
Let's say you've created 15 dummy frames, and then realise that you have to take printouts of them. 15 odd frames of content will take forever to print, and also waste a lot of paper and ink. There's a better way:
In the File menu, select 'Print Margins'. In the subsequent dialog box, leave the margin settings as they are and choose All Frames from the Frames menu, and then Storyboard boxes from the Layout menu. Click OK and then Print ([Ctrl] [P]).
This will print all the frames, in boxes on a single sheet of paper. The trick for effective presentation is to have some difference in subsequent frames.
Since you already have the animation ready, it can be used to make a flip book. To print the animation, convert it to a movie clip and print the symbol's Timeline. Once printed, cut apart the squares on the printed page and staple them together in chronological order of your movie. Now just flip through the pages to see the animation and you've got yourself a flip-book!
Bitmaps are often used in Flash movies and that add makes the movie bulky-not good for Flash. One can reduce the size of the JPEG images by tweaking the Publish settings for the entire length of the movie, but more often than not, this plays havoc with the pictures-one may look OK but the next might have noise.
To customize the publish settings for individual bitmap images, right-click on the image's name in the Library and choose 'Properties'.
In the 'Bitmap Properties' dialog box, deselect 'Use document default quality' and then change the number in the 'Quality' field. Higher numbers result in higher-quality images with a larger file size. Lower numbers result in lower quality and lower file size. After you set the number, click 'Test'.
The dialog box reports the starting file size and the new file size for the image. Typically, setting the Quality to 50 can make a 500 KB image publish at less than 20 KB!
You can also use the mouse to drag the image around in the preview pane of the dialog box to see how it will look. If it's grainy, raise the number in the Quality field. If it still looks perfect, you can decrease the quality even more.
Perfection is all about organising. When working with Flash you have to deal with two files, the raw working original files and the published files. Separating them into two separate folders tends to increase over all readability. Manually moving the published *.SWF file into other folder at times gets on your nerves. Here's how to do it automatically.
Open the 'Publish Settings' dialog box and click the 'Formats' tab. Click the folder icon present next to the filename for each file type. This will let you choose a specific folder for the selected file type.
If you keep all your *.FLA files in the folder named 'work' and published files (*.SWF) in the 'pub' folder, then type two dots and a colon (..:) before the filenames in the Publish Settings. For example, if dummy.fla is saved in folder 'work', and you want the published movie to go into the 'pub' folder, just enter ..:dummy.swf for the Flash filename. When you publish the movie or run a test movie, the .swf file will directly be put in to the 'pub' folder.
Ever stumbled upon a situation where you need to find every instance of something in Flash and replace it with something else?
Choose the Edit menu, and go to 'Find and Replace' to open the 'Find and Replace' dialog box. Here, you can locate and replace text, fonts, symbols, sounds, video clips, bitmaps, and colour.
Here's how to use the magic wand: draw an ellipse and a box on the Stage, and convert them to symbols called ellipse and box. Leave them both on the Stage.
Choose Edit > Find and Replace. In the dialog box, choose 'Current Scene' from the 'Search In' menu. Choose 'Symbol' from the 'For' menu. Choose 'Box' from the 'Name' menu. This command will locate all instances of the box symbol. Similarly choose ellipse from the 'Replace With' menu and click 'Replace All'.
Flash has an inbuilt spell checker. Before you start using it, you need to set it up. Choose Text and then Spelling setup. There, select all the options you would like. Once done, the checker is set for action.
Type some text into the Stage window. To check it, just select it and run the spell checker. If there are suggestions it likes to offer, a dialog box pretty much like in MS Word opens, and you can select to change the spelling or discard it.
Shared Libraries are the bane of Flash MX 2004, and most of you must have already experienced it in some form or other. If you need to open an original Flash document that an external library came from, so that you can edit one of its symbols, press File > Open and locate the file. Flash will tell you that it's already open. This is because to Flash, the library itself is the document. The only way to close the external library is to undock it from the panel set and press the 'Close Panel' button.
To close all open libraries easily, choose File > Close All. Any library or document that is already open will close immediately. Though not the best solution, it's easier.
Open up a large Flash file in Flash MX 2004, and from the File menu, select 'Save and Compact'. This feature should reduce a 10 MB Flash file to about 2 MB! Perfect for those with dial-up connections!
Flash MX 2004 comes loaded with a few new ActionScript class files that help you make better movies.
The MovieClipLoader class enables you to write a preloader that has negligible file weight-a necessity for any good preloader, and it lacks loop statements. The best part is, you can then turn it into a component and forget about writing a preloader script again.
One problem, though: the onLoadProgress() method of the MovieClipLoader class-the part used to trigger an animation for a progress bar-does not fire when you're testing it on your computer.
Instead of posting a movie with the preloader script to a Web server, and then reposting it every time you make a change, try this: post one jpeg image to the server and use the loadClip() method to call the absolute URL. Leave the image on the server permanently so you always have a quick way to test your preloader scripts.