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Home Video Editing

  • Introduction
  • Camera
  • System
  • Drive
  • Video Capture
  • Links
  • History
  • Footnotes
  • Rev: 28 Aug 2005.


    This page is moribund, but as of 8/05 I've bought a G5 iMac with iMovie HD and I have a digital camcorder. I've started converting old analog tapes through a short S-video cable from my old SONY Hi8 analog camcorder to my new Canon digital with S-Video input. So this will probably get updated. In the meanwhile, this reference is outstanding.


    Update: I gave up on my experiments in PC based home video editing in 2000. Instead I moved into digital photography. My year 2K recommendation was to forget the PC and buy a G4 based Macintosh. I think that recommendation is true today, but if you're not going to burn a DVD you can actually do significant work with a G3 Mac running OS X and iMovie 2 or higher. I'm probably going to get back to doing home video editing in 2004, after I buy my G5 with 2GB RAM, a terabyte drive array, and a DVD burner (only mild exaggeration).

    In early 2003 I experimented with an iBook, using a Canon zr 60's digital pass-through feature to digitize some Hi8 home videos. That successful experience is documented in a usenet posting:

    subject: Transferring SONY Hi8 home video tapes via a Canon zr 60 pass through analog to digital conversion to an iBook 600 with iMovie 2

    ... The source was my older SONY analog video camera. I used Hi-8 tapes, home video. This was connected by RCA jacks (S video is preferable, we were testing) to a friend's Canon zr 60. Following the directions we removed the tape from the zr60 and set it to the appropriate mode (per Canon directions).

    The zr 60 was connected by an Apple 4 to 6 pin Firewire cable ($30!!) to a 600MHz iBook with 640 MB RAM running iMovie 2. (I've not switched to iMovie 3, that version requires a faster machine than the 600 MHz iBook.)

    I set my analog camera to VTR and played. The video streamed to the iBook. I toggled "import" whenever I wanted to capture video. Without recourse to a manual, but using the horrid, unspeakably awful OS X Help files, we easily grabbed video fragments, edited them, etc. A few minutes of video resulted in a few hundred MB of iMovie files.

    We then inserted a tape into the digital video camera (Canon zr 60) and controlled that tape easily from the iBook. We exported our video back to the Canon tape. We could also have exported it locally.

    The G3 based iBook handled this task well. I did not attempt MPEG compression or DVD preparation. I assume the G3 is totally inadequate for this purpose.

    [meta: 030517, jfaughnan, jgfaughnan, pass-through, passthrough, pass through, analog-digital, analog to digital, conversion, digitization, digitalization, Apple, Mac, Macintosh, OS X, OSX, 10.2.6, firewire, translation, iBook, vidcam, digital video, video camera, Hi8, Hi 8]

    For historical reference,  I'm leaving this page much as it was in 2000."Brian", referenced below, was my brother who once did professional video editing.


    Early 2003 thoughts on choosing a digital video camera. Also see a usenet posting.

    1. You may want video pass-through. That lets you run your old analog tapes through a new digital videocamera and then into your Mac. Then you can burn it to DVD (this takes hours even on a fast machine because of the immensely complex compression that occurs) or stream the edited version back to a new digital tape (this works on any machine and is much faster).
    2. I like to only buy cameras (video or still) made in Japan. I think the quality difference is still very real. This rules out analog cameras -- they are all made in China.
    3. Look at the power adapter, you have to travel with it! Look at the manual -- can you read it? Look at the battery -- how much does a full sized battery cost? Include the cost of a REAL battery with the cost of the camera, most ship with too-small batteries. Manufacturers who spend resources on manuals and power adapters tend to do a good job with things you CAN'T see.
    4. SONY cameras are about $100 US more than the equivalent Canon. SONY also likes to use weird SONY-only tape sizes, etc I'm impressed with the Canon ZR 60. It's a good reference camera for comparisons.
    5. I don't think the still image capability of the new digital cameras is worth anything. I would ignore it for now.



    PC based (old)


    The Pinnacle site recommends a SCSI drive and controller, but in the interests of economy I went with an IDE drive. My consultants tell me that the SCSI recommendation is now dated and unnecessary for the kind of video I'm doing.

    There are two standards for IDE/ATA drives as of July 2000: ATA/66 and ATA/33; ATA/100 systems are also emerging. The number refer to "burst" MB/sec data transfer rates -- the higher numbers require special cables and system support. The continuous data transfer rates however are primarily determined by disc rotation and data density, and are similar with ATA/66 and ATA/33 controllers. Newer drives support both ATA/33 and ATA/66, some systems have "Potential Issues" however. IDE drives used to have AV ratings when they were suited for use with video, but this distinction appears to have disappeared.

    Disc Rotation, Data Transfer, and Drives
    Disc Rotation Data Transfer (typical) Example
    5400 8-16 MB/sec Obsolete as of July 2000.
    7200 10-18 MB/sec
    • IBM Deskstar 75GXP: marketed for A/V use, good support and utilities, 37MB/sec sustained data transfer rate. Reasonably quiet.
    • Maxtor Diamondmax 40/60: some reliability issues reported, optimal for video editing, relatively cool and quiet. Huge capacity
    • 28GB Seagate Barracuda Ultra ATA model ST328040A.
    10,000   These have been expected for some time, but are still having reliability and heat problems.

    I ended up ordering the 45GB IBM Deskstar 75GXP for $273 (including shipping) from buy.com. It seemed more than adequate, and I liked IBM's web site and online support information better than Maxtor's. I don't expect to get the 30+MB/sec sustained data transfer rate -- I doubt my motherboard can handle that throughput.

    Hard Drive and IDE (EIDE, UDMA) Configuration

    I have two IDE channels on my cheap motherboard, each of which tops out at UDMA/33. (Decent motherboards go to at least UDMA/66.)

    Since only one device on an IDE channel can have the attention of the CPU (unlike a SCSI channel) the best configuration would be to put each hard drive on its own channel, and share the slower drive's channel with the CD-ROM.

    Unfortunately, when I attempted to switch to this configuration I scrambled my motherboard and rendered my system unbootable. [1]  At this point I am continuing with the more conventional configuration of running both drives on channel 1 and the CD-ROM on channel 2. [2]

    Video Capture Card and Configuration

    I have an older Hi-8 SONY camera, so I need analog/digital conversion.

    The following advice is from my brother Brian Faughnan, who does video editing professionally as well as having serious technical and creative talents:

    1. Software partition of the 45GB drive: I would recommend around 5-7 Gb for the audio (depending on what quality audio you'll be working at and how many tracks you'll want for each project) and the rest for video. Premiere really likes to have everything in separate drives and some cards do as well. The manual doesn't say anything about it, but you'll avoid a whole host of problems by keeping your project files in your base (boot) drive and your audio and video files in a partitioned secondary drive.

    2. You'll also want to be sure to set the drives correctly for the preview files that Premiere creates. When you name the folders in your base, audio and video drives give them all the same name and Premiere will automatically put linked video/audio files in the correct folders. I can't stress enough about separating your files. If you get a weird error you can't understand when creating a file, nine times out of ten it's because Premiere wants it in a different drive.

    3. Pinnacle doesn't really support it's software - it has moved whole hog behind Adobe Premiere (#1), Discreet Logic Edit (#2) and Speed Razor (#3). For your purposes, Quicktime Pro VT (?I think that's right, it's the Quicktime editing software anyway) might be good. I've heard a lot of good things about it and it's designed for video streaming to the web. I know you just want it for home use, but considering the level you usually want to achieve on your projects, I would go for the semi-pro version. The breakout box is very handy and getting Premiere with it is a nice deal.


    Analog Video Digitizing Services



    [1] The cause appears to have been a mysterious interaction between Windows 98, Norton Utilities 2000, and the motherboard's buggy BIOS. Even returning to my original hardware configuration, and restoring the original partition from an image file, did not resolve the problem! In retrospect I may needed to go into the PnP BIOS setting and force the ESCD (system configuration data) to reset itself. (Removing the Norton utilities infestation from my system was another remarkable adventure.)

    Another interesting feature of this debacle was that it did no good to go into Windows "safe mode". From that mode I could neither restart nor shut down -- at one point my system went into a startup -- restart infinite loop. I eventually found that I could run the ESCD override utility, and force Win 98 (not safe mode) to run. Then I could shut down, restart, shut down and life was back to "normal". And some folks wonder why a few of us question the "great gifts" Microsoft has brought mankind. Mr. Gates owes me quite a few hours ...

    [2] I have read on Ars Technica that many cheap UDMA drives have trouble running on an IDE channel with a hard drive.

    Author: John G. Faughnan.  The views and opinions expressed in this page are strictly those of the page author. Pages are updated on an irregular schedule; suggestions/fixes are welcome but they may take weeks to years to be incorporated. Anyone may freely link to anything on this site and print any page; no permission is needed for citing, linking,  printing, or distributing printed copies.