Posts Tagged ‘Pinnacle Studio 10’

Adventures in Video Editing

29 May 2012

A couple weeks ago, the kids were in their Spring piano recital. At the Fall recital, I volunteered to set up a camera so that people in the back of the large hall could see the kids playing using the halls overhead projector. I also decided I would record the recital digitally.

I have a PCI-based video capture device, but I needed one a bit more portable (USB interface) so I could use my laptop. I bought one from Best Buy, but it would not work with my laptop. They didn’t have any others, so I just ended up using an 8mm camera to record, and put the video out analog.

I brought the 8mm home, hooked it up to my Pinnacle PCI card, and started capturing. The captured video was way off color-wise. I tried some other video, it was also. I reset the card, cleaned it, tried the input color adjustments, no luck. The card was screwed up hardware-wise.

I borrowed a Pinnacle USB TV adapter from my buddy Ron. This led me on quite the chase. My Pinnacle Studio 10 died like a scurvy dog when trying to access the USB TV device (they are the same company, why can’t they work together?).

I downloaded the Pinnacle TVCenter app. It would recognize the USB adapter, and would get over-the-air TV if an antenna was connected, but it wouldn’t recognize the baseband video input. I sent a tech support query to Pinnacle. They wrote back a week later that the product was end of life, and they therefore would not support it.

Note to Pinnacle: that’s the last hardware or software of yours I ever buy, or even try.

I tried a couple other pieces of software, under both Linux and Windows. I had all kinds of problems getting the sound recognized. Sometimes I would get video but not sound, other times neither. It was all very frustrating.

One of the programs I tried was Windows Media Encoder. It would show video, but not audio. I looked for an update (there isn’t one), but I saw a reference to Windows Movie Maker (WMM). It was already on the machine, so I tried it out. Got BOTH video and audio captured!

So I started a capture of the full 8mm tape, and about an hour later I had about a GB of video, in Windows Media Format (WMF). I wanted to split the full recital into clips for each of the kids that were playing. I thought I should be able to define “scenes”, where a scene was one kid, and then save each as an individual clip. So I brought the big file up in WMM, played with it while, and while I could define a clip, WMM wouldn’t save the individual clips as files So I selected the first kid as a clip, and then deleting everything after that. This took 10 minutes. I had 37 kids to do, so that was going to take a lot of time. I tried the same process under an open source tool called Drop Shot, and it was faster, but still took about 7 minutes per clip.

I took a different route. I ran the tape back, fired up WMM, and for each kid, started a new capture file, started the 8mm in playback, started capturing, stop capturing after the kid was finished playing, and then stopped the camera. I saved each clip, then went back and did it over again. This worked well, and wasn’t terribly hard to do, but it was tedious. WMM needs to remember at least one setting. I wanted to capture in 720×480 mode, but I had to reset this for each clip, which meant five extra clicks for each of the 37 kids. Also, WMM only saves in WMF; not surprising given that it’s a Windows product, and Windows doesn’t like to interoperate.

So I wanted to convert the WMF files to something more generic, like MPEGs. I used the open source VLC player to do this. It wouldn’t encode to MPEG-4 for some reason. Not only not convert, but VLC died completely. It would work for MPEG-2 files. I tried to figure out how to do the conversion from the command line, but looking over the docs and the man page, it would take a couple hours to figure it out, so I just did it 37 times using the GUI. VLC should remember the last directory/folder name, and should remember the source file name for re-use.

Each conversion reduced the size of each clip by about 50%, with some loss (fully acceptable) of quality in the video; I couldn’t tell any difference in sound.

After this, I had 74 clips, one each high quality and one medium quality, for each kid.

I ginned up a quick web page to allow people to easily download the clip, and fired up the open source FillZilla program to load the files to the St. John’s server. It was a flawless transfer, in spite of it being almost 2 GB of data.

So I need to learn a bit more about video editing. I plan on capturing the rest of my 8mm camcorder tapes to disk over the next week, and then I will edit them to suit.

Making a DVD With Pinnacle Studio 10

12 November 2010

I bought a Pinnacle video capture card a couple years ago, and have used it as a DVR in the time since. I haven’t done much of any editing with it, until this week. The software to do the editing is called Studio, and it is version 10.

A program I was really interested in was on National Geographic Channel. I used the Pinnacle PCI card to capture the video and audio to a couple GB of MPEG video. Then I brought up the editor.

The Pinnacle editor went into “scene detect” mode, and divided the captured video up into about 100 scenes. That was pretty cool. I reviewed everything, and decided what the logical sections were. These are “chapters” in DVD-speak. Then I went to each of those, selected each grouping of scenes, right-clicked, and chose “combine scenes”. I ended up with 10 chapters, plus another four chapters that were commercials. Each non-commercials chapter was dragged in turn to a timeline on the bottom half of the screen. That was the easy part! I made a list of the chapters and the timeline numbers.

Next, I made a title screen. There are a bunch of pre-populated titles. I ended up selecting a nice JPEG I had to use as the background, and then used the text tool to put a title and the air date. Finally, I selected how long the title is displayed (I chose 10 seconds, the default is four). Then I dragged the title screen into the timeline. Cool! Except that it threw off my nice chart of chapters and the timeline. Fixed it.

Next task, I needed an menu page. This is where you can jump directly to a chapter or scene. I had my list, so this was going to be easy, or so I thought. I created a menu page, and dragged it to the timeline right after the title screen. There went my nice list again. Fixed it again.

So now, aside from the hour I spent capturing the video when I watched it in the first place, I have about 30 minutes of time with Pinnacle. The rest of this took me almost three hours, to get the menu done.

A menu is like a title, except that you can interact with it. You interact with it via buttons.

So there are some observations I made about the Studio software. Now, I was using version 10 (10.5, specifically, so there may be a later version that is easier and has the one bug I noticed fixed).

I had the menu/title editor up, and while working in it, I clicked in the File menu bar item on the parent window. Pinnacle went to electric lala land. This was a repeatable bug. The work I had been doing, I had just saved about five minutes before, so I didn’t lose anything. It was darned annoying, anyway.

It took me almost 45 minutes just to figure out how to justify and align things. There are two icons on the screen for doing this:

Once you have some items on the menu/title, these two are enabled. The Justify function is not terribly useful. It shows a tic-tac-toe grid, and if you click, say, the upper left quadrant of the tic-tac-toe square, the item you have selected is moved up to the upper left part of the window. The Align is useful, but it has weird functionality. First of all, the popup:

I waved the damn mouse all over the text of the popup, with no effect. The text was the problem. Eventually, I moved the mouse over one of the icons to the left of the text, and behold I got a reaction. Now, the other things about this. I ended up doing the following to get the menu items to line up:

1. I put the first button towards the top of the menu, and the last button towards the top of the menu. Then I selected the buttons from the bottom up, and did a Space Even Down.

2. I did an Align Left on the buttons.

3. Repeated 1 and 2 for the second group of buttons on the right side of the menu.

When you want to do an alignment, click the thing to align “to”, last. So if you have some buttons that you want to align left, move the (for example) top one to where you want it. Then, click the next item to be aligned, the ctrl-click the others (this does multiple selection), and last, ctrl-click the item that is the align “to” button. Then click the align button, get the menu, and click the icon next to Align left. All of the items except the align “to” should jump into place.

The Group button on the menu/title editor is odd. You can group two or more items together to be able to move them together (say, a button and the text that describes it). Problem – when you do a grouping of a button and some text, Pinnacle removes the button functionality and turns it into a graphic image inserted into the menu. I found this out when I did a group for each one of my 10 menu items, and when I got to the last one, Pinnacle informed me that I was deleting the last button, was that OK. Of course, there was no Cancel function. And Undo, didn’t. My advice – don’t use the Group function on any menu items. Title items, fine. Menus, no.

The other thing, I don’t know if this is a bug or intended functionality that I could not turn off. I wanted my menu to have the 10 buttons aligned like this: Buttons 1-6 would run down the left side of the menu in a column, and 7-10 would be in a second column to the center-right of the screen, like this:

Button Text Button Text
1 Blah 7 Blah
2 Blah 8 Blah
3 Blah 9 Blah
4 Blah 10 Blah
5 Blah
6 Blah

Now, I dragged the buttons from the tool bar to the menu in the order 1..10. Pinnacle “helped” me by actually numbering the buttons like this:

Button Text Button Text
1 Blah 2 Blah
3 Blah 4 Blah
5 Blah 6 Blah
7 Blah 8 Blah
9 Blah
10 Blah

So this is odd behavior.

Once all of the buttons and text was aligned and in the right place, and numbered correctly, you go to another editor and assign scenes to the buttons as a chapter. You do a right-click on the menu in the timeline and select Properties, and then you have to click each button on a small preview, then click a scene, then click a small icon to assign the scene to the button.

Given that Pinnacle zorched my buttons a couple times until I figured out why, it took a bit to get the menu put together. I checked the button assignments repeatedly.

Finally all, was OK. I had to move some files around to make enough room on my primary drive for the DVD image to be created. I didn’t use Pinnacle to burn any images since my DVD writer will write CDs, but not DVDs for some some reason. I move the ISO file over to R2s computer, and used Roxio to burn a test DVD.

The DVD worked pretty well, both in DVD-ROM equipped computers, and in the DVD player we have here at the house. Pretty well, but there was one problem. The 10th button would not work. In fact, it was not even there. When I bring up the Pinnacle Studio project on the computer, button 10 is still there, but on the DVD, not so much. I guess this is a bug.

So I had a good time with this project. I made a cool DVD of a program that I like, and learned a new skill. There was some weird behavior, but now that I know those quirks, the next time should go pretty fast.