Posts Tagged ‘VLC’

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.