Video Software

(or, Video Capturing + Editing Software for Windows XP users)


This is your software maven, speaking to you.


It's been two generations since "maven" was in the common parlance of spoken Yiddish. When the suit maven picked out a suit for you, you bought it. "This is the one for you," he would say, and it looked good on you, especially if you were a little kid, and there wasn't much variety in the suits anyway, and basically the maven was there to make sure your parents didn't get any shoddy goods. He knew suits. Not fashion, maybe, but clothes he knew.


Later on, when you got older, you figured out how this system (and several other systems, like the car maven/car system, including the kickbacks from the dealer) worked, and you picked out the ones you liked, and THEN you got the maven to pass judgment. "This is the one for you" became "This one, you shouldn't get, this is not for you," and thus were you saved the pain, embarassment and expense of buying a suit that was really a second, or God forbid even a reject. With a maven, you may not be Adolf Menjou, but you wouldn't be a sucker. Not you. YOU have a maven.


This is 2002, and I'm in my fifties, and I think I was probably in the last group of kids that ever even met the suit maven.


So... that having been said. So ... You want to buy some software?


First of all, this is not about money. You spent good money on a digital movie camera. You already spent perfectly good money on a new computer, not that long ago, maybe just recently. You already spent the money.


What you want is really two things. The first is software to capture the digital video movie footage from the tape on your digital camera to the hard drive on your computer. The second is software to edit your footage, IF THAT IS NECESSARY. (Editing isn't necessary, unless you are Cecil B. DeMille. Trust me, you are not Cecil B. DeMille; I know this because you wouldn't be listening to me if you knew what's what with making digital movies or making any movies. Anything beyond just cutting it to length, that's what I call editing. Just cutting it to length, that's just alterations. And you know, it's not so different from the suit at the clothing store. You want made to order, that's a big deal. You want off the rack, that's no big deal, we just take it in a little here and here and we shorten the trousers, you're ready to walk outta here. With these movies of yours, a little trim at the beginning and the end, and take out some of the boring stuff in the middle, you're ready to go.

So, listen to me: Shoot good stuff. Then, you'll be able to play it back on your computer, if you have just Windows Movie Maker and Quicktime Pro. The first one is free, the second one is thirty bucks.


Already I've got to backtrack a little bit. Windows Movie Maker is only free if you have Windows XP, so maybe it's not so free, maybe you've got to buy XP. And that ain't cheap. Bill Gates didn't get to be the richest man in the world by giving this stuff away. I think he's charging over a hundred bucks for this. I didn't pay for it, at least not upfront; it came with my Toshiba that I got around Christmas. Hanukkah, whatever. Windows XP Home Edition, it says.


Quicktime is free, but the upgrade to Quicktime Pro is thirty bucks. Thirty bucks. That is cheap. For what you get, that is very cheap. You buy it over the Net. You don't even have to go to the store.


Now, if this were a Macintosh, I would tell you, just plug in the camera* and start the iMovie program, which is free from Apple, and it would say "Camera Connected". You hit the PLAY button on the screen (the triangle pointing right, just like on your VCR) and then when the tape (which you see playing on your computer screen) gets to the good part, you hit the IMPORT button, and when the good part is over, you hit the IMPORT button again, to stop importing. That's capturing. Yeah, I know, they called it IMPORTING. Stupid. Everybody says Capture, they have to say Import. Boom, that's it; it's on the hard drive. Eventually, you come to the end of the stuff on the tape, you hit the STOP button on the screen (the square one, just like the VCR). You have some digital video. You want some more, do that over again. Easy.


If you really want to make digital movies, maybe you should stop right now and go get yourself a nice iMac. But, no, you're Windows. You already have ... never mind.


So okay, this is not a Macintosh. This is Windows. I'm not here to tell you Windoze / Macintosh. It's all just computers. (In fact, the Windows stuff always catches up to the Macintosh, eventually, but of course by that time the Macintosh is on to something else better.) Some of the programs they have for Windows to make movies are not bad, and they are less than a hundred bucks [DiscreetDV, Pinnacle 7, ULeadStudio, et seq.] But unfortunately,the only one that's really any good, the only one that you don't have to make any excuses for, is Adobe Premiere, and it's five hundred. For five hundred, you really could post produce a Hollywood movie or a Madison Avenue commercial. No kidding.) But if it were me, and I want to capture video movie footage from a camera, I would buy a Macintosh. Why? you ask. Because QuickTime is the native language of Macintosh video. Windows, Quicktime is not the native language. Different. Never mind why. Windows, they have a hard time deciding.

But it's okay. You can do Quicktime on your Windows machine. Don't worry.


Remember, the reason you're a Quicktime person, is strictly because I'm the maven. For you, Quicktime. Why? Never mind why. Because I say so. That's all you need to know. Quicktime. After all, what is a maven for?**


What you really want to do is capture each little shot you took with your digital video camera and have it be a file on your Windows computer's hard drive. For this you use Windows XP Movie Maker (just like on the iMac you would use iMovie.) Then you turn those files into Quicktime movies (Quicktime files; they end in .mov), still on your Windows machine of course. This is what you use the Quicktime Pro for. (And by the way, on the iMac, you would have had to do this step also, this "turn them into Quicktime" step. You would do it in iMovie, or you could do it with Quicktime Pro. Make sure you mention that to any of your Apple friends who tell you how easy this all would be if you just had an iMac; it's not so easy, it's just that it's possible. And, lately, with XP, it's possible to do this stuff not too bad on Windows. But MOST of the stuff available for Windows that they'll sell you at the computer store doesn't even have Quicktime as an option, and that's really the tricky part.

To play the movies back, all anybody needs is Quicktime, not necessarily Pro. So anybody else can play your movies, and watch your movies, and that is free.


I could write out the instructions for how to do this, and it would be just as useless as everybody else's computer instructions. I read a couple versions of how to make movies on a computer, and I already know how to make movies on a computer, and I couldn't follow what the guy was talking about, from the words in the book. How could you? I tried writing it all out myself, too, maybe I could do better, I thought. What a mess! I mean, How could anybody follow something like that? From a book? I've always felt that learning to use a computer is not something a beginner can learn from a book. Using these two pieces of software, the Movie Maker and the Quicktime, you really need somebody to show you. Somebody who has made a movie already. And who agrees with me, that for a beginner, all they need is free Movie Maker and QuickTime Pro, thirty bucks on the Internet. What would it take, maybe an hour, tops? That's a lot quicker and easier than trying to follow the Do This, Do That kind of thing you usually get with your software.



*with a FireWire cable. Another fifteen bucks. Make sure the plug at one end matches the camera DV in/out socket, and the other end matches the computer FireWire socket (which might be labelled 1394 FireWire is AppleSpeak.) If your computer doesnt have one, get one that does.

** You should know something about QuickTime, that maybe most people don't realize. The newer digital cameras, the still cameras, can make movies. (Only thirty seconds, usually. But you stop to think about it, nothing is interesting for more than thirty seconds anyway. If it's so interesting that you need more time, you can push the start button twice, it won't kill you. These camera manufacturers aren't stupid.) And you know what? These cameras make your digital movie camera a dinosaur. They don't even use tape, they use cards to hold the movies. And the movie that's on the card is ... yeah, you guessed it, a Quicktime movie. Well, at least on a Toshiba it is. I have a PDR-M81. Your camera, it might make a Quicktime movie, it might be making an MPEG movie. That's not so convenient.

***You should know something else about Quicktime. QuickTime Pro, the one for thirty bucks, has such editing capabilities and special effects capabilities that you will never use all of them. When you get to the point that you need more, a lot more, for your moviemaking, then you will be ready to shell out for Adobe Premiere, which runs on Windows or on the Macintosh, and it will be a ton of money well spent. And at that point, maybe you will shell out also for a nice iMac, and you will also have a look at Apple's product Final Cut, which runs only on the Macintosh and does what Adobe Premiere does but different. Before you do that though, have a look at LiveStage Pro from Totally Hip Software, Inc.

**** There is a lesson that comes with Windows XP, you get to it under the Start, Help menu, called Adding and Subtracting Scenes with Windows Movie Maker I think; it's a combination of you-do-it, we'll-show-you, very clever; it's not bad. I think maybe you could learn something from that. I did, but I already knew most of it. I couldn't answer most of the guy's questions as the lesson went along, but I'm slow. You can try it. It's still takes a lot longer than having somebody show you. Just make sure the person showing you understands that you don't want any Hollywood.


Video Software Part 2


This is your software maven, sit down, I'm not quite done with you.


Whats the matter, youre in such a hurry? You have someplace you have to be? Fine, fine by me, don't let ME keep you. Maybe you need to go talk to somebody important, not just somebody who's gonna save you hundreds of dollars. Hundreds of dollars, and HOURS of aggravation. Such aggravation. And for what? So you can spend the money on somebody else, somebody who charges you big prices for his advice? Ach, so, go talk to your somebody else. You're in such a hurry to send money, go, spend it already. It will be good for you. You and this shyster you're in such a hurry to go and see, you deserve each other. Maybe you'll believe him, what HE tells you, after all, hes charging you good money. Me, I dont charge you a thing, and look at what I get for it: Bupkis. No respect. Treat me like dirt. What did I do to deserve this? Im asking you. Tell me. It must have been terrible.


But hey, Im not complaining. It could be worse. I know, it could be worse, much worse. I could, God forbid, give you some bad advice. Or even worse than that, I could tell you good advice, and you would hear me with your in one ear and out the other like you do and then what happens? Ill tell you what happens, you blame me. You always blame me. Well, its okay, I can take it, Im used to it already.


So, youve decided you should maybe stay a minute? Good. Im almost done anyway.


So you know, just because something costs a lot of money doesnt make it something you have to have. That five hundred dollar software youre going to buy, even that fifty dollar software, it isnt going to make you Mister Cecil B Demille, you know. You dont need to be Cecil B Demille, you just need to be yourself. Why make such a big deal?


Aah, why am I bothering with this? Who needs it? Go ahead, buy your fancy software. It will do you good, you should help out the economy, the economy can always use your help. You know I have a cousin in that business, that software business, you want I should give you his phone number? He can get it for you half price, at least. Why should you keep these people in business, these Silicon Valley billionaires? Let them get rich off of somebody else. You , they should just treat fairly, thats all a person can ask, am I right? Of course Im right.


But better you should just do what I tell you. Just with the MovieMaker and the thirty dollar thing you get for free from Apple, you dont even have to go to the store for God sake. Its wonderful, you know you are very lucky to know somebody like me. You know I had to learn all this the hard way, it was not easy to learn all of this. Maybe you dont appreciate what Im telling you, you know, thats okay you dont appreciate it, you shouldnt suffer, why should anybody suffer , especially when there is somebody like me can help? You know what I mean? Of course you do. Maybe you never thought about it before. That could be. Who thinks about such things? Its okay. But just think, just think for one minute, about all the problems, the tsuris, that goes into this kind of knowing what to tell somebody, somebody knows nothing, you know what I mean? Gornisht. Yeah, gornisht.


Well, at least youre not as bad off as any of that. At least you have been spared. So, okay, I can see, you want to go, okay, Go already. Just remember what I said, and keep your money in your pocket. Youll thank me someday. Maybe not today, maybe not tomorrow, maybe not even this year or next year, maybe not while Im even here, but God willing you will thank me, you know, you have so much to be thankful for, you should be very thankful; you know, God forbid something should go wrong, you could go out this very afternoon and get hit by a BUS for God sake. But enough, yeah, go, you got everything? You got the name of that software? Okay, goodbye. Its been a real pleasure.

Richard Katz