by Terry Wilhite
A Sunday school teacher called me last night with a simple question. "How do I get video onto my computer, so I can edit it and create a DVD?" That's a great question, and, I'm proud to report, a simple one to answer.
As we noted last month, DVD sales are quickly overtaking the sales of VHS tapes. Soon blank VHS video tapes will be no more. Because video plays a big role in ministry, you should be ready to harness the power of DVDs. Last month I gave a laundry list of factoids that I wish I had known before I began producing my own DVDs. I highly advise you to consult that article, because it will be helpful background for this month's column on how easy it is to create your own DVDs.
First, back to the Sunday school teacher's question: Before you can manipulate video, it first has to be transferred to your hard drive. If you have a newer, digital video camera, it has a FireWire (IEEE) port. (Sony calls it an iLink.) If your computer has a similar input, a FireWire cable can connect your video camera and computer. Using video or DVD-capable software, you can then press the "capture" button in the software, and the video (data) will be captured onto your hard drive. This is a digital-to-digital transfer-best because the transfer is in the form of pure data; with no generation loss such as you would experience when you copy VHS tapes.
But if you have an older camera or VHS video that you'd like to import onto your hard drive, you will need a converter device. The one I use is an external unit called a Dazzle. Consult www.dazzle.com for details. Simply, the VHS player connects to one side of the converter and a USB 2 or FireWire cable comes out the other side, and all you need to do is plug the cable from the converter output into the computer's input.
With the video now on your hard drive, it's time to check out software options. My current favorite DVD software is Sonic's MyDVD (street price $49.99) and DVDit! 5 (street price $299). MyDVDhas video capture capabilities, limited editing abilities and is great "starter" software for DVD creation. Once you get the hang of it, which you'll do quickly, you may feel this basic software limits your creativity.
But don't get me wrong: This is excellent software. The quality it produces is as good as any DVD creation software you'll find, and it will suit your basic DVD creation needs just fine. One thing I especially like about MyDVD is that it uses what's called "Open Source Technology." That means that if you use a re-writable (RW) DVD, all of the files necessary are placed on the disc so that you can go back later and change the menus or edit the video (a feature that's fairly new to the DVD creation process).
DVDit! 5 doesn't have that capability (although it's promised to come later) but it does offer a wealth of creativity. Despite it's depth, the interface remains elementary and DVDit! 5 is the most intuitive authoring software that I've seen to date. (Intuitive means the developers think like I do and reading a manual is not necessary.) DVDit! will allow you to open and edit a DVD written by MyDVD which is really nice. Interestingly, DVDit! doesn't have capture or video editing capabilities, but users using this caliber of DVD product capture video using their video editing software or the software that came with their Dazzle. For more on the DVD software, see www.sonic.com.
The job of DVD authoring software, no matter the brand, is to take the video and audio that's on your hard drive, encode (compress) it to the proper format, then transcode it into the data that a DVD player will recognize. It's up to you to design an easy "point and click" menu that's visually appealing and allows your viewers to easily maneuver through the choices you've provided. Of course, a DVD writer is required.
In summary, the best way to break into the world of DVD creation is simply to take the plunge!
Terry Wilhite is a music and multimedia specialist. He has produced an overview of DVD digital video editing called "Lights, Camera, Digital Video," available at www.terrywilhite.com.