The digital video age has exploded. Digital video camcorders allow moviemakers on a budget and a tight deadline to film and edit home movies, school video projects or even a low budget feature film. No matter how cheap your camcorder, or the bargain you got on accessories, there’s always a need to buy blank video tapes or blank DVDs for recording. Or is there? By hooking up your camcorder directly to a PC, you can save time, money and even produce higher quality video productions.
Hooking up your camcorder to a desktop PC or laptop is pretty easy. After you’ve shot awesome moments on the streets of your hometown, or a sporting event, you’re ready to transfer it to a PC for editing. Maybe you just returned from a dream European vacation. You can’t wait to email fantastic footage of you romping around Paris or hiking through the Italian alps. The logical order of things is to shoot video onto a blank tape or a DVD, hook up the camcorder via Firewire or USB, then transfer video into a PC to edit. But there’s a quicker way – best of all it allows you to film as much footage as you want absolutely free. By hooking up a camera to your PC before you start shooting, you bypass the need for blank video tapes, DVDs, flash memory cards or even cameras with internal hard drives.
PC Hard Drive & Camcorder Hook-UP
This is pretty straightforward. When we buy a camcorder – say a Sony model – a manual or website will help us connect it to our PC. The thing is many people think, or just forget, that simply plugging a Firewire into the PC connected to a camera will cause Windows Plug N Play in XP or Vista to recognize the camera as a new device. Device drivers from say Sony, JVC or Panasonic aren’t necessarily needed.
The bottom line to a camcorder PC hook-up is ensuring the PC recognizes the camera as a device. Once that’s done, any video recording sofware should work smoothly with your camera. Windows Vista will call up a program called Windows Import Video. It’s a bare bones program, but allows high resolution video to be captured in three formats: Windows AVI – Audio Video Interleaved, Windows WMV – Windows Media Video and a more compact version of the same. With these three formats, highly detailed video capture is possible. Per AVI hour format, you will need 13gbs, per WMV hour format requires 2gbs. Depending on your PC’s hard drive capacity, you’ll get varying time capacity for recording, however even a medium sized hard drive is about 100gbs. So at WMV format you’ll be getting approximately 50 hours of recording time. Just imagine the savings on blanks. Even a large capacity digital video tape records about 2 hours. This means this kind of direct PC hook-up can save buying 25 blank digital video tapes or DVDs.
If you’ve shot your video the conventional way – on blank video tape, blank DVD or in a camcorder’s internal hard drive, you still need to take that footage and transfer it over to a PC. A DVD is no problem, however for a tape or hard drive camera, you must connect the camcorder to your PC by Firewire or USB.
Firewire transfer is fast, and video quality great. You don’t lose much resolution, but there’s something called “frame rate drop.” This means during transfer, the camcorder, PC or connection may drop a split second or more of video footage. This may not sound like much, however if it’s an important filmed moment, the loss can be obvious and detract from the movie.
By using a direct Firewire or USB hookup before shooting, you’ll record directly to your PC, thereby bypassing the need for any transfer. Framerate drop shouldn’t be a problem, and you’ve also saved yourself alot of time and effort. This method works great for all interior filming uses, and can even be expanded for exterior needs. A fully charged laptop can be brought out into the field and used as a recording bay. By bringing along an extra laptop battery, you’ll have a camcorder and computer combo that can’t be beat. You’ll save time, money and have the extra directing power of real time filming on a large computer screen to oversee your production in more detail.