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Beginners Guides: Converting Videotape Into Video Files

Beginners Guides: Converting Videotape Into Video Files - PCSTATS
Abstract: Break out the BETA and VHS tapes, it's time to convert those old home movies into video files you can email around the world, and publish on the web in all their digital splendor!
Filed under: Beginners Guides Published:  Author: 
External Mfg. Website: PCSTATS Jan 16 2007   Mike Dowler  
Home > Reviews > Beginners Guides > PCSTATS

How capturing video works

Video capture is the process of recording an analog video signal and converting it to digital for storage as a data file. Essentially, you capture a video signal by sampling the signal several times a second and convert the resulting images to digital information, then stringing the digital images together to play in sequence. You end up with a video file which is set to play at a certain resolution (like 640x480) and frame rate.

It's a similar process to that of creating MP3 music files by sampling an analog recording several times a second to create a digital version of the music.

A simple process with one problem. If you've ever converted music files from your CDs to MP3 format, you will have noticed that the music takes up a LOT of space on your hard disk prior to being compressed into MP3s.

This is nothing compared to video. Raw video captured from VCR or TV takes up an ungodly amount of hard disk space, slightly less than a gigabyte for every minute of recorded video. To get around this limitation, various compression codecs were designed. Using one of these runs the raw video signal through a compression process after it is converted to data, but before it is written to the hard drive.

Different codecs have different compression ratios and differing effects on the quality of video. They break down into two rough groups: lossless codecs cause little or no degradation in the quality of the original signal, while lossy codecs reduce the quality of the signal as they compress it by introducing artifacts and reducing detail. Unsurprisingly, lossy codecs compress video data far more efficiently than lossless codecs do, so there are compromises involved.

Besides the obvious problem of disk space that capturing 'raw' video poses to the average user, there is a second problem, computer performance. If your computer's processor, memory, hard disk and video subsystems are not fast enough to keep up with the constant stream of data from the video source, you wind up with dropped frames, sections of visual data which could not be captured, and are struck from the final file.

If you drop one or two frames over the course of a couple of minutes of video, it's unlikely that the loss will be noticed. Drop thirty or forty though, and the video capture file will be jerky and jumpy on playback as a result of the missing visual information.

Video compression can help in this regard, or make the problem even worse. While compressing video takes the load off your hard disks, both in terms of storage space and how much data they have to move around every second, it shifts the load to your processor and memory.

Since each frame of captured video must be analyzed and compressed before it is written to the hard disk, a faster computer is required for compressing video 'on the fly.' If you store the video in its 'raw' form to your drive, then compress it afterwards, you can get around this problem, but only if you have sufficient drive space to store the original huge file.

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Contents of Article: PCSTATS
 Pg 1.  Beginners Guides: Converting Videotape Into Video Files
 Pg 2.  — How capturing video works
 Pg 3.  Starting the conversion
 Pg 4.  Using Windows XP Movie Maker
 Pg 5.  Using Movie Maker Step 2
 Pg 6.  Video Capturing Alternatives
 Pg 7.  STOIK Video Capture Continued
 Pg 8.  Using Virtual VCR
 Pg 9.  Using VirtualDub

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