Summary: If you don’t have your video in a digital form yet, what are you waiting for? The process is relatively painless, and once it’s done you can throw out those shoe boxes of VHS tapes.
The whole reason to get your video into a digital form is the relative ease in which you can manipulate (edit) it. Part of the ease is being able to instantly access the different scenes in the video that you shot. When we say instantly, we are comparing it to traditional videotape where accessing a given scene involves fast-forwarding or rewinding to get to the specific spot on the tape. With the video stored on a computer as a digital file, you can access a given scene by clicking a spot on a timeline and boom, you’re there.
The other advantage to having the video in a digital form is that the final product that you produce loses no quality compared to your original footage, unlike analog videotape. So let’s get our video footage in a digital form, shall we.
Most camcorders made today have done away with tape. With rare exception, most use flash media cards (SD cards are most common), or internal hard drives/memory to store video. For most people, their Mini-DV, VHS, or 8mm tapes are lying in a closet wondering if the will see the light of day again. Mini-DV tapes are actually a digital version of video tape. Analog video needs to go through a process called video capture. A device attached to the computer provides inputs for the video as well as the two audio channels (left and right). You plug your analog camcorder’s (or VCR’s) output into the inputs provided by the video capture device. Run the capture software, press play on the camcorder or VCR, and press record on the software’s interface. The video signals will then be recorded to the hard drive as a digital file. The Elgato Video Capture device shown in the picture at the top of this article.
Mini-DV is almost as dead as VHS tapes. Simply because computers with the right interface (known as Firewire) to transfer the digital data from the tapes are becoming more and more difficult to find. The firewire transfer procedure works (worked) pretty well because the software allows the control of the camcorder. You can press record in the software and the camcorder receives a signal to start playing automatically. Like analog video capture, the video signals get recorded to the hard drive as a file. This process is entirely in a digital form, so again there is no quality loss. However, even though Mini-DV is higher quality than VHS or 8mm video, it is still tape. Compared to using today’s flash media, it’s antiquated.
If you’re still with us, let’s go to the editing room.