This article is really for Roger, but it works very nicely for anyone who is just trying video (yes, you photographers know who you are).
You’ve been using a dSLR with video capabilities, and you decided on your last shoot to take a little video for fun. Now what do you do with it?
With photos, you import them into iPhoto or Aperture or any number of programs, then you can bring them into Photoshop and edit to your heart’s content (unless you’re one of those people that sorts them in nested folders and then searches in an attempt to find the photos you actually took last week).
But video doesn’t work quite that easily. Oh, it’s also waaay bigger than the 4 – 40MB photos you’re used to. A DVD holds 4.7GB (4700MB). That’s 2 hours of SD resolution, decent quality video. Not high definition. Not uncompressed. Higher quality video ranges anywhere from 10GB per hour of video to over 100GB per hour of video. It’s very nice looking video.
Sidetrack: Image quality is affected by your choice of codec, but it’s not the only factor. The quality of the footage comes from a) the quality of the camera and lens; b) the codec chosen; c) the resolution of the footage; and d) the bitrate of the codec. Bitrate equals the amount of space the codec can use each second, measured in Megabits per second (Mbps). Back when digital tape was the only option, bitrate had to be constant (25 Mbps for DV and HDV footage). Today, with recording to things other than tape, bitrate can vary. Higher bitrate equals higher quality. End sidetrack.
Anyway, you could import it into iPhoto, or stick it in a folder on your hard drive somewhere (or buy another hard drive for it), but Photoshop doesn’t do video. Now what?
Burn it to DVD
You could take the raw footage and stick it on a DVD to show your friends. Easy to do with iDVD on a Mac, or on a PC with your DVD burning software of choice.
Upload it to a video sharing site
YouTube, Vimeo, lots of others (Flickr does video too). Just visit the site and click upload. Easy (assuming your internet connection can handle it). Then email the link to all of your photographer friends so they get jealous and start shooting video.
Video editing software. Your options vary if you’re on a Mac or PC. Mac first: iMovie comes with your Mac, and it’s decent. Definitely usable for the basics. A step up from that is either Apple’s Final Cut Express or Adobe Premiere Pro. Above that, Apple’s full Final Cut Studio or Avid’s Media Composer (both are a little pricey for backyard video clips). On PC, Windows Movie Maker is ok for beginners. Above that, there are lots of options. Premiere Pro is available, as well as Avid Media Composer. There are also programs available from Pinnacle, Sony, CyberLink, Roxio, Corel, etc…
To start in video, I recommend the basics — either iMovie or Windows Movie Maker to start, and when you need the features and add-ons of a more robust software package, get one.
Now, the next big issue with video: codecs. Depending on what camera you used, and what it was set to, you could have a ton of different codecs. Here are the basics: a codec is the format that the video was encoded in. And how it will be decoded. Think file format like JPG or RAW, but a little different (because one format can have many codecs!). For example, a DVD uses the MPEG-2 codec for video. Popular video codecs include MP4, divX, DV, and Theora.
Here are the codecs that some dSLRs and other video cameras use:
Canon 5D MkII, Canon 7D, Canon T1i — MP4
Nikon D90, D300s — Motion JPEG (in a .avi container)
Sony EX1, Z7U, JVC HM100 — XDCAM
Canon HG21 — AVCHD
Panasonic Micro 4/3 cameras — AVCHD, Motion JPEG
Olympus E-P1 — Motion JPEG
If your editing software of choice doesn’t recognize the video you’re trying to import, you’ll need to install the codec that your video is encoded in. Most computers will handle MP4 and Motion JPEG without any problems, but older computers might not recognize AVCHD. XDCAM is another beast, and will work on Mac and PC assuming the correct version of the codec is installed.
So, by this point you’ve imported your video into your editor of choice. Editing the video is different depending on the software, so we’re not going to talk about that today. However, when you export the finished product, you need to choose a codec then also. MP4 is your safest choice, with virtually universal compatibility and flexibility on file size.
Then you can burn the footage to DVD, upload it to YouTube, or whatever else!
I hope this helped explain working with video a little more. If you have questions or comments, feel free to contact us— firstname.lastname@example.org