Getting your video on to your computer

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Gone are the days when you needed access to expensive, complex studios to put a video together. Today's computers can handle it all - at least from a technical standpoint - sometimes straight out of the box! For the basics, you'll need

- A computer with
  - A large hard drive (>250 GB)
  - Connection ports that interface to the camera/ camcorder
  - As much RAM as you can afford
- An external hard drive (bigger than your main drive) for backup
- A DVD burner (if one's not already inside the computer)
- Video capture/ editing software

1. The Computer

Both Windows & Macintosh computers can work. A new Mac comes with hardware & software to capture, edit & arrange your video & burn a DVD (if it has a Superdrive) or make web based videos. With a PC, you may need to buy software & possibly some hardware. Video files are HUGE, so get the largest hard drive & memory you can afford!

2. Software

Basic low-cost software can often do a great job. iMovie comes bundled with every Macintosh, captures the clips & allows you to trim unwanted parts, arrange the clips, add titles. You can even add music from your iTunes collection or your own musical compositions using a neat little program called GarageBand (also free with the Mac). Adobe Premiere Elements gives Windows similar video editing capability. Beware of relying on some unknown, cheap software packages; they often have problems or bugs. For more serious editing, there are mid-high range packages (over US$200), like Adobe Premiere, or Final Cut Express (Mac only). The have more options, but are geared to professionals & have a higher learning curve. If you're new to this, I recommend starting with the basic packages. I use iMovie, occasionally resorting to Final Cut Express.

3. Handling Muxed MPG files

Many digital cameras' video mode create Muxed MPG videos (my Sony does). Unedited, these files play fine on my computer but if you read them in to an editing program directly, the audio is sometimes lost! For dive videos, that may be less of a problem (do you REALLY want underwater breathing as your audio track?) but to preserve the sound, you'll need to translate the Muxed MPG into a format readable by the PC's video software. On my Mac, the latest versions of iMovie and Final Cut Express can do the conversion (though it can be a bit tricky to use the right import method). If not, you can use either MPEG Streamclip, a freeware utility for Mac & PCs or DropDV: a shareware utility that converts a set of Muxed MPGs (it also converts Video DVD MPEG2 files) directly into an iMovie project, which is readable by any of the applications on the Mac.

Good luck & feel free to email me with questions. I'll tackle guidelines on creating videos next.

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