Law Office Computing
Over the last few months I have been working with the creation and use of digital video using my Sony Digital Handycam with an IEEE 1394 Firewire port which on the Sony is called "iLink." The IEEE 1394 port is the key to bringing high-quality video directly into your computer. The IEEE 1394 Firewire conduit is very high speed and it allows you to import the huge amount of digital information needed to make professional quality video. Soon there will be another solution called USB2 that will compete with Firewire, but you do not have to wait any longer if you are anxious to join the DV revolution. What is available today is very, very good, very easy to use and relatively inexpensive. A year ago, you could count on spending $3500 or more for a camera and the associated computer hardware and software. Today you get a better set of easy to use products for under $1000. Whether you are creating a one-hour movie or a fifteen second video clip, the process is now quite easy. You may not be Steven Spielberg but you will impress your friends and colleagues with your skill and artistry before you know it. You can take a one-hour video that is just a collection of moving snapshots, most of them pretty bad, and turn it into a few minutes of really good stuff. Moreover, you can create video clips that you can send over the Internet or include in formal presentations using PowerPoint. Digital video depositions at low cost are just around the corner and even today the price is rapidly dropping. DV depositions are very powerful litigation tools that I believe will be common in only a few years. Most of the observers of the computer scene call DV "the next big thing" and I agree.
The process starts with what is called video capture. You can capture video from an existing tape or directly by hooking the camera up to your computer. While it is possible to capture ordinary analog VHS video, the quality is not nearly as high and the editing process is much more cumbersome. What makes the digital video phenomenon so impressive is the ease with which you can produce on your own computer very high-quality and easily editable video. Most of the software packages actually create a virtual image of your video camera on-screen and you run the camera with mouse clicks on the appropriate buttons. Once the video is captured you save that to your hard drive in raw form. The software then allows you to edit and rearrange the pieces of the video you have created. Finally, when the editing process is concluded you produce your video in its final form using one of several forms of compression algorithm like MPEG. It is then playable on your computer desktop or transferable to a CD-ROM. The best part of this is that it is fun and easy to do. I am using two very highly rated software packages that I will describe below, but in addition to the software, you must have a physical connection between your computer and your video source. The iMac DV and the Sony Vaio computers come with an IEEE 1394 port installed and in the near future, most computers will have such connections. However, you do not have to wait because a very highly rated video capture board is available costs well under $200. Pinnacle systems one of the leading vendors in this area has brought out a simple IEEE 1394 board and software called StudioDV. Installation of the board gives you three Firewire IEEE 1394 ports and is easy plug and play under Windows 98. There are several other Firewire boards available but PC Magazine gave StudioDV a very positive review last November. The other product I like is the MGI VideoWave III system which is often bundled with the ATI All-in-Wonder video capture board that sells for around $200. There are things I like about each of these products.
The StudioDV System
PC Magazine says that StudioDV is "the product to beat in the consumer DV space." The hardware is terrific and easy to install. The software is very simple. Clips from your video are stored on a virtual notebook that allows you to drag-and-drop them into a time line. StudioDV then provides you with over 100 different transitions that impart interest and skill to the viewer. The software also includes a title editor that has many preset styles that can be inserted into your video in "what you see is what you get" mode. StudioDV will allow you to make professional level videos with ease. It connects easily and directly with the highly rated Sony Digital Handycam that I use. For $150 plus the price of the camera, you can start to use digital video immediately. For a few dollars extra, you can purchase a higher-grade software package from MGI.
MGI VideoWave III
I find MGI VideoWave III to be much more intuitive and easy to use than the StudioDV software product. Unfortunately, for Sony Handycam lovers, MGI VideoWave III does not allow capture from the iLink version of the Firewire port. Sony's iLink version of Firewire is compatible with studio DV and I find myself using one to capture video and the other to edit and produce video. MGI VideoWave III comes with a very simple but complete set of documentation that allows you to perform all kinds of magic very easily. It has all of the tools that you need to produce first quality video. First, video clips are stored on a traditional video editing storyboard where all of the various transitions and modifications are done. When you have finished creating your movie VideoWave III allows you to save it in a number of different formats including the most recent versions of the professional level MPEG algorithm. VideoWave III can be purchased on the Internet for under $50 and is a worthy addition to your software portfolio no matter what the price. VideoWave III will also work with analog video capture devices such as the Belkin USB based analog video capture device (cost: around $50) which is bundled with a light version of the MGI software. If you already have an analog video camera, you can a get into video capture and editing for very little with the Belkin product, but the future belongs to DV and if you want to make professional video in your home or office you must go that route.
In my view, you ought to just jump in. The quality of digital video is extraordinary. High capacity hard drives are cheap. And most importantly, creating your first edited video is certain to increase your self-esteem!! What’s not to like?