PC Based Music Videos 101, Basics
While I'm learning what this is all about, I thought that it might be useful to share what I find out and help you decide what might work for you, should you decide to create your own PC based videos. You never know - someone may see your work on the Web and give you a big break - This could be for your band or maybe you'll go on to produce more videos. Even Steven Spielberg started small and worked his way up.
I'll be doing this as a multi-part series, with the goal of documenting the steps, terminology and areas to be aware of as you produce your own music video. My goals are currently to provide streaming video for Internet usage, but the same techniques can be used for any type of video that you would want to produce. You won't need high end Video gear to do this, but if you decide to get serious about Video production, better gear (Digital) can help you transition into a full time profession doing full screen video projects.
My first challenge was understanding the process, then wondering if my current system could handle it or not. I found that there are many software packages out on the market that offer functionality for purposes that may not be entirely useful for my pursuit. I decided to work with my current system to find out where the problem areas are, and build it up to meet the performance and capabilities needs for this task.
NOTE: I am using a Windows 95 based PC. There are platforms that are much better optimized for multi-media development - An Apple Mac or systems running BeOS have an operating system that doesn't fight you at every step and were built with an architecture that evolved with set goals, unlike Windows 95/98/NT which had interfaces that were defined over time by random companies in a fairly haphazard manner. There are a number of high end professional video editing systems that operate under Windows 95/98/NT, so its not impossible to be successful using this platform - You simply have to buy equipment that scales to your need and be willing to pay for the quality you expect. I'll be doing things that are not expensive on this platform, this doesn't mean that you can't go a few steps further and do complete production quality video work. What-ever I do here will apply to higher end productions; You can start small, just like I am and work your way up to any level that you desire. Watch out for Windows 95/98/NT upgrades when your system is working just fine with its current software - Internet Explorer 5.0 trashed my system and forced me to re-install Windows 95 again from scratch - I had to format the hard drive to recover (IE 5.0 didn't provide any way to UNINSTALL it either - bogus software engineering if I've ever seen it). I find it highly suspicious that total destruction occurred to my Netscape Web Browser directories.
These files do not include the audio portion of the video. Standard CD quality is defined as 2 channels of 44.1 kHz/16 bit data requiring approximately 10 megabytes per minute. Other options are:
Anything less than this loses an awful lot of its sound quality and probably will detract from the enjoyment of the music video. Lower rates would work fine for an instructional video that has an audio track of mostly talking and some simple incidental music.
With the required disk space for video and audio in mind, I decided that I would attempt 1/8 screen video with the audio track running Mono 22 kHz/16 bit. if necessary, I could bump that to a Stereo 22 kHz/16 bit audio track if need be.
Most music videos are 2 1/2 to 6 minutes in length. This means the resulting video should be anywhere from 40 to 150 megabytes on my system. This sounds like a lot, but is nothing compared to 1/4 or full screen video. It would also fit on a normal CD-Rom so that if I wanted, I could share these with people who wanted to watch them on their PC.
I also needed to have space for the original video clips as well as the resulting finished video. I tripled the estimated space for the raw video clips (assuming 150 meg for the final video) - So 600 meg of free disk space is the minimum for creating a video. I allocated a 4 gig hard drive partition for this and once I started capturing video, I found that I had filled 1.5 gig of it in no time at all.
My video capture board was a close out from Computer Geeks. I had no idea what to buy or what would really work for me, but I knew that my cam-corder had analog RCA phono video and audio jacks, and I needed a video capture card that allowed me to capture analog video. I used my Ensoniq sound card to capture the mono audio. The video capture card is an Alaris (this particular board is no longer being made) and it plugs into an ISA slot (not PCI) on my PC's motherboard. This video capture board doesn't use an IRQ, so it was relatively painless to get the video card working. The Alaris video capture card I'm using does not have a video out, so anything I create on my PC will need to stay in a PC or Internet format. All the video capture cards that I've seen support NTSC (used in the United States, Mexico and Canada), PAL (used just about everywhere else) and SECAM (France).
I mistakenly bought a high end Starfire graphics card with both video in and out (using RCA Phono Plugs) only to find that it won't work unless you have an Intel Processor with MMX (which I don't). The Video card did come with ULead's V 5.0 Non-Linear video editor software, so it was not a total loss. Its video capture driver (which works fine with the Alaris video capture card) was much higher performance than the one that came with the Alaris video capture driver.
I ended up swapping out my Cyrix P166+ for an AMD K6-2/300 (only $40.00 + $10.00 shipping when bought online). The Starfire graphics video card still won't work with it, but the system is much faster and can handle the work load better.
The Alaris video capture card was not designed for resolutions beyond 1/4 screen (320 X 240), so if you want to go for a higher resolution, specifically look into a high end video capture card that advertises at least full screen (640 X 480 or 720 X 480) resolution. There are 'parallel port' video capture interfaces. I have not tried these, but would suspect that they are bandwidth restricted - Probably not a major problem for 1/8 screen data.
A desktop video capture system may work, but has the restriction that you only have 4 to 6 feet of cable attached to it, so all your video recording will need to occur very near your PC. For many things, this will be a problem. You could, however, hook one of these to a laptop system and bring that with you anywhere, as long as you have power to drive it. The other restriction is the bandwidth - if you use one that uses a parallel port, you can't take that many frames per second nor can you go with much beyond 1/8 screen size (I have a color Connectix/Logitech parallel port video camera on one of my systems, and immediately noticed this limitation). The USB variety may work better. I have not tried one, so I can't say. These are not very expensive and are available all over the world.
A stand alone cam-corder has the most options since it can be transported to any location and video can be taken while you are there. Any cam-corder that you use has to have to a way to move the video from the the cam-corder to the computer. There are 2 types of output - analog and digital. Most newer portable cam-corders have connectors for video and audio out. Analog recorders (Beta, VHS, VHS-C, 8mm and Hi8) will use a cable with RCA phono jacks on it and require an analog video capture card. Other cam-corders will have a DV (digital video) output, often called Fire-Wire (because of the standard used) and requires a video capture card that can handle this. You could playback a VHS tape (using VHS-C), or a Beta tape and use a standard VCR to download to the PC, as long as it has RCA video jacks on it. Use what you have available and don't buy anything special unless you really need it - you won't know what you really need until you've done this for a while.
A tripod is a very important tool to steady your video, especially if you want to do any sort of special effects with the video images. Make sure that your video input device (cam-corder or desktop video camera) allows you to attach it to a tripod. You will often need to take pictures while you are in motion - some video cam-corders have video stabilizers built in (you loose some resolution, but end up with a more usable picture) - this can be very hard to do with a desktop video capture system. Give a lot of thought to how and where you will record your video before committing to any specific hardware or software.
When you capture video on your PC using a video cam-corder (or a VCR), you connect the cables to your video capture card and set the capture resolution and frame rate. One side effect that you probably were not expecting is that the PC is pretty busy saving your video and will not update your screen as you capture your video clip. This makes grabbing video clips a real challenge and you tend to record far more than you wanted. You will need to edit it down to just the parts you need. You could add a video monitor (or small TV) so you could see what you are recording onto your PC.
The concept of a storyboard and script will make your life substantially easier as you try to assemble the video into a cohesive result. The whole effort is actually not that difficult to do, it just works better if you have done some up-front planning.
Realize that the band/singers will have to lip sync against a final recording, otherwise you will never sync things up to sound like anything musical. Make sure that the equipment that you playback on while people are lip syncing actually runs at the same speed that you will be editing down to. Here is an example of a problem you could encounter:
This is just one of the many things to keep track of. Paying attention to the details can simplify your life dramatically.
Questions? Comments? .
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