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Thread: First timer looking for basic Capture Advice

  1. Default First timer looking for basic Capture Advice

    Hi all and a Happy New Year.

    Some Background

    I was asked by a family friend to help get them into the modern age and set up their computer to allow them to capture home movies to PC so they can make proper DVDs from them.

    They have an oldish looking

    • Sony Digital HandyCam (Digital 700x with USB Streaming
    • They have a decent AMD2 Processor based PC with 512MB of Ram but only a small drive, about 50 GB free of space.
    • Im using a USB-Firewire Cable to connect the CamC to my PC.

    The utility that comes with the CamC is pretty basic and when test driving a capture from tape, of the 58 mins film only 15% could be captured in one go before the diskpace was filled.

    Thats one problem, the other is getting it to fit onto a DVD-R when its all done.

    Though I have some decent computer experience and know how to use a CamC, I must admit that when it comes to editing and capturing, my knowledge is nothing but pathetic.

    However, If possible Id like to know the answers to the following questions:

    1. What would be the best FREEWARE or TRIAL software (prefer Freeware) to grab the video from the tape onto the hardrive?

    2. Would prefer to capture in one go, but acceptable to do it even in 15 min chunks?

    3. Would prefer to have the file on PC in a format that ANY DVD (Pal) player would be able to play?

    4. Nice to have the ability of being able to merge two or more smaller files onto the DVD and have a basic menu for selection added?

    Christ, Im asking alot, but I would really appreciate any help from the many knowledge persons on this board.


  2. #2
    Join Date
    Feb 2004
    Bracknell, Berkshire, UK


    Dunno what model your camcorder is but the general consensus is that if you are capturing via USB you are already doing it wrong!

    What format is the camcorder? Is it an old analgue one or is it digital? Does it record to little DVDs or to Mini DV tape? If the camera has a firewire port then throw the USB cable in the bin and use firewire - simple as that!

    What format are you capturing to? Is it an AVI file that ends up on your hard drive? Assuming it is then one hour of footage will typically be an ABVI file of about 12Gb. However, you may be suffering from anothe problem. I suspect your hard drive is formatted as FAT32. If it is then it simply will not do for video editting. You need to reformat the drive to NTFS. FAT32 has a single file size limit of only a couple of Gb and I suspect you are simply hitting that during your capture.

    Also, respectfully, the PC specs you've quoted imply to me the PC is a few years old. It may prove to be a frustrating job trying to edit any real amount of video with it. If you get that far, the chances are that any 'modern' editting s/w will not run. For example Premiere Pro looks for at least 1Gb of RAM and very much prefers at least 2Gb and needs an up to date instruction set on the chip too, whihc you may not have if the box is a few years old.

    but moving on...

    getting the file into a format that will play on a dvd player will typically mean MPEG2. If you put an MPEG2 file ona CDR and pop it in your dvd player it should playt it just like your player will show JPGs as a slideshow but this is limited, mainly because ytou can't get much on a CDR. It's not likely you'll be able to capture straight to MPEG2 anyways without extra work and possibly extra hardware too. You need an editor.

    I'm not an expert on what freebie s/w might do all that. Windows XP does come with a video editor as a freebie so do have a play with that. I do not know of any s/w that will allow you to make DVDs with menus that you can get as a freebie. If you're willing to invest 50-60 quid then your limits expand significantly and you can get s/w to do all you ask.

  3. Default

    Thanks for the reply Alan.

    The Camcorder is a Sony (oldish) Handycam using mini DV tapes. There is a firewire slot on the corder which is connected to a USB port on the PC which (I guess) is doing the USB streaming. I.e. I can playback the recording from the DV tape (used LP not SP for the tape) onto the PC screen. The cable is a USB on one end and Firewire on the other. It came with a Digital Camera (stills/limited video) that they have.

    The problem(s) Im having are that the s/w Im using to "grab" / download the tape recording is giving me over 50GB in a file. Its doing it in one go, but it will only do it in in 15 minute chunks. So I will have have to grab around 200GB of data in 4 files. Something I dont think I will go on a DVD-RW disc.

    What I think the problem is, is that I cant find an option for compression settings on either the CAM or the s/w tool that came with the HandyCam. Its Sony's Pixela Imagemixer.

    The figures that you are talking about of 1hr = 12 GB seem realistic to me, moreso than 15mins = 40GB AVI. I was expecting to have a largish AVI file on the hard-drive which I could then compress using something like DivX.

    I checked the drive format, its NTFS and the PC spec works fine. The Mobo is quite new and so are the components. Their drive is 120GB but has over stuff installed and they only have 50GB of usuable space.

    What I really need is some help in getting the footage of the DV tape and onto the harddrive so that it will fit onto a CDR or DVD-R(W).

    Getting it from the HandyCam to the PC doesnt seem to be the problem, just the method/tools I am using!

    Thanks again

    EDIT: As for the PC specs they arent looking to do any serious stuff, just cut paste add one or more smaller bits together with a menu to drive selection at a later date. Im guessing that the PC will be ok for a basic tool and maybe an extra 512MB will be viable if really needed.
    Last edited by CamCoat; 01-04-2007 at 04:22 PM.

  4. #4
    Join Date
    May 2004
    W Surrey, England


    If you have a firewire port on the camcorder, you need to use a firewire cable and connect to a firewire port on the PC. If there isn't one on the computer at the moment, firewire cards come pretty cheap.

    Any compression will have to take place in the computer, not the camcorder. Some edit software will capture in mpeg, but not sure if Moviemaker - the free one with XP - will.

    Saving raw film back to DVD is not a good idea, edit it first. That for a start will reduce the amount of film you are saving.

    If the computer does not have the space to do all of it at once, do some at a time. 58 mins of film will fit on a single layer DVD at best quality, but it's unlikely 58 mins of 'as it was filmed' video will get watched very often. They'd be better off with 10 - 15 mins of highlights and a decent soundtrack, even if it's just some 'mood' music.

    If they have a DVD burner, then they should have software, which might, depending on how old it is, convert .avi files to the sort needed for DVDs and offer some menu capability.

    For the future, record any new film in SP, not LP. You might need more tapes, but you get better results.

    Win XP, Athlon 1.8, G force 3 T, 1 60gig drive + 1 250 gig, Pinnacle Studio 9 plus mostly, Premiere 6, and Vegas 5 sometimes, Soundforge, Cool Edit.

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