Short question: what can I do so my videos don't look like that?
(scroll after the screenshot for details)
I have to do some research on human computer interaction. For that, I need to simultaneously film the user (or tester) and record a screencast of what he's doing. Then I get this special software called Interact to analyse actions from the videos.
I have at my disposal a Dell dual core laptop with Windows XP and a FireWire 400 port and a consumer grade video camera (Sony DCR-HC62E). I have little to no budget for specialized software or hardware. I have read some theory on working with videos (mainly encoding), but I have no practical experience. Everything I've done till now was to archive some DVDs under Linux using Mencoder.
For my work, I am not especially interested in the aesthetics of the video. If the colours are off, it isn't a big problem. What I need is a sharp image, so I can trace every single gesture and facial expression of the tester.
Yesterday, I decided to make a test run and filmed two co-workers. The camera records on mini DV magnetic tapes. I used the Sony picture utility (that's a software which came with the camera) to get the video via firewire cable on my hard drive. I guess it uses some raw format - a 32 second record results in a ~200 MB .avi file, resolution 720x576.
When I play the video in Media Player Classic or Windows Media Player, I get a very bad quality. There are alternating line sets x-transposed relative to the subsequent line sets, resulting in a striped picture (see screenshot). The same happens when the video is played on a co-worker's macbook with VLC. But when he opens the video with iMovie, there are no problems, the picture is as smooth as cream. I don't know if this is a codec issue; I have a K-Lite installed, not sure which version, and I don't know what he has on the macbook.
I then tried using the windows movie player to get the video from the tape on my computer. I didn't have the stripe problems. But the picture quality is bad. It is a 640x480 only, and it is compressed - i don't know which format, but when played 1:1, it is visibly blurred, and it has lots of square artifacts in the picture. The same 32-sec record takes up ~11 MB.
So my question is: how to get a video record in acceptable quality (sharp; if possible 720x576) from the camera to the hard drive?
Oh, and if somebody knows either a good Windows GUI for MEncoder (the ones I tried didn't include most of the features accessible from the command line) or another free tool with the same features, please tell me about that too. "Exasperating" is the nicest thing I can say about working with the Windows shell.
Thanks for your help.