Computer as a Video Workstation

One of the promises of PCs is that they can be used as video processing units. Shoot a videotape&#185 then dump the finished video into your computer where you can edit it and then burn it to a DVD or even stream it on the Internet.

This PC was actually built with all that in mind. It is a few years old – ancient in computer time, but still up to the job. The problem is, this is a job that is only performed grudgingly by a computer. I can safely say this right now, because I’m in the midst of taking a videotape and converting it into both web and DVD video.

What a royal pain.

Each program (and no one program does more than a small fraction of the full job) is slow and kludgey and requires arcane knowledge in esoteric subjects.

Do you know which codec to use and when? Do you even know what a codec is? I’m not asking to embarrass, but to point out the low level of sophistication in what should be a mature process.

My own confidence is so low that when I encoded some video to send to a colleague, I first called a friend to spot check it on his computer. It is easy to think you’re confirming what you did only to be playing back video from your hard drive and not a website. Been there, done that.

So far, I’ve been working over two hours. I’m not quite done. My finished product will be three – two minute clips on the web and a DVD with all three in a higher quality format. We’re talking less than six minutes of video total.

I consider myself a sophisticated user, knowledgeable in digital video and this is still a pain in the butt! How is someone with a new camcorder and no savvy going to do this the first time? The simple answer is, they won’t.

Video in your computer and on the Internet is an amazingly powerful tool. It should be well within the reach of anyone who uses a PC. It still isn’t and I see no sign that it will be any time soon. It’s a shame.

&#185 – An article in the NY Times last week reviewed two new home camcorders which record on microdrives or compact flash memory cards. Maybe tape’s days are numbered.

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