Movie-making has never been so popular, thanks in no small part to the proliferation of new devices capable of recording video, from smartphones to HD camcorders. Transferring this raw footage to your PC takes minutes, and – with the help of a video-editing application – you can either indulge your dream of becoming the next Martin Scorsese or simply cobble together all that hurriedly shot video from your last holiday into something you can show off down the pub.
Tools of the trade
To produce a home video you’ll need some basic equipment. The most obvious is a video camera of some sort. Most smartphones include adequate video cameras for occasional use, and many digital cameras include the option to record video. But if you’re keen to produce video on a regular basis, it may be best to invest in a camcorder. Full HD camcorders can be very reasonable, like Panasonic’s HC-V100EB-K Full HD (PC World). Most modern cameras and camcorders store video on SD -HC memory cards, which are small and rewriteable, yet capable of storing more footage than a conventional DVD . They’re pretty cheap too; expect to pay around £20 for one with 8GB capacity, such as the high performance SANDISK 8GB Extreme HD Video SDHC Memory Card (PC World).
Panasonic’s HD camcorder is a good value choice for those wishing to take video recording seriously.
If you already have a camcorder gathering dust somewhere, you may want to press it back into service. Analogue camcorders record onto tape, which needs to be converted to digital format before you can edit it. Older digital camcorders use digital tape, which works in a similar way to analogue tape, but the video they produce is already in digital format so doesn’t need converting.
Transfer your footage
Once you’ve completed filming and returned to your PC, you’ll need to transfer that raw footage across. With a modern camcorder using SDHC cards, this is as simple as removing the card, then slipping it into your laptop or desktop’s memory card slot. You then follow the prompts Windows provides to import the video onto your hard drive.
Alternatively, you can connect your camera to your computer using its USB cable and import the video files that way. With a tape-based digital camcorder you may need to import the video using your chosen video-editing software. For example, in Windows Live Movie Maker, choose the File tab to the left of Home on the ribbon, then select Import From Device, connect your camera and follow the prompts. The program then takes control of your camcorder and rewinds the tape, then spools it forward, importing faster than the normal playback speed of the video.
To capture video from analogue VHS or camcorder footage, you’ll need to get a video capture device that supports analogue TV or video. The PCTV Hybrid Pro Stick (PC World) is ideal, and includes a Freeview tuner as well, so you can use it to watch and record TV. You’ll need to connect your old video recorder or camcorder to its analogue input, and record the video in real time in order to transfer it to your PC. Once imported, you can import it again onto your video editing software.
Edit your video
The simplest and cheapest – seeing as it’s free – option for editing video is Windows Live Movie Maker, which ships with all Advent PCs, or can be downloaded as part of Windows Live Essentials. Once installed, it’s easy to import video clips and move them about. You can easily trim them to size and add fancy effects and transitions. For a complete step-by-step guide and accompanying video slideshow to using Windows Live Movie Maker, click here.
Windows Live Movie Maker is fine for most people’s needs, but if you want to take things further then consider a tool like Cyberlink PowerDirector 10 Deluxe (PC World). PowerDirector provides 3D video editing, plus the ability to crop and zoom in on footage, as well as an array of over 300 effects and transitions. You can also burn your movie to Blu-ray discs in HD format, assuming you have a compatible drive, and everything’s wrapped up in a user-friendly interface.
Cyberlink PowerDirector 10 provides you with a wide range of editing tools and effects, suited to the serious videomaker.
Distribute your finished movie
When you’ve finished editing your masterpiece, you’re ready to share it with the world. The beauty of digital video is that you can quickly and easily give it to friends on DVD by burning a disc or else share it online via an online video service like YouTube, or you can send it by email. How you share your movie will depend on its length, what facilities your friends have to watch it and the quality you want the finished footage to have.
Windows Live Movie Maker includes options for publishing a movie using each of these methods. It also includes quality profiles for each, which helps determine the file size. A clip sent by email needs to be short and snappy with a small file size, or else the person receiving it will have to wait ages for it to download. For longer movies you may be better off uploading to YouTube and sending the link in an email. If you don’t want to skimp on quality at all, the best option is to use Windows DVD Maker to create a video DVD , complete with menus and then give it to friends and family to watch.
Windows Live Movie Maker enables you to publish your movie directly to YouTube when you’ve finished editing it.