Copyright Michael Karbo, Denmark, Europe.


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    Chapter 17. Images, sound and video

    Back in the 1990’s the pc was especially good to work with text and numbers. As the development progressed, the hardware was improved so much that picture processing became possible on ordinary pc’s (among other things we got better screens and graphics cards).

    Today modern pc’s are actually so powerful, that they without difficulty handle both pictures, sound and video.

    Windows XP now have facilities to work with digital camera and video-recorders. Here I will show how you can retrieve pictures directly from the digital camera. In the end of the chapter I show how simple it is to work with sound and video!

    Get pictures from camera

    In the preceding chapter I showed, how you install a driver to a digital camera. Now I turn on power to the camera, which is still connected to the pc with a USB cable. And Windows XP responds immediately; I am asked to choose which program shall be used for the work with pictures:

    I can select either the graphics program Photoshop (which is installed on my pc) or the ”Guide Microsoft scanner and camera”. I choose the guide.

    If I click on the Next button, I get help to transfer the pictures from camera to pc. That is described later (see figure 77). But I think if you have made the exersizes here in the booklet, then you are an experiences user who does not need help to move picture files.

    Therefore I choose to get direct access to the camera’s pictures with Windows Explorer (as is recommended for experienced users):

    That interrupts the guide, and the camera is now an object in the folder list in Windows Explorer. When I select that, I see the content of picture files in the right window:

    figure 76. There is direct access to the pictures in the digital camera via Windows Explorer.

    The guide Scanner and camera

    I can also choose to use the ”guide Scanner and camera” to retrieve the camera’s pictures. It has among other things a small tool, which can be used to at select, erase and rotate pictures:

    figure 77. The guide Scanner and camera is especially designed for beinners who need help to move pictures from the digital camera to the harddisk.

    The idea with the guide is that I need to select which picture files have to be copied to the hard disk. Then I need to name a folder for them. Finally they are copied:

    figure 78. The pictures can be copied from camera to pc with the guide Scanner and camera.

    With Windows XP it is then incredibly easy to copy digital pictures to the harddisk. The guide Scanner and camera as such is quite neat; I especially like that you can rotate the pictures very easily – already before they are copied to the harddisk. But for daily use I still prefer the direct access to the camera with Windows Explorer (as I star­ted to show). That method is much faster, and I definitely recommend that.

    If you need to rotate a picture, you can either do it with Windows Explorer in the view Picture series or with the program Windows Picture and fax viewer. See the description on pages 81 and 81.

    Multimedia with Windows XP

    Microsoft counts very much on the use of Windows XP for the family’s multimedia production. This means that there are excellent multimedia tools in Windows XP, and that more can be retrieved free from the Internet. If you have a webcam or a DV camera, it will probably work right away, when it is connected to Windows XP!

    In figure 79 you see the multimedia programs, which are available for Windows XP.

    The following review is not a complete guide to multimedia recordings; it is meant as an introduction. If you want to work with these programs, you should expect to spend a fair amount of time to learn the possibilities!

     

    Program

    Function

    Sound recorder

    Can make small sound recordings. Requires a sound card and a sound source. That could be an electric instrument or a microphone.

    Movie Maker

    Can record video from a video source such as a webcam, a TV tuner card or a DV camera. Can import sound-, picture- and video files. Can mix the different recordings to video files in different formats.

    Windows Media Player

    Can play all sound- and videofiles. Can copy music-CDs in MP3-like quality. (see page 81).

    Windows Media Encoder

    Can play both sound and video from a lang list of sources. Is excellent to re-code existing recording.
    Must be retrieved from the Internet.

    figure 79. Windows XP offers excellent tools for production of sound- and video recordings.

    Use a webcam

    By far the cheapest way to make videos is to install a small USB-based webcam (a web camera). The camera is available in Denmark for under 500 d.kr, and often it can be connected directly to Windows XP without driver installation. It just works! Here I show how easy it is to get started, and how you test the recording quality.

    The only thing I need to do is to open the Movie Maker program, which is found in the program group Accessories. The program does not appear particularly advanced when you open it:

    Figure 80. Windows Movie Maker can make small and large video movies lightning fast.

    Movie Maker can make video movies in many ways. The program can among other things capture video recordings directly from the camera, and hat is normally the first one would try.

    So I start by clicking on the Record button:

    That opens the real central dialog box in Movie Maker, and there is an immediate ”opening” to the camera:

    I can see that the camera records both video and sound. Now can I record a video sequence from the camera, which has to be saved in a file on the harddisk.

    Choose quality

    Before I start the recording, I need to select a quality. That is done in the Settings field. With a webcam there are not too many qualities to choose from, since the camera can only record very small pictures. I want to test the equipment, and I start by selecting ”High quality”:

    In this context high quality is a recording with 30 pictures per second and an image size of 320 x 240 pixels, which is the best my webcam can produce. That results in a data stream of 256 Kbps (kilobit per second).

    I click on the Record to start the recording. After 20 seconds recording I click on the Stop button:

    Now the recording needs to be saved as a file. Windows XP is prepared for this situation, since Movie Maker creates the sub folder Videos in the folder My Documents. I just have to enter a file name for the recording:

    The video recordings are saved in the wmv Windows Media Video file format, and the dialog box Record closes.

    Then I can review my recording; it is seen as a clip in Movie Makers right window:

    Test the program

    More clips and projects will appear as you make your own recordings. These clips are really copies of the video files that you have on the harddisk, so you can erase them without affecting the files. When I doubleclick on the clip, the video film is played in a small window:

    Of course you need sound card and speakers connected to the pc to hear the sound during playback.

    I can spool forth and back in the movie, and with this button it can be shown in full screen size:

    I will make two more test recordings. Here I first choose a setting with a data stream of 128 Kbps:

    Finally I test the setting 64 Kbps. Now I can compare the quality of the three recordings. I use Windows Explorer to see the files in the folder My Documents\Videos; obviously the file size grows dramatically as the quality is improved. Here you see the numbers for a one minute recording in each of the three qualities:

     

    Data stream

    Pictures

    File size

    256 Kbps

    320 x 240 pixels, 30/sec.

    1842 KB

    128 Kbps

    320 x 240 pixels, 15/sec.

    768 KB

    64 Kbps

    240 x 176 pixels, 15/sec.

    370 KB

    Figure 81. File sizes for a one minute video recording in three different qualities.

    I would probably choose the recording at 64 Kbps, if I for example was going send the video film in e-mail, where file size is quite significant. The quality is acceptable for small private movies. But if I need a little better quality, I choose the quality at 128 Kbps. The sound quality is also different in the three formats.

    Experiment for yourself – it is easy and fun to make small video movies with a webcam!

    DV-video on the pc

    Digital video cameras (DV-recorders) have become quite popular since prices came down. The video standard DV and with that the interface Fire­wire (also called IEEE 1394) is supported directly in Windows XP. This means that it is very easy to work with DV-video in Windows XP, it just requires a firewire-port in the pc.

    I have the sound card Sound­ Blaster Audigy in my pc. It has a built-in firewire-port, but you can also get a separate firewire card (in Denmark at a cost of about 300 kr), which just needs to be installed in the pc. When that is in place, the DV-camera can be connected with a smal cable. Windows XP recognizes that right away:

    Then I need to open the Movie Maker program. I start again by clicking on the Record button. Then there is direct access to the camera, which stands on my desk:

    Figure 82. There is direct contact to the video camera!

    A DV-camera has many more options for choosing quality, since the DV-camera records in a very high quality; the recordings are actually on the level of DVD movies.

    If you choose the DV-AVI quality, the recording will be saved in the highest quality. That can soon result in some enormous files. But the advantage of this format is that you later can re-code the recording to another, less space demanding format. Recordings in DV-AVI are not compressed; they are saved as a pure copy of the video tape’s recordings.

    Figure 83. DV recordings can be stored in many different formats.

    You can see that the DV format records in a large image size (720 x 576 pixels) and with 25 pictures per second. The recording is done with a data stream of 25 megabit per second (Mbps):

    You can also choose a less demanding format right away. The harddisk will soon be full if you choose to store the”raw” DV recordings, since a one minute recording occupies around 200 MB. So a regular CD-ROM can only hold 3 minutes film recording! So that may not be a good idea. So if you choose the DV-AVI format, it makes sense to ”re-code” the recordings to a format with compression, so they only occupy a fraction of the space.

    Mix recordings

    The Movie Maker program can be real fun to work with, if you try to mix pictures, sound- and video recordings.

    That is done in a time frame, where you can place the individual sequenses relative to each other. You can let one sound file follow another and make transitions between pictures and video clips. Then you can finally export the whole thing as a movie.

    Figure 84. A film can be recorded by mixing different pictures, sound- and video clips.

    I have made a small sequence, where I have imported four files. Those are two sound recordings, a video clip and a photograph. The four files are seen as icons on the time bar in he bottom of the window (see Figure 84).

    On top is the picture and the video clip. I let the picture overlap the video clip, to make a smooth transition. I control that by dragging in the small trim handles (triangles). The resultat is actually quite neat.

    Figure 85. Four files, which are mixed to make a film.

    More about compression

    If you want to work with video recordings, you could download the Windows Media Encoder program. It is on Microsofts home page. The address may change, but try this: www.microsoft.com/windows/windowswithia/download

    There are many different compression methods (with so-called codecs); that is an area undergoing an incredible develeopment. Microsoft is on top of that with their Windows Media video formats, which are continually improved and developed.

    The Windows Media Encoder program is not as easy to work with as Movie Maker, men it can really do a lot. And then it contains compression (codecs) methods, which you do not find in Movie Maker. You can save recording in the latest versions of Windows video formats.

    I found the WM8 (Windows Media vers. 8) format, which promises ”nealy DVD quallity” at just 500 Kbps. This means that a film of 30 minutes duration with really fine picture- and sound quality only occupies around 100 MB. The format is really ideal for compression of DV recordings.

    Figure 86. Windows Media Encoder can be downloaded free from the Internet.

    Many video formats

    There are a number of other video formats bsides those you find in the Movie Maker and Windows Media Encoder programs. On the Internet video clips in the Quicktime and Real formats are frequently used. Those are formats competing with Windows Media, but provided by other companies than Microsoft. Furthermore the MPEG format is available, which many use for video production on CD-ROM.

    The Windows programs can only make video film in Windows’ own formats. Microsoft goes their own way, but I must say that they do it well.

    You need to be aware that if your video film needs to be shown on other pc’s, Windows Media Player has to be installed and preferably in the newest version. That is especially true if you have used the latest codecs for the recording.


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