November 21, 2004

Toy of the Week

The toy of the week: our new JVC GR-D230 digital camcorder.

We’ve gone digital in so many other ways, so we went and got ourselves this early Christmas present. Now we can really enter the big grown up world of digital video editing. I’ve already been having problems with Windows Movie Maker, so my indoctrination has begun. And we can now seriously get down to making some DVDs. I’ve been making DVDs out of TV shows that I’ve grabbed through BitTorrent, but that’s different. For one thing, most of those discs are meant to be temporary. I’ll download five shows from the last week, burn them on an erasable disc, watch them, and then discard them for next week’s shows. The DVDs I’ll be making now are not only meant to be permanent, but they’ll also be my own stuff. So I can really feel like I’m creating something.

What’s going to be most important at the start is the A/V pass-through on the camcorder. This means that I can connect an old VHS VCR to to new camcorder, and digitize our old movies that way. I had a creaky old Dazzle USB device I was doing that with before, but this FireWire connection is so much better, I’ll probably end up dumping all those old crappy files.

I’m also making a controversial decision. And that is to keep my files in WMV format instead of something like AVI or MPEG. I’ve spent the last few days playing with different encodings and software, and WMV just ends up with the smallest files and the highest quality. And plus, I’m a Windows guy, dammit, and I’ve done a lot of growth lately in realizing that’s nothing to be ashamed of. So I will hold my WMV files high for the world to see. And besides, once I put it on a DVD it becomes platform-independent anyway.

My choice of Windows Movie Maker is causing me a little grief, though. The problem I’m having is when I capture my video direct to a high-quality DV-AVI file. Now DV-AVI creates way too large of a file to keep around for long (170MB+ per minute), so the idea is to bring it in and do your editing, then export a compressed WMV file. But my Movie Maker drops the audio from the AVI file when I try that. Other file types retain their audio fine, but the one file format I want to work with is the one having problems. That figures, I guess. Looking around the microsoft.public.windowsxp.moviemaker newsgroup shows that others have have problems with garbled and tinny audio in AVI files, but I seem to be alone in losing the audio entirely. I hope there’s an easy fix for this, but I haven’t found it yet.

This camcorder, like most these days, also accepts a memory card and can take still JPGs. But, like most camcorders, the quality is severely lacking compared to what you can get from a dedicated digital camera. Take a look at these two shots, taken with two different cameras:

The top photo is from my Fuji A210 camera, and the bottom one is from this new camcorder. Quite a difference there in the colors, the graininess, and just the life behind the picture. So I’m obviously not going to be ditching my digital camera, and I’ll probably never use the photo function on the JVC. But that’s not what I bought it for anyway.

So maybe we’ll start seeing some video entries here to go along with the photos. If I can come up with anything interesting, that is. You certainly won’t be seeing my ugly mug in any kind of videoblog. I know better than to subject the world at large to that. But there might be something else one day. In fact, here’s one of my first efforts. Caution: too cute baby movies ahead!


Highly compressed WMV file (of course). 4.27MB.

Filed under The Computer Vet Weblog

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