Roll 'Em

Editing equipment can give your home movies a professional look.

October 04, 1999|By Goutami Hyma Mikkilineni | Goutami Hyma Mikkilineni,cox news service

Remember being forced to watch the home videos of Mom and Dad's second honeymoon to Hawaii? It wouldn't have been so bad if you actually got to see the gorgeous volcanoes, sparkling water and cute surfers instead of Dad's shoes, the back of Mom's head and all those fuzzy images that came into focus as soon as the shot changed.

Don't blame Dad. You can't expect him to be a professional cameraman.

People who are still forcing viewers to sit through shaky pictures, shots of everyone's shoes and curses from an inexperienced cameraman may think Hollywood filmmakers with high-tech (and high-priced) equipment are the only ones who can produce a neatly edited video.

With existing technology and a little patience, you can become an accomplished amateur filmmaker and spare your viewers headaches and boredom.

Yes, video editing is here for the masses. In fact, many of the options have been on the market for years. By the time you finish reading this, you'll have a step-by-step guide on how to edit. You'll know how much to spend and where you can find the equipment.

Forget the notion that editing has to cost a lot of money. The cheapest and simplest way takes no more than the equipment you own: your videocassette recorder and video camera. Using this method, you can cut and rearrange your footage to your liking.

Here's how:

Just as you would record something from broadcast television, you simply hook the camera to the VCR through the input slot. When you find the first footage you want to run, hit pause, then get the recorder ready. Hit record, then press play on the camera. Anyone who has copied another tape or taped off the television already knows how to edit this way. It just might not have occurred to you that you could or should improve the overall look of your home video.

When you press record, the VCR automatically rewinds a few seconds on the tape, stops, then begins recording. If you're not careful, you could tape over the last few seconds of the tape you are making. To avoid this, after you stop recording, fast forward just a few seconds. Watch your timer -- five to six seconds will suffice. Then, you can safely record the next section of footage without taping over the last portion of the videotape. Editing this way allows you to cut sections of your home videos that are unnecessary.

To take full advantage of this method, take a few extra seconds of your image when you are shooting with your camcorder. That way, you have some more options of what to put on your final tape, without losing precious images.

Also, each shot should at least be 10 seconds long to give you enough to work with during the editing process. This method also allows you to choose the order of the footage.

And you have the option of using various source tapes to create a single new video. If you wanted to compile footage of all of baby's firsts, you can use old tapes of her first crawl, then add the tape of her first steps and finally edit in her first words. A tape of all these events can be a nice holiday gift for the grandparents.

Although this is the easiest way to edit and requires no extra equipment, it offers the fewest options. You can still create amateurish home videos this way if the camera operator makes a lot of mistakes. The biggest drawback is that your viewers will see an obvious break in your footage at the spots where you cut and added other footage. Sound editing can be messy, if not impossible.

If you want to do a better job, a number of affordable options are just as simple but allow for a little more human error when it comes to shooting.

You have two choices: Use special editing boards, or, since you probably already have a home computer, you may have most of what you need for the next method of editing.

Since the personal computer has replaced the dog and the diamond as man and woman's best friend, many people are probably aware that their PC can help them with their photography and other graphics.

What most people don't know is that computers can also edit moving-picture photography, i.e., home videos.

Many software packages are out there, available at any large software store. These programs allow you to feed your videotape into the computer and do everything from rearranging footage to adding characters, animation, music and narration as well as using special effects.

Two programs for PC owners, Video Wave and VideoStudio, are relatively inexpensive at $100 and allow you all the editing options various editing boards provide. An added advantage is the chance to add animation to your tapes.

Apple owners can take advantage of Final Cut, a program modeled after the AVID program that professionals use. It, too, falls into a reasonable price range.

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