Non Linear Editing Primer

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This page features very straight- forward, easy to understand information about getting started in the exciting world of Desk Top Video (DTV). We have put all the info in a Question & Answer dialog format. We hope you will find this page helpful.

What is Desk Top Video?

Desk Top Video (DTV) is using your computer to create videos. You can easily and affordably use your computer to overlay titles & graphics, control your camcorder & VCRs, perform digital video effects, and fully edit your videos. Best of all, with today’s Pentium computer technology, you can even capture video to your hard drive and edit it inside your computer! Computer Video editing can be broken down into 2 types, Linear and Non Linear. Linear is the old fashioned deck to deck way of video editing. It requires that your camcorder and possibly recording VCR support special editing protocols, such as Sony Control L, Panasonic 5 pin or JVC JLIP.

Today, Non Linear is definitely the way to go. Even if you have an existing linear editing system and edit very long videos (say a 3 hour wedding) you still want to add an NLE system into your production suite. Anything you could do on an old fashioned linear system can be done better and cooler with NLE. By simply adding an NLE produced opening title sequence, highlight video or photo/video montage you can make your videos much more exciting!!

What exactly is Non Linear Editing?

Non Linear editing (NLE) is when you edit videos within your computer. Instead of using jog shuttles and special video decks, you simply capture the video to your hard drive. You can then edit and rearrange the scenes much like moving paragraphs around in your favorite word processing program! Since the video is digitized, you can instantly get to any exact point in the video!

Once the video is captured you can create all kinds of cool effects and transitions. Because all the video is digital, you have an almost infinite amount of FX to choose from. Page peels, flips and spins are just the beginning. You can add awesome animations and graphics to your video as well!

What is a video capture card ?

Video capture cards let you record video onto your computer’s hard drive. These cards use hardware and/or software compression (CODEC) to digitize the video onto your hard drive. You can the edit the video and play it back to tape or display the finished movie on your computer screen!

One of the most popular pages on our website is our Video Capture Card Round Up written by Gary Bettan and published in Computer Video & Camcorder magazine. It includes all the latest cards and it is updated often.

What is a CODEC?

CODEC stands for Compression/Decompression. It is the method used by your video capture card to digitize the video and store it on your hard drive. The three most popular CODECs used today are MJPEG, DV and MPEG.

What is full speed, full screen video?

A standard NTSC video signal consists of 30 frames (actually 29.97) per second, and two fields per frame. This is considered to be full speed or full motion video (PAL uses 25 frames per second). With digital video, full screen is considered 640×480 pixels (or 720×480 for DV). If you capture at a smaller size, your computer will have to interpolate and create the missing information when it plays back the video full screen to your VCR or TV. The larger the capture size, the higher the resolution, and the greater size of the file created.

What kind of computer do I need for NLE?

The speed of your computer will let you edit and render faster, but it will have no effect on your video quality. Your video storage will. If your hard d rive is not fast enough to handle the throughput, you will get dropped frames. We recommend a dedicated drive for the video. For the best results get a PII 350+ w/128 megs RAM. You’ll want at least a 4 meg 3D graphics card that supports Direct Draw Overlay. If you are planning to get a new computer, check out our recommended systems and potential conflicts page.

What is Direct Draw Overlay (DDO)

This is probably one of the more confusing aspects of DTV. Any of our cards will work in a system that does not have a DDO graphics card, but you will not be able to view the video full motion, full size on your computer monitor. To make matters a bit more confusing, not all Direct Draw graphics cards have overlay. We have a list of several graphics cards that fully support DDO on our recommended systems and potential conflicts page.

What additional equipment do I need for NLE?

Most importantly you will need a video capture card with video output for playback. If you can’t output the video to tape, you only have half the solution! You will also need software to log your edit scenes & points, plus create all the amazing effects you want to add. All of our capture cards can be purchased as bundles, with NLE software included. Next you will need storage space. The most important thing to remember is that your final video quality will depend on the sustained throughput of your hard drive. You should have a dedicated hard drive for video clips only.

How much hard drive space will the video need?

With the cards we carry, you will be able to store about 10 minutes of VHS quality video on 1 gigabyte, or 5 minutes of SVHS quality video per gig. For DV footage, you’ll need 13GBper hour of raw video. The higher the resolution you need, the more space the video will require. Our top cards create hi quality SVHS video that takes up an entire gig for only 3 minutes of video! For the best results and highest video quality we recommend a dedicated video storage solution, either SCSI, Medea VideoRAID or Promise FastTrack RAID. For short videos (under 5 minutes) the new Ultra DMA EIDE hard drive will work fine, for longer video and the highest possible resolution, you should get an A/V rated UltraWide SCSI (pronounced scuzzy) hard drives or an EIDE RAID. You can learn more about video storage on our Video Storage Page.

What is FireWire?

FireWire is the hottest new technology in desk top video. It is a new interface standard (IEEE1394) that allows super hi speed data transfer. The first generation of FireWire cards are now shipping. Now you can ‘dump’ the digital video (DV) signal directly into your hard drive, edit it and then output the DV signal back out. Because the signal stays digital through the entire process, you get zero loss and a finished video that has the identical video quality to the original. For more information see our FireWire Q&A.

What is the 2GB limit and what is timeline playback?

Unfortunately, when the video subsystem’s of today’s operating systems were designed a few years ago, they had in them a basic design flaw. Video files are limited to 2GB in size. At the time this didn’t seem like such a big deal, but today it is one of the biggest issues with DTV. At S-Video quality you are limited to about a 10 minute video. With storage prices tumbling and 9GB SCSI drives available for under $1000, someone had to come up with a solution. Our DTV vendors did. INSTANT video, Power Play and Cut List are all basically the same thing, timeline playback utilities. The video clips in your project are played directly from the timeline using the original video capture files. The only parts of the video that are rendered are the transitions, filters and special effects. As a result you need much less disk space for making the video and since only those portions are rendered, rendering the finished project is dramatically faster!!

What does real-time NLE mean?

Real-time NLE systems offer you transitions, filters and effects that do not need to render. This means that you can play your video directly from the timeline out to tape. Since you do not have to render, these systems save you both time and disk space. Not all real-time systems are created equal. Some offer only a few real-time effects, while others offer hundreds, thousands or more. Some real-time systems are only real-time via the analog output, not the FireWire as well.

What are plug-ins

Plug-ins are additional software programs that add new features and effects to your NLE system. They are called Plug-ins because they “Plug In” to your NLE software and operated as if they were a part of it. A 3D transition Plug-in would appear as one of the listed transitions in the transition library. We carry a wide variety of plug-ins. You can find out more about them on our DTV software round up article.

What do I need to output hi resolution animations?

Any of our capture cards will do the trick. To get your animations out to tape you will have to render them using the CODEC that the card supports. Many animation programs will let you render the clips directly into the desired CODEC. If yours does not, you’ll have to bring the animation into the NLE software and render it out as a new video file. For best results, you want a capture card that supports the exact resolution you plan on using for your animations.

What do I need to put my video clips on the web?

That depends on how you plan on delivering the clips to your audience. Streaming video technologies like Real Video and VDO require special servers and software. But several other new technologies exist that require no special server at all. We suggest you spend some time researching the various web video delivery systems available before you buy your video capture card.

Once you have decided on the web video compression you plan on using, you will have to create your video clips and then convert them for the web. The latest web compressions are getting quite sophisticated and deliver much crisper images then just a year ago. We have found that the key to good web video is to start with high quality video captures. 640×480, 30 frames with a data rate of 3 megs or higher. Although the video will be squeezed down to fit over the nets limited bandwidth, the more data you give the web compressor to work with, the higher quality the finished product will be.

What do I need to create a video photo album?

Once again, one of our full screen 640×480 capture cards ( ½ or ¼ screen are not a good choice, because the still images will look distorted). You can grab the single frames straight from your camcorder into the computer, then use your NLE software to add music, titles, transitions and other cool effects.

Can I install the boards myself?

Installing boards in your PC is really very easy. You may not even need a screwdriver! Once the board(s) is installed, you will need to install the special new video drivers that come with them. To make sure things go smoothly, we have an excellent installation and troubleshooting tips page in our on line tech support section at our web site.

What is a driver?

A driver is the special software code that lets your computer interact with the different devices hooked up to it. Keyboards, mice, floppy disk drives, all require drivers. The drivers supplied with your board have been specially written to allow optimal operation of your computer once they are installed. Newer better drivers get released all the time. This is why we have an FTP page on our website that lets you download the latest drivers directly from the vendors ftp sites.

What if I need help?

The Electronic Mailbox understands that even with all this great info, you may still have questions. Our techs understand the equipment and they can help you decide on the perfect system to meet your needs and budget. If you have any problems installing and using your new DTV equipment, we offer you free DTV technical support (516) 7…. If our techs get stumped, we will refer you to a specific tech support person at the manufacturer. We also offer our exclusive 30 day Customer Assurance Program on all DTV purchases!

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