Sometimes, things take a little longer than we expect.
And some days don’t go according to plan.
I am writing a series on Stop Whistle training.
I thought it would be nice to have some video clips to illustrate these articles.
Over the last few days I have recorded about 45 minutes of training, using my elderly but still competent Sony VX2000 camcorder.
All I had to do now, was to figure out how to get the film onto my computer so that I can edit it.
At one time, I left this kind of video production endeavour to my younger son. But he has now gone off to be a rock star, so it was down to me to cope alone.
How hard can it be?
Yesterday was one of those days, the sort when you just know you shouldn’t start a major project, because there are so many other things that need doing.
But, I do pride myself on being reasonably computer literate. And with millions of videos being added to youtube every year, how hard can it be to do this?
I thought that a couple of hours should be plenty to get the job done.
Things were not quite as simple as I had hoped. First of all, the only cable I have for this old camera is a firewire lead. Which is fine, firewire is a very good method of transporting big media files. Arguably the best.
There was one small snag, unfortunately, my Dell laptop, which is relatively new, has no firewire port.
However, my panasonic VCR despite being six years old, does have one.
“Splendid” you say. All I need do is connect the camera to the VCR, and copy the film onto the VCRs hard drive.
Then copy the film from the VCR’s hard-drive to a DVD, put the DVD in my laptop, and ‘Bob’s your Uncle’. A bit circuitous, but needs must.
It all started well enough.
This editing lark is not difficult
The Panasonic VCR has some quite good basic editing capabilities. You can split your clip into chapters and delete or combine chapters together.
So I spend much of my allocated two hours getting rid of the rubbish, including the twenty minutes I had spent filming an empty piece of field whilst I trained in the piece of ground to one side.
The time passed pleasantly enough, and I tried not to worry about the publishing deadline which looms, and to which I was supposed to be attending.
At last, I had produced around six minutes of film that I smugly anticipated would take me twenty minutes or so to ‘tweak’ in Sony Vegas.
Slowly does it
I have to wait a while because the VCR insisted that High Speed transference was not appropriate for this particular job, but the DVD is soon finalized (whatever that means) and ready to go.
I eagerly slot the disc into my laptop and there is my video. All shiny and working. So, three hours in, and a little over schedule, I fire up Sony Vegas to ‘import’ my film.
Sony Vegas is completely unable to see the contents of my disc, and no matter how hard I try, I cannot not find any kind of ‘copy’ function in my media player.
Which seems very odd to me.
Delving into files
I really should stop at this point, and move on to my next job. However I just don’t like to be beaten that easily.
I go into ‘my computer’ and right-click on my DVD, I then open the folder and look inside. Lo and behold, there are the files that Sony Vegas failed to spot.
I don’t recognise the file types but one is very big, over 400mb. That must the film. I drag it onto my desk top, and from there, I drag it onto the time line in Sony Vegas.
There it is.
A disappearing act
But wait, it says the film is only 4 seconds long. That can’t be right.
I press play and am treated to a brief glimpse of myself walking into camera shot, then vanishing disconcertingly into thin air whilst my older lab remains seated in the background.
This bizarre but brief clip repeats twice more in a loop.
How come my film is now only 4 seconds long when a short while ago it was over 6 minutes? And how is a 4 second film over four hundred megabytes in size.
This makes no sense. And time is ticking on. But there must be a rational explanation.
To finalize or not?
Twenty minutes on google appears to reveal the problem. The ‘finalization’ process the Panasonic VCR so thoughtfully applied to my disc, removes editing capabilities.
It in fact renders the disc ‘read only’.
So logic says that I need to repeat the copy process without ‘finalizing’ the disc. But no. Panasonic does not want me to do that.
Refusing to believe that there is not a way around this, I steadfastly ignore the little red ‘overdue’ badges on my ToDo list and begin the laborious task of ploughing through the Panasonic manual.
I am determined to find out how to copy a disc without finalizing it.
First find your manual
I don’t know about you, but I find filing very tricky. Do we file a Panasonic manual under P for Panasonic, or V for VCR? Or maybe it should be under T for television, as that is what we use it for recording?
Apparently not. Apparently I filed it under I for instructions and even efficiently ‘sub-filed’ it under Audio Visual. Another ten minutes gone.
I clearly had too much spare time on my hands when we bought the machine. And clearly the people that wrote the manual had been drinking heavily at the time.
I have rarely read anything more complicated, or less helpful than this vast instruction book. Another hour passed by before I finally figured out how to make a copy of a DVD without finalizing the disc.
I placed the disc I had used before back into the Panasonic, which promptly informed me that the disc needed formatting. Did I give my permission?
“Yes, anthing, just make me a copy!”
At last I have the non-finalised disc in my hand. Just one small problem: my laptop does not like this disc. In fact, it repeatedly makes a string of increasingly noisy grinding and whirring noises, and refuses to eject the disc when requested!
After numerous attempts to eject, whilst the laptop gets hotter and hotter as the fan runs overtime, I begin to panic, and am just about to try to shut the laptop down to avert an explosion, when it spits out the offending disc.
This is going to be harder than I thought.
Thinking it through
I sit down with a cup of coffee to gather my wits and lower my blood pressure.
Let’s think. Maybe I am struggling against the tide here.
Maybe it is time to ditch my fifteen year old camera and get a modern digital one that runs on a memory card. (Which is what Mr Multi-track has been telling me to do for months.)
That would be a tough call for me as I do a lot of filming of Roe Deer, and this is often in very poor light conditions.
The Sony VX2000 was a semi-professional camera in its day and I suspect that to get a camera of similar quality and similar low light capability today would cost thousands of pounds. In addition, we have history, the Sony VX and me, and I have a stack of mini DV films that I have never processed. I am not ready to part with that camera!
Then I have a brainwave! How silly am I being? Could it be that there is a cable that connects a firewire port at one end, to a USB port at the other? After all, every computer is bristling with USB ports.
Doh! Why did I not think of this before.
So off I go to Amazon and discover, lo and behold, such a cable could indeed be purchased, for less than a tenner.
What a relief.
Then I look at the reviews.
Not such a good idea
Dozens of comments had been posted stating that these cables were useless.
Another twenty minutes on Google reveals the answer.
You can attach a firewire cable to a computer via a USB port, but that does not give the computer firewire capability. For that it needs a firewire card. Information travels via firewire at 100s of times faster than USB, and the USB port cannot cope.
Obvious really, but I am grasping at straws.
Think woman, think
But what’s that you say? I can “attach a firewire card into the computer’s express card slot?”
Fantastic, let’s do that.
There is a slot that I have never used in the front of my Dell. Off I go to the Dell website to look it up. The laptop is an N5050
The slot in the front is apparently a slot for a camera memory card.
The Dell has no express card slot. And before you ask, it doesn’t have a PCMIA slot either (whatever that is) in fact it has no ‘expansion’ slots of any kind. But what do you expect for £300?
Five hours in now, and my camera is still not talking to my computer.
Close to weeping, I swallow my pride and phone my son.
“I’m a bit busy Mum, can you be quick?”
Busy eh? Off I go with my ten minute tale of woe and finish up by asking, no demanding, that he tell me exactly what to do before I take a large hammer and smash my VCR, camera, and bloody laptop into a mangled heap.
“Don’t you remember Mum?” He says in the calm voice you use for small children in the middle of a tantrum. “We had to use a video-converter”
Of course, how silly of me, how could I have forgotten. A video converter.
Sony Vegas reads deals with files like .wmv and .avi Proper video files, not the kind created by a Panasonic VCR, which it turns out were .vob files.
We need to convert them using video-converter software. I don’t have such a thing on my newish Dell, so off I go to Google again to find one. Apparently there are plenty of free ones available.
My son is pretty sure that he ‘finalized’ the discs before using them, and then converted the files by opening the folders on the DVD rather than running the disc.
I feel confident again. I can do this.
I fetch another disc and make a new finalized copy of my film. I then download my video converter software
Six hours gone, and I should probably give up. This film is not important. But I hate being defeated. I look on the ‘bright side’, I’d have lost a day if I had a stomach bug, at least I haven’t been ill..
If I hurry, I should have this all tied up within the hour.
A sharing caring experience
The first video converter I try is called Wondershare. It downloads fairly quickly and rapidly converts my film.
Oh bliss, oh joy, there is my converted file on the screen.
It works! Now to get it into Sony Vegas
But Wondershare does not want to ‘share’. It wants me to edit using its own video editing menu.
But I have already done a rough edit. I now need Sony Vegas to finish this film.
It will not let me do this.
I am starting to get quite cross.
My daughter phones to tell me what a good day she has had.
I am pleased for her.
She casually mentions that she has a firewire port on her Macbook. Her very special, overpriced, over-rated, Macbook.
I have told my children many times that I do not need a Macbook.
Everyone knows that PCs have overtaken Macs in performance etc , that PCs now give more ‘bang for your buck’ and that Macbooks are just a status symbol for arty types that have been lured in by clever advertising.
I can use it to download my film if I like.
This is great, but what about my next video, and the one after that?
No, I need to be independent and be able to make videos without my kids holding my hand.
Seven hours have passed, but I will have these files converted today!
Never surrender, never give up
Off I go to find another video-converter.
This one freezes on installation.
So I uninstall the two useless programmes and install a third.
This one is called ‘Freemake’ video converter.
All goes well.
It is indeed free, and it does indeed convert my video.
With great excitement, I dump the converted .wmv file into Sony Vegas.
Once again, I have a four second film of me walking into shot and vanishing into thin air, three times in a row.
Defeated but there is a bonus
It is now nearing the end of the day. I resist the urge to throw things when himself arrives home and asks cheerily “did you get much done today?”
I open a bottle of wine instead.
This morning, I ordered a Macbook.
The one bonus from all this? For the first time in six years, I now know how to programme my VCR