Setting Up Your Camera & Computer to Edit Video!

by Merrill M Hessel (updated 3/3/06)


By now many of you have in your possession a camcorder either an older analog one (VHS, Hi eight, 8mm etc), a DVD Player or a newer mini-DV camcorder. How can you turn the work you do into a good home movie or a professional program for broadcast?  In either case you must edit the tape or convert the DVD or analog Player output for editing by a computer.

This article gives you the first requirements for getting your video images into the computer. 

What are the requirements?

All seasoned video editors agree that you must have two hard drives for video editing. First you must have a smaller drive for your programs, operating system and games. Then you need a second one devoted to you video clips. The second drive must rotate at least at 7200 rpm or above and is as large (has as many Gigabytes) as your wallet or pocketbook can afford. 

Why do I need a second drive?

When you use a non-linear digital editing program (Moviemaker, Imovie, Final Cut Pro, Adobe Premiere, Vegas Video, etc.) to shape up your video the program accesses the program disk to bring up your editing program as well as put on the video information from your camera on your hard drive.  If both the video and your editing program were on the same drive than as you capture your video from the camcorder you would have 30 frames per second of video images (about 3.7 Megabytes per second) transferred to this hard drive as well as accessing the same hard drive for your capture software program. This results in too much information coming into the single drive and video frames are dropped. This produces jerky videos.  Dropped frames can also occur if your hard drive is below 7200 rpm (you may get away with a slower hard drive but I wouldn't recommend it).  If you own a PC make sure that it is formatted correctly for NTFS.  Many time a new drive comes formatted as FAT32. This will limit you to 4 GB clips about 20 minutes. If you have data on your drive you can convert it from FAT 32 to NTFS without losing this data.

You also need a Firewire Card (IEEE 1392) on your computer if you donít have a Firewire port built in.

A desktop PCI Firewire card costs $18 to $30 and PCMCIA Firewire card for a portable computer costs $19 to $50. ALWAYS look at to get the best prices. If you have a camera with a DV (IEEE1392) connection (all digital cameras have this and some analog ones) then you just connect a Firewire cable from your camera to the computer and you are ready to transfer your video from the tape. If you have an old analog camera then you must buy a converter such as the ADS Pyro A/V Link, Analog to DV & DV-Analog Media Converter. This converter works with MAC or PC and costs about $130 and with Adobe Premiere Elements Software $160 ( I strongly suggest you buy this bargain if want a great non-linear editor).

Software to Capture Video

You would need a non linear editor (NLE) to capture the video. If you have XP then free Microsoft Movie Maker is on your computer. If you have a MAC the Imovie is free.  Otherwise I suggest buying Adobe Premiere Elements at a cost of $40 to $80. Many other editors are available at prices from $80 to $3000.  See for a tutorial on NLEís.  Most of the commercial software will produce DVDís to enable you to send these videoís to your friends or family.

Now why a large hard drive?

Whether you are using mini-DV, DVCPRO or DVCAM tapes to record your video the computer stores the video at 222 megabytes per minute. This means a 30 minute show uses 6660 megabytes of space or 6.66 gigabytes on your hard disk.  This does not seem like much at first glance.  Usually you take a few hours of video for any show and then edit it down but you want to have the extra footage on your drive to play with while you are editing.  In addition, you put cutaways, rendering files, titles, roll-ins, etc. on the drive as well as keep some permanent things such as standard opening of shows or sequences. If you do a studio show you may have several cameras and want to fiddle with the tapes from each of them.  From my experience each show will take up about 35 gigabytes.  I typically have 3 to 4 shows on my hard drives.  That's about 140 gigabytes all together.  Today you can get a 250 gigabyte drive for $70 (look at for the latest prices).  I suggest you buy a Firewire hard drive (about $100 for 120GB) so that you can connect it externally to your laptop or desktop computer.

 I store the final and sometimes intermediate products back on mini-DV tape or DVD when finished so that my hard drives can be used for other projects.

The Digital Video Users Group, a SIG of CPCUG, has a Website and meetings on the third Tuesday of each month. If you have any questions or need help contact us at

This page updated March 3, 2006
©MerAl Productions 2006