Minimalist Approach to Digital Video Production

By Tom Hoopengardner

            You can get started in digital video production without spending an arm and a leg on equipment and software.

            Computer.  If your present machine runs at 400 megahertz or faster and has at least 64 megabytes of RAM memory, it will be able to give satisfactory performance as a video-editing machine.  To be certain, check the system requirements of the software you intend to use. 

Hard drive.  Unless you purchased your computer with the specific intention of doing digital video editing, you need a second bigger, and possibly faster, hard drive than the one that came with your machine.  There are two ways to add capacity.

One is to buy an external hard drive that connects to your computer via a FireWire port ($25.00).  An 80-gigabyte, 7200 rpm external FireWire hard drive will cost in the neighborhood of $115.  This kind of hard drive is simple to install, itís portable between computers, and itís easy to transfer to a new computer when the time comes.  

The second solution is to buy a second internal hard drive. 120 gigabytes will cost around $150. The capacity is larger and the cost per gigabyte is lower than an external drive, but you will need to do surgery on your computer.  Talk to  DVUG experts if you need to.

            Video source.  If you own or can borrow a digital video camera with a FireWire port, you are in business.  You can also produce excellent results with Hi-8 or S-VHS, although you need a way to convert analog to digital, typically this device is called a break out box.

            Tape/computer interface.  If your computer already has a FireWire port, you are all set.  Otherwise you need a video capture card, otherwise known as a FireWire card, for your computer.  A Pyro video capture card costs about $100 and comes with free digital video editing software, and there are other inexpensive possibilities as well. 

            Nonlinear editing software.  If youíre getting started on the cheap, consider software that comes bundled with your capture card.  Most editing software packages have a similar look and feel, with a timeline onto which you drag and drop video clips.  If you start now on inexpensive software and later move up to deluxe packages like Adobe Premiere or Avid DV-Express, it will not be like learning a new language, it will be more like transitioning from Lotus 123 to Excel.

            If you're feeling tentative about getting started with digital video and would like to noodle around with a number of different software possibilities, find a book that has sampler versions of several editing packages on a CD-ROM."

©Copyright 2002 Tom Hoopengardner