Wednesday, 22 December 2010

A Christmas Present For Grandma and Granddad.

SOC's and FOC's Grandparents on wifey's side are now both in their 90s. For nonagenarians they are both doing very well and, while they don't understand technology they do have ideas of what can be done. Granddad asked if his Super 8 home movies could be put onto DVD for him for Christmas. I had a think, with FOC present, and suggested I would need a video camera to do it - something I don't own.

A couple of weeks later, out of my hearing, he asked wifey if he could buy me what I needed to convert his home movies - for my Christmas present. This meant he was serious - but I don't want a video camera! So what to do? I asked FOC and she said she had one but it was to tape and I would need to then copy them using cables and software and it was messy. I then thought about our newly acquired Lumix compact camera. I had not explored it's video capabilities but what were they? I tried a couple of videos of Dylan in the snow and was surprised that they are VGA or QVGA specification. Interesting, but how to get them to DVD for the average DVD player. I sourceforged and found DVD Flick for DVD Authoring. So first thing is to take those videos of Dylan and put them to DVD and see DVD Flick work. It worked a treat and has a selection of inbuilt menus for multiple titles (chapters). I tried the final DVD on the playstation and his DVD player and they worked. Things were looking good.

I fetched a few movies and the projector and screen and set about the first one. Mounting the compact camera on a tripod beside the project and as near to the projection source as possible I then zoomed in to capture the image. I JUST managed to fill the screen of the camera (it's 4 times optical zoom) with the projected image but was losing out on colour. Over several days I played with lots of settings and eventually bumped in to a setting that is not on the menu - that of exposure. I set this to -1 and started to get the results. I was also projecting onto less than A4 (I had abandoned the aged screen) as this reduces pixelation. Also my compact will only record for 15 minutes before stopping the recording so I found it necessary to record some in 2 chunks and then 'splice' them together later.

Obviously I made the movie 'lead in' blank of the tape longer while I fiddled with getting the camera started and the same would happen at the end so I planned on removing them by Windows Movie Maker (WMM). Problem is that Windows Movie Maker doesn't recognise the file format (mov) that the Lumix produces. I picked up Any Video Converter - Free (AVC) from and used it to convert the mov format files to mpeg2 which WMM will recognise. AVC gives you the ability to edit out sections of the recording - except I couldn't get it to work so I continued to use WMM and WMM does give the ability to add titles where ever required and also gave me the ability to splice bits together.

Having finally produced the 'titles' (or 'chapters') it was time for DVD Flick. I was really surprised by how DVD Flick smoothed out the flickering images and enhanced the colours. Problem is the projector's chattering is carried through on the sound and DVD Flick needs a soundtrack. At each title (11 so far) I have edited the screen title and the time index of the tumbnail (so that the added title shows) as well as added a new soundtrack (mp3) from a CD I own and removed the original soundtrack. It was at soundtrack level that I found a bug. If the soundtrack is shorter than the movie then DVD Flick just unloads itself and any unsaved changes are lost. I used 'Audacity' to add all my soundtracks together to get one large enough to cater for all my videos.

A few years ago I paid for some movies to be put to VHS professionally for him and comparing the results I feel my efforts have produced the better results. Oh, and cost less as NONE of the software I used cost money - Many thanks to the open source world (and rather unusually Microsoft!).

One cost I did incur though was an extension hard drive as this process is, by necessity, disk hungry and the old laptop is about full - well was anyway.

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