Capturing Video

The quality of video clips in a Premiere project can often mean the difference between a production that attracts viewers and firmly holds their attention, or one that sends them looking for other sources of information or entertainment.

Undoubtedly, one of the primary factors in determining the quality of source material is how the video is captured on a computer hard disk. If you have a capture board that digitizes analog video, you may be able to access the capture board directly from Premiere to digitize video.

If you have a FireWire (IEEE1394) DV port, you may also be able to use Premiere’s Capture window to transfer clips directly from your DV video camera. Depending upon the sophistication of your equipment, and the quality requirements of your production, you may be able to capture all of your video source material by using Premiere.

Before you get started capturing video for a production, you should first realize that the quality of the final captured footage depends upon the sophistication of your digitizing equipment and the speed of the hard disk that you are using to capture the material.

Much of the equipment sold today can provide quality suitable for the Web or in-house corporate video. However, if your goal is to create very high quality video productions and transfer them to videotape, you should analyze your production needs and carefully assess exactly what hardware and software configuration best suits your needs.

Fortunately, Premiere can capture audio and video using low-end and high-end hardware. Capture hardware, whether high- or low-end, usually falls into two categories.

  • FireWire/IEEE1394—Apple Computer created the IEEE1394 primarily as a means of quickly sending digitized video from video devices to a computer. In Apple computers, the IEEE1394 board is called a FireWire port, and most Macs come with the board built in.

Several other manufacturers, including Sony (Sony calls its IEEE1394 port and iLink port) and Dell, sell computers with IEEE pre-installed. If your computer has a FireWire or IEEE1394 port, you can copy digitized data directly from a DV camcorder to your computer.

DV camcorders actually digitize and compress the signal as you shoot. Thus, the IEEE port is a conduit between the already digitized data and Premiere. If your equipment is Premiere compatible, you are able to use Premiere’s capture window to start, stop, and preview the recording process.

If you have an IEEE1394 board in your computer, you may be able to start and stop a camcorder or tape deck from within Premiere; this is called device control. With device control everything is controlled from Premiere.

You can cue up the video source material to specific tape locations, as well as record timecode and set up batch sessions, which enable you to record different sections of videotape automatically in one session.

  • Analog to digital capture boards—These boards take an analog video signal and digitize it. Some computer manufacturers, such as Apple Computer, have sold models with these boards built directly into the computer. On the PC, most analog to digital capture boards are add-ins that must be installed in the computer.

More-expensive analog to digital capture boards permit device control, enabling you to start and stop a camcorder or tape deck as well as cue it up to the tape location that you wish to record. Analog boards capture video using square pixels.

If you mix square pixel graphics or files with footage that are output in NTSC DV format (which uses non-square pixels at 720 × 480), the square pixel footage is distorted. To avoid this problem, save square pixel files that will be output at 720 × 480 DV format at 720 × 540 or 640 × 480 (for PAL formats use 768 × 576).

Premiere automatically scales files captured or saved at 640 × 480 or 720 × 540 frame sizes so that the frame size, pixel, and frame aspect ratios match that of your project without distortion. If possible, use 720 × 540 instead of 640 × 480, because you obtain better quality when Premiere reduces rather than enlarges the image.

  • The IEEE/FireWire connection—Making the connection to your computer’s FireWire/IEEE1394 port is easy. Simply plug the IEEE1394 cable into the DV In/Output jack of your camcorder, and plug the other end into the IEEE1394 jack of your computer. Despite the simplicity, be sure to read all documentation. The connection may not work unless you supply external power to your DV cameras. The transfer may not work on the DV camera’s batteries alone.