Still Preparing for an Analog Future

Getting Digital

Seems like the future is DV, but the present mine anyway is analog. What kind of editing system should I buy that can edit both my current analog tapes and the tapes Ill shoot on the DV camcorder I hope to buy?

Manny Hedmith


Glad you asked that, Manny, since so many have the same question. The real future is in digital forms of video rather than in the DV format specifically. Put simply, video on a hard drive is more versatile than video on videotape. Once youve gotten your video onto a hard drive, you can:


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  •  Enjoy the creative thrill and flexability of nonlinear editing,

  •  Deliver your still images, sounds and video cheaply and quickly to many through the Internet,

  •  Incorporate your video into disc-based media such as CD-ROM and DVD formats,

  •  Archive your video to durable optical media such as CD-ROM or, eventually, DVD,

  •  And, of course, record your videos to videotape of any format.

    Note that these benefits come from getting almost any form of digital video onto hard drives. DV is just one form of digital video, and one means toward getting your video there.

    You have before you six options. The first is retrofitting your own computer to digitize video. This is so full of pitfalls we do not consider it a viable option for most people. So, you really have before you five options:

    1. Buy a turnkey editing appliance that has both FireWire and analog video input jacks. These units, such as those by DraCo and Applied Magic, can either digitize video originally shot in analog formats, or receive DV video straight from a DV source. Keep your current analog camcorder or source deck: no need to buy a new DV camcorder right away. From either source, the video lands on a hard drive in a digital form.

    2. Buy a turnkey computer that features both FireWire and analog video inputs. Like the appliances mentioned in #1, this computer will either digitize your analog video or receive video shot in the DV format (whenever you get your next camcorder). Keep your current analog camcorder or source deck for the time being. Same result: you get video on a hard drive.

    3. Buy a turnkey FireWire computer editing system and a DV camcorder that records from analog sources onto DV tape. Keep your current analog camcorder or source deck. Record video from your analog source to DV tape in the DV camcorder. Now, your videos, both those shot on analog and those shot on DV, are all living on tape in the DV format. (Incidentally, one or two DV camcorder models allow you to import analog video and export it simultaneously to your computer in DV form, without recording to tape. You can use these camcorders simply as analog-DV converters.) Export the signal from these through the FireWire jack into your new computer. Voila: video on the hard drive.

    4. Buy a turnkey FireWire computer editing system and an analog-DV converter box. Keep your current analog camcorder or source deck. Play your analog tapes from your analog source through the converter into the FireWire jack on the computer. You guessed it: video on the hard drive again.

    5. If your legacy footage is in 8mm or Hi8 formats, you may buy a turnkey FireWire computer editing system and a Digital8 camcorder. Play your 8mm-family tapes in the Digital8 camera and send the output through the FireWire (i.Link) connection to your new FireWire computer. Results: digital video on the hard drive. Also, any footage you shoot with this new camcorder will be stored in digital form, ready for a trip down that FireWire.

    Do your research. Before buying a turnkey appliance, computer of any flavor, analog-DV converter box or camcorders of either the DV or Digital8 varieties, find out whether each of the pieces in your proposed system has the features you need and how well it is known to work with all the others. Videomakers buyers guides on camcorders, and turnkey nonlinear editing systems are good places to start.

  • Mike is the Editor-in-Chief of Videomaker and Creator Handbook