How to Give Video a Film Feel
Q. That "Film Look"

I would like to give my videos a film look. Can you help? The XL1 has a movie mode. Does it make video look like film? Is there any machine out there that can do it for me?

Tony V


A. Here’s the scoop, Tony. The slower frame rate of film (24 frames per second), tends to slur images from one frame to the next, giving film a more pleasing air. The biggest downside to video’s frame rate (30 frames per second) is that it looks too much like reality and can be cold and stark. While progressive scan movie frame mode (which adds a slight strobe) in cameras like the XL1 does much to make video look a little more like film, the facts remain. The sad truth is that video will never be film. The CCD of the camcorder picks up and records discreet points of light (up to one million on some new models) in a uniform matrix. Film emulsions however, are made up of billions of randomly placed silver crystals. That randomness is one of the elements that give film such character. The dynamic range of light-to-dark that film can capture exceeds video by a long shot, not to mention its color reproduction flexibility. Cinematographers can choose from numerous film speeds and types of emulsions to achieve a desired effect, a facet of control that videographers are not afforded.

There are some software plug-ins that try to emulate film by adding noise, frame blending (slurring) and color effects (suggesting types of film emulsions) to the video signal. One such product is Cinelook for Adobe After Effects. The Cinelook plug-in is relatively expensive, and has to run in conjunction with After Effects. The odd thing about programs like this is that they distort and degrade the video signal in an attempt to be more film-like. This is something that goes against the grain (no pun intended) of videographers trying to maintain the integrity of their video signal.

Q. Enough PC to Edit?

I have a Gateway 450MHz PC, with 192MB RAM. Is this enough PC power to create professional-looking videos? I would like to use Pinnacle System’s DC30plus. (I shoot in Hi8, and I need to digitize my footage). I plan on upgrading to a 40GB 7,200rpm hard drive for video storage. Do I need an ATA 100 drive?

Lee Matthews


A. Lee, you should have enough processing power. Although many new software versions recommend 256MB, 192MB of RAM should be plenty for your needs. With the low cost for memory these days (I paid $99 for 256MB of PC 133RAM on an Internet auction last month), pumping up onboard memory is not such a bitter pill.

Regarding your video storage concerns, make sure that you buy with sustained data rate performance intentions. Some drive specs look good on the surface but make sure that they state that the particular drive is recommended for use with audio and video because of its sustained data transfer rate. Astonishing seek times and burst rates do not distinguish a video drive.

There are many video editing solutions available and the waters are getting cloudier all the time. Pinnacle is a reputable company that makes good products and the DC30pro (the plus is for the Mac OS) should work well. The DC30pro does not need any more computer than what you have (besides an acceptable hard drive, of course). The DC30pro uses scalable MJPEG compression with an active area resolution of 704×480. It ships with Adobe Premiere 5.1 (not the DV friendly Premiere 6.0). Be aware that your graphics card must have DirectDraw with overlay compatibility for video overlay (seeing your video on your monitor).

So don’t worry, you have an adequate computer to perform video editing of your digitized Hi8 footage and a product like the DC30pro seems to fit well with this setup. Avoid buying products that don’t fit. Only upgrade your computer if it does not meet the optimal requirements of the editing solution. Your Gateway will have no trouble as long as the installation is done correctly, but that’s another story. We recommend that you consider having the installation done by a pro or buying a pre-configured turnkey system instead.

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