From the Tech Vault Dept.: Here’s another tech oldie, my how-to about compiling a videotape from your existing footage by using a 1994 software program to supervise the jockeying through individual segments that are then transferred ... it’s exhausting even to write this. And I can assure you that the result was just as primitive-looking as the process suggests.
REMEMBER THE TORMENT of sitting through yet another slide show as Dad brutalized captive guests with scenes from last summer's beach trip? Every single shot he took was jammed into that projector, no matter how poorly cropped or focused it was. With one of those awful I'm-getting-too-old epiphanies, I realized that I've been inflicting the exact same pain on my guests, but the means of torture has changed. Today, they're forced to suffer through my videotapes.
VideoDirector is an elegant product because it gives you the means to edit tapes with your computer without consuming your hard drive in the process. Since you aren't actually capturing video, the computer simply functions as a control center to aid in the editing process, miraculously compiling choice material from those teeming tapes into well-paced episodes.
I had already tried video editing with my camcorder and VCR; a good VCR can pause and resume quickly, but controlling the camcorder is much more difficult, especially when you're trying to tweeze a two-or three-second scene out of a sequence. Fortunately, some camcorders have a special jack built in that allows them to be controlled by another machine—which can be a computer.
All You Need is LANC
Sony developed a technology called the Local Application Control bus system, abbreviated as LANC and also referred to as Control-L. A LANC jack can be found on all Sony camcorders, as well as on 8-millimeter camcorders from several other manufacturers; the jack is indicated by a “broken-L” symbol.
Essentially, LANC is a two-way communications system that lets the remote machine control fast winds and varying-speed playback, while the camcorder sends the machine tape-position or time-code information. In other words, the right computer program can find a specific tape location and play only the segment you want, allowing you to dub a video of selected segments. Welcome to VideoDirector. Future releases of Video-Director will be targeted to work with other remote control camera systems, but for now you must have a LANC-compatible camera in order to use this product.
Because it doesn’t rely on fancy computer hardware, VideoDirector works with Windows or a Macintosh in much the same way. The Windows version allows you to add titles and animation to your tapes if you have a video encoder card; you can also add sound to the finished product if you wire the setup through your sound card. With a Macintosh, a Quick-Time-compatible digitizer lets you incorporate special video effects into your final edit.
I haven’t tried the titles and animation features yet—that’s the subject of another project—but it’s a good idea to practice the basics first and add more as you learn the system. I’m also trying to get my Dad to come over for a video show, but he’s been ducking the invitation. I think he fears I’m plotting revenge for all those boring slide shows.
Since rusticating himself in New York’s dairy country, freelance writer B. A. Nilsson’s daily routine includes tending his gardens, barns, and electronic gadgetry. After judicious editing, it now looks like a fascinating life. Photos by John Popplewell.
Everything You Need for This Project
• VideoDirector; available for Windows and Mac; $199.95; distributed by Gold Disk.
• 386 or faster PC running Windows 3.1 or later or a Macintosh running System 6.0.7 or later.
• A LANC-compatible camcorder.
• A VCR with infrared remote control.
• Extra videotapes.
• Have plenty of work space.
• Shoot extra footage—you’ll be cutting the dross.
• Preview your edited tapes before a screening.
• Try this if your camcorder is not LANC compatible.
• Put equipment on top of your VCR; you’ll block the airflow.
• Put your camcorder and VCR too near one another it they respond to the same remote control.
Step 1: Connect the Video Components
Plug your camcorder into your VCR using the cable that came with the camera. Run a cable (supplied with the VCR) from the VCR to a TV monitor. Test your connections by playing a tape in the camcorder. Hint: If your camcorder has mono sound and your VCR is stereo, you may be able to plug the cable into the VCR’s left channel input and have a mono soundtrack on both channels—some VCRs are smart that way. Otherwise, you should be able to get a Y connector at Radio Shack.
The VideoDirector Smart Cable plugs into your computer’s 25-pin serial port. If your system is equipped with only a smaller 9-pin socket, use the 25-to-9-pin adapter that comes with VideoDirector, as shown here.
Step 3: Attach Your Camcorder to the Computer
At the other end of the Smart Cable is a plug that looks like the plug on the end of a Walkman headset. This is the LANC (or Control-L) plug, and it goes into the LANC jack on your camcorder. Most camcorder manufacturers mark the LANC jack with a “broken-L” symbol.
The remaining plug on the Smart Cable has a translucent red plate on it, because it’s an infrared remote control device much like the one that came with your VCR. First, locate the place on your VCR that receives remote control information—usually near the time display. Position the Smart Cable transmitter so it faces that spot on your VCR, but keep it a few inches away. Using the supplied Velcro strip, secure the transmitter in place.
Step 5: Install and Configure the Software
Step 6: Configure the VCR and Remote
Under the Train column, select Play, point your remote control at the Smart Cable’s infrared plug (but not too close to your camcorder), and press Play on your remote control. Go through the entire list of training settings and zap them one by one. Hint: If the test response seems sluggish when you’re configuring the Remote Control buttons, change the Bursts setting to 3 or higher. This sends a longer infrared signal to your recording deck.
Step 7: Load and Log a Tape
Step 8: Define Your Clips
Step 9: Assemble the Tape
– Computer Life, February 1995