Movie-making

I’ve enjoyed editing home movies since we first had a camcorder in 2001. My early editing career was hampered by not being able to afford the technology to actually import, edit and export the movies but in many ways, this delay has benefitted my work tremendously.

When Carolin & I first got married, we purchased a Panasonic Digital Camcorder which was quite decent spec, recording to MiniDV tape and equipped with a massive optical zoom. The only downside with it was that whilst one could connect it, using firewire, to a computer, it was not possible to export the finished edit back to DV tape. This was purely due to buying the camera in the European Union. My sister purchased a similar camcorder whilst visiting us in Australia a year later, and that model could receive an input signal.

I purchased an iMac in 2002 with an early version of iMovie, but home computers of the time were not up to the processing and storage challenges of managing the massive files involved in digital video. The whole process was intensely laborious, required a huge amount of patience and then the arrival of my sister to visit so that I could export the finished product back to MiniDV, then play it through a VCR in order to watch it again. Of course, putting it on to a video cassette adversely impacted the quality. Whilst at medical school, a colleague who had a background in digital media would lend me her Powerbook Mac laptop with a DVD writer and I could finally burn some movies to DVD, but ultimately it was a very stop/start process until I finally got hold of an iMac with a DVD Writer, an external hard drive and some decent processing power.

About the time that I did obtain sufficient machinery to set about our by now huge MiniDV archive, internet connectivity was getting to the point that made uploading and consuming video sufficiently easy that DVDs were on their way out, almost as quickly as they arrived. At the same time, the camcorder was coming to the end of its useful life both in terms of recording quality and being eclipsed by HD and later 4K video. I can still remember the first time I saw HD in a TV store. I could not imagine anything surpassing it. Then I saw 4K. Fast-forward 20 years from buying that camcorder and most of us now carry 4K capable moving picture cameras in our pockets, home camcorders are never seen and even amateurs who want to film with something other than a phone may well be using a DSLR to do so. (Disclaimer: I have not once activated, or used, the movie function on my XE-3). I have made a couple of short films on my iPhone. The thing that I certainly never saw coming was the 4K capable drone, such as our Mavic Platinum Pro, which blows my mind with its quality and ease of use. Sequences that would have required a helicopter in my youth, even perhaps ten years ago, are now achievable with a sub-$2000 drone!

All in all, I suspect that film-making is one area of my hobbies that has been ably served, in terms of time, by me procrastinating for twenty years or so. The combination of the Panasonic recording quality, lens and the MiniDV format and modern editing and upscaling means that many of our home videos from the children’s early years are quite phenomenal viewing in terms of detail and imaging quality. Had I pushed ahead with transferring them to VHS or even DVD back in the early 2000s, I may have come out with more substandard material than I have now.

The next big jump that has impressed me is the ability of modern Smart TVs to upscale, such that my SD home movies as uploaded to Vimeo are displayed on our 55″ Bravia in amazing quality and do not look like expanded SD. Once again, the work of trying to use software to upscale on the computer is taken away.

A further happy development has been the explosion of film-making on Vimeo and YouTube, which has moved amateurs like me on from funky transitions, crappy titles and dodgy effects, to creating quality pieces that are well edited and not far off of broadcast quality. (I must admit I have a couple of videos that need to be taken back to the drawing room to remove some gimmicky effects). I must also offer particular thank to a chap called Colin Barrett and a number of contributors to a highly successful bulletin board he ran in the early to mid-2000s, called “SimplyDV”. Colin is an immensely successful cinematographer and video producer who has written in print and online about filming and curated an excellent forum that offered numerous tips to enthusiastic beginners and more experienced operators. To this date, I still have not found a board of any sort that is as friendly and informative as that was. As far as I know, Colin is still active with his business, transferring and archiving video for private and commercial customers: http://simplydv.biz

I have set about trying to catch up with our massive archive recently. Reviewing footage remains a time-consuming process, as each MiniDV tape was 60mins (thank goodness I did not switch the LP setting on). The home videos are relatively easy after that, just trim a few clips, cut out some bloopers and create the finished movie. After all, they are for our consumption only. More recently, the stuff we are filming on the drone and phones does require a bit more consideration and I am hoping to actually complete some dedicated film projects.

One of my first, quick, projects the other day was to edit some footage Joshua had taken over the summer at a local hang-out, using the Mavic… He got some impressive stuff, although he could do with keeping things a little more in frame 😉

Enjoy….

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