Capturing Video Files from Mini-DV Camcorders

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Capturing Footage with Mini-DV Camcorder

If you’re like me, having purchased a higher end mini-DV camcorder such as a Sony TRV80 to get the best of pixel quality, at least before stepping up to the next plateau of high definition camcorders, and you’re using Windows XP with Movie Maker, you know that Movie Maker captures the whole hour long tape as a single DV-AVI file of about 13 GB in size. Such files are sometimes too large for your use.

The free WinDV utility is one work-around, and might be the best one to capture the footage as a batch of individual DV-AVI files automatically split at scene changes based on the recorded time code data. Another option is the free download of Windows Photo Gallery. The sum of a batch of smaller DV-AVI files is the same as one large one, but you can focus on just the ones you want and delete the others.

My routine is to put the tape in the camcorder, connect it to the computer by firewire, and turn the camcorder on in the VCR position. The little windows popup list of options dings and has a list of choices, one of which is Photo Gallery…. Movie Maker is another, but that’s the full tape as a single file option.

When using Photo Gallery , if you want the batch of files, go with the full tape option. It’ll rewind the tape to the start, capture the full tape into a single temporary DV-AVI file in the folder you selected, and finish it up by making individual DV-AVI files for each scene, deleting the temp file when finished.

The reason I say the WinDV utility might be the best is because it tells you how many frames were dropped during the capture session. Photo Gallery gives some feedback such as the interesting but somewhat useless statement ‘…. Lots of frames were dropped…’. The dropped ones may or may not be important to me, and the only way I’ll know is by viewing each of the files.

I’ll get a handle on the dropped frames someday, but for now I’m OK with lots of them. My typical home videos get edited down to less than a few percent of the frames anyway. If some dropped frames are noticeable, it’s easy to use another scene.