How to Digitize Video Recordings
Although language documentation is primarily concerned with sound, video can be useful for providing context and for the analysis of gestures. Transferring analog or digital video to a computer can enable you to make presentation copies on DVDs to share with others, or to provide downloadable or streaming video on the web. Unlike audio, digitizing analog formats is not yet recommended as the primary means of preservation, because uncompressed formats are needed for archiving, and uncompressed video requires enormous amounts of storage space. However, even compressed copies are better than no copies at all.
Newer camcorders record video in a digital format, but in order to share it with others, you will need to transfer it to a computer. Older equipment creates video in an analog format, which is digitized when it's transferred to the computer. However, the procedure is similar for both. Here is a general outline of the digitization process.
- The camcorder on which the video was originally recorded, or some other playback device.
- To digitize analog video: a video capture card, and the right sort of connector, either a component connector (used for Beta-SP), S-Video (for S-VHS and Hi-8), or a composite connector (for VHS).
- To transfer from a digital video camcorder to your computer: the right sort of cable, such as Firewire or SDI.
- A software application that can capture video, installed on the computer you'll be using. Be aware that some applications will also allow you to edit the digitized video, while others require that you use a separate application for editing. The software you buy will depend on the platform you're using (e.g., Windows or Mac), as well as your budget. Editing software might not be essential, but if you think that you will want to save individual clips or remove parts of the video, you will need to be able to edit it.
- Digital storage media. This could include CDs, DVDs, external hard drives, or network servers to which you have access.
- If acquiring the equipment and software is beyond your budget, keep in mind that university libraries often have these resources available.
- Connect the camcorder or analog playback device to the converter, then connect the converter to your computer.
- If you are digitizing from an analog tape for which you have multiple copies, always use the original tape, not a copy, because analog copies usually lose some of the quality of the original.
- Start the audio software application on your computer, and follow the application's instructions to capture the video signal.
- After you're done capturing and editing the video, you will still have to export it; this will put the video and audio files into a single multimedia file. Exporting video can take a very long time (an hour or more), so be sure to allow plenty of time for this process.
- The format in which you save the video will depend on what you intend to do with it. If you want to write it out to a DVD, only certain formats will work. Other formats can be used to provide files that can be downloaded over the Internet, or delivered from a streaming server.
- If the only audio available is from the video recording, it is important to extract it from the video and save it separately, because when video is saved in MPEG-2 or MPEG-4 format, the audio is automatically compressed as MP3. The application you use should provide the ability to extract the audio.
- Give the file a name that will make sense to you, and hopefully others, later on. This could be a numeric ID, a date, some brief version of the topic or the consultant's name, or some other scheme. It's up to you, as long as you:
- use a consistent file-naming scheme for all of your audio files, and
- keep the metadata (e.g., name of consultant(s), recording date, recording location, subject, digitization date, software application(s) used, etc.) in a separate document.
- Make backup copies of the file as soon as possible, on DVDs or an external hard drive, or by uploading to a network. The more copies you make, the safer your work will be.
- Since compressed digital video files are not suitable for archival purposes, be sure to save your tapes!
Filming in the Field
How to Digitize Video
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E-MELD School of Best Practice: How to Digitize Video Recordings
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