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Don’t buy that HD video camera till you read this

Aaaarrrrgh! (courtesy hnnhlh14 on Flickr CC)I just finished a post over on my Sheila’s Guide to the Good Stuff blog, about why tourism organizations might want to hold off using one of those neat pocket video cameras that shoot in HD (high definition) unless they have access to some rather sophisticated editing software and a pretty powerful computer.

Here is a quick summary of my own painful recent painful videographer learning experience as outlined in “Look before you leap into HD video:”

If you’re thinking of shooting HD to take family travel video, be aware of the following issues:

  1. The file extension is different and may not be recognized by your video editing software.  My PC’s installed version of Windows Movie Maker can’t “see” the new .MP4 files from the FlipHD Mino, and the latest version of Movie Maker (that can work with MP4) won’t work with my Windows XP. Technology awesomeness!
  2. Technology crises always happen at 9 pm on a Saturday night when you’re alone – at least, they do with me.  When I saw I had a mess, I put a call out to my video-savvy Twitter followers, who quickly gave me software suggestions.  Hurray for helpful networks.  No, I can’t “call the IT people” because that’s me.  Freelancer awesomeness!
  3. Adobe Premiere Elements was recommended by several (thanks, Dwight Silverman at the Houston Chronicle‘s TechBlog) but I found it crash-prone (corroborated in several user forums.) I never could even launch the 30 day free trial and finally had to uninstall it.  The real problem became clearer when….
  4. ….I then bought (for about $100 at Best Buy) and installed Pinnacle Studio Ultimate HD (thanks for the tip, Omar Gallaga – he’s the Austin American-Statesman Digital Savant.)  Pinnacle didn’t crash and nicely corrected several problems in a few of my video files – harsh sunlight, funky audio – but playbacks kept stuttering and everything just seemed “gummy.” Turns out that when I actually read the Pinnacle system requirements (d’oh!) my laptop has insufficient RAM and the processor is too slow.
  5. To handle the two videos (plus lots of B-roll) that I’ve shot in HD, I’ve now installed the Pinnacle software on my family desktop PC, which has a more powerful processor (but the same amount of RAM as the laptop, so cross your fingers for me.)  I’m copying all the HD files on my laptop onto a 500G-capacity Seagate external hard drive, then dumping them from the Seagate onto the desktop so I can try to make everything work properly on a better platform. You can’t transfer such big files by email or sticking them on a thumb drive (without losing your mind) so I went with the big digital shovel.  Tech logistics awesomeness!

Bottom line? If you want to roll with HD, it’s not enough to shoot it. That part is deceptively easy.

You need a high-powered, fairly recent computer with capable software to edit those HD files unless you’re always going to be content to upload directly online (i.e., can shoot without error and never want to change it much.)

I’m dropping back to my lower-resolution Flip Ultra for now, so before you drop any serious coin on video toys, research what you’ll need to edit your footage.

Do as I say, not as I already screwed up….