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DIY Video: 10 User-Generated Content Tools You Can't Live Without

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Regardless of how much the content owners spend on rights management software or how much technology they throw at the solution, every format—whether it is protected or not—can be converted to another medium once you have the necessary software or hardware tools. Watermarking is being used increasingly in the production process, and content owners have every right to locate and punish anyone who redistributes their content without a license. They are very diligent at tracking down the provenance of a clip and discovering the identity of the original subscriber who gave it away. The onus is on you to remain honest and not cross the line between fair use and piracy.

Solving Problems
If you can free your mind of the limiting concept that a tool can only be used for one thing and learn how to transform your movie clips into image sequences and back again, lots of tools that you never thought would be useful can be leveraged to add new "weapons" to your movie-making arsenal.

If you spend any time working on video projects, you will soon come up against some video files that won’t import into your editing system. If you don’t have tools that understand them, they just waste space on your hard disk. These video clips may be user-contributed material, or perhaps they are older assets in a format that your nonlinear editing (NLE) software doesn’t understand. They may be off-air recordings or downloaded video clips that you want to repurpose in some way.

Conveniently leaving aside the issues of whether you have permissions to alter or incorporate a piece of footage that you have recorded, you might have a multiplexed MPEG-2 stream extracted from a TiVo or Elgato Eye TV unit taken directly off the air. These clips are either transport streams or program streams that have the content interleaved or multiplexed. To extract the video and audio into separate files so that you can then load them into Premiere, Final Cut, or iMovie just requires a small conversion tool.

The problems that used to plague broadcasters only a few years ago are now becoming relevant to home users. Consider how a broadcaster might maintain a library of archived programs. This is very similar to maintaining a home media server’s content store. Already people are familiar with collecting their music into an iTunes library and their photos into an iPhoto library and storing text and graphics in their computer systems. iMovie 2008 now provides a rudimentary video library system, and the Apple Final Cut Server product is a professional system for managing large collections of media at an amazingly low price.

Ten Things You Want to Do With Video
I’ll list a few examples for each OS and at several price points for each task. These lists are certainly not exhaustive; there just isn’t the space to include every tool available. Consider the example that is listed and look for other similar tools to cover all of the other situations you might encounter.

For Macintosh users, the iMovie software will do a good job of ingesting directly from any DV source. That includes handycams and also analog-to-digital interfaces such as Grass Valley’s Canopus family. On the Windows platform, you can use Windows Movie Maker but you may need to move the clips to a separate application to work on them. On Linux, the Kino DV editor will ingest the video for you. If you want to spend the money, you can upscale to the express versions of Final Cut or Avid (or the Elements version of Premiere) or go to the high end with Final Cut Pro, Avid, or Adobe Premiere Pro. These more expensive tools will address some of your other needs too. Although they may seem expensive, you get a lot of extra capabilities with them. The high-end tools are only available on Mac OS or Windows. Right now, there are capable freeware tools on Linux, but you can’t get FCP, Avid, or Premiere on Linux. Whatever hardware you choose, you are going to needs lots of disk space, approximately 1GB for every 5 minutes of DV footage.

Once you have your footage ingested, you can work on it right away if it was acquired through your NLE software. When you source your footage from elsewhere—such as a downloaded video clip, something extracted from a DVD (assuming you have the rights), or recorded off air using a digital TV receiver—you might need to do some work on it before it can be edited. A downloaded file might be Real, Flash, or Windows Media, or it may be one of several different formats inside a QuickTime movie container.

MPEG video recorded directly off air as a transport or program stream needs to be demultiplexed. If you try to load it directly into your NLE, you may find that you only get the video stream extracted. Getting the audio as well as the video can be tricky.

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