|Capturing video onto your computer’s hard drive can be frustrating. That’s because
digital video from your camcorder is very large (a single minute takes up 200 megs of space)
and not every system can handle the sustained capture speeds needed to transfer your movie over
a FireWire cable and onto a hard drive.
Fortunately, if you are running Movie Maker 2 then you already have Windows XP installed on
your computer. Most computers that come bundled with Windows XP are already powerful enough to
capture, even if they have slow processor speeds. For example, I commonly capture and edit video
on my 600mhz laptop XP computer and never run into any problems with video capture.
However, if you do run into problems during capturing, there are several things you
can do to speed up your system:
- Defragmenting your hard drives
Defragmenting a drive is an easy performance enhancer, and you should defragment regularly.
You see, a hard drive is really a circular platter (kind of like a CD). Data is written onto
this platter in a circular pattern, and each hard drive platter can only hold a set amount
of data. Data is constantly written and erased throughout this entire platter, and any single
file may be broken up into many little sectors throughout the disk. This isn’t normally a
problem, though it can slow your system down over time as it takes longer to find and open
However, this can be a major problem with large video files, as these files will have to
be split into smaller fragments as they are being written, and this slow-down can make your
drive prone to dropped frames. When you defragment your drive, all the broken fragments are
placed together, so that your hard drive has a large "physical area" of available space to
write your video to.
- Get a faster hard drive
The main hurdle to capturing big video files is the speed of your hard drive. You see, when
you stream video onto your computer through a firewire cable, the digital video is written
onto your hard drive as large a DV-AVI file. This stream runs at a constant 200 megs per
minute and if your hard drive slows down while this stream is running, you will loose some
of your video and get “dropped frames”. These dropped video frames are bad, as all the video
after that will be out of sync.
While most hard drives run very fast, some are faster than others, and they do slow down
at times. To avoid hard drive “hiccups” you should close down any background programs, and
you may need to invest in a faster 7200 rpm hard drive.
- Partition your Drive as NTFS
If your hard drive shipped with Windows XP, is should already be partitioned as NTFS. To
check, find your drive inside of “My computer” and right-click on it with your mouse. If
your drive is partitioned in the older Fat16 or Fat32 format, than this is your most likely
culprit for capture problems. The older partition structure isn’t optimized for video capture,
and won’t let you capture video files over a certain size (2 or 4 gigs).
- Get a second hard drive
You can greatly improve your editing system by adding another hard drive that is used solely
for video capture, and most professional editors have systems with many drives. This way,
your computer can use your main drive to handle running programs, and the second drive strictly
for video capture. If you do a lot of editing, you’ll need another drive anyway, as your
videos will quickly fill up all your available storage space.
- Use the Windows Media Codec
If you can’t get rid of dropped frames when capturing in the DV-AVI format, you can always
try capturing in Movie Maker’s WMV9 codec. Because this format generates small file sizes,
you are not going to run into dropped frames from an underperforming hard drive. However,
the compression itself might be tasking on your CPU because encoding video takes a lot of
processing power. Most of the time, you can capture video at the highest setting (high quality
720x480) without any problems.
preview monitor off
When you capture video, you can watch the video capture on your computer inside Movie Maker’s
preview monitor. However, generating this “preview video” is tasking on your system and it
really isn’t necessary as you can watch your captured video directly on your camcorder’s
LCD screen. You can turn the preview mode off inside the capture wizard.
- Decrease your monitor display settings
Try setting your display to a lower resolution (1024 x 768 is Movie Maker’s minimum recommendation
but you can go lower if you need to) and decrease your color depth to 16 million (or “high
As you can see, there are many things you can do to tweak your system for maximum performance
and some are cheaper than others. Fortunately, once you get your video onto your computer, you
are pretty much home free as it doesn’t take a lot of processing power to actually edit the video.
Next: Saving Projects
You can find more
useful home-video "tips and tricks" like this one at Mighty Coach
- they even have an online-video course that teaches you to edit
video on your home computer!