Seven Steps to Getting the Most Out of Your Personal Video Camera
by Gary Rebholz
Video cameras are getting smaller and more portable. It's amazing how much technology has improved and the high-quality, high-definition video that you can shoot with these personal devices is very impressive. In this article, I'll walk you through the seven major steps that you need to follow in order to get the most out of your video camera. For this discussion, I'll be using a Sony MHS-TS20/S Bloggie Touch Camera like the one shown in Figure 1. But these seven steps are essentially the same whether you're using this Bloggie, one of the other Bloggie models, one of the Flip cameras, or a GoPro camera. Whichever one of these cameras you're using, you can bring your footage into Vegas Pro software and Vegas Movie Studio Platinum HD software and turn your great video into a compelling story.
It's not unusual to be a little unsure of how to proceed when you start using a new device and so you may find yourself struggling to figure out exactly how to use the footage you've shot with your camera in Vegas Pro or Vegas Movie Studio. The process can really be broken down into seven general steps, so let's take a look at those steps now.
Step One: Set the proper camera resolution
Editing effectively in the software really starts before you shoot your footage. This type of camera typically offers you several different resolution options. As always, it's a tradeoff between quality and file size (which translates to the amount of footage you can shoot to the camera's storage device). The resolution setting may also have an effect on other factors such as sensor aliasing. The main thing to keep in mind though is that setting your camera to a higher resolution will mean you can shoot less footage before you run out of storage space. Lower resolutions (while already providing lower-quality by definition) will probably also introduce compression artifacts that will further lower the quality of your video footage.
On my Bloggie, I have three possible video resolution settings:
Obviously, if I want the highest quality, I'll shoot at 1080-30p. If it's more important to me to be able to shoot for as long as possible, I'll shoot at 720-30p. If I need more frames per second—for instance, if I'm planning to shoot high-action video like sports—I may decide to sacrifice resolution in favor of more frames per second and shoot at 720-60p so that I can avoid excessive motion blur. In all likelihood, your camera offers you these same types of resolution choices, so your first step is to decide what you're shooting and what resolution settings will most effectively give you the results you're after.
Step Two: Import your clips from the camera to a local or network hard drive
Different cameras will (of course) have different procedures on how to copy the footage from the camera to a hard drive, so you'll have to check your camera's documentation for the exact procedure. In general though, there are two methods for doing this. First, some cameras ship with software that has been specifically designed to move your footage from the camera onto a hard drive. If this is the case with your camera, install and run that software and copy your footage to your hard drive. With other cameras, your PC may recognize the camera as an external drive. In this case, you may be able to simply use Windows Explorer to copy the files to your hard drive just as you would copy any other files from one location to another. That's how my Bloggie works, so I'll walk you through that procedure.
My Bloggie has a flip-out USB connector, so first I flip that out and plug it directly into a USB port on my computer. The Windows AutoPlay dialog box opens. Click Open folder to view files. The folder structure could well be different for you if you're not using the same camera is I am, but in my case I navigate into the MP_ROOT folder and from there into the 101ANV01 folder. There I can see the files on my camera. Using standard Windows copy techniques, copy your video files to a folder on your hard drive. Note that I say copy the files, as in leave the original files on your camera until you've verified both that they have been successfully copied to your hard drive and that they can be properly read by Vegas Pro.
Step Three: Disconnect your camera from your computer
This may seem like a minor step, but I've broken it out separately because of how important it actually is. Since your computer may see your camera as an external drive, you could theoretically edit with the files right off of the camera. But your camera is not intended to serve as a hard drive. Therefore, it's most likely too slow to give you the kind of transfer rates you need in order to edit efficiently. In addition—and probably more importantly—if you edit from the files directly on the camera, after you disconnect your camera, Vegas Pro and Vegas Movie Studio software won't be able to find the files in order for you to continue working on your project. If you then delete the files from your camera to make room for more footage, your entire project will be useless to you for further editing. It's best just to avoid both of these nasty issues and disconnect your camera so that you know for certain that you're editing with files on your computer drive.
Step Four: Set your project properties
Now open Vegas Pro or Vegas Movie Studio software. You'll want to set your project properties to match the footage from your camera since this will give you the most efficient preview playback as you're editing. To do this In Vegas Pro software, choose File | Properties. If you're using Vegas Movie Studio software, choose Project | Properties. This opens the Project Properties dialog box shown in Figure 2. If necessary, click the Video tab to make the video settings visible.
Click the Match Media Settings button. In the Match Media Settings dialog box, navigate to the folder to which you copied your camera's files. Select any of the files and click Open. Back in the Project Properties dialog box, you can see that your settings have been changed to reflect the properties of the file you matched. Look back at figure two to see the settings after matching the media from my camera. From these settings, you can see that I shot my video at 1080-30p. For instance, the Width and Height fields show that my footage is 1920 x 1080 (that's the 1080 part of my camera resolution choice). The Field order setting shows that my footage is progressive scan (that accounts for the p part). And finally, the Frame rate setting shows that I shot at 30 frames per second which is obviously the 30 portion.
Keep in mind that these types of cameras typically do not shoot interlaced video. So, if your file didn't accurately flag your editing software that your footage is progressive footage, manually choose None (progressive scan) from the Field order drop-down list.
Step Five: Import your clips into your project
Now that your files are on your computer or network drive, you can use the same techniques that you use for other file types to add these files to your project. Use the Vegas Pro or Vegas Movie Studio Explorer window to navigate to the folder where you have the files saved, preview the files, and drag them into your timeline.
Step Six: Edit your project
Once the files are on your Vegas Pro timeline, there's nothing different about editing these files than any other type of file. All the things you can do in your project when you use other file types you can also do to your project now using the clips from your Bloggie or other camera.
Step Seven: Deliver your project
Now that you're done editing, it's time to deliver the project. Again, there's really nothing different that you do to deliver a project with this type of footage than with any other. In all likelihood, you're not in the business of using this type of camera to shoot Hollywood feature films. More likely, the videos you create with your Bloggie or other portable devices like this will end up posted to the Internet either on your personal website or through a video-sharing site like YouTube. So, I'll proceed here as if I want to deliver to my YouTube channel.
If you're using Vegas Movie Studio, choose Project | Upload to YouTube. In the Upload to YouTube dialog box, shown in Figure 3, enter the information that YouTube requires for posting to your channel. Click the Normal or Higher radio buttons to choose the render quality you want to use and click Upload. Vegas Movie Studio renders the project to the appropriate file format and sends the rendered file to YouTube for posting.
If you're using Vegas Pro software, you have more control over the render process. In fact, you can also use this greater control in the same way in Vegas Movie Studio if you prefer. In Vegas Pro software, choose File | Render As. In the Render As dialog box, specify a save location and give your new file a name. For YouTube delivery, choose the Sony AVC from the Save as type drop-down list. Then, choose the Internet template from the Template drop-down list that best matches the footage from your camera. So, for instance, since I shot at 1080-30p, I choose Internet 1920x1080-30p from the Template drop-down list. The caveat is that you don't want to send YouTube a 60p file, so if you shot at 720-60p, use choose the Internet 1280x720-30p template from the Template drop-down list. Finally, click Save. Once Vegas Pro finishes rendering the file, log in to your account at YouTube to upload your video.
And that's pretty much it. The workflow is fairly straight forward once you understand the camera settings and how to match your Vegas Pro or Vegas Movie Studio HD Platinum project to them. Although I've used the Sony Bloggie for my example here, you'll use essentially the same workflow with your Flip or GoPro camera. These cameras are a lot of fun for taking video on the go since they're so portable they can generally fit into your pocket. Or, they can fit into places you couldn't—or wouldn't want to—put an expensive camera into. So, go ahead and shoot with your Bloggie. Vegas Pro and Vegas Movie Studio software have you covered on the editing end!
For more training resources including our Digital Video and Audio Production book, the Seminar Series DVD training package, free tutorial videos, archived webinars, and an index of previous newsletter training articles, visit the training zone at www.sonycreativesoftware.com/training.
Gary Rebholz, is the training manager for Sony Creative Software. Gary produces the popular Seminar Series training packages for Vegas Pro, ACID Pro, and Sound Forge software. He is also co-author of the book Digital Video and Audio Production. Gary has conducted countless hands-on classes in the Sony Creative Software training center, as well as at tradeshows such as the National Association of Broadcasters show.