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Which format to use when capturing

Digital video files are enormous (audio far less so), and will quickly use up all the space on your computer hard drive. The size of the file will depend on:

  • The type of compression that has been used
  • How much compression has been used
  • The size of the picture
  • The number of frames per second of the picture (however in general this is not a major factor)
  • The length (playing time) of the clip.

The choices you make about the factors in the list above will depend partly on:

What format your finished video will be in

If you are sure of the maximum quality that you will use the video for at any time then there is no point in capturing at any higher quality than that. But remember you can turn high quality into lower quality but you cannot turn lower quality into high quality. So if for example you captured your video at quite low quality thinking you would distribute it over the internet but later decided it would nice to make a full screen DVD of it, you would be in trouble, so you need to be careful.

How much storage space you have on your computer

If you have hundreds of Gigabytes of storage available you will be ok for a while, but if you have only a few Gigabytes free your hard drive could very quickly fill up so you will need to keep your files smaller.

Remember tho' that if you use a MiniDV format camera you can keep the original tape and will always have a top quality copy of the video, so if you capture at a lower resolution you can recapture later at higher quality.

For example if you have plenty of storage space and you think you would like to distribute your video on DVD but also perhaps on the Internet then you might capture at maximum resolution (720x576 pixels from MiniDV) in .avi format. This would result in a very large file but would mean that later you could convert it to DVD format or perhaps to Windows Media (.wmv) at lower resolution (for example 320x240) for Internet distribution.

Alternatively if you were only going to distribute over the Internet you might capture straight to .wmv at 320x240 resolution and compress for broadband delivery (for example 512 or 340 kilobits per second.

The section on methods of delivery will explain more about formats and compression.

If you are using a Windows XP or Vista computer, when you plug your camera in and turn it on a box will pop up on your screen showing you all the software you can use to capture the video. Once you open this you will be able to choose your capture settings.