- The Washington Times - Wednesday, September 15, 2004

Here’s a look at some hardware and software that’s available:

• Vegas Movie Studio+DVD, for DVD-enabled computers and home entertainment centers, $99.99.

The last time I tried to make a movie, it involved cutting and taping together shots from rolls of 16 mm film while sweating over an editing station and looking up at a dimly lit screen. Times really have changed.

Budding Steven Spielbergs in the family can take their camcorder-preserved moments, add post-production effects and sounds and compose them into a DVD masterpiece complete with slick-looking access menus — all within a computer environment.

The mind-boggling software combination from Sony uses a simple drag-and-drop interface along with more than 30 easy-to-understand tutorials to execute and explain the digital moviemaking magic. Users will need a relatively new computer with at least a 500 Mhz processor; Microsoft Windows 2000 or XP operating system; lots of RAM (random access memory); and hard disk space, at least 20 gigabytes worth, to work with all those massive video clips.

The process begins by importing footage taken from any current camcorder into the user’s PC via the likes of a USB or Firewire connection.

Now, once the video can be located within the computer, editors can use Vegas Movie Studio to grab and drag the pieces along three video timelines. They can overlap the pieces, split or cut them down, duplicate segments and use more than 180 types of transitions to meld the pieces together.

Additionally, editors can choose from 175 special effects such as a grainy movie reel to add some drama to the action. Editors even can import still photographs that can be filtered free of nasty red-eye problems and can slightly animate the photographs.

The software also allows editors to manipulate three audio areas using the same drag-and-drop process to mix sound effects, import music CD tracks, equalize mood music and clean up the raw camcorder vocal tracks to embellish the piece.

Vegas Movie Studio just requires about a 60-minute learning curve, and within a couple of hours of tweaking, I had a six-minute epic about a theme-park experience complete with sound effects (thanks to an extra disc loaded with wacky noises and included in the package) and a rocking soundtrack from the band U2.

Outputting the finished work is a simple click away, and it can be saved in such familiar Web-friendly formats as Quicktime, Microsoft’s Movie Player and Real Player, or burned onto a DVD or CD-ROM.

However, the process requires the patience of Job as the software does its digital and audio crunching to compress and clean up the files. It took 15 minutes to output my six-minute epic before I could move on to making a DVD via the secondary piece of software, DVD Architect Studio.

The good news about Architect Studio is that I could develop a fairly complicated DVD menu that one might see on any current big-budget Hollywood release, including scene-selection buttons, background music and fancy text layouts.

However, to get a disc in my hands took another 15 minutes of staring at a computer screen as the final burning process commenced. My disc also did not work in my home-entertainment-center DVD player but worked fine on the computer used to create it.

Overall, that’s not bad for a software suite that for a little more than the price of taking a family of four to the movies allows them to become part of the process.

• DZMV580A DVD Camcorder, from Hitachi, stand-alone product, $699.

Of course, to enjoy the advances of video-editing software, one first must have a camcorder to create the footage. These days, consumer-friendly point-and-shoot cameras are abundant and come in all shapes, sizes and prices.

Just one of the many available that should appeal to the tech lover in the family and won’t break the budget, this camcorder incorporates DVD technology into its precious-moments acquisition.

The unit offers the option of either using an 8-cm-size, reusable mini-DVD-RAM disc to capture about 30 minutes of great-quality action per side or a mini-DVD-R disc to permanently record 30 minutes of footage. That means you either keep reusing a DVD-RAM disc and transferring pieces to a computer or external burner or you record to the DVD-R and play back on many home DVD players.

It also means direct access to data with no rewinding to see quickly anything recorded. The camcorder even provides software within the unit to perform some editing features, including fades, combining multiple scenes and adding titles.

The palm-sized unit has a 2.5-inch LCD screen and 10X optical zoom, works great in all lighting conditions, gets about two hours of use from a single Li-Ion battery charge, can also take still photographs and even records in a widescreen format that director Cecil B. DeMille would applaud.

Write to Joseph Szadkowski, The Washington Times, 3600 New York Ave. NE, Washington, DC 20002; or send e-mail ([email protected]washington times.com).

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