Movie editing and formats

Over the last week or so, I’ve been exploring how to convert DVDs into a format that I could edit, store and view on my laptop. It was a task I’ve been waiting to do for a couple of years, ever since getting some family cine film transferred to DVDs and finding that copying and editing them would take some specialist software and time and effort.

I’ve found that there are typically around seven or eight files on a DVD with various file extensions including .IFO, .BUP and.VOB; and that the major part of the content is in the VOB files. A quick bit of research on the net established that a VOB file is part of a standard container format for DVD-Video media which breaks up the content into a series of 1 Gb or less computer-compatible files. The VOB files can be converted into a single file in  another format such as MP4, using specialist packages, conversion tools, or freeware.

I decided to use DVDVidesoft’s FreeStudio which includes a specialist DVD Converter program amongst its many facilities. This appears to work very well and I have converted several DVDs into MP4 files with no apparent loss of quality with one exception: when the camera moves very quickly across a scene, the conversion process seems to make it a little more distorted than it already is. For this reason, and because I’m no expert in these formats, I’m keeping the original DVDs just in case.

Several of my DVDs contained converted cine film which I wanted to break apart into separate logical units which could be viewed and stored individually. To perform this editing work I chose the Microsoft software “Movie Maker” which comes bundled with the Windows operating system or which can be downloaded from a Microsoft web site. The version of this software released in mid 2012 will output files in MP4 format (previous versions did not have this capability).

There appears to be no help facility with Movie Maker, however I eventually got the hang of it after a bit of trial and error and some advice from various sources on the net. The process I followed was something like this:

  • Start work on a movie: Use the ‘Add videos and photos’ function to browse and select the movie to be worked.
  • Remove unwanted frames: Identify  the start and end of any parts that you want to delete because they are of poor quality etc,, then put the timeline curser onto the start point and select the SPLIT command. Do the same for the end point. The section to be removed is now a separate element in the timeline and can be deleted by right clicking on it and selecting REMOVE.
  • Break into separate parts: Use the SPLIT function to break up the material into all the separate elements that you want to save as individual MP4 files.
  • Save a version: Use the Movie Maker function ‘Save Project’.to save a version that you can return to later.
  • Select the first element to be saved as an MP4 file: Click on each of the unwanted elements in turn, right click on them and select the REMOVE function. When this has been completed, only the element you want to save as a single file will remain.
  • Insert a Title: Use the TITLE function to include a title frame at the beginning of the movie.
  • Save the element as an MP4 file: Use the ‘Save Movie’ function to save it as a file in its own right. I use the ‘Recommended for this Project’ setting to specify the quality and standards to be used.
  • Close Movie Maker and start again to save the next element: To select another element to be output as a file in its own right, close down Movie Maker, then open it up again with the Movie Maker Project that you saved earlier. Then follow the same steps already described to isolate the next element and to save it as an MP4 file.

Overall, the combination of FreeStudio and Movie Maker seems to enable me to do everything I need to produce stand-alone movie units which can be itemised in my photo index, stored and played individually on the laptop. For the most part I have produced each element in MP4 format since that seems to be a widely used standard which is likely to be long lasting. However, in one case I was unable to do the conversion and have retained the file with its original .mov extension (an Apple QuickTime format) which works just as well on my laptop.

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