Matt's Macs

Analog Video to Digital and Back

- 2001.08.23 - Tip Jar

What do you with ....

  • a four-year-old dog
  • a 14-year-old VHS camcorder
  • a seven-year-old (this month!) Performa
  • a seven-year-old TV turner/video hardware/software
  • a two-year-old refurbished iMac
  • a network
  • Movie Player 2.5.1
  • Movie Player Pro 5.0.2
  • iMovie

The answer? Go digital! Make a movie!

How does new technology compare to old technology, though? Which is better? There's good news and really good news.

First the good news.

Given all the mixed bag of technology above, it is possible to - heck, it's easy as a hop, skip, and a jump - to create a decent home movie. My Performa is used to "rip" video from the 20th century analog camcorder through the RCA ports, save the resultant file as a standalone QuickTime 2.5.1 movie file on the iMac over my network. Harnessing my iMac's PowerPC processor and QuickTime Pro 5.0 software, the file can be opened and saved as a ".dv" (digital video) file. From there it can be manipulated and exported to tape or as a QuickTime movie.

Neat stuff overall - but here's the really good news.

The really good news is that the 68k technology is still viable in an era of AltiVec processors on G4s and Firewire digital cameras, at least for this weekend dabbler in movie making. A quick look features on each computer, each equipped with standard features, is provided in the table below:

Performa 635 

iMac Summer 2000 

Saves as Quicktime Movie  yes yes
Saves as Digital Video no yes
File Size small (.mov) large (.dv)
Frame Size small (160x120) large (640 x 480)
Video Source TV, camcorder, VHS tape Firewire digital camera
Speed to export files Slow Fast

By themselves, each can create and save movies, albeit there are tradeoffs in speed, file size, speed, frame size, and speed to process files. In tandem, the best qualities of a Quadra and an iMac can be leveraged over a network into a nice movie making duo. That is, a Quadra brings to the table its ability to import video from a VHS device or TV and save the resultant file as a QuickTime movie. The powerful iMac can open the file and either save a digital video movie or facilitate rapid movie editing.

Bottom line: How does old technology compare with new? Most people have devices that are compatible with old devices such as VHS camcorders; but new technology is faster. Which is better? Separately the Performa and iMac are each one. Connected over a network, drawing on the strengths of each model, one plus one equals three.

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