Digital Photography and Video Editing on your PC

Today you can take photographs with digital still cameras and shoot video with digital video cameras and edit them on your PC. Digital is definitely the way the world is headed in the video arena. However, digital photography has a way to go yet. Digital still cameras cannot match the quality of photographic film. It will be quite a few years before the quality of a digital camera can achieve that of film. Before you think about purchasing a digital still camera you want to consider how you will be using it. At the moment if you want good quality output you are better off using your normal film camera and scanning the photos or negatives you shot onto your computer. However, with digital cameras you have the advantage of being able to instantly print those photos and edit them on your computer or email them to a friend anywhere in the world without waiting for the film to be developed. Most digital still cameras only have a resolution of 640x480 pixels or at most 1024x768 pixels for those cameras that are under $2000. To match the quality of photographic film, a digital camera will need about 18 million pixels. Also they cannot match the sharpness of film or cover the lighting range that film can achieve during low lighting conditions. These digital cameras use a CCD chip like video cameras use to capture video. These chips are just not as sensitive to light as photo film. Plus most of the digital cameras have limited zoom capabilities as well. There are a few in the high-end arena that are coming closer to matching film but cost in the $15,000 range. So for the moment for high quality digital stills scan your photos or slides. There are even a couple of scanners out now that are made for the Advanced Photo System cartridges that you simply insert the film cartridge into after you have had your photos developed.

Now that you can capture your family vacation or child’s school play on video you want to edit it. You may want to cut out some of those bad shots when you forgot to turn off the camera or maybe add some titles to let everyone know where you went and what you did. Since you’ve got a computer and you know you can edit images with it why can’t you use it to edit your videos too. Well you can but the problem with editing your video will be the large amount of hard drive space that it requires to hold all of the video that you want to edit. Digital video involves the capturing and displaying of 30 still images per second to provide for the same type of moving pictures that are displayed on your television. So lets take a look at what this means in the way of hard drive space on your computer. Most good digital video capture cards grab video at 720x486 pixels per frame. This image is then captured 30 times per second to provide for moving video. Without compression this works out to about 20MB per second of video stored onto your hard drive. Therefore, don’t expect to do video editing with a small hard drive unless you’re just going to make 30 second commercials. However, the video images are usually compressed as they are captured and stored onto the hard drive. They are typically compressed anywhere from as low as 3:1 (broadcast quality) to as high as 8:1 (SVHS or Hi-8 quality). The new mini-DV format cameras use a compression ratio of 5:1. Therefore 20MB per second of video reduces down to the range of 6.7MB per second for broadcast quality to as low as 2.5MB per second for SVHS or Hi-8 quality. So a one-hour video stored at 3:1 compression would consume 24GB of disk space or as low as 9GB of disk space at 8:1 compression. Video compression is usually done using what is called Motion JPEG. This is the same type of JPEG compression that is used for still photos on the internet. However, they are simply compressed into a stream of continuos digital stills and played back one after the other to give the impression of moving video. Therefore not only doing you need a lot of disk space, but you also need very fast hard drives as well. For the typical setup you will want to have an ultra wide SCSI hard drive and a good digital capture card. Seagate now has an 18GB Ultra Wide SCSI hard drive for under $1800. For the money Pinnacle Systems miroVideo DC30 Plus card does an excellent job of capturing video for under $1000 using an S-video connector or a composite connector. Pinnacle Systems also has the miroVideo DV300 card that can capture DV video from any IEEE 1394 FireWire equipped camera or digital player. Mini DV cameras record video onto a mini DV tape and the video is stored as 1’s and 0’s just like data on a computer. Then that video can be transferred to a computer as a digital signal still 1’s and 0’s with no losses to the original video quality. Then the images can be edited completely in a digital format and then sent back to the camera or recorder in a digital format again with no loss of quality in the video. However, most of the DV cameras currently cost between $1500 and $4000 for the low end cameras making them still a little out of reach for most home videographers. But prices are expected to keep falling on these cameras.

The audio track is also streamed into the video clip as well and can consume a large amount of disk space as well depending on the quality of the audio. For CD quality audio it is typically stored at 44.1KHz 16-bit sampling in stereo and therefore consumes approximately 10MB of disk space per minute of audio on top of the video.

Once you’ve captured your video onto a hard drive on your system you need to have a program such as Ulead’s Media Studio Pro 5.0 or Adobe Premiere for editing the video and audio. These types of programs allow you to insert video clips and arrange them on a time line as well as add and remove audio clips to the video as well. Once you have arranged the video onto the time line and have added your titles to the video and wipes and fades from one clip to the next it has to be rendered into a final production video clip. This rendering time is dependent upon the speed of your processor and the speed of your hard drive. It can take anywhere from several minutes to a couple of hours to render the final production version of your video clip before you can copy it back to video tape. Most of the video capture cards already come pre-bundled with Ulead’s Media Studio Pro or Adobe Premiere so you don’t have to purchase these products separately. Since the release of Adobe Premiere 5.0 both Media Studio Pro and Premiere are about neck and neck as far as features and usability.

There are more advanced video capture and edit cards that actually allow for the playback of 2 streams of video simultaneously and can therefore eliminate a lot of rendering time. These cards have what are called built in Digital Video Effects processors that do most of the standard video effects such as wipes and fades. These cards run in the $5000 to $20,000 range but can save a lot of time when trying to get your video quickly back out to tape since most effects do not have to be rendered back to the hard drive before displaying the final video.

There are also some lower cost alternatives if you are just wanting to capture your video to be displayed on the internet in low resolution video clips using capture devices such as the Dazzle MPEG capture unit that plugs into your computer’s parallel port. However, it only captures images at 352x240 pixels per frame. This quality is not usable if you want to play back your videos on tape. However, these capture devices only cost $200 - $300.

Full Color Printing on Inkjets to Color Digital Copiers

In today’s world of competitive business, standing out is very important. If you were handed two identical brochures of the very same product and one was printed in black and white and the other was printed in color, which would catch your eye first. You would most likely agree that the color brochure would catch your attention first. Getting that color brochure to your potential customer can be very expensive. But with today’s digital color copiers and printers dropping in price, it has become more and more affordable to produce short run color printing in house. It used to be that you would print an example of your artwork and take it to a printer. Then the printer had to shoot the camera-ready art or reproduce it themselves to create a high-resolution plate. This was very expensive if you needed to only print a few hundred copies or maybe even a couple thousand copies. Also, if you needed to make a quick change to the copy and run it again, you had to pay for another plate and another printing run. However, today, you can purchase very inexpensive color inkjet printers such as the Hewlett Packard 722C for about $300 street price. These little printers allow you to print outstanding color presentations and nearly photo quality images onto glossy inkjet paper. However, the time that it takes to print one page of a color ad slick or glossy photo can take between 6 and 15 minutes for a single side of an 8 x 11 sheet of paper. The 5 to 8 pages per minute quoted on these printers are for economy mode printing of text. Not only does it take a lot of time to print but the cost for the specially coated inkjet paper can be almost a dollar per sheet not to mention the cost of the inkjet cartridges. For a home printer and extremely low volume printing, these printers are affordable and can produce some amazing results.

Your next step up the printing ladder towards color success might be a color laser jet printer. These printers can range in price from $2,500 to $10,000. These printers can do a fine job of printing but they are typically limited to single sided printing and a maximum paper size of 8 x 11in. Therefore you cannot produce folded 8 x 11 four sided folded brochures. Also the cost of consumables is fairly high in comparison to the next range of printers/copiers described below. However, for low to medium volume color output they beat the speed of the inkjet printers and produce a better quality output.

Next in the evolution of color printing is the digital color copier/printer. Digital color copier/printers can have list prices ranging from between $15,000 to $150,000. The prices for these units vary mostly by the speed at which they print. They pretty fall into the following categories: 3 pages per minute, 6 pages per minute and then the 30 to 40 page per minute units (over $100,000). Most of the copiers in this category can also be connected to your network for printing color right from your desktop PC at 400dpi continuous tone output for incredible results. This is typically achieved by connecting a Fiery print server to the copier and plugging it into your LAN. Windows, Unix and Macintosh printer drivers are available. The main companies in this category are Ricoh/Savin, Canon, and Xerox. The 3 and 6 page per minute units connected to your network can be leased for between $300 to $700 per month depending on options. You still have to pay between 25 to 50 cents per full color copy for consumables and maintenance on top of the lease. If you compare the cost of having a color brochure printed for around $500 - $1000 for 300 to 500 copies it makes these color copiers/printers quite attractive. For very large runs of color output, it will still be much cheaper to have your copy printed on a printing press. At high volume runs color printing is still much cheaper to operate and the quality is better than a color digital copier/printer.

If you have the ambition to start your own digital color printing company, then you will want an Indigo digital color printing press that starts around $350,000. This unit can print at 800 dpi 4 color continuous tone output at 30 pages per minute. Considering the cost, you may want to investigate the advantages of having a digital color copier in your office for those short run color jobs to really impress your clients and hopefully ink your next big deal.

Rich Simpson is a software developer/consultant and president of Mind’s Eye, Inc. For more information visit their web site at or send e-mail to or call 636-282-2102. Information compiled with the help of Progressive Business Equipment.

Copyright 1999-2008 Mind's Eye Inc.
Last modified: March 02, 2009