Video Encoders, Part 1

I’ve been waylaid learning about video encoders.  Video what?  Yep, that’s what I said.

If you, too, are not part of the YouTube generation, this might have gone right over your head.

It started out a couple weeks ago, taking on a mission of mercy for a friend. One thing led to another and the next thing I was making a video. Pretty funny choice of person for the job considering I know nothing about videos.

OK, almost nothing.  I got a free video-making program when I bought my digital camera some years ago. Right off the bat I had a vision involving my turquoise-sequined frog.

Short aside:  I don’t buy these kind of things.  I have really strange friends who give them to me.  I don’t want you to get the wrong impression.

Anyway, I set about making videos.  You have to be in Canada (or Siberia) in January to really appreciate how a well-educated, otherwise-completely-normal person can be reduced to this:  Using a series of stills, I had the frog doing calisthenics to the tune of some rousing C&W.  At the end he falls forward onto his face.  Hilarious stuff when it’s 30 below.  (No, this video will never be seen on YouTube, or anywhere else.)

With my vast video-making experience in tow, fast-forward to my recent mission …

My friend, the living one, being a professional in every way was able to pull off his part without a hitch. Almost.  He was dead tired having just come back from a brutal trip involving airplanes that can’t take off or land where they’re supposed to and having to drive hundreds of miles in the dark through snow and ice.  In both directions.  I kept the blooper videos. The ones where he forgets his next sentence, and then leaves his body altogether. Considering the shape he was in, unshaven and all the rest, he was a real trooper.

My part, that was something else. The camera was secured on a tripod but I bumped into it between two segments, un-centering our carefully constructed set.  In another segment, a stack of paper wanders onto the screen. Obviously it was the camera moving slowly toward it, but it looks the other way around, as if the paper is inching across the table of its own accord.

I ended up with 4 segments in AVI format.  Coming off the camera that was a total of 120 MB.  I thought by the time I edited them down I would end up with around 100 MB, which sounded manageable.  However, when I pieced them together using a program called VirtualDub what I got was around 2 GB.  Then I had to extract the audio, chop video, add some still shots to cover my filming errors, add the audio back in, and re-save.

Part of this process involved using my 2002 version of ArcSoft VideoImpression. That I have any hair left is a miracle.  Crash, crash, crash, crash, crash … deep breath … Crash!  Two days later, after all the pain and the video was finished, it occurred to me to look under Help for the “Check for Updates” button. Yes, there was one!

By the time I was done fooling around with this video, the file size was up to 2.74 GB.  A two-point-seven-four GB video file will choke Windows Media Player to death. Try it.  And my computer has 4 GB of memory.

Since no amount of shaking my head and pleading for help on my own Forum got me anywhere, I was forced to go online and look around.  That’s when I discovered video encoders. A video encoder is used to translate one video file format to another.  Wow, what a concept!

To be continued

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