Tales from the Cultural Wilderness - Journal

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2001-11-16 Entry: "Digital Video"

After finishing the Terran campaign on Starcraft last night (just about - almost ran out of resources on the last mission), and making a brief foray into the Zerg campaign, I started fiddling about with the TV tuner software. Now, it doesn't do full tuning from an aerial (as it's a US / NTSC card and not a UK / PAL card), but it does accept a direct signal from the video. I also managed to get the sound routed correctly (although I'm going to need another 2-to-1 jack for the line-in port (as the DVD decoder card routes through it... not that I use this feature now there's a Dobly Decoder in the mix).

Anyway, having oodles of hard disk space, I thought "Hey, it'd be easy to use this to encode all these video tapes I've got kicking around and write them to CD" - boy was that a stupid idea!

First of all I had to play with the encoding settings to get a reasonable quality without dropping every second frame (got it down to roughly 6% lost, about one and a half a second). Then I had to find software to play it back (not a problem - sucky Microsoft Media Player seems to handle video okay, it's just sound I can't get to work). Then I had to see how big an average episode was going to be... grab nearest tape, insert, play, record... okay, so it was "Lois and Clark," not the most intellectually stimulating viewing, but it was a reasonable test. 42 minutes of recording later (which I could ignore as Question Time was on), I had a file I could play with. A file that was 550Mb in size... methinks I need to convert it to a smaller format.

O-Ho, I thought. I've got a DivX codec lying around here somewhere that I downloaded for a completely different purpose... I can use that. Except I can't. Firstly, the clip doesn't appear to have any sound (I'm not sure where that went missing, as it was alright on short clips). Secondly, I don't appear to have any software that'll actually do video conversion (from MPEG to any other format... either DivX or WMV seem to be the most likely choices) - maybe I'm being stupid and I just haven't found the option to do it yet, but I'm not going to attempt this with Windows Media Player (and associated programs), as it doesn't like me.

I couldn't even find a linux program on my system that'd do it (although, I wasn't entirely sure what I was looking for so I probably missed it), not that Linux particularly likes my sound chipset, so I probably wouldn't have been able to play the clip with sound even if there was any.

And arriving at work today, I find a mail saying Amazon have shipped Civ 3, so my experiments are unlikely to get much further over the weekend. Being reduced to the "Must play Civ, everything else (including eating) comes second" state will tend to do that... "just one more turn, then I'll sleep."

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