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Chapter 4. Capturing Analog Video > Tuning the Incoming Video Signal

Tuning the Incoming Video Signal

Because DV video is digitized by the camera, digital video capture is a simple file transfer from camera to computer. In contrast, analog capture involves an analog-to-digital conversion, which is something like a negotiation between two parties speaking a common language with slightly different accents.

This is how it works: The analog camera outputs an analog signal that it perceives as representing reality, adjusting the brightness, color, and contrast accordingly. Then, using factory-preset values, the analog capture card looks for and captures a signal that it perceives as representing reality. Seldom do the two realities match.

This is a long way of saying that if you're going to capture analog video, most of the time you will have to mess with the analog input controls to get the video looking right. Compare the image in Figure 4.17, which used the default settings, with the image in Figure 4.18, which used optimized settings. As you can see, the differences can be dramatic.

Figure 4.17. With brightness and contrast at their default settings, here I am speaking at a trade show. Pretty dark, eh?

Figure 4.18. Here's the new me, with enhanced brightness and contrast. These controls make a huge difference in the ultimate quality of your video projects.

As Figure 4.1 shows, Studio provides the adjustments for brightness, contrast, sharpness, hue, and color saturation, but these technical terms don't tell the story (see the sidebar “Adjustments Defined”). The only way to become skilled at capturing analog video that looks as it should is to play with the controls during each capture and fine-tune as you go along.

To adjust incoming video

On your camcorder, press Play to start the video playing. Try to find frames that contain objects with known color and brightness values, such as faces or clothing.

Using the Video Options tab, adjust the various sliders up and down until the picture quality is where you want it (Figure 4.1).

Note the adjusted values used during capture so that you can re-create your results if necessary.

These adjustments would be easier if Studio offered numerical presets, but it doesn't. Instead, you need to note the relationship of the slider to the midline. For example, the adjustments in Figure 4.18 would have a brightness value of approximately +14 and a contrast value of +5.

✓ Tips

  • Studio lets you modify these same video options settings during editing. However, adjusting color and brightness during editing can degrade quality and takes time, so it's better done while tweaking parameters before capturing your video files.

  • If your tape contains radically different scenes, you should adjust the video options for each scene.

  • Encoding often darkens video slightly. To make sure that your video is bright enough after encoding, encode a short segment in the final format as early as possible. If you'll be viewing the video on a range of output devices, such as laptops or projectors, you might test playback on these as well.

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