Windows 7 : Capturing Analog Video

I’ve installed Windows 7 and now it’s time to get down to using it. Unfortunately, for all teh promises of ease of use, somethings are way harder than they need to be. Since one of the things that makes it hard is lack of real documentation, I thought I’d help by sharing a somewhat simple task that has been obfuscated in the pursuit of making things simpler.

Firstly, before we do anything, you have to download Windows Live Suite from the windows live site. Windows 7 doesn’t actually come with any of this software. I’m sure you can thank the US anti trust courts and their crownies for forcing this amazing decision on all of us. MS has made it a bit easier for us that get stuck with Big Brother making decisions on our behalf, by linking to the DL site directly from the Start menu when you first startup your new install. (Thanks for that Bill, or whoever you left in charge)

Once you’ve got the software, to capture video in Windows 7 from a direct connect video source, you must use Photo Gallery, not Movie Maker. Yes, I agree : this is counter intuitive. From Microsoft’s point of view however, movie maker is an aggregator of source materials and Photo Gallery is the storage and catalog of source materials. You put it into the catalogue before you use it. I will digress for just a moment to share a recommendation – change the name of Photo Gallery to Media gallery, or put a link to the Video Acquire Wizard from Movie Maker – or (wild idea here) do both!

With your Camera already plugged in and showing up in Printers and Devices, from Photo Gallery, click File -> ‘Import from a Camera or Scanner’ to start the wizard. You will be given a list of connected devices to choose from. Choose your camera and click Import. Now, in the Import dialog, give your clip a name and choose how you’d like to import video. For my purposes, I chose “Select Parts of your Video to Import” Your default location for video footage will be your My Videos folder. If you have redirected this folder to your WHS Users directory as I have, you will have to click More Options and set a new directory on the local hard drive. Once you’ve got your settings done, click next.

Ok now for the tricky part. For my setup I am using a Canon ZR65 Mini DV camcorder. The benefit of this setup is that it has a AV input and DV pass through capabilities make it a convenient Analog Video firewire capture device. Unfortunately, Windows Acquire Video Wizard, in a bid to be extra helpful will try to control the tape playback of the Canon or any firewire connected deivce for you. This is great if you’ve read this far and only have Mini DV to capture from – congrats – you can stop reading. For this rest of us though, this will cut off the analog video playback. There is however a simple solution.

Eject the Mini DV Tape

This disables Windows wanting to be helpful, as it detects no tape in the device, however the signal is still active and thus you can playback the analog video source plugged into the camera. Simply hit play, then click import and Windows will begin recording. Once your all done importing clips (Cataloging video) you can then go to Movie Maker to assemble the clips. I’ll leave that one for another day…