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…

i’m waiting…

i'm rocking on microsoft's dime

I think most people agree that most consumers have  somewhat ambiguous feelings toward Microsoft.  Even Bill Gates will admit, there’s a kind of love/hate relationship between the company he built and the people that buy their products.  Part of the issue is that even small misteps turn into huge media coverage, because of the sheer size and pervasiveness of the company. Personally I think the other big reason is because most people hate rich people… 😉

Up till now, I have not often seen the tech giant take any action on changing  public opinion toward it’s brand.   Some would say this is out of sheer arrogance, though I wonder if it’s because the splintered nature of their business organization forces an individualistic view of each business unit, instead of viewing themselves as a collective whole.  I noticed this at first when Window Live debutted, in the way which the branding for Live was so intrinsically different from the rest of Microsoft, that it felt like a completely different company.  Since then, that same style has permiated through many of the other products, even as the Live branding draws fire and services start to get shuttered.

Enter ‘i’m’ – an albeit thinly veiled attempt to promote its e-mail and instant messaging products through a blend of social activism and social media, ‘i’m’ proposes to donate cash for every message that traverses it’s messaging service platforms.  Although this is obviously a means to putting their messaging/ad delivery platform into the hands of more users, the social activism spin is a bit telling.  It seems the many armed octopus that is Microsoft wishes to put on a friendlier face.

What I find most interesting about this idea, is that, with the addition of hotmail to the list of ways you can help donate, it bears a striking resemblence to this Internet Urban Legend []. In the email legend, you could get cash from Bill Gates himself for forwarding an email to everyone you know.  The email plays directly to the dual problems of pervasiveness (in this case the Big Brother version), and money, which I think form the crux of their negative public image.  Now it seems Microsoft is having a quiet joke at this meme’s expense, since, technically, it’s very much the same thing, only the money is going to the less fortunate instead of, well, you.

The program is not yet available in Canada, and thus I can only wait on baited breath for the opportunity to “stick it to the man” in the name of charity.  Does it make me feel differently about Microsoft?  I’m probably not the right person to ask, as I have never really had a problem with them – but the idea is appealing enough to make me play along.