Video Woes & Wishing For More Laptop Firepower

I took a several videos today at CTIA, all of Windows Mobile applications being demoed. It seemed like a good idea at the time, but in hindsight I really didn’t have the right hardware or software to get the job done properly. I thought that YouTube was limited to videos 10 minutes long, but they also have a 100 MB file size limit. My Canon SD800 doesn’t have any sort of video compression beyond basic MJPEG, so the file sizes are huge. An 8 minute 44 second video clip at 320 x 240 resolution weighs in at 325 MB. That means I’m having to compress them to get the file size under 100 MB before I can upload the videos to have YouTube compress them all over again. It’s not like you can see the double-compression though with the crappy bitrates YouTube uses.

Normally this wouldn’t be a big deal, but my Fujitsu P7010D doesn’t have the graphics power to run Windows Movie Maker (which is incredibly stupid that it requires hardware acceleration and won’t run at all), and I didn’t install Premiere Elements before leaving, so I was left without any ability to edit video files. I tried Movavi, but it turned out to be highly problematic – it locked up on me several times, complained about missing codecs even when Windows Media Player could play back the file without trouble, and generally wouldn’t do a damn thing properly. I really wanted to like Movavi – it seems to have a great set of features, but I’ve tried it on two PCs now (one Vista, one XP Pro) and it was unstable and dysfunctional at editing video, splitting video, and ripping a DVD. Next I installed Nero 7 because I happened to already have the 175 MB “upgrade” downloaded – it’s ridiculous how Nero releases a trial version of the entire suite as an upgrade for customers, but in this case it happened to be helpful to me. A quick phone call to Ashley got me the serial number I needed. I installed it and rebooted, but bizarrely enough Nero Vision (the video editing application) won’t work with the Canon AVI files properly – when I add one to the timeline it only recognizes the first ten seconds. No errors, it just won’t work properly.

I started to get a bit desperate at this point, so I did a search for a freeware video editing application and tried AviTricks. I didn’t work and puked on codec errors. At this point I was loudly cursing Canon for making their video format so difficult to deal with. As a last-ditch effort, I tried the crusty old Windows Media Encoder 9, and it actually worked! The problem is this 1.2 Ghz Pentium M CPU is exactly made for fast video encoding – it’s taking me forever to encode each clip, especially when I encode a file only to discover it ends up being more than 100 MB in size.

I actually spent some time researching what laptops a local Best Buy here had because I was convinced I’d need a new laptop in order to get all this video transcoding finished before I left Orlando – selecting a new laptop is a topic for another post though, because it’s proving to be a frustrating trying to find the right one. At any rate, the closest Best Buy was out of stock on all six of the HP laptops I was looking at. What are the odds? ๐Ÿ™ The nearest Circuit City only had one HP laptop, not the one I wanted, and no one at the store would pick up the phone. I gave up and decided to rough it with my little Fujitsu, and while it’s slow, I’m getting the videos transcoded and uploaded. Back to the grind…

  • deanjlee

    A MacBook Pro maybe? You can still run Vista but I find mine great for video.

    I don’t want to start a flame war – I use Windows at Work and Mac OS X/Windows at home – for me it is about the right tool for the job.

  • Nah, it’s not a Mac/Windows issue – it’s a myth that Macs are better at editing video than PCs. I’m quite sure Windows Movie Maker can open up these Canon video files, but because this laptop wasn’t designed for Vista that *one* app won’t run…if I had remembered to install Premiere Elements on this laptop before leaving I wouldn’t have any problems. Basically I left the “right tool” at home. ๐Ÿ˜‰

    And in fact, unless I’m mistaken, other than iMovie, are there any third party, entry-level video editors for the Mac? That’s a scenario that makes me very uncomfortable about the Mac platform.

  • Vinny

    Depends on what you mean by “Entry Level”

    Right now, it’s iMovie included, Final Cut Express if you want a step up (It’s $300, but I got it for $179 on eBay) and Final Cut Pro if you want the $1100 bazooka for swatting flies.

    I actually had another program in mind. Since your intention was only uploading to YouTube, there are two ways you could go:

    1. The DivX converter that comes with DivX pro works really well.
    2. Videora Converter.

    Funny part is, it’s Canon’s tweak to the MJPEG format that breaks stuff. By default, Quicktime on the Mac can handle MJPEG fine, but it can’t handle the flavor the SD800 kicks out. There’s a plugin you can remove (yes I said remove) from QuickTime and make it work, but who knows what I’m missing out on having done that.

    Either way, I blame Canon, and the fact that the TX-1, from what I know of it, also shoots in the same format but at a higher resolution, I’m not 100% sure I want it anymore…

  • Vinny

    BTW: Premiere Pro will be making its Mac return this year; it would surprise me if they didn’t have a version of Premiere Elements coming also.

  • “Right now, itโ€™s iMovie included, Final Cut Express if you want a step up (Itโ€™s $300, but I got it for $179 on eBay) and Final Cut Pro if you want the $1100 bazooka for swatting flies.”

    And they’re all Apple programs…that’s not much of a choice if Apple doesn’t do things the way you like. ๐Ÿ˜‰

    “1. The DivX converter that comes with DivX pro works really well.
    2. Videora Converter.”

    Unfortunatey, DivX sucks and has yet to release a version of Converter that works with Vista. Bastards. I didn’t think of Videora – I’ll look into it.

    Pretty damn irritating about the SD800 video files – what the hell is Canon thinking? Why don’t they make their video files more standard so they’ll work with everything? Taking video with cameras isn’t a rare thing any more – the quality is good enough for many purposes now…

  • Vinny

    Well, there’s a free version of Avid for PowerPC Macs, as I said Premiere is coming back this summer, and I’m sure there are others that my non-video brain doesn’t know about!

    Although doing things the way you like is a problem, but Final Cut and iMovie are very different so chances are of the two you’ll like one… I personally don’t care for Final Cut (even though I just bought it) so I’m fiending for Premiere which I LOVE on Windows.

    And yes, I don’t think Canon had their heads on straight with the SD800 video. For most people it’s fine, but it’s not strictly standard which definitely causes problems; enough to the point where I’m scared of getting a tx-1.

  • Jeremy Charette

    Vinny, Jason: Here’s why the SD800 and TX-1 record in MJPEG: it doesn’t require a fast transcoding chipset. As a result, they can use smaller, cheaper chipsets that consume less power. Smaller boards, smaller batteries, smaller cameras. Huge file sizes, but most consumers won’t figure that out until they’ve already bought that sleek sexy looking Canon P&S.

    Camera size sells, not file size.

  • I hear what you’re saying Jeremy, but by the same token, think about the Casio Exilim SD600:

    It’s thinner than the SD800, and takes files in DivX format – which means they’d be nice and easy to work with (and small to boot!).

    So I think Canon may just not be that impressive in the engineering department in this instance.

  • Vinny

    What Jason said.

  • maruel

    Use MediaCoder. It’s free and gives many options and choices of codec. Plus the 3d noise reduction filter is working really great.

  • Spikeskis

    Hi. I found your site on a random search for information about video editing and the SD 800. Looks like you’ve changed cameras already but I was wondering whether you found a solution to the problem.

    I see Maruel gave you some feedback on compressing files (not sure if MediaCoder helped with editing) – but to be honest I do not have any particular technical skills and couldn’t quite figure out what he was saying.

    I’d appreciate it if you could let me know.


  • Spikeskis,
    Windows Movie Maker on Vista handles the MJPEG AVI files from the SD800 without a problem, so that’s what I’m using when I need to whip together a quick merged clip. Premiere Elements 4.0 also works with the files.