Video editing with Premiere Elements

Its autumn. Lots of rain, getting dark early, feeling depressed already due to the lack of daylight. Leave home early, drive in the dark, come home at night in the dark, winter cloths.

So its time now to relive happier summer days, time to do some video editing of the material shot during the Turkey and Jordan holidays with my new Canon FS100 video camera.

First things I see when looking at the material are that the camera performed reasonably well. Not as good as my Canon Powershot 710IS, but it did record acceptable video fragments. And I did record a lot of fragments, covering most of the experiences in Turkey amd Jordan.

As I found out during my first experiments, filming around Weesp, this tiny camera is hard to keep stable, the chest based tripod I carry helped a lot.

Another annoying mistake I made is too much and too fast panning. Keep the camera stable and focussed at one object and do not move it around that much, is the lesson I learned. Keeping it stable is still not easy, even with the chest based tripod I carry around. A one legged tripod would be better, but that is quite a burden to carry.

So now I have lots of material. Good enough to make a movie. Cut away the bad and boring parts, add some photos, titles and some appropiate music, a job for Adobe Premiere Elements. That package served me well in the past, with material in DV AVI format. My old Video 8 and SVHS camera material is now in DV format too, the Samsung DV camera also produced DV AVI format of Venezuela and China.
The Canon FS100 does not produce DV AVI, but MPEG2. They call the file .MOD, but when renamed to .MPG it is accepted as standard MPEG2 format, also by Premiere Elements (I use version 4 now).

But not all was well. First problem was the format, since the FS100 records in 16:9 format (720×576). And Premiere interpreters this as 4:3. I found a program, SDCOPY, that can fix that by setting a flag in the MOD file. Another nice feature of SDCOPY is that allows to rename a batch of files to more meaningfull filenames (year-date/time + free text) instead of the unusable convention chosen by Canon: MOV001.MOD etc. That name convention does not sort well, ofcourse you want the files listed in the order they were recorded. So now I have a collection of files, recognized by Premiere as 16:9 and with convenient names. With this setup I made the test movies around Weesp in may 2008 and all was well then. The .MOD files are quite compact compared to DV AVI, a nice side effect, since video takes lots of disk space.

Alas, the editing of MPEG2 files failed when I threw not a couple of clips into Premiere, but a couple of hundred. The Jordan collection of clips consists of 230 clips, each a file containing 10 second to 2 minutes. From this raw material, over 2 hours, at most a 25 minute documentary will result, and this seems a normal situation for an amateur movie. I did this with my DV material such as made in Venezuela and China. It worked fine, Elements kept responsive with this much clips.
Not with the MPEG .MOD files. After 20 or more clips added to the organizer Elements became slow, reading and reading and refreshing thumbnails. Another 20 more and the program came to a halt, crashed and did not fully recover. No more showing a thumbnail in the Organizer or playing in the preview windows and unusable slow or even not responding. Conclusion: Premiere is not optimized for MPEG2 as source material, it is built for DV AVI. So this was a showstopper. Even removing all the files form the organizer took a lot of effort.

A solution/workaround is now found. It takes more time in preparation, takes even more disk space (DV AVI is about 3x in size then MPEG) and perhaps a little degradation of quality, though I do not feel that as visible. Since Premiere Elements likes DV AVI, the MPEG2 format has to be converted to DV AVI. And there is a perfect free tool for that: Virtualdub and the MPEG2 plugin , and the Mainconcept DV codec (which comes with Elements or the Klite codec pack, cant remember). Virtualdub has a batch facility (called Job control from the File Menu) to do the conversion unmanaged.

videodub

These are the steps:

– get Virtualdub and the MPEG2 plugin
– Start Virtualdub, open a .MOD file (File – Open, all files, select a .mod file
– set the Video – Compression setting to MainConcept DV Codec
– Convert one .MOD file with File – Save as AVI
– save the processing settings with File – Save processing settings,for future jobs
– Start the Batch processor, File – Job Control
– Select input and output directories In Job Control Edit – Process directory
– Hit the start button and have a cup of coffee (or two)

videodub

Have a look at the configuration of the Mainconcept DV encoder. I had to choose the Change Fields Order option, otherwise the result was horribly out of sync video. Experiment with this before doing a lot of work.

Now you end up with a directory filled with .AVIfiles with the same names as the .MOD files. Start Premiere Elements and the editing process runs smooth with hundreds of clips in the organizer.

I can not see quality degradation as result of the conversion, video is in itself a mediocre format, and the FS100 delivers a bit of noise under not perfect light conditions. Contrast situaltions also cause problems And it degrades in high temperatures, the Dead Sea clips look far from perfect as a result. Wind noise reduction is also a weak point. But the movie turns out quit good, I have fun with it. Now to find some one to show the movie too …

6 thoughts on “Video editing with Premiere Elements

  1. Dear Hans,
    When I open a *.MOD file in VirtualDub and MPEG2, the file will be converted to AVI, but the program cannot find a codeq for audio. The avi video file looks ok, but the audio is missing. Also VirtualDub 1.8 does not provide the possibility to choose \video-Compression setting to MainConcept DV Codec\
    Please can you help me?

  2. Hi,

    SInce I switched over to Adobe premiere Elements 7, I found I can skip the conversion with VirtualDub. The rename with SDCOPY is still very handy! Now Premiere can work with hundreds of mpeg files laoded!

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