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OUTPUT TO VHS TAPE

A Home Editing Rig<In the head-scratching world of desktop video, making a VHS copy of output from your hard drive is actually fairly easy! That puts it in a class by itself for the beginner. Everything else I've learned to do has required perseverance, patience and study. But, if you can see your editing project on a TV set (or NTSC monitor as we North American bitheads call them) you can capture what you see to tape. In order to successfully use a TV set for monitoring you have to have connected it in some way either to your DV camcorder or to your sound and graphics cards, probably using RCA/Composite connectors. If you have a newer system you may be using an S-Video connection for the video portion of the signal, and RCA jacks for the audio. There seems no doubt in the minds of frequent users that having your camcorder connected by firewire to your PC and to your VHS desk by RCA jacks for audio and S-video (if you have it) or RCA jack is the most reliable, least fussy solution to monitoring your editing on a TV set. That's how I've always done it and it works well. If you have both the TV sound and the PC speakers on at once you'll notice an echo, so use one of the other when you monitor. If you don't use the TV sound regularly make sure you do use it before you finish and print to video. What you hear is what your audience will hear when they play your tape.

If you look closely at the image above you will see the RCA jacks to the Video and Audio inputs on the front of the combination TV/VCR I use as an NTSC monitor. I have since replaced this tape deck with an S-VHS model eqipped with S-Video inputs and outputs. The result is a far better image quality on resulting VHS dumps, thanks to the S-Video connection, which provides improved resolution. (It's video only so you still need the RCAs for audio). I don't play much with the S-VHS capabilities, since anyone given a copy of the tape would require an S-VHS VCR to watch it. The new unit does not have flying erase heads but the "record-pause-record" function makes a clean edit between video transfers and even the start-up rainbows are minimized versus the old deck as this one comes up to speed much faster.

My non-linear editor contains both a "Print to Video" selection (for export to VHS tape) and an "Export to Tape" function, which is intended to write to DV tape in the camera. One would use this to archive a finished full-resolution digital file (as opposed to a file encoded for Windows Media, Quick Time or Real Player) back to tape to make room on the hard drive. My method starts with always putting a black still image or black video at the beginning of every editing project. I give it a four-second duration, then begin to assemble clips. When the project is complete I have a four-second blank lead which allows me to produce a video tape that starts cleanly.

There are other ways to accomplish this in the editing software but I've had no reason to look further than the creation of a 720 x 480 black tif or bitmap which I import into each project. (Make sure you set the black RGB to 16-16-16, which is legal black in the NTSC standard.) If you use a timeline-based editor you'll curse yourself for forgetting this step because, in some editing environments, adding to the beginning of the timeline means re-rendering everything after it.

So, with finished file waiting, and a few seconds of black on both ends I insert a VHS tape, run it fully forward, then rewind it and only then press the record button. I give it a few seconds before starting the project file in my editor, which results in some black with rainbow lightning through it, then hit return (space bar) to begin playing the file. The black still I've inserted records as pure (NTSC) black and then the movie starts. This approach gives a much better impression, particularly with multiple videos on one tape, as there is no distortion between movies, (using the pause record function) and minimal distortion at the beginning as the VCR comes up to speed. If you have an editor, like Premiere, that offers a "print to video" option, the result is cleaner still, as no signal goes to the VCR until the export function is run.

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