Why I Hate Video

Last night I was commiserating with my brother about how much I hate video production. I’m extremely frustrated with the inability of companies to create an easy to use HD video camera solution for consumers.

A while back I was going to do a video podcast. I was going to interview photographers and do 20-30 minute interviews with them for a show I was going to call phototalking. I started out doing a couple of interviews but the process quickly broke down as I stumbled first hand into the throws of the hell that is editing video.

I started my foray into video by buying a video camera that Steve Gillmor recommended to me. It was a JVC camera that had a hard drive. I wanted the camera to also be able to do HD video of my kids who are rapidly growing up before my very eyes without enough good video of them.

My problem is/was that the JVC recorded it’s video program in some proprietary format called “TOD.” I suppose that they used this format to save some sort of buck here or there or maybe it was just some sort of April Fools joke on consumers by providing them a format that is impossible to play back on any device that I’ve ever known. One thing that was for sure, the mysterious TOD format wouldn’t work on my Mac or on my PC and about the only place I’ve ever been able to view the video is on the actual tiny little screen on the video camera itself. I felt like a chump for paying so much for that crappy JVC video camera.

Recently my wife and I decided that we’d take all of the old mini DV tapes from our last video camera (a Sony) and have those transferred to video files so that we could watch them on our Media Center system at home. We paid some guy from craigslist money to transfer the old tapes to DVD. The problem? The DVDs came back in .VOB files. More files that do me no good as I can’t seem to get them to play as files on my Media Center PC.

What I really want is the ability to easily transfer my home movies to my computer hard drive and then simply drag and drop the files into a folder that my Media Center PC and XBox 360 extender units can play for our family enjoyment on the big screen where I watch my TV, Netflix DVDs, JPG photographs, and play mp3 files.

It seems like JPG and MP3 are great formats that can be read on anything. But video, that’s another story. I tried about 10 different video conversion programs that I found on the web and couldn’t find anything that seemed to be able to convert my videos into something usable. I did find one that seemed to eventually turn at least my .VOB files into WMP type files that I could play. The only problem was that the sound on the video went at normal speed, while the video image went at super slow speeds.

While I don’t claim to be the world’s most technically astute video expert, I do consider myself above average in my technical capabilities. Certainly I’m far more advanced in my own skills than people like my parents. Which is where the problem is. If I’m having as much trouble as I am. I’m sure lots of other people are as well. I’m not exactly sure who to blame for this whole mess — Microsoft, Apple, JVC, the hardware makers, software makers, Hollywood, DRM, who knows. My guess is that more than anything it’s probably a consortium of interests looking to screw over the consumer.

Someday I’m probably going to buy the new Canon Mark II 5D camera that will now shoot video as well as still photography. I’m already dreading what working with these video files is going to be like.

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22 Comments

  1. Even though I’m a video producer, I completely agree that it’s not “open” enough.

    Recently, I have been creating MP4s and they seem to be highly compatible with a majority of devices — iPods included.

    – Aanarav

  2. Richard says:

    2 years ago I bought a Sony that burned the video to cute little DVD disks. I was under the impression that I could just pop them into the computer and do what I wanted with the files. Couldn’t be further from the truth. I would also like more video of my kids, but just because I can video it, doesn’t mean I can watch it on anything except the little flip out screen on the camera. If you figure this out, I would like to know about it.

  3. Raoul says:

    TH, the way I understand it, the 5D Mark II shoots MP4 video encoded with the H.264 codec, which means you can readily play the video files on either a PC or Mac, right from the CF card, if your computer’s video card can handle the frame rate.

  4. Lou says:

    Meh, VOB files are pretty standard fare for DVDs, and are highly annoying. Here’s what you do. Use a media ripper to rip from the DVD into a format like DivX or H.264 (or WMV if you REALLY want to). I can try and find what I’ve used on my home machine in the past, but i’m not at home right now.

    Basically, if you rip the DVD as a standard DVD with a ripping program, it should work just fine.

  5. Bbox says:

    Hey Thomas. http://www.doom9.org/ is an excellent resource for both tutorials on how to convert various formats of video and audio as well as links to open source and commercial packages that will help you do it.

    VOB files that you’ll find on a DVD are actually MPEG files that are referenced by the other filetypes that make up the DVD format.

    HTH

  6. I tried to post some links on Twirl but it was wigging out on me. so I can post them here later. As I was reading I was thinking of the Canon Mark II 5D for you. I’m going to pull a bunch of links for you later, and hopefully one or two might ease the post production burden so you’ll make the show. I would love to watch something like that. Actually a bunch of news came out today about new products. I’ll have time to be thorough tonight.

  7. PXLated says:

    Haven’t done anything recent or in HD, just some 640×480 footage with an old Canon point-n-shoot. The files were AVIs as I recall. They were importable into iMovie and the rest was as simple as it gets.

  8. oblik says:

    Thomas, I’m sure you’ll get a ton of comments on this or that but here’s my 2 cents.

    By going HD, you’re on the forefront of video. The formats aren’t standardized, the players aren’t up to date, and you’re probably just asking for more trouble by using it.

    My personal recommendation is the Canon FS-100. While SD it records in good detail at 720×480 (DVD resolution) in MPEG-2 (.MOD extension but you can just rename it to .MPG) and I haven’t had any problem just taking the files right from the camera to Windows Media Player.

    Sometimes going with the newest tech isn’t always the best. You can read a little on the TOD/MOD formats here:

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/MOD_and_TOD_(video_format)

    and note the line towards the bottom that TOD can’t be played on consumer equipment. You might find better luck with the Canon HD camcorders and the AVCHD format. The XBOX360 and other devices are more likely to support this

    http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/List_of_devices_that_support_H.264/MPEG-4_AVC

    Kevin

  9. Mark says:

    Thomas, I don't know if you're willing to look, but I use 2 sites to help with tips, tricks & software:
    VideoHelp and DVInfo.net

    I realize there’s probably too much info there, it still may be worth the time to look. Good luck!

  10. Rsplatpc says:

    Hey Thomas,

    What program are you using to view movies? Media Player? Just use Zoom Player, it supports move formats under the sun and is totally compatible with the remote.

  11. emon says:

    Hi Thomas,
    Two free programs that make it super easy to convert from any file (VOB included) to any format of your choice.

    HandBrake
    http://handbrake.fr

    MPEG Streamclip
    http://www.squared5.com

    Hope this helps!

  12. Vince Anido says:

    Most of Canon’s newer consumer level HD camcorders record a format called AVCHD which is pretty friendly in all the scenarios you’ve outlined.

    It plays in VMC:http://bit.ly/3i0c00

    And they also import nicely to Final Cut Pro/Express using the import tool.

    Also, regarding your VOB issue, run them through Handbrake: http://handbrake.fr/

    That is a free program which will convert them to whatever format you want.

    The upcoming 5dmII records H.264 which is natively supported in FCP – no conversion necessary. With some work, those files will also play in Media Center.

  13. Brian says:

    Thomas,

    Don’t know about TOD, but you can convert the VOB to mpg easily with VOB2MPG. It’ll be an mpg when finished, and should be playable with your media center. Hope this helps.

    Find it here:
    http://www.svcd2dvd.com/downloads.aspx

    -Brian

  14. Taras says:

    just got into the video scene for a event that happened in town. I used what was available to me. A canon video camera and iMovie. Record, Import, and Export. not to mention the simple editing that can be done with transitions, titles, and cutting out useless video. just my $.02.

  15. Marina says:

    Hi Thomas
    I have the JVC Everio (not the HD but wide format) and it makes MOD files. Theses are now completely compatible with YouTube as well as Google Video.

    My video camera is the easiest thing to operate and uploading to both the computer and online is a breeze. I love this video camera!

    I haven’t done any editing but it comes with software that I assume will enable you to edit the recording and I presume save in the same format before uploading to YouTube/Google Video.

    Perhaps this would be a more workable solution?

  16. Anonymous says:

    Try installing ffdshow (http://ffdshow-tryout.sourceforge.net/). It is essentially a codec that includes support for most formats, including a number of MPEG-4 ones. I’m not sure if it natively supports TOD files, but it has the most complete support of any other codec that I have found.

  17. TranceMist says:

    You have a miniDV camera and a MacBook Pro.

    All you needed was a $30 FireWire cable and iMovie (which you already have).

    You could then export or transcode the raw footage into any format you want.

  18. Ken says:

    Thomas – Terry White just did a post on his video workflow – sounds like he has it figured out:
    http://terrywhite.com/techblog/?p=1065

  19. Anonymous says:

    I agree. These HD Hard drive cameras are a pain. Great video quality, but a pain to manage.

  20. I have been waiting on buying video equipment for a year now because I had a feeling that the new 5D was going to support this. It seems that the formats should be excellent as well. I cant wait to play around with it…

  21. Anonymous says:

    Install Windows Movie Maker on your Vista machine. Plug your mini DV camera into the Fire Wire port on your Media Center PC. Hopefully, your camera has a FireWire port.

    http://www.microsoft.com/windows/windows-vista/features/movie-maker.aspx

    Can’t get much easier than that.

  22. Jonah says:

    The Canon 5d Mark II records in .mov format, which is a pain in the ass if you’re on a windows machine and want to edit the movie.
    You will first have to convert to .avi or some other format which you can edit in, for example, Moviemaker.

    I can’t understand why Canon won’t give the buyers of this expensive camere the right to choose a standard Windows format instead of just a standard Mac format.