Of videotaping school plays and burning DVDs

My older daughter’s school is big into performing arts and her fourth grade class just recently put on a hilarious play about the Norse Gods, Valhalla, and the mischief of Loki. Weeks of practice, original songs, costumes and even a basic set. Great fun and at about 40 minutes long, a complicated and involved production.
When they’re ready, they perform the play for the other grades in the school, a few mornings in a row, then on the Saturday, the gala encore performance for the parents. Is there anything more delightful than watching children you’ve known for years perform in a play together? 🙂

Since I just purchased a snazzy new high-end Panasonic video camera, I thought it would be smart to get some practice using it by recording the play, and the results were splendid. Well, except for the sound because the camera has a pretty omnidirectional mic and since I was set up about 20′ from the main stage area, I am now seriously in the market for a good unidirectional mic to hook up. [The camera’s a Panasonic Pro AG-DVC30 MiniDV Camcorder, if you have any recommendations] I’ve dabbled a tiny bit with video on my computer, but haven’t really gone very far into that world. This time, though, I hooked up the special cable and launched iMovie HD on my Mac system and was so impressed that it instantly knew my camera was there and how to work with it. A single press of the “Import Movie” button and it sucked in every frame, eating up a rather staggering 9GB of disk space (for 40 minutes! How much space do you need for a few hours of raw footage?? Sheesh!)
iMovie was easy to work with, and I just dragged all the clips (each “scene” of the movie becomes its own clip when imported) onto the timeline in order and, voila, I’m a film maker! 🙂
Of course, I then expected a “burn to DVD” option within iMovie, and was disappointed to learn that I had to work with iDVD to take that simple step, but sure enough, iMovie has an “Export to iDVD” option and then iDVD offered up its own level of complexity with this presumably straightforward process.
Zoom forward an hour of fiddling and I now have a burned DVD that has all 40 minutes of the play, along with a fancy title screen that offers up the date of the recording. Burning an actual DVD is pretty amazingly slow, but, hey, it works!
So at that point I sent out mail to the class saying that I was happy to make DVDs for any other parents who would like a copy of the play for their (or their family) viewing pleasure. I asked for $5/copy to cover the most basic of my material costs, a blank DVD and a small plastic jewel case. Seems reasonable, doesn’t it?
Anyway, I now have about ten disk orders and spent a recent afternoon burning DVDs on my laptop while I used my main computer to work on taxes. Not a big problem at all, and really, I have to say that while it wasn’t completely “point and burn”, capturing our video, chopping it up to clean the start and end points, and burning it to a DVD that, yes, really does play on a standard DVD player, was darn easy!
Now I’m looking at the pile of about 200 hours of older miniDV video cassettes on the shelf and wondering if it’s time to get another terrabyte of storage so I can start making some “best of” DVDs. 🙂
How about you? Have you experimented with converting a camcorder recording into a DVD and if so, what app did you use and how did it go?

One comment on “Of videotaping school plays and burning DVDs

  1. Dave,
    Loved the image of you up to your ears in movie clips. And I definitely think it’s a good time for you to start on your “best of” series.
    We also have boxes of 8mm movies from the olden days that I wish had the best parts accumulated onto one or two DVDs. As a photographer, you probably don’t have too much trouble ruthlessly removing the ho-hum parts. Those parents are lucky folk.
    As a graphic artist, I do predominantly stills and print graphics. Since I’ve been working since 1999, I have quite a backlog of work that I’m working on converting to an accessible format for the years to come and some sort of permanent archiving.
    First it was floppies, then zips, cds and now DVDs — not to mention VHS. Hopefully, in the future, it will still be possible to view those DVDs. (I’m having trouble reading some of my files now on the newer versions. Fortunately I still have the original software and an operating system that will run them.)
    The other thing to worry about is the longevity of the media. Some recommend gold DVDs to make sure they last in the long run. Would be sad to want to watch those ten years from now and find the media deteriorated, unusable.
    Just some thoughts from the Grandmama side of life,
    Sarah Hester

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