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The Ballad of Sir Camcorder

Tracy and I got ourselves a camcorder for Christmas because we felt that, as responsible capitolistic American parents, we needed to spend too much and get one (all the other parents have one — shouldn’t we?). So without doing nearly enough web research, we went to Best Buy and bought a middle-of-the-road-but-still-quite-expensive digital camcorder (the Best Buy sales girl was actually quite knowledgeable and helpful).

Still, there were endless debates about what model to buy, what camcorder tapes we needed to get, what to do with the video after it was recorded, etc. It turns out that we don’t already own a DVD recorder (not even in my Mac — I didn’t get a SuperDrive; I only have a regular CDRW drive), so what kind of DVD writer did we need? And what software would we need to mix/make movies and record on DVDs?

We ended up loading up on all kinds of stuff: a camera, some extra tapes, Pinnacle [Windoze] software, and an external DVD burner. The rationale here was that Mac assumedly had good movie editing software, so it would be nice to work on either the Mac or the PC.

Can you say; “Best Buy target audience”?

Well, it ended up sucking. ☹

The camcorder is fine — as advertised, it’s a middle-of-the-road camera, and all the reviews that I found for it on the net are fairly positivie (good, but no one’s trying to make production-quality movies with it). It’s the external DVD writer that I ended up with in a battle of wills.

Note to self: Refrain from entering a battle of wills with inanimate objects; you’ll lose.

I should mention that I made a fatal flaw common to Mac owners — I assumed that the stuff would “just work” and didn’t try the DVD burner until after I had spent all day mixing the video, still photos, music, etc., into a movie and was ready to burn it onto a DVD. Doh. I should have realized that the burner was not Apple hardware, and that assumption did not apply. ☹

I should also mention that the Mac software iMovie is pretty nice. I know nothing about video editing, but after messing around with it all day and reading its online help, I made a decent movie for a first-timer. Its companion package for creating and writing DVDs, iDVD, however, seems a bit less mature than iMovie and has some rough edges (and was actually the source of several of my problems, it turned out). Hopefully, the next version of OS X will have an improved version.

The first burner I got simply didn’t work with Macs at all (despite what the guy told me at Best Buy). So I returned it. Best Buy was very cool about it; it was their mistake, so they swapped it with no hassle whatsoever. I got one that supposedly did work with Macs — a Plextor 716UA. But after I plugged it in, I couldn’t get any DVD ROMs to be recognized by OS X. Hrm.

Needing a break, I starting going through all the rebate paperwork from Best Buy (we got somewhere around 37 receipts and rebate forms for all the various gear that we bought). Lo and behold, for buying the camcorder, we were supposed to get a free copy of the Pinnacle software that I just bought! So I returned the software and filed for the free copy (hypothetically, we’ll see it in about 8 weeks).

Returning to the fight-the-DVD-burner project, I finally found small print on apple.com that says that iDVD (and OS X) only works with Apple SuperDrives; it doesn’t write to any other DVD writers. Arrgh!

In the depths of my despair, Andy pointed me to a web page about making iDVD burn to 3rd party DVD writers. Woo hoo! Salvation in sight!

Unfortunately not. Even with the excellent Patchburn utility, I was still unable to get iDVD to write to my Plextor. It would go through all the motions and even write a little data, but then it would fail with one of a few different errors (this would even happen if I simulated writing to the DVD!). I’ve written to the Patchburn author to see if he’s interested in fixing it; we’ll see where this goes. I can successfully burn DVDs from my PC, so I know that the burner is ok. It’s something wrong in OS X / iDVD / astral alignments.

I may end up returning this DVD burner and getting a [cheaper] internal one to put in our Windoze PC (i.e., so much for using the nice iMovie software).

Sigh.

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Comments (2)

perk:

can’t you create the movie on your mac and export it to a file format that can be imported by your PC? I know the subsequent network file transfer would take a while, but perhaps it’s worth it.

Jeff:

Yes, it turns out that this is the only way that I can do it, unfortunately. All other attempts have failed — the PatchBurn author seems to think that I have some kind of flaky fireware connection or controller. [shrug]

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This page contains a single entry from the blog posted on December 29, 2004 2:27 PM.

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