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electronic MUSICIAN

Making Tracks: Picture for Sound

By Rusty Cutchin | April 1, 2008

photo of eyeTV Hybrid

FIG. 1: Elgato''s EyeTV Hybrid plugs into a USB 2.0 port on a Mac and has connections for composite and S-Video cables from external video sources, as well as a coax connector to handle cable TV channels.

Musicians often have their hands full dealing with audio in their studios, but a new generation of low-cost tools may make adding basic video-editing capabilities irresistible. An entire setup, including a video-input interface and editing and DVD-authoring tools, can cost less than a DAW application.

I recently digitized a televised performance by a country-rock band I led in the early '90s. I had a single good-quality VHS copy of the telecast, which had been taped professionally by a local cable company. I wanted to edit the video and improve the audio using MOTU Digital Performer 5 on my dual 2 GHz Power Mac G5 with wide-screen display.

Getting Video In

The latest generation of low-cost video-input devices is surprisingly capable. I used the EyeTV Hybrid (see Fig. 1) by Elgato (www.elgato.com). The $150 package includes the versatile EyeTV digital tuner-recorder software. You can use the EyeTV software on any Mac with 256 MB of RAM running Mac OS X 10.4 or later. However, the hardware requires a built-in USB 2.0 port to capture video, and image quality depends on your processor. You'll need a fast Mac for standard-definition (640 × 480) video.

The hardware sports a coax cable connector for live TV signals, and composite and S-VHS connections for recording video from other sources. For PCs, Pinnacle's PCTV HD Ultimate Stick ($130; www.pinnaclesys.com) is a similarly designed product with extra tuner capabilities.

Splitting Audio Out

EyeTV records video as MPEG stream files, but I used the program's export function to convert the recordings to DV format for editing. For isolating the audio tracks, EyeTV can also export to AAC or Apple Lossless Audio. I didn't want to compress audio at this stage, so I chose the latter. Using iTunes I converted the Apple Lossless files to AIFF for import into Digital Performer. I then assigned each song its own track in DP.

I wanted to compress the audio (to bring the band up), add some reverb, and perform a few minor edits. I used DP's MasterWorks Compressor, eVerb, and 8-band parametric EQ to bring out the bass on certain tracks. I used the EQ and compressor as inserts on each track, with each DP mixer channel accessing eVerb through an aux send. As each song's mix was finalized, I used DP's Bounce to Disk function to save an MP3 right to my Mac's desktop. As each MP3 appeared, I double-clicked on it to bring it into the iTunes library.

In the Life

For video editing, I found Apple iLife '08 ($79; www.apple.com) to be a major value. The suite includes the newly redesigned iMovie 7, iDVD 4, and GarageBand 7, along with iPhoto and iWeb. The new iMovie lets you edit a movie quickly and export it to a format ready to play on devices like iPods or to share on YouTube, as well as to burn onto a DVD.

The redesigned iMovie dropped some important features, like the ability to embed chapter index points at exact locations (you can place them only at fixed intervals). But surprisingly, you can add specified index points to imported video in GarageBand. I hope Apple will restore this capability in a future iMovie update.

To edit a video in iMovie, you import your DV files to the Event Library window. You select portions (clips) of these videos and drag them into a project window. The clips are played in sequence in a viewer. You can move the clips around easily, drop in new ones, change their length, replace a clip's audio, and so on.

Because iMovie syncs with iTunes and iPhoto seamlessly, you can drop in a still or a mix from the Media window by clicking on dedicated iTunes or iPhoto buttons. For each video clip of a song, I simply turned off the clip's embedded audio, grabbed my remix of the same audio from the iTunes pane, and dropped it under the clip. The new audio, called a voice-over, can be nudged or edge edited to line up with the video.

Home-Video Studio

When my edited video's new audio was placed, I exported the whole thing to a new DV-format file. I then used iDVD's collection of themes, transitions, and effects to set up menus before importing my final audio-video mix and burning to DVD.

Apple iLife doesn't do everything that pro media apps do, but it provides many professional features for an amazing price. PC users have a wealth of video-editing options, including Sony Vegas Movie Studio 8 (www.sony.com), Adobe Premiere Elements 3 (www.adobe.com), and Pinnacle Studio 11. Each is available in more than one configuration, so check out versions and pricing online. For less than $300, I was able to add basic video capability to my studio, archive a valued analog performance, and impress some clients who have band videos of their own.

Rusty Cutchin is a producer, engineer, and music journalist in the New York City area.

STEP-BY-STEP INSTRUCTIONS

1

Step 1: Connect a video-capture device such as the EyeTV Hybrid to your computer''s USB 2.0 port.

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Step 2: Export the captured MPEG stream to a video format such as DV, and export the stream''s audio track to a format such as Apple Lossless Audio.

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Step 3: Use iTunes to convert the Apple Lossless Audio to AIFF for import into Digital Performer or another DAW.

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Step 4: Import audio into your DAW and sweeten to taste. Export the finished audio to a format that can be added to the iTunes library.

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Step 5: Import converted video into iMovie and edit as needed. Grab the new audio from the iTunes pane in the Media window and drop it under the corresponding clips. Save the final edit to your destination format.

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Step 6: Use iDVD to create menus, select transitions, add or import chapter stops, and burn to DVD.

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Additional Resources

Elgato EyeTV Hybrid

Pinnacle Systems PCTV HD Ultimate Stick

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