Digitizing Videos in the Visualization Lab

Warning--These instructions are not guaranteed to be error free, it's only a draft. After using the facilities, please send corrections and additions for this guide to Durfee.


Standard VHS and SVHS video tapes can be digitized using the multi-media facilities located in MechE Room 10, center room. Equipment for digitizing is on the right table and includes a professional tape player, an SGI O2 with substantial memory and big local disk, and a nonlinear video editor which runs on the SGI. This guide describes the very basics only. For more, consult instruction manuals and on-line help.

If you only need to do basic video tape editing, and are not digitizing, use the JVC editing decks located on the left table instead. Instructions for use can be found on the MEnet web site.

Getting Started

Sign out a key to use Room 10 center from MEnet in Room 155 MechE. You must have an account on the MEnet system to use the equipment. (If you don't have an account, browse through the MEnet web site, www.menet.umn.edu, to find out how to get one.) Login to the SGI O2 which has machine name vid.me.umn.edu. Power up the JVC video decks to the left of the O2 (2 boxes), and the JVC TV monitor on the shelf above. Pop your source tape into the machine.


  1. On the O2, ALWAYS store files to the local disk (/video/). For example, /video/fiename.mov. When done, copy finished product to your home directory. If you store directly to your home directory, it will take forever since the files are big. Storing locally avoids moving files over the net and is much faster.

Digitizing a video

Run the application mediarecorder on the O2

% cd /video
% mediarecorder &

The cd command changes your working directory to the local O2 disk which will GREATLY improve performance. For information on mediarecorder, see its man page (highly recommended)

% man mediarecorder 

To record a still picture from the attached O2 video camera, click the right button labelled "Media & Source", then select "Image from Connected Source: O2 Video Hardware", then "System Camera". Then click red record button.

To record a movie from the attached O2 video camera, select the left one of the 3 buttons. Hit the red record button to start recording, the blue stop button to stop.

To digitize and record a movie from your video tape, select "Media & Source", then "Movie from Connected Source", then "S-Video Source". Use the JVC tape deck controls to cue up your tape. Hit Play on the JVC deck, then hit the record button on mediarecorder.

Filenames will be moviename.mov

You will have to fuss with recording formats. On mediarecorder, click "Tasks" then "Show Task Settings". You can try these settings, although others may work better for you.

Frame size: 160 x 120
Frame rate: 15 fps
Abort if frames are dropped: yes
File format: QuickTime
Compression: Cinepak

You can get the same settings by selecting "Tasks" then "Movie" then "Web Doc". Note that with these settings, a 20 second movie will result in a 1.3 Mb file. If you change to QuickTime video compression, you get a 2.8 Mb file. A one minute, Cinepak compressed, QuickTime file format movie will be about 3 Mb.

Editing a digitized video

The application moviemaker is a good, easy-to-use, digital movie editor, much the same as Avid Cinema or other computer-based movie editors you may have used.

% cd /video
% moviemaker &

For information on mediarecorder, see its man page (highly recommended)

% man moviemaker 

The man page and on-line help will give you all the information you need, but here are a few hints to get you going.

Page maintained by wkdurfee@tc.umn.edu
Last modified: Tue Jan 4 11:33:25 CST 2000