Picture of Arlo Midgett

Arlo Midgett

Phone: 907.796.6375
Email: arlo.midgett@uas.alaska.edu
Home: http://blog.arlomidgett.com
Other Info

There comes a time in every Digital Media Specialist’s career when certain questions must be answered.  “Real or QuickTime?” for instance, or “Does Apple’s slick packaging and uncluttered GUI warrant a simultaneous performance drop and price increase?”


A worker in a more prestigious field – a short order cook, say – may scoff at such frivolous dilemmas.  He or she may think to themselves, “Self, I scoff at such frivolous dilemmas!”


This hypothetical short order cook could be right; file space requirements as they pertain to video quality matter little outside the elitist digital media circles.  But is a food service industry professional ever faced with a one-time, life-altering decision to use their powers for good or evil?


I think not.


My time has come.  I will lend my powers to the forces of good.



I’m a big fan of small gadgetry.  I often spend ludicrous amounts of time researching my next technological doohickey purchase.  A tiny MP3 player.  The lightest laptop.  Digital cameras that fit in Altoids tins.  When Gizmodo puts up new gizmos, I’m inevitably drawn to them like a rabbit to carrots.  Carrots laced with crack.


People around me recognize I’m in the zone; they get the vibe.  Before long, they’re contemplating the outflow of their own cash in an attempt to increase their hi-tech prowess.  That’s when our life-paths cross in space-time.


You see, I’m often asked for suggestions on which video editing software should be purchased, which cell phone is best, or which digital video camera will instantly turn one into a renowned filmmaker.  My modesty has soared to new heights over the years as I’ve inadvertently become the go-to guy for helping others make informed purchasing decisions.  But as ever more similar questions arise, I realize that a public forum for these suggestions may decrease my workload.  Let me slack, if you will.


Are you stressing out over the cost of a new digital camera?  Need help translating the specs on that fancy inkjet printer?  Is an iPod worth the money, or would a lesser mp3 player suit you just as well?  (Heck, want to know how to do something in PhotoShop?!)  Come, gentle folk, with your gadget quandaries; let me show you the path and ease the opening of your wallet.  I mean your conscience – ease your conscience.


I will do my best to understand your unique situation (i.e., you’ll have to tell me what you want and how much you’re willing to spend) and offer a suggestion or two in this weblog for the benefit of any and all who may have similar considerations.  I may not always have the answer, but at the very least, I’ll be able to help you get started on the all-important research.


Come, bask in the ponderous light of my wisdom.

Add New Weblog Entry Drafts ()
Tuesday, April 05, 2005

DVD Authoring

Here's a fun one.  Mel left me a voice mail message asking (for a friend) if Premiere Elements would allow them to make DVDs.  My quick answer was delivered via MSN Messenger:

Arlo says:Hey, look at that. You ARE on Messenger!

Mel says:lol

Arlo says:Short answer, btw: No, Premiere Elements won't make DVDs, though it's a nice way to edit your video to get them READY for DVDs. Adobe's solution for DVD authoring (menus, etc.) is Encore. But it's spendy and techie-oriented.

Mel says:Who the full verison of Premiere work?

Mel says:not who ... would

Arlo says:Nope. Premiere is JUST an editor.

Arlo says:I usually suggest Ulead's DVD Moviefactory to new DVD creators. It's easy enough, pretty darn capable, costs about $75 for the full version... and has a 30 day trial that lets you use every part of it.

Mel says:cool... thanks so much...

Mel says:Is there a website?

Arlo says:www.ulead.com, I'm pretty sure.

Arlo says:Yeah, check it out at Ulead's website. Recommend that they download it and give the trial a go. BTW, it's obvious to me, but maybe you should mention that the person will need a DVD-R (burner) to actually make the DVD!

Mel says:thanks again... Have a great day!

Arlo says:Sure, see ya later!

Monday, April 04, 2005

Frame Grabbing

I am in the process of ordering a new laptop off of a grant and have a little money left for vidoe capture software. I will be getting a Dell Inspiron 6000 with a 1.60 PGHz Pentium M
Processor, Windows XP OS, 2 GB memory, 80 gb harddrive and a 300 Gb external HD.

Can you help me identify software that I can load onto the laptop that will replace the Adobe Premiere circa 1999 that I have loaded onto the computer in HB 105? I just need to capture S-video still imagery off of my microscopes and save in tiff or other format.



I spent a goodly portion of the day searching for a solution to your needs.  Surprisingly, there's very little information out there on a "still image capture only" device!  I can think of a half-dozen different devices and software packages that will allow you to capture VIDEO, but I've been thwarted in my attempts to find a *simple* frame grabber.

The good news is that there are some things out there that I *think* will work perfectly well (and a low cost).  The only problem is that in their marketing specs the don't specifically mention still image grabbing.

Here's what I'm leaning towards: Pinnacle Systems' Dazzle DVC90 --

It's USB 2, which your laptop has (I checked).  It's relatively small, and it will accepted normal, analog inputs (like the S-video connection on your microscope.)  The software has full video capture capabilities, so you'll be able to edit anything you want...  

Unfortunately, I can't figure out if it has a "frame grab" button.  Assuming the worst, this means that you would have to capture a video clip (even a short one, say 1 second), opened it in the editor, and export the frame you want as a still image.  I think this is a WORKABLE solution, if not an IDEAL one.  And who knows?  Maybe it DOES have a "frame grab" button somewhere...

All this for around $75 (not including shipping and handling).  What do you think?  Worth the risk, or should I keep searching?


I appreciate the time you have spent on this. I will have about $250-$300 to spend on this if needed....Would it be better to go with a more full blown video editing software to give me more versitality? The frame grab capture of s-video images is the main need but multi-tasking with the capacity to edit videocam footage is always useful in this day and age for ENVS "active processes".

If you wouldn't mind and have the time why don't you check out a few other options.
Much appreciated.


Okay, good news.  My student assistant, Kirsa, and I did a little more digging and it looks like my assumption was mostly correct -- we're looking at the right product for you.

I already mentioned the hardware you'll need, the Dazzle DVC90.  It comes with a entry-level editing program called "Studo Quickstart."  Now, it's still possible that package will be all you'll ever need, but upgrading to the full version of "Studio" will guarantee it.

Kirsa found this entry in the Studio FAQ that indicates that it'll do the job: 

Q:"Can I grab still shots from my digital camcorder with Studio? What about a digital camera?"
A:"The Studio frame grabber can freeze and save the image in several popular formats (bmp, jpg), either from a camcorder or from captured video. You can then insert the stills into the project or save it as a file on your hard drive. Once on your hard drive you can manipulate it in any way you see fit. You can find more information in the Studio Manual or in the online help under "Still Image" and "Frame Grabber.""

I also found a tutorial about frame grabbing with Studio.  You might want to bookmark it if you plan to follow my purchasing suggestions:  http://www.tcf.ua.edu/TVCrit/frames03Still.htm#windows

So, it looks like the purchase of two products will do everything you asked (as well as keep you well under-budget!)

Pinnacle Systems Dazzle Digital Video Creator 90 = ~$75
Pinnacle Systems
Studio Version 9 = ~$75

150 clams, plus shipping and handling.  I'll leave it to you to decide from where to order it, but Froogle.com or Shopper.com might be good places to start...


Monday, March 21, 2005

Digital Cameras

Dear Arlo

I am thinking about buying a digital camera but do not know how to get the most out of my money. I want to have the ability to control the shutter speed and the f stops, and i dont want my photos to be to pixely. What do you suggest?


Dear Pixelated,

I'm already thinking of how to answer your question, but I want some more information to go on first. 

1) How much are you willing to spend? 
2) Which features are the most important to you (try ranking them):

Zoom capability
Picture Quality (or put another way, maximum print size)
Camera size/weight
Manual controls

That'll help me a lot!



HDD & HD Wed Jan 17 07:58:36 2007

My cousin is looking at the SONY DCR-SR40 since it has the internal hd. Do you have any at UAS or have you ever touched one to see if they are any good? I've read reviews but wondered if you had any real life experience
with any of the cameras like that.

I'm a mini dv guy myself....but the ease of transfering the data is looking pretty sweet....just not sure the technology is there yet to invest in at this moment. I may break down and get a second camera for digitizing and shooting a lock down shot for my weddings this summer.

Any thoughts?


No hands on experience with HD nor hard disk cameras, I'm afraid.  Couple concerns about each, though:

HD is recorded (in all but high end cameras) as MPEGII or MPEG4.  This means that your editing program will MORE THAN LIKELY have to convert it before editing.  In reality, it won't affect the quality because the final step of editing will be to apply all your edits to the original footage, but it does mean you'll spend quite a bit of time crunching through the conversions.

Hard drive cameras?  Probably a good idea as far as workflow goes; you can jump right into editing.  Plus, longer uninterrupted shoots (4 hours is standard, I think).  But for vacations?  Can't really buy new tapes when you want more footage.  Also, what about archiving your original footage?  There are plenty of solutions (offload to computer, offload to external hard drives, offload to tapes, etc.) but one should SERIOUSLY consider that before running out of hard drive space!  I can place my hands on footage I shot 5 or 6 years ago on MiniDV.  Would I be able to do the same with an HDD camera?

On the plus side, if you're willing to void your warranty, there are already sites out there that will walk you through installing a larger hard drive into your camera!