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Your "Edit Bay"

With little more than a Mac and DV camera, you can pretty much edit anywhere—I've edited in airport terminals and sitting in my car waiting for a meeting. An edit bay is a place set up to facilitate editing. Primarily, it includes three things: a Mac, a digital camcorder, and a FireWire cable. It might also include a video display (or TV), a comfy chair, a box of videotapes, and a log book. When you're souping up your bay, you might add a nice set of speakers and perhaps a dedicated digital video cassette player. But we're going to start simple: camcorder, Mac, FCP. Minimum configuration.

We won't be capturing video this early in the book, so you can launch FCP with or without your camera connected.

Still, let's go through the steps to make sure you understand how to hook up your camera and Mac. You'll need a 4-pin to 6-pin FireWire cable.

Figure 2The smaller side (the 4-pin side) slides into your camera.

Figure 3The larger side (6-pin "D") plugs into the Mac.

Unlike hooking up car battery jumper cables it really doesn't matter which end you plug in first. What's more, FireWire is designed to be "hot swappable," which means you can plug things in even when your computer is running (in the old days of SCSI, you had to turn everything off before messing with the cabling; this is a fine advancement).

While FCP can be made to look around anytime to see if you've plugged in any new "hot swapped" devices, it is my habit to plug in hardware before I launch the application. It seems to cut down on problems.

This is what it looks like as you hook up your camera to your computer:

  1. Plug the small end of your FireWire cable into your camera.

    Figure 4

  2. Plug the larger end of the FireWire cable into your Mac.

    Figure 5

With your camera and Mac connected, and your camera turned on (and set to VCR mode), you are ready to launch your application and get down to biz.

A Video Monitor

For all but the most basic set-up, a video monitor is really essential. You can certainly edit without one, and if you want the smallest possible configuration, by all means, skip it, but in no time you'll realize that video doesn't look "right" on a computer display. In general, it simply can't. Video plays on TVs in completely different ways than it does on computers. Without getting overly technical, let's just agree that FCP can't play your video smoothly and sharply in its interface, and even when it's playing as well as it can, you're still watching it in a little window.

Figure 6

And thus the problem: To make good editing decisions, you really need to see video in the way it will be ultimately viewed. If something is shot for the big screen of a movie theater, you really need to see it played in a theater. Same with home video. While it's easy to watch your video on the Mac display, or even mirrored on the LCD display of your (connected) DV camera, the ideal way to edit is to take the video signal from FCP and pump it to a television set. This allows you to see the motion, the size, the colors, the framing, as it will look once translated from digital video signal to analog signal—the way it will be when played on a typical television.

Connecting this up is easy, even for me.

Monitors and TVs

To be fair, a television is not really the same thing as a video monitor, although I tend to use the terms interchangeably here. And while we're on the topic, a video monitor is not interchangeable with a computer monitor. The most important difference for us concerns the available plugs on the back (or maybe front) of the display. Monitors designed to display video have an array of input/output plugs (analog, S-Video, and so forth); televisions do not, and sometimes sport only a single RF (coaxial) knobby for connecting up the cable. When you're just starting out, I wouldn't bother purchasing a dedicated monitor; you can get by with an old TV set, which can often be found for cheap or even free.

This Is How I Hook Up a TV

Method 1: Analog Cables Since I usually have my camera hooked up to my computer with the FireWire cable, all I do to see my video on a TV is take the analog output of my camera (using either the S-Video plug or the simple composite analog video/audio plug) and just jack those into any regular TV.

Here's how I plug in the analog cables. This gives me both video (the yellow plug) and stereo audio (the red and white plugs for left and right):

  1. Plug the special RCA-mini plug (a.k.a. the 1.4-inch plug) into the audio/video jack on your camera. It probably doesn't say "analog input or output" but this is what it is.

  2. Figure 7

  3. Plug the three RCA plugs into your video monitor. They likely will be labeled Video and Audio.

  4. Figure 8

Figure 9Some TVs only have a mono input for audio—one plug—and so you must either (1) plug in only one of the two stereo inputs (the red or the white); or (2) get a stereo-to-mono adapter (sometimes called a Y-cord) that will let you push the red and white plugs into one side and then connect the single plug on the other side to your TV.

Method 2: S-Video If you want to use the (higher quality) S-Video signal for the picture, plug an S-Video cable into the camera and into the S-Video input on your monitor (Note: Not all monitors have an S-Video input). Remember that the S-Video cable carries only video and doesn't carry audio, so you'll still need the audio signal (using the connection I described above). Simply unplug the (yellow) video plug, but leave the (red and white) audio cables connected. It looks weird, but it's OK to have the video cable hanging there. If you're particularly fastidious, you could use a different cable that has no yellow audio component, but I don't think it's worth buying a separate cable.

  1. Plug the S-Video cable into the camera.

  2. Plug the other end into the monitor (both ends are the same, so it doesn't matter which way this goes).

  3. Remove the video plug from the analog set-up, and leave it dangling!

  4. Figure 10

Method 3: With a VCR There are a few reasons you might want to insert a regular old VCR (probably VHS) in the middle of all this TV cabling.

First, your TV may not have the S-Video or analog RCA plugs we've been talking about. But even the cheapest old television has a plug for cable service. (This type of plug is known as an RF type, and the cable is called coaxial cable.) The easiest way to get from the camera to the TV with only an RF connector is to put a VCR in the middle:

  1. Plug your camera into the VCR as if it were the TV in methods 1 and 2.

  2. Run a coaxial cable from the VCR output to the TV.

The second reason you might want to do this—even if your TV can be connected to the camera—is so you can make VHS dubs of material on your DV camera. Getting the VCR into the pathway facilitates this.

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