Non-vidder’s guide to making video clips

 

If you just want to make some simple clips without learning all the video editing mumbo-jumbo that vidders need to know, this tutorial is for you! There’s even a quick way for you to watermark your video clips using this process.


WHAT YOU’LL NEED:


  1. BulletA DVD drive in your computer.

  2. BulletAt least 14 GB of spare disk space (for your DVD rip and a little bit extra).

  3. BulletMPEG Streamclip (free video encoder for Windows and Mac).

  4. BulletMPEG-2 Playback component. $20 at Apple.com, or available from your country’s Apple site. This is a plug-in that allows MPEG Streamclip to recognize your ripped DVD files. (Windows users do have a free “workaround” they can use, but it is not friendly with iTunes and I caution against using it.) If you are not in the USA, click on the link for the MPEG-2 Playback component, and look for the drop-down menu (on right side of page) for buying it outside of the United States.


The only money you need to spend with this process is approximately $20 US for the MPEG-2 plug-in. DO NOT WASTE YOUR MONEY on DVD “converters” or other commercial DVD ripping apps. They usually cost more and don’t give you the same flexibility as this process does.


PLEASE NOTE: This process will NOT work for making video clips for fan videos. The clips you make following this tutorial could make your video editing software crash or cause other problems. For more information on the reasons why, read this tutorial.


Getting started:


To make a clip from a DVD, first you have to extract the contents of the DVD (the digital video files, also called “VOB” files) to your hard drive. You’ll need a DVD ripper app to do this. There are several free ones for both Mac and PC. The ripping process is not hard, but you do have to follow directions. This tutorial on the FoolishPassion video forums will show you how to do it, for both Mac or PC.


After you’ve ripped your DVD, you need to locate the special digital video files (VOB) on your hard drive and open them up in MPEG Streamclip. But first, you need to install the MPEG-2 Playback component, so that MPEG Streamclip will recognize the VOB files. (Otherwise you’ll get an error message).


This tutorial on FoolishPassion.org explains how to navigate through your hard drive, open the VOB files, and scroll through the DVD in MPEG Streamclip to find just the scene you want to use for your clip. Don’t follow the whole tutorial (it’ll have you making DV AVI or DV MOV files, which you don’t need for making little web-ready clips), just follow along until you get to the part about “Selecting In and Out Points.” Read that, but go no further. Then return to this tutorial.


WINDOWS 7 USERS: Please note that the “scrolly bar” thing that you use to scroll to your “In” and “Out” point may not be visible in MPEG Streamclip. (It’s there, just not visible.) Do not ask me why, it is bizarre, and is presumably a temporary problem that will be resolved soon. I have had to deal with this when working in Windows 7. You can still scroll around the clip, only you can’t see the scrolly thing. It takes a little finesse but it will work.  If you have a scroll button on your mouse, it will help you to scroll to the right spot in the DVD.





After you’ve selected the clip you want to use, go to “File >> Export to MPEG-4” in MPEG Streamclip.


(This is a screenshot of the Mac version, but the Windows version works the same way.)


















After you select MPEG-4 (MP4) as the type of file you want to make, MPEG Streamclip will bring up a new window with all sorts of options for you to choose.


We’re going to go through all these options, one-by-one. Sit tight!












At the top of the Exporter menu, look for “Compression.”  There’s a drop-down menu where you can select all different kinds of video compression (also known as a “codec,” which stands for compress-decompress).


Select “H.264” from the drop-down menu. H.264 is the same kind of codec (compression) that is used in YouTube videos, iTunes videos, and Apple movie trailers. This video codec is known for its good quality, and will play in the free media player VLC Player, Quicktime, or the Windows 7 version of Windows Media Player.





Next, click on the box that says “Limit Data Rate.” (See green circled area in screenshot to the left.) “Data Rate” (or bitrate) is the quality setting for your video. The higher the number, the higher quality (sharper picture) your video will have.


A good medium quality Data Rate is 1200, so I’ve typed that in there. If you want to make a dial-up quality video, you can go down to 500-700 in the Data Rate. HQ quality could be somewhere between 2000-2500, and HD video can go up to 3500-5000 in the Data Rate.








Next, you’re going to set up the audio for this clip. Look for the settings next to “Sound” (see orange circled area in screenshot). The audio type will automatically be set to MPEG-4 AAC, so leave it there. It should also be set to “Stereo” and “Auto,” which you should also leave as-is. But for the kbps setting, choose something at 128 kbps or above. (The kbps setting in the audio will compare to the audio settings you may have used when you were ripping a CD and making MP3s—128 kbps, 160 kbps, 224 kpbs, are frequently-used settings.)





Now is the part that really gets me if it’s done wrong: Frame size or ASPECT RATIO. Aspect ratio pertains to the proportions of a video. If the proportions are set wrong then everything looks all wonky and distorted. (Not everyone notices this right off, but for those of us who do, it’s like listening to someone sing off key. Yuk!)


Fortunately, MPEG Streamclip is usually quite excellent at selecting the correct aspect ratio for your video. It’s not 100% foolproof, but about 95% of the time, it’ll get it right.


As you can see from the pink circled area in the screenshot above, MPEG Streamclip has automatically selected “1024x576” frame size, and right next to those numbers, is “16:9” in parenthesis. (You might get a different size for 16:9, like 854x480.) Almost all the time, it’s wise to keep the frame size at the setting chosen by MPEG Streamclip. (Sometimes it’ll select the frame size with “16:9” by it, other times it’ll be “4:3” or even some other setting, like for HDTV.) To change this setting might make your video look all stretched out and too fat, or too skinny and elongated. So please, only make changes to this setting if you really know what you’re doing. For more information on aspect ratio, please read this tutorial.


SIZING DOWN A CLIP:


Okay, so maybe the frame size MPEG Streamclip selected for you is just TOOO big for your purposes? You can size it down. Here’s how.


Click on “Other” in the Frame Size area. Then, if MPEG Streamclip had originally selected a frame size that had a “16:9” by it, select the numbers “640 x 360” from the drop down menu.


If MPEG Streamclip selected a frame size which had “4:3” by it, then choose the numbers “640x480.”


If your original clip is one of the HDTV sizes, select “640x360.”


Then look under the area for “Frame Rate” and check the box that says “Better Downscaling” (circled in blue in this screenshot).




TROUBLESHOOTING INTERLACING:


Do you see the weird “comby” lines (especially noticeable in the edges of Mr. Thornton’s collar)? Those are interlacing lines, and you usually want to get rid of them. (Interlacing is sometimes seen in NTSC DVDs, like those purchased in North America or Japan.)


If you see these lines appear, especially during moments of movement in the video, click on the “Delinterlace” check box and most of the time they’ll be gone in your final video.






The “Deinterlace” checkbox.





Optional: Adding a text watermark to your video.


If you want to add some sort of identifying info to your clip, or maybe copyright info or the name of your web site, MPEG Streamclip allows for a way to do that.



Click on the button (near the bottom of the MPEG-4 Exporter window) which says “Adjustments...”


You’ll see that there are a lot of things you can tweak with your video, including brightness/dark, color, and audio volume. At the bottom of the Adjustments menu, is an area to type in some text for your watermark.


The resulting watermark won’t be super pretty, but it’ll get the job done.







A close-up on the text watermark made by MPEG Streamclip. It’ll show up in the lower right corner of the video.














When you have all the settings selected, it’s now time to click the “Make MP4” button at the bottom right of the MPEG-4 Exporter menu and wait while MPEG Streamclip makes your clip. That’s it, you’re done!



This tutorial is dedicated to Alicat of RichardArmitageNet. Thanks again for all the fabulous HD clips, Ali!


Keywords: MPEG Streamclip, video clips, fan videos, aspect ratio, interlacing, frame size, HD, H.264, MPEG-4, codec.