Digital Video Essentials
Book Review

Digital Video Essentials
by Erica Sadun

US $29.99 CA $ 47.95
ISBN 0-7821-4198-6
252 pages including index, CD with demo software and training video included

Eria Sadun has a thing for digital imaging and video. A previous work, iMovie 2 Solutions Tips, Tricks, and Special, was reviewed last December with great notices.

Digital Video Essentials should be considered to be a prequel to her iMovie book, even though it was just published a few months ago. Why a prequel? Digital Video Essentials is a general overview to the entire digital video experience, whereas iMovie 2 Solutions is great exposition on mid-level to advanced iMovie-editing techniques. If you are just plunging into the digital video ocean, and have no experience with actually shooting video footage, than you need to walk before you run.

Sadun starts with the fundamentals of digital video; analog versus digital, FireWire vs. USB connections, DVD versus VCD. This section is mercifully short, as the vast majority of readers will already own a digital videocam, and won’t need to worry about the subtleties of using analog to digital converter boxes.

Many pages are devoted to the filmmaking aspects of digital video. This is the best part of the book. The lack of planning and not understanding basic film technique is what puts the “amateur” in “amateur video.” If you read, think about, and employ the concepts and techniques Sadun presents, your video projects will have at least something in common with Spielberg’s and Huston’s movie epics: good planning, lighting, composition, and editing. There’s far more to making successful videos than having an expensive camera and gee-whiz editing software. If your footage has bad lighting, incoherent movement, and garbled sound, then you won’t be able to salvage it in the editing process. So, fight your desire to skip the “boring part” to get to the information on editing and burning software; it’ll be worth your while. You won’t be an expert, but you’ll have a working grasp of the basics, and your videos will reflect your study.

Once you’ve captured the footage, and transferred to your computer, you need to edit it. Digital Video Essentials is a cross-platform book, and Sadun devotes equal time to the Macintosh and Windows platforms. Windows applications may get a few more pages, simply because of the greater number of Windows editing applications in the marketplace. But, unlike her comprehensive iMovie book, Digital Video Essentials does precious little more than scratch the surface of how to use each of the many video and audio editing applications she presents. While it’s frustrating that you learn only how to do basic editing, the space requirements to cover each app in detail would be impracticable. Novices will need more detail than Sadun provides; so get a book devoted to the application you’ll use.

Once you have your masterpiece “wrapped” and “in the can,” you may want other people to see it. Burning DVD’s and VCD’s get a full chapter, again split between Macintosh and Windows. I found the content devoted to creating video for streaming over the Web to be a good introduction to Web video delivery. As in other technical sections, Sadun hits the highlights, and tells the reader where to go to get more detailed information. Exporting digital video to VHS tape via a digital video camera or a converter box is touched on, as well.

Digital Video Essentials production values are good. The type is crisp and the layout attractive. The screen shots are generally good, although some photos are washed out.

Conclusion: Digital Video Essentials is a 232 page attempt to teach the basics of film making, video editing, and media creation. It is somewhat successful. But the film making fundamentals alone could really use the entire 232 pages, or more! I think Sadun’s attempt to shoehorn both filmmaking and film editing/media production into one slim volume falls a bit short. But a more comprehensive effort to cover the material would have brought the book into the “boat-anchor” category, and I’ll bet that is not what Sybex had in mind.

If you have no idea what is involved with producing digital video, this is a good overview, especially the discussion of how to plan and shoot good footage. You’ll come away with a grasp of what’s involved, but you’ll need to buy a manual for your specific editing and burning applications.

MacMice Rating: 3.5 out of 5

David Weeks

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