Working on digital video files

Last modified 29.01.2022 | Published 09.10.2012Media articles

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Working on digital video files may not be easy. This post deals with the challenges of digital video formats, making them available on different platforms and splitting long files.


As described in my previous article I have captured my video tapes onto a computer, and I have survived four different video technologies over the years.


Naming and formatting issues

MOD, MPG, AVI, MP4 and AVCHD are all film formats that have been copied to my disks over the years. All producers have their own formats and formats change over time. They are all making it a hassle for us consumer amateurs.


Example 1 of how camcorder producers are not helping their customers

JVC’s file extension is called MOD and was basically unreadable on my computers. There were two solutions. One was to run the video file through a program like Nero (which I bought, installed and later removed as useless) or the Cyberlink software (that came bundled with one of my cameras) converting it into MPG. Any such converting process would result in a new compression and subsequently a loss of quality.

My solution to the MOD problem was much easier and without the loss of quality. I simply renamed the extension from MOD to MPG. Just like that. Actually I downloaded a free editing program (Bulk Rename Utility) and used it to rename the extension from MOD into MPG as a batch job on thousands of video files. Voilá, the files were available in Windows in a few seconds. (I think I read somewhere that doing this same job on MOD files from Sony will result in the audio being removed.)


Example 2 of how camcorder producers are not helping their customers

My current camcorder Panasonic produces a proprietary format called AVCHD. If I use their program to copy the files to disk, they are stored in a separate folder with a fixed name and with the time-date information in separate files. None of these can be changed to the better. This is completely worthless.

When I use Windows Explorer I am forced to copy (drag-and-drop) the files from the camera to the disk. This results in a wrong date and time.


Example 3 of how camcorder producers are not helping their customers

Unlike JPG files (photo) film files cannot have their “Date taken” changed, indeed “Date taken” is not a valid video field. In my system of numbering all media files are named in a sequence (see my section about this topic); this causes a lot of manual work.


Example 4 of how camcorder producers are not helping their customers

Extension names and video formats all demand an updated codec pack on your PC. (What’s that?)

Not all codecs will work on all players and you will have to make sure you have the right ones installed. This is of course a constant annoyance. Recently I had trouble playing back video clips imported from my iPhone 4s running the new iOS 6.

Still: format trouble is nothing compared to the task of making old files available on a digital platform. Read more about that in another article. And then you have the task of splitting.


Splitting large files into manageable chunks

I had imported 44 hours of video recorded on tape to my computer. The next step was to use software to split the files into individual scenes. That scene may range from 5 to 60 seconds, rarely any longer. The splitting process resulted in 2,632 video files. Then I imported them into my media archive.

Read more about my media archive and about storing data safely.

In planning for these two steps, capturing and splitting, I tried and tested a number of software solutions – freeware, shareware and paid programs. None of them was perfect. A huge problem was finding a program that would not go about rendering a file one more time, resulting in a loss of quality. I don’t think I ever found one.

By the way, none of my videos went through any other changes, unlike my pictures. I haven’t made any colour corrections and so on, perhaps because of a lack of proper programs to help me.

I have kept my tapes stored away just in case…


Further reading

I am discussing the tremendous task of creating a digital collection of media in a series of articles.