Digital Video Information



Tables on This Page


What is digital video?
In the past, many of the educational 16 mm films used in the schools were converted to various tape formats.  This format is known as analog video and comes in various tape formats such as VHS, VHS-C, Super-VHS, and Hi-8. While analog video is captured and stored as waves, digital video is stored as one's and zero's and consequently can be saved and edited as digital data on a computer. While analog and digital video can be stored on tapes, digital video can be exported to the computer.

Video Camera Formats

Format Recording Time Records on...
VHS 2 hours VHS tape that will play in a standard VCR.
VHS-C 30 minutes Small cassettes that need to be put in an adaptor to play in a standard VCR.
S-VHS 2 hours S-VHS tapes that will play in S-VHS compatible VCRs.
8mm 2 hours Small 8mm tapes that play in camcorder, not compatible with a standard VCR.
Hi-8 2 hours Hi8 and 8mm tapes
Digital 8* 2  hours Hi8 and 8mm tapes
Mini DV* 30 min. - 2 hours Mini-DV cassette
DVD* 30 min Mini-DVD or Full size DVD/DVD-RW
XDCAM/BRD* Varies by format Blu-Ray Discs
Flash Media* Varies by card Removeable Memory Cards
HDD* Varies by drive size an internal hard drive or ssd drive

* Used for Digital Video

Return to Top

Why use digital video?
Digital video has many advantages over analog video.  One of the main advantages of digital video is that students can create movies with "Hollywood" style features.  Students are motivated and sometimes surprised by their creativity and ability to design the final movie product by cutting and pasting clips, adding sounds, music, transitions, titles, and special effects.  In addition, digital movies may be stored in various formats including VHS tapes, CD's, DVD's, Blu-Ray and on the web.

Advantages of Digital Video Over Analog Video

Digital Video

Analog Video

High quality product. Lower in quality than digital video.
Many new "user-friendly" DV software editing programs. Relatively inexpensive to edit video. Difficult and more expensive to edit.
Can be stored on a CD, DVD, or Blu-Ray and viewed on a computer or DVD player. Tapes must be converted before viewing video on a computer.
Can be transferred to the computer without conversion or loss of image quality. When converting analog video there is a loss of image quality.
Clips can be easily emailed or posted on web sites. Difficult to email or post clips on web sites.
Clips can easily be incorporated into presentation software. Difficult to incorporate clips into presentation software.


Return to Top

Is digital video expensive?
The minor investment in digital video produces outstanding products that are rewarding to both teachers and students.  Since many schools have computers and may have an analog video camcorder, digital video may be produced relatively inexpensively with the purchase of software, video cards, and connectors.  Some vendors bundle these items together for cost savings.   In addition, a large number of computers and cameras will not be needed if teachers carefully plan for digital video activities with individual or small groups of students over extended time periods.  For example, teachers can establish a digital video learning center in the classroom that students can use throughout a marking period.

Return to Top

Is digital video difficult to use?
Most digital cameras are made for home and family use.  In addition,  digital video software programs are made for the average consumer.  Software vendors provide support through tutorials, help menu's, written documentation, and the web.  Many of the programs are designed to be intuitive and easy to use.  In addition, students are resilient and many are willing to explore the software's features.

Return to Top

What equipment is necessary?
Basically, a movie camera, a computer, editing software, and necessary connectors are all that is needed.


Obviously, the best type of camera for shooting digital video movies are digital video cameras, however, movies created from analog cameras such as VHS and Super-8,  may be converted to digital format.

In order for computers to import digital video, a video card is necessary.  Depending on the quality and type of video card, prices may range from inexpensive cards that are less than one-hundred dollars to cards that cost hundreds of dollars.  In addition to a video card, computers should have a relatively fast processor and a lot of memory.  Recommendations for minimum computer specifications may be found by visiting the digital video software vendor's web site.

Digital video editing software can be relatively simple and made for the average consumer or relatively complex and made for the professional.  Sometimes video editing software is packaged with video cards and can save the consumer some expense. 


Depending on the configuration, a connection must be made between the camera and computer, and sometimes the camera, computer, and VCR. The characteristics of the camera and computer will determine the type of connector.  IEEE 1394 (named after the Institute of Electrical and Electronics Engineers) or FireWire™ (a registered trademark of Apple) is the most common type of connector used to connect digital cameras to computers.  While most Apple computers come with FireWire cards and ports, most PC's require the addition of a video card with a FireWire port.  As an alternative to FireWire connections, some digital video cameras may provide a connector to connect the camera to the USB port on a computer, depending on the computer's video card configuration.  For analog cameras, an RCA connector or S-video connector may be necessary to transfer video from a camera or VCR to the computer. 
In recent years, HDMI (High Definition Multimedia Interface), SDI (Serial Digital Interface), and Component Video have come into use.

HDMI Cord SDI Cord Component Video Cables
FireWire™ ( IEEE 1394) HDMI SDI Component Video Cables


Return to Top

How do you choose a digital video movie camera?
The type of digital camera that you choose depends on your goals and price range.  Digital video cameras in the lower price range have less features, are easier to use, and limit your control over the final product.  Higher priced cameras allow you more control over the camera settings and may provide more memory options.  Of course, digital editing software allows for the final manipulation of your product and in many situations,  you may be able to correct some of the problems associated with shooting.  Following are some questions that you should ask when buying a camera.

Questions to Ask about Digital Camcorder Features

The questions below serve as a guide to explore basic features that should be addressed before purchasing a digital camcorder.  Information about these features and comparison charts are available at Manufacturers' web sites.

Price What is your price range?
Recording Format What format does the camera use to record? Does the camera provide the option of using more than one format?
Camera Size What is a comfortable size for you?
LCD/Viewfinder Does the camera have an LCD screen and viewfinder?  How big is the LCD screen?
Optical Zoom Lens What is the magnification on the OPTICAL ZOOM lens? (not digital zoom)*
Still Images Does the camera shoot still images?  What is the resolution of the still images?
Usability How difficult is the camera to use?
CCD How many pixels are in the CCD?**
Low Light Does the camera have a setting for low or night light?
Battery and Charger How long will battery last before recharging?  Does the battery get charged in the camera or in a separate charger?
Accessories What accessories come with the camera?  What accessories do you need?

*Most modern camcorders have at least a 10X optical zoom that should be adequate for general purposes. Manufacturer's may advertise the maximum digital zoom, however, this enlarges part of the image and will result  in a lower quality image. Optical zoom is more important when selecting a digital camera because this does not result in loss of quality.

**CCD's collect visual images and convert them into an analog or digital signal.  Larger CCD's let in more light and may have better quality images.

Return to Top

What are some shooting techniques?
One of the advantages of editing digital video is that you can edit the mistakes made during the shooting process.  If you know you're going to edit a film before shooting, you can use some techniques that will simplify the editing process.  One the common mistakes made by beginners is waving and panning the camera while looking around.  In reality, we actually look at various scenes from point to point.  A series of short fix shots is often better than a long way being shot. 

Although not always practical, the use of a tripod will help steady the camera.  When panning from side to side, keep the camera study, shoot slowly and do not reverse direction in the middle of the clip.  Shots should always be started early and finished late, allowing time for the editing process.  One common mistake made by beginners is to ignore background noise when recording the voice of the subject.  Be sensitive to sounds that may interfere with a subject's voice during shooting.  Obviously, planning and rehearsing will make the editing process easier.  Scripting and storyboarding will help to plan the video.  Knowing the order of the scenes and the role of sounds in the video ahead of time will make the editing process less complicated and time consuming.  You should become familiar with the camera's light settings for various types of exposures.  Test shots should be done to determine if sufficient light is available.  Editing programs will enable you to create special effects such as nighttime scenes in the editing process.

Summary of Shooting Tips

1.  If possible, plan your video using a storyboard and a script.
2.  Become familiar with your camera. Practice several "takes."
3.  Consider using a tripod to steady your camera.
4.  Avoid rapid movement and excessive motion.
5.  Allow plenty of recording time before and after shooting for the editing process.
6.  The date and time should not be recorded on the film unless planned because they may be difficult or impossible to remove in the editing process.
7.  Keep panning and zooming at a slow and steady pace.  Practice these before shooting.
8.  Be sensitive to background noise when recording voice.
9.  Permission for recording should always be obtained by persons who will appear in a video.  In particular, the school district's policy should be checked and parental permission should be obtained before students are recorded in a video.


Return to Top

How do you edit digital video?
Following are  steps that you would take in creating and editing digital video.  Please also note that these are the minimum features that you would find in digital video software editing programs.

Steps in Editing Digital Video

1. Capture your video from the source (camera, VCR or some other device) to the computer.
2. Cut, paste, and sequence your video clips.
3. Insert transitions in between your clips.
4. Insert titles in between or on your clips.
5. Insert special features such as fast or slow motion effects or a black and white overlay.
6. Insert and edit your sounds.
7. Export and publish your video in various formats.


Return to Top

What are the different options for saving and exporting digital video?
Video editing programs provide users with various options for saving and exporting their final edited product.  Decisions must be made as to how the final video will be saved and viewed.  Options are available for exporting to videotapes, CD's, DVD's, Blu-Ray or the web.

Common Digital Video File Types

Source: National Institute of Standards and Technology

File Type File Extension Plays with... Comments
(Developed by Microsoft)
.avi Windows Media Player (now for Mac too) and RealPlayer Generally are larger than MPEG files but can be played on a wider range of computers. Impractical for the Internet.

Developed by the Motion Picture Experts Group)

.mpg or .mpeg

Numerous applications, including Windows Media Player and QuickTime MPEG-4 could become the video standard for the web; MPEG-2 is used for DVD's, the web, and satellite and terrestrial broadcast; MPEG-1 is used for VCDs.
(Developed by RealNetworks)
.rm, *.rv RealPlayer, a free download from RealNetworks One of the most widely used formats on the web.

Developed by Apple Computer)


QuickTime Player, a free download from Apple Computer Can be played on a PC if QuickTime Player is installed.
Flash and Shockwave
.swf Flash or Shockwave Player, free downloads from Macromedia Can play other movie file formats.

Windows Media Video
(Developed by Microsoft)


Windows Media Player, free download, comes with Windows One of the file types created in Microsoft MovieMaker.


Common Disc Formats for Saving Digital Movies

Format Recording Time Plays with... File Type Comments...

Video Compact Disc

74/80 minutes on 650MB/700MB CDs Computers with a DVD-ROM or CD-ROM drive and many DVD players.


The quality of a very good VCD is about the same as a VHS tape based movie but VCD is usually a bit more blurry. Computer needs a CD-burner.

Super VideoCD

35-60 minutes on 74/80 min CDs Computers with a DVD-ROM or CD-ROM drive with the help of a software based decoder / player.  Also plays on many DVD players.


Is very good quality full-motion video along with up to 2 stereo audio tracks. Computer needs a CD-burner.

DVD Recordable

2 hours on a DVD Computers with a DVD-ROM and many DVD players.


Good quality sound and video. Computer needs a  DVD-burner.
Blu-Ray 2 hours per disc layer (most Blu-Ray have multiple layers) Blu-Ray Players, PS3, or Computers with a Blu-Ray drive



Higher quality than any predecessors. Computer needs a Blu-Ray Burner.


Return to Top

How can you put digital video on the web?
All digital video editing programs provide options for exporting files to the web utilizing various formats and compression schemes.  Some digital video clips on the web are software specific and my be viewed by one type of player, for example, RealPlayer.  Other digital video clips may be viewed on the web by one or more players.  All Mac computers have QuickTime player and all Windows computers come with Windows Media Player. 

Digital video editing programs also provide options for creating streaming video files, that is, watching video clips as they download.  Although this technology allows for quick viewing and less waiting time, streaming video is not without technical problems. 

Digital video editing programs usually provide information about file size and estimates about downloading time before exporting a file to be used on the web.  Strong consideration must be given to the user's type of Internet connection and computer features such as memory and processor speed.   More compression generally results in smaller file size and quicker downloads but also results in a loss of quality.  Another factor that affects viewing quality is the screen viewing size of the player.   Video technology for the web is constantly improving and like many other technologies, will become more efficient with time.


Adobe Flash

One of the most efficient methods for putting videos online is using Adobe Flash to embed the movie for viewing in Flash Player, a free download that will play Flash movies and is compatible with 90% of current Internet users.

Some advantages of using Flash to put video online are:


Return to Top

What are some ideas for integrating digital video into the curriculum?

Some Ideas for Using Digital Video in the Classroom

School or Classroom News Broadcasts
Creating Digital Portfolios
Special Classroom Events for Parent's Night
Field Trip Record
Record Oral History.
Reproduce a scene from a book for a book report.
Prove or disprove a scientific concept with experimental phases and student explanations.
Interview local elderly members of the community to find out about past  life and traditions.
Create a school or community video tour of buildings, campuses, or town area.
Create an electronic yearbook project.
Create a video to teach word recognition.
Create a commercial.
Create a demonstration that would be unsafe or impossible to perform in the classroom.
For kindergarten children, film the children at various activities (morning meeting, center time, recess, reading, journaling) and then have them write a script to read to go with the movie.
Film a science experiment.
Reenacting a historic event.
Record a student, class, or school project.

Return to Top


Note: The information on this web site is for educational purposes only.  This web site is copyrighted and protected by U.S. copyright law. Links to this site are welcome.  Any reproduction of information, activities, or pages from this web site are also welcome, however, you must notify

Although every effort is made to update information and broken links, is not funded and time and resources do not permit continual updates of the numerous resources found on this site.

©Raymond S. Pastore, Ph.D.
Professor of Education
1148 McCormick Center
Bloomsburg University
Bloomsburg, PA 17815-1301