Most of the current generation miniDV (or Digital-8) consumer digital camcorders produce very impressive results compared to what was available just a few years ago, and for a fraction of the price.
Windows XP comes with a program called Windows Movie Maker, which, if you keep your video files in the DV-AVI format throughout the editing process, eventually results in a DVD with image quality very close to that the original digital camera tapes.
(Windows Movie Maker doesn't support DVD burning directly, and so you have to turn the final edited .avi file into a DVD with a DVD "authoring" program in a separate step, but this is usually quite straightforward. Suitable software often comes bundled with DVD burners).
It has occured to me that this could be an excellent way for beginning cinematographers to get some high quality output without spending too much money. If there was some way to get your 16mm (or whatever) footage transferred onto the same tape format as a consumer digital camcorder, the rest of the process from raw footage to "presentation" DVD could be done for little more than the cost of a blank DVD. "Bulk" distribution via recordable DVD is dirt cheap and you can even make impressive-looking DVD labels for next to nothing.
If you have access to any sort of crystal-sync camera, the audio could be recorded on a standard cassette deck, or even better, one of the new personal MP3 players that have line record inputs. Windows Movie Maker lets you import separate audio files onto the video timeline, and you could sync these up by using a variation of the old-fashioned clapper board technique, simply sliding the audio clips along the timeline until the spike on the Audio waveform lines up with the frame where the clapper closes. Most consumer cassette decks have quite good record/playback speed stability as long as the tapes are played back on the same machine they were recorded on. For short takes they would be more than adequate.
The next step would be to let WMM convert all that to an "intermediate" avi output file, which would consist of a continuous a collection of wild takes but with the sound and image locked into sync. You'd then re-import that into WMM and then do your non-linear editing in the normal manner. You can also add music and titles and quite a good range of special effects.
Windows Movie Maker may not be the be-all and end-all, but it is a surprisingly sophisticated program for a piece of freeware. About the real deficiency is that it doesn't allow you you do insert editing (well not easily).
Apart from those limitations, there's little to distinguish a DVD made using Movie Maker from one made with a much more expensive editing program.
The question is, how readily available is telecine transfer to MiniDV or Digital-8? Or can you get it supplied as an AVI file on a DVD? MiniDV AVI chews up 1 Gigibyte every five minutes, so you'd only get about 20 minutes per disc, but that would be OK, considering the low cost of discs these days.
Edited by Mark Wilson, 16 August 2006 - 11:02 PM.