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Desktop Video AGOCG Report

Microsoft Video for Windows

Microsoft's attempt at setting a digital video software standard is Video for Windows, which enables users to record and play back sequences on any suitably equipped PC. The minimum configuration officially required is a 386SX with VGA, a sound card and a large capacity hard disk in short the base MPC specification. In reality, this will allow only limited playback because adding video to a computer is a complex process. A capture board is required to record images and a fast processor such as a 386DX is required in order to be able to play them back at a rate approaching 25 frames per second with software alone. The Video for Windows package comes complete with a CD-ROM containing Microsoft's own video clips.

The software is split into five small programs: two main applications and three utilities for editing and viewing images. The first of the main applications is VidCap, which handles the job of getting pictures and audio from a suitable source into the machine and onto the hard disk.

The second, VideoEdit, is the most important since it lets the user edit, compress and store sequences for replay. Compression is crucial to digital video and is handled here by plug-in, specially written routines.

When Video for Windows stores data it uses a method known as Audio Video Interleave (AVI), which lays down video with corresponding audio information in an interleaved format. This makes for quick loading, as playback applications need only access a few frames of video and a portion of audio at a time, thus eliminating the need for complex synchronisation routines.

The standard method for playing back Video for Windows files is through the Windows Media Player, which boasts Microsoft's standard 3D tool-bar interface. The other small utilities supplied are WaveEdit, BitEdit and PalEdit, for editing sound, still images and colour palettes respectively. All are basic in comparison to the two main programs, but equally useful for developing video clips.

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