How to create VCD compliant music videos, part 1 - Capturing

Most of us digital video freaks already have a stand-alone DVD player connected to the TV, and the rest of the home-theater system -- and on the other hand, most of us already have some basic music TV channels like MTV, MTV|2, VH1 and so on provided by our local cable operator. Despite these facts, people seldom collect music videos like they collect MP3s. Music videos, when stored in VCD format, are a very convenient way to collect music videos, because VideoCDs can be played back with almost all regular DVD players in the same fashion as we play CDs on our stand-alone CD players. On the other hand, music videos tend to take up at least 30 megabytes each, which limits normal modem users possibilities from downloading music videos off the Net. Also much of the material available is encoded in less-than-acceptable quality, making the videos worthless for people who actually want to collect high quality music videos. So, the easiest solution now is to make your own VCD compatible music videos.

Required stuff

First of all you need alot of free HDD space -- at least 5 gigabytes for a reasonable amount of (uncompressed) music videos. Secondly you will need to have a video capture card that supports some kind of basic, not-so-lossy compression like MJPEG or similiar format. Cards that are suitable include Matrox Marvel G200, G400, Rainbow Runner, most of the Hauppauge cards and ATI AllInWonder.

Additionally, you need bunch of software tools:

  • AVI_IO, an excellent shareware capture tool, available from this URL
  • VirtualDub, a superb freeware video editing software, available from this URL
  • MPEG-1 encoder -- either one of these:

    • Panasonic MPEG-1 Encoder, unfortunately this excellent MPEG-1 encoder is commercial
    • TMPGEnc, freeware MPEG1/2 encoder


AVI_IO is an absolutely brilliant video capture tool, even though its user interface is a bit confusing, and it has some weird limitations/features that make it hard to understand at first glance. Nevertheless it is definitely worth the few minutes you spend playing with its features and settings. The program is shareware and has a few rather annoying limitations in the evaluation version, although those limitations are easy to cope with. I recommend everybody to register this excellent tool -- it costs only $25.

AVI_IO's Capture settings

Go to File menu and select Capture Settings. Adjust the settings to match this:

  • Frames per Second - set this as 25.00 for PAL (Europe) or 29.97 for NTSC (USA)
  • Detect signaldrop after #of drops - set this as zero
  • Capture time limit - untick
  • Custom frame size - untick
  • Record audio - tick
  • VU Meter - untick (just to prevent you and your shaky mouse hand to f..k up the audio levels during the capture)
  • Abort = right mousebutton - untick
  • Abort = left mousebutton - untick
  • Start messagebox - untick, otherwise system brings up a stupid popup before each capture

The only problematic section of this dialog box is the disk assignment part -- this is exactly the one that I referred as "weird" earlier. In real life, you should just choose one of your partitions as a capture partition -- pick the one that has the fastest HDD, most free space and smallest number of small files (small files slow down the HDD significantly). You probably see a default partition already in the settings. Select this and click Modify Disc. The program brings up a dialog box where you can choose the partition and the filename you want to use for your capture files (name really doesn't matter now, I personally use something like musicvideo.avi as you will rename the files after MPEG-1 encoding anyway). After you've done this, select the maximum filesize for the captured file -- this value cannot exceed the amount of free space you have on your partition where you just selected the file to be saved. I strongly recommend you to enter something relatively large in here -- if you have 6GB of free space, I would recommend you to set something like 2-4GB here (using Matrox MJPEG codec, you can fit 10minutes of video into 2GB). This setting is extremely important, because AVI_IO doesn't allow you to capture longer clip than what you've entered in here -- if you have set your settings so that you can fit 5minutes of video into that space, you're in trouble if you want to capture something that happens to be a 6-minute video or two good tracks in a row. Also, remember to set these values:

  • Assign sessionnumbers - tick this and set the number as zero
  • Insert drops as full frames - tick this, this setting prevents audio and video to unsync
  • Audio interleave in millisec - set this to 500
  • Align to disc sector - tick this

AVI_IO's Video Settings

Go to the Video settings menu and select Format. Note! This piece is different in all capture cards, so you just have to figure out your own card's settings! This part is made with Matrox Marvel G200TV in Windows 2000. In G200's menu, you see four different selections, one of them is MJPEG - select this. Now click Set video size from the same dialog and program pops up a new box that allows you to select the compression level and video size. When capturing music videos (or almost any video) I recommend using full resolution and high quality compression -- this takes up tons of HDD space, but its worth it. In PAL format the full resolution is 704x576 (in some cards the width varies a little bit). As a compression level, choose the one that compresses video the least (in this case, MPEG Quality is set as Medium high, saving a little bit in HDD space, but still providing excellent video quality). After you've done your selections, click OK and the dialog closes and you're back in the previous dialog. Click OK again and you're done with this selection.

AVI_IO's Audio Settings

The audio will be encoded at same time with the video, so we leave audio uncompressed for now. Go to Video Settings menu and select Audio Settings and choose Format. Set the Attributes as 44,100kHz; 16bit; Stereo; 172kb/sec. This audio quality is the best for music TV captures. After you've made your selections, click OK.

AVI_IO's Source Settings

This, once again, is one these settings that is different in all video capture devices, so we can't give you any exact details how to do this. Go to Video settings menu and select Source. Now you see your capture card's settings -- here you can normally choose the source material, format, etc.. Select the input source you are using, choose the correct video format (PAL in Europe, NTSC in U.S.). If you see the correct video in AVI_IO's main screen, you're good to go. After this, click OK.

Other stuff about AVI_IO you should remember

Go to Video Settings menu and select Compression. In here, select Compressor, choose No recompression and click OK. From Video Settings menu, select Overlay mode -- this doesn't consume your CPU resources so much. From Devices menu check thet correct video capture device is selected. After this is done, go to File and Save settings.

Ok, cut the crap...

The capture process itself is pretty much a matter of taste -- everybody does it his/her own style. In AVI_IO the control buttons are obvious, recording begins when that red button is clicked and is ended by clicking the black square. The method I use for music video capturing is the way that ensures you get the full video, including possible fade-in / fade-out sequences. When I see that the video which is currently playing on the TV, is about to end, I hit the record button -- this ensures that I get the next video in full, in case it is something that I want to capture. If not, I just hit stop when the video begins and I recognize which one it is (note! with the settings we have set for AVI_IO, the program asks after you've hit stop, do you want to resume the recording. I usually choose No.) and remove the clip from the hard drive immediately after I've done this in order to save HDD space and to prevent AVI_IO's evaluation restrictions to hamper the capturing.

On the other hand, if the video that I captured is something I want to preserve, I wait until the next video begins -- sometimes music video channels tend to run videos right after another and the second video might also be one that I want to have -- also by doing this I prserve possible fade-outs. After I've finished the capturing, I go to Windows Explorer and rename the track immediately to something more reasonable than musicvideo.avi, maybe like Linkin Park - Papercut.avi -- this is done for two reasons; first of all, it's alot easier to remember which track it is later on and secondly this is done because of AVI_IO's evaluation restrictions.


These instructions should help you to create high quality music video captures (or Teletubbies, or whatever that is you want to capture). I don't recommend anyone to capture from VHS tapes, as the VHS quality is much worse than VCD quality. And remember that videos you now have, are in RAW format which is not suitable for storing. Next I would recommend that you read through my guide how to encode these videos into VideoCD compliant format using TMPGEnc - this guide can be found here. If you have any comments or questions, please feel free to visit our discussion boards.
Written by: Petteri Pyyny