How to create digital video and audio

The development of digital video has made it easy to create your own film on your home computer or tablet.

Before digital there was analogue video and, before that, film. Film was very time-consuming to edit afterwards. You would have to cut it into pieces and stick it together with tape to make an edit.

Now you can take an analogue source, such as a video or audio tape, and capture it on a computer. This converts the information into a digital format made up of numbers which a computer can understand and store. This process is known as ‘digitisation’.

Recording

Plan before you shoot

Before you start recording, you need to plan what you want to record. This will make sure you don’t waste any time.

If you are filming video, you could try using a storyboard to sketch out your ideas. If you are recording sound you might want to make a list of the sound effects you need or write a script for all of the dialogue.

Digital files

Most modern cameras and sound recorders will store information as digital files, so there is no need for tapes at all.

You can then import these digital files directly onto a computer to edit them. You can sometimes edit them on the recording device itself.

A boy and a girl planning a storyboard
A storyboard looks a bit like a cartoon strip and it can help you plan the scenes and types of shots you want to record.

Importing and staying organised

Once you have recorded your video and audio, you need to import the digital files onto your computer ready for editing.

When you import your files they will be added to your computer’s media library. You can sometimes have lots of files after shooting so it is really important to keep your library organised.

File names

You should make sure that the files you import have sensible file names or are tagged. You don’t want files called ‘audio 13’ or ‘video 45’ because you will forget what they contain.

It’s also a good idea to store your files in folders with useful titles, for example ‘My trip to the beach’.

A screenshot of organised file names on a computer.
It's important to keep your files organised and to use sensible names.

Editing

When your video clips have been imported, it’s time to start editing. This is where you bring together all your video, audio and images to make a film.

Editing takes place on a timeline. You place all your content on the timeline to start building your project. The first task is to trim clips and arrange them in order.

Then, when you are happy with the structure, you can add any special effects or titles.

Remember to keep saving your project file as you go. Editing usually takes a bit of time!

An illustration of a video editing program.

What is exporting?

Once you have finished editing your project you might want to share it. To do that you will need to export it.

When you export your project, all the edits and effects will be combined together into one completed file. The exported file is not normally something you will edit again.

If you want to re-edit your work at a later date, you will need to make changes to the project file.

Compression

It is possible to ‘compress’ (squeeze) an audio or video file to reduce its size. A smaller file size means it will take up less room on your computer.

There are two types of compression: ‘lossy’ and ‘lossless’.

Lossless compression works by rewriting the data so it is stored more efficiently. The quality of the file will stay the same.

Lossy compression works by removing some of the data. The quality of the file will be reduced.

An illustration showing lossy and lossless compression
Lossy compression means that the quality of your file will be reduced. The right side of this image has been saved using lossy compression and doesn't look as good as the left.
A girl editing on a laptop next to a camcorder.