Desperately seeking video tech help

oday, I forgot to bring my camera to work. Normally, I remember all my school supplies (mainly because I keep them in the briefcase out of which I live), but this morning I left my Canon PowerShot A95 on the kitchen table.

Since I had two interviews this morning — with Vince Ford, who’s seeking Kay Patterson’s Senate seat, and Rep. Joe Neal, defending House District 70 — I had to stoop to a desperate measure: I used the Sony Model DCR-SR40 camcorder that the nice folks at gave me awhile back.

This is a pretty cool video camera, with a built-in 30-gig hard drive. It shoots pretty nice video, with MUCH higher resolution than my little Canon, which is actually intended to shoot still pictures.

There’s just one little drawback — its format is (as near as I can tell) MPEG-4, and I do not have any software that can edit MPEG-4 video. Nor can I convert these files into a format that I CAN use. That means the only way I can share video with you is if I keep it really, really short and load it onto the blog unedited, as in the clip you see above, which as short as it is, almost crashed our VMIX thingie when I loaded it.

That’s not terribly helpful when I want to share video with you from interviews that last 30 or 45 minutes or more.

This, I suspect, is the reason why the nice folks gave me this camera — they couldn’t figure out what to do with the files, either.

Anyway, I’ve wasted absurd amounts of time searching the Web for help with this problem, looking for codecs and such. Apparently, I am the first person in the history of the world to have this problem, because I’m not running into any helpful support out there.

I even got desperate enough to e-mail Sony for help, and did so, after getting through all the barriers manufacturers erect to letting you ask a direct question. Here’s the only answer I’ve received so far:

Thank you for contacting Sony.

This message confirms that your e-mail has been received and your request is currently under review. Thank you for your patience as we strive to provide you with the best service and support possible.

Your Sony Online Support Team

… which leads me to suspect that Sony has fallen into the hands of the Sirius Cybernetic Corporation. Next, I’m going to ask them if they can provide me with a drink that is almost, but not quite, entirely unlike tea.

But while I’m waiting for my tea, I thought I’d check to see if Y’ALL have any suggestions for me. Helpful ones, I mean…

8 thoughts on “Desperately seeking video tech help

  1. Trey

    Uhhh, never use Windows Movie Maker again, surely one of the worst pieces of video editing software out there…

  2. CitizenPatrol

    Uh Oh,
    I couldn’t hear you, but I saw all eight fingers wagging incessantly — thumbs guilty too. You can’t dog Bill Clinton anymore!

  3. Lonnie

    You could also try the VLC player ( When you start it, select File…/Wizard…, and select “Transcode/Save to file”. It offers a plethora of things to translate to…some it does a better job with than others, and it may have issues with Sony’s mpeg4 variant as well. But you could try a couple of combos (with a small clip) and see if any of those make Movie Maker happy.

  4. Lonnie

    I just tried VLC, and it seemed to work: I first used it to create an mp4 file from an MPEG-1 file. That file played back fine, and Movie Maker wouldn’t open it.
    I then ran that file thru VLC again, selecting WMV 3 for the video (which is Windows Media Video 9…not sure why they call it 3), and for audio, MP3. I used the default bitrates.
    I was able to open the resulting file in Movie Maker.

  5. Brad Warthen

    Thanks for all the advice, folks; we’re making gradual progress.
    VLC hasn’t been working for me… I’ve tried it for several weeks, and, ironically, just uninstalled it this morning.
    A funny story about that: The tech folks who originally told me about VLC had told me — out loud, not in writing — where to look for it. So I called up “,” which as it would happen is a porn site. The images came up on my screen just as the nice lady who cleans my office every day was coming down the hall. I ALT-TABbed away just in time.
    Needless to say, I was supposed to be looking at…
    Ya gotta speak up with us old guys.
    Doug F., that Zamzar looked really promising, but the 100 mg limit on the free service doesn’t float this boat. These files I’m dealing with are measured in gigs.
    The best thing anyone has suggested yet is something called WM-Converter. It converted my files into playable AVIs, that I could open in Movie Maker. One small drawback — the original files are widescreen, and the converted files squeeze that into an old-fashioned conventional screen. You know, like if you’re watching “The Great Escape” on an old-fashioned TV (like mine), and the whole movie is in “letterbox” format, except the credits, because otherwise you wouldn’t be able to read the credits. So the trucks taking the prisoners to the stalag at the beginning are VERY tall and skinny, so that you can see the credits…
    It’s like that. But it’s better than nothing.
    Still working on the challenge. Thanks again for the suggestions, and keep ’em coming.

  6. Tim Cameron

    What you need is either:
    A.) A “video compressor” to reduce your file size.
    B.) A “video converter” to change your file to an MP4 or .wmv file that will easily upload onto a video website like YouTube.
    You can find this stuff for free on Just search the quoted terms on the website and use the crowd sourced ratings to determine what software is right for you.
    If you have any questions feel free to e-mail me.

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