Editing Sony DVD Handycam Video

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Gary writes, My wife uses one of the Sony Handycams which writes the files to a mini-DVD. I'm trying to figure out how to do something with these files other than duplicate the entire mini-DVD. I've tried using the Nero 6 decode routines to convert to .mpg files, but that often doesn't work well, and it generates one file per "scene" instead of just converting the entire thing into one long MPG file.

Ideally, what I'd like to be able to do is to:

1) Start with the original DVD VOB files

2) Remove bad takes

3) Combine several mini-DVD's worth of movies into one longer regular DVD, and

4) Be able to put some sort of menus onto the front of the final DVD to get to different sections, preferably not every scene, but user chosen points. Even being able to just delete some of the original menu items generated by the camera would be great.

I've got Nero v6.6.01 and I purchased Adobe Premier Elements in an attempt to work on these, but they don't seem to be the right tools to work on this.

I like the idea of DVD camcorders. No hard drive, theoretically affordable media, considering full-sized DVDs cost less than fifty cents each in most cases. The reality is a series of frustrations for anyone who wants to edit movies after shooting. I have some experience with Sony's Handycam DVD7, which is an entry level unit, but representative of the experience for all DVD camcorders. The dirty secret of DVD camcorders is they aren't designed for editing on a PC. You are expected to record to disk, edit on the camera, finalize your project on the camera and at best make copies of the DVD for sharing with other people. If you are more familiar with the process of realtime video capture over FireWire available via a more traditional DV cam, this is especially frustrating. None of the Handycam DVD models include FireWire (or as Sony calls it, iLINK).

I stepped through several potential scenarios before arriving at a solution that seems to work with relative ease. The first thing I attempted was connecting the Handycam via USB. My computer recognizes the Handycam as a mass storage device, which should mean I can read the contents of the drive. However, Sony only makes the DVD content accessible via USB through the bundled software.

Using the bundled Picture Package Manager, the software supposedly copies the video from the camera to my computer, but I can find no instance of a file of the matching size on my machine. Picture Package Manager does a great job of making video slideshows out of still images, as Sony's licensed co-brand of the muvee AutoProducer technology. Strike number two.

Ultimately, I found a simple solution to the problem, which works with both Adobe Premiere Elements and Nero Vision Express (which is part of Nero 7 Ultra Edition), but may not work with all software packages. I left the recorded video in an unfinalized state (later testing also worked with finalized disks) on the DVD+RW disk. I inserted the disk in the computer's DVD drive and copied the VOB file located in the Video_TS folder on the disk to my hard drive. Premiere Elements and Vision Express don't recognize VOB as a valid file type for editing. Without doing any file conversion, I simply changed the file extension from VOB to .mpeg. Both apps recognize MPEG as a valid file format and import the video for editing without issue. You edit the movie and then save out your finished file just like you would any other video project.

Renaming the file from VOB to MPEG won't work if you are using an app like Windows Movie Maker, which does not recognize MPEG as a valid editing format. If you don't have access to a video editing application with support for MPEG editing, the other option is to convert the VOB file to AVI or some other format supported by most video applications using an app like or by ripping the DVD in a one step process using an app like Xilisoft DVD Ripper.

If these steps sound too complicated, in the time since this article was originally written, Roxio Roxio Creator has emerged as the best solution for editing DVD Camcorder files with a simple 5 step process.