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Travel Photo-Video laptop

    When it comes to computer setup, it all comes down to what you plan on doing.  The more photos you have, the more space you need.  Want to do video editing -- upgrade everything.  And don’t forget to have a backup plan.  After 4 years of cruising we have over 16,000 digital photographs, have created four one-hour movie DVD's (edited from over 100 hours worth of raw video footage), and support a growing website.  The information below covers our photo/video setup only;  we have multiple computers on board, and one is dedicated solely to photograph, video, and web work.  The information below covers that computer only (hereto referred to as the imaging computer).

  • Memory & Processor
    If you are going to do any video editing we recommend at least 1GB of RAM.  You can get away with less if you are only doing photograph work.  Our imaging computer is setup with an Intel Pentium 4 CPU 2.80 GHZ and 1GB RAM.  After three years of video editing we now wish we had gone with at least 2 GB of RAM, however 1 GB is usable.


  • Disk Space
    We have over 900 GB mainly dedicated to photographs, videos, and our website.  We initially bought our imaging laptop with only 60GB of disk space and have since had to supplement that with an external hard drive (of 320GB), and in Singapore we added  another 500 GB.

    For photographs file size of individual pictures will vary depending on your camera and quality/resolution you shoot at.  See your camera manual for this information.  We recommend always shooting at the highest quality & resolution which will take more disk space, but disk space is relatively cheap these days, and higher resolution photographs provide more editing & printing options.  Our 16000+ photos take up about 35 GB of space. Our website currently occupies about 1.5GB of space.

    The real hog comes to video editing.  One hour of digital videotape takes up 10GB (yes that’s GB) of hard disk space.  At some point you can edit and compress this down, but you need the space to initially do that editing.


  • Operating System
    We finally upgraded to Windows XP, but just this past season in Australia. Many of the later versions of photograph and video editing software programs are no longer supported on the Windows 2000 platform. 

  • Ports (USB & Firewire)
    Our imaging computer has 3 USB 2.0 ports and 1 IEEE 1394 Firewire port.  Typically your digital camera will link to the computer through USB and your digital video camera will link via Firewire.  Between the various cameras, mouse connections, and external hard drives we have more than once used every port at the same time.  Of course you can always get a hub if you find yourself running short of ports.


  • Backup Ability
    Backups are a huge issue, especially when you start having to back up hundreds of gigs worth of data.  We recommend using an external hard drive and/or DVDs for backups. The biggest issue for us seems to be what to do with the RAW video footage (at 10 GB per hour it’s a bit much to backup especially when we know we don’t want to keep all that footage long term).  What we would recommend is keeping the mini-DV tapes (or whatever media you are recording onto) even after capturing the video to your hard drive.  Once you have edited and compressed the footage on your hard drive (thereby hopefully condensing the size to something more reasonable and more practical to back up), back it up and then feel free to erase or overwrite the camcorder media.  But not before -- we almost lost 5 hours worth of footage when our hard drive crashed and we had already overwritten the original tapes w/out having first backed up the footage on the hard drive!  If you have a HD camcorder then we would keep the footage on the camcorder's HD and on another external hard drive until you have a chance to edit it and back it up.  Ideally, what you want is to always have your data stored in two places.

  • Photo Printing
    You probably aren't going to need to print big, fancy photographs to hang on your wall.  You may however want to print a 4x6 or two to give out to locals (they love getting a real photograph). Photographs are also good for some people's log/guest books.  We own (and like) the Canon CP220 ( the later version is the CP720).  It only prints 4x6 sheets, but it is small, lightweight, and really easy to use.  On the boat we don't really have a need for photo quality prints larger then 4x6.  The paper comes as an ink-paper kit.  We like this for two reasons; 1) you know exactly how many photos you can print, no guess work about when the ink is going to run out, and no fading prints towards the end of a cartridge, and 2) because each cartridge comes with a set number of paper sheets, you are less likely to dry out the printer cartridge.  If you are looking to get just one printer that will print photos and regular sheets check out the universal printer we discuss on this page.
     
  • Photo Organization & Editing

    • Adobe Photoshop Elements (includes Adobe Photoshop Album)
      We love this program!  It is easy & affordable.  We’ve advertised it to so many other cruisers that people joke that Adobe should be paying us a commission!  We are currently at version 5.0.

      This program consists of two parts: organization & editing.  The organization is wonderful.  It utilizes a tag-based system so that your photographs are easily filtered and searched.  No longer do you need to worry about filenames or folder locations.  The editing is a simplified version of Adobe Photoshop; and is much easier to use then the full version of Photoshop.  It is further broken into two parts; Standard Editing and Quick Editing.  The quick editing does well and really any level of user can run it.  The Standard Editing takes a bit more knowledge (though still quite easy), but has quite a bit more capability.  Visit their website for further information/demonstrations.

    • Adobe Photoshop
      We are running Photoshop 7.0 (which has since been replaced by Photoshop CS).  This program is probably overkill for a large percentage of cruisers, and isn’t cheap. But it is an extremely powerful editing tool.  If you aren’t sure, we recommend trying Elements first – most likely it’ll do everything you need.
       
    • Panoramic Stitching:  Adobe Elements (described above) has stitching capabilities, and our Canon video camera came with a stitch program, Canon Utilities PhotoStitch.  This type of program allows you to take multiple panning photos and later “stitch” them together into one wide/panoramic shot … it works amazingly well, and is quite useful with all the beautiful scenery we see.
       
  • Video Organization & Editing

      Disk Space
      Just to reiterate; you will need a lot of disk space for video editing.  At the end of every year we take all our ‘raw’ footage and create a movie, usually reducing 10 hours or so of raw footage into an edited 1 hour DVD movie. We keep some raw footage, probably about 20% or so.  To capture the 10 hours worth of video onto our computer we need at least 100GB.  Then we need space for the edited version to be saved and space for the finally product to be rendered to.  When finished we delete any unwanted footage and backup about 20GB worth of raw footage that we do want to save (and was used in the making of the 1 hour video).  The 1 hour video, in its compressed state, takes up about 4GB.

    • Sony Vegas & DVD Architect
      We currently use Vegas 4.0 and DVD Architect 1.0 (Vegas is the video creator/editor and Architect does the DVD authorizing).  These now come packaged together as Vegas Pro 8, however you can still buy DVD Architect as a stand alone product (for those happy with their video editing software and just looking for a DVD authoring package). 

      There are a number of other Video editing / DVD authoring programs out there, many of them quite a bit cheaper.  Most video editing programs allow you to download a trial version.  If you have time before you head off, we recommend downloading some trial versions and testing them.  The less expensive editing programs tend to be easier to use; mostly because they have fewer capabilities … but less capability might be a good thing, depending on what you are looking to do.  Adobe also makes a video editing program, Premiere.  Originally we chose Vegas over Premiere because Premiere did not support Windows 2000.  Having never used Premiere we can't give it a review or compare it to Vegas.  We are quite pleased with Vegas, although it did take a good deal of time to learn how to use effectively.
       
  • DVD & CD Writing

    • Hardware
      We purchased our imaging laptop with a DVD and CD-ROM reader/writer.  After two years, the writer seemed to be having difficulties so we upgraded by purchasing a faster external (via USB) DVD/CD read-write.  We believe it is worth the extra cost to have DVD write abilities onboard (whether internal or external)


    • Software
      We’ve used two programs for writing CDs/DVDs:  Roxio Easy CD & DVD Creator and Nero ExpressWhile Roxio seemed to be working fine on our imaging computer we were getting a number of bad disks and some other major problems on our other computers, which is why we tried out Nero Express.  Nero seems fine, except when we go to burn our home-DVD movies; we’ve had a number of problems with those DVDs not working in a variety of different DVD players, and therefore reverted back to Roxio for our home movie DVD burning (note that Vegas DVD Architect will also burn the home DVDs, but the format is such that the DVD will not play in all computer media players – however does work fine in almost all non-computer DVD players we tested).  Many times a computer or external CD/DVD writer will include CD/DVD writing software, so you may not have to buy something separate.

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