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Reason to be joyful

Maureen McTaggart loves the enthusiam her children show for RM's digital videoPC

As a parent who had always considered homes to be better equipped with computers than schools, I was surprised when my two sons came home from school full of the joys of digital video. "Joy" and "school" don't often feature together in any of their conversations, but when we checked out an RM DV PC together, I understood the reason behind their new-found enthusiasm.

RM might have been tardy taking up digital video, but it has taken heed of the keen interest shown by students and teachers and now has a range of school PCs for video editing, including laptops, desktops and Tablet PCs.

We looked at the top-of-the-range RM Studio DV PC that comes in at just over pound;1,000.

Based on a Pentium 4 processor (3.06GHz) and a capacious 120Gb hard drive to store your unedited footage, the review PC came with Windows XP Pro. Its an RM "small form factor" PC, compact, extremely strong and with more USB and firewire connections than we knew what to do with. Helpfully, there are two USB ports with microphone and headphone sockets on the front panel for easy access, which all goes to make this as attractive for home use as for school. The set-up for the review came with an excellent 17-inch GNR TFT flat-screen monitor (pound;289), which is well worth investing in for video work.

The software used is Pinnacle Studio 8 (winner of eight Emmy awards). This latest version can now save video direct to the PCs DVD burner, so that the whole process, from importing video from your camera to saving to DVD, can be handled by the one program. Additional special effects can be created in Pinnacle Hollywood FX.

Studio 8 is simplicity itself. The three stages of movie-making are clearly labelled at the top of the on-screen window: "capture" (to download your footage from the camera); "edit" (to edit and assemble the shots and sound); "make movie" (to send the finished movie to video recorder, CD or DVD).

My crew used the Canon accessory pack - Canon MV600i camcorder plus accessories, including tripod and spare battery (pound;449 - pound;426.55 online) - to shoot the material for their mystery movie What Big Sisters Get Up To In Their Rooms, which was nearly a murder mystery by the time they finished, owing to the physical objections raised by the subject matter.

With enough footage to translate into a mini movie, they could feel the burn coming on. And the Pinnacle Studio 8 software makes this a relatively painless process. Simply connect the camera to the PC and start capturing.

Footage is automatically detected and divided into scenes ready to be edited.

Obviously a mystery movie needs lots of eerie music, screams and scenes that fade dramatically. Again Pinnacle did not disappoint. There is an abundance of special effects and soon, every scream, grunt and bang was in place and everyone satisfied with where their names appeared on the credits, so it was time to "burn baby burn". If you bear in mind they did all this without a handbook, you can appreciate how good on-screen help menus are these days.

Once they had discovered free Manga footage on the internet and the extra effects offered by the Nero disc-burning software that came with the PC, the family TV was showing home-made Manga DVDs complete with introductory menu screens just like professional discs.

Coming from a generation that has only comparatively recently come to terms with word processing and desktop publishing as everyday tools, it was astonishing to see movie-making becoming a potent tool for the visual literacy of the next generation.

RM Studio DV PC PC for video editing.

Top end model (reviewed) Features: Pentium 4 2.8 processor, 1Gb of memory and 120Gb hard disc and DVD burner Price: pound;1,017 (pound;966.15 online) Entry-level model Features: 2.4GHz Celeron processor, 256Mb memory, 80Gb hard disk drive, CD-RWDVD combo, firewire.

Price: pound;499 (pound;499 online) Flat-screen monitors Price: 17-inch pound;289; 15-inch pound;229 Note: Specifications can be tailored to needs Tel: 08709 200200

Fitness for purpose ***** Ease of use **** Features **** Value for money *****

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