Can I Edit the Old Stuff?

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I'd love to see a well-edited version of my childhood. Unfortunately, I was born before the digital camcorder, and the choice bits of my family history are buried in hours of old VHS tapes stacked on my mother's shelf. Nobody wants to fast-forward through 10 minutes of Grandpa's feet ("Is this thing still recording?") to see 10 seconds of Cousin Katie blowing out her first-birthday candles. The good news is that I've found a way to edit old analog movies on my home computer. In fact, an entire industry has emerged to support the more than 44 million U.S. households that own a PC and an analog camcorder, and want to make movies worth watching.

The product that offers the most flexibility is the Matrox Marvel G400-TV, a $300 kit consisting of an advanced graphics card that slides inside your PC (you need a Windows machine with a Pentium II 233-MHz or faster processor) and an external hub that takes analog video from myriad sources (VCR, cable TV, camcorder) and puts it on your computer screen. The accompanying software, called Avid Cinema, provides the easy-step editing tools. The quality of the new video you create is only as good as the original source, however, so you won't be able to touch up that grainy Christmas '87 segment.

Once you've resurrected a classic family moment or two, you can put the edited footage back on VHS or compress it for delivery over the Net. For my first project, I dug up tapes of my brother performing in grade school productions of The Boyfriend and The Wizard of Oz to string together his solos (he was the Lion). Now all I need is his girlfriend's e-mail address.

--By Maryanne Murray Buechner