Tim Smith (Camcorder Training Specialist) gives expert video advice on: How do types of camcorders differ?; What are the pros and cons of camcorders that record directly to mini-dv?; What are the pros and cons of camcorders that record directly to DVD? and more...
How do types of camcorders differ?
There's a lot of terms out there that you're going to read about when you're looking a magazines that talk about camcorders. Some of those terms are professional camera, consumer camera, or the newest term which is called prosumer, which is kind of a combination of professional use and consumer. These cameras have gotten to the point where they're producing such a great image that even though they're sold in a consumer level or a consumer retail type of store, we have professionals buying them. So, really a prosumer is somebody who's buying, maybe an inexpensive camera, but has an application for something that can be sold making him a professional; some of his income or all of his income may rely on that. Those cameras tend to be much higher end cameras, a little bit pricier, but still much more reasonable than what was considered a professional camera in the past. And then there's the consumer level, somebody who's looking for simplistic features, easy to use, easy to travel with; those cameras tend to be in a much lower price range. And then professional cameras, which have very specific applications for delivering, whether it's to film or whether you're going to be delivering to a network broadcast. So, there's all sorts of levels and they run all over the place price wise, from just a few hundred dollars to tens of thousands of dollars.
How do recording formats differ?
When a consumer goes looking for a camcorder these days, they're going to have a lot of choices. They're going to see things like mini-DV tape, which is a tape format, or a DVD format to record directly to the DVD. Also, there is hard-drive recording these days, and there's a thing called flash recording. Essentially mini-DV tape probably is going to put you in a price range that's affordable, and still it's a very effective way of recording large amounts of information. Moving, then, up to a DVD, which is really about convenience, being able to take your disk out of a camera and put it directly into the DVD disk, and then just play it on your home DVD player, which we all have. Of late, a hard drive camera is becoming more popular, and that's a fixed-drive system inside a camera, which records everything just inside the camera, there's no removable media. Then that information could be moved to a computer or some other format for viewing or editing. And then the flash cameras, which record on a flash memory, a memory which is solid state, no moving parts. Those tend to make the camera lighter, but the down side to that is the record-time is pretty limited.
What are the pros and cons of camcorders that record directly to mini-dv?
When a consumer goes out looking for a camcorder the first format they're probably going see will be mini-dv. This format has been established enough for a long time so those cameras are at a very reasonable price point. This is a pro. That's a tape based format with a tape that records at best picture quality for full 60 minutes. It's a great value, it still records a great image, and has the ability to give you a great feature set at a price point. Again, it's tape based so you need decks and other peripheral equipment that you can buy with it. It's a great choice, especially for somebody who's beginning, but tape is still a long way from being replaced at this point in the consumer industry.
What are the pros and cons of camcorders that record directly to DVD?
One of the formats, one of the ones that is becoming the most popular these days is DVD. The ability to record directly to a disk and of course the biggest advantage of that is being able to just take that disk directly out of your camera and place it into the tray of your DVD player, you press the play button, everybody sits around in front of the television and we can watch it instantly and that's really great to be able to just watch video right away. But on the down side of it, these are smaller disks than we're used to, it's not like a DVD when we rent a movie or buy a movie. These typically have best picture quality recording times of no more than about twenty minutes of recording time, so that kinda does limit it to you. You need to bring more and more DVDs with you if you wanna shoot more and more. And also editing a DVD if that's what you wanna do is pretty challenging. I think these things will change over time, DVD editing will become easier and easier as these cameras become more popular just like in the days of tape but right now DVDs are really just about convenience and the ability to watch your video right then and there.
What are the pros and cons of camcorders that record directly to a hard drive?
Probably the newest format on the market is camcorders that feature hard drives to record their media. One of the advantages to it is that there is no media. The camcorder comes with a preset amount of memory in the camera that you record video. So, that's a plus but that's also a minus because at some point you fill those up and you have to do something with that video. So, because you're recording onto a hard drive, you do actually have to add in one more step whether you want to edit it or however you want to archive it. You're going to have to record to something so there's really an additional step there. You have the convenience of a lot of record time in your hand without having to worry about bringing media with you and then a little bit of inconvenience because you have to add one more step to archive it.
What are the pros and cons of camcorders that record directly to flash disc?
Of late there's been camcorders produced that record directly to flash, although that's probably still very uncommon compared to other formats. The advantage is we can make those very very small because of the media being very very small, but in order to get a decent recording you have to apply an awful lot of compression, so typically the flash drive camcorders really give you the weakest image, but give you the most portability and ease of use. You tend to find that even in still cameras that record video to a flash memory. Interchangable, so you can bring more media with you, small, but a lot of compression, so not the best of picture qualities as of yet.
Why are some camcorder formats no longer being sold?
A LOT OF PEOPLE HAVE PURCHASED CAMCORDERS IN THE PAST THAT PERFORMANCE HAVE NO LONGER EXIST.VHS,VHSC, ALL OF BACK IN THE PRE -EIGHTY DAYS, AND THESE CAMERAS HAVE REALLY BECOME OBSOLETE OVER THE YEARS BECAUSE PICTURE QUALITY IS THE MOST IMPORTANT THING IN THE CAMCORDER AS A MANUFACTURER. AND THE FORMAT THEMSELVES WEREN'T CAPABLE RECORDING THE RESOLUTION THAT WE WERE BEGINNING TO BE ABLE TO REPRODUCE WITH LENSES AND CHIPS THAT WE USE, SO THE PERFORMANCE KINDA GONE BY THE WAY AS WE MOVE OVER. ON THE CONSUMER SIDE NOW, THE TELEVISIONS ARE GETTING BETTER AND BETTER, ARE CAPABLE OF DELIVERING HIGHER QUALITY IMAGES, THEREFORE WE NEEDED HIGHER QUALITY FORMATS IN ORDER TO DELIVER THAT IMAGE TO A TELEVISION SET. IF YOU HAVE ON OLD VHS TAPE AT HOME EVEN IF IT IS JUST A MOVIE REPORT BACK IN THE EIGHTY'S AND YOU PLAY IT, YOU WILL REALIZE THAT THE PICTURE QUALITY BACK THEN JUST DIDN'T HOLD UP AND WE'VE LEARNED A LOT OVER THE YEARS, I HAD AN ARCADE FOOTAGE THAT LAST LONGER IN THE OLDER TAPE FORMATS , HI -8, SVHS, DIGITAL - 8, COMPACT VHS DIDN'T HAVE THE ARCHIEVAL PROPERTIES OF A TAPE PERFORMANCE THAT WE HAVE TODAY.
What is an "8mm" film camera?
What is an “8mm” film camera versus what we're doing today in video? Well, 8mm film cameras are really the cameras of my childhood, cameras that I would have used as a kid, things that my parents would have taken on vacation. And they recorded traditional film that would have to go out to a processor and then be developed. You'd receive it back and you'd play it on a projector at home--turn the lights down and put your screen up, and that was a lot of fun. But times have changed and, really, nobody is using those except in a creative way. You may find students using them, or even professionals who love the texture and the look of 8mm film, but not so much anymore. We've all kind of moved on to video at this point.
What do I need to make 8mm films?
If you're still shooting 8mm (actual film) these days you're going need a camera and a projector. You may consider audio as an option. Some 8mm cameras recorded audio, some didn't, which is the difference between say super 8 and regular 8, depending on the camera you found; that you're shooting with. You'll also need a projector, a screen and an environment to project it in. You can still find manual splicing kits. That was the ability to edit your film by actually cutting the film and then taping it back together again. This may sound a little archaic to we whom have grown up with video, but that's the way it was always done and it certainly worked well at the time. It's a fun hobby to have if you're into film. However, I would consider stocking up on film as much as you can. It's sort of going the way of the dinosaur.
Can my digital still camera capture high-quality video?
When you go shopping for a video camera you may be tempted to stop by the still camera counter as well to see what it can do in terms of video. Most all video cameras are now recording stills and most all still cameras are also recording some sort of motion as well onto whatever media they choose. But look at the way a camera is designed. A camcorder is designed to shoot video, with kind of the added bonus of taking stills. A still camera is designed to shoot stills, with kind of the added bonus of shooting motion video as well. If your primary focus for buying a camera is to be shooting video, then that should be the focus when your selecting a camera. If your out there looking to shoot stills and you want that little extra plus of recording video to a card, they can do that, but that's always secondary. So really, you've got to buy the right camera for the right tool, even though some of these are starting to cross over these days.
Can my camcorder shoot high-quality digital stills?
A lot of the camcorders that you go out looking for these days will talk about megapixel still image capability. They're certainly capable of producing a really high-quality still, maybe even up to 8 by 10, if you've got about a 5 or a 6 megapixel digital video camera. So, you want to look at the still properties in there, how it's recorded, and what media it's recorded to. Digital video cameras are very well set to shoot high-quality stills, so you can have the best of both worlds, all in one camera.