Getting Started With Your Camcorder
Getting Started With Your Camcorder
Tim Smith (Camcorder Training Specialist) gives expert video advice on: What is the difference between "film" and "video"?; What are the benefits of a camcorder?; When is it time for a new camcorder? and more...
What is a "camcorder"?
A camcorder is really two things. It's a recording unit as well as a camera. The early camcorders were two units. They were a video camera hooked on through an umbilical cord to a large recording device like a deck. Those [decks] were lugged around through theme parks, through beaches and through vacations to try to get memories and put them on to some sort of format; back in the early days it was either Beta or VHS.That's really developed into a camcorder, a combination of the two. The lens and the recording device together recording to some sort of media whether it be tape, hard drive or whatever is coming on. That would be the definition of a camcorder.
What is the difference between "film" and "video"?
Film is something we have had around for a long time, we still have, where an image is actually exposed to a piece of celluloid which is silver highlight, that grabs the light so the darks is in the details and you actually develop it, print it. You have got a physical piece of film. Well video is similar to that in terms of it grabs an image, but we do it electronically. Light is converted into frequencies. Frequencies are converted into zeros and ones, the digital world. And then layed down on a tape and all that happens with the charge couple device or the image sensor that is on the camera. So, film is what we have always done. We record a frame of information, by exposing it to light sensitive material. And video is a piece of electronics which is light sensitive and then they can convert that same information in a way to be stored in an electronic fashion, say to a tape or a dvd. So we understand that video is an electronic image, but people still use the term film a lot when they really mean video. It is becoming kind of one term. People go out to see a film. Well in fact, a lot of the films they are seeing these days, even the Blockbuster movies, like the last Superman, or the last Star Wars film, even I am calling them film. They were really shot on video cameras. Granted, they were expensive, very high end video cameras but all of that information was recorded electronically, not being exposed to film. And then projected in film inside a theater. But even that is starting to change these days. Now we are starting to see in theaters that we go to, electronic images placed on the screen. It is just to say that video has gotten so good, that in some cases it is replacing film. But film will always have a place. There is an aesthetic quality to film that I do not believe will ever go away. There are certain films and certain things that certain films that have been made, beautifully done, that could never have been done in video. And then there are other films that look great on video as well. So you know the term film and video is becoming sort of interchangeable. So it is kind of interesting that you are not really sure, whether you are watching a video or you watching a film these days.
What are the benefits of a camcorder?
People are purchasing camcorders really to record memories. It's really not about the camcorder as much as it is recording those memories and and archiving those memories for a lifetime. You're only going to see your baby take his first steps once. You'll maybe only get to Europe that one time and I think human beings want to relive those moments. We filter out the moments we don't want to remember, but we definitely want to relive the ones that were the good moments. And whether you're shooting a still or shooting a video, that's what you want to do. I think that video is so important for capturing really the dimension of what happened, you know, not just the stills. Stills are wonderful, but the sound that goes with it. You know the sound of a baby's voice, not just a picture of the baby in a crib. Although I'm sure you get all the warm fuzzies you can want out of a out of a a photograph. You really can relive the moment with video, and that's what really what video does best. I have my sons first steps on a video tape. We were at a trade show and there were like ten cameras in my hotel room and for some reason he just decided to walk and you know I- based on what I do, I'm never more than an arms length away from a camcorder. So, I can actually show you his first steps. I don't know anybody that has that. They have steps around when he started to walk or she started to walk, but I have the first ones. So it's very that's a moment I relive all the time.
When is it time for a new camcorder?
Is now the time to buy another camcorder or buy a new camcorder? A lot of people are into their second or third generation. And one of the things you kind of have to do is look at the new formats. Is the format and venue still gonna be around a couple of years from now? Is it getting to the end of its life? If you're still recording on VHS, maybe the camera's not delivering the picture quality, or even worse, it's so big and heavy it just sits in the closet and you don't get those memories.Camcorders now are affordable for practically everybody. They're small, they're lightweight, there's many degrees of performance, but the important thing is getting those memories on tape. So if you're even thinking that now is the right time, then it is the right time.
What should I look for in a camcorder?
Well, price is obviously the first consideration for most and, I think, what you're going to find now is that camcorders are extremely affordable, anywhere from the low 200s on up to very expensive. But all of them basically do the same thing. All of them will deliver your memories to tape or let you relive those moments on tape. But there's some features you really need to think about. Zooms are a big part. Some cameras are 1 power zooms or 2 power zooms. What are you going to be shooting? Do you shoot soccer? Do you shoot sports? Then a zoom becomes important. Stabilization is another feature that's always probably talked about during a sales presentation, but it's a really important feature and there's different kinds of stabilization so you want to spend some time with your sales person determining which one is best for you. But stabilization is a feature that absolutely is a must. And then, how good is the image. Images do vary. They all do a pretty good job these days regardless of model or regardless of price. You'll probably be impressed with the image you get on every level of camera but, obviously, picture quality goes into price so the more you budget, the better image you're going to get. And then again, format. You want something that is future proof. Something that you are going to be able to see or, at least, transfer to whatever the next big thing is in terms of storage of media. If it's a format that's been around for a few years, you're gonna save some money but you may find yourself in a couple of more years having to buy something new and then spending the time transferring all that over so you need to consider all of that when you're shopping for a camcorder.