What do you really need to shoot video for the Internet -
what do you need to shoot video for home, professional and business?
What camcorder to buy - DV or not to DV?
One Chip Versus 3 Chip
What Features do you really need?
Audio is VERY Important
What Accessories and Equipment do you really need in addition to your camcorder?
Equipment Review Center - Hardware, Software and Cameras
Camcorder Guide & Reviews
Camcorder Glossary of Terms
What camcorder to buy - DV or not to DV?
Is it better to use a new digital video camcorder or can you resurrect your old analog VHS or 8mm machine? Well, it depends on how you create your Internet videos and want you want do with them.
If you want to win contests and make money, you ought to go with the best. You need a good "prosumer" grade, 3-chip, digital video camera like a Canon XL1/XL2 or a Sony VX1000/2000; or even a professional DV video camera system. However, if you just want to make movies of your family and kids, dump them into your computer for some minor editing out of the bad spots, then you could easily use the old VHS or 8mm camcorder you got years ago.
First generation video from a Hi8mm or S-Video camcorder can look almost as good as DV video. In fact, video from a professional 3-chip S-Video camcorder will probably look richer and prettier than video from an inexpensive 1 chip DV camcorder.
The advantage of DV is that the recorded video looks as good as the original captured video. There is no loss as you go from generation to generation. This was very important in the days of linear editing, when the editing process consisted of making copies of the good parts and then laying them down onto a tape in the order you preferred.
However, with NLE editing (non-linear editing) once you have dumped your video into the computer and digitized it, you don't need to be concerned with losing quality as you edit and make copies. Unless you do lots of converting from one digital format to another, you won't notice any quality loss at all as you edit.
This means you CAN use a good analog video camera as your source camcorder. However, as mentioned earlier, it is preferable to use a S-VHS or Hi8mm camera instead of regular VHS or 8mm.
Looking for the right camcorder for yourself, your family or for your business? Check out our updated Camcorder Review section.
One Chip versus 3 Chip
Most consumer video cameras use a single CCD chip to capture the video and convert it to electronic signals. Most professional video cameras use three chips, with each chip configured to capture a single color and convert that electronically. In general, three chip cameras create a much prettier looking image, with better color quality and saturation.
However, I have tested many single chip consumer camcorders versus many three chip "prosumer" camcorders and found that most people can not really tell the difference unless it is pointed out to them. This is even more relevant when viewing video on the net.
If you are planning to edit and broadcast your videos over a network or cable system, then indeed you need the best possible camera and lens you can afford. However, for most prosumer uses, and for capture for Internet use, a more affordable camcorder is just fine.
One of the major differences between a "home" camcorder and a pro video camcorder is the lens. The glass itself. Professional camcorder lens often cost as much as the camera itself.
If you just starting out, and need a DV camcorder, I would recommend an inexpensive DV camcorder from one of the major manufacturers like Sony, Canon, Panasonic, Hitachi Sharp, etc.. You should be able to pick one up for a thousand dollars or less.
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What Features Do I really need?
Zoom - you want a powerful optical zoom, not digital, not electronic. Most camcorders now offer zoom ratios of 10x to 20x. The more the better. You may never use the 24x zoom, but it is nice to have. Digital or electronic zoom is meaningless; all digital/electronic zoom does is enlarge a part of your image. Electronic enlargement just magnifies the size of your pixels. Once you get past 3 or 4 times, electronic enlargement makes your videos look like a bunch of dots.
Over the last five years, the automatic controls on camcorders have become extremely powerful and effective. Except for a few tricky situations, you can almost always operate your camcorder in the auto mode.
The manual controls that you really need are just focus and zoom. Control of white balance, aperture and shutter speed are also helpful. A backlight can also be useful.
Most consumer camcorders now come with image stabilization. This is great. Yes, you should always use a tripod, but for those times when a tripod is not available, image stabilization is the next best thing. Especially for video that is destined for the Internet. Shaky cam may look cool on home video or on MTV but on the Internet it makes it a lot more difficult to compress. Optical image stabilization is better than electronic or digital. Electronic and digital stabilization technologies basically extract the middle of your video image, losing the edges and then expands it to fill up the screen again. This lowers your overall image quality.
Night vision and infrared are cool. Much improved over the years, this feature can make it possible to get shots where there is little or no light at all.
Another great feature is a fold out, swiveling LCD viewfinder. Even though they do suck up power, and reduce your overall battery power, swing-out viewfinders make it much easier to compose and monitor your shots.
If you do have a DV camcorder, make sure it is DV in and out. This enables you to transfer your digital footage from your camcorder to your computer. It also enables you to transfer your finished and edited DV productions from your computer back to your DV camcorder. Analog video in and out is also nice to have. Analog in enables you to easily convert your old VHS and 8mm videos to DV. Analog out enables you to easily transfer your DV footage to your VCR as well as to play it on your TV set.
What about special effects? Forget them. Most in-camcorder effects are cheesy and cheap. If you use an in camera effect during the recording process, you can not get rid of it later during the editing process. Save your effects for the editing process. Add them then, If you HAVE to use an in-camera effect, limit yourself to fade ins and fade outs.
If possible, get a camcorder with threads around the lens. This enables you to use wide angle and telephoto lens, as well as filters. I love wide-angle. Not only does it make it easier to shoot because you don't have to worry as much about exposure and focus, the shots look really cool. People want to see people; close-ups of faces and heads. Wide angle lens allow you to get really close, filling up the frame with smiles, eyes and expressions.
Audio is VERY Important
Audio is very important. If you are serious about making videos, whether for broadcast, for the Internet, or for yourself, you need to seriously think about how your camcorder captures audio. Most camcorder microphones are not very good and are poorly positioned on the camcorder. (Consider the small DV camcorders with the mikes on top of them, pointed up - perfectly positioned to captured the sound of the camera operator, not the subject!)
Make sure the camcorder you buy has a external mike input jack. On home and consumer cameras, this will be a small stereo mini-jack. On better camcorders, this may be twin RCA jacks, 1/4 inch mike jacks or even XLR connections.
Your camcorder should also have some kind of shoe or connector on top of the camcorder to seat the microphone. If your camcorder has a mike jack, but no shoe or mike holder, there are a bunch of inexpensive, third party accessory holders you can buy that connect between the camcorder and your tripod.
Get special use microphones. You will need a good shotgun mike for getting the sound from a distance, as well as a set of lavaliere mikes for interviews. I personally prefer wireless microphones that clip on to your subjects. The receiver unit then mounts on your camcorder and is connected to the mike-in jack.
Digital Video versus Digital8 versus S-VHS
Video Ready Mac
How to Get the Best from Your Camcorder - Tips and Tricks
Zoom Wars - My Zoom Is Bigger Than Your Zoom
Tutorials and Guides from the Manufacturers
Ulead has long been one of the of the leaders in developing and providing inexpensive video editing solution for beginners as well as for more experienced prosumers and professional video producers. This tutorial explains how to shoot video for editing and web use. http://www.ulead.com/learning/video4/page1.htm
Here is another Ulead tutorial about Digital Video - the basics of the technology and DV terminology http://www.ulead.com/learning/video1/page1.htm