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Totally Random Camcorder Question of the Day...

Discussion in 'Off Topic [BG]' started by jokerjkny, Mar 4, 2006.

  1. jokerjkny


    Jan 19, 2002
    NY / NJ / PHL
    hey all,

    i'm looking to get my first camcorder, and could use some of TB's vast unlimited knowledge. :)

    i'd like something w/ both mic and headphone ports. we're musicians and we deserve better sound than those silly tacked on mics, no!? also, would i be wasting my money in getting a better mic, cause i cant seem to find any specs on any camera mic's "frequency response".

    also, how do i get that semi film quality look i see in some digital short films? i think its called "progressive" or "24 frame/sec" mode, but what's the techie name i'd find in the specs for a camera?

    anything else i should look out for? thx!
  2. There are several distinct levels of camcorders:

    Consumer, prosumer, professional. Consumer generally maxes out at about $1500 dollars, prosumer goes about $1500 - $4000 and professional can go $4000 and way, way up. Give or take...

    Consumer are for the family, not really much functionality.

    At the prosumer level most cameras will allow you to use a different mic, some with an xlr and some with an 1/8" mini plug, and have headphone outputs. There are nicer mics you can use (Rode makes some nice camera mounted mics), but some (I think) will require phantom power through the xlr so be sure your camera can provide this option. Really though, the best option is to have an audio man with a boom mic and seperate recording gear. Much, much more effective getting good sound because a) boom doesn't need to be by near the camera, it is usually head overhead and is closer so it's much more effective in capturing usable sound b) boom doesn't need to be on the camera so you don't get the camera motor and tape noise back in the mic c) the mics are generally much better sounding than the ones on the cameras d) having a person to focus on sound and one one shooting video is way better than one person multitasking. You can get digital portable recorders to do this, very handy.

    There are digital effects to get a film quality (magic bullet is one I can think of right off the top of my head), and most prosumer models and above will shoot 24p (like film) in addition to 30p (standard to video). Both filter effects and shooting 24p will help but most prosumer cameras will still look videoish.

    If you have the cash you can step up into HD (high definition) camcorders once you get into the pro level, but many of the nicer HD cameras will set you back about $10,000. They will all shoot 24p and the pic quality is far superior. HD is the new standard for indies / low budgets / shorts. I am still not sure that they look completely like film, even the very expensive ones, but they are gaining ground and being improved. Rent "Open Water" to see an example of a wide theatrical release that was shot in HD. Low budget, still looks videoish but very good. Movie has a great ending too.

    Good luck!
  3. The cameras we shot with in my last job cost around US$75,000 :D

    There are only a few that I know of that will shoot 30p. Jokerjkny, the 'p' stands for progressive with means the camera captures full frames, as opposed to interlaced frames, which are essentially two half frames put together. Most cameras will shoot 24 progressive and 30 interlaced (often called 60i). Thirty frames interlaced (30i/60i) is the standard for NTSC video, 30p is not. There are a couple that will do 30p also, but not many and they are expensive.

    Shooting interlaced frames can be a problem. Playback on a normal PAL or NTSC system won't look very good because the standard TV is designed to display interlaced frames. Playing progresive scan pictures can lead to motion blurring of sorts and lack of edge definition. Playback on LCD or plasma screens is supposedly fine, but I've not tried personally so I can't comment too much on that. If you are planning on editing the footage you should be aware that shooting progressive scan will take up more HDD space than interlaced will.

    I think if you are trying to get the "film" look you are better off using post production filters and effects to do so. Film typically has more vivid colours than video (especially NTSC - worst format ever!) so it won't be hard to find some effects, or even play with the colour settings yourself, to get a more film-like feel. This combined with 24p or 30p might get the look your after, but shooting progresive can be a hassle unless you are planning on watching the finished product on something better than a standard TV. Of course, the only way to get something to look completely like film is to shoot on film!

    Most cameras, even entry level cameras, should have a headphone jack. Not all of the cheaper cameras will have a mic input but many do. All of the more expensive cameras should have mic inputs. Some will have multiple. The smaller cameras only have a 3.5mm plug input. The larger ones will have 6mm or XLR inputs. I'm not sure what you are planning on filming but you will need an external mic if you want to get good sound for short films or anything more than standard home videos.
  4. LajoieT

    LajoieT I won't let your shadow be my shade...

    Oct 7, 2003
    Western Massachusetts
    Well, as has been said, most camcorders under $2000 will not have XLR inputs, fortunately there's http://www.beachtek.com with these things...


    The only drawback to these isif there is no audio control on the camcorder (meaning they set the audio levels automatically and you have no control over it. It still works well for using a variety of mics or soundboard feedson a camcorder (and connecting several at a time too!!!) but the audio controls on the Beachtek will be negated by the automatic gain setting of the camera. If you turn the Beachtek down, the camcorder will just boost the signal.

    As for HD, there are several "prosumer" models well below $10k. Sony makes 2 or 3 ranging from $3,000 to $8,000. The Cannon (I think its the XL1-HD or something like that) is around $8-9,000 and a GREAT full featured camera. Panasonic's got one that's designed around a P2 card technology that tapes right to little memory cards, The camera's around $8,000 but the P2 cards are stupid expensive for their record time (like $2,000 for 16 minutes of recording). Sure they're reuseable, but $2,000 is a LOT of money to only hold 16 minutes of footage. They make an external Firewire drive that holds several hours of footage for just over $1,000, but it's not available yet.

    If you REALLY want to get into HD, I'd suggest looking at the Sony HDR-FX1. But I'm betting you weren't thinking about spending nearly that much, and you still can't burn HD to DVD, so you're limited in what you can use HD for. I'd suggest you not go HD now unless you really need it now. Who knows what will be available for cheap once HD is accessable to the average consumer. Keep in mind that you may also want to be looking at your computer to see if you can do the editing and DVD authoring that make Digital Camcorders worth having.

    We use several of the $400-$900 camcorders to record lectures (people standing at a podium blabering on for an hour or 2) and they work just great. Panasonic and Sony are 2 of the better mfgs at this price point. I've NEVER had good luck with JVC, so I tell people to avoid them. There are several models out that also record straight to Hard Drives, which eliminates the need to have tapes (but limits you to the amount you can record before you dump it to your computer) and allows you to record for much longer times uniterupted (tape IIRC maxes out at about 90 minutes. The Hard Drive models can record 10+ hours.)
  5. Yeah. Until HD-DVD or Blu-Ray become easily available and affordable shooting and editing HD is not going to be common practice for those of us who aren't planning on broadcasting.

    I dont know what the situation is like in the US, but in Australia consumers haven't really taken to LCD and plasma technology. Most of us are still watching everything in SD.
  6. LajoieT

    LajoieT I won't let your shadow be my shade...

    Oct 7, 2003
    Western Massachusetts
    Here in the states everyone LOVES LCD/Plasma, just try to buy a picture tube these days. the stores have about 10-15 of them vs. 50 or so plasma/LCD/DLP. The problem is getting HD signals. I have 2 co-workers who pay $10 extra a month for digital cable and get (are you ready) 3 HD channels. Discovery, ESPN, and I forget the 3rd, but NONE of the local networks or HBO or such. They joke that they get more HD chanels over the airwaves than they do from Cable.

    So as you say here in the states we (they, I can't spend over 1,000 on a TV) LOVE plasma/LCD/DLP, AND we're still watching everything in SD.
  7. jokerjkny


    Jan 19, 2002
    NY / NJ / PHL

    you guys totally rock! still processing the info, and i'll have some questions later, but many thx in advance. :cool:
  8. patrickj


    Aug 13, 2001
    Ellicott City, MD
    Endorsing: Spector Bass Guitars
    Panasonic has a 24p / progressive camera (DVX100a/b) for a couple G$. If it's not out of your price range, it's a great camera - you could easily shoot a feature film with it. Also has XLR.

    If you want my advice (I own a videography company and do a lot of indy film work), get a Canon Optura 50 or 60 (not an S1) at your local Best Buy, eBay, whatever. $700 and the best quality sound and image and 16x9 you'll get short of spending 3-4x as much. If they don't have that, look into a Panasonic GS 150 or 250. Both have 1/8" mic in (with manual audio control) - and honestly, you really don't need or want XLR. The cheapest XLR mics (crappy sound) add way to much cost for no real advantage.

    Canon Opturas (not the S1) and Panny's have manual audio control.
  9. jokerjkny


    Jan 19, 2002
    NY / NJ / PHL
    thx pat,

    i'll look into those. any other ideas, guys?

    btw, any of you guys know of any freewares i could use?

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