This paper is part of our ongoing series about setting up an in house video and editing studio. The camera is the most important purchase, when setting up a studio. We will examine the camcorder, and the Digital SLR camera with video capabilities. Right now will cover off on how to select the right camcorder.
We are looking for a camera to shoot high quality marketing content. So, we are able to narrow the search focus down to full featured camcorders. “On the go” pocket camcorders do not have the zoom or mega pixel capabilities that are necessary.
Must Have Features
Full featured camcorder models have true optical zooms, so using close up or telephoto will yield superior results. Optical zooms from 10x to 70x, have great results, especially in low light. Recently, a new lens with wide-angle focal lengths has emerged. Typically, camcorder lenses used to start at around 42mm. Today, more models start at less than 30mm. This means you can capture a much broader expanse. This is handy for shooting videos in smaller rooms.
For the absolute best quality, look for models featuring the new AVCHD Progressive format. AVCHD version 2.0 allows you to record 1920 x 1080/60p video, compared to 60i of AVCHD version 1.0. AVCHD Progressive movies shown on a 1080p display are phenomenal to view.
Just like digital cameras, camcorders use imaging sensors, and the more it has, the better the video quality. Standard definition camcorder models use 680K-pixel CCDs, which is alright. However, you are much better off with megapixel plus chips found in entry level AVCHD models. You get better video quality and good stills. Needless to say, pick the highest megapixel count in your budget. When shopping, use the chip’s actual pixel count as you want to be comparing apples to apples.
Manufacturers continue to shrink consumer electronics. This facilitated camcorder models with just slots for memory cards or on board flash ranging from 8GB to 96GB. You’ll find camcorders with no storage that need an SD card to function, and models with some internal storage that can be expanded with an SD card. Prices are lowest with slots only, and it’s not a bad way to go, especially with the cost of cards plummeting.
Sound will play a huge role in the success of your venture. Many people like consuming their content in video format, as they can multi-task while listening to it. For this reason, I prefer a camcorder with and XLR input, used to connect an off board microphone to the camcorder.
Full featured camcorders offer basic two channel stereo, but the better models can record 5.1 channel surround sound. This delivers a powerful impact when you experience it through a 5.1 speaker system.
A Bird’s Eye View
All camcorders have LCD screens used to frame and review your recordings. LCD screens have pixel ratings too. The more pixels you have, the better. Most LCD’s start off at 2.7-inches and 230K pixels, and go up to 3.5 inches and 921K pixels. The more expensive, select camcorders also have electronic viewfinders (EVFs). These small eyepieces come in handy in those instances when the LCD wipes out in direct sunshine. You should test your LCD to see how it handles light.
Camcorders have two types of image stabilization — digital (or electronic) and optical. OIS is far better as elements in the lens adjust for shaking hands and movement. This really even out shakes and jerks in your videos; your viewers will appreciate a steady scene. EIS uses software algorithms to do the same thing, but it can degrade picture quality. If your budget allows, opt for optical image stabilization.
Using a camcorder is as easy to use. Just put it into auto mode, adjust the zoom to frame your subject and press record. It doesn’t get much simpler. Many camcorders have features such as Intelligent or Smart Auto where the scene in the frame is analyzed by the camera and the settings adjust automatically. This is an excellent feature to look for.
Many also have specific scene modes (i.e. portrait, landscape) and others let you adjust shutter speed, aperture, focus, white balance, exposure compensation. These features are typically found on more expensive models. It all depends just how deeply you want to delve into the world of video-making, and the old cost benefit analysis comparing one model to another.
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