Thursday, December 30, 2010

Jamie Stuart - Man In A Blizzard or Idiot With A Tripod

Yes, I keep telling folks this is what is possible. You do have to have talent. Equipment can help but if you don't take the opportunity when it comes knocking on the door (or falling from the sky) what good is it?

This is Jamie Stuart who knocked out a great video from the ThunderSnow that hit NYC in December 2010.



Somehow I landed on Roger Ebert's page at the Chicago Sun Times. Nothing pleases an ex-snow bunny more than to watch a blizzard from an extreme distance. This video brought all the wet soppyness without the frostbite.

The Particulars:
  • Canon D7 dSLR with macro filters on the lens during the day
  • Converted some of the video from H.264 into ProRes 422 (No I never heard of ProRes 422 before either)
  • Edited in Final Cut Pro
  • Exported into Quicktime
More on how he did it:
Early on, I was able to vary things a little more -- I used macro diopters for the close-ups during the day shots, my portable slider for the dolly shots and also, a 75-300 zoom for the rooftop shots. I was more limited at night because of the weather conditions, so I stuck with my 24mm, 50mm and 85mm -- all of which are manual Nikon lenses. Which meant that in the middle of that maelstrom I was changing lenses, wiping off the lenses and manually focusing/adjusting each shot.

All I can say is that I shot some rain footage but it isn't anywhere as good as his snow. But he has given me ideas. And some quivers of thought. For more information on Jamie Stuart visit his site.

Wednesday, December 29, 2010

Planning Tips from Earl Chessher

So long as I'm mousing around the Videomaker forums I thought I point folks in the direction of a post by moderator Earl Chessher.

Planning Tips from Earl Chessher
He is writing for those folks that are in the business of producing event or commissioned videos but if you create video on a regular basis this is post worth reading.

There is a lot of good stuff about using the holidays to inspire creating content, identifying new markets and users such as a video memory of a person or place. He also write about taking your ideas and making an action plan.

What really made me want to suggest folks read Earl's post is a response to a comment:

Thanks Derek, for the nod. I really appreciate it. Oddly enough, on some forums where I share such things as planning, focusing, marketing and organizing I get blasted by people who think none of this is important, citing that they get all they can handle simply through referrals.
I've seen and this type of behavior. I'm dumbfounded by these types of reactions. If it doesn't work for you that is fine but why attack?

The truth is referrals can dry up. Technology can cut in or destroy a business within a month. It is grasshopper thinking; it is here today why am I going to waste time planning for next week?

The good news is that there are plenty of folks who think that way. The better news is that those that don't can learn and prosper from their blinder induced ignorance.

Videomaker Webinars on Making Better Videos

If you can't afford film school and don't have the time to drive across town for a film class here is the next best thing. On-line webinars that allow you to watch and learn at home.


I've written about Poynter/NewsU webinars but this specific webinar series is from Videomaker magazine.

Topics include:
  • Audio for Video
  • Basic Video Production
  • Making Money with Video
  • DVD Authoring and more.
The webinars are an hour in length and cost $29. If you are the kind of person that wants to see and hear information instead of reading about it this could be a good fit. If you want more you can also check out the Videomaker store and pick up on their training DVDs or on demand digital downloads.

Tuesday, December 28, 2010

How To Videoblog Advice From Zennie Abraham

This is a video from Zennie Abraham. He has definite thoughts about what is videoblogging. Now gather five people in a room and you will have a vigorous discussion of what is, isn't and can be considered videoblogging.



I don't agree 100%, more like 67.38%. He has is a valid point of view but it leaves out the activists, the resource vloggers and folks that use video to support their creativity and passions that do not call themselves videobloggers.

For more info on Zennie you can visit his YouTube channel or his blog at http://zennie2005.blogspot.com/

Monday, December 27, 2010

Boomvideo - Three Videos A Month for 2011

2011 should be more than the placed holder between 2010 and 2012. We can make it what we want it to be. I vote to employ a creative approach. Gabriel Soucheyre posted in the Videoblogging Group a new activity folks can get involved with.

Here is the skivvy on Boomvideo 2011:

  • On the 1st, 10th & 20th of each month for all of 2011, everyone will publish his or her video.
  • The video should not excess 3 minutes.
  • To publish a video, add a comment, add an image or the title of your video, and put a link on your video online.
  • You can upload your video where you want: Vimeo, Blip.tv, Dailymotion, Youtube (or any other place that will accept you and your video.)
That is about all I know. I like the idea and if I can do one personal video a month that would be a success. Three I would feel good about.

What would you do?

Sunday, December 26, 2010

Three Open Source and Free Video Converters

Right after the season to buy a camcorder comes the season of "I can't open this video on my computer or in my video editing program season." Those of you trying to work with H.264 MP4 videos I feel your pain.

I've been looking around and there are a lot of bogus, spammy and bait and switch video conversion programs.

You do have to be careful. I know folks just want a product to find the video and convert it without problems or hassles. Most folks want that same product to be free. Well it is possible but there will be time and effort no matter what program you select.

Here is the thing. I am willing to pay for quality and a good user interface; meaning I can see what I want to do and do it without reading the help menu. If I can't find a program I can afford then I will look at the free options.

Free to me does not mean:
  • The software allows x amount of conversions before I have to pay for it.
  • It does not mean I will look a nag screens every time I press a button.
  • Under no circumstances will I allow a program to install a toolbar I do not want in my browser.
  • And the converted software has to look as good as the original source, not worse.
There are three decent video conversion software products that won't wreck your system. I've used all three and these are my go to software for flipping the video formats.

Handbreak



Miro Video Converter



MPEG Streamclip




These software programs do not have nag screens, install hidden software or open the back door of your system to the nasties. All of them have version for Mac and PC users and Handbreak also works on Linux.

Now it might not be as smooth as a paid version software. It won't be that hard but the software won't hold your hand either. You will have to know where to find your video and how to place it on your hard drive or device.

If you can do that you are good to go. Meanwhile the search continues.

Related Posts

Thursday, December 23, 2010

Dueling Cameras by lonelysandwich

Winding down for the festivities but there is much goodness in the land.



From the guys at lonelysandwich on Vimeo comes this lesson on composition, serendipity and location, location and location.

Wednesday, December 22, 2010

Vimeo Film School - The Cure for So-So Video

Vimeo is so more that a video web host service. There is much goodness to be found and this is a resource that folks interested in web video ought to checks out.

Vimeo Film School
What Vimeo has done is to have a central place on their site where folks can learn about terms, techniques and best practices on creating good videos. This is a quick look at Vimeo Video School.

In Video 101 you get tips on getting a camera/camcorder, recording video and how to edit. This is an example of the getting a camera video.


Video 101: Choosing a Camera from Vimeo Staff on Vimeo.

I will definitely be e-mailing links to this lesson because there is a hunger in the land. I'm telling you I can see the tablet folks starting to come across the hill. Android tablet video is on the way.

Not to mention all of the folks looking for a good $150 camcorder with good audio. OMG, so many lost souls out the land, I can't tell you.

For the DSLR folks there are tips for those that want to get started recording photos and HD video on a digital single lens reflex camera.

In the Featured Lessons section there is a bunch of good stuff on recording good audio, glossary of common terms, how to do slow motion and how to compose a shot.

What is cool is that not only do you get the lessons but there are challenges (aka homework) that you can practice and share with the community.

It is a good resource that needs to be promoted and shared. Tell a friend or the designated family member with a camcorder. This would be the person that you have to watch their hand held, shaky and hard to hear videos.

Please, get that person to watch.

Other Posts of Interest

Tuesday, December 21, 2010

Trim Edit With MPEG Streamclip

I'm always recommending MPEG Streamclip for a free non-spam option for converting videos from one format to another. It is a great program for Mac and PC users.

Conversion is not the only thing the program can do; you can perform simple trims or cuts to the video.



This is an excellent example by Ryan Jackson demonstrating how to use it to set the in and out point on a video and then export it.

He is demonstrating on a Mac so you PC folks piped down and watch. It is exactly the same process on Windows.

Other Posts of Interest

Monday, December 20, 2010

Wild and Scenic Film Festival 2011

I'm a bit burnt out from induced mass consumption so I'm paying this forward. The Wild and Scenic Film Festival 2011 in Nevada City, California is a gathering of filmmakers, activists, celebrities and those who are okay with the concepts of hope, renewal and action.



The films selected for the festival focus on the beauty of the planet, the various life forms romping around and cultures that are underrepresented on the big screen. There will also be films on people actively engaged in doing something for the planet besides hurting it.

In addition to the films there are also workshops and panels that folks can get more information, ask questions or opportunities to step into commitment mode.

If you are interested visit the web site for screening and pricing information. Ticket prices range from affordable to ouch with most of them being in the okkayy range.

Thursday, December 16, 2010

Yahoo Video Is Closing Down

If you are one of the precious few that uses Yahoo Video to upload videos you need to know that Yahoo is shutting down the service. As of March 15, 2011 the door will close for good. If you have videos uploaded on the site you need download and save them before that date.

From the Yahoo Video Help Page:

On December 15, 2010 the functionality to upload a video to Yahoo! Video was removed and a download utility, available through March 14, 2011, was added to users' video profiles to allow retrieval of content. The user-generated content will be removed from Yahoo! Video on March 15, 2011. We apologize if this causes you any inconvenience.

When I think of video web hosting options I gotta tell you Yahoo Video did not come to mind. I remember an early form of Yahoo Video was rough to use; this was way before YouTube.

Content was scrambled across inappropriate categories and a bunch of the time I'd click a video and it didn't load. It was a frustrating experience and after the fourth time I gave up on it. There were other services that took web video hosting and distribution seriously.

I'm not sure that Yahoo Video did any kind of outreach. They might have, I just don't know about it. Not to vloggers, the Pro/Am folks or to their built-in Yahoo visitors.

It is strange that when point and share videos started to be uploaded they never made the connection to invite folks to use their service in connection with their other portals sites like Upcoming. Or when they had a promotion in one part of the company there wasn't a linkage to encourage participation by Yahoo Video folks or the external community.

If they did, we didn't know about it.

Oh well, lessons learned and unlearned. You can use Yahoo's Flickr to upload videos but there is a 90 second limit.

That might change but you never know.

Wednesday, December 15, 2010

A Look At Motion DSP vReveal - Help for Not So Good Video

Nothing can help really a really bad video. There are times when you have a one-time only event that you have to try to rescue. We've all had videos that were very shaky, dim or had a weird color cast. Motion DSP vReveal might be of assistance.

This could be of interest to those folks that have standard definition camcorders, inexpensive high definition camcorders or others that record video on mobile phone devices and media players. vReveal is designed for Windows XP and higher users but you should have a Duo Core CPU or better to use the program.

This is a demonstration video by the company:



There is a free version of the software that only works on standard definition. A watermark will be placed on the video and you will see ads. The premium version is currently $39 which gives you access to the exporting high def videos and other features.

Comfort Level

The program looks simple enough but you do need to know how to get around your computer if you choose not to use the video browser feature. It would be helpful to understand about video file extensions like .mov, .wmv, .avi and to know what your camcorder or recording device uses.

Alternatives

Your video editing software might perform some of these function for you. You'll need to check that out before you decide to use vReavel. On the other hand, if you are time challenged or looking for a one or two click solution this might be it.

So if you need help for that once in a lifetime video that looks like it was shot on a jackhammer or you need to boost the lighting on that dance on the pier you might want to give this software a look.

Tuesday, December 14, 2010

Blue's Snowflake Microphone for Audio Recording

There are times when I need to record narration for a screencast or tutorial. I have tried the standard computer headphone type microphones but I never felt comfortable in them.

I also had a terrible problem with the plosive "p" popping out of my mouth. I needed a solution so I started to visit podcasters tutorial web sites to see how they solved the problem.

Some of the podcasters recommended the Snowball microphone from Blue Microphone. I loved the look of the Snowball but I didn't need the whole rigging shebang.

Blue's Snowflake Microphone
I went to the vendor web site and they had a smaller model called the Snowflake. It was just the right size for my needs. This is Kristin giving her review of the Blue Snowflake Microphone:



It is a USB connected microphone. I can just plug it in and get going. It does add a nice tone to the voice. This microphone is Mac and PC compatible.

According to the web site you can use it for:

Perfect for dictation, field recording, lecture recording, narration, presentations, Vocals, Music Instruments, Podcasting, VOIP (such as Skype and Vonage), Voice Recognition Software, Multimedia; ideal for AIM, Yahoo!, MSN, iChat, ooVoo and Google Talk.

I bought the Snowflake for $79 retail but you might find it less online at places like Amazon.com. It is more expensive than a computer mic but I consider this an investment so it was worth it to me.

Monday, December 13, 2010

Camcorder Buying Help Round-Up - Information Self-Defense

If you are a total newbie to buying camcorders you know you need help but you don't know where to go. Many of the retail sites like Best Buy or eBay have so-called buying help guides but some of them are out of date or have eye candy to divert your attention.

Before you go visit retail stores or web sites you need to know a few things. I have a few places that you should check out to save you time and money.

I want to always encourage you to match up your needs, what you can afford and what the marketplace has to offer.

CamcorderInfo.com has a buying guide that is divided into categories. If you know that you will shoot home movies and video of the family then start there. Those that want to shoot video as you travel then check out that category. Those of you that need for an under $200 camcorder should definitely check out the Budget Camcorder section.

There is one pain in the neck aspect to the site in that an ad will pop-up each and every time you visit a page. It did not use to be this way and I hope it will be changed by the time you visit.

CNet Camcorder Reviews is another place to get the skivvy on camcorders, opinions and price. CNet has a lot of information in different places on the site. You want to look at their buying guide and the step by step camcorder finder guide.

If you are a member of Consumer Reports.org you have access to their research and evaluation of camera and camcorders. It is certainly one of the places that I tap into.

One more joint to swing into is the Camcorders.About.com page. Greg Scoblete does a nice job of honestly laying out what you need to be aware of, what it means and the advantages and disadvantages of certain types of camcorders.

This is your starting line-up. All of the about sources are written in plain English, have good informed suggestions and no obvious forms of payola or advertorials seems to be involved in the buying suggestions.

Good luck and happy shopping.

Sunday, December 12, 2010

What You Should Know About the Sharper Image U-Video Camera

Ah the holiday shopping season. I have had new dads almost run into me with strollers. The moms are in a glazed panic on what to give to crusty old Sadie as they are slinging bags of stuff through the mall.

Curses on me for being in the mall in the first place but I had to replace a broken appliance. JC Penny's is where I saw it in bubble wrap glory. A bunch of them piled up on top of each other like orphans in the storm. Word is out that Macy's has them too.

Sharper Image U Video Camera

Here is what you should know:

On the date when I went to the Sharper Image web site there is no mention whatsoever of this camcorder. Zip. Nada. If there is a problem or question you are on your own.

For those of you will long memories you remember that Sharper Image got itself into a bit of trouble by selling a product that did not do what it claimed to do among other mischief.

That company went into bankruptcy: Here is the skivvy:

The former Sharper Image (The Sharper Image Corporated - "TSIC") filed for bankruptcy in 2007. If you have a question regarding the former Sharper Image, including warranties, merchandise certificates, gift cards, replacement parts, Ionic Breeze, or other products, please visit www.kccllc.net/sharperimage, or call 1-877-312-7060.

Products Purchased From A Retail Store
If you purchased a product at a retail store, for questions or possible returns you have, please go back to the store that you purchased it at.

The Sharper Image web site you see is owned and controlled by another company. It is not the same one that introduced this version of the camcorder. In other words, if you bought this camcorder and it doesn't work you are jacked, screwed and otherwise relieved of $$.$$ cash money.

Now I'm not saying it will not work. Nope. Not at all.

I am saying that if there is a problem your choices are to figure it out or return it to the store. That is if you still have the packaging and the receipt and you are within the acceptable return period.

This is an outdoor test video from Scott Hooper aka LocalEdgeMTM:



As to the camcorder or as they describe it video camera:

  • Records in standard definition 640x480
  • 1GB Flash memory for about an hour of video, I think that is internal so there might not be a memory card. I did look at the package but there wasn't much info on it.
  • Uses 2 AA batteries, it is possible that it comes with an A/C adapter but I can't confirm it as yet.
If you are a Mac User be extra cautious, there maybe a problem getting to the video if it is dependent on Windows software. For another point of view you could review this Q&A at Answers.com

If you really want this camera then Overstock.com has some of the devices for around $50.

I've seen prices range from $28 to $60. I can see risking $28 if you understand that it is a older memory locked and daylight only video camera. For that price I could see using this as a cheap skateboard or motorcycle cam; or for outdoor only videos.

Paying $60? Heck no! I'd look for a refurbished brand name camcorder before I'd give away that much money on this old school video camera. There must be a bunch of them in the back room of the warehouse because this camera was also sold last year at holiday time as well.

For those of you that have received or will receive these as a holiday gift, forgive them. That frugality gene kicks in and, well, they meant well.

Love them anyway and do the best you can.

Thursday, December 9, 2010

Twitter Allows Embedded Photos & Video In Tweets

I've been using New Twitter for a while and it works fine. I've tried some of the new features like the expanded panel to get a sense of a person's recent tweets. Now there is even more of a reason to check out the updated version of Twitter.

You can place photos and videos directly in your tweets.

Example of embedded video

You can now see the video or photo directly in the Tweet panel. This can be a good or very bad thing but you still have control over who you allow to show you videos or even if you want to access the feature.

Example of permission message to view video
You still have the option to open the link in a new window or allow all videos to be displayed.

It can be a good thing because if there is a photo that shows you what is going on you can pop it up in a second. It could be great at conventions when you are interviewing a person and you upload the video ten minutes after talking.

It can be a very bad thing for obvious spamtastical reasons. What marketer or advertiser is gonna let this opportunity go by unused? There will be more ads, commercials, people who want to win a prize and will post links to junk and clog the very pores of the tweet stream.

Not to mention that rooty-tooty stuff.

Here is another reason it can be a stinker. Currently a person follows a link to a blog or web site. They look at the video. The visitor sees other items of interest and hangs around a bit. This is good.

Watching the photo or video in Twitter means that visitors do not have a reason to visit your blog or web site. This is another distraction that can slow that down or stop it entirely.

For text based bloggers this might not be such a good thing. For web video creators it can be great to get your work to a larger public. I'd love getting more poets more exposure and viewers.

But if I have background information or links to their sites the visitor may not see that information if all they do is watch the video.

I have to think about this a bit more.

Wednesday, December 8, 2010

Camcorder Batteries & Power Cords - Finding A Replacement

I've lost batteries and power cords. So after you tear your place up looking for the battery or A/C power cord here are a few suggestions you can use to find a replacement.

First I'd check the manufacture's web site. They might offer a replacement battery or A/C cord. You might not like the price of their replacement A/C power cord but it is an option, especially if it is a proprietary connection.

Sima Replacement A/C camcorder plugYou might not have a choice if it is truly proprietary but other vendors like JR.com might carry an universal A/C adapter for your camcorder.

Now some of the camcorder manufacturer web sites are profoundly sucky. It can be a case of poor layout, bad search features or, with our bottom feeding vendors, the help and support does not exist. This is when you have to float on to the next option.

I'd visiting the major battery companies. Duracell has a easy to use product finder. Not all camcorders are listed but you might find what you are looking for to replace a missing battery.

Another place to check out are places like Fry's Electronics or Best Buy. With Fry's the search is a little wonky however there do have camcorder replacement batteries, chargers and A/C replacements.

If you live near a Fry's or Best Buy you can find out if they have the item in the store. If you do go take the camcorder with you to ensure that you are matching the right item to your camcorder. Don't depend on the sales associates to figure it out for you.

If you have an old school electronic store in your area they might have what you want - give them a try but have the the camcorder name and battery information with you so that you reduce the amount of snarling you might receive.

Finally, I suggest going to RadioShack's online battery finder that not only suggests replacement batteries but replacement A/C chargers as well. For example, I've lost the battery to the JVC Enviro GZMG130U. I selected the category of camcorder, clicked on JVC, then located the model number of the camcorder, and bada-bing I found the replacement battery and a compatible A/C recharger unit for the device.

Shop around - your might find the same replacement battery or A/C power cord at a better price from other proprietors but don't stray off the path with unknown super cheap vendors.

Tuesday, December 7, 2010

Lens Modification Videos - Innovation Sparks

The limitations are in mostly in our minds. Part of the frustration with web/point and share camcorders is that there is no wide angle, telephoto or optical zoom.



It is understandable that manufactures ignore optical zoom features. You are dealing with a small device design in addition to balancing costs and features.

The thing is that in actual recording situations you find yourself needing to get in a bit closer than you physically can at the moment.

Still, if you have The Flip and a lens adapter this is what yo can do:



Doesn't mean it can't be don't. Now seriously, this is going to probably void your warranty. It might be best to try this on a second hand camcorder or older camcorder first to see if you like it.

I would like a non-permanent option so this is a video by James on another way to add a lens modification to a Kodak Zi8:



Not sure about using epoxy but that is the kind of gizmo I'd want to be able to remove the lens adapter and change according to the situation.

The good news is that most of the lens mods and adapters are inexpensive. This is so cool. I'll keep diving in and see if someone has found a solution that I can imitate and use.

Monday, December 6, 2010

Buying A Camcorder Specs–When A Lens Can Put You Over a Barrel

This time it is a look at lens, optics and straight-up flim-flam. Yes, time once again for an exploration of camcorder specifications. Now I admit I got caught by this one years ago and I made it a point to remember.

Here is an example:
That black stuff does nothing to help record a video. The shape and size of the barrel does not indicate the size of the sensor, the zoom ability or anything else other than supporting the teeny tiny hole that light can enter the camcorder. That teeny tiny hole will only allow so much light and data into the camcorder. Here is another example, the Vivitar DVR 840XHD Camcorder. Vivitar DVR840XHD
The black matting is gone but replaced with plastic and glass. I’m not picking on Vivitar because other vendors do similar things to fool unsuspecting or non-photography aware folks.

The analogy that comes to mind is the guy that stuffs his pants with socks. I’m going for the tubular connection but to be fair I could also say this is like the dame that stuffs her bra with tissues.

Ether way this is false advertising of an implied but missing capacity.

What To Look For In A Lens/Optics


Lens


Manufacturers can use either plastic or glass. The can use cheap glass or create a lens free from defects, aberrations and off color fringing. Inexpensive camcorders use plastic only or a combination of plastic and glass. The cool kids on the block use quality optical lenses. That generally does not occur in camcorders under $99.99


Optical Zoom


This is the only zoom that counts. Anything else is just marking hocus pocus. The higher the number the greater the distance you can bring up close. 5x zoom is about 190mm. That is not bad for a pocket camcorder. Sad to say that most pocket camcorders don’t have any optical zoom at all.

On standard definition camcorders you’ll see optical zoom ranges of between 30x to 60x. The high definition camcorders I’ve seen the optical zoom range from 10x to 20x but that will change over time.

In any case, if you think you will be using optical zoom you will need a tripod for anything over 5x. There is no way to hold the device steady enough by hand to prevent the shakes.

Digital Zoom is crap. It just magnifies a certain area of the image or video. If you magnify too much it makes the image look really bad. Dual Zoom or any other indication of more than one zoom systems means that the manufacture is using a combination of optical and digital zoom to make it seem like there is more telephoto than is possible with the lens.


Digital Film Sensitivity


In the analog days film was rated for sensitivity. This meant that certain films were rated according to how well the film recorded with a certain amount of light and detail depending on the recording conditions. Back in the day this was called the ASA number but it is now referred to as an ISO number.

The smaller the ISO number the more light was needed to record the image. The higher the ISO number the less light needed and a shorter amount of time was needed to keep the lens open.

In camcorders here is how it would play out:

  • ISO 50 - You need to be outdoor in bright sunlight. Indoor recording will be bad unless you have a lot of extra light.

  • ISO 100/200 - Still need to be outdoors but a cloudy day is ok. Need extra light for indoor recording.

  • ISO 400 and higher - Outdoors shooting a football game and (depending on the optical zoom, shutter speed and quality of the lens) able to record split second action. Indoors with adequate light will be ok but the video might look a little grainy.

Inexpensive camcorders will have a low ISO sensitivity and the better camcorders will allow you to select the type of ISO sensitivity that you want for your recording. Inexpensive camcorder specification sheets might not even mention ISO numbers. The quality vendor will spell it out in detail.


F/Stop


The smaller the number the more light hits the sensor and the more detail that is recorded. Most pocket camcorders have a f/2.8 lens, that allows a good amount of light in but can be a trade off in terms of focus and depth of field. The higher the f/stop the more light is needed to record the image or video.

For example, f/8 is good for outside on a bright day; the video is sharp and full of color. Yet f/8 could be horrible for inside recoding in a dim lit room. If the camcorder has a fixed f/stop and you need to record indoors that might be a problem. Better to know before you buy.


Shutter Speed

This refers to how quickly the shutter opens and closes to allow light to hit the image sensor. It works in balance with the f/stop, the quality of the lens and the sensitivity of the sensor.

What You Need to Know


If you are in a retail store and are able to look at the camcorder take a look at the lens area. Is it clear or does it have black matting and a very small opening? It should be on the package about the recording capabilities of the device.

If shopping from home please go to the vendor’s web site. Look at the photos and see if you can locate the actual area of the lens. It may be deep inside of the barrel area.

In lower end and inexpensive camcorders the barrel means nothing. There is no optical zoom and digital zoom is crap.

Quality camcorder vendors will tell you the size of the image sensor, the f/stop and the ISO number that refers to the light sensitivity needed to record quality videos.

This is part 5 in my series on how to read camcorder specification information.


Part One - What’s In A Name?
Part Two - Make and Model
Part Three - What Is An Image Sensor?
Part Four - More About Image Sensors?

Sunday, December 5, 2010

Quick Look At Sony HDR CX300 & 350V Camcorders

You get what you pay for and sometimes it is worth it. The Sony HDR-CX300 Series of camcorders is designed for folks needing a balance of portability, features and good optics.

It appears to be a rock solid camcorder and for the price it has got to be; the base unit goes for about $699 to dipping into $1000.

Sony HDR CX300 Series Camcorders

The Sony HDR-CX300 has 16GB on board memory in addition to a Memory Pro and SD/SDHC/SDXC card slot. This is the base level model.

The HDR CX 350V has 32GB on board memory and the HDR-XR350V Handycam Camcorder has a 160GB hard drive for image storage.

Sweet.

This is a demonstration video in low light. Girl in Dragon set up a hoot of a challenge, a gray cat, a moth and indoor recording.



Checking Out Some of The Specs:

The camcorders record in 1920x1080 full consumer level HD.

  • Sensor: 1/4" Exmor R CMOS Sensor
  • Lens 2.9-34.8mm, 30mm G-Lens, able to use 30mm size filters
  • Optical Zoom: 12x
  • Focal Length (35mm equivalent) : 29.8 - 357.6mm (16:9), 36.5 - 438mm (4:3)
  • MPEG AVC/H.264 1920 x 1080i (60 fps)

Loose Translation of the Specs:


These camcorders have a decent size sensor that will pick up an acurate recording of the image and video. The lens are of good glass quality and you can purchase filters to protect the lens or enhance the recording with special effects or image clarity filters.

The F-Stop of f/1.8 is about as fast (open) as you are gonna get on a consumer camcorder. A candle is rated at 1 Lux. These camcorders can handle about 3 Lux meaning you can be in a low light situation and be able to record.

For the record, no standard camcorder will record perfectly in low light situation. The more light you have, the better the video.

You get a decent optical zoom and depending if you are recording in 16:9 or 4:3 you can record from quite a distance.

Is This The Camcorder for You?


I don't know. Your needs are different than mine and mine are evolving. I can make some assumptions.

Reasons To Purchase

  • You are the family designated videographer that is always recording indoors in challenging lighting situation or outside at sport events.
  • You are using it for educational or business video recording where you need a certain level of quality but not complexity.
  • You are thinking about travel vlogging/blogging with a dual need for quality yet need something light and comfortable.

Reasons Not to Purchase


  • No external Line-In or Microphone jack. If you are planing to interview folks or record conference conversations this is important. There is a built-in stereo mic but that means it will pick up everything in the room. You might not want the guy munching on peanuts 17 seats away.
  • This is not a complicated camcorder but if you don't need to record in 1080i at 60fps you'll need to know how to change the recording settings.
  • If you record in standard definition on this camcorder be prepared to know how to convert the MPEG 2 video. Some video editing programs accept it nativity and others you might have to convert into another format before editing.
  • Mac Users need to snoop around to make sure they understand how to import video into their system.
Bottom Line - These camcorders will give you great images and videos. The lens and optics will help you to record in low light situation. They are small enough to fit in a good size purse or pocket. If you can accept no external audio and the price tag it could be a good fit.

Thursday, December 2, 2010

Vimeo Quick Tuts Group Videos

There is always a way to do things better. Rest assured that there is always someone who has a cool way of performing a task or solving a problem. The Vimeo Quick Tuts Group has tutorial videos on one single concept that you can incorporate into your web video skills.

Check it out:

The Swish In and Out:



The Shoelace Tripod:



Home Made SteadyCam



Each one, teach one.

Wednesday, December 1, 2010

Brian Pobuda iPhone Video Montage of NYC

It isn't just about traditional camcorders anymore. There is a range of recording devices that now include mobile recording via Smartphones and tablets. I found this video in the citizen journalism section of Vimeo by Brian Pobuda.


iPhone G4 HD Video Montage: City Life from Brian Pobuda Photography on Vimeo.
It is another example of how it isn't just still photos or video. It can be a creative merger of both document the feeling of being in a color rich dynamic place in time. A catchy tune doesn't hurt either.

From the Apple web site the video tech specs on the iPhone:

  • Video recording, HD (720p) up to 30 frames per second with audio
  • Video formats supported: H.264 video up to 720p, 30 frames per second, Main Profile level 3.1 with AAC-LC audio up to 160 Kbps, 48kHz, stereo audio in .m4v, .mp4, and .mov file formats; MPEG-4 video, up to 2.5 Mbps, 640 by 480 pixels, 30 frames per second, Simple Profile with AAC-LC audio up to 160 Kbps per channel, 48kHz, stereo audio in .m4v, .mp4, and .mov file formats; Motion JPEG (M-JPEG) up to 35 Mbps, 1280 by 720 pixels, 30 frames per second, audio in ulaw, PCM stereo audio in .avi file format
  • 5-megapixel still camera
  • VGA-quality photos and video at up to 30 frames per second with the front camera
  • Tap to focus video or still images
  • LED flash
  • Photo and video geotagging
The creative tools continue to expand. I'm hoping the Android video community kicks into gear soon and very soon.

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