So far, I have concentrated on still photography. And to be sure, there will be more discussion of still photography as time goes by, but there is another type of “photography” that people are interested in.
That’s right, for that hidden Cecile B. Demille or George Lucas, the lure of the video camera is strong. I see it every week, some teenager who wants to make the next indie film, and the father who wants to record all his children’s sports and school events. I’ve been there myself.
So, what’s out there for the budding movie maker?
Chances are, the available camcorders at your local discount or electronics store are smaller than you expect. Ridiculously small, even.
If you are looking for something where you can record, then pull the tape out and pop it into your VCR, you’re out of luck. VHS has disappeared from the camcorder market, and VHS-C is an endangered species. So is 8MM tape, much to my own chagrin.
There are three main formats now:
DVC, or Digital Video Cassette
This is a small tape cartridge that holds up to 2 hours of digital video. You can then watch it on TV, transfer it to a VCR, or transfer it to your computer as a series of digital files.
A 3 inch DVD that will play back in most standard DVD players. That’s convenient, but a limit of 30 minutes on a disk is not. You can copy the files from the DVD to a computer, and erase the disk if you use CD-RW (rewriteable) disks.
That’s right, the camcorder has become a small computer. Video is stored on an internal hard drive. The camcorder plugs into your computer, and looks like another hard drive to it. The two models I have seen so far have 20GB and 30GB hard drives – enough for 4 1/2 and 7 hours, respectively, of high quality digital video.
Now, for myself, I’m a computer nerd, so given my choice, I’d go for the hard drive option. Naturally, this is the most expensive option. The DVD sounds attractive, until you look at the time limitation. If you are planning to use your camcorder in short bursts, when the kids are blowing out the candles and playing on the beach, 30 minutes doesn’t seem too bad. If you are recording your child’s dance recital or high school play, you better be packing lots of extra disks with you. The tapes hold more so you won’t risk missing something important while switching them out.
Please feel free to post any questions you have about camcorders, and I’ll try to get answers for you.