Making Videos - Gear and Tips?

Posted: 10/3/2008 10:37:19 AM

From: Kingston, NY

Joined: 2/13/2005

Hey gang,
a lot of you have been doing the on-line video thing. My current gear is just a little too old to interface with a computer.

So as we're looking to get a new one, I thought I'd ask some of you new "web-video stars" for pointers.

What kind/brand of camera has worked best?
Hard drive storage?
Is there on that will connect, out of the box, to both PCs and MACs?
Any additional interfaces that are must haves?
Do the cameras record well or do you need to use line inputs (is one model best for that)?
How do you edit and deploy to the web?
And of course, how did you keep it affordable?

Yeah, lots of newbie questions, but we don't have much in here yet on this. And it's becoming a big part of Theremin Out Reach!

Thanks all, hopefully I'm not the only one at TW needing to catch up on this technology.
much appreciated as always!!
Posted: 10/3/2008 12:43:36 PM
Thomas Grillo

From: Jackson Mississippi

Joined: 8/13/2006

I'm currently in the market for a new camera. I'm leaning toward hard drive types. Dell has a number of good looking cameras that are hard drive types. They do have USB connections. I'm nervus about hard drive camcorders, because some do cause a high pitch noise in the video which is caused by the hard drive. Don't know if that's been fixed.

Disc camcorders can sometimes record the sound of the disc vibrating as it spins while recording via open mic.

My preference would be one that allows external audio input connection so I don't have to record, and mix my audio seperately.

One serious tip I can offer: build a good new machine, and find a copy of Windows 98, or (maybe) XP, but don't use VISTA! Vista won't run videos that require AVI codecs correctly. Most digital camcorders tend to record in AVI, or some other format.

I would look for a camcorder that can record in a format that's compatable with windows media player, or movie maker. If anyone has Vista, and knows of a realistic fix for AVI, please let us know. I've tried codec packs with no success. Even service pack 1 for vista didn't work.

One problem I've run into with some camcorders, is they playback great in the view-finder, but once you export the vid, the vid looks dark. I had that problem when I did the waterphone demo vid.

I can't afford really good editors, so I've been using movie maker to produce my vids.
Posted: 10/3/2008 5:43:20 PM

From: Eastleigh, Hampshire, U.K. ................................... Fred Mundell. ................................... Electronics Engineer. (Primarily Analogue) .. CV Synths 1974-1980 .. Theremin developer 2007 to present .. soon to be Developing / Trading as . ...................................

Joined: 12/7/2007

I dont know much about this - but looking at specs recently, the memory card cameras looked good.. a 4GB SD card stores quite a long video, and are quite cheap now.. Also, they use far less current than a HD.. and make no noise.. Also have the advantage that you can swap cards, and be reading the card into the PC while getting on with filming something else..

Only trouble is that I cant find one with stereo mic's or stereo inputs

Oh.. Yes.. Vista is a real pain! I believe it is possible to buy a new PC with dual O/S (Vista + XP-Pro) but not possible to buy an XP-Pro only.. And its becoming difficult to buy XP Pro disks / licences now.
Posted: 10/3/2008 7:26:33 PM
Thomas Grillo

From: Jackson Mississippi

Joined: 8/13/2006

I have also noticed PCs offered with downgrade options.
Posted: 10/4/2008 3:36:26 AM

From: London, UK

Joined: 6/5/2007

I was lent a camera my Dad got from reward points a couple of years ago. Cannon MV890. It is, I guess, a low end type, but maybe my experiences will help.

It records digitally onto tape. Connecting to the PC using a Firewire interface. This is the same as IEE1394 or Ilink, all the same thing.

Got a new Firewire card for less than £15 and a bit later a used PCMCIA version for £5 off ebay.

Hook them up and it was plain sailing, absolute piece of cake to transfer the films onto PC.

In terms of machine spec, can only really talk about PC, I used a 3Ghz running Windows 2000 at work, no problems at all. The speed is important as a lower clock speed will affect the video quality.
I had to buy a new PC for home and have a 3.2Ghz running Vista, the Firewrire card won't install (but will admit haven't tried recently). Way around this was to install a second hard drive with XP on it. So can boot up with either Operating System or remove one if needed and there are no problems.

Software, I used Ulead Video Studio, Movie Maker and Nero and can report no problems. DVD's made for friends and family all over the world, film clips converted to any regular format.

I found the whole process to be a walk in the park, really simple, quality was certainly watchable on a TV or computer.
Well my Dad was impressed!

Hope that helps someone.

Posted: 10/4/2008 7:36:19 AM

From: Croxley Green, Hertfordshire, UK

Joined: 10/5/2005

Firewire works fine on any Mac with a Firewire port (i.e. not MacBook Air.)

I would insist on a camera with an audio-in port. You shouldn't have to rely on the built-in mic.

The best improvement to any camera is good lighting.

Here's a very straight-forward, practical introduction to lighting for digital video.
Posted: 10/4/2008 8:55:13 AM
Thomas Grillo

From: Jackson Mississippi

Joined: 8/13/2006

Hi Gordon, Thanks for the lighting for digital video link. I need to check that out, and update my lighting skills a bit.

I've been lighting my vids based on an old lighting for video VHS tape I found in the bin along with some cool stuff I now use for props a while back. It really helped improve my lighting skills, but back when that tape was made you had to really dump an aweful lot of light into a scene because video cams back then (in the 70s/80s) were so light dependant it was a nightmare. Now, cams require just a little extra light in the right places to make all the difference.

I use the same scheme used by tv studios. A back light mounted way up, and behind me to light my head, and shoulders, and bring my outline into the foreground. Then I use a key light on one side only to bring out my features, and finally, a dimmer fill light on the other side to prevent black shadowing of the rest of my features not lit by the key light. Sometimes I might have to use a bit of extra lighting.

For the most part, as sensitive as cams are today, I can get away with only a couple of 40 watt reflector type bulbs, and a 60 watt reflector bulb for the key light. I use the ones found in track lighting fixtures for this. But, I'd like to eventually get the difusers, and light boxes used by professional videographers, and photogs to do better lighting.

A relative is going to loan me their hard drive based camcorder, so I'll get to see how that works. Unfortunately, no ext audio input. I'll still have to record and mix my a/v the way film makers do. (the hard way). ;)
Posted: 10/4/2008 9:33:51 AM

From: Kingston, NY

Joined: 2/13/2005

Thanks guys, am going to start looking this weekend. One of our god sons who's doing lots of video work also suggested the tape/memory card type. I was thinking too I'd want mic and stereo/line inputs for recording.
Still have a lot to figure out for the PC side.

I'm on an old machine, and luckily on XP have had issues with Vista for dev work before this, but this adds to the dismay over what MS is doing. Please think of them kindly though, they are in the Scrooge way the "founder of the feast", we're dependent on them for our jobs and they help pay for TW.

I think the HD, and the supporting systems are just wayyyyy out of my means.

On the PC/MAC, is anyone else drive space challenged like me? Can you use and external drive for downloading and editing, will it play OK from a USB drive?
Do you need a PCI card interface too or is the USB enough?

very much appreciated!
Posted: 10/4/2008 10:07:54 AM
Thomas Grillo

From: Jackson Mississippi

Joined: 8/13/2006

You should be able to use an external drive for editing with little, or no problems. Just need to make sure you're using the usb 2.0 ports for best transfer rates between the drive, and pc.

You could also slave a second drive inside the pc for even better performance.

Oh, one last thing about recording, If one has to mix seperate audio for high quality audio, do go ahead, and use the open mic in the camera. This way, when you edit, you can use the open mic track as an alignment reference track for syncronizing the imported audio track. Once you're synced up, just select the cams mic track, and either delete, or mute it, and you'll be left with a fantastic audio track on your video.

OOO! one other important thing, don't try to sync up until after you've added tittles, and credits, and black at the ends, or you'll have to sync up all over again. Sync up last. ;)
Posted: 10/4/2008 4:08:18 PM

From: Croxley Green, Hertfordshire, UK

Joined: 10/5/2005

Hi Thomas - sounds like you're doing most of the stuff on the link I gave already. It does suggest using builder's halogen lights for spots.

Yes, modern digital cameras can cope with poor lighting and give fair results. Nonetheless brighter light closes down the aperture of any camera thereby increasing the depth of field and giving sharper focus as well as reducing graininess and increasing the dynamic range of both contrast and colour saturation and more accurate hues. Compensating for lighting is software can only go so far - better to start with top quality data when possible.

(It even works with the eye, which has better data-processing behind it than any digital camera by several orders of magnitude. We fitted our kitchen with 24 of those little directable halogen spots, as well as a few downlighters under the cupboards, (and a skylight too, just for good measure) and with them all switched on the fixtures and fittings gleam like a picture in a glossy magazine.)

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