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Old 07-23-2008, 02:17 PM   #1
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Default Some Electronics Help... parents are screaming for photo/video

1) Need Camcorder
Must have good optical zoom. Digital zoom can drink from my catch-can.
Must record in user friendly video format.(not some proprietary bullshit where I'm limited to just their "bundled" software).

Would like hard-drive based.(unless somebody want's to talk me out of it).
I have big hands but want a small unit.
Would like a touch-screen fold-out panel and also an eyepiece.
Would be nice if it took decent still photos.
Am willing to spend extra money for big battery upgrade if available.

School me if you've got experience, or let me know some features I might be missing out on mentioning that you find mandatory/nice in a unit. I'd like to keep the price in the $500 range, but the 2 "MUST" haves are not negotiable at any price.

2) Video Compression Software
My Sony T200 digital camera has great video recording but a 1minute video is like 100megs... gotta get it smaller for sending through email and posting on websites. I refuse to settle for Youtube compression loss.

I'm sorry I don't even know what it records in... Mpeg2 or Mpeg4 maybe... not geeky enough in this department. Anyways, how do I get the file-size smaller without losing fidelity? I don't have the time or need to spend money on some hi-dollar anything. I assume there's a Micky-Mouse-easy program I can download to get these videos small and that can still be played on WMP by my parents the instant they click on them... and that I can download the program for free.

Show me the money!

Last edited by samnavy; 07-24-2008 at 01:24 PM.
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Old 07-23-2008, 09:26 PM   #2
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The couple of Canon cameras I have recently played around with record in .avi format, which can be edited in Windows Movie Maker, all easy and free.

I prefer iMovie and soundtrack pro, but for simplicities sake, stick with .avi it is pretty simple and easy to use =>your needs.

Also stay away from Nikon cameras or any others that only record in .mov formats (Quicktime), converting files can be a real PITA on a Win machine, unlesss you have a G5 (Quicktime pro will convert from .mov to .avi (but it's not free ($30)and once you download it you have to pay each time $30.00)

I don't have alot of time to play around with different file conversions BTDT. Record in .avi, edit in .avi and play in .avi ... KISS ...
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Old 07-24-2008, 01:23 PM   #3
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All right, it's been 24hrs and you guys are not coming through for me. Thanks for the advice Jefe... now the rest of you click reply and tell me what I need to know.
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Old 07-24-2008, 01:43 PM   #4
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Go here.

As for file size, thats all about how well you compress and what software you plan to use. Get Ulead anything, or Movie Maker.
Your camera spits out 1 minute per 100 megs because its producing uncompressed files. Editing software will recompress the data and keep your quality by just moving around key frames to save space.

Youre not gonna get decent pictures from a camcorder, go and get yourself a Nikon D40x or a Rebel. Youre gonna need a good camera to catch everything your kids do, dont bother wasting money on point and shoots at this point. This camera will last you straight into adolescence, dont skimp now.

Personally I would go with MiniDV. Its bulletproof, it uses least compression letting you work with the quality, cheap, and it just plain always works.

Think about it, tomorrow you topped off the hard drive. Then for some reason the harddrive dies, afterall its a spinning disk inside a case that you are doing god knows what with while chasing your child around, and you lost all that video. Now what?

People jump out of planes with MiniDV cams strapped to their heads, that should give you an indication of its robustness.

Last edited by Saml01; 07-24-2008 at 01:55 PM.
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Old 07-24-2008, 02:03 PM   #5
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Go to Circuit Shitty, tell the salesman that money is no object and buy whatever he recommends.
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Old 07-24-2008, 02:03 PM   #6
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I use QTpro to rip any video to mpeg4 h264. There's other pc programs that do the same. The other factor is the native frame rate and size from the camera. I've been using a Canon S2 point-n-shoot for both snapshots and video for about three years now. Does a good job of both. It'll do 640x480 @ 30fps, which is near hidef. Another consideration for quality is the "amount" of glass (and size) of the lens on the camera. The S2 is a large point-n-shoot with a big lens and that shows dramatic improvement over the smaller A canons. But I'd recommend finding software to convert your "raw" video to reduce the file size, if it looks good from the camera.

If you really want state of the art, the new Casio EXF1 is where it's at. Excellent stills and native mpeg4 video with super optics in one cam:
At a price of course.
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Old 07-24-2008, 05:09 PM   #7
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Given that your target application is the production of video for internet-based distribution, I'd strongly encourage you to consider tapeless acquisition. MiniDV is indeed a very popular and robust format, so much so that when I bought a camcorder for my mother a couple of years ago it was a MiniDV, however the paradigm there is somewhat different. Her mode of operation is to shoot a tape, then remove it, stick a label on it, and put it on the shelf. When it comes to PC-based editing, there is nothing more tedious and off-putting than having to stream all your video from the camera to the PC in realtime over the firewire port before you can edit it- to the point where you'll eventually start "forgetting" to do it.

I also understand the objection to hard-disk based cameras, though I'm not sure I fully agree with the logic of it. I mean, iPods have hard drives in them, and they survive jogging.

Consider however that many mid-range cameras now shoot directly onto SD or CF media. As such, you don't have a capacity limit like with a HD camera, since you can just carry an extra card or two in your pocket. And frankly, the capacity of modern SD/CF cards is pretty much equal to the size of the hard disks that most drive-based cams are coming with.

The nice thing here being that after you're done shooting you just pop the card out of the camera and into the PC, and you've got direct access to your files. No downloading.

I did a very cursory survey, and came up with a couple of potential candidate, all of which have optical zoom, and none of which have an eyepiece (those are getting rare):

No first-hand experiance with any of these, just examples of a genre. I've used other Aiptek hardware before, and they're basically what they look like- very cheaply made, but adequate in terms of quality.


The nice thing about the current incarnation of Windows' media is that it's pretty format-agnostic. So long as you've got the right codec, it doesn't really matter what software you edit in relative to what encoding form your video came from. For example, I use Adobe Premiere, which doesn't come bundled with anything- you just install the right codecs and premiere wil treat any piece of video equally.

Output is going to be tricky. You want high quality with small filesize.

Frankly, the compression scheme that YouTube uses is actually pretty darn good. You have to keep in mind that a lot of their stuff already looked like crap when a user uploaded it.

The highest quality codecs you're going to find, in my opinion, are the DivX and XviD implementations of the Mpeg-4 library. They are used almost exclusively by the Torrent community, and to give you an example, an hour long program encoded to take up 300 megs, when viewed on my 55" HDTV set, comes across as "pretty darn good", while one encoded to 700 megs is "damn near DVD quality."

When you encode your final output, you'll choose a particular codec to use, and you'll specify the parameters you want to apply in terms of quality vs. size. One trick you can pull is to reduce the resolution of the output file. All else being equal, I tend to find it preferable, for a given filesize, to run a lower resoltion (down to maybe 320x240) in order to use a less aggressive compression scheme.

The thing to keep in mind here is that this all has virtually nothing to do with what camera you shot on and what your source file format was. Good editing software will take in any video format (including the mixing of formats within a project) and then output in any format and codec you wish. Just shoot the original source material at the highest quality possible (the lowest compression you can), and make your tradeoffs at the end.
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Old 07-24-2008, 07:56 PM   #8
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Joe, thanks a bunch for the info... a nice little reality check.

I have heard some negative things about the reliability of hard-drive based units... probably if you drop the thing off a balcony, it might skip... and a tape-unit might not.

MiniDV always seems to record in DV format... I didn't know DV was it's own format. It seems to be the piece-of-cake solution as all editing software seems to love it.

The Canon's and JVC's all record in a .MOD format which the internet seems to universally disdain. I usually really like Sony products, but I have a bad feeling about running into the "Beta problem" where I want the camera to do something except it won't let me unless I buy another Sony product.

Still doing homework... a model with MiniDV or SD/flashcard based recording is looking like the toughest choice. It looks like I'm not gonna get an eyepiece... and the Panasonics have the options I'm looking at. An external directional mic seems to be the universal first upgrade as well.
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