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Using Camcorders
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    Table of Contents:
  • Using Camcorders
  • Video Formats: 8mm, SVHS-C, HI-8, and Digital8
  • MiniDV and Importance of FireWire
  • Newcomers to the Format Market
  • The Use of Camcorders
  • Hey, I'm on TV!

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    Using Camcorders

    (Page 1 of 6 )

    This is a primer for those interested in buying a camcorder for thefirst time. There are many options available for the consumer andprosumer market, and if you have the video bug, there is an option forevery budget. Capturing and viewing the important moments in the lifeof your friends and family is important and can be financiallyrewarding. Part two of this article will deal with capturing yourfootage and using video editing software to create your Oscar winner.

    Video Formats

    Before getting started, you should familiarize yourself with some ofthe video formats available to you in the camcorder market. Youroptions will change according to your budget, but with the rate atwhich prices drop, coupled with the ease of use of internet biddingservices like eBay, you can be assured that with a little knowledgeyou’ll get the best bang for your buck.

    Full-Size VHS

    This is probably the least popular format because of size: bigger isnot better. My first attempt at shooting, capturing, and editing wasdone using one of these behemoths. You literally do have to perch it onyour shoulder to shoot. (I guess I felt kind of important, almost likea real filmmaker, until the 5 lb. battery fell out and almost broke mybig toe.)

    The only--and I mean only--benefit to this format is that once youget home you can pop it into your VCR and view it. Capturing video fromthis beast to edit is time consuming, the audio is usually poor, andmany manufacturers no longer make the batteries and accessories neededfor this machine. In fact, Panasonic, formerly one of the goodmanufacturers of this product, has discontinued production. Hitachi andRCA still have some support for these, but no telling for how long. Ifyou are trying to go cheap and have some time on your hands, this is agood way to piece together a decent package for yourself.

    Compact VHS (also known as VHS-C)

    My mother-in-law shot my wedding using one of these camcorders. Thequality is poor and the audio is inaudible. This smaller version of VHSneeds an adapter to be played in a home VCR. It’s a bit of a pain, butprobably worth it if you take into account the drastic reduction insize of the camcorder itself. (If you’ve seen the people holdingcamcorders with a strap on the side of the cam where their hand slipsthrough--that is usually what we are talking about here.) You can copythe contents through your VCR to a regular VHS tape, but once again youhave a time-consuming process on your hands. You will take a hit inlength, since this format saves bulk by using a smaller tape. Recordingtimes stay between 30 and 90 minutes.

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