So, you want to publish video of your recordings online. To do so, a good camcorder is a must-have to capture good video. I’ll cover a few options including the camcorder that I use for my videos.
Just like with audio recording, there is a trade-off between money, the amount of time you are willing to devote to processing the video, and the quality of the resultant video. Finally, consider your final product. If the target is just a youtube clip, then lower quality will probably be fine. If you intend to produce DVDs then higher quality is a must.
Quick and Easy
A new camcorder format has recently picked up in popularity. These are typified by the Flip Video series ($130-$180). It is very small, the quality isn’t perfect but is good enough, and records in a format that is suitable for uploading to youtube. Most people do not edit the content produced by this recorder.
The New York Times has a great review of this unit. This would be great to grab clips of your harinam party, temple kirtans, and other events where a short clip is sufficient.
Since it is flash based, copying the video to your computer is faster than real-time — a big problem with tape-based camcorders.
The next step up is a mini-DV tape based camcorder. These camcorders have been around for years and are very reliable. The quality should be better than the flip, but not as good as an HD camcorder. Price should be in the $250-$500 range. In general I don’t recommend these anymore. Technology is moving forward to the next generation of camcorders. On the other side, if you are on a budget, you might be able to pick up a used one cheap at a garage sale, Craigslist, or eBay. You’ll also need some video editing software and a firewire connector on your computer. A decent model would be the Canon ZR950 ($250).
Do not buy any DVD based camcorder. The quality is substandard and the media is pricey. I’d only recommend one for someone that has no intention of editing the video after recording.
The next step up is an HD camcorder. I shoot all my current video using a Sony HDR-SR11 ($1100). This records in full HD (1920x1080i) to a 60gig hard drive (or to a memory stick if you want). The low-light performance is fairly good. You can also manually adjust the exposure to increase the brightness in a darker space. The camcorder also has the option of using an external mic, a headphone jack, and an external zoom control. I’ve been very pleased with this camcorder. The only thing I don’t like about this camcorder (and is common with the last Sony HD camcorder I used) is that it is slow to focus in low light. This can be frustrating when out on a night harinam. Oh, and there is no native progressive recording mode so I have to convert to progressive as part of the editing process. But, for 90% of what I record, this camera is perfect.
Flash HD Camcorder
I mentioned above that Canon makes a very good competitor to the Sony including better low-light performance. The Canon Vixia HF10 ($820). This is a flash based camcorder with 16Gig built-in and a expansion SDHC slot for additional space. I used to use a flash based Sony camcorder (Sony HDR-CX7) and definitely appreciated the small size and low weight. The drawback is that if the class goes long and you are recording at high quality, then you have to stop and change the flash card part-way through the class. The CX7 used 8gig cards — perhaps the 16gig cards reduce the possibility of running out during a long class, kirtan or other performance. The flash memory would still be limiting for all-day events like Rathayatra or Janmastami.
The next step up from the regular HD camcorders are the semi-pro HD camcorders. Most are tape-based and record to HDV which is a variant of mini-DV. These camcorders tend to be physically larger and perform VERY good in low-light conditions.
No matter which camcorder you are interested in, research the camera online. A very good website for camcorder reviews is at camcorderinfo.com.
Also remember that each step up in quality requires a more powerful computer to edit and render the final video with the exception of HDV. Computer resources go up from flip->minidv->HDV->AVCHD (flash and hard drive based HD). If you do not have access to a high performance PC or Mac, then stick with the flip or minidv type camcorders.
Next week? Lighting.