HOME Technology 2004
Digital video cameras shoot for sweet spot
Editing your own movies never easier

Filming and editing your own video, for personal or public use has become a realistic and affordable option now that digital cameras capable of broadcast quality output are consumer products.

With hard disk space cheaper than ever and DVD burners standard with new PCs, there’s never been a better time to invest in a quality camera and editing package

You need to start by selecting a camera from a company with a proven reputation not some come-lately clone. The big brands in digital video include Sony, Panasonic, Canon, JVC, Toshiba and Sharp.

The key component is the charge coupled device (CCD) chip which handles the colour processing. Single chip cameras have to resolve colour information from a prism of red, green and blue through a single filter and are more than suitable for most home video and hobbyists. Prices have plummeted recently to between $1000-$2000.

A 3CCD camera has a separate chip for each colour ensuring broadcast quality. Panasonic has led the way with its 120GWS model with 10 x optical zoom selling for as low as $1700 –about $1000 less than this time last year.

And its latest model the NV-GS400 with 12 x optical zoom, with a new crystal engine image processor for simultaneous video and still picture capture and optical image stabliser is selling for $3500. This camera doubles as a still camera which can capture images at 4Mpixels. Both models can deliver broadcast quality moving pictures.

There are several digital tape formats but Panasonic takes the MiniDV cassette which in long play can run up to 90 minutes. If you want to use the sound and edit it through the PC you’ll need to record at slow mode which typically gives you 60 minutes capacity.Tapes can vary in cost but are typically about $18 each. If you buy in a three or five pack you may save a few dollars.

Panasonic, Canon and others take the SD card but there’s also the Memory Stick used by Sony and Samsung for storing additional images. Both formats now deliver up to 2Gb capability - that a lot of still images that can be captures and at 3.6Mb per second that’s about 10 minutes available if you run out of tape.

Always look for optical zoom (eg 10 x) as a guide rather than digital zoon. Optical relates to the actual distance to bring the image closer while digital has more to do with homing in on available pixels.

When buying your camera consider investing in an extra battery, possible one that last longer than an hour.

Most cameras come with a basic editing package and drivers to connect your camera to your PC through the USB (universal serial bus) port. Windows Movie Maker 2 is a good example of an entry level package and it comes free as part of the Windows XP operating system. However these low end packages are really only able to handle low resolution edits.

If you are serious about editing at high resolution you need the grunt of something like a Pentium 4, 3GHz PC with a DVD recorder and higher end editing package such as Final Cut Pro, Pinnacle Edition 5, MediaStudio Pro 7 from Ulead or the industry leading Adobe Premier Pro or Adobe’s Video Collectiopn Pro which gives you a full range of editing and effects and enhancement tools .

You will also need a FireWire card (about $140) and cable to handle the throughput. Oh, and you’ll need to upgrade your RAM (random access memory to at least 500Mb (1Gb often recommended) and lot of spare space on your hard disk, preferably 40-100Gb.

When filming remember that jerky images are annoying. Stabilise the camera firmly with both hands and for prolonged shots a tripod is recommended.

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