I am "self-trained" in video capture and editing. I had the opportunity to watch others making short subjects. I was invited by some of them to capture the "behind the scenes" for their projects. Live music performances of local bands, short spots for for local non-profits, and small business - pretty much those who could benefit from video but could not afford "real skills, training and experience".
Things learned over the last 15-20 years:
1) Any camcorder can capture decent video if the camcorder is used within its "design parameters". Lower cost camcorders have small lenses & imaging chip. These don't do well under low-light conditions. Add light or use a camcorder with large lenses and 3-chip array.
2) Camcorders capture video - and audio. Any camcorder can capture decent audio if the audio level is normal, automatic audio gain control is used and the audio source is near the camcorder's built-in mics. When this is the case, usually, the framing of the video is poor. Use of external mics is prudent - so is using manual audio gain control for very loud or very soft audio. There is no "single best mic". A decent wireless lavalier or to, a shotgun mic and a good handheld mic or two are a start. XLR connectors are better than consumer grade 1/8" (3.5mm) connectors.
3) Humans were not built to be steady. Never shoot handheld. Use some sort of stabilizing gear. Tripod, helmet mount, floor, chair, table - anything, but not handheld.
4) When you get the camcorder, disable digital zoom.
5) Low compression is best. DV/HDV (usually to miniDV tape) is low compression. High compression AVCHD available in most flash memory and hard disc drive camcorders can have issues with fast action. It is not the storage media, but the format of the recorded video stored to the media. One can connect miniDV tape camcorders to external flash memory devices to record HDV format video over firewire connection. Panasonic DVCPro/DVCProHD and Sony DVCAM/HDCAM are also low compression formates that can be written to digital tape or flash memory.
6) Consider your editing environment. To be edited, video needs to be decompressed. 60 minutes of editable high definition video in your computer can consume up to 44 gig of computer hard drive space. How will the video be archived? Digital tape is an acceptable archive media. Flash memory is not. Single hard disc drive is not - but multi-drive RAID1 systems (like a network attached storage - NAS), are.
7) bhphotovideo.com, adorama.com, and a few other places are reputable. So is tapestockonline.com and Fry's Electronics (online or otherwise).
The battery in the box with the camcorder is minimal. Get one or two high capacity rechargeable batteries from the camcorder manufacturer (or bhphotovideo's "Pearstone" private label).
9) The camcorder is one piece of a much larger system. To manage this along with the talent/story, use of a script, storyboards, shot list and lots of planning will help keep projects on track. Jump the track and expect problems. Short subjects and major productions are very carefully project managed to stay on budget.
10) If $2,000 is the budget, consider $1,000 for the camcorder and the rest for other stuff. If $2,000 is only for the camcorder, expect to spend at least that much on accessories. Add more for computer upgrades and editing/transcoding applications.
There's more - but I'll hold here until you say it is OK to proceed...
I have been taking stills photographs for over 20 years and have never taken a photography course. I think I have reached a pretty professional level.
I am now looking to get into video shooting and was wondering if similarly, one could teach himself how to shoot good videos or is it more complicated and one must go through some kind of training to be able to produce good results.
I have a Sony Handycam DCR-SR68, which I have been using and am very unsatisfied with the quality of the films. I am looking into buying a professional or semi-professional High Definition video camera but again, am wondering if I could teach myself how to use it and produce good results or not.
Any advice on this issue as well as a good camera to start with (budget up to $2,000) would be extremely appreciated!