Question

Buying a New Camcorder - Business Use

I am the marketing manager for a local auto group. We are looking to upgrade our camcorder, a Panasonic HCV770. We currently use a lapel mic system and use Premiere Elements for editing software. We want something that takes better quality video and with less sound issues. Both the mic system and the camcorder have caused some problems during filming the past few months. We usually put videos on social media sites and YouTube. Should we pursue 4K camcorders? Any model suggestions? The specs on our current camcorder seem great but its a constant struggle. Ease of use is a major plus. Any buying suggestions or advice would be appreciated!!

Post was last edited on May 29, 2019 9:52 AM PDT

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VX1 or VXF1?

First you are rather vague on the faults you have had with the 770. I have the 750 and the 800 and have had no trouble with either. So is it the camera or the user?
Both the VXF1 and the VX1 have good reports and you can convert the 4K to HD for editing purposes.

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It would be helpful

if you could describe exactly what "Both the mic system and the camcorder have caused some problems during filming the past few months" means. What problems were caused? Is the video shaky or somehow not providing the color you need? Is the video grainy or perhaps the audio has lots of static? Is the video captured at a certain time of day that might be causing lighting issues? You mentioned audio issues apparently caused by the "lapel mic system" but did not tell us the mic manufacturer, model, whether wired or wireless, what the audio issues are or where the mic is clipped to the person using the mic.

Since we don't know that which is resulting in your "constant struggle" making any sort of replacement recommendation is challenging.

Since we're here... understanding the computer hardware being used may be worthwhile. We don't know which version of Premiere Elements is in use. Please keep in mind that video (and video editing) is extremely CPU-intensive. 4k video needs a fairly robust CPU along with lots of RAM and preferably an external drive - not the internal start-up drive - for video project file storage. Editing and rendering on a lesser machine is possible, but can be a bit frustrating.

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Take it easy on the noob

To answer your questions and keep in mind this equipment is probably about 5-6 years old:
-The lapel mic: Movo WMIC50 2.4GHz Wireless Lavalier Microphone System with the mic clipped to the collar area as instructed. The audio cuts in and out frequently but random times.. not when expected like traffic, wind, etc., eats batteries, and when batteries are low, it does not blink or anything.. it just goes red for a second and then shuts off. You have no way of knowing unless you're staring at it, which if it is on the shoe or clipped on the person you're filming you never know. No warning. We like the lapel style that is inconspicuous but want better quality audio without the fear of the random cutting in and out and dead batteries on a whim.
-We use Photoshop Premiere Elements 14 but are thinking of upgrading to the newest version
-For the camcorder: We film all different times of day, and we've never had an issue with lighting with this camcorder. The video quality just seems pixely and clunky these days, as do the controls. Maybe the unit is just worn out. This is regardless of weather or filming conditions. Also, audio quality with the internal mic (and yes, the external mic is disconnected) can be hit or miss, with heavy reverb even outside or static randomly as mentioned in the comment above. We're looking for an upgrade for both the camcorder and mic system, and possibly updated to the newest Premiere Elements.

We were looking at some of the Sony Handycams.. AX53, AX100, etc. Thank you for the info on the 4k.

Also, if you have any suggestions for extra equipment to help alleviate some of the issues, please let me know.

Post was last edited on May 30, 2019 11:11 AM PDT

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Let me write a little about the 2.4 GHz mic.

The clue is the 2.4GHz frequency. That frequency is used by WiFi, Bluetooth and your mic. A WiFi heavy area could have it drop out and come back (cuts in and out.)

You should find it's OK at some locations. If not, it may be getting old and I've seen such get cranky at just 2 years old.

If you go shopping again, I'd shy away to outright avoid 2.4 GHz models.

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Camera problems.

First are you recording using AVCHD 50p ? i.e. the best recording the camera can do. I my case, the 750 and the 800 produce crystal clear pictures even in low light conditions.
I also suspect interference from Wi-FI with the radio mic. Can you use a wired mic or, possibly, a short shotgun?
The internal mic, even in zoom mode, is not directional and will pick up any echo or reverb generated by the rooms' walls.

Post was last edited on May 30, 2019 10:03 PM PDT

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Everyone started somewhere...

This may be one of those opportunities where you can learn from the professionals. You might not want to use the gear they use, but many of the same concepts still apply.

1) Get the largest diameter lens and imaging chip (or 3-chip system) you can afford. The large diameter lens will allow more light into the camcorder to be processed by the imaging sensor/system. The larger imaging sensor/system will provide a much wider window of opportunity of lighting options. You mentioned "ease of use". Auto everything will be your friend - especially under ideal, bright sunlight (better yet, a light overcast day with the sunlight a little filtered).

The above would be considered "ideal lighting conditions". Pretty much any camcorder should behave well and capture really good quality video. We don't always get to work under ideal conditions, so you need to plan for that and have a wider window of opportunity.

Suggested manufacturers: Panasonic, Canon, Sony.

Be sure to record at the highest available resolution/video quality setting. You can always reduce resolution, but if you don't capture at highest resolution, you can't ever "get it back".

2) You knew enough to locate the mic element as close to the audio source (the mouth of the person speaking) as possible. In the case of a lavaliere, we all can hope that the person speaking does not turn their head/mouth away from the mic, otherwise we can have dropouts. Again, with the professionals, when wireless gear is used, the frequency range is between 470 MHz and 608 MHz - or in the 1.9 GHz range.

Wireless is challenging to do well. Other devices - and technology - are constantly transmitting so the receiver needs to be smart enough to reject spurious emissions that might be picked up as interference (static, drop-outs, etc.). Wifi and others share the 2.4 GHz spectrum... Same with the 5GHz range. And 900 MHz has been used by garage door openers, personal weather stations and other devices for a while. A few years ago (in the US), wireless mics and a few other items were kicked off the UHF and VHF TV bands being reallocated to "wireless services" (I think "Internet of Things" IoT gear). Sorry - I digress - you don't need to know about this... but it is interesting to me. There are a few other allowed wireless mic frequencies, but the takeaway is that good wireless gear is not inexpensive.

Suggested manufacturers: Sennheiser, Sony (professional), Shure, Audio Technica... there are a few others, but they can get fairly pricey. Things to look for: Change channels within a frequency range so if there is interference, moving to another channel typically resolves that. Metal case. Battery level indicator that flashes when battery power is low.

Another option is to use a field audio recorder and record the audio separately. A wired lavaliere plugged into the field recorder can work - import the audio from the recorder when editing. The video editor should have a graphic representation of the audio. Line the spikes up - when the echo is gone, the audio is synched. Use of a "slate" clap board can provide take info and the snap will provide a distinct audio spike for alignment... then mute the audio that was captured with the video.
Suggested manufacturers: Zoom, Marantz, Sony (professional), Tascam, a few others.

Another option is to use a wired mic. This can be lavaliere, handheld or shotgun (very directional). These can take some getting used to and use of XLR connectors is desirable - especially for long cable runs.

Suggested manufacturers: Audio Technica, Shure, Sennheiser.

Most camcorders less than ~$1,500 that have an audio input don't use XLR connectors. They have a single 3.5mm stereo audio input. To use XLR mics with these camcorders, an "XLR adapter" is needed. Most camcorders in this same price range will have their manual audio gain control buried in a menu - and adding an XLR adapter should include audio gain knobs and a couple of other useful features.

Suggested manufacturer: BeachTek. Since we don't know which mic(s) you might want to use, be sure to get an XLR adapter that can provide "phantom power" to the mic. This is especially important if you decide to use a shotgun mic - Decent condenser mics need power. Sometimes that means putting a AA, AAA or 9 volt battery inside the mic. Other times it means supplying the battery with power externally - phantom power...

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Based on what you've told us, you seem to want to replace the camcorder. If you can keep using it under good lighting conditions, there may not be a need to do that - but the settings need to be checked - and perhaps set accordingly. If the issues continue, then replacement might be in order. I've found that camcorders in the same price range from the suggested manufacturers will provide similar video quality under good lighting conditions.

Either of the Sonys you list are OK. Panasonic and Canon will have competitive equivalents.

The mic could probably be upgraded/replaced. (Built-in mics are generally good - but they can't be in the best place for the mic to be to provide acceptable video - so the built-in mic "is not good"). I use Sennheiser wireless labs, Audio Technica and Shure XLR wired mics (sometimes with the Sennheiser wireless add-on module. My current camcorder has XLR audio inputs, so its a little easier than adding an XLR adapter.

And... if you are not using some sort of steadying device (tripods are common), then start using a steadying device. Davis & Sanford makes decent affordable tripods... like the Pro-Vista. Pretty much anything with a "fluid head" (not "fluid head like").

and taking a breath...

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