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camcorder for business use - advice?

by human177 / January 12, 2010 2:55 AM PST

(Note: I've gone through the CNET and google search engine before starting this thread.)


So I have the honours of cutting business costs by doing in my free time what we would otherwise outsource. :-p

What I'm looking for is a camcorder that would allow for the following (difficulty gradually increases):

1. Interviews in office settings
2. Interviews in outdoor settings
3. Reports at expo's (so lot's of people walking around)
4. Reports at low light events (a concert would compare to it)

I could add '5. a small documentary', though that's more ambition than demand right now.

Although there will probably be some promo-DVD's and big screen presentations, youtube-ish HD quality will be the norm.

Many corporations in the sector I know of have prosumer independent film grade camcorders you nearly have to support with your shoulders (you see them constantly at expos). But as far as I have read, this is huge overkill in the 21st century.

In fact, something the Panasonic HDC-TM300 would do fine for example. But I would like confirmation. Price is not so much the issue here, but overkill is just... waste.

Also, the thing I still haven't understood at all is whether 3CCD is necessary. 3 Colour channels or 1, does it make that much a difference?

Of course external audio appliances will be used.

So, who will give me some professional input to let me come to a conclusion?

Thanks in advance!

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Sorry - I have questions before answering...
by boya84 / January 12, 2010 5:37 AM PST

1) What is your budget?

2) Does that budget include mics (shotgun, handheld, wired or wireless, lavaliere systems, etc), lights, tripod or other steadying device, cases, and other accessories?

3) What are you planning to edit on (computer hardware) and with (Video editing application)?

4) What is your expectation for archiving video? Not "back up" but long term archive of the original video for when you need that specific clip months or years after it was captured?

"Many corporations in the sector I know of have prosumer independent film grade camcorders you nearly have to support with your shoulders (you see them constantly at expos)." They continue to use them because they work - and the manufacturers continue to make and improve them... but I digress...

Prosumer and pro-grade camcorders generally do a lot better in low light because they have large lenses (72mm filter diameter or larger) and they have large imaging chips (1/4" 3-chip arrays - CCD or CMOS or larger). Their manual controls are easy to get to and use on the outside of the camcorder - difficult to do when the camcorder is small and there is nowhere to put a button, switch or whatever. And certainly not buried in a menu when access is challenging - and can shake the camera if the setting is changed. The Shoulder mount is a steadying "feature" - humans were not built to be steady and hand-held steady for anything over about 8 seconds is pretty much not possible by mere mortals (at least not any I've met).

XLR connectors for external mics are preferred over a 1/8" stereo plug because it is a much more secure connection - Two XLR connectors (left - right audio) would not fit a consumer camcorder. XLR connectors are used by pro grade mics because the cabling is shielded - significant reduction in any RFI or EMI (common to florescent light or incandescent light on dimmers environments found in convention floor and office settings). And if you use wireless gear, the portable base station attaches to the camera - a challenge with a small footprint camcorder - and adds weight if you use multiple mics/base stations - hence the shoulder mount.

There's more, but this is a starting place for the thread...

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to answer your questions
by human177 / January 12, 2010 7:15 PM PST

1 & 2. BUDGET - there isn't any as far as lights, tripods, mics, windscreens etc. are concerned really, whatever is needed. But I'll have some explaining to do if I say a 4,000 USD camcorder is needed instead of an 800 USD one. It's also not the idea to build a studio for optimal lighting everywhere we go, there has to be some flexibility.

We also don't plan on hiring a professional with some mad skills (or becoming one), the setup, filming and editing will be done by us ourselves, so too many technical options would mean some will go to waste.

3. EDITING - A prettty up to date quadcore desktop PC should do the trick I take. As for software, probably Adobe Premiere, or would that be a bad choice?

4. DATA STORAGE - We have a data warehouse and external harddrives, a few hundred gigs more won't matter.

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OK. Cool. More to work with.
by boya84 / January 12, 2010 10:03 PM PST

But here's the deal... If you go in low with the camcorder, then you run the risk of not being able to capture useful video in the low-light or indoor office or "walking around" the expo. ANY camcorder can do well when the lighting is good.

As for the shoulder mounts, you can always get a shoulder mount device - there are lots of them. Check the SpiderBrace or any number of them at bhphotovideo.

Because of the lens size and imaging chip issues, and the requirements to stay in the $1,000 range, your best bet is probably in the Canon HF S series, Panasonic HDC-TMC300, Sony HDR-CX500 series or Sony HDR-XR500 series. Lenses are in the 43mm-58mm range (prosumers or better are in the 72mm range), and imaging chips are typically (though not aways) a single almost 1/3" CMOS (prosumers or better are 1/4" or better - usually 1/3", but in 3-chip arrays). Mic jacks are 1/8" stereo - but XLR converters can be used - or low-end mics will do.

Remember, the camera is only part of a system. It is easy to spend more on the accessories that the camcorder.

By the way, what does your company do when a client wants your high-end product for the entry level price and says no support is needed because the ________ can deal with it?

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by human177 / January 12, 2010 10:25 PM PST

First of all, thanks for the help, I really appreciate it.

There isn't really a 1,000 USD restriction, but after all the research I did, I still couldn't convince myself adding another 2,000 USD for a 3CCD shoulder-mounted camcorder would make that much a difference.

I'm thinking of indeed going with the Panasonic HDC-TMC300 or something in that area with good low light reviews. We'll try to get the hang of it and if it doesn't live up to our expectations, we'll just have to upgrade.

And lol at the question (it was to make a pun I take it).

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Pun? OK...
by boya84 / January 12, 2010 11:56 PM PST
In reply to: Thanks

But I really am curious.

In the industry I am in (not video), one pretty much gets what one pays for - whether products or services or whatever. I have learned that, over time, it is pretty much the case in any business or industry.

I have also learned, over time, that one can do "it" correctly the first time - or do it again (as you have pointed out ("if it doesn't live up to our expectations, we'll just have to upgrade").

I hope the "first time" works out for you. Otherwise, you will end up spending more than you originally did not want to spend.

Good luck!

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Oh, you were serious
by human177 / January 13, 2010 12:34 AM PST
In reply to: Pun? OK...

Hehe, I thought you wanted to point out you can't buy a camcorder without expertise and just expect it to perform 100% that easily.

In theory, there's two ways that can work. Either select the options from a standardized catalogued procedure or negotiate. The larger the product (for example industry-grade machinery), the more negotiation is expected.

I'm in finance so that really isn't what we do, though if there is a big contract somewhere, the experts just have to point out the complexity of the portofolio and hence the need for extended customer service.

Things were pretty standard until the depression hit, now everyone is bitching and we really can't afford not to drive a hard bargain, even with big clients.

I imagine the industry to work pretty much the same (the word 'negotiation' pops up a lot in the news lately) and that would have to demand a balance between the financial experts and the engineers. I'm from Belgium, and we even have a special education for this type of situation, it's called 'trade engineers in applied economics and science', though in reality, you see them more in accounting than to solve these situations.

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Serious? Sort of.
by boya84 / January 13, 2010 2:07 AM PST
In reply to: Oh, you were serious

But you are welcome to use it any way you want.

Services and rates are "negotiable". Hard capabilities in a product - not so much. I don't think I can "negotiate" more capabilities out of a camcorder. It either can or cannot do something.

Like I said, I hope the camcorder you end up with performs to your requirements.

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