General discussion

Figure Skating camcorder

I need to update my old camcorder to record my girls' figure skating routines; the switches are broken on my old geezer tape unit. I am unsure of HD vs SD, but fairly sure I want flash memory. One thing that stands out is that I can get a more significant optical zoom on an SD than on an HD for less than about $600. I think that the zoom is important since they move down the rink pretty quickly and I'd like to follow them. I use a monopod while shooting. I like Canon quality, and would like to stick with them.
Thanks for any help that you might be able to offer.

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Why are you

"fairly sure you want flash memory"?

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Why flash memory?

Seems the easiest to use. Not interested in tape.

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I really don't mean to pry...

but can you explain "easiest to use"?

I'll be happy to go down the process flow path - but I just want to understand what is in your head.

Put media in camcorder, press power on, point camcorder in direction of subject, press record. Project recording complete.

Then what?

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I see flash as kind of a universial media. I have read that it will become more common as time goes on. Easy to plug into the pc or tv or my dvd player/recorder.

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OK - that's fair, even if I don't agree...

I suppose the same was said for hard disc drives 10+ years ago. Same with DVDs...

And it depends how your computers are configured. If they have a firewire port, then miniDV tape makes sense for lots of reasons that have been covered here many times. If there is no firewire port and no way to add one, then your options are a lot more limited. Given a choice between only flash memory or hard disc drive, I agree that flash is the better way to go - so we'll get to go down the path of archiving requirements.

I do think some care needs to be taken when saying "flash as kind of a universal media" because there are so many different types of flash memory that different camcorders use. Secure Digital (and the different classes and sizes), Compact Flash (Sony HVR-Z7), P2 (Panasonic AG-HVX series), Memory Stick (many Sony consumer cams and the different classes and sizes) and a few others. They all don't just plug in and the not all file types (MPG, TOD, MOD, MTS, M2TS, MOV, AVI, among others) are supported by the play-back devices or video editors.

SD (Secure Digital flash memory - not to be confused with Standard Definition video) is currently a common storage media for consumer camcorders - but the different file types may require the video file to be transcoded - converted - to something before a player or editor can deal with the video. This could be by way of a codec or an application that converts the file.

For $600, I think you have some Canon FS series standard definition and Sony HDR-CX100 series high definition camcorders to look at. Maybe something at Panasonic.

Archiving the video means burning DVDs or investing in a RAID1 hard drive array. Burning DVDs can be direct or through your computer.

I'll stop here for now... Questions?

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media contd

Yes, I was referring to SD flash. I am not really interested in keeping tapes around. I already have lots of them from my dying Hitachi camcorder. I just figured I would archive it on an external hard drive or send it out to dvds.
Regarding zoom: It seems that the hd cameras in my price range have much more limited optical zoom when compared to sd cameras. I don't understad why. As I indicated earlier, I need a substantial zoom in order to video at a distance (e.g. up in the stands, following a skater across the ice). For this reason, I am mostly leaning toward an sd camera.
Looks like I will need some editing sw since what is included with the canons typically gets lousy reviews. You also refer to a conversion routine. Looks like I have alot to learn.
Thanks very much.

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OK... Secure digital flash.

The video stored by them - when collected by consumer camcorders can be in MPG or MOD format. This is pretty compressed (especially when compared to the much less compressed DV format video captured by miniDV tape).

I share this not because I am trying to move you back to digital tape - But since you asked, I want to be sure you know what you are getting into.

This is a bit extreme, but if you have ever dealt with digital stills, you may have experienced what compression can do. When you take a digital still with an 8 megapixel camera, the resulting still image can be anywhere from 2-4 megapixels. Even filling a large monitor, the image looks great. With broadband connections today, emailing that is not a big deal, but in the past, one would generally compress the image - again, this is an extreme - some people would compress the image down to 100k (or less. All the image data is discarded. Gone Then the receiver looks at it in a small window and it looks great - but in the same large window it used to look good in, it no longer looks goo. The data is gone. While this is not likely to happen to this extreme in the digital video environment you are heading in you do need to know that the compression applied is a LOT. The combination of this compression and fast action can cause problems with the image quality as well.

I was an IT manager i a previous life. A single hard drive for storing important data is just begging to crash. That is why there is such a thing called RAID1. Basically, two drives have identical information. The chances that both will fail simultaneously is low. When one fails, remove it from the housing, drop in a replacement and the other drive with the same data will copy that data over to the new drive.

Optical discs - DVDs come in 3 flavors:
Single sided, 12cm, DVDs hold only 4 .7 gig of data. Not very much.
Double sided, 12cm DVDs hold only 8.5 gig of data. Still not very much.
If you jump to a BluRay burner, they start at 25gig per disc - so now we're starting to talk about OK space. But that means your computer needs a BluRay infrastructure - You do not need to be recording high definition video to take advantage of the high capacity, but it is a fairly expensive solution.
In either case, the extra step of burning the discs can be time consuming - and if you need to transcode because your video editor cannot deal with the video format, well, you just ate up most of the time you thought you might save.

Making the DVD archives assumes that the video is in the same format that the camcorder captured. These data DVDs are not playable in a regular DVD player - the files are computer-readable only. Rendering a DVD playable in a regular DVD player results in "VOB" files being created. They are more compressed than the MOD/MPG files from the flash and HDD camcorders. This is how a single layer DVD can store up to 120 minutes of VOB-format video by stuffing the data and discarding as appropriate, to fit all that into 4.7 gig.

MiniDV tape, at about $3 per tape (I get them at Fry's in 8-packs for $24.99 - they are cheaper in quantities at are the archive when you don't re-use the tape. You already know this. Inexpensive, digital format, storage with least compression - and no extra step to make the archive. A single 60 minute miniDV tape recording in SP mode can store the equivalent of about 14 gig of DV format video (thats how much hard drive space is used when the video is imported to the computer).

As for the zoom range, yes, the standard definition cams do have a higher multiplier than the high definition cams. There are probably lots of reasons why - one way around this if you decide to go the high definition route would be to use an add-on tele-lens. I use a 2x tele lens on occasion. It takes my 10x HDV cam up to 20x... Steadiness is pretty much impossible when handheld or monopod - a fluid-head tripod works pretty well, though.

As for the software in the box - generally not very good. For the Windows environment, Sony Vegas is pretty good (for the low-end "Studio" version) and Adobe Premiere is very good along with the Vegas Pro version - there are lots of other titles and all will have some sort of learning curve. But if you want to discuss this, it is where I would get off the bus - I gave up on Windows doing any real work many years ago and all my video editing is done on Macintoshes with Final Cut (and occasionally iMovie). I have Windows computers around the house (recently got a HP EliteBook 8530w with a 1394 port to see how the other OS and various applications deal with various video imports... I must say, it is better than it used to be, but still no where near where Macs are).

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Still unsure on media

Thanks for all the information.
OK, flash compresses the data, but is convenient. Mini DV tapes are less convenient and provide the archive but from what I have read, these may soon be obsolete; one of the manufacturers no longer makes a consumer camcorder for mini dv.
So I am still unsure of where to go. I'll probably use SD since I can get a more significant zoom, but unsure of media.

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Best to make a decision armed

with information.

Perhaps my last comments:

Gasoline-fueled cars are "obsolete"... yet cost thousands of dollars more and lots of folks continue buying them... There are several manufacturers that make only alternative fuel vehicles. VHS is still around - I was just in CVS the other day and blank tapes were available. Personally, I think DVDs are obsolete with broadband internet speeds and downloading... Getting electricity from the power company is obsolete - but they will be supplying power to lots of people and things for a long time. Using a GSM or CDMA phone service - or wireline phone service is "obsolete", but all those technologies will be in use for many more years.

MiniDV tape will be around for many years. If you are referring to Sony, I find it amusing that they have abandoned miniDV tape for consumers - but their prosumers (HDR-FX7, HDR-FX1000) and much of the HDV pro line (HVR-HD1000, HVR-A1U, HVR-V1U, HVR-Z1, HVR-Z5) are all miniDV tape. As well, much of the DVCAM, HDCAM and XDCAM use digital tape and write to those Sony-proprietary digital video formats. But it helps to understand the "political" motivation... They brought BluRay to the world. It would be in bad form to not eat one's own dog food.

For that matter, Canon's GL2, XHA1 and entire XLH series are miniDV tape based - along with their consumer HV40 and ZR960. Then there is Panasonic - They seem to still carry a few of their PV-GS series standard def DV camcorders. I don't recall them ever getting to HDV for consumers. But their AG-DVX100 and AG-HVX200 use miniDV tape; but the HVX200 writes DVCPRO HD to P2 cards. And there is the DVCPRO HD tape line up...

And... JVC. The totally walked away... But the GY-HM100 onto SD cards does Final Cut-direct files - which is great for Macintosh users with Final Cut...

I realize that you are not in the market for a prosumer or higher camcorder - but please don't buy into the hype of "tape is dead" as though miniDV is somehow going to disappear this weekend... It will be around for a long time - whether "they" like it or not.

Consider investigating Networked Attached Storage (NAS) with RAID1. D-Link, Promise, Sans Digital, NetGear, Buffalo and others make home/small business systems that will provide the requisite back-up and archiving capabilities that non-tape video systems will need to last into the future... still not as cost effective as digital tape, but better than any other alternative at the moment. I saw a Canon HF S100 at bhphotovideo for a little under $700. And the new FS300 for less than 1/2 that.

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for consumer

for consumer cams, minidv is dead. you cant argue with that

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Golly... REALLY?

You have a firm grasp of the obvious.

That does not make it obsolete.

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its hard to tell with you

its hard to tell with you. you go off on rants about $3000 prosumer cams, gasoline powered cars, phone service, and your biography

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Figure Skating camcorder

I'll be happy to go down the process flow path - but I just want to understand what is in your head.

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Beware... streaming consciousness...

There is a perceived "time savings" some folks think (and translate to "easier") they are getting with flash memory (or HDD) camcorders.

** With miniDV tape, connect the camcorder's DV port (not USB) to the computer's firewire port (not USB), put the camcorder in "Play" or "VCR" mode, launch the video editor, click Import or Capture - that activity is real time so 30 minutes of video takes 30 minutes to import. I generally go do something else - mow the lawn, get a cup of coffee, get leaves out of the pool, design the DVD artwork... When the import is done, be sure the tape is marked and locked. Put the small tape back in its case and store in a cool dry place - it is the archive. If you want, before you do that, you can export the finished video project back to the camcorder and store as high quality on the tape. Done. Tapes are cheap at about $3 per hour - for standard definition video, that is 14 gig of computer hard drive space; with HDV, that is 44 gig of computer hard drive space.

** With flash memory, connect the camcorder's USB port to the computer's USB port, put the camcorder in "Play" or "PC" mode or whatever it is that allows the memory to mount to the computer, copy the MPG or MOD files (standard definition) or MTS or TOD or MOV files (high definition) to the computer. Sometimes these files can be imported directly to the video editor, but decompression happens and that can take some time. If the video editor you are using cannot deal with the video file format, then you need to transcode them. There are lots of tools like MPEG StreamClip or HandBrake out there that can do that. How long it takes to transcode depends on your computer's CPU and a few other factors. Same with importing if that happens directly. After the transcoding is done, launch the video editor, drag the converted files to the video editor's capture area. Copy the converted (or not, I suppose that is up to you) video files to a RAID1 hard drive array for archiving. They come in terrabyte sizes now. How long that takes depends on the connection from the computer to the RAID1 array and whether you send the files from the camcorder or if you send the transcoded files. Optical disc is possible, but not recommended. Copying and burning the video files to DVD for archiving will also depend on the number and size of the files and the speed of the DVD burner you are using... and if you are using a single layer or double layer blank disc. You probably should make two - in case one gets scratched, it will be useless. Most of that "saved time" went out the window.

Then there is the "easier" comment lots of folks make... Read the above... The miniDV tape's paragraph is WAY shorter. There are fewer steps - or potential steps.

There's a lot about non-digital tape media stores the images using a higher count of "Group of Frames". This is not an editing issue but how the video compression works by comparing the differences of the pixels in each frame. This is how the compression algorithm guesses which data can be discarded. When you import that video, step 1 is to decompress - which means the video editor gets to guess how to add that data back in. If one of these GoFs has an issue, the whole set is discarded - and you get an obvious dropped frame.

Is this helping at all? I don't want to confuse...

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