Need Help Deciding about a Camcorder

I have been trying to research the many different camcorders and can't seem to decide. I've always had Sony brand camcorders and really like them. My current camcorder is a Sony Handycam and it's about 10 years old and starting to show signs of failing with color distortion and other video and audio issues. It's been a great camcorder though, but I'm starting to look at replacing it.

I don't need any big professional set up. I'd like something palm size.

I would like the option of taking still shots WHILE taking video. Photo quality doesn't have to be awesome as it would just be for quick snapshots.

Low light quality isn't a deal breaker, but is important.

I want excellent quality video. I hate distortion, noise, and unclear images.

I mainly use a camcorder for family gatherings (indoor and outside) and sporting events (in a gym).

I record all of my camcorder videos onto DVD via a DVD recorder with RCA jacks. I'd really like to find a better way to record onto DVD to not lose any of the quality. Any recommendations?

I've been looking at the Sony HDR-CX455, Sony HDR-CX675, and the Sony FDR-AX53. The 53 seems amazing, but I don't know if the larger size and higher price make it that much better than the other 2. Is it worth it?

Anyway, if you have any opinions on these camcorders or feel there is a better choice for what I use a camcorder for, I would appreciate it.

Thank you so much!!

Discussion is locked
Reply to: Need Help Deciding about a Camcorder
PLEASE NOTE: Do not post advertisements, offensive materials, profanity, or personal attacks. Please remember to be considerate of other members. If you are new to the CNET Forums, please read our CNET Forums FAQ. All submitted content is subject to our Terms of Use.
Reporting: Need Help Deciding about a Camcorder
This post has been flagged and will be reviewed by our staff. Thank you for helping us maintain CNET's great community.
Sorry, there was a problem flagging this post. Please try again now or at a later time.
If you believe this post is offensive or violates the CNET Forums' Usage policies, you can report it below (this will not automatically remove the post). Once reported, our moderators will be notified and the post will be reviewed.
- Collapse -
Since no one else is biting...

I guess I'd like more definition on your requirement(s).

So far, we have:

palm size
excellent quality video
good low light behavior (important, not a "deal breaker")
capture stills and video simultaneously
"hate" video distortion, noise and unclear things
home and gym-based sporting events
record standard definition out to DVD recorder - want a "better way" to record to DVD

At this point, I insert the comment that sometime I come off sounding like a jerk. That is not my intention. I truly want to help - and in that process will clarify or ask for clarification...

Any camcorder can provide "excellent quality video" when the camcorder is used within its limitations. Stray from this simple statement and expect less than "excellent quality video". Two of the biggest reasons some camcorders are more expensive than others are: (1), large diameter lens. Big, good, glass is expensive to make. This large glass feeds light onto the imaging chip. Bigger imaging chips (silicon) is also expensive to make. While you don't necessarily *need* "big professional set up", these two attributes are the bases for "pro-grade"... then the other stuff (XLR audio inputs, lots of manual controls like zoom, focus, white balance, neutral density filters, shutter speed, aperture, etc) follow with the big glass and imaging sensor system.

On the bottom of your current Sony camcorder, there should be a sticker. On that sticker, there will be a model number. From 10 years ago... that could be either HDR-something or DCR-something. Defining Sony's model numbers plan:
DCR: for camcorders capturing standard definition video at a resolution of 480 horizontal video lines;
HDR: for camcorders capturing up to 1080 horizontal video lines (about 3x standard video resolution). FDR: for camcorders capturing up to 4k (about 4x 1080 HD video resolution).

Assuming we move away from DVD video (standard definition) and to a high definition or ultra-high definition video environment, you would stop using the DVD recorder (perhaps replace with a Blue Ray recorder connected to a computer and a Blue Ray player connected to a HDTV or 4K TV/monitor) and get into high-capacity hard drive storage environments with all the baggage of back-up and file replication along with playback using a computer or perhaps Blue Ray recording and playback... all attached to either a multi-media infrastructure with the video being viewed on a 4k or 1080p HDTV...

By jumping into the high definition video infrastructure environment, you provide for much higher video resolution and allow yourself the potential of "excellent quality video" rather than taking HD or UHD video and stepping it down to standard definition video.

Of the three camcorders on your short list, 2 top out at 1080p video resolution and have relatively small diameter lenses and imaging sensors. The FDR-AX53 does 4k and for a consumer camcorder, has a healthy sized lens diameter and imaging sensor. Because the high-definition video infrastructure can be expensive, take time to acquire and totally revamp your video process flow (and there are different ways to do it), another item comes into play - in this case, each of the three camcorders on your short list can provide composite video (and audio) output so you can continue using you current DVD recorder until you decide to change-out that "post production" environment. The composite audio/video cable is an optional item (not included in the box with the camcorder).

The AX53 has NightShot. In zero visible light, an infrared emitter is built-in (and powered on manually) to capture monochrome video. The two HDR camcorders you listed do not have this feature.

I don't quite know what you mean by "video distortion" - other than under certain conditions, older cameras capturing interlaced video would show artifacts when lots of action was played back. this was a function of action and how alternating lines of video were captured. Since most video is progressive (the entire video frame is captured at one time rather than alternating lines), this sort of "distortion" should no longer happen.

Video noise happens when there is not enough light and common when a camcorder is used in a manner for which it was not designed. Typically, used indoors with poor lighting. This can be resolved by adding light. The upside is that newer equipment has a better tolerance for light so when the combination of a larger diameter lens + larger imaging sensor is used, too, there is a wider "use window" for smaller camcorders. And there is always the STRONG recommendation of adding light (camcorder mounted or just making the entire venue brighter with bright LED video lamps).

Assuming "unclear images" = blur... in consumer camcorders typically used with autofocus on, this is a problems when lighting is poor because that low light causes the camera to do a few things to compensate: open the aperture, increase the video amplification (causes video noise), and slow the shutter speed (causes blur or "ghosting"). Many times, people want the subject to be in focus and the background blurred or the other way around. In both cases, this is "depth of field". Using the combination of aperture and shutter speed, consumer camcorders can provide decent DOF (or no DOF). dSLR (still image capture devices) have the added benefit of interchangeable lens systems and being able to adjust focal length for DOF intensity.

And we can take a break here because I know the above is a lot to digest.

We need to discuss simultaneous video and still image capture...

- Collapse -
Thank you for the information

Thank you for taking the time to reply. I appreciate it. I'm trying to find a replacement for my current camcorder (DCR-SX83). What I like about it is the size as it fits in my pocket AND that I can take still shots while recording video. I think any camcorder on the market today would be an improvement over its video quality.

Having said that, my problem is looking at them all. There are so many different brands and different models. It gets tiring trying to research.

I want video that is clear. Most of what I take is family events, vacations, and indoor sporting events. I don't get the image quality that I like. For example, when I'm shooting a basketball game, I can tell who the players are (probably because I know them), but the image seems jumpy and is pixelated at times. The color fades in and out (probably due to age as it hasn't always done that). If it's low light at all, the image becomes very noisy. Some parts of the image area seem distorted or misaligned/blurred, even when taking video of a still object. I feel that some of the issues of my current camcorder are due to its age and use. (It's used a LOT.) But, some of the issues have been there all along, such as the low light and jumpy motion.

I have a Nikon D80... love my DSLR... and am familiar with photography. I'm not expecting any camcorder to replace it and do not use it for that purpose. Sometimes I can only take my camcorder, so being able to take some still shots (simple snapshots) is ok with me. Nothing that will be printed, but simply shared with friends/family. My current camcorder can take still shots while taking video. The photos aren't great, but not bad. I usually end up with better shots in the gym with my camcorder than others sitting next to me trying to take with a point and shoot. Happy

I am interested in Sony's BOSS and that is why I am looking hard at the Sony HDR-CX675 and the Sony FDR-AX53. For what I use a camcorder for, I wasn't sure the 53 would be worth the extra expense since it's quite a bit larger, even though it would do better in low light.

Then I hear about Canon and Panasonic models... there are too many to consider!

- Collapse -
If you depend on camcorder-provided

image stabilization (even optical stabilization), then you will continue to get some of the "jumpy" and even perhaps "pixelated" images you get today - assuming the camcorder is used handheld.

Humans were not built to be steady. If steady shots (whether still image or video) are desired, then use of a steadying device is needed. In the case of still image capture, increasing the shutter speed can freeze the action - typically along with increasing the aperture to allow more light into the camera. Video capture is different because of the motion. In the case of "gym sports" (basketball, volleyball, martial arts tournaments, etc), that motion is not help by poor lighting.

When the video is captured, the electronics in the camcorder compress the video. This compression compares the "next" image to the previous image and notes the changes. A bunch of video data is discarded because the encoding algorithm determines that data is not needed. When there is lots of motion, the camcorder's CPU and encoding may be challenged to keep up. When it cannot, artifacts (jumpy & perhaps what you cal "pixellation") happen.

Then, there is the added "motion" of being handheld (again, I am assuming your camcorder is handheld, please correct me if appropriate). Even when you think there is no motion, there is. While your requirements said a big professional camcorder is not desirable, we can use their steadying techniques. Most of the news folks in the field mount their camera to a tripod. If a tripod is not doable, then shoulder mount. Or they use the ground or a shelf, step, chair, table, rock or some other steadying device. When we use a "palm sized" camcorder, we slide our hand under the strap and use, arguably, the least steady part of our body - and we believe the manufacturer when we are told our video will look great when the camcorder is used in this way.

After a few failed attempts, I gave up and have found a tripod is best; a monopod can work in a pinch and when neither are available or possible, then use of a railing, the back of a seat, floor or some other stable item is WAY better than handheld. I've been shooting and editing video ~20 years as a hobby and have learned to many things (including this stability thing) the hard way.

Sony, Canon and Panasonic are the camcorder "Big 3". Each will have competitive offerings within the same price range (though Canon seems to be a bit late to the consumer 4k camcorder market).

I've shot a few high school basketball games. It is typical that the bleachers are wood and not exactly "steady" when other attendees are walking, stomping, cheering. After the first time out and getting lots of shaky, hand-held, video, I started using a monopod or tripod from the bleachers - the camcorder's stabilization can help a lot... especially if I make it to the top row (and there are not so many other attendees. It is especially useful when the bleachers are secured to a gym wall.

Other things I learned the hard way (large lens diameter & imaging sensor size not withstanding):
* Digital zoom should be disabled and never ever used. Use optical zoom only.
* If using a tripod and space allows, use of a 7" or larger external field video monitor rather than the built-in LCD panel or eyepiece is really helpful. Otherwise, use only the eyepiece - the built-in LCD panel can be deceiving when it comes to focus.
* Manual audio control is very useful - especially when there is lots of yelling or band playing. This could be a knob or toggle control on the outside of the camcorder or a menu "attenuation" selection. * When used properly, this will substantially reduce/eliminate any audio static from really loud audio that the "automatic audio gain" cannot deal with.
* A fluid head tripod costs a little more and be heavier to carry, but the panning and tilting will provide good results.
* Use the camcorder that can capture the best possible resolution you can afford and get your video at highest available resolution the camcorder allows. You can always reduce resolution - but you can't increase resolution if it was not captured to begin with.

- Collapse -
Open your range of choices

First I need to say I fell out with Sony years ago when they made my buy Sony accessories only for my Sony Hi-8 camera.
Now I use Panasonic having retired a Canon HV20 camera some years ago.

So I write using my experience with Panasonic cams:-
Digital Zoom is perfectly all right to use - up to a limit. Panasonic have "Intelligent Zoom" which extends the optical zoom range without any picture degradation. In my case IZ extends the zoom from 20x to 50x.
Auto focus these days is excellent and, if using manual focus, the camera will assist by "haloing" the subject when the focus is correct. (a blue frame around the subject)
Audio control needs to be automatic as it reacts faster than any manual control can. Few consumer cams have a manual control using the menu to decide on the type of audio control to use.
A tripod is desirable but ones with fluid heads can be heavy to carry around. I have a Velbon D700 but only carry it in my car. I tend to use my monopod which doubles as a trekking pole (very useful) and a length of Velcro type tape to tie the pole to a fence, small tree etc.

My example:-
The Panasonic cameras fit your bill perfectly. They are good at low light and record all the definition but may need a video editor to "lift" the brightness. (I have successfully recorded on Ghost Trains and Halloween Trains in very dim conditions)
You can take stills while recording video. The quality is the same as the video as it used the same chip. You can also "lift" stills from your video stream in a video editor. I have successfully printed up to A3 from video shots.

So to cameras in the Panasonic range HC-VXF1 and HC--VX1 are 4k units and the HC-V800 is their top of the range HD model. (I use this camera) There are semi pro cameras above these.

- Collapse -
Terfyn makes some good points

which carry to other manufacturers - not limited to Panasonic.

Optical zoom uses only the lens in the camcorder to zoom. Digital zoom uses electronics to enlarge the pixels from the imaging sensor. Panasonic's Intelligent Zoom and Sony's ClearImage Zoom are, arguably the same. They limit digital zoom to maintain the video resolution when only a little digital zoom is applied. If digital zoom is limited to ~10%-20% of maximum optical zoom, then it can be useful - but when the video is viewed on larger monitors/TVs (greater than 50 inch diagonal), the impact of the digital zoom will be apparent - and larger screens will show the impact even more. Smaller screens will look pretty good - but not "excellent", in my opinion. At least Canon is nice enough to not hype this limited digital zoom and allows the end-user to maintain self control if digital zoom is used. Using an extreme analogy, it is possible for a 4k or 1080 resolution video to look worse than standard definition when lots of digital zoom is used - which would not be the case if used sparingly. I don't want the temptation and just don't use it. I have found other artifacts in video where limited use of digital zoom was pretty apparent. I have also seen limited-use of digital zoom provide acceptable video, typically under great lighting conditions and use of a very light touch on the digital zoom. Another option is to add a tele-lens but that gets tedious fairly quickly.

Auto-focus: The current crop of consumer Panasonic, Canon and Sony camcorders (among others) can draw a square around a face to auto-focus on it. And it is neat when there are multiple faces, there are multiple squares (one around each face) and they all magically are in focus.

If you have not yet tried editing video, this may be the time to consider that. I am curious to understand what you do with the video you capture. When you connect the camcorder to the DVD recorder, are the entire video contents of the camcorder copied to DVD or are you selecting portions before finalizing the disc? Is there a reason you use this specific method for your process flow?

Importing the captured video to a computer based (non-linear) from the camcorder to a video editor, cutting undesirable parts, adding titles, transitions... even special effects and audio, then rendering a final video to a computer readable file or optical disc for playback would also provide the opportunity to take a screen shot or "export" a frame to JPEG format if the video editor allows for that. I started down this path 5-7 paragraphs (depending how you count) from the start of the first reply to your original post.

Do you see yourself editing the video or do you think you want to continue the camcorder to optical disc process currently in use?

- Collapse -
Modern cameras use SD cards
I record all of my camcorder videos onto DVD via a DVD recorder with RCA jacks. I'd really like to find a better way to record onto DVD to not lose any of the quality. Any recommendations

So the easiest way to record to DVD is via a PC. You download your video from the SD card, edit it and then render it in the format required. then burn your DVD from the rendered file. I record SD DVDs for my family and Blu-Ray for myself but, as my Blu-Ray DVD player has SD and USB slots as well as the DVD deck, I now download on to a SD card. (no moving parts so no wear)
- Collapse -

To clarify:- Sorry. Shocked I used SD in two ways SD DVD was Standard Definition DVD and SD on its own referred to the SD cards.

Importing the captured video to a computer based (non-linear) from the camcorder to a video editor, cutting undesirable parts, adding titles, transitions... even special effects and audio, then rendering a final video to a computer readable file or optical disc for playback would also provide the opportunity to take a screen shot or "export" a frame to JPEG format if the video editor allows for that.
I totally agree. Camcorders are so automatic these days it takes all the fun of calculating exposure, aperture and speed. Video editing is the only way to re-introduce "art" into the process of film making. I will add to boya84's list with control over the quality of the shot - brightness, contrast etc. Voice Over and music. (many VEs supply copyright-free background music which fits the length of the video automatically) Many special effects include "Green Screen" overlay and Picture in Picture, zoom and pan around your shot plus all sorts of effects such as wind blowing, rain and various distortions.
The main advantage of exporting a screen shot in your video editor is that you can select the exact frame (25/30 frames per second) from your video and store it in JPEG format.
Many VEs allow a "free" trial period so I suggest you try one or two. My comments above come from using Corel's VideoStudio Pro for a number of years.
You can also buy last years version from Amazon (or others) cheaper than the current version and, I have found, that the basics hardly vary from year to year, they just add extra bits to the newer versions.

- Collapse -
So much GREAT information! Thank you!

Thank you to all who have taken the time to offer information. I wanted to try to answer a few questions that were asked.

First of all, I always hold my camcorder when taking video. I have a tripod and use it once in awhile, such as at Christmas when I just want to film the event from one spot where it won't have to be moved. I've tried using a tripod at the basketball games. In the bleachers, there isn't enough room. And no one is allowed to set up on the floor area. I tried a monopod and returned it because the height (even adjustable) wasn't always what I needed. I tried going up into the balcony area of the gym and then had to fight the railing. Hand holding is what I prefer. It seems Sony's BOSS would make a huge difference compared to what I am currently using (Sony DCR-SX83).

I never use digital zoom. I've just not found it to offer any kind of quality video, especially since I prefer to hand hold while filming.

I've looked at the different brands over the years. I've owned Sony, JVC, and Panasonic over the years. I bought my first Sony camcorder back in 1991.... it took those small cassette tapes (can't remember what type of camcorder that was). Camcorders have sure come a long way since then. While I always have a camera in my hand, I'm certainly no pro at using them. I enjoy taking photos and video as a hobby to capture family events.
Terfyn, thank you for suggesting the Panasonic HC-V800. That looks like one to add to my short list!

I have not done any kind of video editing. I would love to, though! I use GIMP and Lighthouse when I want to edit photos. Currently, the way I transfer video from my camcorder to DVD is to plug a cable into my camcorder and then into a DVD recorder. I'm not sure the connection on the camcorder (it's a half-circle), but the end that plugs into the DVD recorder is the red, white, and yellow RCA jacks. I put in a blank DVD, start playing the video on the camcorder, and hit record on the DVD recorder. I sit with the DVD recorder remote control in hand and pause it when I don't want that part of the video recorded. I usually take a lot of "extra" video that I don't end up keeping. I can put the video onto my laptop, but don't have much luck getting it on DVD from there. Maybe if I found a user friendly video editing software, that would help. I feel like I lose more of the video quality recording it off like I do, so I would like to learn a better way. Sony is supposed to have some software (PlayMemories) that is supposed to work well. I just learned about it and haven't had a chance to try it yet.

- Collapse -
I feel you need to expand your ideas

You seem to like the Sony BOSS system but you will understand that all the current range of cams have image stabilisation. My example, the V800 has three methods for image stabilisation, Adaptive OIS, 5-axis OIS and Ball OIS. All this means that the camera gives a very stable picture when being hand held. My experience is that it works very well.
Sony's BOSS system has been around for a long time but, again, I suspect that the current systems are better than when it first came out.
You should weigh up what camera gives you the most for your money as the name on the front is not as relevant as it used to be.

I never use digital zoom. I've just not found it to offer any kind of quality video, especially since I prefer to hand hold while filming
Again don't just throw out the concept of digital zoom. The full zoom range for the V800 is 1x to 1500x which, you will agree, is rubbish but fun to play with. It does mean that the "Intelligent Zoom" up to 50x is both practical and actually does work without any picture degradation. The camera gives options of 20x (optical only) 50x, 60x and the 1500x so advising that picture degradation may occur beyond the 60x limit.

There are many ways to support a camera. In my arsenal I have a, so called, window clamp. This clamp has wide jaws and can easily be mounted to the back of a seat, for example. I fix a pan/tilt head onto it and I have a stable camera mount without tripod or monopod. The options for camera support are many and varied.

Friendly Video Editing is there such a thing? Well Yes. If you have a PC with Windows there is Movie Maker which is limiting but works (and it's both included with Windows and free)
My choice of Corel's VideoStudio comes after problems with another VE. I find it easy to use and I can do everything I want for editing. There is a steep learning curve but there are dozens of tutorial videos available from Corel and a guy called Gripps on YouTube. Again a free download is available. (Most VEs supply the same service.)
Most PC DVD readers also act as burners and I create the video I want by stringing the shots together, adding effects, music and voice over then rendering it in the correct format for my DVD player. It is a straight forward process and I am left with a final file on my PC that can be downloaded to any storage device at any time in the future.

So I suggest you explore what is available and you may be surprised what is out there.

- Collapse -
Thank you for more detail!

My opinion of video editing apps is the same with any other app... The first time I tried to use a spreadsheet it was a challenge. As time passed, using word processors and text editors, presentation apps, operating systems, image manipulation apps, etc., I've found each has a learning curve. The first time is a bit longer than the following similar app. VisiCalc to Excel, WordPerfect to MS Word, Photoshop to GIMP: the second time was easier.

There is a range of video editors for the different computing platforms. Corel VideoStudio Pro is a decent entry level editor for the Windows environment. iMove (bundled with macOS) is a good entry level video editor for the Macintosh environment. Both will have:
* a library (where the imported video project files are stored);
* a timeline (where selected video is placed and manipulated/edited);
* a text generator (for start/end titles, credits, date, etc.);
* transitions (cross-fades, and various other scene transitions);
* some special effects (slow or speed the frame rate, maybe rotate the video window and a few more);
* render the final project to a few different file formats.

The entry level apps are a great place to start. The same concepts carry through to more advanced editors. Final Cut Pro for Macintosh and Sony Vegas Pro for Windows (there are others - these are the two with which I am most familiar) add
* multiple simultaneous video and audio tracks. This allows you to stack a bunch of video tracks along with their audio and the top one is the one you see. One of the common things I've done when shooting basketball games it is to get everything - including the halftime performance. The halftime performance takes the first video and audio track, the game takes the second video and audio track. Then the cuts happen only to the second track so the game gets interspersed with halftime shots.
* granular audio control allows you to separate the audio from the video... if there is a really good shot, but you don't like the crowd's audio reaction, then find a crowd audio reaction you like and place it where you want it... or reduce the audio a couple of dB because it is too loud for whatever reason.
*scale the video... I can stack multiple - in this example 4, video sequences, scale each to 25% (or whatever I want), then position the video so all four videos are visible at the same time. The computer CPU needs to be pretty robust for this - especially for 4k video, but this would allow inserting a shot of the scoreboard while gameplay is happening (easier if multiple cameras are used - but potable with a single camera).
* Green screen (color keying) can allow for adding video commentary during the game playback)
... and lots more...

PlayMemories is fine for still image stuff, remote connectivity of the camcorder to a smartphone or tablet for controlling the camera/camcorder and copying the video (or still image) from the camcorder to the smartphone or tablet. If there is a video editing area, I have neither used nor found it and would expect it to be not very robust... as much as their marketing department would lead me to believe otherwise. I use it only to control an Action Cam to start/stop recording and it lets me see what the camcorder sees on a smartphone or tablet.

So... The first few times I played a guitar, it was a bit if a challenge. Over time, one learns. This is not much different from using a new computer application - in this case, a video editor. Some applications have many tutorials available on YouTube, and there is this or the computer forum and many other helpful online resources - many times, including the application developer, and there is always using the manual! As we get older, some of the knowledge we have is transferable from subject A to subject B... but if you have not had to learn about frame rates and audio sync or color keying and codecs, there is little to rely on when beginning to use a new computer application... My first time using GIMP was interesting - without some history with PhotoShop, I pretty sure there would have been a high frustration level.

- Collapse -
if you've digested the other posts...

there is more you need to know about the post-production environment.

Video uses lots of storage space. For example, 60 minutes of standard definition video imported to a computer for use by a video editor will consume about 14 gig of computer hard drive space. Sixty minutes of high definition video (1080 or 720 horizontal lines) up to about 44 gig of computer hard drive space (~4x more space than standard definition). 4k video will consume about 4x more computer hard drive space than HD video.

At this point, you get to learn more about computer configurations and some of the reasons video editing is probably one of the most computer-resource-intensive things you can use.

The normal video capture process is to
1) press record on the camcorder, get more video than is needed; press stop. Repeat as needed.
2) Import video to computer. The current crop of camcorders saves compressed files in a few formats, and rather than use the camcorder's electronics' codec firmware to decode the video file(s) the computer's CPU is used when the file is imported to the video editor.
3) There are several ways to get the video files into the computer and if the method you choose works, great. I typically take the memory card out of the camcorder, slide it into the computer's SD card slot, make a folder on an external hard drive connected to the computer, make another folder in it, and copy the video files from the camcorder's SD card to the newly made folder in the folder on the external hard drive. This will be the "library" for all the source files for this particular video project. If there are still images, screen grabs, external audio... anything that would be part of the project should be in this "local" project directory.

If you have "common files" for all projects (I use a 3 second clip of my dog as the "end credit tag") it can be in a "shared" directory.

4) Launch the video editor, make a new library, name it, import or drag the copied camcorder and other media files to the new library. The computer will do the importing/decoding/decompression process and get the files in a format the editor can deal with.
5) Drag the media files to the timeline and edit. Most video editors are "non-destructive". When you edit the segment in the editor, the original file is not changed, but there is an XML file built that keeps track of what is supposed to happen where and when. Cuts, crossfades, special effects, audio, still images, everything gets tracked in the XML... when ALL the changes are done and the project is completely finished,
6) Render the file. The resolution, compression and all the other attributes you want get selected... and go. The resulting file uses the "instructions" and that resulting file is a single media file for "distribution".

Things to consider:
a) Will the final product be shared with others? Social media, DVD, Video sharing, computer-playable, Blue Ray or other target playback methods have different file compression needs. I usually end up with three "finals" A "master" at highest resolution, a DVD and a YouTube or Vimeo version.
b) Keep all the source files or archive them? If archiving, which archive process should be implemented?
c) Is the computer being used for editing relatively current? Something made/purchased in the last 4 years or so with 8 gig RAM (16 gig RAM is better). Large monitors (yes, plural) are helpful. While it is possible to edit on a robust laptop, adding an external 21+ inchch screen is really useful. When editing, this allows easier viewing of the clips in the library, the selected clip in the timeline - and if you get a good editor (Vegas Pro, Adobe Premiere, Final Cut Pro, DaVinci, etc.) the preview pane can be in a different window on the other monitor.
d) Current operating systems use virtual memory even if they have lots of RAM. With video editing, a little more than the clip being edited is pulled into the RAM - along with the video editing application... and the operating system. The Virtual Memory is a part of the start up drive reserved to act as an extension of the physical RAM - but all that reeding/writing data from/to the startup drive is a little slower because it is not physical RAM. For best results, offloading the video project files to an external drive connected to the computer using IEEE1394 (firewire) or USB3 allows the internal drive to focus on the operating system and video editing app RAM/virtual memory needs and let the external drive and connectivity buss deal with the video project file access. The internal drive won't need to read the project files to place them in RAM/virtual memory - it will read from the external drive and write to the internal drive.
e) "Archiving" means long term storage. For some, the final render at highest quality/resoution is the "master" and that gets archived. It can be used with some converters (like HandBrake) to render downsampled versions For others, this means keeping everything... + the master... This can take a good amount of space - but where? It depends how long you want it to last. 10 years? 50 years or more? There is no solution that can address very far into the future - in 50 years, what "media player" might be available to play back the master? What "video editor" might be available to edit the source files? There is no way to know... but we do know that hard drives, whether electromechanical or SSD will fail so we need to think about converting todays archives over to tomorrow's storage media... And depending on a 3rd party cloud storage is probably not a good idea since we don't know who will be in business in the future... So we give it our best shot with what we do know and make the best decision we can based on our budgets and the available information.

And I'll take a breath here...

- Collapse -
Video resolution...

The DCR series of Sony camcorders records standard definition video. The resolution is 480 horizontal lines. The AV-out connection used just saves space... the break-out to yellow RCA (composite video), white RCA (left audio) and red RCA (right audio).

When you connect the RCA jacks to a monitor and playback the video, the camcorder decompresses the video and send the standard definition video signal to the monitor for you to see. When you send the video to the DVD recorder, assuming the video is going to be used for "normal" DVD player playback, the DVD recorder ingests the video and uses a different compression method during the digitizing process. There will be some reduction of "video quality". Years ago, when DVDs were viewed on CRT or small flatscreen TVs or monitors, the video quality resolution was not a big deal. Screen have gotten larger and that reduced "video quality" is much more apparent.

Moving to a higher resolution camcorder to record higher resolution video is great, but if the current post production method to "downsample" the captured high definition or ultra high definition (U/HD) video to standard definition video will provide only marginal "video quality" relief during playback.

The preferred option is to capture the higher resolution video, importing that video to a computer based video application, editing in U/HD video, rendering in U/HD and use a computer to playback or burning a U/HD file that can be played back in U/HD.

It will be a huge leap (it was for me)... lots to learn, decisions to make, a new process flow to use and a video editing infrastructure investment to be made... You are not alone. Some of us have been through it, others are just starting the journey. We're all in this together.

CNET Forums