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newbie videographer

by fvonburger / September 29, 2009 4:56 AM PDT

Hi, I intend to shoot an instructional video staring myself and an associate. I will edit the footage myself, and create the final product. The video will be shot indoors and outdoors and focus on do-it-yourself home improvment issues. Consumers will purchase the video and either download it online or recieve a dvd in the mail. I don't want to rent, so I will buy a camera and a mic. My budget for the camera is about $700.
Question #1 - should I buy an SD or HD camera? Will HD footage need to be converted to SD in order for consumers to view it as a download or dvd? Is it difficult to convert HD to SD?
Question #1.1 ? I assume tapeless is best, please confirm or correct me on this.
Question #2 - Do I edit once it is in SD format? Regardless, what software should I use?
Question #3 - I need voiceover (or dubbing - not sure of the correct term here) as well as live sound. How do I do this? Will this complicate the conversion to SD? Will it complicate the editing process?
Question #4 - Should my file be an mpeg format, or something different? What is the most popular format? Should I care at this point?
Seeing that I am a newbie, I want to buy a camera that will make this whole process as simple as possible. Thanks. Keyword grubert

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my opinion...
by boya84 / September 29, 2009 6:33 AM PDT
In reply to: newbie videographer

Which mic? Handheld, shotgun or lavaliere? Is the mic $ included with the camcorder or a separate budget? Wired or wireless?

Will you have control over the lighting? Is lighting $ included with this $700 budget? This does not need to be fancy - it could be as easy as a couple of worklights from the hardware store.

1) It depends on your budget - if the $700 is supposed to include the mic and the lights, then you may be able to afford SD only. Best practice is to capture best quality you can afford - once the video is captured, the audience's viewing platform will dictate different rendering and output. For example, when you record in high definition, you can post high definition video to the web - but for most of your DVD recipients, you will need to downsample to standard definition. No, it is not difficult to convert from high definition to standard definition. Basically, in the video editor, it is an export or Save As... or the DVD authoring application takes care of the transcoding.

1.1) Least compression to the digital video stream is "best". Any camcorder less than about $1,300 is in the "consumer" area (as opposed to "prosumer" or professional grade. Least compression is in the DV/HDV format - in the consumer environment, this means miniDV tape. This means the computer must have a firewire port. If the computer does not have a firewire port, hopefully it has an available expansion slot to add one. If not, then flash memory is the next viable choice. It uses the same file types as hard disc drive camcorders.
Suggested camcorder: Canon HV40; Canon FS series; Sony HDR-CX100 series.

2) That is up to you. I capture and edit 1080i (high definition) HDV then render out to the various file types - 720p (high definition) for video web sites like vimeo and YouTube, then for DVDs to standard definition ("DV widescreen")... and I also export back to the camcorder (miniDV tape) so I have a "full quality" 1080 high definition version archived... and if I feel like it, I can connect the camcorder to a HDTV for high definition playback. If I wanted to, I could invest in a BluRay burner and burn high definition discs - but I am skipping BluRay. The high definition computer-stored files in h.264 format are also playable by "media center" type machines connected to a HDTV...

What computer are you using? For Windows, Sony Vegas and Adobe Premier always float to the top; For Macintosh, iMovie and Final Cut are good starters. Both platforms have many other editors available.

3) Doing a voice over is probably easiest if you know the script and what you want to convey during the voice over at the start of the project. You can use the camcorder to record the audio and import that the same way you import the video... then just extract the audio. Or you can use a "field recorder like those form M-Audio, Zoom, Edirol, Marantz, and many others - and import the audio... or you can use a mic connected to the computer... This has nothing to do with the "conversion" to standard def. The video editor will take care of the "multiplexing" that will mix the live audio captured by the camcorder and the audio you imported (the voice over) when the video is rendered. All you are doing is adding a couple of simple steps by adding the voice over. Use of an audio editing tool like Audacity is suggested. You will also learn what "normalizing" the audio can do to improve the audio quality.

4) You don't need to care - let the camcorder you select worry about the video file format. If your video editor can't deal with it directly, there are lots of tools that can provide good quality transcoding to get the video into a useful format.

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r.e. boya84's response
by fvonburger / September 29, 2009 12:39 PM PDT
In reply to: my opinion...

Thanks boya84. MiniDV uses tape right? Since I need a camera for my personal life also, i'd like to go tapeless. So I prefer your flash suggestions. I'll use whatever mic(s) is easiest, presumably this means a shotgun (how do i attach it to a consumer camera?) and I was planning on some rudimentary light setup. I can go over $700 for the whole shebang, but i'd like to keep it under that if possible because i'm not sure if the final video will sell well (the whole goal is to make some money). I am running windows xp on a laptop with 1gb of ram at 1.60ghz, hard drive of 160 gb.

I was looking at the Canon Vixia HF200 until another source recently told me that $700 was not enough for the camera alone. Presumably he thinks I have to get an entry level professional SD camera like a Canon GL2 or comparable. You seem to be suggesting that it is possible to make a legitimate looking instructional video for the DIY marketplace using a consumer camera (with mic, tripod, etc). Have you seen this done? I have no professional shooting experience, so a point and shoot solution would be easier. But if I need to learn pro-level, then I will. Any thoughts?

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I don't understand
by boya84 / September 29, 2009 10:27 PM PDT
In reply to: r.e. boya84's response

the correlations between your personal life videos and miniDV tape. I capture personal life videos and I use miniDV tape. What I like about it is when I edit, most of the video gets cut - this does not mean it is bad video, but when I edit for a 30, 60 or 180 second "short attention span theater" there's lots that does not make it - but I still want to keep it. Digital tape is currently the cheapest archive format available. I've use video from 5 years ago that I had on tape that I would not have if I had gone the tapeless route...

The HF200 will be a fine camera - for a tapeless unit - but your laptop is WAY underpowered to handle the AVCHD/MTS video from that camcorder. It will be hard=pressed to handle HDV, too.

ALL camcorders can provide good, useful video in that camcorder's "sweetspot" - bright enough lighting, close enough to the subject + a mic for good audio and framing... More expensive camcorders mean bigger lenses and imaging chips and other options making the "sweetspot" bigger.

Check out Many times the folks who upload their video also include information on the camera used... perhaps that can provide you some insight.

Can what you want to do be done? Sure. And it probably already has. But if what you want is to look like what you see on TV, then remember the folks writing the script, shooting the video and doing the on-scene work have experience doing that - in addition to whatever DIY skills they have. And the camcorders they are using typically START at the Sony HVR-Z5U/Canon XHA1/Panasonic AG-HVX200 level. I don't mean to discourage, but rather hoping to put some perspective in here. Tere are LOTS of reasons pro-grade gear exists - they want to save $ probably more than anyone else...

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Ok, maybe I can
by fvonburger / September 30, 2009 1:44 AM PDT
In reply to: I don't understand

Ok, maybe I can upgrade, what specifically do I need on my pc to handle the output of something like the HF200? What are the key things ? the processor speed? The RAM size?

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The "strict" definition
by boya84 / September 30, 2009 2:18 AM PDT
In reply to: Ok, maybe I can

of "handling" AVCHD/MTS files will reside with the requirements of the video editing application you select and its published minimum requirements.

In general, I have found that "minimum requirements" are not necessarily appropriate for "good user experience". In my opinion, for high definition video editing and rendering, the low-end would be a 2 GHz core duo CPU (faster is better), 4+ gig RAM (more is better) and an external, firewire drive that stores the video project files (read: not the same drive as the start-up system) is STRONGLY SUGGESTED.

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OR possibly this...
by fvonburger / September 30, 2009 1:56 AM PDT
In reply to: I don't understand

Can I downconvert to SD before editing? What are the system requirements for editing SD video?

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Can you? Sure,
by boya84 / September 30, 2009 2:21 AM PDT
In reply to: OR possibly this...

there are several converters are out there - but it sort of defeats the purpose of getting a high definition camcorder. Generally, you want to save downsampling to the LAST step - not early in the process.

Once downsample to SD, you can't return back to the high definition resolution...

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Ok, then....
by fvonburger / September 30, 2009 6:13 AM PDT
In reply to: Can you? Sure,

My PC?s processor is only 1.6ghz and the pc will only accept 2gb of ram. I dont want to spring $400-500 for a refurbed pc. So...what if I filmed in SD? Will a processor of 1.6ghz and ram of 1gb be sufficient to edit SD?

If so, I think I have these camera options:

Buy an HV10 or 20. I believe the HV10 & 20 shoot in SD (just need to see if it the 10 has a mic and headphone jack). I saw them in the $450 range.

Buy a used GL1 for $900, use it for say a month, then sell it for $500 (I?m guessing). Incurr a net loss of $400.

Rent a GL2 for the weekend ($118) or for 6 days ($185). My question with renting is how long will it take me (a complete newbie) to learn how to use a GL2 properly for an instructional video? The VX2100 is similarly priced if that?s any easier. By the way, this is very helpful. I appreciate your answers very much.

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Not long ago (in the year 2000)
by R. Proffitt Forum moderator / September 30, 2009 6:23 AM PDT
In reply to: Ok, then....

I did my video editing and DVD rendering on a simple Pentium 3, 600MHz and 256MB RAM laptop. For the day it was fine.

Your machine is more than 4 times faster, 4 or 8 times the ram and more. The only issue is that you may have to wait for the rendering. My old p3 DVD render was a 6 hour wait. I bet yours is a fraction of that time!

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by fvonburger / October 1, 2009 1:13 AM PDT

thanks...I will rent a Canon GL2, so I will be filming on miniDV tape in SD. Let me correct my earlier post?

My desktop - Pentium 4 processor at 2.67GHz. RAM of 512MB, upgradable to 2GB. Read/write DVD drive. Internal drive of 80GB, with an external drive of 160GB.

My laptop - Intel Atom processor at 1.6GHz. RAM of 1.0GB, upgradable to 2GB. No read/write capability.

Question#1: Isn't it better to be doing all this stuff on my desktop?

Question#2: Regarding the ?firewire? (I?m really ignorant on this stuff), is this simply a ?wire? that I buy at Best Buy, for example, and plug one end into the camcorder, the other into the back of my computer somewhere? Or the other end into my external hard drive? And then what, press a button?

Question#3: How much free space do I need to have on my internal and external hard drives, respectively, before I begin? Thanks again.

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responses to the 3 questions...
by boya84 / October 1, 2009 4:08 AM PDT
In reply to: ok...and
Question#1: Isn't it better to be doing all this stuff on my desktop?
Video editing is very RAM (and CPU) intensive. Most modern operating systems use "virtual memory" - that is, they grab hard drive space and tell the Operating System it is RAM - this is done on the start-up drive. This gets more activity when real, electronic RAM, is not available. Video files are large and if the hard drive is busy trying to do stuff with the "RAM" (virtual memory) then the heads in the hard drive are already working really hard - if the video project files are also on the internal start-up drive, when you access the video project files, the hard drive has to do a LOT more work reading/writing the video project files AND the virtual memory management. The desktop - in Windows/Vista - is part of the start-up disk's space. To answer your question directly, no, in your environment, having the project files on the desktop is not the "better" place to be. It is better to have the video project files on a drive separate from the operating system's start-up.

Question#2: Regarding the ?firewire? (I?m really ignorant on this stuff), is this simply a ?wire? that I buy at Best Buy, for example, and plug one end into the camcorder, the other into the back of my computer somewhere? Or the other end into my external hard drive? And then what, press a button?
MiniDV tape based camcorders have a "DV" port. In this context, DV, Firewire, i.LINK and IEEE1394 are all the same thing. And they are not USB. You connect the camcorder's DV port to the computer's firewire port. Not USB. If your computer does not have a firewire port, hopefully it has an available expansion slot so you can add one. Desktops would use a PCI card. Laptops would use a PCMCIA or ExpressCard slot. Some have a "1394" port. Many do not. It should be clearly marked.

The camcorder's DV port is always 4-pin. We don't know what firewire port your computer has so we don't know if you need a
4-pin to 4-pin firewire cable
4-pin to 6-pin firewire cable
4-pin to 9-pin firewire cable.

With the camcorder's DV port connected to the computer's firewire port with the firewire cable, and the camcorder's AC power plugged in to a known working AC outlet, put the camcorder in Play mode (this will be on or near the power switch - it is the same mode when you connect the camcorder to a TV for playback). Launch the video editor. Capture or Import the video. You do not need to touch the camcorder. The firewire communications protocol carries the commands from the computer's video editor to control the camcorder. Sometimes MovieMaker throws up on firewire - WinDV is a free utility to do that import...

Question#3: How much free space do I need to have on my internal and external hard drives, respectively, before I begin?
Since you won't be saving the video project files to your internal startup drive, the general "rule of thumb" (from my days as an IT manager), is to NEVER allow a hard drive to get less than 15% available space. Some say available should never get less than 25%. Other say less than 10% is OK. I made my suggestion - you can choose to follow that or not. Video editing is very taxing (whether high definition or standard definition. Given the page-swap - virtual memory activity, MORE available space on the start-up drive is better. As well, defragmenting the drive is strongly recommended - this will have you starting up the computer in safe-mode and running a defragmenter utility (check Start: All Programs: Accessories: System Tools). This will assure contiguous memory blocks on that hard drive so the heads don't have to deal so much with memory fragments all over the hard drive platters. The reason to do this in safe mode is because the defrag application and virtual memory will fight each other - and in safe mode, virtual memory is not active. Restart the computer after defragging.

As for the external drive, it will be useful to defragment it, too - and while not as critical, also a good idea to not let get below about 15% available space... 60 minutes of imported standard definition video from a miniDV tape based camcorder will use about 14 gig of computer hard drive space.
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Think I..
by fvonburger / October 2, 2009 6:58 AM PDT

Ok, just one clarification on your last point...
If 15 of my 80 gig internal drive is free, and 100 of the 160 gig external drive is free, then I should have no trouble loading 6 hours (14x6 = 84gig) of SD tape onto the external, and editing it using Sony Vegas. Does that sound right?

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well... you already know your
by boya84 / October 2, 2009 7:34 AM PDT
In reply to: Think I..

internal is getting to the hairy edge, but assuming the video editor you are planning to use (Vegas) is already installed on that internal and the external is as open as you say, then your math (14x6) is works for standard definition video. Which will take you past the edge of the external's available space (100 - 84 = 16 gig will remain available on the external... 160 x 15% = 24 should be available).

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external drive seems dead
by fvonburg / October 2, 2009 11:39 AM PDT

Seems my 160 gig external drive, a western digital, is dead. It lights up and hums when I plug it into the back of my desktop, but Windows Explorer wont recognize it. This happens when I plug it into my laptop too. If I buy a new external drive, one that is SATA, will it work with my existing desktop which appears to be "IDE ATA/ATAPI", according to my device manager?

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video card
by fvonburger / October 1, 2009 1:23 AM PDT

oh.. I forgot.. don't I need to check if my pc has a video card on it?

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If you can see a display on your computer
by boya84 / October 1, 2009 3:37 AM PDT
In reply to: video card

today, then it is likely enough.

The issues high definition video editing usually drives are CPU and RAM intensive...

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On the apparently dead drive...
by boya84 / October 2, 2009 12:21 PM PDT
In reply to: video card

That's a bummer if it really is dead. Better to find out now then after you transfer video to it and delete the video from the camcorder. This is one (of many) reasons I don't think tapeless is a good idea... With miniDV tape, when it is not re-used, that tape is the archive... Dead drive? Just re-import the video...

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I recommend the Canon HV30
by Scott Markowitz / October 1, 2009 7:56 AM PDT
In reply to: newbie videographer

If you want to use the camera for personal use, and for your instructional video. i would buy a Canon HV30.
I would just plan on shooting it in SD instead of HD.

This way, you could keep the camera for a little more than what you'd spend on a rental.
(I'm assuming you would need the camera for more than 1 day of rental if you're shooting home improvement projects. You would likely need to use the camera often.)

You're just gonna have to invest in mic equipment. Get a good shotgun mic, or some good wireless units.
This will easily be more expensive than the camera itself, but there's no way around it.

Scott Markowitz

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