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Please help - need to purchase BEFORE year end

by nhwest / December 10, 2007 12:55 PM PST

Hope you all are enjoying the holiday season? Really would love some help and thanks to all in advance. Looking for recommendations on purchasing: 1) camcorder and 2) bullet/head/helmet cam.

I apologize in advance for my lack of understanding of the technology ? very new to this field. The more I research the less I know. I have to make these purchases BEFORE the end of year and I am running out of time. Budget for the camcorder is $1000.00 +/- 500.00.

I no nothing about the bullet cams (except camcorder needs analog or A/V input to connect the cam) or how they work? would love to talk specifics with someone about this? but basically need something that is hands free that I can strap to my head or a hat ? need to be filming what I am looking at.

I welcome any recommendations/advise/suggestions on which camcorder as well as bullet cam that would suit my purpose best.

Most important: high video quality

My subject: dogs interacting, in action, sometimes very fast action. Shooting mostly outdoors in many different conditions, times of day, etc or in others facilities so there is no control over lighting, set up, etc. Essentially a documentary on dog behavior, have a top end computer/video-editing program, logged 35 hours of footage and gathering more, made 100 plus short clips so far - goal is a (as professional as I can do) DVD. (Before my life in dogs used to be in graphic design)

Camcorder I have: Canon ZR45, very nice friends have lent me: Canon XL1s & Sony(?) - I am not familiar with HD at all or other formats.

With my little understanding? heard: mini dv tapes gives best video quality over hard drive based camcorder???

Should I stick with SD or go to HD???

Some I heard of but again no nothing about:

Canon HV20, Sony HDR HD7, Sony DCR-VX2100, Sony DCR-HC96

DogCam Pro 550 Zoom (the name fits anyway)

Much appreciate any advice anyone has to offer. Thanks in advance to all. Need more info from me just ask. Look forward to hearing what you have to say. Thanks again and have a great day!

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I can address a couple of the items...
by boya84 / December 10, 2007 1:42 PM PST

Whether you need/want high definition is up to you - and your editing capabilities. If you are editing, your computer needs lots of hard drive space because HD video takes lots of room... but lets slide that out of the way for a moment...

You need a camcorder with AV-in. That is what the helmetcam connects to. You already know that. What you might not know is the AV in comes in as an analog (composite) signal... the Yellow RCA jack in the Yellow-video; red-right audio; white-left audio connectors similar to the analog/composite connections in/out of a VCR or DVD player to/from a non-HD TV. That helmet cam will be recording in stabdard definition - even if the camcorder is an HD model. That said, the HD camcorders will record in standard def, too, so it is a question of whether you are considering mix/match modes during edit or if it will be all standard definition throughout. (Heads up: HD is ALWAYS 16:9; SD can be 16:9 or 4:3...) And some computer video editors will throw up on mixing formats...

Because of the diverse nature you mentioned and the "high quality" you have as a requirement, I regret that there is no cam in your price range that will give you everything you have specified... plus I have a few suggestions. I think the closest you will get will be the Sony VX2100, but a new one has a list price of ~3,000 and a street price of ~$2,300. The Canon XL1 does not seem to get much closer to your budget price - and in both cases, this does not include the helmet cam... That takes us to the next step down...

The Sony HDR-HC7 does not have analog input and will not accept a composite signal from a helmet cam. I could not get to the HV20 product page to confirm, but I am pretty sure the Canon HV20 will not accept a composite signal from a helmet cam, either... The HV20 has an analog/digital passthrough feature, but I don't think this allows recording to the camcorder's miniDV tape.

The Sony DCR-HC96 is most likely your best bet - in the price range you specified leaving you $ for the helmet cam... The other thing nice about the HC96 is that is has a LANC port.
This is a wired remote that lets you start/stop the recording, take stills and control the zoom - though in your case, this will be tough since you cannot see what you are shooting. The HC96 also has analog in - and is on the list of compatible cams at

These folks look like NTSC - and if you know DogCam, then you are in the UK... which means you will want a PAL rig... so the Sony DCR-HC96E and the DogCam should work just fine.
If this is not correct, you want the non-E HC96 and the NTSC helmet cams...

I envision the camcorder in a fannypack with the LANC clipped to your belt and the wired helmet cam velcroed to a hat on your head... or if you want to make yourself a cam-headset that looks a little like the big muff mono headsets like the coaches wear at football games, then you can use that mic as the audio-in...

Yes, miniDV tape provides the best quality video currently available from consumer camcorders. I think using a helmet could spook the dogs... heck, some dogs freak-out at hats...

I think you stick with Standard definition.

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Help - need to purchase BEFORE year end or forever hold my?
by nhwest / December 11, 2007 4:44 AM PST

Thanks boya84 so much for the info : ) very helpful and much appreciated. Did not know that cam records in SD regardless of camcorder - makes sense.

From the computer end - have a macpro and use FCP for video editing ? just learning but pretty sure it is capable of mixing and matching formats - whether I am is another question.

I live in the US ? DogCam was recommend to me for the zoom feature? and Sony SuperHad CCD sensor, solar treated Canon lens, contrast control, night mode, and its weather resistance? ? other then zoom and weather resistance which are both huge interest to me ? the rest is over my head as the specifics of what they do. The bottom line? for a cam it sounds like ? or I?ve been told ? the quality of video is on the higher side. It comes with some type of wired remote. Here is the link for specs on DogCam Pro 550 Zoom

Not understanding how the bullet cam works? with a bullet cam - is the camcorder merely a recording devise? How much difference does the quality of the camcorder make ? or ? is it mostly the bullet cam, the quality of that lens that gives you the quality video in the end?

Guess more specifically ? being that the Cannon ZR45 has av-in needed for hook up? am wondering if I could get away using it with the bullet cam - or - is it worth it (i.e. makes a significant difference in video quality) to get a newer camcorder for use with the bullet cam?? Not to confuse the issue ? will be purchasing both a bullet cam and a camcorder regardless ? but if there isn?t a big difference (noticeable) with what camcorder is used with the bullet cam? then it would leave me more options to choose from in the purchasing of the camcorder without the need for it to attach to the bullet cam. Although? maybe more choices isn?t the best thing for me? but am open to suggestions.

What are the differences shooting HD then SD?

Definitely looking on the smaller size for camcorder ? do want it compact to carry in a fanny pack. Although, do love the quality of footage I get from my friend?s Canon XL1, but for all my practical purposes it is a beast to haul around and definitely can?t be incognito. And along the lines of hats freaking dogs out or a helmet spooking them - this oversized elongated ?third? eye resting on my shoulder concerned a few of the dogs. It was much better when I could set up on a tripod.

Thanks you for all your help - truly am grateful. Welcome a feedback. Funds are available til end of year ? need to take the opportunity or forever hold my breath. If I go with the DogCam Pro 550 Zoom, still will have $1000.00 +/- $500.00 for the camcorder. As with most - want to get the most bang for the buck. Rather have something I can grow into then will grow out of in a year or two ? went that route with the computer purchase and I am very pleased and very happy I did. Really want to make these purchases and get back to the fun stuff ? observing the dogs ? filming and editing. Much appreciate what anyone has to offer. Thanks in advance to all. Need more info from me just ask. Look forward to hearing what you have to say. Thanks again to boya84. Cheers to all. Have a great day!

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Getting deeper than I know... but I am willing...
by boya84 / December 11, 2007 7:05 AM PST

With a MacPro and FCP, the formats should be pretty easy - but you will have some work if you end up with 16:9 (high def or standard def) and 4:3 (standard def) just from a consistent visual format - it may not make a difference to you. Keep in mind that if you have mixed high def and standard def on the miniDV tape, FCP will be confused when you import - so you at least want to stay on the same format on each tape when capturing. For example, when you launch FCP and select the project type - so it knows what video format to expect - and you start with the Apple Intermediate codec for HD (16:9), and you start that import, then the miniDV tape swings to 4:3, it will be the "wrong" signal...

Is this all about just the dogs or will there be any human interviews/talking heads? This is possibly where a format difference might make sense because the "subtopic" is being conveyed... but that is just me playing "director".

In the UK (DogCam source) they use PAL format for video. Here in the US, we use NTSC. I'm pretty sure you can't mix/match this - there was an earlier poster who purchased a NTSC helmet cam in the US... and was trying to make it work with a PAL camcorder purchased in Australia. It would not work. Check the camcorder compatibility list at DogCam - the Sony camcorders all end with "E" (Europe - PAL). The best authority on this would be DogCam. Tell them (email?) you have a NTSC cam in the US - and ask if their DogCam will work. Canon goes further - they generally have used totally different model numbers for the different format camcorders. I suspect your camcorder model numbers are not on their list of compatible camcorders - but I could be wrong as I have not spent too much time at their site.

Yes, a helmet cam is merely the external eyes of the camcorder when the AV-in takes over - the Tape is merely the recording device - rather like connecting that helmetcam to the AV-in of a VCR... Same RCA cable colors and everything.

My take is that the video from a helmetcam using an XL1 or the ZR45 should look the same. Without the helmet cam, it is the optics, imaging chips and some electronics that make the difference (in image quality and expense!).

This dog-thing sounds like fun...

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Thank You again!!! : )
by nhwest / December 13, 2007 2:19 AM PST

Thanks again! I sent an email to DogCam and they were very helpful.

You are right the camcorder does serve as a recording devise - the quality will more depend on the bullet camera that is plug in to the camcorder.

DogCam recommended a few different bullet cameras to look at instead of the Pro 550 zoom: Sony HQ1: & Vari-focal cameras (which have a optical zoom lens) Think I maybe leaning towards the HQ-1 Vari-Focal bullet camera:

Now have to make some decisions on the camcorder???? guess need to weigh pros and cons of SD & HV, take into consideration the editing aspect of different formats and having a consistent visual format or not. Want to stay with mini dv for better quality of footage. Budget for camcorder $1000.00 +/- $500.00.

The majority is and will be of the dogs ? there are parts of people here and there throughout in the foreground/background actually all around as some of the footage is taken out in public but the focus is on the dogs and not the people.

There will be some footage of people demonstrating but very little. Will be an introduction and may have some short interviews ? haven?t really got that far. Want to keep the movie mostly footage/stills of dogs. Planning on doing voice over to explain things, some music for fun.

The majority of footage is taken outdoors, in all types of conditions, and different times of day, etc. Some indoors at facilities, people?s homes ? but no control over lighting etc. Shooting is done spur of the moment some of the time ? I?ll see a situation and if I am lucky enough to have the camcorder with me I can point and shoot. Other times it is planned to some extent and I can adjust the settings.

Finding though some of the best subject footage, not talking about the video quality, is those spur of the moments I happen to catch ? which is making me realize that another criteria for the camcorder should be one that has a really good auto-setting ? so am able to get good footage without having to make adjustments for those spur of the moment shots.

The movie will really be made up of many separate mini movies ? very short video clips as well as stills. Most likely the movie will have multiple categories consisting of specific behaviors, some may even contain subcategories too and within each of those categories there will be many short video clips on examples of the particular behavior. For example, the stalking game dogs play consists of multiple behaviors that make up the stalk behavior ? the headset, the eye, the approach, sometime a look back, the face off, sometimes a look away, or just eyes darting or the mouth closes, and then the explosion. With the video clips being short and separate maybe able to get away with inconsistent visual format?

Multiple people have recommended the Canon HV20 as well as the Sony HDR-HC7 - any other ones should I consider? How much harder is HD to shoot than SD? My shooting skills aren?t the best but have much improved since first started and hopefully will continue to improve. Understand imperfections will be magnified using HD? Lighting more important? Computer needs a lot of hard drive space then if using SD, and, and? what else?

In addition to the Sony DCR-HC96, what other SD mini DV camcorders would be good for my purpose.

Whatever I get - it will have to do for quite a while. Won?t be upgrading/updating anytime soon, probably not for a considerable number of years. Rather have something I can grow into then grow out of in a year or two ?which makes me wonder if I should go with HD???

Thanks again for all your help - truly am grateful. Welcome any feedback. And Yes ? the dog-thing is ABSOLUTELY A BLAST!!! Life doesn?t get much better for me then that. Much appreciate what anyone has to offer. Thanks in advance to all. Need more info from me just ask. Look forward to hearing what you have to say. Thanks again to boya84. Cheers to all. Have a great day!

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The only question I feel qualified to address
by boya84 / December 13, 2007 5:37 AM PST
In reply to: Thank You again!!! : )
How much harder is HD to shoot than SD?
They are not much different - when capturing. You need to pay attention to framing the shot and focus on both. Maybe focus on HD is a bit more of an effort, but not substantially so - and the camcorders you are looking at have auto focus and spot focus capabilities, so no worries. Editing can be a challenge with HD because of file size requirements, but a 500 gig or 750 gig external drive should be just fine - I presume you have a computer that is no more than a year or two old.

Imperfections magnified? Are there "imperfect" dogs? I had no idea!

So DogCam said there is no issue with using a PAL unit from them with a NTSC unit from the US? Or is the DogCam format-agnostic?
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Thanks again : )
by nhwest / December 13, 2007 9:28 AM PST

Thanks for the info on difference in shooting with HD - heard so many different things about it - just purchased the macpro this summer.

In regards to:
So DogCam said there is no issue with using a PAL unit from them with a NTSC unit from the US? Or is the DogCam format-agnostic?

I ask DogCam only about the Canon HV20, and the use of my ZR45 - here is their reply:
?Yes, the HV20 will work with any of our cameras. You will get the same quality though from your zr45.?
From their website ? on the Sony HQ1 ?Please let us know if you require an NTSC version of this camera (not recommended for the UK market)? And in the specs of HQ-1 Vari-Focal bullet camera it lists: H x V (pixels) - NTSC: 811 x 508 &
 PAL: 752 x 582.

I will be using my zr45 with the bullet camera since it has the av input needed, a Lanc terminal for remote and will get the same quality as a new camcorder. It leaves me more options in the purchase of a camcorder as it doesn't necessarily need to be compatible with the bullet cam.

Thanks again for all your help - much appreciated!

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cool... so they confirmed that the
by boya84 / December 13, 2007 12:24 PM PST
In reply to: Thanks again : )

camcorders imaging method (CCD or CMOS) has nothing to with video capture when their external (analog) cam is connected and yet they specify that you should use their NTSC version. Okie dokie... I agree - the ZR45 should suffice.

The ZR45 has a LANC port - It's accessory list has the "Zoom Remote Control ZR-1000". Page 87 shows the LANC port hear the lens...
But you probably already know this.
(My contribution to a local non-profit organization.)

Have fun!

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forgot to ask...
by nhwest / December 13, 2007 3:03 AM PST

Forgot to add/ask about? 3CCD & CMOS - should I be considering a Panasonic?

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You could... Panasonic makes fine camcorders -
by boya84 / December 13, 2007 6:09 AM PST
In reply to: forgot to ask...

but from what you described, I would be looking for that LANC port. I don't recall seeing any Panasonic consumer-grade camcorders (the closest I can get are the DVX100 and HVX200 - and they are pro-grade).

I have found little difference between CMOS and CCD - just get the biggest total surface area (whether single CMOS or 3CCD or single CCD or 3 CMOS). I've been on shoots with my little HDR-HC1 (single CMOS) - and the standard def video captured by it rivals that from a Canon XL2, GL2 and Panasonic DVX100 (both 3 CCD rigs) - granted, the lighting was good for all... BUT, with an external helmetcam, sending an analog signal through the AV-in, it does not matter because I don't think the camcorder's imaging chips are used...

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Thanks yet again!
by nhwest / December 13, 2007 9:40 AM PST

Thanks for the feedback on Panasonic & 3CDD. Nice to narrow the field and not have to add another one to my list to think about? considering the clock is ticking?

Don't necessarily need the new camcorder to have a Lanc port - I can use my zr45 with the bullet camera - it has a Lanc terminal.

Thanks again for all your help - much appreciated.

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