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Trying to find the best hdd or hdv camcorder for my iMac G5.

by guierry / October 18, 2007 11:51 AM PDT

Hello all. I'm looking for the best camcorder to use with my iMac G5 and iMovie. Looking for a camera that the mac will readly recognize WITHOUT special tweeking or software, as well as one that will work seamlessly with iMovie. I've been asking all the "kids" at places like Bust Buy, CompUSA and Circuit City, but I get a different answer each time. I figured I'd find a few more informed opinions here. So far, I'm leaning toward the Sony HDR-HDC or one of the JVC EVERIO's. Thanks in advance for any information that anyone would like to share.

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If you look under the "covers" you'll
by boya84 / October 18, 2007 1:46 PM PDT

see that any miniDV camcorder that uses FireWire to transfer video will work great. Not only will you have the best available video quality, it just works.

Just so you know, I use a Sony HDR-HC1. The HDR-HC5 and HDR-HC7 work great as do the HDR-FX1 and FX7. Sony's pro HVR-A1U (the sibling to my consumer HDR-HC1) and the HVR-V1U and Z1U (pro siblings to the HDR-FX1 and FX7) should work just fine as well. I have every confidence the Canon HV10 and HV20 will be equally workable... and the Canon XL-H1, XH-G1 and XH-A1, too.

Since you did not tell us what version iMovie, I can't tell you what would happen with any of the hard drive (HDD) or memory card camcorders that use AVCHD compression for HD (high definiton). As I understand it, only the current version iMovie in iLife08 can use AVCHD-encoded files.

I went looking for a "Sony HDR-HDC" and couldn't find anything - JVC's concepts are right-on, but I've not liked their optics and would suggest staying with Sony or Canon.

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by guierry / October 18, 2007 11:36 PM PDT

WOW!! That's GREAT INFORMATION!! Now, I can make an educated purchase!! Thank you SO MUCH for sharing your expertise!! It's REALLY helpful!! Buy the way, I'm using an older (2006) model of the iMac G5 and I currently have iLife '06. But I'm probably going to upgrade to '08.

Thanks again!!

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I understnd that the version of iMovie in iLife'08
by boya84 / October 19, 2007 1:43 AM PDT
In reply to: THANKS FOR THE INFO!!

has met with mixed reviews from folks who have upgraded. I use a 17 inch flatpanel G5 iMac - and iMovie06 (HD) and FinalCut Pro.

I strongly suggest that you get an external FireWire drive (minimum 250 gig, but larger is better - I have one 500 gig and one 250 gig) just for video projects... if you don't already have one.

Maxing out your RAM (2 gig?) will be helpful, too.

When you import high-definition video, it will not import real-time like standard definition video does. One hour of high def video will take over two hours to import. I usually click import and go do something else. Once the video is in iMovie, editing is no problem - and "real time".

An hour of standard definition video will take around ~13 gig of space on your hard drive - an hour of high-def (1080i) video will take three to four times more space...

You can use regular miniDV tape - you do not need to use the special "HD" miniDV tapes. Once you start using a miniDV tape brand, stick with it. Do not re-use tapes. Once filled, lock it, pop it out, put in a new one. Carry a Sharpie with you so you can mark the tape case - use the labels that come with the tape.

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by guierry / October 19, 2007 3:44 AM PDT

WOW DUDE!! You've got a LOT of good information! I've had my Mac for over a year and I've never used it to its creative capacity. I?m thinking about getting a cheap camera for now (any suggestions) to familiarize myself with how things work and how they interface. Once I?m a ?pro?, I?ll get one of higher end cameras and probably one of the new iMacs as well. I want to start doing some videography projects on the side, and maybe even get a small business going. Anyway, thanks again for the info! I really appreciate it!

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so it sounds like you're about two steps
by boya84 / October 19, 2007 4:46 AM PDT
In reply to: THANKS AGAIN!!

behind me - and taking the same path.

I actually started several years ago with a full-size VHS shoulder mount - before computer editing became "popular". And my "editing" consisted of deck-to-deck dubbing. That camcorder died, so I got a little Canon Elura 60.

I started editing with iMovie (version 4, I think)... when my son took that camcorder with him to college, I got the Sony HDR-HC1 and my audio engineer friend started dragging me to stuff... bands, filming behind the scenes stuff for short films... see - more recently doing a lot of the "Live@SNOCAP" music video and interview capture and edits... I'd be doing more, but my normal day-gig takes priority... After all, it funds this fun.

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Very cool!
by guierry / October 19, 2007 5:01 AM PDT

Wow, I can't even imagine what editing would be like without a computer! Sounds like REAL WORK!! I'll have to check your youtube page out. That's the kinda stuff that I want to get into as well. I'm a mild mannered, computer consultant by day, but I really want to do more creative stuff. Would love to eventually do it for a living, but I'll have to take some baby steps first. Did you have any thoughts on a basic/cheap camcorder I might want to start out with? Ebay has a TON of them, but I don't want to buy just "anything". Thanks.

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Having been through what I have been through,
by boya84 / October 19, 2007 5:29 AM PDT
In reply to: Very cool!

I would suggest a miniDV camcorder with a mic-in jack and manual audio control capability. When you identify that camera, the other features in that camcorder - optics, zoom, aperture control, etc will be fine.

Here's the deal - a "basic/cheap" camcorder will not have a mic-in jack AND manual audio control. On top of that, the more familiar you are with the camcorder, the better your capture capability will be. When you can put your finger on the right button and make adjustments without having to look at your hand to make those adjustments, you'll be in a way better position.

I can certainly appreciate that camcorders in the above category will not be cheap. But let's walk through the scenario: You buy an inexpensive camcorder that does not have a mic-in jack AND manual audio control. in less than a year, you decide you want that capability - you need to buy another camcorder with those features... OR... you save for the least expensive camcorder with those features and get it - you aren't replacing the camera in a year - having to relearn the new camera's nuances... I agree that you would have lost that time in getting experience with framing shots, transferring and editing, but video is only a portion of the whole "system" - some would argue that audio is as important as video...

Personally, I would not buy anything off eBay. But you may have a better/different comfort level with that sales channel.

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What a pain - they don't make them
by boya84 / October 19, 2007 5:53 AM PDT

like the used to... so, you're gonna have trouble with the "manual audio control". At least get the mic-in jack... then look at something like this - I know, this is a bit overkill but it has several advantages...

1) You won't have to immediately replace the camcorder
2) It has LEDs to show you what the audio levels are
3) It uses XLR connectors (which are generally only used on better mics, anyway)
4) It will work with any 1/8" audio input - including connecting to you computer.
5) you can get it when you want it - or when you are ready - and spend less on the camcorder up front... like a Canon ZR800...

just a thought.

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How 'bout these options.
by guierry / October 22, 2007 2:07 AM PDT

Hey "boya84". First, thanks again for your info. Second, the camera that I was thinking about getting in my first post was the Sony HDC-HC3. I put the wrong numbers in the post. I'm also looking at a Sony DCR-TRV30. The reviews I can find on it are all positive and I saw one for about $555. Also, a Sony HDR-UX1. Do you have an opinion on either of these units?

I know I'd have to 'learn' to a new camera if I got a cheap one for now, but that's cool. My main goal for right now is to get familiar with the software and how to manipulate it. Once I'm good with that, I'll look more into getting a high end camera. I'm currently upgrading the memory on my Mac and looking into external drives (any suggestions here would be welcome also). And as far as eBay goes, I've been buying and selling stuff there for years. I've never really had a bad experience there, and I?ve bought and sold a few high dollar guitars there and I?ve never been burned (knock wood). Besides, the local usually can?t compete with the prices. But, point well taken.


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I know what a Sony HDR-HC3 is...
by boya84 / October 22, 2007 3:45 AM PDT

but not a HDC-HC3. The HC3 came out a few months after my HC1 - and is a more "consumer"-oriented version with fewer manual controls (no manual audio) and no external mic input - more on the Sony proprietary "active interface" in a moment).

This does not make it a "bad" camera - and actually I think it is a pretty good one. MiniDV, HDMI connector, LANC (this is really useful!) and switchable between 1080i hi def, 16:9 widescreen standard def and 4:3 (is always standard def) video recording (but do yourself a favor and don't do different formats on a single tape because importing that will require you to import to different "projects" by format).

On the Sony proprietary active interface - once upon a time, only Sony proprietary mics could be used - but whizkid454 found As far as I know, B&H is the only store that carries it. So, for manual audio control, add this plus something like the BeachTek XLR adapter mentioned previously and you are good to go.

The DCR-TRV30 is a great camcorder - but like I said, I am not comfortable buying this stuff used from folks I don't know - if you are, cool. The TRV30 has a real 1/8" mic-in jack - so that's great.

Heads up: The HC3 is a top-loader - the TRV30 is a bottom loader - for the miniDV tape. This is not a big deal is you are always handheld, but if you use a tripod, you need to either take the camera off the tripod (and the quick-release plate) or make/build a spacer so the camera sits high enough or otherwise away from the tripod mount. My HC1 is a bottom loader and that is one thing I don't like about it but I use a camera braket on the left for mounting an external mic and that, along with the BeachTek DXA-6 moves the camera high enough away from the tripod mount.

In either case, you will need to get a 4-pin camera side to 6-pin computer side FireWire400 cable to transfer/import the video you capture and most likely a high-capacity rechargable battery.

I wouldn't bother with the HDR-UX1. It is a DVD-based camcorder and not meant for capturing footage to be edited. If you decide to make this mistake, be aware that the hi-def video captured on DVD-based and hard drive based camcorders (from Sony and Panasonic and others) is compressed using AVCHD - and only iMovie from the the current iLife'08 and the current FinalCutPro 2 (not FinalCut Express) can deal with AVCHD-encoded video.

For external drives, I use these cases:
and get whatever big Ultra ATA (IDE) hard drive (Maxtor, Seagate, Western Digital, etc) happens to be on sale at Fry's. I noticed Fry's online does not seem to have these cases - but the stores typically have a few in stock. The reason I like these cases is because they do USB, FireWire400 and FireWire800... Your G5 does only FireWire400 (and USB - but you don't want to use USB for video editing), but if you get a new machine with FW800, it will be handy. Otherwise, any external drive (250 gig or larger) with a FW400 connecton will be just fine.

I understand "the local" can't compete on price... and I know price is really compelling... but remember that "the local" gives jobs to local people... your neighbors... maybe even you. And pays taxes which fund Police, Fire and other emergency services and builds roads and schools and all the other infrastructure we have - and need to maintain. And is a place to walk into to deal with a warm body if there are issues with what we bought... Sorry about the soapbox - and I know you are looking at, potentially, previously owned stuff which takes a lot of this off the table...

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what about...
by spanish39 / October 22, 2007 4:09 AM PDT

...what about an HDR-HC7? I am in the same boat with this post (mini DV for editing) though I have a grand to drop on a camcorder and i want some pro/semi-ro quality. I need a mic and windfilter and all that good stuff, I eed to edit as well. Is an HDR-HC7 a good cam for this? If not then what is better or just as good for les than $1,200?

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The miniDV tape based
by boya84 / October 22, 2007 5:02 AM PDT
In reply to: what about...

Sony HDR-HC7 is a good camcorder - and has a proper mic-in jack. I would not cal it "pro or semi pro quality", but it will deliver good video.

Both sites (and others) have it very highly rated.

You will want an XLR adapter (like the BeachTek DXA-6) too. The HC5 and HC7 have the manual audio controls the HC3 does not have. The HC5 does not have a mic-in jack (the active interface shoe does not count, but per the earlier post is adaptable).

You are the second recent poster indicating "pro-grade" with a "windfilter" - this does not make sense. This is generally an internal electronic filtering feature used with the internal mics and causes certain low-end noise filtering that most "pros" would not use. You REALLY want to use an external mic - and filtering wind noise will require use of something like
They are also called a "dead cat".

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Thanks for that...
by guierry / October 22, 2007 6:14 AM PDT

Thanks again for all your expertise information. It is really proving invaluable. And I agree with you (for the most part) on online shopping vs. making local purchases. I?ve purchased enough stuff on eBay to realize that, in most cases, if the difference is only a few bucks. I was about to buy a compact flash card on line and ended up just getting it at Radio Shack. The difference in price was minimal and, and I had it in my hand and using it that night. So I can dig where you?re coming from.

I appreciate you taking the time and providing such exhaustive and detailed info for my amateurish queries. I?m gonna digest the info you?ve already provided, and hit you back again when I have more questions.

Thanks again dude!!

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Amateurish? Nah...
by boya84 / October 22, 2007 11:22 AM PDT
In reply to: Thanks for that...

everyone has to start somewhere - and I am certainly no pro. But I have learned through experience - I just wish half of this stuff was around when I was starting out...

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Price check please
by cjesser / October 25, 2007 2:53 PM PDT

How in the hell did you find that camera for $555? Was it used?

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Do what your Mac is setup to do
by Dan Filice / October 22, 2007 4:32 AM PDT


If I were you, I'd stick with iMovieHD 6 that you currenlty have. iMovie 8 does away with a lot of editing functions that 6 has. It's geared toward getting footage prepared directly for VOD purposes, like YouTube, etc. This is why iMovie 8 recognizes the input of MPEG movies directly from camcorders. For me, I'd prefer to keep the editing functions of iMovie6 and use mini-DV tapes with Firewire input. Since your computer is geared for the mini-DV>Firewire>iMovie editing process, I'd fine-tune your editing functions with mini-DV first then move to a hard-drive or memory HD camorder later.

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by spanish39 / October 22, 2007 5:56 AM PDT

So what does the BeachTek DXA-6 do exactly and how much does it cost on average? Do I still need a mic along with this device?

If the HDR-HC7 is a good cam, then what is a great cam? Can I get a pro/semi-pro miniDV cam for $1,200?

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The Beachtek DXA-6 and other "XLR adapters"
by boya84 / October 22, 2007 11:53 AM PDT
In reply to: XLR

allow you to plug in a "pro-grade" XLR connector microphone (or sound source) into a 1/8 inch (3.5mm) mic jack.

Pro-grade mics are NOT 1/8" jack equipped. XLR cabling and jacks pretty puch eliminate any RF or EMI interference that non-XLR cables/jacks can pick up. Yes, 1 or more mics are still necessary to get with these XLR adapters - they are only adapters... You should have a wireless lavaliere or two and a good shotgun mic - at a minimum... Sennheiser, Shure and Audio-Technica are typical. Low-mid $ for these types of mics are the $300 - $400 range. And a shockmount for the shotgun mic (a Sabra SMM-1 is a universal shockmount). And a decent boom for the shotgun mic will be handy...

The first sign of a "real" pro-grade camcorder rig can be the presence of XLR jack inputs. That said, there are a few camcorders (like the Canon GL-2) that use 1/8" audio in, but are used by a lot of professionals... The next "give-away" is lots of manual controls - focus, iris, zoom... and maybe a LANC connection (which the GL-2 has)... but $1,200 for a pro-grade rig? Uh... that will definitely be a challenge... The last one - of which I am aware - that even approached that was the Sony HDR-HC1 (Sony still makes the pro-grade equivalent in the HVR-A1U) and the HC1 has not been made for a couple of years (though at the time, it went for $1,700 list, I think). The HVR-A1U has modified firmware, replaced the still-flash with an XLR adapter and includes a shotgun mic...

My opinion - The affordable "pro grade" or near pro-grade (in no particular order):

Sony HDR FX1 or FX7 (pro grade equivalents of the HVR-Z1 and HDR-V1U - though the new HDR-1000U looks interesting, I don't know enough about it)

Canon XL2, GL2, XH-A1 and the others...

AG-DVX100 and HVX200

You won't typically find these camcorders as BestBuy or Target. Fry's has some of them...

Maybe others have input on "pro" rigs... but these are the units I've seen used on shoots...

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Thanks Dan.
by guierry / October 22, 2007 6:00 AM PDT

Thanks for that info Dan. I'll keep that in mind. I'm just a novice now and I just want to "get to know" the software. Once I'm ready to shoot a feature length film, I'll invest in a more expensive camera.

That's some good info on iMovie as well. I 'thought' iMovie 08 was bigger, better, stronger, faster. So it's good to know that I already have the better of the two. Thanks for that. I was gonna get it anyway for the new Garageband, but that's still good information to have.

Thanks again for sharing your knowledge!!

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Well boya84
by spanish39 / October 22, 2007 4:05 PM PDT
In reply to: Thanks Dan.

Thanks BOUYA84

I would love to use an XL1, that was my original cam I wanted, but money has become an issue and time is of the essence unfortunatly.

At the level of the HDR-HC7, is there anything with more options or has mic jacks that can compete with it or is it pretty much the best came for around its price range?

If you only had less then $1,500 to spend a good cam, and a cam only, would you buy the HC7 or would you go a different route as far as miniDV, from your expierience and thoughts?

I just want to get the most bang for my buck and be able to shoot some decent videos, I need my options as far as manual options and add-on accessories like lights and mics.

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One other camera I would look
by boya84 / October 23, 2007 2:19 AM PDT
In reply to: Well boya84
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