O/T HD Camcorders

Submitted: Thursday, Apr 23, 2009 at 18:44
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Evening all,
Now that we have found out that we are going to be grandparents, my lovely wife has given the go ahead to purchase a HD camcorder for recording our new grandchild. What I would like to know from those with camcorders, is what type are you using and what software are you utilising for editing and of course are you happy with it. I have found out what Tracey uses and her husband has advised that the camera that they use did not get a good review but as we all know Tracey produces excellent movies. So rather than rely on these reviews I would like to get first hand experience in the real world.

Thanks in advance


Mark
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Reply By: Member - Mick O (VIC) - Thursday, Apr 23, 2009 at 19:29

Thursday, Apr 23, 2009 at 19:29
Probably not off topic at all Mark considering that people like Tracy, Gaby and Alan (Equinox) are adding a whole new dimension to the forum with their videos. It's inspired me to by a HD Sony Hybrid camera last week (Thanks Kevin 747!). It has a 4mp still camera and an inbuilt GPS that automatically tags your videos to a GPS location (great for travelling). I'm also led to believe that it will load to Google earth to give you a point for each video. It also has the advantage of allowing you to covert downwards from HD to Standard Definition which many of the other brand HD cams won't let you do. From what I am led to believe, HD format will only allow you to record a Blu-ray disc rather than a standard DVD. Most HD cameras only have a shoot in HD or Standard option where the Sony allows a conversion of a video file shot in HD back to standard def. I'll probably be shot down here by those more knowledgable in the subject but that's how it's been explained to me. The camera I've bought is the HDRXR200V. Normally about $2K but on special at Myer and on the net for around $1600.

On the strength of what a few people have said to me I will be buying Sony's Vegas movie studio editing program. If you've seen a few of the video's on this site, some have been done with it. Expect me to be a lot more proficient by the end of the year:-)

Cheers Mick.
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Reply By: Member - Phil G (SA) - Thursday, Apr 23, 2009 at 19:45

Thursday, Apr 23, 2009 at 19:45
Mark,
Great news! We became grandparents 10 months ago, and thought about doing the same - but the endless array of camcorders was something I found confusing.

But the quality of the video and sound off our digital camera is very good - its a Panasonic DMC-TZ15. So we didn't bother with a camcorder - just use the digital camera and burn short videos to CD or bluetooth them to the mobile phones, so you can carry them around.

Cheers
Phil
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Follow Up By: Member - JohnR (Vic) - Thursday, Apr 30, 2009 at 10:34

Thursday, Apr 30, 2009 at 10:34
G'day Phil, Heather has a DMC-FZ28 and took a movie of the Karavans leaving last week with a fantastic result. Much better result than the video camera we have and seldom use.

Why have to carry a special video camera when the still camera in video mode will have better lenses too!
Cheers,
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Follow Up By: Member - Phil G (SA) - Sunday, May 03, 2009 at 22:43

Sunday, May 03, 2009 at 22:43
Gday John,
It also means you've got one less item to work out how to use :-))
Cheers
phil
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Follow Up By: Member - JohnR (Vic) - Monday, May 04, 2009 at 07:39

Monday, May 04, 2009 at 07:39
Phil, we did photographic courses years ago, all about composure and tonings and stuff, and had a dark room too.

These days ability and flexibility of simple gear is fantastic. Not that these Lumix ones are simple. You are very right on reducing the number of things to learn. I have had the full screen video, though not on the TV, but I think even there it would be excellent :-))
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Reply By: Serendipity of Mandurah (WA) - Thursday, Apr 23, 2009 at 20:54

Thursday, Apr 23, 2009 at 20:54
Hi Mark

I purchased a Canon HV20 with a special set of reasons. Firstly I only wanted a tape drive rather than DVD or hard disk drive. After talking to industry people I found that DVD or hard disk storage is converted immediately to mpeg format and only captures about 9 or 10 frames per second. (some may vary a bit). On a tape drive you will capture in the full 28 frames per second which is normal for video. This allows a lot more tolerance for post production editing.

The same as other cameras you can record in High Definition or standard. What I found was high definition tapes are $35 and standard definition tapes are $5 and to the normal viewer you cannot tell the difference. I just video camping shots on std.

Another big selling point for the Canon HV20 is it can convert old VHS tapes to digital format on the fly directly into your computer so you can digitize all those old video trips. Very few video cameras have this ability.

It also comes with a still camera built in that stores to a storage card. I can also grab still images while I am videoing that get stored to the card - only they are not as good quality as the still camera side can achieve.

David

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Follow Up By: psproule - Thursday, Apr 23, 2009 at 21:18

Thursday, Apr 23, 2009 at 21:18
Mark, I work in broadcast TV. The advice you have there is wrong. For a start, all TV in AU is 25 interlaced frames per second, SD or HD (1080i25 is used for AU HD broadcast even though 720p50 exists). US is 30 frames per second (29.9 something actually). Some disk cameras record to MPEG 2 (mostly JVC) and many others to AVCHD or MPEG 4 codecs, both of which utilise inter-frame compression. They all record the full 25 frames per second. They just vary in the way they store them.

There are no consumer HD cameras, tape or hard drive, that record intra-frame HD. The data rate is simply too huge. They all use inter-frame. In practice this is not much of an issue to the end user as the average PC / MAC has the grunt to handle this. Yes, Intra-frame compression is the ideal, but this is only really available in HD broadcast cameras starting from $30,000 (I kid you not). For what it's worth, most all of the old SD digital camera formats were intra-frame. It's the shift to HD that has changed this.

Pat
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Follow Up By: Member - Mark E (VIC) - Thursday, Apr 23, 2009 at 21:57

Thursday, Apr 23, 2009 at 21:57
Pat,

You seem very knowledgeable about all this. Do you have some advice for us numphies of the camcorder world as to what you would recommend for a decent machine?

Alternatively where to turn to for sound advice.

Cheers,

Mark
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Follow Up By: Serendipity of Mandurah (WA) - Thursday, Apr 23, 2009 at 22:19

Thursday, Apr 23, 2009 at 22:19
Hi Pat

Sorry for my inaccurate info. Just can't get reliable info any more. I am glad there are ExOZ members with your knowledge. I can see there is a lot more to how cameras work than what us end users get to know.

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Follow Up By: howie - Friday, Apr 24, 2009 at 00:31

Friday, Apr 24, 2009 at 00:31
i got the HV20 as well.
it records to tapes (which is apparently better quality and safer).
it is also one of the few videos that has an AV input.
so you could play your VCR into the HV20 and record them as serendipity says.
i use the AV input to record from a 2nd camera.
stills photos are very good, esp using the zoom, but not as good as an SLR with telescpic lens obv.
horses.
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Reply By: Gone Bush (WA) - Thursday, Apr 23, 2009 at 21:57

Thursday, Apr 23, 2009 at 21:57
Like Serendipity, I bought a camcorder that uses tapes. Very convenient to swap tapes for different subjects etc. I chose a Sony HDR-HC7. It also takes 16X9 still photos onto a memory card. One very handy feature is that you can connect to a TV via HDMI and select Slide Show from its Menu and all the still photos appear beautifully on your 16X9 tele.

The current model is the HDR-HC9:

http://www.sony.com.au/product/hdr-hc9e

Nowadays I tend to take just the camcorder on trips with us. It's a beauty.

Now to tackle editing......

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Reply By: Russ n Sue - Thursday, Apr 23, 2009 at 22:25

Thursday, Apr 23, 2009 at 22:25
Hi Mark

Plenty of advice about cameras so far but only one reply about editing software. I endorse the post that suggested the Sony Vegas Movie Studio product. It comes in many iterations but the Platinum version would be adequate for what you are intending to do.

If you can foresee a time where you might go a little more "professional" then the Sony Vegas Professional editor is an excellent choice (albiet that the cost is significantly higher.)

I use Vegas Pro and the thing I like the most is that it (and the Movie Studio versions) is that they are very intuitive. You can do a lot of things without referring to the help files or the manual.

The software icludes plug-ins to download the clips (events) from your camera, directly into the program. This avoids the need for a third-party application to do this. The camera does not have to be a Sony product for this to work. You can control the camera from within the software.

Other products are similar but in my opinion none match the versatility and price of Sony's products.

Cheers

Russ
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Follow Up By: Gone Bush (WA) - Thursday, Apr 23, 2009 at 23:05

Thursday, Apr 23, 2009 at 23:05
This is where I bought my copy of Sony Vegas from:

Site Link

You don't have to be a Teacher or Student to buy this particular item. It was the cheapest I could find at the time.

cheers

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Follow Up By: bgreeni - Thursday, Apr 23, 2009 at 23:58

Thursday, Apr 23, 2009 at 23:58
I use Adobe premier pro for editing. Have not really tried anything else but find this is a good piece of software. It is certainly extensive in its capability and I always seem to find a way to do what I want.
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Reply By: tonbon - Friday, Apr 24, 2009 at 07:32

Friday, Apr 24, 2009 at 07:32
Hi, unfortunately I know very little about camcorders, cameras and such, but being a tech head, I have had the opportunity to use a wide variety of video editing recording etc software. To my mind, the most user friendly application that has all the functionality needed for rendering and editing sound and video is Nero.

I do a lot of video recording and rendering and found Nero to be simple and easy to use. it has a great "tips" on start-up section and you can select to have tips shown as you go through each process. It also as a great instruction on hover as you place mouse pointer over clickable buttons.

The only downside, and this goes for most good video rendering applications, is that it is quite system resource intensive, you will need a decent PC to run it although on saying that, my parents run it on a little Toshiba laptop with a little patience. The key is RAM. Their laptop is a dual core 1.8GHz intel running 2GB RAM.

tip to buying Nero, buy it from Nero online in downloadable version. You wont get the manual, but you will pay less than from a retail outlet here in Aus.

Hope this helps.
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Reply By: Member - Mike DID - Friday, Apr 24, 2009 at 07:44

Friday, Apr 24, 2009 at 07:44
Having put up with tape-based VideoCam for years, I bought a second-hand HardDisk Videocam.

The advantages are -

- no more worries about cue-ing the tape to make sure you don't over-record a previous recording - just start recording, even if you were just watching something recorded two hours ago.

- you don't have to stop to change a tape after 90 minutes

- see a video directory of all recordings you've made.

- instantly jump to any recording.

- quickly download digitally from camera to harddisk for backup or editing.
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Reply By: psproule - Friday, Apr 24, 2009 at 07:48

Friday, Apr 24, 2009 at 07:48
Preface - if you get bored with the following (or cant follow it) skip to the last 2 paragraphs and have a look at some videos we have shot on a JVC GZ-HD6.

At the moment guys there is no easy answer to the question as to which hard disk video camera. Two things have happened to consumer cameras over recent years - they have made them "dumber" and they have often shifted to proprietary & incompatible codec's.

By dumber I mean:
- they have removed a lot of the switches and replaced them with a joystick, which is a completely useless way of controlling iris and focus and audio levels
- at the peak of DV (the older common tape based format) there were higher end cameras that were very very good in terms of their optics quality, image sensors & processing, functionality and inclusions - eg the Panasonic NV-MX300 or Sony TRV900. I have yet to find an equivalent in the HD range without going to professional cameras ($5k +).
- they have removed the eyepiece viewfinders. Flip out LCD's are great but not much chop in full sunlight.
- many have image stabilisers that can't be turned off. This gives a jerk at the start of a panning shot as the stabiliser confuses the movement.

Re the codecs I mean:
- The compression and file formats used are often only able to be played back using the camera's software. Sometimes the codecs are standard (eg MPEG2 or MPEG4) but they use a dumb proprietary file wrapper that requires installation of software to play (eg - .TOD files from JVC cams). Why they cant all use .MOV or .AVI wrappers is beyond me (perhaps licensing).
-There is no one single cross-compatible format as there was with DV tape, although they are making a bit of a push with AVC-HD (MPEG4 based)
- This can restrict you in terms of what software you can use for editing and display of the recorded files. You really want to be able to play the files straight back in Quicktime, or the very highly recommended VLC Media Player (forget Windows Media Player folks).

So how do you choose one? Look through some manufacturer websites for models that appear to have the features you want, then do a google search on the model number and the word codec and look for forum postings where people may have had problems getting files to play in other software packages. If there isn't an easy answer to their queries then perhaps avoid their world of pain.

Also look for reviews on the models. Again a web search or some light reading such as the Australian Which Camcorder magazine.

What do I use - well, at work (I teach broadcast TV at uni and previously worked for networks) we have a pile of JVC GY-HD251E HDV (tape based) camcorders. These are considered at the bottom of the broadcast spectrum, with a list price of $17,000 odd, but we have had very good results with these and I am currently building an HD OB truck based around this model.

But for consumer stuff or shots where we don't want to risk a $16k camera, we are using a JVC GZ-HD6 hard disk camera. These are at the top of JVC's range of consumer cameras but still suffer some of the shortcomings above. Particularly the joystick and stabiliser issues. However it's MPEG2 based .TOD files can actually be played back easily in Quicktime based editors (almost all) or VLC once you have loaded their codec from the website or supplied disk. And the image results aren't too bad.

Have a look at the Simpson Desert videos and the Stockton Beach on our youtube channel as these were shot on the GZ. Make sure to click on the HD button and then the fullscreen button to see it in youtube's 1280x720 resolution (good broadband connection required). Most of this was shot by family members with no formal camera training (I go on holidays to get away from video). Judge the results yourself. For editing I use Apple's Final Cut Pro, but Vegas & Premiere are also more than capable enough at this level. A cheaper alternative is iMovie but you have to buy a Mac to get it. Most of the edit software supplied with the cameras is awful (IMHO) but then I am used to professional features.

Cheers - Pat
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Follow Up By: Member - RFLundgren (WA) - Friday, Apr 24, 2009 at 09:14

Friday, Apr 24, 2009 at 09:14
Pat

Couldnt agree more with your comments. When we bought our HD-7, the HD-g had just been released. We did look at the HD-6 as it did get far better reviews in regards to image stabilisation and low light filming, however it (in our opinion) was way way too small and was lacking some of the features of the HD-7, the model it replaced.

We found when trying a number of cameras, that the smaller they were the harder they were to operate well. I love the ability of the HD-7 to be able to go into full manual mode and have comtrol over everything. Yes the image stabilisation on the HD-7 would probably be the worst on the market, and the low light shooting is not the greatest, however 98% of stuff that we shoot is done during the day anyhow.

Its great to see someone in the industry give these cameras a good rap after all of the negative reviews that they received on release. We read review after review after review before we purchased. The problem with the majority of reviews is that the cameras are revieved on the basis of how well they operate out of the box in point and shoot mode.

Every camera will take "reasonable" video in point and shoot mode, but its not until you get into the manual operation and gain full control, that you can start to shoot some amazing footage with great depth of field etc. We had absolutly no video or photography experience when we bought and begain using our camera. We continue to learn, and 99% of footage that we have shot has been done in full manual mode. Sure some has turned out like crap, but it is a learning experience.

We are definitely not complaining and are continuing to learn and develop our skills. We dont plan to make a living out of filming, but we will sure have some great footage to look back on in years to come.

Cheers

Richard

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Reply By: mowing - Saturday, Apr 25, 2009 at 15:06

Saturday, Apr 25, 2009 at 15:06
Thanks so much for all the reply's, my knowledge of camcorders has increased significantly and I am now madly researching all the different makes and features.

Regards

Mark
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