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Kathryn Dunton
Vid.Prod/Brdcst Comm. Tchr GOING CRAZY choosing new camcorders
on Feb 12, 2010 at 1:20:47 am

Here's the Deal:
1 year ago I taught myself Final Cut Express when I found myself in a Video Production/Broadcast Communications teaching position. I have since upgraded to Final Cut Studio on a MacBook Pro & have had an unbelievable crash course of a year on all things Video, Apple, FCP&E, PS4, NTSC & Broadcasting, etc...
Classroom situation:
-Students use only Final Cut Express 4/LiveType (hoping to upgrade to FCP).
-Currently everything is miniDV, upload through firewire capture on imac. 4 of 6 computers have JVC Mini DV/HDD/DVD Video Recorder (SR-DVM600U) for playback
-store video files on Western Digital My Book Studio Ed. USB 2.0/eSATA/FireWire, 1TB
-Currently 2 Cameras primarily used: Panasonic AG-DVC20

My Issue:
Need to decide where to go with camera purchases. #1 Want to have 4-6 sturdy consumer handhelds for field reporting & beginner level classes as well as the occasional sign out. #2 Want to make VERY smart purchase of 2 or 3 pro/prosumer camcorders. Preferably under $3,000... could try my luck at higher price but no guarantees w/ the higher ups.
The main Questions: ...keeping in mind the students use Final Cut Express
-purchase 2 more Panasonic AG-DVC20's & call it a day... keeping in mind I can get the latest & greatest from the next year's budget?
-attempt tapeless HDD or Flash with my current MiniDV workflow? and/or how are the "hybrids" such as the Sony HVR-A1U?
-should I even think about messing with the Sony Vixia's as my consumer choices with all the forums full of as many frustrated users as there is high praise? Panasonic & EVERY other brand has some appealing consumer choices... but I am still a beginner & don't trust myself to see through frilly advertising...
-Stick with SD b/c most products are for local CatTV, NTSC...? or try some HD?
-and, for my Final Cut Studio work, what high-end consumer handheld (for ease & portability) will I be happy with?

I know I've just thrown a lot out there, I will be extremely grateful for even one brand/model recommendation with your experiences... I can't keep searching & searching!!! so hard to really know what's what... I'm at that point where I would love someone to just tell me what I need!

Thanks a bunch.

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Jim Glickert
Re: Vid.Prod/Brdcst Comm. Tchr GOING CRAZY choosing new camcorders
on Feb 12, 2010 at 4:46:27 am

Hi Katy. First, I feel for you. That is one heckuva crash course in video that you've undergone in the past year. It's a wonder your head isn't spinning. I've been doing hobbyist-level video work for about 5 years, and sometimes I still feel overwhelmed by how much more there is yet to learn. I'm glad I don't have a bunch of students for which I'm responsible. I'd hate looking dumb in front of them. :)

I started out on Final Cut Express, but quickly outgrew it since I needed a pro-level motion graphics package, which Motion provided in Final Cut Studio.

I've really liked my Canon miniDV camcorders: an old Optura 100MC standard definition, and an HV20 high definition model. (The HV20 also records standard definition, and has since been replaced with models HV30 and the current HV40.) The HV20 works beautifully with my MacBook Pro, and the quality of the video is outstanding. (I also have an old iMac G5, but I don't really use that for video anymore--the processor's too slow and I haven't put a lot of memory in it.) So, take a look at the Canons. By the way, I transfer my HDV footage to Final Cut Pro and use the ProRes codec. It works great.

I can't help you on the pro-level camcorder recommendations. I'm looking to do that eventually. I'd probably go with Panasonic or Sony if I had to choose today.

Personally, I don't want a videocamera with an internal hard drive. It means my shooting is limited to the hard drive's capacity if I don't have access to my editing setup. I've recorded events where I've used four or five one-hour tapes. I don't think I'd be able to do that with an HDD camera. The tape transports on the Canons have worked flawlessly for me, though I've had a few nightmares from bad tapes. My next camera will probably not be tape-based; solid-state memory like that on Sony and Panasonic looks to me like the way to go. At the consumer level, tape-based camcorders are nearly extinct.

Frankly, I'd record everything in high definition. You can always downconvert to standard definition. Yes, it'll require more storage and more time to render and compress, but someday nearly everything you do will probably be in HD, and you may regret not having recorded that old footage in HD. When I do an HD project and use some of my old SD footage from the archives, the SD footage looks so bad in comparison. Most TVs are HD, and as the Internet gets faster, more web content will be HD, so why not jump on the HD bandwagon?

I know this doesn't come close to answering all of your questions, but I nevertheless hope it helps in some way. Good luck!


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David Roth Weiss
Re: Vid.Prod/Brdcst Comm. Tchr GOING CRAZY choosing new camcorders
on Feb 12, 2010 at 5:15:24 am


The answer to the camera riddle is really dependent on what you ultimately want your students to learn, and how you expect them to apply it. Like any film/video project, knowing the ultimate objective is the only way to really formulate a plan, or in this case, the only way to decide upon the proper cameras. So, what exactly is the ultimate goal of the program that you're teaching?

If I were you, I would focus intensely on teaching your students to envision, to pre-plan, and to communicate their ideas using a #2 pencil and a pad of paper before ever shooting a frame of video. That's how real filmmakers, myself included, do their work, and developing that talent is much more important than learning to use cameras and/or editing software.

As such, many very good schools these days are using the very simplest of cameras, such as Flip Cams and the like, which have very few controls. This way, the students can spend their time learning to place the camera in the appropriate position to convey their story, instead spending all their time perfecting their use of the camera controls.

However, the problem with many such cameras is that they record to formats such as MPG4, which is not a FCP or FCE friendly editing format. So, the next best thing is to use the simplest DV or HDV cameras that record to tape. The Canon Vixia HV40 looks interesting, see it at the link below:

Hope this helps...


David Roth Weiss
David Weiss Productions, Inc.
Los Angeles


A forum host of Creative COW's Apple Final Cut Pro, Business & Marketing, Indie Film & Documentary, and Film History & Appreciations forums.

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Rafael Amador
Re: Vid.Prod/Brdcst Comm. Tchr GOING CRAZY choosing new camcorders
on Feb 12, 2010 at 9:32:26 am

Rafael[David Roth Weiss] "The answer to the camera riddle is really dependent on what you ultimately want your students to learn, and how you expect them to apply it."
I agree with David.
If you expect your students being able to manage a professional camera in the future, the sooner they start with the real thing, the best, and, of course, HD.
Aside of better picture, with an HD to SD workflow they will learn more that with an "All HD" or "All SD" workflow.
I think that with your budget, the JVC HM100 (3.300$) would be a good choice.

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Kathryn Dunton
Re: Vid.Prod/Brdcst Comm. Tchr GOING CRAZY choosing new camcorders
on Feb 13, 2010 at 8:26:01 pm

Thank you guys so much for your responses...
Jim, thanks for the praise. It's not so bad b/c I LOVE this new path my life has taken. I often wonder how I lived without video & editing, etc... and I've gotten used to learning along with my students. It's easy to push myself b/c I want to be able to answer most of MY questions as well as theirs. Oh, and the only thing I can say about my education so far? Also, you are correct about preparing my students for the future. I needed someone to remind me of that. It's all going to be HD & tapeless by time they hit college & the working world. When I came into this position these kids were still working with some VHS believe it or not, and hadn't gotten past imovie. I knew my main priority was modernizing, as that will be a constant priority b/c of the constant change in this field. It's my responsibility to not just "get comfortable" with convenient work flow. And your advice to record HD & down-convert is great... just like I know to always record or snap in color, & convert if I want B&W... same idea.

David, your reminder to question what it is exactly that I want my students to learn & how they will be expected to apply it was a perfect reminder as to the sort of "backward thinking" that educators must use. I want my students to be able to evaluate an appropriate & practical need for video, understand the most efficient way to PLAN, execute, produce, & effectively communicate a message through this medium. Along with an understanding of effective visual communication & filming techniques & ability to execute that knowledge, I want help them get the "technical" roadblocks out of their way, leaving room for creativity & production. To do this, I have to keep up with video's modern pace... When they are faced with an all tapeless & HD workflow at their future college or job, I want them to have an edge of understanding from their time with me. By the time they progress from my level 1 course to the level 4 course, having an idea for a news package, 30 sec. spot, documentary or even a short film will not be stopped short by technical "stuff." I want them to be able to just create.

Ok, I'm rambling on here... David, you also mentioned the fact of many people using simple cameras to produce good work. You are right, paper & pencil is their greatest tool... for example, my Comm. 1 class has spent the past 3 weeks with introductions to basic principals of filming, brainstorming, storyboarding, & planning for their PSA productions. Only after my questioning & approval of their paper & pencil work will any student go out my classroom door with a camera... I've seen with my own eyes the drastic difference btwn. product that slacks in the planning stage vs. one that produces with their pencils 1st... regardless of my camera choices, that is my first priority.

Which brings me to the cameras, after more thought & research I'm still going back to the Sony HVR-A1u... it's appealing because it still operates with miniDV & will also get students started with some tapeless capture. Any thoughts on this?
-Also, Rafael mentioned the JVC-HM100U which I've definitely had my eye on since it came out. However, as we know, FCE doesn't have the Mpeg2 codec that FCP has. I'm not certain I will be able to get student computers upgraded to FCP. I have a feeling that purchasing this camera before any upgrade happens would not be smart? Unless there is a no hassle alternative for converting their footage.
-The Vixia HV540 was also mentioned & looks possible for my consumer handheld choice... however, this seems only tape based recording... ?
-Another option I haven't had time to explore is the possible use of my WD external drives with their eSATA card slots... does anyone know anything about this? Could I use them as card readers?
-Also, does anyone have experience with the new imacs that come standard with a card slot? I'm going to TRY for all new computers with these new features... which may change my camera game entirely.
-Finally, as for a camera for myself to experiment with HD & tapeless, using with Final Cut Pro... I've been looking at the Canon Vixia HF S cameras... any input on model # for these? Another brand choice entirely?

VERY long post! Bless ya if you read this!
Much thanks,

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Jim Glickert
Re: Vid.Prod/Brdcst Comm. Tchr GOING CRAZY choosing new camcorders
on Feb 14, 2010 at 2:56:15 am

(1) If the Sony HVR-A1U works for you, then go for it and don't look back. Sony makes great equipment.

(2) It's a no-brainer to make sure that the camera you want works well with the editing software you'll be using. If a camera records in a format that's going to be nothing but a hassle with which to work, forget it. I do relatively simple stuff, yet it feels like I spend more time dealing with technical and software issues than practicing the art of video production.

(3) I believe the Canon Vixia HV40 is indeed tape-based. Canon's Vixia HF series camcorders are flash memory based.

(4) eSATA connections, like that on your WD drive, are very, very fast, and, in my opinion, the best way to go for video editing. I could very well be mistaken, but I don't think there are any adaptors available to connect a flash memory card to an eSATA port. However, your iMacs do not have eSATA connections on them, so that makes this a non-issue for you. You're stuck with using FireWire with external drives.

(5) The new iMacs have a card reader slot (I believe it's for SDHC flash memory cards). I assume that footage for FCE can be ingested through the card slot, but ask others or check the specs to be sure. If that can't be done, I guess you would transfer the footage with the camera connected to the computer via FireWire.

As discussed in many posts here on the forum, the new iMacs are very enticing for video editing. For many people, they'll work fine. If they had eSATA connections, Apple would sell tons more of them to video editors, but that would cannibalize Apple's sales of expensive Mac Pros. They obviously knew that when they didn't add an eSATA connection to the new iMacs.

(6) The Canon HF-S cameras look very good. As I see it, the base model (HF-S100) records only to an external SDHC memory card, while the HF-S10 and HF-S11 also have internal memory cards (32GB and 64GB, respectively) as well, but they cost $200 and $400 more than the base model. I'd probably buy the base model and use some of the $200 or $400 saved and buy some additional SDHC cards. You'll be able to find other or future uses for those extra external cards.

(7) By the way, if you live in a big city where there are TV stations and newspapers (most newspapers websites that offer video), you might give them a call to see if there may be opportunities for you and your students to get some help or experience in the future. Even unpaid summer internships for the students would be invaluable experience for them, even if it's mostly grunt work. The stations might even have unneeded or outdated equipment to donate to you.

(8) Don't forget tripods in the budget. There's nothing more amateurish--and painful to watch--than shaky video footage. The smaller the camera, and the more you use the telephoto effect, the more you need a tripod. I say this after recently editing my family's vacation footage from the 1960s. I nearly hurled while working on it. :)

Good luck!


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Kathryn Dunton
Re: Vid.Prod/Brdcst Comm. Tchr GOING CRAZY choosing new camcorders
on Feb 14, 2010 at 6:57:13 pm

Thanks so much for the input Jim. Yes, tripods have been in the back of my mind. The B&H ones don\'t seem like the best selection. Any site recommendations for both large and small... lasting quality? I have one tripod that feels like a plastic kids toy! And do u possibly have a good article link regarding all the imac/mac pro features in regards to video? I\'m still only a year old in regards to Apple too! I get around the imacs and my macbook pro pretty good... I\'ve Totally been converted but so much I still don\'t know!
Thanks again for your time and input. I\'m extremely grateful!

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Jim Glickert
Re: Vid.Prod/Brdcst Comm. Tchr GOING CRAZY choosing new camcorders
on Feb 15, 2010 at 2:13:50 am

Hi Katy. Here are two good threads on using iMac for Final Cut Pro. You'll get a pretty good idea as to what the issues are, mostly limitations in external storage options and internal expandability.

Tripods vary greatly in quality, and you pretty well get what you pay for. The better ones are sturdier, and the head movements are smoother. I bought mine, a Manfrotto, at a photo shop, and it works fine for a lightweight Canon videocamera. If I bought a heavier camera like your Sonys, I'd buy a more sturdy tripod--the heavier the camera, the more sturdy the tripod you need. Stop by a local photo store that serves professionals, and ask them to show you different tripods and their features. You'll quickly see that the good ones are so much better than the cheaper ones. Expect to pay about $100 for a nice aluminum one for a light camera, and several times that for a really good tripod for a heavier camera. I would bet you can find good deals on eBay. I'd be much more careful buying through Craigslist, but that might be an option.


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Kathryn Dunton
Re: Vid.Prod/Brdcst Comm. Tchr GOING CRAZY choosing new camcorders
on Feb 15, 2010 at 6:03:40 pm

Thanks again for all your time & effort!

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