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Topic: Getting a Digital Camcorder or Webcam
Message: Posted by: TheHelpingHand (Nov 14, 2004 10:39AM)
I'm not too sure if this is the best place to post this inquiry... but I'm posting it anyway.

I know that a lot of magicians these days own a camera to film their performances and put them up on the net, and I'm curious as to which is the best, in your opinion.
Message: Posted by: Greg Arce (Nov 14, 2004 10:44AM)
I'm sure you're going to get a lot of choices here, but as for the "BEST" I would go with any high-end, three chip, prosumer models from either Canon, Sony or Panasonic.
I tend to like the Canon camera.
If you decide you'd like to save a bit a money you can still get a decent picture with one chip consumer models as long as you stay with the name brands such as Canon and Sony.
Just my opinion.
Message: Posted by: Dave V (Nov 19, 2004 04:26PM)
I haven't gone camera shopping in a long time. Do the new digital models save in a computer compatible format? Ideally, I'd imagine they save in an .avi format so they can transfer to computer without having to degrade it through a video capture card. Am I right?
Message: Posted by: ScottRSullivan (Nov 21, 2004 01:51PM)
Greg is correct in mentioning a three chip "prosumer" video camera. Some models that come to mind are the Canon XL-1 (or XL-1s or XL-2) or the Panasonic DVX-100a. Both are great cameras. Typically a "three chip" camera will cost about $1,500 to $4,500 depending on the model. Not only do these cameras have three chips to capture the picture and colors better, but the size of the chips are larger, giving better details.

As to Dave's comments about computer compatible formats, just about every Prosumer cameras are computer compatible and so are most newer consumer (read: $100-300 camera) models. Anything that is miniDV format will usually have a Firewire cable input that connects it right into your computer, which in turn captures the video in a pure digital .AVI format. You can even copy from one camera to another with firewire and not lose a single bit of quality. The beauty with it is you can copy it a hundred times and never have the 'generation' loss associated with VHS tapes.

As for the quality, when I load it into my computer directly via the Firewire cable, it saves it to the computer at broadcast quality (500 plus lines of resolution), which is standard for miniDV.

Recording every performance is not only a great idea for reviewing yourself afterwards, but you'll build a great library of footage to include in a promo video.

If anyone wants some more info, please contact me for a free seven-day email course on using video. I hate crass self-promotion, but I think you'll find this email course filled with valuable information.

Warm regards,
Scott Sullivan
Reels In Motion
Message: Posted by: tbaronio (Nov 22, 2004 09:53AM)
Since Scott hates "crass self-promotion" I'll do it for him. He know's of what he speaks! I have seen some of Scott's work and it is very impressive, as a matter of fact, I am in the process of having Scott do a video for me.

Best regards,
Tony :thumbsup:
Message: Posted by: Katmando (Nov 30, 2004 08:19PM)
On 2004-11-14 11:39, TheHelpingHand wrote:
I'm not too sure if this is the best place to post this inquiry... but I'm posting it anyway.

I know that a lot of magicians these days own a camera to film their performances and put them up on the net, and I'm curious as to which is the best, in your opinion.

there is a huge quality difference in the two as well as cost. So I guess it depends on how much you are willing to spend.

Later <><
Message: Posted by: MDS (Nov 30, 2004 09:08PM)
Mind DV or Mini DVD are both great ways to go. I use a Canon Mini DV camcorder that I have had for 2 years and it still works great. I practice my award winning bird act twice a day and film every practice and I film just about every show that I do. The only problem with Mini DV is that if you try to record over something more than twice then the video quality gets bad. Hope this helps.

Message: Posted by: ScottRSullivan (Dec 1, 2004 12:04PM)

I love the Canon as well! Glad you're getting some great usage from yours as well. miniDV is a great format for magicians, it's cheap, high quality and is pure digital. I'm sorry to hear about your degradation in quality after using the same tape more than twice. While it is true that you can get dropped frames or artifacts from multiple overwrites, you can 'push' the life of a tape by recording at SP.

However, for important recordings (like your shows), I would only use a tape once. Black the first one minute of tape (record with lens cap on) and then record at SP. Mark the tape afterwards and keep in a safe place.

Technically, the quality of miniDV is identical at EP or SP (unlike VHS, which has a noticable difference in quality). miniDV at EP speed will increase a tape length, at the sacrifice of dropped frames. By slowing the tape down to SP (about one hour of time on a tape) you shouldn't have any problems with re-writing on the same tape until you get to about 10-15 overwrites. Also, use name brand tapes. I have used Fuji for years and stick to their brand. Each tape manufacturer uses different lubricants on the tape (wet or dry, depending on the the manufacturer). If you switch brands, you 'gunk' up the head on your camera and will get more dropped frames. If you stick with one brand, you won't have that problem.

Hope this helps!

Warm regards,
Scott Sullivan
Message: Posted by: mghia (Jan 31, 2005 08:08AM)
I have a queston. I have been looking at hte XL and GL series but before I invest in the larger camera, I wonder if there is a consumer level that you have tried that still gets the job done? I have found that sometimes spending $800 more was a waste due to the rapid catch up in technology.
A similar example is when I was looking for a digital still camera. I bought the more expensive Canon G3 (at the time it was the latest) And while I needed some of the features like a hot shoe and remote that the more compact models do not have, I will be honest, I never used the hot shoe and I see photos from cheaper cameras all the time that match my ouptput. I had also found since it had more in it and is bulkier, I do not enjoy taking it out for candid shots. So in some cases the extra cost did not give me extra quality.
The digtal video camera has the same issue I might guess. At least in size. The GL is much larger than the consumer models.

So has anyone found any lower priced DV models that surprised you in quality? (color/picture) In otherwords, did the job and was so close to the higher end that only a pro would notice?
Message: Posted by: ScottRSullivan (Jan 31, 2005 02:08PM)
I feel your pain. I recently purchased a "new" desktop for video editing and it was outdated before I got the power connected.

As far as low priced miniDV, I still use my JVC camcorder for general recording of my show for my own reference. I have no intention on using that material for a promo, but if I had to, the quality is decent enough that it could work. They are getting better and better as far as quality goes. My thought would be to check with as many local friends as you know who have one already and ask if you could tape a show. Start a collection and then watch them all and see what you like best.

If you are looking into spending the cash on a prosumer camera ($1,500 - $3,000), I'd actually recommend the new Panasonic based on your comments. You commented on the size of the camera. The Panasonic DVX-100a is a very small prosumer camera that not only has newer technology than the Canons (except the XL-2), but it's very small and has several extra features. You can do a search on the DVX-100a to read up on it. I don't have one, but a fellow videographer in Philly does and I love it. In hindsight, I would have purchased that instead of my Canon XL.

If you do get a lower priced one, I've got a few tips to make sure the picture looks as good as possible:

* increase the lights. Video cameras (even the high end ones) love light. Turn on the stage lights and spot lights.

* make sure you can feed your audio directly into the camera; don't just use the onboard mic. (there is an excellent post on this forum about this).

* get the camera close. Don't use the digital zoom - it's a marketing gimmick and doesn't look that good. Instead, place the camera a little closer than halfway back and use a tripod

* turn off the image stabilization if you use a tripod (the reasons are hard to explain here, but if your camera has an image stabilizing button/feature, turn it off when you use a tripod)

* speaking of tripods, use a "fluid head" tripod. The panning will be much more natural and, well, fluid. Beware, they'll cost you from $120 for the lowest up to around $450 for an average (Bogen / Manfrotto is a good brand).

Hope this helps! Didn't mean to get this long-winded! Keep us posted on how you make out!

Warm regards,
Scott Sullivan
Message: Posted by: mghia (Jan 31, 2005 04:46PM)
Please be as long winded as you like. At least your information is from experience. (Unlike some posts from teeny boppers elsewhere at the Café)

What model is your JVC?

I thought the Canon GL series was more up to date than the X? I do not need to change the lens. Do you have a different lens for your XL? That is why people still want the XL right? Otherwise I am not sure why people still want the XL series.
By far in most of my research the Cannon GL and XL put out the greatest USABLE resolution.
So your friend has a Panasonic and likes it huh? Would you say it would be well for a magic video or is the quality not quite up to magic DVD level?

My Uncle used to work for Panasonic and their quality control can be an issue. They make mistakes all the time. Like for a while they did not put the right inputs or outputs for video work.

I am not a big fan of most of the Extras since I plan on doing all the additions in on the screen than in camera. I would rather save a few bucks and due without most of the features like blocky title makers.
I only mentioned the size just because when one spends so much one would like to use it in many situations so it has more value. BUT if one is too concerned of damage or does not have the freedom to take a larger unit around, then it is less appealing.

BUT I was always taught the best quality comes with a bigger lens and good quality optics even in today's digital age.
Thus I do not want to downsize too much.
I think you would agree that the larger the lens the more light it allows in thus helping with the lighting suggestion you put forth.

Higher quality lens also increases the sharpness of the image before it is digitized.

Yeah I do not get why they even bother with digital zoom on cameras. Most are a joke.

I would like to read more about any other units you see that get the job done.

I will let you know how I make out. BUT I have been waiting for quite some time to go DV. I wrongly assumed the Prosumer cameras would come down in price or the quality increase of the consumer cameras by now. My Uncle stated that in that technology will always better what you just bought and the time I waited I could have used something, anything and made the money to pay for the upgrade.

About the only thing that has come down is the cost of 300 Gig drives to under a buck a gig.
I will let you know what I hear about the Panasonic model and please let us know if your friend has any input on things he does not like about that model.

Hmm The Panasonic you mention is more than the GL2 by 1000-1500. Did you see the CineSwitch technology in action (supposed to make it look close to film in appearance)?

Did you ever see their GS-400? Looks interesting. Consumer size but 3 CCD with what appears to be an astonishing pixel capture. From the spec sheet-CCD- 1/4.7" 1.07 M x3 which would mean it captures 3.21 Million pixels. They do not list the effective pixels. The Canon GL2 is a 3CCD 1/4" at 410 K x3 But they list EFFECTIVE pixels as 380K per CCD. So the CCD is larger in the small GS-400, which is why I guess they can get more.
Like I said they do not mention the effective pixels but it does seem interesting at the MSRP $1500 Seems to have good both IN AND OUT puts and all the needed features.
I am just not sure if the GS-400 specs are the same as the other ones. That is, maybe they twist the facts and play with the numbers different or maybe the technology is here to be able to make a small camera with higher quality resolution.

I know you stated to go find some friends with cameras but alas I do not have friends who have good cameras as yourself.

I will look for a review. Post if you find any.
Message: Posted by: ScottRSullivan (Jan 31, 2005 10:14PM)
The JVC is a DVL210U, at least that's what it says for a model number on the bottom. I think I got it for about $300 three or four years ago at Sam's club. My XL-1 has a 16x lens and a 3x lens, both are great pieces of glass.

From what I remember, the Panny is about the same if not better resolution. You have to be careful, because the specs for miniDV specify around 525 lines of resolution. I've seen footage side by side and I like the Panny DVX-100a better than my Canon. It's a great camera and will exceed your expectations for a magic video. Just to give you an idea, it's one of the more popular cameras for the independent films shot on video (as opposed to film).

Also, don't be fooled by the Panny's small size. It's a bit bigger than a $300 consumer camera you'd see in Walmart, but the glass inside is remarkable. Plus, it's got those three big 1/3" CCDs inside, which translates to an awesome image. The size factor has it's plus and minus. Bigger camera equals more stable for shoulder mounted cameras, smaller equals less strain on my aging back and arm muscles. If only I had gone to the gym or gotten that bowflex. The cost of prosumers "might" come down in the coming year(s) due to the high definition "craze" that has been the talk of the town. (Don't be fooled...we've still got time to get some use out of our old analog tvs!)

Good luck!

Warm regards,
Scott Sullivan

You'd probably get some info from a 7-day course I put together a few months ago. Feel free to sign up, no cost. You can sign up on the home page of my site:
Message: Posted by: mghia (Feb 1, 2005 07:26AM)
Here is a review on the GS-PV 400. I note they keep comparing it to prosumer models as matching or coming real close. http://www.camcorderinfo.com/content/Panasonic-PV-GS400-Camcorder-Review.htm
In this article they do state the EFFECTIVE pixels of the 1.07 M PER CCD is 700K. This is still twice as much as the GL2 and more than the XL2.

SO is technology "there" or are the Panasonic pixels for still images only not tape?

Anyway, you brought up the point about shoulder strain. But wouldn't it be true that MOST shoots are on tripods or moving dollies? Or belt attached mechanical arms and such? I would assume most magic videos also will not need to be "free hand" and shows should be taped with two mounted cameras at the least, no?

So what situations should I be thinking of that weight would be a factor?
Message: Posted by: ScottRSullivan (Feb 1, 2005 09:44AM)
I must have missed your post by a few minutes! Sorry about that!

When they speak of effective pixels we have to know a bit of trivia. No camera uses all the pixels on a chip. There are always a border of non-used pixels (wasted, in effect) around the outer edge of the chip. The thing with this camera is that while it uses three CCDs, they are only 1/4" chips, consumer grade. The DVX-100a has 1/3" chips. Believe it or not, when talking video, the bigger the chip, the better the image. This is why feature films shoot on 35mm and not 8mm film. This seemingly small details is ALWAYS ignored in the sales brochures on the smaller chip cameras. Like you said, they massage the numbers. Larger pixels are actually be better at capturing more light (important in low-light shooting). The smaller chip cameras don't shoot as well in low-light situations as the "big boys."

In my opinion, you should be looking at either a 1/3" chip camera or renting a 1/2" (though these will all be shoulder mounted). Like I mentioned earlier, these larger chips create more accurate colors. That's why the pros use them. Speaking of the shoulder mount, I've shot moving around and on tripod. When I do handheld shots, this shot is used in conjuction with a second camera (and even a third in some cases) on a tripod getting a wider shot.

If you are serious about the GS-PV, I'd look for a used DVX instead, which you could get for the same price. It's just a hair bigger in physical size, plus has the professional features instead of consumer features like a 4 megapixel photo camera.

As far as finding someone, maybe you could even join a film-club at a local college. Not only will you gain so much from on-the-field experience, but you'll probably have a lot of fun! It's a great mix, you get video experience, they get a really cool subject to record for a class project!

Here's something you can do, pick up a copy of DV magazine in a Borders or Barnes and Nobles (or go to http://www.dv.com for their website). The website has a digital video forum with lots of information. Also, the monthly magazine has great reviews and has great tips/articles.

Warm regards,
Scott Sullivan
Message: Posted by: mghia (Feb 1, 2005 10:36AM)
Thanks- Hey- where can you find a DVX for around $1500? My searches only show SUSPECT companies selling it for that low. Believe me I would go for the DVX over the GVS-400 if they were the same price. You are aware of GRAY MARKET Goods yes? PM me if you have a reliable source for a DVX for $1500 or better.

As to film classes and the like, I am in a very rual area so just going out and finding film groups is not something so easy.

Ok but lets see if we can push the envelope. Yes I do see that the GVS does poor to average in low light. BUT as you stated most magic videos will be shot via studio light. So then, is there an issue? My point all along was that sometimes only the pros can tell the quality differences that the average consumer will never notice or care about.
Now in my day there were quite a few crappy VHS shot magic videos out there, AND looking at some of the Sankey DVDs and L$L Publishing VHS I just bought on sale, many are not broadcast quality in the final quality.

While I would always like to BEST the big boys with better quality and more creative edits, there is no sense to go crazy if the market does not make there final decision on video quality over content. Follow?

And I think you would agree that most potential clients are not looking for color bleed and a sleight fuzzy edge when they watch a promo video.

Yup I love the better video cameras and would join the ranks if I was confident the investment would pay off.
I shot some video of a custom made Subtrunk with one of the first Panasonic DVs and in sunlight it was better than some of those magic videos I have mentioned.
ANd this was a single chip consumer level camera.

Ok we seem to be having this converstation between ourselves so I will ask you why is it important to have the bigger camera CCDs besides low light. Don't misunderstand I understand the techical reasons but it woudl seem that the PRACTICAL and USABLE can vary even in the better cameras. So if low light is NOT an issue, CAN the smaller 3 CCD chips produce equal quality in studio light?

AND will the DVX produce higher resoulution if a documentary ever was to hit Cannes? Or is it all software fixed in post production?

Anyway I am eager to hear were you saw the DVX for so little since I only see it above $2Gs


PS tried your link TWICE today( Morning and noon) and the page would not come up.
Message: Posted by: ScottRSullivan (Feb 1, 2005 11:30AM)
Ooops! My mistake. I placed the wrong link. Here is the correct link to the email course:


I put a .php at the end instead of html. Sorry! I know that regarding the cheaper camcorders, you will get an image that blows away the stuff from cameras made 10 years ago. To answer your question, if you watch your lights, you will get an acceptable image with a $200-300 camera. The main thing I'd watch are your reds. They tend to bleed on video.

If you are satisfied with the quality, then you've got yourself a camera.

I see your point about being out in a rural area. I'm in midstate Pennsylvania and don't think twice about hopping down to Philly (2 hour drive to Center City). Also, I know most prosumers will be up above $2G, but if you keep your eyes open on the forums (dv.com, dvinfo.net, creativecow.net) you will see a used DVX-100 (the older version of the DVX-100a) go for a reasonable price. You'd be fine with the 100. The main difference is shooting in 24 frames per second and other "film" features. But the 100 is a very qualified camera.

Warm regards,
Message: Posted by: David Bilan (Feb 4, 2005 11:38PM)
Larger CCD's are generally more light sensitive and will give you better resolution, everything else being equal. On pro cameras, the lens is usually of much higher quality, however, $6,000 for just the lens is getting out of most budgets.

Yes, in this digital age, optics are still critical. Scott mentions having the camera set half-way back in your venue. A fully zoomed in lens requires more light to give you the same quality image as a wide shot. My suggestion is to have your lens fully zoomed out and move the camera physically until you fill the frame. No zoom at all. Experiment and you will see the difference.

How critical is your video? When we shoot one of those "once in a life-time" events, we make sure the heads are clean, use virgin tape and digitize it. That's two passes (not counting the re-wind). Video tape is just plastic, oxide (rust) and a binding agent (glue). When you try to cram more onto a tape, you have less room for error if the tape sheds some oxide. So while it is true that Mini-DV is all digits, regardless of the tape speed, you might lose more digits a section of your video tape gets hinkey.

If you can find an AV company to demo the equipment, you are probably better talking to them than going to Best Buy. Beware of the Box Houses on the internet. The camera may have fallen off the back of a truck (either stolen or actually hit the ground). If you have problems, you may not be able to get warranty service.

Scott has provided a ton of great advice. Good luck on your purchase.