Web video for beginners

Choosing a Camcorder

How to Buy the Right Camcorder

I know choosing a camcorder can be very confusing, as there are so many different makes, models, formats and types out there...especially if you are new to all this video stuff ;-)

What camcorder should I buy?

Do you go for a camcorder that records to a Hard Disc Drive or MiniDV? DVD or Flash memory? Should it be high definition or standard definition?

The choice is actually very simple when choosing a camcorder.

With the exception of a DVD camcorder (They really are terrible and should be avoided at all costs!), any modern digital camcorder will do the job of producing good quality web video.

Some will give you better video quality (HD) and some are easier to put on your computer (HDD and Flash), but all of them will produce good quality web video and DVDs, as long as they have the following essential feature;

An External Mic Jack. Good quality audio is just as important as the picture quality, and nothing looks less professional than a video shot using the camcorders on-board microphone.

The audio produced using an external microphone will always be dramatically better quality than that achieved by the in-built microphone on your camcorder.

Choosing a camcorder

When choosing a camcorder, another feature that you would ideally have if you are producing web video is the ability to shoot video at 30 frames per second (fps).

This will give you the smoothest looking video on the web. Most modern digital camcorders have a 'normal' mode that shoots at 30fps and a 'cinema' mode that shoots at 24fps.

Using the 24fps 'cinema' mode will make your video look choppy on the Internet.

The most common question I am asked by people when choosing a camcorder is "What type of camcorder is best?" MiniDV tape or Hard Disk Drive or Flash Memory? High Definition or Standard Definition?

The fact is that camcorders that use miniDV tape are being phased out by the camcorder manufacturers, and although they produce very high quality SD & HD video, they do not offer the convenience and fast loading to your computer that camcorders using Flash Memory and Hard Disk Drives can offer.

MiniDV tape will not totally disappear for a while yet, but if you are choosing a camcorder, you might as well 'future-proof' yourself and get one that records to Flash Memory and/or Hard Disk Drive.

You will also need the latest version of your favorite video editing software, as these new video file types (Such as AVCHD) are not compatible with older versions of editing software and will not work.

You will also need to check out if your video editing program supports High Definition if you have a HD camcorder. Also bear in mind you will need a more powerful computer with a LOT of RAM and storage space for working with HD video, as it is very processor intensive and gobbles up hard drive space (HD video is 6X larger than SD video).

How to choose a camcorder

So what about High Definition? Is it worth getting, or just all hype? Well, like MiniDV tapes, Standard Definition camcorders are also being phased out by the camcorder manufacturers, and HD models are dominating the market.

But is the quality better? In a nutshell? Yes. If you have a HD TV, you will know how much better everything looks in HD, and camcorders are no different. The picture quality is superb, BUT, as I said earlier, it comes at a cost.

HD video creates HUGE video files and editing HD video on your computer will certainly take it's toll. You will need at least a Dual-Core processer, 4GB RAM and 1GB video card to stay sane when editing your HD video (Quad core processor is recommended).

But what about putting HD video on my website? HD video makes big file sizes, and herein lies the problem with adding HD video to your site. A large video file size means unless your viewer has blisteringly fast Internet connection, the HD web video will pause and 'buffer'.

My advice for now is to shoot in high definition, but render your web video in standard definition.

What camcorder?

That way, you get great quality web video, but with standard definition video file sizes and quick video loading times for your visitor.

When the majority of people online is using 20MB+ Broadband speeds, then we can consider adding HD video to our websites, but until then, keep the video file sizes small to keep your web video smooth ;-)

Finally, when choosing your camcorder, I recommend you get a camcorder with as many manual features as possible, especially Manual White Balance. This option allows you to produce great colours for your video, which without can look a little washed out.

Below are some ideas for choosing a camcorder I personally recommend and use, that cost less than $500 and have all the features you require...

Sanyo VPC-HD2000A HD
Best Price-See Below
Canon Vixia HF200 HD
Best Price-See Below
Canon HDC
Best Price - see below
Canon Vixia HF M301 Best Price - See Below

If you have a bigger budget, and looking for the very best video quality, here are my current top camcorder recommendations for 2011...

If you have any video related questions, please click HERE to ask Mr Video!

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