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Equipment

Hardware

Digital video equipment is now available at reasonable cost, and offers far better video quality than analogue VHS. It also enables video to be captured onto a computer without noticeable loss of quality. Once it is on your computer you can edit it, combine it with other media and distribute it.

Below is an outline of the basic equipment you will need, with some general recommendations :

Camera:

Digital Camcorders can now be bought from about €300. We would recommend that if you are planning to record material to transfer onto a computer, that you buy a MiniDV format camera, as this will offer the best quality. However the more you pay the better your results will be. If you can afford it we would recommend you buy a 3CCD camera as this gives a clearer picture and more faithful colour reproduction. More expensive cameras also give better performance in low light conditions and better sound recording.

Two good sites for reviews and information about digital camcorders are at:

http://tinyurl.com/2exc84

http://www.camcorderinfo.com/


Tripod:

For digital video, especially when it is viewed over the internet, it is essential that the amount of movement in the picture be kept to a minimum. It is therefore very important to mount your camera on a tripod wherever possible, as this will eliminate camera shake. The best tripods have a set of camera controls built into the pan handle (see picture). This makes it much easier to control the camera. A good tripod will cost around €115.


Light:

This will be especially important if you are filming in an environment where you cannot control the light, or where the natural lighting is poor. You can buy a small light that sits on the camera and uses the camera's power source. However these are only effective over short distances. An alternative is to buy a camera that gives good pictures even in dim light, but these are much more expensive. A light of the kind shown here costs around €140.


External microphone:

With the cheapest camcorders, the weakest feature is often the built in microphone, and these often pick up noise from the camera. Furthermore if you use the built in microphone you may be some distance away from the sound you are recording and the result may be unclear and contain echo from the environment. It is therefore better to use an external microphone. An excellent solution is a radio microphone especially for camcorders, but these are expensive (around €500). A normal good quality microphone with a long cable can be just as good although make sure the cable is well insulated to avoid noise. If you are considering a cheaper camera, make sure that is has an input for an external microphone. A microphone of the kind shown here costs about €90.


Firewire connection and card:

This is how you connect your camera to capture video onto a computer. This is also known as IEEE.1394 or iLink. If your computer does not have a Firewire card then you will need to install one When you plug your camera into a computer using Firewire you do not need to install any drivers for the camera, and your computer will automatically see your camera. You will be able to control the camera directly from your computer.