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Chapter 1.  The DV Camcorder

Chapter 1.  The DV Camcorder

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1.1.MeetDigitalVideo

Technicallyspeaking,youdon'tneedacamcordertouse

iMovie.YoucanworkwithQuickTimemoviesyoufindonthe

Web,oruseittoturnstillphotosintoslideshows.

ButtoshootyourownvideoandthatistherealfunofiMovieyou

needadigitalcamcorder.Thisisarelativelynewcamcorder

format,onethat'sutterlyincompatiblewiththetapesyoumay

havefilledusingearliercamcordertypesasdescribedonthe

followingpages(andshowninFigure1-1):

VHS.Thesegiganticmachinesweretheoriginal

camcorders,circa1980.Becausetheywerenearlyafoot

andahalflong,youhadtorestthebuttofthesecameras

onyourshoulder.VHScamcordersacceptedfull-sizeVHS

cassettesthat,afterfilming,youcouldinsertdirectlyinto

yourVCRforplayback.Convenient,sure,butthesize,

weight,andbulkofthesecamcorderscondemnedthemto

anearlygrave.Thesedays,theonlyplaceyoucanfindVHS

camcordersisoneBay.

S-VHS.Thisformat,alsoknownasSuperVHS,accepts

special,moreexpensiveS-VHStapes;requiresaspecial,

moreexpensivecamcorder;andrequiresspecial,more

expensivejacksonyourTVorVCR.Theadvantage:sharper

videoquality.

TheexistenceoftheS-VHSformatshouldbeyourfirsthint

ataphenomenonyou'llbereading,andhearing,alotmore

about:Formanyhome-videofans,thequalityofthepicture

andsoundisincrediblyimportant.It'sworthpayingmore

for,buyingadd-ongearfor,andreshootingscenesfor.

(Fortunately,you,asoon-to-beexperienceddigital-video

[DV]producer,arereadytocreatevideosthateasily



surpasstheworkofallofthoselong-suffering,pre-DV

camcorderowners,nomatterhowmuchtheyspenton

equipment.)



Figure1-1.

The

evolutionand

theshrinkingof

themodern

camcorder.

Fromtopleft:

thefull-size

VHS

camcorder;the

8mm/Hi-8

camcorder;

andthe

modernDV

camcorderthe

oneyouneed

toworkwith

iMovie.



VHS-C.HerewasPanasonic'sattempttosolvethe

problemsoftheVHScamcorder'sweight.Thiskindof

camcorderismuchsmallerthanfull-sizeVHSunitsbecause

ittakesmuchsmallercassettes.Afterfilming,youcanpop

oneoftheseVHS-C(for"compact")cassettesintoaVHSsizedadaptercassette,whichyoutheninsertintoa

standardVCR.

Clever,really,butstillanuisance.Now,whenyouwantto

playthevideoofthekids'birthdayparty,youhavetofind

boththepartycassetteandtheadaptercassette.Moreover,

youcan'tsendthetapesyoumaketofriendsorfamily

withoutbuyinganadaptercassetteforthem,too.



8mm.The8-millimetercassetteissmallereventhanVHSC,whichmakes8mmcamcorderssmallerstillnownotmuch

biggerthanasix-inchsubsandwich.Makersofthese

camcordersmakenoapologyfortheirtapes'inabilitytofit

intoastandardVCR.Ifyouwanttoplaybackyourfootage,

yourunacablefromthecamcordertoyourTVorVCR,so

thatthecamcorderitselfbecomestheVCR.

8mmcamcordersareextremelyinexpensivethese

daysunder$300.Amongnon-digitalcamcorders,8mmis

themostpopularformat,buteventhesearerapidlybeing

discontinuedbycamcordermakers.

Hi-8.Hi-8wasthecompact-camcorderequivalentoftheSVHSformatdescribedabove:priciercamcorders,pricier

tapes,betterqualitythanregular8mm.Forseveralyears,

S-VHSandHi-8werepopularprosumercamcordersacute

wayofsayingthattheybridgedthegapbetween

inexpensiveconsumerequipmentandveryexpensive

professionalequipment.BecauseS-VHSandHi-8footage

doesn'tdeteriorateasmuchfromcopytocopyasregular

VHSand8mmtape,itwasapopularformatforrecording

weddingvideos,legaldepositions,andevenlow-budget

cableTVcommercials.

Today,ofcourse,DVcamcordersdominatethesefunctions.

iMovieworksonlywithdigitalcamcorders,butthatdoesn't

meanyoucan'tuseallyourolderfootage;Chapter4offers

severalwaystotransferyouroldertapesintoiMovie.Butfrom

thisdayforward,shootallofyournewfootagewithaDV

camcorder.Atthiswriting,MiniDVcamcorderscostabout$400

forabasicmodelandpricescontinuetosink,monthbymonth.

(SeetheendofthischapterforaDVbuyingguide.)



Tip:Sellingyouroldcamcordereasesmuchofthepainof



buyingaDVcamcorder.Remembertotransferyouroldfootage

intoDVformatbeforeyoudoso,however.



1.1.1.WhyaDVCamcorderIsWorthIt

ADVcamcorderoffersenormousadvantagesoverprevious

formats.



1.1.1.1It'ssmaller

Thesizeofthecamcorderisprimarilydeterminedbythesizeof

thetapesinsideit.AMiniDVcassette(tapecartridge)istiny,as

showninFigure1-2,sothecamcordersarealsotiny.The

largestDVcamcorderisaboutthesizeofthesmallest8mm

camcorder,andthesmallestDVcamcorderisthesizeofaSony

Walkman.



Figure1-2.The

varioussizesof

tapesthattoday's

camcorderscan

acceptdifferinsize,

picturequality,and

cost.Forboth

homeand

prosumerfilming,

thestandard-size

VHScassette

(back)isnearly

extinct.8mmand

Hi-8cassettes

(right)are

extremelypopular

amongpeoplewho

don'thavea

computertoedit



footage,andare

veryinexpensive.

MiniDVtapes(left),

liketheones

requiredbymost

DVcamcorders,

aremore

expensivebutthe

enormousquality

improvement

makesthemworth

everypenny.



Thesmallsizehaslotsofadvantages.Youcanfilm

surreptitiouslywhennecessary.DVcamcordersdon'tmakekids

orinterviewsubjectsnervouslikebulkierequipment.The

batterieslastalongtime,becausethey'vegotlessequipment

topower.And,ofcourse,smallermeansit'seasiertotakewith

you.

Still,DVcassettesaren'tperfect.Mostholdonly60or80

minutesoffootage,andthey'remoreexpensivethananalog

tapes.

Asyou'llsoonsee,however,bothoftheselimitationsquickly

becomeirrelevantintheworldofiMovie.Thewholeideaisthat

iMovieletsyouedityourfootageandthen,ifyoulike,dumpit

backouttothecamcorder.Inotherwords,it'scommoniMovie

practicetodeletetheboringfootagefromDVtape#1,preserve



onlythegoodstuffbydumpingitontoDVtape#2,andthen

reuseDVcassette#1forthenextshootingsession.



1.1.1.2Thequalityisastounding

Videoqualityismeasuredinlinesofresolution:thenumberof

tinyhorizontalstripesofcolortheplaybackusestofillyourTV

screen.Asyoucanseebythistable,DVqualityblowsevery

previoustapeformatoutofthewater.(Allcamcorders,TVs,

andVCRshavethesameverticalresolution;thistable

measureshorizontalresolution.)

Table1-1.

TapeFormat



MaximumLinesofResolution



VHS,VHS-C



240



8mm



280



LiveTVbroadcast



300



S-VHS,Hi-8



400



Digitalsatellitebroadcast



400



MiniDV



500



HDTV



720or1080



DV's16-bitsoundqualityisdramaticallybetterthanprevious

formats,too.Infact,it'sbetterthanCD-qualitysound,sinceDV

camcordersrecordsoundat48kHzinsteadof44.1kHz.

(Highermeansbetter.)



Tip:MostDVcamcordersofferyouachoiceofsound-quality

modes:12-bitor16-bit.Thelowerqualitysettingisdesignedto

leave"room"onthetapeforaddingmusicafteryou'verecorded

yourvideo.Butavoiditliketheplague!Ifyoushootyourvideo

in12-bitvideo,yourpicturewillgraduallydriftoutofsyncwith

youraudiotrackifyouplantosaveyourmovietoaDVD.

Consultyourmanualtofindouthowtoswitchthecamcorder

into16-bitaudiomode.Doitbeforeyoushootanything

important.



1.1.1.3Youcanmakecopiesofcopies

Thisisabigone.Youprobablyknowalreadythateverytime

youmakeacopyofVHSfootage(orothernon-DVmaterial),

youlosequality.Thecopylosessharpness,colorfidelity,and

smoothnessofcolortone.Onceyou'vemadeacopyofacopy,

thequalityisterrible.Skinappearstohaveacombinationof

badacneandradiationburns,theedgesofthepicturewobble

asthoughleakingofftheglass,andvideonoise(jigglingstatic

dots)fillsthescreen.Ifyou'veeverseen,onthenewsor

America'sFunniestHomeVideos,atapesubmittedbyan

amateurcamcorderfan,you'veseenthisprobleminaction.

Digitalvideoisstoredonthetapeascomputercodes,notas

pulsesofmagneticenergy.YoucancopythisvideofromDV

camcordertoDVcamcorder,orfromDVcamcordertoMac,

dozensoftimes,makingcopiesofcopiesofcopies.Thelast

generationofdigitalvideowillbeutterlyindistinguishablefrom

theoriginalfootagewhichistosay,bothwilllookfantastic.



Note:Technicallyspeaking,youcan'tkeepmakingcopiesof

copiesofaDVtapeinfinitely.After,say,20or30generations,



youmaystarttoseeafewvideodropouts(digital-looking

specks),dependingonthequalityofyourtapesandduplicating

equipment.Still,fewpeoplehaveanyreasontomakethat

manycopiesofcopies.(Furthermore,makinginfinitecopiesof

asingleoriginalposesnosuchproblem.)



1.1.1.4ADVrecordingisforever

Dependingonhowmuchyoureadnewspapers,youmayhave

rememberedthedepressingstorytheNewYorkTimesbrokein

thelateeighties:Becausehomevideowassucharecent

phenomenonatthetime,nobodyhadeverbotheredtocheck

outhowlongvideotapeslast.

Theanswer,asitturnsout,was:notverylong.Dependingon

storageconditions,thesignalontraditionalvideotapesmay

begintofadeinaslittleastenyears!Thepreciousfootageof

thatbirth,wedding,ortornado,whichyouhadhopedto

preserveforever,couldinfactbemorefleetingthanthe

memoryitself.

Yourfirstinstinctmightbetorescueafadingvideobycopying

itontoafreshtape,butmakingacopyonlyfurtherdamages

thefootage.Thebottomline,saidthescientists:Thereisno

waytopreserveoriginalvideofootageforever!

Fortunately,thereisnow.DVtapesmaydeteriorateovera

decadeortwo,justastraditionaltapesdo.Butyouwon'tcare.

Longbeforethetapehascrumbled,you'llhavetransferredthe

mostimportantmaterialtoanewharddriveoranewDVtape

ortoaDVD.Becausequalityneverdegradeswhenyoudoso,

you'llglowwiththeknowledgethatyourgrandchildrenand

theirgrandchildrenwillbeabletoseeyourmovieswithevery

speckofclarityyouseetodayeveniftheyhavetodiguponeof

thoseantique"Macintosh"computersorgigantic,soap-sized



"DVcamcorders"inordertoplayit.



1.1.1.5Nofuzzysnowwhenrerecording

Asonanycamcorder,aDVunitletsyourrerecordasceneon

topofexistingfootage.ButwithDV,atthespotwherethenew

footagebeginsorends,youdon'tgetfivesecondsofglitchy

static,asyoudowithnondigitalcamcorders.Instead,yougeta

cleanedit.



1.1.1.6Youcaneditit

ThefifthandbestadvantageoftheDVformatis,ofcourse,

iMovieitself.Onceyou'veconnectedyourDVcamcorderupto

yourMac(asdescribedinChapter4),youcanpourthefootage

fromcamcordertocomputerandthenchopitup,rearrange

scenes,addspecialeffects,cutoutbadshots,andsoon.For

thefirsttimeinhistory,it'ssimpleforanyone,evennon-rich

people,toedithomemovieswithprofessionalresults.(Doingso

in1990requireda$200,000Avideditingsuite;doingsoin

1995requireda$4,000computerwith$4,000worthof

digitizingcardsandeditingsoftwareandthequalitywasn'tgreat

becauseitwasn'tDV.)

Furthermore,forthefirsttimeinhistory,youwon'thaveto

pressthefast-forwardbuttonwhenshowingyourfootageto

family,friends,co-workers,andclients.Therewon'tbeanydull

footageworthskipping,becauseyou'llhavedeleteditonthe

Mac.



Tip:Beforeyougetnervousaboutthehoursyou'llhaveto

spendeditingyourstuffiniMovie,rememberthatthere'sno

particularlawthateveryvideomusthavecrossfades,scrolling

credits,andathrobbingmusicsoundtrack.Yes,ofcourse,you



canmakemoviesoniMoviethatareasslicklyproducedas

commercialfilms;muchofthisbookisdedicatedtohelpingyou

achievethatstandard.ButmanypeopledumpanentireDV

cassette'sworthoffootageontotheMac,chopouttheboring

bits,anddumpitrightbackontothecamcorderonlyabout20

minutes'worthofworkafterthetransfertotheMac.



1.1.2.What'sItGoodFor?

Ifyou'rereadingthisbook,youprobablyalreadyhavesome

ideasaboutwhatyoucoulddoifyoucouldmakeprofessionallookingvideo.Hereareafewpossibilitiesthatmaynothave

occurredtoyou.AllarenaturalprojectsforiMovie:

Homemovies.Plainoldhomemoviescasualdocumentaries

ofyourlife,yourkids'lives,yourschoollife,yourtripsare

thesinglemostpopularcreationofcamcorderowners.

Usingthesuggestionsinthefollowingchapters,youcan

improvethequalityofyourfootage.UsingaDVcamcorder,

you'llimprovethequalityofthepictureandsound.And

usingiMovie,youcandeleteallbutthebestscenes(and

editoutthosehumiliatingpartswhereyouwalkedfor20

minuteswiththecamcorderaccidentallyfilmingtheground

bouncingbeneathit).

FREQUENTLYASKEDQUESTION

ThreeCamcordersNottoBuy

Intheirnever-endingquesttocomeupwithsmallerandcoolercamcorder

designs,electronicsmanufacturershavealreadygonewellbeyondthe

MiniDVformat.Unfortunately,someofthesealternativeformatsare

incompatiblewithiMovie.

Here,then,aretwocamcordersnottobuy:

SonyMicroMV.Thesecamcordersaretiny,allright:theystoretheir



footageonatapethesizeofamatchbox.Toobadtheyrecordina

formatthatpopulareditingprogramslikeiMoviedon'trecognize.

DVDcamcorders.Sony,Panasonic,andHitachioffercamcordersthat

useminiatureDVDdiscsinsteadoftapes.Neat,butnoFireWirejack.

iMovieHDcannoweditvideofromtwocameracategoriesthatiMovie4

couldn't:high-definitionfootageandpalm-sized,USB-connectable

"camcorders"thatrecordontoamemorycardinsteadoftape.

Otherwise,though,sticktoMiniDVcamcorders.They'reinexpensive,their

qualityisspectacular,andyouwon'tbeleftbehindwhenthenext

camcorder-formatfadpasses.



Actualfilms.Don'tscoff:iMovieisperfectlycapableof

creatingprofessionalvideosegments,orevenplotted

movies.IfthethreekidswhomadeTheBlairWitchProject

coulddoitwiththeircamcorder,youcancertainlydoitwith

yours.Theydidn'tevenhaveiMovie;theyhadtoget

$60,000inloanstodotheeditingandprocessingthatyou

candorightonyourMac.

Moreover,newfilmfestivals,Websites,andmagazinesare

springingupeverywhere,alldedicatedtoindependent

makersofshortmovies.(Moreonthistopiciscomingupin

Chapter13.)

Businessvideos.It'sveryeasytopostvideoonthe

Internetorburnitontoacheap,recordableCD-ROM,as

describedinPart3.Asaresult,youshouldconsidervideoa

usefultoolinwhateveryoudo.Ifyou'rearealtor,blow

awayyourrivals(andsaveyourclientstime)byshowing

movies,notstillphotos,ofthepropertiesyourepresent.If

you'reanexecutive,quitboringyourcomradeswith

stultifyingPowerPointslidesandmakeyourpointwithvideo

instead.



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Chapter 1.  The DV Camcorder

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