Video Production

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An article by instructor Ivan Milenkovic

This is a small guide eexplaining how to create successful videos on your own. I'll include some cool tips and tricks that will hopefully help you to achieve better video quality.

There are several areas that I could write about:

- Gear/Equipment
- Recording/Capturing
- Editing
- Finalizing
- Encoding/Rendering
- Uploading

These are all technical details, and the most important one - Creative part - is being left out. As always - idea is most important thing, so the things here can only help you form your vision better. The better the vision, the better the creation.


Gear can cost a lot, and like with other similar jobs "How much money - that much music" rule apply. You just cannot achieve the same results with 150$ camera as you would with professional lightning and 5000$ camera, but you can try to emulate that, and hope for the best.

While we on the topic of cameras, there are 3 main categories that are important to mention:

1. Web cams
2. Consumer camcorders
3. Prosumer camcorders
4. Professional camcorders

The fourth option is a lot more expensive, and will be briefly mentioned, while we will have the biggest interest in two first (cheapest) categories.

1. Web Cams:

The first category are webcams. These cams are simple in design, have little sensor, and small lens. With the advances of technology, most webcams today will put out HD resolution. However, most of them will be fake, so only get famous brands like Logitech, or test the webcams thoroughly, otherwise you might end up with lower resolution that is being stretched out on HD frame.

Another problem with webcams is that they have small lens. The bigger the lens - more light can come onto the chip. So try to choose the one with physically biggest lens, and hope for the best.

Advantage of webcams is that they are cheap, and they are usually connected through USB2 standard, which means you can buy several and connect them all onto computer, without the need of separate interface.

Example of a 99$ webcam with 1080p recording capability: Logitech HD Pro Webcam

2. Consumer camcorders:

Video camera and video recorded integrated into one device produce camcorder. This means that you can capture and record video without the need of external equipment, which is convenient way to work.

Consumer category doesn't feature too much options for adjusting picture parameters, and have only one CMOS chip, which is the biggest reason these devices are in the consumer range. Devices that feature 3 chips (one per color) are belonging to prosumer market, and their price is usually 2x higher. Since consumer ones are the cheapest ones, we will stick to those as the ones that are of the most interest.

There are several categories of these devices, but with the technology advance, most important for use are HD camcorders. MiniDV ones are outdated today because of their lower resolution. HD camcorders usually put out 720p or 1080p resolution, although it is best to buy 1080p one, because of the long usability.

CMOS Chip Chip dictates the price of a camcorder. CMOS chips are today used technology and CCD chips are outdated. It's the chip that actually captures the light and turn it into electrical signals. The bigger the chip, more expensive the camera will be. Usually the HD chips will have 3.1 MegaPixel resolution. The number of pixels on an image sensor is not the only factor influencing the quality of the video captured. The physical size of the sensor matters as well. Larger image sensors can capture more light than smaller ones, even if they have fewer pixels. That's because, while fewer in number, these pixels are larger and thus able to capture more light. This is why you'll see camcorders advertise not only the number of pixels on an image sensor, but the size of the sensor itself (usually in fractions of an inch). You're better off buying a camcorder with a larger image sensor even if it has fewer pixels than a competitive model with a smaller sensor and more pixels.

Lenses on these devices on cheaper models are usually made by manufacturer, although some manufacturers use third party lenses (for example Sony features Carl Zeiss optical components which guarantee better picture quality and geometry). It's always good to consider these models first.

Features on cameras are not that important, although it is very important to be able to manually adjust at least white balance, focus and exposure. Other important features are optical picture stabilization and optical zoom. If your use of camcorder is tripod-based, optical stabilization can be skipped (although camcorder can be non-useful for other purposes, which is not considered a good option).

Media Storage of a modern digital camcorder is either memory card or integrated hard disk. Hard disk option is good because of the large storage capacity, although the price of the camera rise a lot, and memory cards are cheap, replaceable and more compatible. This is why memory card camcorder is a better choice.

Codecs used for compressing the video material is today either HDV or AVCHD, with AVCHD having greater edge in todays devices. Both of these are not ideal for editing, and HDV maybe better choice, but when it comes to choosing the camcoder, this shouldn't be the most important factor - intermediary codecs for editing are there for solving this problem.

Connections are not that important, although HDMI out and separate audio outs are important to have. USB cable is there for transferring already recorded material from memory card or HD, and it is not that important if you have memory cards (it's faster to get memory card reader for PC). HDMI is for streaming video and audio, but in order to capture it you will need separate HD capture card for PC (more on this soon).

Conclusion: As for consumer range, best way to go is with full HD (1080p) at 30 frames per second video, devices should record on memory cards, should have manual white balance, focus, exposure, optical zoom and optical image stabilization options, and compress to a HDV or AVCHD codec. Other features may vary, for example you might want to check with manufacturer if the camcorded has limiter on the microphone preamp so you can record live shows without clipping.

Important thing to consider when buying is the price. If you see an HD cam from unknown manufacturer that is half the cost of other similar devices, be very careful. Usually these cams imitate full HD resolution by stretching out the resolution from a smaller chip. Chip dictates the price of a cam, so because of this it is cheaper. The picture will be poor quality tho.

Example of a Sony consumer HD camcorder: Sony Handycam HD

to be continued...