video cameras

Introduction

Sony HVR-Z1U HD Video Camera

This tutorial is an overview of video cameras as they pertain to the newspaper industry. As newsrooms become more converged, investment in multimedia equipment is becoming a major factor in purchasing decisions.

Since most print-based newsrooms have little experience in video technologies, this tutorial will help demystify some of the lingering questions regarding video camera equipment purchases.

When purchasing video equipment, one must first break down all of the elements that should be taken into consideration with video capture.

Here are some considerations to make:

What level of camera does my paper need?

A high-end professional camera can actually put an undue burden on an organization with limited resources and staff with technical ability. In some cases, higher-end cameras actually come with fewer automatic features and fewer accessories than their consumer counterparts. Some require the separate purchase of microphones and lenses that usually come standard with consumer-grade cameras. A news organization should be realistic about its needs and funding capabilities. On the other side, a high-end camera offers a huge amount of flexibility to people who are familiar with video or photo camera equipment. Most photojournalists would likely opt for professional-grade equipment.

What media type does the camera capture to?

This is often a difficult choice to make, because there is no best answer. The various media that each camera records to offers different advantages and disadvantages — and at different price points. Most of the time the decision revolves around convenience, durability, capacity and longevity. Hard drive cameras are popular because it makes video transfer a simple process; however, they are well known to be more fragile than tape and solid-state media. DVD cameras are convenient, but have limited storage and also suffer from some durability issues. Tape seems to be one of the best solutions, even for archiving, but isn't very convenient as the logging process is done in real-time. Memory cards, or solid-state media, is quickly becoming a popular choice, but limits the amount of footage you can capture at any given time. We currently recommend purchasing a camera that uses either MiniDV tapes or a solid-state memory card, like SDHC.

Do I need a high-definition camera?

Anyone in the broadcast industry will tell you that HD has become the standard today. While primarily used in the broadcast industry, the Internet is also seeing a proliferation of HD content on sites like YouTube. A news organization could choose to be proactive and start capturing HD content now, or wait until it really gets traction in the industry. The down side to going HD is that it presents a host of challenges with storage and processing, and could end up being a major investment. Either way, no one doubts that HD will play a big part in the future of all media delivery.

What types of accessories will I need to purchase along with the camera?

This is often the most overlooked aspect of purchasing electronic equipment. Most vendors actually sell big priced equipment like cameras at cost and make their money off of the accessories. Often the accessories alone can add up to half the cost of the camera, if not more. Consider the following accessories which might cost more than you think: camera bag, extra batteries, microphones, filters, memory cards, tapes, chargers, tripod and earphones.

What software will I be using to edit this footage?

Software may not typically be part of the discussion in purchasing new equipment, but it should be. You must first make sure the camera footage is compatible with the software solution you plan to choose. Most video editing software can log tape footage, but not necessarily DVD or the newer AVCHD (memory card-based footage). Find a software solution that is right for your organization and is compatible with your computer systems. Consider the workflow before you purchase the camera.

How this tutorial is written:

In this tutorial, we have narrowed down current video cameras into three grades of complexity and price:

  • Professional
  • Prosumer
  • Consumer

Some could argue what this tutorial considers "professional" is less than such by high-end broadcast standards; so note that this was written to pertain to print news organizations attempting to purchase video equipment for the first time.

Filed under: Video