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Selecting a camera for web videos

What are things I should look for

2:36 am on Dec 21, 2008 (gmt 0)

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I want to make a small series of instructional videos for my commercial website. What are some things I should look for. I know that I want the media to record to a SD card.

Should I buy a High Definition Camera, or a Standard Definition?

When compressed for the web is there a difference between a high end consumer, a prosumer, or low end pro camera? The range is 500-4000 usd, will I see a difference in the end result? Everything will be shot on a tripod, and with halogen work lights.

I know how to save an image for the web, I have years of background in it. How do I gain knowledge of saving compressing/optimizing videos for the web? Does anyone have a good recourse? book, video, or a link?

5:34 pm on Dec 23, 2008 (gmt 0)

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Tape is still king either SD or HD, a mini DV tape can store 14GB's of data using SP for about $2 or $3 plus it's a higher quality format especially when comparing SD cameras. The only advantage a flash memory card or HDD camera has over tape is convenience. Transfer of video from tape can only be achieved in real time, e.g one hour of tape takes one hour to transfer to your computer. That is the only significant downside to tape.

Should I buy a High Definition Camera, or a Standard Definition?

Personally I'd go with a SD, they are cheaper, much more software available and certainly easier to work with. Quality is more than sufficient for web video. The HD home video editing software for consumers is still in it's infancy and it requires a very beefy machine. SD even requires a pretty fast machine.

When compressed for the web is there a difference between a high end consumer

As the saying goes "garbage in, garbage out". The two biggest things that can pause poor video is noise and excessive movement. You can solve the excessive movement with a tripod. For example lets say we have two identical videos one shot on professional cam and another shot on a cheap consumer cam. The consumer cam will have less resolution and generally not perform as well in low light conditions so you'll get a lot of "noise". If for example we encode the higher quality video to 1000kbps we'll get some very good results. Our lower quality video however requires more bitrate to compensate for the noise and encoding it to 1000kbps will not achieve good results.

Not only are do you have poorer quality video to start with but you're taking the double whammy because of the issues regarding encoding such material.

Having said that a half decent consumer cam work quite well with enough light.

As far as compressing it's nearly the same principal but there's a few other variables and I think the only way you can learn is by testing. Properly filming the video in the first place is important. The tripod is essential to eliminate those little movements which can really tax the encoder. Slow pans, try and keep camera movements to a minimum. Action video needs more bitrate.

Lastly bitrate and resolution are quite closely intertwined. Each resolution will have a "sweet spot" that may go up or down depending on the content of the video. For example for DVD if you're encoding to 720X480 once you go above 8000kbps in general you're only going to produce a larger file and will derive no benefit from a higher bitrate. On the low end once you hit about 4000kbps you'll start to get macroblocking. At that point you're better off switching to a lower resolution. You'll lose detail in the video however you won't have those very ugly macroblocks appearing.

7:56 pm on Dec 23, 2008 (gmt 0)

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Good stuff. Thx coalman!