Wednesday, January 23, 2008

The latest on video formats

The latest stuff I've been reading seems to indicate that so long as you have an Intel-based Mac and iLife'08, you CAN edit mpeg2 videos in iMovie. (See
So hopefully some contacts with an Intel-based Mac and iLife'08 will take their laptop down to a Sony Centre and try out some HDD camcorders for me! This list of compatible camcorders seems useful, until you realise that many of the models are american and I can't tell what the equivalent UK model is. (
I've totally veered away from mpeg4 camcorders like Sanyo Xactis now, although up to this morning, I thought it would be the ideal choice. The quality, especially in low light (and some education settings can be classed as 'low light'...) is poor and having looked at some sample footage, I've decided that we should try to collect videos at the highest possible quality (subject to budget). You never know how you are going to use the footage and it's best to keep your options open.
I still think DV tape is going to give us the best quality, but for the sake of looking current, HDD camcorders are the best compromise between style, size, quality and budget. And if it's possible to edit them now (and I'm sure it will get easier to edit them in future without jumping through a few hoops), then so much the better.
AVCHD is the next big thing on the market, and again, iLife'08 appears to have support for that, but not sure that we need to record in high definition in our industry - we tend to make videos for streaming over the web, playing in PowerPoints, playing on ipods or pdas...and as yet, most of our PC screens are still in 4:3 format, so recording in 16:9 seems unnecessary. I'm sure it will all change, but by then, we'll all be working on new projects with different focuses and budgets and we'll be able to do it all again. ;-)
AVCHD camcorders are also that little bit more expensive at the moment, being the in-thing.

So currently, I'm plumping for the following:
  • Sony DCR-SR52 (available for under £350 if you shop around),
  • Bluetooth microphone ( Sony ECMHW1, about £107 from Amazon to record interviews with wireless mic
  • Wide angle lens (in case of classroom situation, filming in small spaces) VCL 0630 X, about £69

This is provided the camcorder is detected by the Mac in the first place, so hopefully I'll be able to update this blog soon with my experiments.

Speaking of which, I went to a Curry's today to try out the camcorders they had. We tried a Samsung SD camera (cost about £160) which seemed to have a lot of features including detecting various lighting settings etc. The Macbook couldn't detect the Samsung camera, but as I was driving away, I wondered if it would have been ok if we'd put the sd card into a usb reader on the Mac. Might ring Curry's up tomorrow and ask the guy to try it! It should then read the mp4 file in iMovie.

Tried a Panasonic HDD camera and this time, the Macbook did detect it and imported the footage. However, Quicktime couldn't play it back and I suspect it just needed the mpeg2 playback software from Apple (

If you want to quickly video something to put out to students, mpeg4 camcorders may seem like the ideal thing, but hey, why fork out for something like that when your own digital camera's video function will give you similar quality? That's something to think about....

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