Last week, my new video camera arrived. I’ve been contemplating a plunge into videography for many years. With my background in photography, theatre, and computer graphics, video seems like a natural grand synthesis of interests. But, the gear is expensive, and I’ve got way too many time commitments already. Oh, what a dilemma.
I finally settled on a temporary compromise. I’ll get a cheapie camera now, learn how to use it, and learn how to edit video. Then, when I’ve established that a video camera is more of a tool and less of a toy, I’ll somehow save enough $$ to get a good one.
After a coupla hours of research, I settle on a Samsung SC-DC575 from the Refurb Depot. For a smidge over $200, this seems like a great deal. It has some nifty features, like image stabilization and file storage on either mini-dvd discs or a SD memory card. Nearly all of the other options in this price range are mini-dv machines. Mini-dv sounds like a big pain, so I eschew those cameras.
A week after I place the order, the camera arrives. Mercifully, it arrives intact. The folks at Refurb Depot folks just plunked the camera’s box into a larger box for shipping without any packing material, so the camera box was just bouncing around loose. I get some mini dvd-r discs and a 1gb SD card locally, and I’m ready to go.
One curious thing about this camera becomes clear immediately: it’s quite a different beast when you’re using the mini dvds rather than the SD card. I’ll talk about the SD card sytem first.
With the SD card, widescreen 16:9 format is not available, and image stabilization is not available. The image in the viewfinder is blurry and extremely contrasty. It produces .avi files which at first I can’t view in my Mac. When I try to watch them in QuickTime or start a iMovie project with them, I get a white screen with sound. Poop on that.
After visiting Samsung’s site and Googling around a bit, I discovered a freeware program called deSEDG2, which converts these strange Samsung things into a standard DivX movie which I can view and edit. The movies are a bit better than they look in the viewfinder, but the mini-dvd movies still look quite a bit better.
In general, I’ll be using the mini dvd discs. The feature set is better, and the image quality is better. That system still has its quirks, however. In order to view the new movie on anything other than the camera, you must “finalize” the disc. Once the disc is finalized, you cannot record on it anymore (if it’s not a re-writable disc). Since it produces a dvd format movie, you can watch it on most dvd players (it might jam up on slot loading players, I’m not sure). But, do I really want to watch my raw footage on a dvd player? Not very often. Mostly, I want to edit it before burning it to dvd.
To get editable movie clips from the dvd discs, I have to convert them to a Quicktime-friendly format using HandBrake, another wonderful freeware program.
Enough for now. I’ll post some sample clips and write more about the features on this beast later.