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Digital Camcorder Video Basics -
Getting to Know Your New Digital Video Camera

Congratulations! You have just purchased a new digital camcorder. Although you may have used a camcorder before, technology has evolved and the new features of a digital video camera can be overwhelming.  StashSpace believes it’s a good idea to get to know your camcorder a little bit before you do the fun part -- record video! Some of the terms may not be familiar to you, but reviewing them will help you to become a skilled videographer in no time!

 

As you know, there are many different digital camcorder models out there. Your camcorder may not have some of the functions or features mentioned here. For those of you who are familiar with digital video cameras, some of these terms may be an overview, but for those of you that are not, now is the time to learn!

 

Zoom

This function moves your point of view closer to, or further away from, the subject. Be sure to read our comparison between optical and digital zoom.

 

Focus / Auto-Focus

This is the process of adjusting the lens in order to obtain a sharp, clear picture. Most entry-level Digital Camcorders handle focus for you automatically.

 

White Balance

When you “white balance” your camcorder, you are giving it the correct calibration of a camcorder to record and display true white. All other colors are then calibrated based on that balanced white image. To check a white balance function, first point your camcorder at an object that is non-reflective. Set your focus, and then press the “white balance” button. There should be an indicator that tells you when the white balance is completed. This function is often done automatically by consumer-level camcorders, but not with professional camcorders.

 

Recording Audio

New camcorder models are often set by default to record at only 12-bit audio.  Fire up your camcorder and make sure that it is set to 16-bit audio instead, and don’t change it back. Sixteen-bit audio is higher quality and won’t cause problems later on when you want to capture it to your computer.

 

Buying Tape Stock

Consumer digital videotape (such as Mini-DV, MicroMV and Digital8) is smaller and has a longer shelf life than VHS tape. When purchasing tapes, look for the ME marking on the tape wrappers. ME signifies metal evaporated tape, which is a process that coats the tape with a hard layer of carbon to protect it from wear and tear.

 

Shoot in SP Mode vs. LP Mode

In SP (standard play) mode, data from your video is recorded on a longer section of your digital videotape than in LP (long play) mode. The data is spread out along enough distance so that there's plenty of room for all the information. In long-play format, the same data gets squeezed together into a smaller length, sometimes causing errors and noise during playback.  We do not recommend (nor accept for transfer) LP mode for recording video.

 

CCD

A CCD is a "charge coupled device" - the part of the camera that accepts light from the outside world and translates it into the ones and zeros that form a digital picture or video. The size and number of CCDs in your digital camcorder (more and larger are better), the better your picture quality will be.

 

FireWire Cable

After you choose which digital format to use, the next step is to purchase a FireWire cable. This device is a connection or cable used between the camcorder and a special port on your computer (FireWire IEEE or iLink). This device is one of the major factors in the development of the digital video industry because it keeps digital video “digital”. Without this device, the video quality deteriorates drastically.

 

Key FireWire Benefits include:

  • Mac and PC Compatibility
    Although FireWire is an Apple product, it is implemented into the PC world as well, making it possible for both Mac and PC users to utilize the same equipment for their demanding technology needs.
     
  • Speed
    Because digital video contains a lot of data that must be transferred quickly, FireWire is an ideal format with rates of up to 800Mbps plug-and-play connectivity. With today's plug-and play camera detection on most computers, you can connect your camera to your computer and it is automatically detected, giving you a stress-free setup so you can start making movies and sharing video with stashBox in just minutes!

  • See the FireWire guide for more information

Battery Charger

Using an AC power/battery recharge jack lets you deliver AC power to your camcorder. In most models, the same line will recharge a camcorder battery installed in the camcorder. This is a very important part of having a digital video camera if you are planning a family vacation or road trip that will include more than 15 or 20 hours of footage.

 

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