Is a $1,000 Video Camera Worth It?

These bright tropical birds would probably look like ghetto pigeons on your camera.

I almost always argue on the side of budget, and frequently write about how to get professional looks on amateur equipment. In the pursuit of “balance” (and to make another futile attempt at affiliate links), here are some reasons to spend more on a video camera. You don’t always get what you pay (very often you pay too much, or can get a deal on last year’s falling star). But here are some features that you don’t always see in the $300-$500 range.

  1. Image sensor (provides quality of image under various lighting conditions)
  2. Manual controls (customize lense ring to do white balance instead of focus)
  3. Rich touch-screen display and menu options
  4. Optical image stabilization
  5. Color peaking
  6. External audio/mic input
  7. HD video onto hard drive (internal memory) or memory cards
So for most people, these things aren’t worth the x2 and x3 premium. But if you’re more than a hobbiest, these cameras can offer quality that surpasses the average amateur vid. Here’s B&H photos picks on three higher-end video cameras, and the Sony ($1298) appears to lead the pack based on higher photo file size and internal memory. But the Canon Vixia is $1099 (and I’ve been using Canon for most of my YouTube stint). The Panasonic is under $1000, and the company seems to have recaptured its place in video equipment. B&H usually beats other retailers on price, and my “invisible hand” suggests these are competitive if not the lowest prices. But check.
Read the features below, and watch the video if you want to feel worse about your camera. Then click my damned affiliate links. Ghees. Or use comments to “rationalize” and convince us (and yourself) that your camera is good enough. Whatev.

1) Sony HDR-CX700V Camcorder

Features:

  • 96 GB of internal memory (plus cards)
  • 12 MP still frame photography
  • Surround sound audio built in
  • Geotag of photos
  • Built in USB cable for charging and file sharing

2) Canon VIXIA HF S30 Flash Memory Camcorder

  • 32 GB internal memory and dual SD card slots
  • Color bars for reference
  • Zebra patterns
  • Remote controllers
  • 8 MP photos
  • Built in flash and LED light

3) Panasonic HDC-TM900 High Definition Camcorder

  • 32 GB internal memory and card slots
  • 3 3.05 MP sensors (3 chips, one for each primary color)
  • 5.1 surround sound
  • 14 MP photos
  • 3D videos (snore)

Turn Your HDTV Into a Computer: Online Video Without Restraints

(See 4/13 update below and learn the secret to connecting your Wireless keyboard to an Acer, which you won’t find after an hour on Windows help).

You loyal WVFF readers will know that I’ve been predicting the “killer web-to-television online video viewing” device for several years (here’s me wishing back in January 2007 and here’s my verbatim from 2010 predictions):

“I see a $199 device that allows us to access the Internet right from our televisions. It’s a small PC, a remote-controlled keyboard and mouse, and it plugs into any television via HDMI or even less progressive connections.”

We’re pretty dang close finally — here’s a device that would have eluded me due to minimal marketing. Thank goodness for Billy at Best Buy (his employer didn’t stock it, so I bought one at NewEgg.com). It’s an Acer AspireRevo AR3610-U9022 Desktop PC (Dark Blue), and here’s an Amazon affiliate link for it for $330 (I’ve yet to make a dime yet on the stupid affiliate program).

For about $300 you can watch Internet video on your high-definition television and control it with wireless keyboard

First the “reality check”: It’s not $199, but there is a cheaper version (called Revo) for that price. Note that the Revo is a bit dumbed down, lacks wireless remote and uses Windows XP. I chose the AspireRevo because it has a remote included, offers Windows 7, and has more horse power. You’ll also need an HDMI cable to connect it to your high-definition television, a TV with HDMI input, electricity, and (duh) a wireless router with high speed Internet. Essentially this is a decent computer without a monitor.

You can now enjoy online-video viewing (and other PC activities) right from your high-definition television. You heard me right. Your overpriced television is now a monitor, so you don’t have to chose between “lean forward” control or “lean back” comfort. “Oh, Kevin,” you say, “I’ve already been doing this for years with my PC.” Well shut up because you represent .005% of the population.

Yes, peeps… it’s convenient online-video viewing on YouTube and Hulu without the “walled garden” associated with most “convenience” devices like Roku, AppleTV, Netflix and Ethernet/wireless enabled BlueRay DVD players (yes I own those too, and they have some advantages like easy install, customized content, and easier navigation). But none of these allow Hulu (to my knowledge), or give you the full YouTube functionality. And some are slowwwww.

Here’s how you get this Revo thingy going (in case you’re even more techno-phobic than me):

  1. You plug in the device to a source of electricity. Don’t get shocked.
  2. You put said device next to your computer, and connect it to your TV with an HDMI cable (you can handle that, right?). The cable isn’t included. So if you don’t have one laying around, get a cheapo at BestBuy or online (or do better by by surfing CNet’s Cheapskate. Those cables can get wicked expensive, and I’m not convinced the primo ones are worth it.
  3. You find a wireless signal (you do have a router that has high-speed Internet, right?). Hey, swipe your neighbors unless you live near me.
  4. Now you sit your ass on your couch or bed and use the wireless keyboard and mouse to surf the web. Go full screen and suffer some commercials and you’re free at last. Free at last! You can enjoy Hulu like it’s television (albeit more grainy than you’d like, but free).

You can do basically the same thing with an old PC or laptop, but Billy tells me that video streams poorly on older processors. That explains why we haven’t seen my dream machine for $199 yet. But on the positive side, this puppy is more fueled than $350 Netbooks, and if you’re after web-video on the television it’s a better approach (some Netbooks have an HDMI output, but you’d need a long wire and I hate Netbook keyboards. Here are the specifications for this baby (note I haven’t test driven it yet):

  • 1.6GHz Intel Atom 330 Processor
  • 2GB DDR2 Memory
  • 160GB 5400RPM SATA Hard Drive; Multi-in-1 Digital Media Card Reader
  • Integrated NVIDIA ION Graphics; High-Definition Audio Support
  • Windows 7 Home Premium (64-bit); Includes Wireless Keyboard and Mouse

This is more computer than I need, but a fast machine that runs Windows will come in handy since we’re all Mac, and the MacMini version of this would be twice as expensive (wireless keyboard sold separately, and Mac is cruel with accessory pricing… I just bought a damned backup power chord for my MacBook Pro for f’ing $80 from Billy).

*** Update 4/7: After hours of struggling with Windows 7 to connect the remote keyboard and mouse, I found the simple answer… by finding a brochure I missed in the packaging, seperate from the other materials. Seems there’s a dongle hiding in the mouse interiror that must be plugged into the Acer. Otherwise you’ll spend HOURS on Windows help and online, to no avail. All the other parts of the setup were less than 30 minutes, but finding the HDMI cable (hiding plugged into my television pretending to be connected to something) and the cursed wireless keyboard/remote HIDDEN DONGLE was very frustrating, however. I also would give Egghead a poor score on customer service. Ordered it for FedEx on Friday hoping for Saturday arrival, and paid $37 for that. Immediately after that, I read the fine print: several days to process. So “next day” doesn’t mean “next day,” and even worst the customer service rep (who took 10 minutes to acknowledge me and another 15 to reply) told me he’d try to cancel the FedEx charge… and he didn’t. No more Egghead purchases. Stick with Amazon.com.

That said, I’m blogging from the television set. You’d be surprised how well this keyboard is working even from 20 feet… but it’s hard to read this text, which from here is about equivalent to 4-point type). Off to try YouTube!

David After Dentist: I’ll Have What He’s Having

David after the dentist. Kid reacts to dentist visit… tripping out.

This is a priceless video. I want to party with David and his dentist…

You have four eyes. I feel funny. Is this the real world? Is this going to be forever?

From the description we learn the details from creator Booba1234:  “This is my 7 year old son who had an extra tooth removed last summer, 2008. I had the camera because he was so nervous before I wanted him to see before and after. He was so out of it after, I had to carry him out of the office. The staff was laughing and I had tears it was so funny.

Experimenting With Large Uploads on YouTube: Bubble Gum Tree Show

Here’s today’s Bubble Gum Treee Show (featuring Charles Trippy) as it appears after I uploaded an 800 MB exported version from iMovie using all of the fancy specifications he recommends. And here’s another version that was about 20 MB. Sorry I just can’t seem to see a radical difference. Can you?

Now let’s try adding the “secret” code:

  1. Big version with the HD code.
  2. Little version with the HD code.

Anyone? Here are jpegs of the same video when I toggle between high resolution and low.

Low resolution high rez

YouTube Goes High Definition: The “Secret” Hack Know As &fmt=18

The thing that put YouTube on the map was easy file sharing — quick uploads and fast Flash-based streaming. Lately YouTube is experimenting with high definition, which is a slight improvement from the typical squished Flash format.

Here are the key things you need to know:

  1. It’s in testing, and it’s not perfect. The audio sometimes fails to synch, and not all videos work in high definition.
  2. This isn’t HDTV. It’s just a higher resolution version of Flash.
  3. You can add the code: &fmt=18 to the end of a video’s URL to see if it makes it better.
  4. You’ll see some text below videos that allow you to toggle between high and low resolution.
  5. You can update your account preferences so you have the ability to default to high definition if you don’t mind the potential loss of speed.
  6. I’m not aware of any discrimination on this feature between “Partners” and everyone else.

Charles Trippy posted a video on this yesterday and SMPFilms in (“YouTube Hack”) announced the news as well. This perhaps prompted YouTube’s Blog to post” YouTube Videos in High Definition.”

Mike Abundo (Inside Online Video), of course, identified the hack on March 4, and provided this recent update. I saw the post, but found the improvement to be of nominal visual distinction.

Charles Trippy provided this nice post for Mac users to help them export their videos to take advantage of this higher definition.

I’m working on a video that explains this, and demos some of the before/after. It will also show people how to turn on high definition as a default via their account preferences. I’ll show the step-by-step for exporting better quality (the limit is now 1 gig for all).

Another source: Wired Wiki explains formatting in great detail

Coming Soon: Best of Nalts DVD

Best of Nalts DVD sleeve

HappySlip is selling “best of” DVDs, so I had to do it too. I may not be as hot, but at least I’m not as funny.

I’m using CreateSpace because it looks easy, and a couple others have used it. Anyone use ’em? I didn’t realize, until I’d started my account this morning, that it’s an Amazon company. Of course, you give away about 40% of your profits (after the fixed cost per DVD) when it’s sold through Amazon, so I’m kinda hoping people buy it at CreateSpace.com. I get proceeds beyond the fixed cost of production and their cut of the sale.

It’s not live yet because I’m mailing the master to CreateSpace, and then they send me a proof. I’ve listed the videos below. I’m sure I unintentionally missed some good ones, but it took most of yesterday just to locate the best versions of these (and some were destroyed by a dead Seagate external hard drive).

Will I sell a lot? Nope. There’s not a huge market to purchase amateur video content — especially when you can see it free online. Maybe some people will be compelled by the notion of seeing the videos in high resolution and without ads.

I was impressed with how good some of them look on an HDTV (after I’ve been used to seeing them on YouTube all grainy and compressed). You notice little things- like the name of a book on a bookshelf that was otherwise obscure. And you can why my face was made for low-resolution video.

Price point is $19.99, but most of the revenue goes to CreateSpace and Amazon. Well- if I make $100 on total sales, it’s worth being called a sellout.

The videos:
Farting in Public
Airport Crawling
Computer Falls
Cash to Buzz
Drunk Interviews
Garbageman
America’s Bloopers
Fast Food Outsourcing
Candy Swiper
Google Head
Crackberry
Google Earth
GPS with PMS
Mall Pranks
Killer Weed
Gum Tree
Coffee Baby
Banana Man
Garage Sale
Pencils
Kids Steal Van
Lay Me Off
CubeBreak
Mad Turkey
Viral Video Genius
iPhone
Chicken Prank
Stupid Computer
HappySlip’s Pad