Equipment is very important in the video and film industry. It could be the difference between a hollywood looking video versus The Blair Witch Project. Good equipment equals good video or film. Unfortunately, good equipment also means expensive costs so research, research, research. In general, it's a good idea to research anything you buy, but it's even more important in video and film because 70% of the time you won't be able to go down to your local electronic store to try it out. This is why I have included this section for the video enthusiasts out there who are interested in buying equipment that isn't at their disposal.
Below is a list of products that I have had some hands-on experience using in the field. I've included web pages that will provide more detailed information and images for each product. In addition, I've also included some side notes on my personal experience with the product. Please feel free to contact me me if you are looking to purchase any new video or video editing equipment. If I can't answer your question, I'll definitely plug you into my resources.
UPDATE ! I'm currently adding microphones, lenses, tripods, and shoulder braces to the list, so check back.
Sony DCR-TRV103 Handycam Digital Camcorder
- Information from Amazon.com
- Information from DVformat
Experience: I own this sony camcorder and have used it for family vacations, various events, and even inexpensive wedding videos. Like most of its digital 8 camcorder cousins, it lacks the manual functions (white balance, iris, color bars, etc.) that are in the prosumer brand camcorders; however, with the right lighting, this camcorder can be crystal clear. Be wary of audio with this camcorder and any consumer brand camcorder because most will pick up machine noise and create a small hiss. In addition, the only audio input provided is a mini-stereo plug which creates a very sensitive attachment.
Canon XL-1 Digital Camcorder
- Canon Website
Experience: The Canon XL-1 (now with the new model XL-1S) is the most popular prosumer digital camcorder in the market. Almost everyone you talk to about digital video will recognize this camcorder. It's so popular, that many short films and even full-length features are being shot with it. I've used it to shoot short PSA (Public Service Announcement) and have been very please with its results. The manual options such as white balancing and zebra settings were a plus compared to the consumer brand camcorders. The 3 chip (3 CCD) feature captured colors beautifully and the audio level meter was helpful in preventing overblown voices. I have heard that the audio level meter can be fussy so using an external audio mixer is recommended. There is an extensive amount of information concerning experiences using the Canon XL-1 on the internet. If you are looking to buy this camcorder or want to know how different settings affect your video, I recommend doing a search on Google.
- Beale Corner Productions Website
Experience: I've never used the Sony DCR-TRV900, but the above website has an enormous amount of information concerning the camcorder. The author of the website, John Beale, also includes information on how to build your own inexpensive camcorder accessories such as a mic holder, stabalizer, and dolly.
2. LANC CONTROLLERS
Zoom Commander by Sign Video
- Sign Video Website
Experience: I bought this controller to try out for a wedding shoot and it worked pretty good. It was used on my Sony DCR-TRV103 digital 8 camcorder through the lanc input. I really liked the two separate zoom speed adjustments because it allowed me to set one zoom speed for the wedding ceremony and the other one for the reception. I did have trouble with the buttons for the zoom function. It was difficult for me to figure out by touch which button was associated with which zoom speed. This is important because if you're trying to do a zoom to quickly capture a spontaneous scene, you may end up pushing the wrong zoom speed and ruin your shot. The manual focus worked on my camcorder; however, I didn't find the need to do any rack focus shots so I never used it. The power down override function on the controller was great because I could leave the camera on standby and look at all my shot options for as long as I wanted. Sign Video provides you with two mounting plates (flat and sloped) that fit on most tripod handles. The controller attaches to the mounting plate via velcro. I can already see the problem of wear and tear occurring with the velcro material. I assume that once the material no longer allows for attachment, you could remove it and replace it with velcro that you can buy at your local hardware store. Overall, I was pleased with the controller and for it's price ($179.95, no tax and free next day shipping), it's a good inexpensive purchase compared to it's competitors.
UPDATE ! I received an email from Garry Hood (President of Sign Video) and wanted to let everyone know that they have added two new models of the Zoom Commander ( Zoom Commander II and Zoom Commander Pro ) with added features. In addition, they have also decreased the price for the older model that I owned to $99. They are now the cheapest lanc controller in the market - cost wise of course!
VariZoom Lens Control
- VariZoom Website
- Marztech Website See how the VariZoom controller is used with their overhead camera support
Experience: I've never used their products, but they seem to be one of the most popular and well known companies developing the controllers for consumer and prosumer camcorders. A local videographer has told me that he has tried the VZ-Pro-L and the VZ-PG-L models and the only thing he didn't like about it was the location of the zoom speed dial. He said it was a bit difficult to control since the dial is located underneath both of the controllers. As far as price is concern, they are in the more expensive realm, ranging from $229 up to $400.
RM-Bare by DVcontrol
- DVcontrol Website
Experience: I've never used their products, but this is one of the less expensive lanc controllers on the market. They list it for $169 retail price, but have it on sale for $129 on their website. I've also seen it listed occasionally on Ebay for $119. The amount of functions on this controller far exceeds any other controller I've seen. Go to their website and take a look at their comparison chart.
Digital Zoom Controllers by Studio 1 Store
cooLzoom by Cool Contraptions
- Studio 1 Store Website
Experience: I've never used their products, but I do like the various items that they develop such as the DV Shoulder Braces, The Super Jib Arm, and The XLR-BP Audio Adapters.
Here's a comment I received via email from someone who has purchased several products from the Studio 1 Store:
"I purchased the Studio 1 Zoom Controller after finding their site listed on your links page. Although, you didn't have it listed under controllers. Just to give you some feedback, Studio 1 is a pleasure to deal with, they took the time to answer all of my question and the zoom
controller works perfectly.
Since then I have purchased several more of their products and they all work great. One thing that impressed me was, they are videographers and they know what they are doing."