Join Christopher Breen for an in-depth discussion in this video Choosing a camera, part of Screencasting with the Mac.
Let's talk about cameras. Camcorders come in two flavors: standard-definition and high-definition. Standard-definition camcorders shoot at a resolution of 720x480 pixels, which is an aspect ratio of 4x3, just like you would see on an older TV. HD is offered in a 16x9 widescreen ratio, using one of a couple different standards: 720p, which is 1280x720 pixels, or 1080p, which is 1920x180 pixels. As you probably know, the more pixels you have, the better looking the video, but HD video files are quite a bit larger than standard-definition videos, which matters to you because of the storage space required to hold them and the bandwidth necessary to deliver them over the Internet, both of which could cost you more money.
Standard-definition camcorders, such as this DV camcorder, are on their way out, and they are, because High-Definition camcorders have become more affordable as has the cost of delivering HD content. However, if you're on a budget, you already have a standard-definition camcorder and you don't care about delivering HD videos, that's one less thing to buy. Camcorders used to transfer methods: DV Camcorders use FireWire and HD Camcorders use USB2, each has a mini connector that goes into your camera. Here is a FireWire mini connector on the left and the USB mini connector on the right.
The other end that connects to your computer has a larger connector. Here, we have FireWire 400 found on older Macs, FireWire 800 which is used on most of today's Macs and USB2. Some DV cameras also have USB ports, but they are for transferring still images that these cameras take. If you have a Mac and lacks FireWire and that would be some models of the MacBook and all models in the MacBook Air, you are pretty much out of luck. You will either have to find a Mac with FireWire or use a camera that outputs video via a USB connection.
HD is the future and if you anticipate producing a lot of videos now may be the time to jump in. Also, many HD camcorders can store hours of video where a tape on a DV Camcorder can store just an hour of video. Now let's talk about what to look for in a camcorder. Regardless of the kind of camcorder you purchase, make sure you get one with a microphone jack. When recording a scenecast with live video, you want to use an external microphone. We will look at microphones in the next video. This microphone jack requirement pretty well illuminates today's pocket camcorder such as this Flip MinoHD.
It's a very cool camcorder for the price, but its onboard microphone isn't going to produce the kind of quality audio you need. Your camera should have a tripod mount on the bottom. You use that camcorder to shoot yourself and to do that you need a tripod. This needn't can be fancy as you will rarely use it to shoot a moving object. Just get one strong enough to hold your camera at the right angle. When shooting yourself, you want to be sure that you're in the center of the frame, and to do that you need to be able to see yourself in the LCD. Make sure that your cameras LCD can be positioned to face you.
Your camera should include a remote control that not only switches the camera in and out of record, but lets you zoom in and out. Jumping up and down to adjust the camera is just going to ruin the flow. In regard to HD camcorders, you have several choices, the first is resolution. All HD camcorders can shoot 720p video, but newer cameras have moved to 1080p. 1080p isn't necessary at the moment, as online services such as Vimeo and YouTube offer 720p HD anyway. But again, looking toward the future, 1080p will be the standard and you're not paying a terrible premium for it now.
Storage is another consideration. HD camcorders store video on hard drives, removable media such as SD cards, or a combination of each. If you intend to shoot hours and hours of video without stopping, if you're recording day-long presentations for example, a hard drive camcorder is the better way to go, as you can press record and leave the camera alone for the rest of the day. But removable media has the advantage that it's portable. You needn't to take the camera offline for hours at a time to transfer its video to your computer, instead just swap in a new SD card or DV tape and you're shooting again within a matter of minutes.
However, the amount of time you can shoot on removable media is far more limited. A DV camcorder's tape is good for an hour and you get only a few hours of high-quality video from an SD card. These are the basics. You can find cameras that have better manual control over focus, color, and lighting, as well as cameras that do better in low light. If you need those features, any number of websites can direct you to the camera that best suits your needs.
- Scripting a screencast
- Capturing video and audio using a screen capture utility
- Shooting live video
- Importing assets and editing in iMovie
- Recording a separate narration track
- Exporting and distributing a screencast