Cheapest MultiCam ever?
August 28, 2009 3:23 PM   Subscribe

Do security camera DVR's record all video channels simultaneously, or do they only record one channel at a time or the multiplex all on one screen? I ask because I'm looking to set up an ultra cheap multi-cam recording setup in a small theater.

Security cameras and cheap "industrial" cameras are plentiful and all I need (manual focus, manual aperture, good low light)

I figure that 4 cameras with C-Mount Lenses (and adapters to decent second hand 35MM lenses) would allow me to not have to spend thousands on four high end mini-dv cameras that I'd have to have change tapes in the middle of a show.
posted by tropikal to Technology (4 answers total) 1 user marked this as a favorite
Best answer: Disclaimer: I work directly for a popular security camera supplier.

You do NOT want to use a security DVR to do what you are wanting to do. The resolution is way, way too low for your purpose. Not to mention, the files are usually, regardless of what the seller may tell you, NOT a usable format for any video editing program. While they may be h.264 or MPEG, they are usually encapsulated in a proprietary container that you'd have a hell of a time converting.

You're better off either:

1. Renting cameras. It won't be cheap, but it's cheaper than buying if you get prosumer level cameras.
2. Buying small miniDV cameras. Something like you'd buy to film your kid's birthday party with. You could make a run on eBay at a few identical ones so all of the footage will look as similar as possible without have to color-correct every clip.
3. Borrow from a local college's journalism/film/media department, or find a couple of students to shoot it for you with the borrowed equipment. They'll be able to easily take out equipment; you might not be able to.
4. Find a wedding videographer that will shoot it for you.

I can promise that you will be disappointed with the results if you try the security DVR route.
posted by chrisfromthelc at 3:46 PM on August 28, 2009 [2 favorites]

Response by poster: OK, thanks for the info Im glad I found that out now.
I found that the resolutions of many of the security DVR's are 720x480 aka Standard Def same as MiniDV. (SD is all I want/need, nothing special)

Though if they use proprietary H.264 containers they're no good anyways.

So now the question is a bit altered, are there any Hard Drive Video Recorders, aka Archos, that are almost DTE (direct to edit) or at least use some "open" recording format.
posted by tropikal at 4:24 PM on August 28, 2009

Best answer: You were on the right track with the industrial cameras, c-mount lenses. You don't need 35mm adapters if you use 16mm film lenses. You can beat camcorder image quality that way. But then you do have to record it somehow.

If you used camcorders, it might be a pain to have to run to four different locations to change the tapes, etc. If you can find camcorders that take external video in, you can line them up in your control station and hit record all at once from the industrial cameras, the sound can come right from your mixing board. Use coaxial cables to run the video, you may made need little amplifiers for longer cables, cheap at Radio Shack.

Here's a tip, if you record four videos together, you could have one record stage sounds, two recording the mixer, with one camera set at a lower or higher volume, and one doing dynamic tracking. That way when you edit you'll be covered to extract various sound qualities.
posted by StickyCarpet at 4:39 PM on August 28, 2009

If you're on a mac, check out an app called Capture Magic. It allows you to capture several simultaneous streams of video direct-to-disk via Firewire/1394. Both HD and SD versions are available. I've used the SD version to record synchronized multi-camera feeds when my research unit hosts visiting lecturers, etc. You'll need a fast mac, and as many Firewire ports as you have cameras (Your average Mac Pro has 2x FW400 and 1x FW800; PCI-E cards can add more).

Be warned that this consumes disk space with frightening speed, and Bad Things happen if your recordings exceed the available space.

I don't know of an equivalent PC solution, but I imagine one exists.
posted by Alterscape at 12:34 AM on August 29, 2009

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