Is it my camcorder, or me?
August 16, 2005 3:48 PM   Subscribe

Is it my camcorder, or me?

I have a Canon ZR60 camcorder. I have it hooked into iMovie on a G5 iMac. I am trying to record directly from the camcorder into the Mac, but I'm having some problems. My picture is grainy, and my microphone on the camera doesn't seem to be picking me up very well. And my camera shuts itself off after a period of inactivity, but I know that is just a fault in the camera.

So do I need a microphone, a new camcorder, or some other solution I am missing?
posted by benjh to Computers & Internet (5 answers total)
Try recording it to the camera on tape first.

Second, yeah, the ZR60 is a one chip camera.

Third, add some light.

You should never use a camera's built in microphone.

It's shutting off to conserve power...because you're not recording anything.
posted by filmgeek at 9:27 PM on August 16, 2005

It's possible that if you remove the battery and use the AC adapter, the auto-shutoff feature will be disabled, at least someone wrote that about the ZR65 in the same family. use a little shotgun mic on a stand or a shoe mount atop the camera. Having this pointed away from the computer will help pick up your voice more clearly.
posted by planetkyoto at 10:23 PM on August 16, 2005

I'm sorry, my first thought was "It's not you. It's me."

In almost all cases of "my video is poor", the answer is "there wasn't enough light." Your exposure time is limited, since you need to record many frames per second (and, with digital camera, a small but significant amount of time is taken reading the CCD.)

Better cameras handle less light more gracefully. But all need some amount of light to work well. The trick to adding light is to make sure it is smooth and clean (that is, even over the scene, and doesn't feature odd frequency artifacts.) Read this as "Incandescent." What you want is something close to the blackbody radiation curve. Simple home incandescent lights are perfect, if bright enough (and your camera white balances correctly.)

Many pro-tv interviews are shot with low power incandescent lights, which are noticeably more yellow than home lighting. They come out looking great, because of the white balance. (and, of course, the much better camera.)

As to sound: The built in mic is almost certainly crap, and is likely to pick up camera noise. Worse, it's one of those tiny holes, which can create odd artifacts all by itself. An off camera mic -- even a cheap one -- will improve the quality of your sound.

"Shotgun" mics have the advantage of giving you more gain in the direction you are filming (and less in other directions) but often have limited frequency response, below which they become more omnidirectional. Too "tight" a shotgun means everything center frame sounds fine, but everything off center doesn't has a large high-frequency cut. So avoid the 2' long ones.

Omnidirectionals have the problem of picking up sounds you'd rather not, but high-quality omnis and moderately directional mics like cardioids are cheaper than high quality directional mics.
posted by eriko at 5:16 AM on August 17, 2005

Response by poster: I had a lamp on the side, as well as overhead lighting. This was a test in my living room, so maybe even then the lighting wasn't ample.

I figured the microphone was garbage, of that I didn't doubt. I'll try a different mic and see if that works, as well.

I played with recording directly to tape, and that improved it. I'd rather not have to record to tape first, as it is just simply annoying.

Any recommendations for this project, a particular camcorder to use? Should I go miniDV or DVD?
posted by benjh at 6:52 AM on August 17, 2005

Odd that you are having problems with image quality. I regularly use my ZR50 for webcam use and the image quality in that usage is no different than when I am recording.

Your ZR60 should be fine for your project. A better mic, though, is a good recommendation.

I've not tried capturing the feed directly into iMovie. There are several shareware programs for this as well. This one, for instance.
posted by Thorzdad at 7:07 AM on August 17, 2005

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