As a long-time reader of your magazine, I have seen a number of articles on the care and feeding of video camera batteries, but it remains a subject that plagues me incessantly.
Batteries are to be stored in a discharged condition, but we are also supposed to have our camcorders available on the front seat as we drive around in case some newsworthy event occurs within camera range.
In my own case, I am lucky enough to have my grandchildren living only blocks away, and want to be able to grab my camcorder and get that perfect shot when they drop in unexpectedly and start being cute. What's a guy supposed to do?
Meanwhile, I have a screw driver, a dust buster and a portable phone all hanging in their respective electrified brackets keeping their batteries charged for instant use---why not my video camera batteries? Why is it that camcorder batteries must be left in a discharged state, while those that power all sorts of tools and electronic accessories come with their own trickle chargers to keep them in a constant state of readiness?
Could someone please explain this to me? I'm sure I would get a charge out of your answer.
It's a difference in battery types that's short circuiting your wiring, Philip. The two primary types in consumer camcorders are nickel cadmium (NiCd) and lead acid (the acid is in a gel state). According to Bescor, a leading battery manufacture, you should always store NiCd batteries in a discharged condition, to avoid failure due to cell imbalance. However, it should not be a problem to leave a battery charged for only a few days. But, do not leave it on the charger once it is fully charged. Lead acid batteries, on the other hand, should never be fully discharged, should always be recharged as soon as possible after use, and should be stored fully charged. A camcorder that uses lead acid batteries--like those in many battery packs-- sounds like the best bet for your type of spontaneous shooting. Look closely at the label on your battery to determine its type. Nickel cadmium batteries are usually labeled "NiCd." A lead acid battery could be marked different ways, either "lead acid," "sealed lead acid gel," or simply "gel-cell."
It is difficult to discern the point of Matt York's apologia for VHS (Viewfinder, May 1998). His statement, "The quality of the video signal on a VHS tape is perfectly acceptable for any TV viewer," seems a bit reckless.
The fact that VHS has an overwhelming market share says nothing about its quality, which in fact seems to be the lowest of any format available (or perhaps its market share says something perverse about its quality). That people don't mind that VHS's color is smeared on with a pastiness and lack of detail that is ludicrous, or that most of the apparent detail in VHS is simply edge noise or other artifacts of signal degradation would seem to raise a question about your equating of market share with quality.
Perhaps what you mean by "perfectly acceptable" is that this tolerance for astoundingly poor quality is tolerated by enough of the public to make it the acceptable commercial standard. This seems hardly a reason to praise VHS as a format. I think many people are able to draw a distinction between market share and quality; praising the high market share of VHS might be more appropriately directed at the marketers of VHS than those interested in videotape as a recording medium.
You're absolutely right. VHS is certainly not acceptable quality for videophiles like yourself. We should have said that "most" TV viewers find it acceptable. If this weren't so, there wouldn't be a Blockbuster.
I really appreciated the article on video instruction in schools (March 1998). I have subscribed to Videomaker for the past four years, and my students and I have benefited from many of the articles. It is a valuable resource in many ways, especially because most of the articles are not too technical to scare my beginning students; yet some articles challenge those of us who have worked with video for a while.
I know that the study of video production is growing in popularity in my area as well as on a national level. It is an exciting time for this creative form of communication.