You are here

Beginner needs advice on hardware/software for documentary

cfox's picture
Last seen: 4 years 11 months ago
Joined: 08/08/2009 - 5:52pm

Hello everyone. As stated in the title, I am a complete beginner to all of this, so I would really appreciate any and all advice. I'm planning a documentary-style production as part of a little project I'm working on, but I need some serious help deciding what exactly I need. I've been looking at some camcorders and researching as best I possibly can, and I already have a decent PC that I hope will be able to handle the editing side, so let me run those by you first.

Camcorder
I'm looking at the Canon VIXIA HF S10. It's a HD model and has internatl 32GB storage which I think would be handy considering I'll be shooting at multiple locations and might not want to transfer video to my PC in between (or have multiple cards). However, I'm not sure if this is the model that I NEED...it's a great-looking camcorder and would handle my project nicely from what I can tell, but if I should start with something lower-end first I'd be open to hearing that. The big question is...do I need HD? If I shoot with an SD camera will it affect the picture when viewed on TV's (will it be 4:3 or can I still get a 16:9 with an SD camera)?

PC
I currently have a Dell XPS 730x as my gaming rig that I think I should be able to use for the editing side of this project. It has an Intel i7-920 processor (8 core, probably 2.6GHz if I remember right). It has 6GB of RAM, running Vista 64-bit, and I've got a dual ATI Radeon 4870HD for a total of 4GB video RAM. I have one hard drive, and from what I've read on the Adobe website about the Production Premium suite, I don't know if I'll need a second hard drive (website says "dedicated hard drive for editing...."). Just not sure. So do you think I will be fine with this computer?

Editing Software
I've been looking seriously at Adobe Premeire Pro (and the other titles included with that CS4 suite). The biggest question I have on this is would I be able to run that software suite smoothly on my PC with the specs listed above? Second, am I starting too big? I don't really want to use Windows Media Player, and I know that Adobe Premeire is very high-end, so if there's something int he middle that will get the job done and make my project look just as nice, please let me know.

Alright, that's all of my questions so far. I am very much a beginner, but I'll save the technique questions for a later time and try to figure most of them out myself while I'm experimenting with my gear once I get it. For now, I need the most help with figuring out what the best gear would be for this project. I know you pros must read many posts from beginners and get tired of answering all these simple questions, but I would really appreciate any help you can offer! Thanks in advance!


BruceMol's picture
Last seen: 2 weeks 6 days ago
Joined: 03/11/2008 - 10:35pm

I think you are starting off right. I just finished up a documentary using two Canon HD Cameras, an i7 920 PC, Adobe PPro CS3. I shot in HD though my project was always intended to be 16:9 SD. (you can select 4:3 or 16:9 SD in the menu options) Shooting in HD allows for some flebilityin framing a shot, you can move around quite a bit in the frame. I highly highly highly recommend one more drive. Also note what others are currently writing in recent posts about professional products like Adobe - they hardly ever choke. I can't recall how many sequences I had but I had 25 x 63min DV tapes to edit and the only time I had trouble is when I inadvertently caused it!


cfox's picture
Last seen: 4 years 11 months ago
Joined: 08/08/2009 - 5:52pm

Just to clarify, are you saying on an HD camera like the Canon I was looking at, I should be able to choose to shoot in 16:9 SD even though it's an HD camera...is that right? One other clarification, I've heard that editing in HD is extremely demanding on the computer, can mine really handle that or should I shoot in SD if I can?

Thanks for the advice on Adobe, I'm looking forward to getting it and diving in to get used to it!

Please keep the suggestions coming, I really appreciate it!


BruceMol's picture
Last seen: 2 weeks 6 days ago
Joined: 03/11/2008 - 10:35pm

According to the HFS10 manualhttp://gdlp01.c-wss.com/gds/9/0300001969/02/hfs10-s100-nim01-en.pdfyou are always recording in wide screen. There are 5 recording modes2 of which are full HD abnd the others are less. So, for this camera, it appears that the 4:3 option doesn't really exist (see pages 46 & 46). Previous cameras (I use an HV20 and XHA1) do have that option.

If you really need to produce in 4:3 aspect ratio you'll have to set up your Adobe Project settings to reflect that, capture your recording and if what you want is not in the field then nudge it over.

Certainly HD is more demanding on the computer. With my i7 920 based computer I can have 3 HDV video timelines beforeI see a halt in processing. Sooner if I've color corrected an entire timeline. My previous computer could barely handle 1 line of HD though it had no problem with 3 timelines of SD.


cfox's picture
Last seen: 4 years 11 months ago
Joined: 08/08/2009 - 5:52pm

Thank you so much for all the help! Now I have a better idea of what the capabilities of my system are as far as editing, so now it just comes down to deciding on the camera model. I'm looking forward to my first project, so thanks again for the help and suggestions!


cfox's picture
Last seen: 4 years 11 months ago
Joined: 08/08/2009 - 5:52pm

Dang, just as I licked Post, one last question, lol....

On my secondary hard drive, do I need it to be an internal drive or could I get by with an external? I'm assuming I could just dump all my footage from the camera on an external and then transfer it over to my internal to edit on it, but Adobe's reccomendations leave my wondering if that will work smoothly. Any advice?


TDedmonSBP's picture
Last seen: 5 years 4 months ago
Joined: 03/23/2009 - 6:10pm

I do all of my editing from my external. I have a 72000RPM seagate connected with firewire 800 and it runs just fine with Adobe master CS4. If you can find an external with eSata then you will be even better off because of the speed.


BruceMol's picture
Last seen: 2 weeks 6 days ago
Joined: 03/11/2008 - 10:35pm

Icapture toan internal hard drive for editing, but I also eSATA drives for backups.My preference is to have 2 copies, one on the data drive of my computer and one on an eSATA drive which Iregularly exchange for another drive in my safety deposit box at the bank. Read about the read/write speeds and I'm sure you'll go with eSATA. My new m/b (ASUS P6T) has an eSATA port and I was able to add an eSATA card to my other computer quite easily.


lmenningen's picture
Last seen: 1 hour 34 min ago
Joined: 08/12/2009 - 4:15pm
Plus Member

1. I use PremierePro CS4 and use multi-cameras and may have many more than threetimelines/sequences, some nested, and all the other stuff you'd do when editing, and PremierePro handles them just fine. There doesn't seem to be a limit to the number of timelines.

2. Your computer should be OK, but having three (3) internal or eSata hard drives can help.Premiere lets you allocate drives: say drive C for the system and project files, drive Dfor your source files and a third drive for the preview files. This allocation provides tremendous speed improvements. Buy tera-byte drives.

3. Your processor should be fine - mine is the i7-940 which is only slightly faster than yours, but I do have 12GB memory. Before I went to Vista 64-bit I had a system with only 4GB of memory, and PremierePro CS4 constantly crashed on projects of very minimal size. It was very frustrating, and it crashed on over a dozen projects. The problem was that 4GB in a 32-bit OS is not enough. You have 6GB and a 64-bit OS which is much better, but be alert for crashes - that shouldn't happen unless you have a larger project; most projects should work just fine.

4. Editing doesn't make much use of your kind of graphics power, but of course it won't interfere in any way either.


cfox's picture
Last seen: 4 years 11 months ago
Joined: 08/08/2009 - 5:52pm

I've been trying to read around about the compatability with the Canon VIXIA HF S10 and Premeire Pro, but I need some confirmation. I've read there may be difficulties with this model's encoding (AVCHD) and Premier...any idea if this camcorder will cause me any problems if using it with Premiere to edit?


NormanWillis's picture
Last seen: 5 years 7 months ago
Joined: 12/08/2008 - 5:56am

You'll be fine. You'll have some technical support issues, because that is the nature of the beast. But your basic plan and strategy is sound.

You definitely want a second hard drive for HD: and in fact a RAID 0 setup for the second driveis even better, although not entirely necessary.

AVCHD is a bear, because the files are compressed so much. The processor has to uncompress them on the fly in order to edit them, which is a big job, so it taxes the processor heavily. However, you can ease the load on your machine somewhat by transcoding the files with Cineform NeoScene, a $99.00 utility through Videoguys. I use the Canon HF S10 (whichIlove)and the AVCHD .mts files make myCoreDuo Quad 3.0GHz run at 95% capacity on all four cores. However, when I transcode the files first with NeoScene they run at about 57%, and the colorspace is much better. NeoSceneis the cheapest thing you can do to increase your relative processing power/speed. It makes AVCHD editing so much easier.

Internal drives are at least hypothetically better than external drives. Some guys have problems with external drives, but it all depends on you and your machine. Most guys use external drives with out problems, but if you have the option, bring the hard drives inside of the box to eliminate problems. The same goes for DVD or BluRay burners. Most times you are fine. But.

>>Second, am I starting too big? I don't really want to use Windows Media Player, and I know that Adobe Premeire is very high-end, so if there's something int he middle that will get the job done and make my project look just as nice, please let me know.

If you want something 'in the middle' try Sony Vegas. It is a comprehensive all-in-one suite that is very easy to use. Most of the people on this forum (maybe 2/3rds) use it, because it is so easy to use, and because it deliversexcellent bang for the buck. It does not have the higher-end features of CS4, but lots of guys use Vegas for their primary(because it is so much easier) and then they export whatever needs 'finishing touches' to CS4 with a free utility called DebugMode Frameserver (which I have not used yet, but everyone loves).

I hope that helps.


NormanWillis's picture
Last seen: 5 years 7 months ago
Joined: 12/08/2008 - 5:56am

And it sounds like you are doing your research, which is good. You will hit snags, but persevere. Your basic plan seems sound.


cfox's picture
Last seen: 4 years 11 months ago
Joined: 08/08/2009 - 5:52pm

Thanks so much for the helpful advice! I know I'm bound to hit some snags along the way, as you said, but I wanted to get as many suggestions as possible from people with much more experience. So, thanks for that!


cfox's picture
Last seen: 4 years 11 months ago
Joined: 08/08/2009 - 5:52pm

Alright, so I'm in the process of purchasing a couple external hard drives to get a head start on this before I bite the larger bullet of ordering the sotware and camera. Here's where I'm at so far...

LaCie 1TB external HD, very affordable at $165 each from Dell. Only problem is it doesn't appear my PC has FW 800 connectivity (heard Vista doesn't support that interface yet...?), so I won't be able to daisy chain two of these on the 800Mbps side. So here's the big question, do I get two drives and daisy on FW 400 or just get one drive and connect via eSATA?

Thanks again for all the help!


cfox's picture
Last seen: 4 years 11 months ago
Joined: 08/08/2009 - 5:52pm

It seems I forgot to mention something huge in my original post that would have helped guide the suggestions thus far. My delivery method for my documentary project will be DVD and web video (smallest file size possible), so if I would have disclosed that in the beginning I'm sure I would have been guided to the point where my research led me today. The camera I was looking at was great, but there's no way for me to burn AVCHD to a regular DVD disc, and the majority of my target audience does not own a Blu-Ray player, nor do I own a BR burner. So, although that camcorder is very nice and I'd love to start with that one, if I can't burn my HD video then I can't justify purchasing an HD camera at the moment.

Stepping down to an SD camera just made things much less complicated for me as far as hardware/software, so let me just run one other things past you guys. Instead of the Canon HF S10, would the Canon FS22 be sufficient? I'm having some difficulty finding answers to my questions about the speicific cameras in question, so I hope you guys aren't tired of helping this newb yet. I just need a camera that will be able to shoot some good footage for a documentary. It must have decent sound or ability to connect a mic, must have tripod connection, etc. Please give any advice on the camera side if you can, and I'll promise to stop posting for a while, lol.