Of Lux and Such

I have read many times how various camcorders are rated at one lux, three lux, etc. I also know that, at least up until now, there has been no standard among manufacturers in arriving at these ratings, and that your magazine and most manufacturers recommend at least 100 lux to get a decent picture.

My question is: just how can I determine the available lux in a low-light situation? Is there a light meter that I can use, similar to those used for photographic film?


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Ivan A. Michael

West Hazelton, Pennsylvania

Thats right, Ivan; there used to be no accepted standard for measuring low-light performance in camcorders. Manufacturers who wanted to improve their cameras lux ratings had only to change the test standards in their favor. Then, in 1996, the Electronics Industries Association issued EIA-639, a standard for measuring lux ratings in camcorders. As a result, these ratings have become meaningful to the consumer.

You can purchase an inexpensive meter that will tell you exactly how much light is available at a given location. These devices, which are available through photo supply stores and mail-order houses for around $100, usually measure light in footcandles; each footcandle is equal to roughly 10.7 lux. This means that the minimum amount of light youd be shooting for on one of these devices is around 10 footcandles.

Claymation, Etc.

I would like to know if its possible to use video equipment to make stop-action animations. If so, what would be the best method to do this, and what type of video equipment would I need?

Tony Flemmings

Raleigh, North Carolina

Yes, it is possible to create high-quality stop-motion animation with video equipment. Unfortunately, the cost of the basic equipment needed to separately shoot each frame of 30-frame-per-second video is quite high ($10,000 plus).

Nonetheless, many video hobbyists find it possible to create acceptable-quality animations with just a tripod and a remote control. In fact, one of the winners of the 1994 Videomaker/Panasonic Tape Contest awards went to Mary Lou Taylor and her stop-motion piece, Marching to the Vegetables. Her method was simply to arrange a miniature scene in front of the lens, press record/pause as rapidly as possible, make incremental changes to the scene, press record/pause, etc. until the whole thing was finished. The results are choppy and somewhat crude by professional standards, but it does work.

All Mixed Up

I recently bought a new VCR and I am a little confused about the audio insert function. The VCR has a setting for Audio Mix, which blends the hi-fi and the linear audio tracks together. When they are mixed like this and there is nothing dubbed on the linear track, the whole audio comes out distorted. I was wondering if all VCRs with audio dub do this, or if its just something Im not doing right.

Jason Sanders

Poway, California

Perhaps your problem stems from the lack of material on the linear audio track; all youre hearing is tape hiss mixed with the hi-fi audio. Its also possible, depending on what kind of "distortion" youre hearing, that the linear track holds the same audio thats contained on the hi-fi track; in this situation, the two audio tracks are the same, but they play back just slightly out of sync, causing an annoying echo effect. In either case, recording fresh material onto the linear audio track, or perhaps just turning it down (if you can) will cure the problem.

Most editing VCRs with the audio dubbing feature work in a similar fashion.

Budget Blues

I am working on an extremely low-budget special effects movie. I intend to do some bluescreen work, and I would appreciate any tips you could give me concerning what type of equipment I should buy, and where I should get it without spending a fortune.

Josh Bernhard

Port Washington, New York

The most common type of device used for this purpose is a special effects generator (SEG) or video mixer. Low-cost SEGs are available from Videonics, Sima, Panasonic and others, at prices ranging from $500-$1200. Used units are frequently made available for purchase on usenet newsgroups (such as rec.video.production and others) for as low as $200. Good luck!

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