Getting the Camcorder There First

Fun, Fun, Fun Applications

I was headed for the mailbox to send a letter to Loren Alldrin at your
magazine, since I respect his technical reviews and thought he might be
interested in the video experiences of a strict amateur. As the mail had
already been delivered, it was too late to post my letter. But my
disappointment eased when I saw the August 1994 issue of
Videomaker and I knew several hours of enjoyment lay ahead of me.

When I got to Stephen Muratore’s Pause column “GettingThereFirst” on
the last page, I was amazed. It seemed directed right at me. I imagine other
readers felt the same way.

As evidence that I’m one of those videomakers who actually uses his or her
camcorder, following are four recent examples:

  1. I am experimenting with different tomato plant varieties in my garden. I
    videotape each plant to record date of ripening, size of crop, insect damage,
    etc. Photographs might have sufficed, but the audio track is invaluable for
    adding comments.

  2. My daughter and son-in-law are building a new house. I am videotaping the
    skeleton before the drywall goes up to locate plumbing, wiring and other hidden
    components. This hasproven very useful on several occasions during
    remodeling work on my own home.

  3. I taped some storm damage to our roof. An insurance adjuster said that
    would be even better than photographs, since panning would give a better
    perspective of the damage.

  4. Neighbors brought their first baby home and since they didn’t have a
    camcorder, I lent them one of mine to record those precious first days.
    Needless to say, they now have a camcorder of their own.

This list could
go on and on. I think it shows that in my case it’s not the money that drives
my use of video, but fun, fun, fun!

Bob Ferguson

Barrington, Illinois

An Ounce of Prevention

I paid three bucks for your September 1994 issue of Videomaker
because it had a headline on the front cover that read “PreventGeneration
Loss.” That three bucks was lost. The article merely suggested ways to
reduce generation loss. You owe me three bucks.

Albert Mitchell

Chico, California

Picture Pages

I have been a subscriber of Videomaker for three years. I find most
columns in your magazine as written by William Ronat and Loren Alldrin
excellent, except for one thing. As an amateur videomaker, I sometimes find it
difficult to understand them since there are no diagrams or pictures to
demonstrate what they are talking about. These diagrams would help me a lot.

Peter S. Graziano

Pomona, California


First of all, let me sincerely thank you for Videomaker magazine. As an
aspiring video producer, the information provided by your magazine is
priceless. I can honestly say that I have learned more about tape formats,
SEGs, TBCs and digital video in the September issue alone than I did in two
semesters of university video production classes.

I “discovered” your magazine while doing an internship with the local ABC
affiliate. I had gone out with the remote production truck to shoot a news
segment at a bookstore. Having some time to kill, I browsed through the
magazine section. Ironically, in an internship filled with lessons about
television production, my most valuable revelation may turn out to be the
existence of Videomaker.

Once again, thank you for a great magazine and resource. I have already sent
in my subscription order, and anxiously await future issues. Keep up the good

Alan Rustici

Pawcatuck, Connecticut

VHS-C Overlooked

Your recent article Department of Tape Transportation (August
) was informative in detailing the rather complex design of camcorder
transport. However, I don’t understand why your magazine routinely promotes 8mm
camcorders while overlooking recent improvements in the VHS-C format!

My VHS-C camcorder, weighing in just under two pounds, has a full-size
recording head (just like my VCR), a flying erase head (for good edits), and I
don’t have to copy my tapes to VHS to be compatible with the rest of the world
(or my VCR).

I also enjoy dubbing music over my first generation family movies to create
more enjoyable viewing of my sometimes lengthy videos.

And who cares about writing speed, recording speed, fields/frames, control
tracks, helical scan or the like? My recordings look great! I also found that
my 1.5 hour (SLP) recordings have the same picture quality as my friend’s 8mm
camcorder (contrary to popular belief).

Most video stores now offer a great selection in either format with state of
the art features and performance. So what’s the Beef?

Steve Tedder

Lillburn, Georgia

Mind Reels

I bought the August 1994 issue of Videomaker just the other day.
I confess that I didn’t even know it existed until I saw it at a drugstore. I
am completely new at this game, and find myself searching the newsstands for
more and more information. Of all the magazines I have picked up so far, yours
is the most user-friendly and interesting. I devoured Jim Stinson’s article
Department of Tape Transportation, having made so many mistakes on my
maiden effort.

I’ve had this Panasonic PV-604 camcorder for about five years. I’d take it on
trips and then never have the patience to sit through all the junk I shot. I
knew that I had inadvertently bought a camcorder with audio–and video–dubbing
buttons, but just never got around to learning how to use them until June.

Since then it has been an obsession. It is so much fun! And so easy! I love to
juxtapose images in ridiculous context with totally wacky music behind them,
and substitute ludicrous shots in commercials.

I too have mused about your oft-mentioned “video-humanity.” I think that soon
we will be walking TV stations, broadcasting everything we do for all to see,
maybe even pay-per-view. The mind reels.

Thank you for your time. If I stay enthusiastic about video, I’m sure I will
want to upgrade in a few months, maybe to DTV. I’ll subscribe to
Videomaker to keep learning about this fabulous new hobby.

Fred C. Kopp

Malibu, California

Battery Corrections

The October 1994 battery article Energize Your Camcorder by Glenn
Calderone is full of errors. I’ll address a few of the most glaring ones

The article starts with history. The author credits Edison with the
development of the first practical 2-volt cell similar to today’s automotive
cell, known as lead acid or the “Edisoncell.” In fact, Gaston Plante’
developed the first lead-acid cell in 1859. Edison began developing the first
nickel-iron cell around 1900. This is what is known as the Edison cell (a
chemistry similar to NiCd). Waldmer Junger developed the first practical NiCd
about the same time as Edison developed his cell.

In the section on lead-acid batteries, the author incorrectly stated that
lead-acid cells discharge faster than NiCd cells. NiCds average 25 percent to
30 percent monthly; lead acid cells average only 1 to 5 percent discharge a

The author describes the cells used in video as Gel-Cells(tm). Not true–the
batteries used in most video applications are actually starved electrolyte
cells. In this type of construction, liquid electrolyte is absorbed (like a
sponge) into plates and separators. Starved electrolyte cells perform better
than gels at high discharge and charge rates, don’t have excess electrolyte
that can spill if they are broken, and have better cycle life characteristics
(300 to 2000 uses or 5 to 10 years).

Lead acids have excellent energy density. In fact, they store more energy for
their size than NiCds.

Lead acids do have to be stored fully charged, but this is a plus, not a
minus. Due to their superior charge holding during storage, the battery is
ready to use when you are.

Lead acids of the starved-electrolyte type will accept a rapid charge in 1 to
2 hours. Most gel types require much longer charge times, as do NiCds not
designed for rapid charge. In addition, there are lead-acids as well as NiCds
specifically designed for extra high rate charge and/or discharge.

Most full-size VHS camcorders that use lead acid batteries utilize an extra
high-rate battery that charges in about an hour. Lead acids are exceptional for
high rate discharge as well.

In the section on nickel-cadmium batteries, the author correctly stated that
NiCds have a high power to weight ratio. However, their power to volume
ratio is lower than lead-acids. Real memory-type failures are rare, and
overcharging is not a problem with NiCds.

Usage patterns and the complexity (number of cells in a pack) of a NiCd
battery cause most premature failures. Due to their high rate of self-discharge
(average 25 percent a month and varying cell to cell from 5 percent to 60
percent a month), NiCds stored in a charged condition will often fail.

A rapid charger (as in a camcorder) will sense the higher cells as fully
charged, never fully charging the low one. Subsequent cycles will eventually
make the pack fail, the lower cell becoming lower and lower until its so low
the battery becomes inoperative. With trickle charging, this problem is not as

With trickle charging, however, the unit must overcharge the high cells in
order to charge the low one. As a result, dendrites (spikes that grow through
the insulating separators) cause the high cells to internally short circuit.

The author states that NiCds are stable at 1.2 volts per cell through their
whole discharge cycle. This is not true. Individual NiCd cells start at about
1.3 volts, dropping off until they are considered dead at 1.0 volts per cell.
This results in a falling voltage from 13 to 10 volts for a 12-volt pack and
6.5 to 5 volts for a 6-volt pack. In camcorders with standard 10.8 or 5.5 volt
cutoffs, only 80 percent of a NiCd’s full capacity is used.

Mitchell S. Brandwin

Bescor Video Accessories LTD.

Video Wonderland

Since Stephen Muratore asked on the last page of the August 1994
Videomaker what we were doing with our camcorders, here’s what I have
done with mine.

I got the camera (Sharp Slimcam) to film our marionettes and nature scenes to
send to aged relatives in poor health.

Video is a little window on the world for the homebound. When my mother was
confined with terminal cancer, I turned her TV into one of these little video
windows. She was an accomplished botanist; so with her love of plants in mind,
I set out to film all the plants in bloom on our farm, both wild and tame, with
every change of season. Thus began my nature video.

The camera’s close-up capacity allows me to capture scenes of screen-filling
single luminous blooms, along with intoxicating panoramas of hundreds of
blooms, accompanied by the anxious chirps of cardinals nesting in the bush. I
shoot wildflowers, grasses and Queen Anne’s lace, rows of sprouting soybeans
marching purposefully across the terraces, blackberries in bloom in snowy

I shoot the world of nature at night as well. Since I tend the livestock, I
always finish my work in the dark. Wearing a 6-volt lantern on a shoulder
strap, I have a view of the night world that’s pretty unique–and my camcorder
lets me share it…the little rabbit sneaking into the barn lot to eat out of
the duck’s dishes, the little frog enjoying a good soak in the puddle under a
water pan, the glow of the day lilies backlit by the security lights, rain
drops on the rain lilies’ petals.

My mother’s home health care nurses and drop-in visitors loved these tapes,
and asked for copies for other patients. The very ill and elderly cannot follow
a plot or dialogue, which often bothers them anyway; they may be on medication,
which causes them to doze fitfully or affects their balance or visual focus.
Family and friends come to visit, but what can they say? My videos allow them
to interact with patients; they watch “thesebeautifulpaintingscometolife”
(as one viewer put it) together.

These videos are soothing for patients, unlike most commercial nature
programming, which often includes violent footage. There’s a great need for
such video in nursing homes, in hospitals treating children and for homebound
ill patients. They enjoy them as they would simple picture books.Many
of today’s elderly once had much contact with animals; they had backyard cows
and chickens for fresh milk, eggs and meat. One patient told me, “Oh, I never
thought I’d see a duck again for the rest of my life!”

Children, too, are crazy about animals, especially puppies and kittens–baby
animals of all kinds, really.

I think camcorder owners miss some wonderful opportunities while waiting for
momentous events to shoot. I’m reminded of the time the highly regarded
naturalist Louis Aggassiz Fuertes kept an audience of fellow naturalists
spellbound by his observations.

“Where were you?” they asked enviously, suggesting all sorts of exotic

“Half way across my backyard,” he answered.

The view down my camcorder’s eyepiece is like a tumble down Alice in
Wonderland’s rabbit hole. I had always been able to go alone; now I can take
all my viewers with me. And they really enjoy the ride.

In Stephen Muratore’s column, he says that “there are three reasons for
finding new uses for video: money, money and fun.”

Isn’t there an important possibility missing there?

Like love?

Mary Duke Guldan

Jackson, Tennessee

The Videomaker Editors are dedicated to bringing you the information you need to produce and share better video.

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