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
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.