Over the years, a lot has changed in regards to video technology. The once cumbersome, shoebox-sized camcorders are now so small you can literally fit them in your front pocket. Media has evolved from the lackluster VHS and Hi8 formats to hard drives, CF and SD cards, making it possible to store hours of footage on a memory card no larger than a coin, while never having to sacrifice picture quality due to generational loss.
No matter the changes in video technology, Videomaker has been dedicated to helping you, our readers, find the answers to your questions. Throughout the years, our goal has remained the same: to provide you with top-notch information on video equipment and technology; tips and tutorials for making better videos; and a community that can help one another become the best at their craft. But most importantly, our goal is to meet your video needs. One way we do this is by listening to what you have to say.
A Closer Look
A look at our reader survey results show that your individual equipment needs and instructional needs, are as unique as each of your projects. Oftentimes, the wide variety of equipment choices can leave you wondering which new purchases will make you the happiest, and which ones will sorely disappoint. In times of uncertainty, it’s not uncommon for you to seek additional information from friends, coworkers, tech sites and magazines, such as Videomaker.
“For me, the most difficult part of buying new gear is trying to make decisions about equipment that I am not familiar with,” says David Marks, a woodworker gearing up to create his own educational DVDs. “As a master woodworker I can evaluate a woodworking machine and decide whether or not it will give me the performance I am looking for. In the world of computers, I am a beginner, so I need to spend a lot of time doing research before making a purchase.”
So, how much time is needed to research costly gear? When we asked the Videomaker community how long you might spend researching a $1,000 purchase, the average reader responded with three weeks or more.
While 26.2% of our readers have received formal video training, and 26.7% have at least received some, almost half of our readers have no formal video training whatsoever. Fortunately, a lack of formal training doesn’t inhibit our readers from wanting to pursue video production and perfect their craft. In fact, despite formal training, or the lack thereof, 82.3% of you have considered turning your hobby into a business.
“I am a beginner,” says Karetta Crooks Charles, Communications and Advocacy Officer at Saint Lucia National Trust, ” I decided to start [producing video] because it will be a useful tool to increase my organization’s visibility, as well as improve our advocacy mandate as we strive to make people more aware of the importance of protecting the environment”.
Since the camcorder is an essential piece to the video production puzzle, we were pleased to see that our surveys showed 100% of our readers owning at least one. 33.3% of readers own two camcorders. 22.6% own three, and an astonishing 27.5% own four or more camcorders.
When trying to decide on a camcorder purchase, a common question we receive from our readers is “Which camcorder is best?” And while there is no definite answer, as each person’s needs and budget vary, our surveys have shown that the majority of our readers choose Canon (47.3%) or Sony (51.4%), with Panasonic (24.7%) being the most common third option.
Dave Snow from Los Altos, California told us that he just recently started using a Canon EOS 7D HDSLR for his creative shoots.
“It definitely lives up to the hype. The video is gorgeous, and having the ability to really control the camera settings and lenses gives a videographer wide latitude for creative expression. I’ve also found that the DSLR format attracts a lot less attention from bystanders, which is helpful for staying focused on the shoot. Video DSLRs are great for travel too. You still need a good tripod, but the combo is small and inconspicuous enough to go just about anywhere.”
Cynthia Cortez and business partner Angelica Huerta, also find the smaller sized camcorders preferable.
“I primarily have used an Everio JVC digital camcorder, but I am now using a Sony HVR-A1U,” says Cortez, who recently purchased the Sony HVR-A1U in August 2010. “I like the small size of the Sony camera. It makes it highly portable and easy to use for long-term filming.” However, Cortez also mentions that the size tends to be a problem from time to time, because “it weighs so little, making it difficult for balancing while filming.”
Other readers, like Chris Wadden of Pasadena, California, prefer to have multiple camcorders at their disposal, depending on their needs.
“I use a Sony HDR-HC7 with a lot of ancillary equipment. I have a variety of tripods to provide unusual points of view,” says Wadden.
He also purchased a pocket camcorder for getting certain on-the-go shots.
“I bought a FLIP video camera to carry around with me all the time to catch those unique moments. I love the convenience and simplicity, but I would like a few more features.”
Of those owning camcorders, 51.9% of you own both standard definition and high definition camcorders, while 33.6% own standard definition camcorders and 13% own HD camcorders only. Interestingly, 1.5% of you weren’t sure what kind of camera you owned.
Without lights, our images would be in complete darkness. Quality lighting helps create a video that is rich in color and tones, yet 28.9% of our readers use no lights at all on a typical shoot. 36.5% of you use 1 to 2 lights, 28.1% use 3 to 4 lights typically, while 6.4% use five or more lights on a typical shoot.
Those of you who use professional lighting instruments generally use softboxes. Focusable spotlights come in at a close second. Bare bulbs, Fresnels, and fluorescents ranked comparably, ranging from 10 – 14% of reader usage. Currently, only 7.6% of readers use LED lights, but it’s possibly only a matter of time before that number grows.
Dave Snow explains, “We have a wide compliment of standard tungsten lighting products, but have recently been using LED lighting on remote location with great success. The low power draw, lack of heat, and ability to adjust the lighting levels is fabulous for quick setup and provides a much more comfortable shooting environment for the talent.”
When production has wrapped and our readers return to the edit bay to begin cutting their footage, more often than not, it’s on a PC (68.3%, as opposed to the 30.4% that are editing on a Mac). 33.2% edit on a laptop, while 65.5% prefer to work their magic on a desktop.
Everyone enjoys their down time, however, according to a majority of our readers their editing computers aren’t used for any purpose other than to edit video, which results in a majority of you basing your computer purchases on how well it can edit video. This was the case with David Marks, who also wanted a computer that would be able to last throughout the coming years.
“Since I am committed to this process long term, I want to invest in equipment that I can continue to upgrade and add on to years from now,” says Marks, “This led me to the Mac Pro Tower. I have been researching the iMac i7 27-inch screen computer loaded to its maximum potential. I have talked to several videographers who said this will definitely do the job although the concern is that three years from now the equipment could be outdated.”
Every video editor needs editing software to get the job done. 60.4% of our respondents are most interested in advanced software, 33.9% would prefer intermediate level software while 5.7% desire beginner software.
Jennifer Ashley, who is working on developing a high school level video production program, says, “We make feature packages that support the news of the school. Right now we use Premiere Pro to edit, Pinnacle Dazzle units to capture, and mini DV tapes to record on. We have a small studio that enables us to use Reflecmedia instead of a green screen, and we have a virtual studio via a Tricaster. Our field shooting is strictly edited in Premiere Pro.“
Though it is great software, Adobe Premiere Pro isn’t for everyone. David Marks has found Final Cut Pro to be his editing software of choice.
“A lot of people really like the Adobe products and are very excited about the new CS5 editing suite. I think this is fine if you are skilled with computers. For a beginner, ongoing instruction is paramount. This fact alone plus the outstanding reputation of the Mac products and Final Cut Pro for editing, has led me to my local Apple store where I can utilize the one-to-one program to get continued education on the computer as well as the Final Cut Pro editing system.“
Community – It Takes a Village…
Dave Snow told us recently that he has found Videomaker‘s The Basics of Video Production Workshop “to be a great way to get a solid understanding of the entire video making process. The instructors I’ve had at Videomaker are top notch and have real ‘in the field’ experience to share. One of the greatest benefits I’ve found in these workshops is meeting and sharing ideas with other active videographers from around the country. It’s a fun, jam-packed few days of hands-on learning and sharing.”
The Videomaker workshops are, indeed, a great place to rub elbows with other videographers who are working in the field, but for those of you who live too far or lack the funds to travel to the VM headquarters, we have a lively online community of Videomaker readers.
Becoming a community member allows you to build a profile, interact with other members, post your videos in the Showcase section of the Videomaker forum, receive constructive critiques from your peers, share video techniques, post a question for discussion or answer one. Another great feature of the Videomaker forum is the ability to subscribe to a specific forum topic and have it appear in your RSS feed. This allows instant updates to be sent to your RSS reader whenever someone posts a comment on your thread or favorite topic. The best part about this feature is your questions get answered without having to spend valuable time checking on your post.
A Final Thought
All in all, here at Videomaker, we can’t be more pleased with our readers. Your dedication to the art of video production, enthusiasm to learn, willingness to help others in the Videomaker community while sharing your experience and knowledge has made each day an enriching experience for everyone. We enjoy seeing each of your responses and wish you the best of luck in all of your video endeavors.
Julie Babcock is Videomaker‘s Associate Multimedia Editor.