What else should I be thinking about?

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    • #47378

      Hello all!

      First, I just posted the following on another forum here, but in case you haven’t already seen it, I would be GRATEFUL for your answers to any of the following:

      I’ve seen enough posts to know that specifics can help to get the right answer, so I’ll quickly lay out the specifics of my situation. I would be grateful for any help you can provide!

      I’m trying to find out what camera I should buy. I’d like to get the least expensive thing I can find that truly does what is needed, if that makes sense.

      -I am looking to create instructional videos having to do with playing piano, that will be sold online (streaming and/or downloads) AND in physical form, such as DVD.

      -I want it to look as professional as possible, so I would like to be able to shoot in 1080p/60. (At least I think I do: thoughts?) I realize that not everything is produced in such high-quality, but I also know that more and more people are getting closer and closer to HD, so it seems prudent to aim high in quality if possible. At the very least, though, I don’t want something that would be of such low quality that it would give the viewer a bad impression of the content of the video.

      -Everything will be shot indoors. Most shots will be either “waist-up” shots of me speaking, or close-up shots of my hands (mixed with screen shots done on my computer). I’ve seen some scary reviews of some cameras that say they perform poorly in low-light situations. I don’t have any need to shoot in “low” light per se, but it will not be outdoors. I’m not really sure whether my situation qualifies as “low-light,” so I don’t know whether these reviews should concern me or not.

      -I think a wide-angle lens would be good for what I’m doing, but it may not be crucial. (I’m not trying to be secretive, just trying not to clutter this with extraneous details). I can elaborate if needed.

      -I have separate audio equipment, so the quality of the camera’s microphone isn’t a big issue. A mic input jack would obviously be helpful, but I could record a separate track into my computer and sync the audio afterwards, if need be.

      -It would be IDEAL to find something in the $300-$500 range, but I have no idea whether this is feasible.

      Second, as I am looking to produce educational videos, I wanted to ask on this forum, specifically: what are some other things to be concerned about? What are some potential pitfalls, or what has your experience taught you? Any thoughts?

      Thanks so much!


    • #195172


      Wow, you’re about as ‘fresh out the box’ as they come! Right off I have to
      tell you there’s a lot to making instructional videos or videos at all. Despite
      your newness to it all, I can say it’s not impossible to do. Right now, you’ve
      got much bigger issues than just ‘what camera to buy’. You say ‘you want a
      professional look’ but it’s not your camera that’s going to make that happen.
      In the hands of someone with some training and experience, a ‘crap’ camera can
      produce some good if not great results depending on the user.

      Videos of all types depend on a lot of factors to get completed and be
      ‘viewable’ (meaning being watchable without wanting to scream.) Camera quality
      does count, but use of lighting, sound and editing the final product are just as critical. You have a potential plan of action, but none of the tools or knowledge to currently pull it off. If you want to make something that’s marketable beyond a ‘YouTube Special’, you’ve only got two options:

      Option 1 – Link up with a professional.

      This is a viable option in that the pro will already have the gear and know-how to get your project going. Your main role will be as a producer who will supply funding, talent and or resources to get the project made. You’ll collaborate with the pro on writing the training materials for the video format and in the process learn the technical side of production. That will be of great assistance when it comes time to make follow-up videos. You’ll either have to pay the pro outright or cut a deal for monies on the back-end depending on how enthusiastic the pro you negotiate with is about your project’s potential.

      Option 2: Do it all yourself. The much, much harder ‘row to hoe’, but not impossible to do. Before you spend a dime on camera gear, use as many free resources to learn how training videos are made. Contrary to what people try to make you think on the ‘Tube’, good training videos take time and effort to plan, write, produce and edit. Then there’s that whole nasty ‘Distribution’ thing to deal with once you’ve got the work done! Check out the many free video tutorials and forums on making training videos here at VM. Then start digging through the mountains of material on the subject posted throughout the web. Do your research first before spending any money!

      Now, don’t think that I’m trying to discourage you from your dream. What I am doing is trying to spare you the fate of millions who came before you. Those who with glistening eyes filled with enthusiasm ran out to Best Buy and the late Circuit City and spent their hard-earned money only to fall terribly short of their goals. The vast majority of those who’ve failed, did not take the time to really put eyeballs on what it really takes to do this stuff beyond the hobby stage. Just like it’s nearly impossible to become a pro-ball player with no training or skill, it’s the same with getting into video.

      However, armed with good info and a better understanding of the basic process it’s highly probable you can achieve your goal of making piano training videos. Don’t be hard-headed and jump into the shark tank without at least knowing how to swim!

      Good luck!

    • #195173

      James, I agree with composite about doing your home work as much as possible before jumping into the ‘shark tank’. If you do your homework and decide for Option 2-Do it all yourself, then I have a couple more specifics tht might help others and myself with our suggestions for a camcorder. Are you locked in to buying a new cam or would you consider a used one? Do you have lighting equipment or access to some? You mentioned the reviews of some camcorders having problems in low light. If you are shooting indoors, I would suggest that additional lighting is a necessity. Withenough lighting you can shoot with just about any camcorder and get great results. Relatively inexpensive work lights that can fill the bill are available at Q Depot/Mart types of stores.

    • #195174

      Hi, composite1 and vid-e-o-man! Thanks for the quick replies!

      I’d like to say several things, beginning with responding to composite1:

      In my own line of work, from time to time, I have had to deal with over-exited people with no idea as to how much work was really required to reach their goals. Many times I’ve had to give a reassuring “you can do this, but you’ve got to take a major step back and really see everything in context in order to know what to do and have a sense of how things will play out” talk. I feel, in effect, that that is what you are doing with me, and I thank you for that. I thank you for your honesty and concern. It shows that you care, that you understand your business, and you have probably run into countless people who didn’t “get it.” Again, when it comes to cameras, I’ve definitely got a lot to learn.

      That said, I seem to have made myself look a little more naive than I am. I’m not saying I haven’t got a lot to learn, and I don’t mean to sound defensive, but I’d like to set the record straight, to clarify what I’m asking for in this post.

      You’re absolutely right that I’m new to cameras. I do understand and appreciate that there is much more to getting a “professional look” than which camera you are using. However, it still seems to me a valid question, taken along with the many other things one must also consider, to ask for suggestions on which camera to use. I am currently, and have been for a little while, in the research phase that you suggest- checking out tutorials on lighting, learning the terminology, etc. I will not be spending money on a camera any time too soon. I’ll certainly be spending lots of time on these wonderful forums. This also comes on the heels of having spent the last two years in the development of the structure of the videos, and the overall business plan, including promotion and distribution, etc. I don’t claim to have everything completely worked out yet, but isn’t it wise and prudent for me to include asking for recommendations for cameras at some point, along with my other research? And with that, would you have any suggestions?

      Please take the above as having been stated in good cheer and with no nasty over-tones. I sometimes hate how text can sometimes be interpreted so differently, and I truly don’t mean to come off sounding like I’m “firing back” at you. But if the above reasoning isn’t solid for some reason, I’d appreciate your helping me to understand when I SHOULD start asking about cameras, and/or what some better questions to ask would be.

      I appreciate your suggesting that this is doable by myself. I will be going that route, at least for now. I’ll continue to read/watch all I can, and I’ll gladly take any pointers you can give me!

      To vid-e-o-man:

      As I said, I’m going for Option-2. I would be most comfortable buying new, since I wouldn’t have the money to buy another one if I bought a used one and it started having trouble. As for lighting equipment: I don’t have any yet, but again I definitely understand that this is a crucial part of the process. I’d be very open to suggestions as to anyone’s thoughts on the best/cheapest way to approach it for my circumstance. On lighting I would definitely be open to looking at used equipment, and/or “home-made solutions” that actually WORK (not cheap-o “fixes” that ultimately don’t do the job well enough). I like your idea about cheap “Depot” work lights. I’ll look into those as I also look into the more professional lighting equipment. Also, by the way, I’m looking to film this in a house. I know this is not ideal, but for now it’s unavoidable. I mention it in case this inspires anyone with any other tips/tricks to overcome any problems I might potentially face.

      Are there any other questions I could answer that would shed more light on to what I’d need? I was trying not to bog everyone down with extraneous specifics, but if it will help make the decision clearer, I’d be glad to elaborate.

      Finally, here’s a little more of what I was wondering about, in my original question… I think my frustration is that I don’t have a sense yet of where to “draw the line” regarding aspects of the camera. That is, I don’t have an instinct that says, whatever I do, I should make sure I get a _______ brand– or that I avoid _____ brand– or that I make sure it has a _______ kind of lens, or at least ________ amount of optical zoom, or even that it records to ______ format, whatever other specs… I get that there is cheap stuff out there, and that it “inclines” all the way into the really good stuff that I could never afford. What I don’t know is where to draw the line, (again taking into consideration the many other factors besides a good camera), saying “avoid anything below this line, and get the best you can afford out of everything above this line,” if that makes sense. I know I’m simplifying, but I’d also be willing to bet that all you wonderful seasoned pros out there probably have that little voice. I would add that, for now, I’m trying to stay at a budget of around $500 for the camera, for specific reasons that I’d rather not go into here. I know this won’t buy anything near the best, and part of my question is whether it can be done around that price at all– but on the other hand if it could be done for half that, I’m certainly not TRYING to spend $500! πŸ™‚

      composite1 and vid-e-o-man, I really appreciate your thoughts! I’d love to hear any more feedback you might have, and I’d also love to hear from anyone else.

      Thanks very much!


    • #195175

      James, buying new at below $500 severly limits the field, especially if you want the ability to shoot HD. This price range contains only mid-low level consumer grade camcorders. By going into the used market you can up your features and quality. Stick with top level brands and get others’ input about any used model that you consider. I use Sony HDR-Sr11( have 2, bought second after experience with first). This is no longer available new but can be had used for around your price range. It has a 1/3″ imager, shoots HD, mic input, has available wide angle add on lens( Sony HQ used for reasonalble price) and has other features that would be hard to find in this price range. Ebay, craigslist or going to a site like BHphoto which has used stuff without the question about who you are buying from. Hope this helps.

    • #195176

      I second vid’s suggestion. A good used high end consumer camera will give you a better overall experience.

      I also shoot with a SR11 and love the results. It has prosumer features and you can get them on Craig’s List or eBay for around $500 – I was seriously considering getting a second one myself.

    • #195177


      No worries mate. However, Vid and ‘Cat have brought up some notable points about the type of camera your purchase limitations will get you. Another thing is; you don’t have to have HD for your project to look good. A solid 3CCD chip camera in standard Definition DV will do just fine. Any used Canon from the XL or Gl series, Sony, Panasonic or JVC video camcorder will produce excellent picture quality. Since you plan on going straight to DVD anyway, then that eliminates the step of converting the video from HD to SD. You can use whatever profits you make to upgrade your gear later.

      You can purchase used or refurbed camera gear from B&H Photo-Video, Adorama and many other reputable outlets online. I recommend those before going to E-bay or Craigslist as you get a better return policy if the gear’s worse than expected.

      Lastly, again I must stress that there’s a lot more to this than just the camera. You’ll need camera support accessories like batteries, recording media, audio gear, tripods, camera bags, lens filters, cleaning kits, headphones, lighting, background materials and the means to pack all that stuff up and transport it from place to place. All that comes before you work your way through the maze of choices for editing platforms, editing software, hardware and support gear. My suggestion for you is a combo of Options 1 and 2.

      Eventually, you’re going to need an extra set of hands to help get the work done. Video Production is a fully collaborative industry, so you don’t necessarily have to go it alone.

    • #195178

      Thanks to all who have responded so far. The SR11 sounds great so far, and I am looking more into it.

      Please take this as my own quirky way of learning, rather than any sort of challenge to what you’re saying, but– can you tell me what it is, specifically, about new cameras at the $500 range that makes them unacceptable?

      For instance, what about this?


      or this?


      I’m not saying there’s anything great about those cameras– I just grabbed them off the web… but if they’re “laughable,”- and I could certainly understand this, as I could name several “laughable” piano keyboards- then can you help me to understand what it is that makes them so?



    • #195179

      Oh- another question!

      In looking online, one site says that the Sony HDR-XR160 is a “newer version” of the SR11. Would you agree? Something seems amiss, though, because it retails from Sony at $599.99.


    • #195180

      every version is bound to get better and or cheaper, so I cannot say, no first hand experience with that model… but the sr11 (I do have the sr12) should be able to write straight to memory stick… my sr 12 certianly does…. good to know the camera will still work if the hard drive fails… and there in lies the secrete to negotiating a fair price on a used one… hard drives do wear out, and so a hard drive based camera has a more limited lifespan than say.. solid state….. just make sure whatever you do buy has a mic jack and manual controls that are easy to use.

    • #195181

      Apples to Elephants – They are not really close.

      Look at the specs for the XR160 (click here) and compare to the specs for the SR11 (click here).

      Specifically, look at the Inputs/Outputs section. Also the SR11 is a 1/3″ imager, the XR160 is 1/4″. Lots of other things missing or lacking.

      EDIT – I misspoke somewhat – The XR160 inputs/outputs are listed under Interface. What I still find lacking is an assignable manual control wheel (I have used for focus and exposure at various times) and a headphone jack.

    • #195182

      Thank you all again, so much!

      I don”t mean to exhaust this subject, but I’m realizing I might be going about it the wrong way. Birdcat, you mention specs. Could I ask (anyone): could you list the minimum specs that would be acceptable for this situation?

    • #195183

      For me, minimum specs are:

      HD of some sort (1080p is preferred but 1080i is acceptable to me)
      Mic jack for external mic
      Headphone Jack
      Manual focus capabilities
      Manual exposure capabilities
      Manual white balance ability
      Tapeless (flash memory cards or hard drive)
      OPTICAL image stabilization
      Minimum 10x optical zoom (digital zoom is irrelevant and should never be used)
      Good low light performance
      Largest imager possible for your budget
      Three imaging chips if possible (not necessary but it helps if your budget allows for it – SR11 only has one)

      These are just a start for my needs – Yours may vary

    • #195184

      Thanks once again, birdcat, for the list! I’m mulling..

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