Project advice

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    • #89440
      danman46
      Member

      Hi All,

      I am hoping for some early advice on a project me and my partner are working on. Neither of us are at all experienced really so forgive our ignorance!

      The basic needs are to capture long sections of video of our pets (cats and dogs), and edit it into ‘highlights’ to support a website a friend is developing.

      We’d like to have two sources of video;
      (a) Onboard camera, mounted to our cat/dog.
      (b) Fixed cameras on the favourite spots to sleep/play/clean etc.

      I have a number of questions in my head and any pointers would be fantastic. I’ll try and describe below with reference to either source (a) or (b) above.

      1. Budget. Regarding (a), ideally I would be able to capture 2-4hours of footage of reasonable quality, using a single camera roughly the size of 5 cigarettes bundled together.
      Regarding (b), ideally we’d like to use a solution that could write video directly to a hard disk, to avoid the need to replace video cards etc. Would it be possible to have multiple video cameras writing simultaneously to one computer? Via USB would that be? I would imagine 3-4 cameras would be ideal. They would be mounted and remain static, although the ability to zoom would be a bonus.

      Is anyone able to recommend some specific cameras that might be suitable for either (a) or (b), or the kind of budget we might be facing?

      2. Sound. Regarding (b), as all these cameras would be in the same room, would it be best to capture a single higher quality audio stream, which I can later use in editing the multiple video streams? Is anyone able to recommend an affordable microphone that might be suitable?

      3. Software. Although I’m going to have a steep learning curve on editing software, I think I’ll manage, but was hoping to understand how difficult it might be to reunite video with corresponding audio, using most likely a free/affordable edit software. Is anyone able to recommend a good software suite which allows the features I have described?

      4. Computer hardware. I imagine this is going to involve some very large files and with hours to edit, I will need a powerful PC. How powerful?? Is anyone able to suggest the key computer attributes I should value if intending to edit at home (i.e video card/ram/processor etc)?

      I apologise for being pretty in the dark about all this stuff, but hoping the collective knowledge here might help me cement and ultimately answer these questions somewhat?

      Thanks in advance for any advice!

    • #213747
      paulears
      Participant

      You’ve picked a remarkably complex project to attempt if you have no existing skills – the learning curve and ratio of cock-ups is going to be huge.

      Very little of what you shoot will be usable, so the task will be to shoot as much as possible.
      You can shoot HD video direct to tape, cards or drives, but USB isn’t a common part of the system, and the size of the components is a problem.

      To be honest, this is an ideal GoPro job (or if budget is really tight, the Chinese cheap versions that are surprisingly good)

      Shoot to cards – your editor doesn;t really care where the files come from, but with so much footage, your main time wasting task will be logging. Everything needs to be logged, tagged and named or you will get in a real mess.

      Recording to a computer drive is ok – but means the computer needs to be close to the cameras if you want to use better cameras. I occasionally record direct to my macbook from a camera via firewire – saves transferring a card, but then you need to backup the computer drive data to something else for storage – because with a project like this, you will be using HUGE amounts of storage. 32Gb cards are my usual storage solution, and you will eat them up! 2 hours, depending on data rate will fill a 16Gb card.

      Sound – all the cameras have a mic, and embed the audio in the file – but the quality varies – not really the camera quality, just where the camera is may not be the best place for audio, so a separate recorder could be good – Google Zoom recorders.

      Cheap/free editing software is fine for topping and tailing your holiday images or kids christmas show, but syncing up multiple video tracks and sound tracks means you need something better. There are cut down versions of most of the market leaders. Final Cut, Premiere, Avid and Vegas – the full versions will cost plenty! I can’t advise on free software because from what you say, it’s not an easy edit, and I doubt the cheap end will do it properly.

      I use Premiere, always have done. You now cannot buy it, you pay via subscription.

      HD video means you want the fastest processor you can afford and plenty of RAM – 16Gb seems to do me ok.You will need a fast internal drive, and external storage too. I’ve currently got a 3Tb drive for my video files, and it fills up quickly. Two monitors helps no end, because in your project you will have loads of files, so being able to see them is important. You also need a fast video card with onboard processor to take the load of the computer CPU. Adobe, for example, have a list of compatible drives on their site, as do the others. Preferably an external audio interface with decent monitors.

      The GoPro type cameras have loads of accessories, including dog mounts. I have one. The footage they produce is horrible, or at least it is on the dogs I tried it on. They all seems to roll as they walk making viewing uncomfortable.

      If you want to move to joystick controllable cameras, your budget will be going up and up. You can hire this kit, but if you are green, that could be a waste of time.

      You could buy a few Chinese cameras for £50 each, use windows Movie Maker, or the Apple equivalent, use Audacity as an audio editor and edit on a cheap domestic computer, but I’d not want to waste my money doing that because the project may well drive you mad and never be completed.

    • #213758
      JackWolcott
      Participant

      This is a project which, upon sober reflection, probably should be abandoned before begun. As someone who owns both dogs and cats, I have a difficult time imagining what “highlights” of their life would be. For the cat it might be standing up and stretching, perhaps going outside for a squat-down, getting a scratch behind the ears and retiring back to sleep. For the dog, wagging its tail, getting fed, chasing a stick, more tail wagging, etc.

      Sometimes what seems like a great idea at first turns out not to have much to offer when examined closely. Against the “highlight” potential must be weighed the costs, as Paul has thoroughly outlined above. Many of the “cute critter” videos on YouTube are almost certainly serendipitous, clips captured because someone had a camera running when something interesting happened — e.g., the kids were playing with the dog, the cat was trying to walk along the edge of the bath tub. By playing with your animals you can “stage” activity that may give you interesting moments, and for this you need little more than a $150-200 camera and iMovie or Windows Movie Maker.

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