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Making Digital Home Movies, Part 1


How close can the camera zoom in? There are two types of zoom; optical zoom and digital zoom. Optical zoom moves the lenses inside the camera, which will keep the quality of the video high. Digital zoom will simply blow up the pixels, which will destroy the video quality. Some people call digital zoom "fake zoom." It is a good idea to only pay attention to the optical zoom power, and ignore digital zoom.

How Many Charged-coupled Devices (CCD) Should My Camcorder Have?

What does a CCD do? A CCD is a postage stamp-sized chip inside a camcorder that registers when light rays hit. A computer figures out the points that are hit and then produces a picture. The computer also must guess what the color was.

When making professional movies, you want the color to be recorded accurately. Triple CCD cameras have a prism system that will split the incoming light into three colors. Each color will then hit a corresponding CCD. The camcorder will have much more information when it tries to guess the color and will reproduce color much more accurately than single CCD cameras. This is especially needed if you plan on doing any chromakeying, which will be explained later.

The prices for triple CCD camcorders have dropped considerably in the past two years. Panasonic sells the GS70 triple CCD camcorder for around $750-$1000 (depending on where you buy it). This is not much more than the price for single CCD camcorders.

Audio Connections

All camcorders have a built-in microphone to capture sound, but it doesn't work that great. The built-in microphone also tends to capture noise coming from the cassette motor. Make sure you buy a camcorder that has a microphone in the connector. This is the same connector that you would have on your computer sound card.

Image Stabilization

Make sure you buy a camcorder that has image stabilization. This feature will take out some of the "shakes" caused by your clumsy human hands. Beware that it won't perform miracles, and that super steady video will require you to use a tripod or a monopod.