I get a lot of people asking me technical questions about how I make my videos. Every time someone asks me which camera I use I have to get the camera out, put on my reading glasses and read the small print on the side. No more! Here are all the answers to those nerdy questions…
When I first started making videos I used a Sony Cybershot DSC-T10. It’s 7.2 Megapixels and was a great camera to learn with. I had fun experimenting with the camera and the video editing software, Windows Movie Maker.
When I realised that people were enjoying my videos I felt I wanted to give a better viewing experience. I now use a Sony HDR-XR500VE. I use it in full HD mode (1980×1080) and the total size of the clips during a single video is usually around 1 GB – no problem for the 120 GB hard disk inside! I transfer the video clips to my PC before editing.
To shoot the video I mount the camera on a tripod and set up the shot depending on whether I want a close-up or not. Once I’m happy with the set-up I push the record button and away I go. Man knows when I’m filming because he is banned from the kitchen and hears strange noises through the door.
I really like this camera. It’s been very reliable so far, is easy to use and takes great pictures.
I also use a lapel microphone to remove the echo in the room. I used to use a Hama lapel microphone with 5 metres of wire plugged directly into the camera, but I kept falling over the wire whenever I moved around the kitchen. I finally took a deep breath and purchased a Trantec S4.16L radio-mic system which enables me to move effortlessly around the kitchen. It’s really very good and has made a huge difference to how I operate when making videos. Sometimes it’s too good and picks up the sound of my necklace moving around my neck! In most of my videos I only wear jewellery during the opening and closing scenes to reduce the possibility of extra noises appearing at the wrong time when I beating something in a bowl, for example.
In order to edit a single HD video in your lifetime you need a pretty high-end PC. I discovered this AFTER I bought the camera and another trip to see my bank manager followed.
I use a DELL Studio XPS 8100 with an Intel Core i7 processor running Windows 7… in French. This doesn’t improve the performance of the machine, but it does sometimes hamper the performance of the user. Inside the PC I have 6 GB memory (which is sufficient) and two hard drives of 1.5 TB. I also have two further external drives of 2 TB each – you would be amazed at how quickly HD videos can eat disk space, especially when you make backups of the final videos.
My only whinge about this PC is that sometimes the driver for the Nvidia graphics card crashes, causing the screen to go black for 2 seconds before returning to normal. A small inconvenience, but a little bit annoying all the same.
I have a Samsung Syncmaster P2270 monitor attached to the PC which is great for viewing the final video in HD. Response times and the contrast ratio is very good, and it wasn’t a particularly expensive monitor.
To edit the videos I use Sony Vegas Studio version 10, Platinum edition. I used to use version 9 but the module which wrote the final video was completely RUBBISH. Anything that wasn’t a simple transition between scenes would crash the programme, and some video formats were unusable. It was with some trepidation that I parted with my well-earned money and upgraded to version 10, but I was so glad that I did. This version is BRILLIANT! Unlike its predecessor it does everything that it says on the box.
Like any video-editing software it takes a while to learn how to use it, but perseverance pays off. There are a lot of sites out there to help too.
I render the video into an uncompressed avi file which eats up several GB of space on my hard drive. I then use Pinnacle Studio version 14 to render the avi file to an mpeg2 file (which I’m planning to use for my DVDs) and a DivX file for upload to YouTube. For some reason the Sony Vegas Studio versions of the mpeg2 and DivX files are substantially bigger than those produced by Pinnacle Studio.
I hope this little article satisfies the geeks and nerds out there. If I ever get around to ugrading my “toolbox” in the future I’ll update this article too!