Audio, Video, and the final product.
Audio is easy.
Audio is simple. All the small mics and built in mics will likely suck for one of many reasons, so look toward a Blue Yeti as the simple, affordable solution. If you want something deeper, I did the research and found the solution!
Hang a Large Diaphragm Condenser Mic off a quality swing arm then xlr plug into a future proof Yamaha Mixer w/ USB attach the power to the mixer and connect the usb to your computer. You now have the basics of enthusiast audio recording that will serve well into the beginning of any professional vocal work etc.
The Video Product Groups
- webcam (Logitech)
- video camera (Panasonic etc)
- action cam (GoPro)
- photography cameras (Canon, Sony, etc)
- Swappable Lens (DSLR/ Mirrorless)
- Fixed Lens (point and shoot)
Pros – Ultra Low Cost (sub $100), Easy Process
Cons – Limited quality, choice, features, small sensor
Webcams are often used to add a visual component to communication that would likely take place otherwise. The quality serves the price and function, mediocre. These cameras at best bring a good value for price and simplicity of use, but they require some finesse and serve as a starting point of quality, not a finish line.
I currently use the Logitech C920 ($60). The C920 audio is trash. The purchase of a Blue Yeti ($130) usually follows the initial C920 purchase. I would budget for the both of them. The Blue Yeti and C920 combined become a power duo that rules over the kingdom of all the typical consumer grade solutions found by the average individual. They can certainly take you far, but they do not cut their teeth into a hobbyist or enthusiast solution.
Pros – Mid Cost ($500 or so), meant for long recording time
Cons – built to zoom, not vlog style, auto-focus not a priority, small sensor
The video camera segment leans the product toward focusing and zooming at distance, the market does not buy a video camera for macro up close shooting, they buy it for recording a family vacation, a wedding or anniversary, or maybe family holidays and birthday parties. Therefore the video camera price, purpose and size reflect a quality of picture that is good, but they do not use big sensors, and they are the furthest away from serving my needs.
Pros – Low to Mid Cost ($100-500). durability, small size
Cons – fisheye lens, auto-focus not a priority, small sensor
The action cam is used equally for photography and video, it is built with a fisheye lens, durability, compact size, and the ability to look mediocre or above in any given situation. The focus is not shoot composition, it is for capturing shots that are not going to be replicated. The price for these halts around $500. Some of the models allow scaled down modes and settings to help negate the fish-eye look. Due to the small sensor the action cam’s have low light issues. I respect the advances this market has made and their value proposition, but I would be shoe horning the action cam into my needs.
Pros – large sensor, auto-focus, great auto settings for balance etc.
Cons – Mid to very High Cost ($500 – 1,200++), overheating concerns
Photography cameras include the widest choice of product offerings. Annually, the industry pushes out updates to a plethora of different product lines. The market has several brands in the space at varying levels of success or death. The naming conventions are mimicked and mocked from company to company and the numbering schemes create a feeling in my gut that could equate to the sight of two children using alphabet spaghetti o letters vomited out as play pieces for Scrabble.
The styles and product lines in the photography space make the research nearly unbearable. Though this is the product space that caters to a mantra of the latest greatest everything. They create the latest greatest auto focus and test it against swirling ice skaters, recording to see how well the camera can quickly identify, track, and focus on a face that inevitably spirals back out of view.
With the performance comes the complications, as well as the price. To say the complication is price alone is to be ignorant about the beauty of the webcam. The humble humble webcam has one serious advantage that I built my workflow upon, plug and play with PC in real time. More specifically, two important aspects:
- connects directly to computer with USB
- Allows me to live view/record on PC
I built the process upon the use of a webcam and audio source that feeds into my pc. Therefore I use software that records the video and audio at the same time. This removes one step in editing, the need to sync the audio with the video. I also decided to use a green screen which works fine with my software. Something that could be done in post production but is easily done at the time of recording.
The video cameras, action cameras, and photography cameras all require additional software and/or expensive capture card hardware to let the computer record through the device. Therefore increasing the price and complexity of a better quality solution. Capture cards cost from $100 to $200 or more. Though the challenge is not isolated to just needing another piece of hardware to interface. The purpose of the connection and feed is for a remote display like the LCD found on the camera itself, not to be used as a method of recording, therefore you have to hunt for and research which digital cameras in your price range have what has been nicknamed “clean hdmi”. This means that the settings on the camera allow the hdmi signal that will be used to have zero user interface overlays, unlike the display on the back of the camera.
After many nights of research ending at 4am my editor and friend had enough of my obsession. She told me that my tenacious research has value, but I also need to consider the health and stress costs of this research. She was right, I felt that I was closing in, ultimately I had to accept that even with redefined parameters no amount of research was going to create a perfect product that didn’t exist. I would need to part ways with a chunk of money, for a less than perfect product.
I will admit I deviated into the realm of live production cameras and Blackmagicdesign products. I found myself researching 3g and 6g SDI setups and solutions for problems I did not have. Then I realized it was time to put my research to practice and make a decision.
I had zoned in on a sweet spot of value. Cameras a few years old but still 1080 video capable, with solid auto-focus, as well as image stabilization built in. Clean HDMI output was a MUST, and I had to steer clear of models with known overheating issues.
Then I tried eBay. I am an Amazon fan through and through, but for certain used or imported products eBay can still compete with Amazon on price, if not demolish Amazon on price. I found a plethora of results and didn’t want to be scammed, so I sorted for locality at first, then I did some seller research. I settled on a reputable seller from Idaho (iirc) that is a pawn store! I picked up the camera and all its accessories in the picture for about $100 less than the used price on Amazon.
It may not be the perfect product at a fair price, but it should prove to be one hell of a great product for a price I never imagined! Now we wait for its arrival to see what did and did not come with it. Then I need to go back for a touch more purchasing, though most of the research is concluded already. I will need a capture card, a storage card, and maybe a cable or two for the setup. I may need a better tripod/mounting situation as well, but for now we lavish in the good feeling of research begetting action.