PapaJohn Productions

Newsletter #170 - Oct 6, 2007
Use Your 'point-and-shoot' Camera... for video

The recent Geekipedia Supplement to Wired magazine had this to say about camcorders, in the Obsolescence management section on page 38...

Camcorder gadget - "Manufacturers have yet to settle on a hi-def codec or medium. Be patient while they are ironing out the kinks, and stick with a digital point-and-shoot that records video".

Canon SD750For this week's newsletter, I'll try it... put aside my mini-DV tape camcorder with it's firewire connection, and use my Canon PowerShot SD750 7 megapixel camera with its video feature.
I'll connect it with a USB connection and import the files using the beta version of Photo Gallery on my XP laptop.

Before I posted this, I figured I needed at least a little pilot project to see if it worked without the hassle of file conversions. Sure enough, it worked fine...

I started by recording the first things I saw... my laptop's keyboard... some screen clips... then played with making a bluescreen and using it for animated text. 
Copying the clips from the camera to the hard drive by USB cable is easy, as is the importing and using of the source files in MM2.1 and MM6.
Here's the one minute test project that puts the clips together. The project was done in MM6.
Test Project of Clips from a Canon SD750
Before getting into it, here are...
a couple notes...


I hope to spend some time this winter getting to know the new Expression Suite, to enhance the appearance of my website, and to use Silverlight for things beyond simply playing the same videos I have on my site and YouTube.  


Thinking of YouTube, my library training sessions for this school year start again on Oct 17th... with the first class about putting movies on YouTube.



.... back to the main topic...

Point-and-Shoot Camera 
I feel obligated to first say why the 'point-and-shoot' isn't as good at taking video as my $1,000+ mini-DV camcorder. After all, it cost so much more... it must be better. Here are some reasons:
Why use a 'point-and-shoot'?
GSpot AssessmentThe file type for video clips is  .avi. What codecs are used?
Here's what GSpot shows about them on my XP laptop.
The video compression is MJPG (motion JPEG). 640x480 pixels, 30 frames per second.
The audio is PCM (uncompressed) and no codec is needed.
Note: the camera's manual says QuickTime is needed to play the MJPEG files on a Windows 2000 system.

Movie Maker
The clips import, preview and work fine in projects, using MM2.1 on my XP laptop or MM6 on my Vista laptop.
No conversion needed.

The file sizes of the video clips are pretty big...
A 46 second clip is 92 MB file. That's 7.2 GB per hour, more than half the size of a DV-AVI file, and larger than high quality DVD MPEG-2 files. You would expect such clips to be pretty good quality. And they are.
Here's a couple full-sized frame snapshots taken by MM2.1 from the video clips. The first is my recent Civil War re-enactment clip on YouTube, playing in an IE7 browser via Veoh TV (which gets YouTube in addition to regular TV stations).
Frame Snapshot
This one is during a slide-show in Photo Gallery.... one of the 7 megapixel snapshots.
Frame Shot 2

Focus and Optical Zoom...
The manual has an interesting note about the focus and optical zoom settings remaining fixed at whatever the first frame recorded is... for the rest of the scene.
Each scene is recorded on the flash card (an SD one) as its own avi file.
For Fun... a 'Bluescreen'
I was curious about how well a bluescreen clip would work in a movie project if the screen was the LCD of the laptop and the blueness was the background color in a graphics app.
I tried it with RendersoftVRLM, placing an animated URL over the blueness and shooting it such that the bluescreen was zoomed into. The result is the animated URL that plays in the sample clip.
I put the project together in MM6 on my Vista Home Basic laptop, and used one of Rehan's bluescreen transitions. It was easy and pretty effective.

Conclusion and Closing... and What's Next?
At the end of the week using the SureShot SD750, I'd grown to appreciate it more, but I'm not tempted to use it as a regular replacement for my mini-DV camcorder... or as a replacement for our pro-sumer Sony and Nikon 7 and 10 megapixel cameras.
If you haven't taken any video clips with your 'point-and-shoot' camera, try it.
I'll close with a copy of glow's, a regular on the forum, in response to my post announcing this week's subject... he sums up well the value of a 'point-and-shoot' camera.

Indeed I use my point and shoot camera for video more often than I use my video camera.
I disagree with your assertion that a file copy is just as easy as capturing via firewire from mini-DV. I find file copying is much easier, quicker and more convenient.

I find it frustrating only being able to capture in real time and not have random access to clips when using tape.
A few weeks ago I shot about 4 hours of my kids' school concerts. I wanted to edit it and make a DVD. After half a day my wife asks me if I've finished - at that point I'd only just captured everything Crying

These days I only drag out the video camera when I want
- slightly better quality for a big event like a wedding
- many hours of recording (my 1Gb card only holds a maximum of about 40 minutes on standard setting)
- better zooming like at a concert (20x for my video camera, only 3x for the still and can't zoom while recording)

My son was born this week and all my video has been taken with my point-and-shoot.
It was nice being able to send out a quick video with the birth announcement email.
With a point-and-click camera with a video feature, you can enjoy the events you're recording, and like glow did, more easily get the memories to friends and family.
Have a great week!!