Techie: Cheap moviemaking
And we do mean cheap, in all senses of
John “jaQ” Andrews
I’ve been remiss.
Last June, CVS — yes, the drug store — released a gizmo for recording 20
minutes of digital video. It cost $29.99, occasionally with a $10
rebate, and featured possibly the worst video quality this side of “Are
Supermarket Butchers Washing Their Hands” hidden-camera special reports
on local news shows.
kicker? The camera was intended for one-time use only, and it cost
$12.99 to have CVS process the thing and give you a DVD of your footage.
It didn’t take long, of course, for hackers to figure out a way around
that little limitation. The details are easily found on the Web, but
essentially, the proprietary port on the camcorder can be modified to
plug into a standard USB port. Some guerilla software then makes
downloading the video to your computer quite simple.
Supposedly, I mean.
doesn’t advertise the video camera much anymore, but it’s still
available for $19.99. A version without the virtually useless preview
LCD screen is only $9.99. Plus, you know, processing fees.
If you’re not quite that cheap, but still want digital video,
inexpensive solutions abound. You won’t win any Oscars for
cinematography, but if you’re posting cute clips of your cat on MySpace,
these buggers could just fit the bill.
DXG 305VS sells for about $100 and records video at 640x480 resolution —
that’s about the resolution of a standard television screen. That’s only
15 frames per second, though, so it won’t look totally smooth. For 30fps
video, you can knock down the resolution to 320x240. The video is stored
in MPEG-4 format, so it’s not DVD quality, but not bad.
The camera comes with 16MB of onboard memory and a slot for adding
Secure Digital cards. A 1.5” LCD screen lets you compose shots and
review your footage. It runs on four AAA batteries and has a 4X digital
zoom, as well as 3-megapixel still shots. It even plays your MP3s, but I
wouldn’t recommend taking a video camera to the gym.
a little less money, around $80, check out the Mustek DV5200. Similar
features as the DXG unit, but it runs on two AA batteries. It also comes
with twice as much built-in memory, but still photos are a lower
resolution: only 2 megapixels, though it claims software interpolation
up to 5 megapixels.
Still too rich for your blood? Check out the bottom of the Aiptek line,
the Pocket DV. At a whopping $24.99, you get a free case and baseball
cap at www.aiptek.com. What does that mean for the quality of the
camera? 320x240 resolution at “up to” 10fps. 16MB memory, but it’s not
flash memory like the other cameras, so if your two AA batteries die,
your video is gone.
With most digital cameras and even some cell phones offering video
recording, the biggest advantage these camcorders offer is recording
time. Rather than being restricted to video clips of a minute or two,
they can record as long as the batteries last and there’s still room on
your memory card.
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