March 2, 2006

 Navigation

   Home Page

 News & Features

   News

 Columns & Opinions

   Publisher's Note

   Boomers

   Pinings

   Longshots

   Techie

 Pop Culture

   Film

   TV

   Books
   Video Games
   CD Reviews

 Living

   Food

   Wine

   Beer
   Grazing Guide

 Music

   Articles

   Music Roundup

   Live Music/DJs

   MP3 & Podcasts

   Bandmates

 Arts

   Theater

   Art

 Find A Hippo

   Manchester

   Nashua

 Classifieds

   View Classified Ads

   Place a Classified Ad

 Advertising

   Advertising

   Rates

 Contact Us

   Hippo Staff

   How to Reach The Hippo

 Past Issues

   Browse by Cover


Techie: Cheap moviemaking
And we do mean cheap, in all senses of the word
By John “jaQ” Andrews  jandrews@hippopress.com

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.

The 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.

CVS 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.

The 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.

For 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.

 Comments? Thoughts? Discuss these articles and more at hippoflea.com

02/23/2006 Go directly to iJail
02/16/2006 Will you stamp your e-mail?
02/09/2006 War of the machines
02/02/2006 Faster than a speeding packet

01/26/2006 Free software made simple
01/19/2006 The Worst of CES
01/12/2006 Radio you
01/05/2006 Making Movies
A browser is to a car as ...

Behold, the $100 laptop
Beyond VCRs, Part 2
Beyond VCRs
Back-to-school basics
Big Brother is printing
Books without the paper
Essential Gadgets
Get it while it’s hot, used
High-tech garage sale
In touch with the future
Last-minute dork presents
Make your mark
Memory in your pocket
Microsoft must be scratching its head
No strings attached
Plastic junk for Halloween
Power up

Satellite radio showdown

The sound of your voice
There ain’t no such thing as free music
Want to watch cable in every nook and cranny?