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I am new to film-making and after reading your June 2000 issue, trying to decide which digital camcorder to buy, I was unsure about the differences between animation and time-lapse systems. I want to be able to do slow motion filming, and some stop frame but does this mean I need animation or time lapse or even both? It must also be able to shoot in very low lighting conditions, like candlelight and low watt bulb?

Nathan Blakeley, via email


You are talking about three quite different effects and unfortunately no single camcorder can do everything that you require. Animation and time-lapse are similar in that the camera shoots a single frame, or a few frames at a time, rather than continuously. The key difference is that time-lapse recording is normally automatic with the camera programmed to shoot or record at preset intervals, so it can capture events that take a long time to occur such as a flower opening etc. Animation recording has to be controlled manually, so that each shot in a stop-motion sequence – for example -- can be individually composed. Slow motion recording works in an entirely different way, to do it properly the recording – whether on movie film or video -- has to be made at a higher than normal speed so that when the recording is replayed at normal speed the motion is slowed down and movement still appears smooth and fluid.  ‘Domestic’ camcorders -- even high performance digital models – lack the necessary precision control systems consequently any animation, time-lapse and slow motion effects tend to be quite basic. It might be a good idea for you to read up on film and video special effects to get a better idea of what you want to achieve before buying a camcorder.



My still camera has just given up on me so I am thinking about buying a digital video and printing off stills from my PC as and when needed. In my pursuit of excellence I have just purchased your June edition thinking my problem will be solved... Oh dear, what an abundance of machines to choose from!

Does picture quality vary much between makes and how does a print from a video still frame compare with those from video camcorders with provision for still pictures? Are you able to give me any suggestions to limit my search please? I prefer things simple but do appreciate quality.

Hugh Pendray, via email

Whilst all digital camcorders (and some analogue models) have still ‘photo shot’ modes the resolution of the image sensors used in camcorders is still far below that of most digital still cameras but the quality is adequate for relatively undemanding jobs, like illustrating documents or web pages. Since you want to be able to get high quality prints forget using a camcorders and focus instead on digital still cameras, preferably models with image sensors that have more than 2.5 million pixels. That’s as far as I can go, the rest is up to you since I have no way of knowing which type or style of camera you prefer (compact, compact zoom, SLR etc), whether or not you want facilities like interchangeable lenses, or even how much you plan to spend. Suffice it to say whatever your requirements there’s bound to be something to suit.



I was wondering if you could tell me if there are any digital camcorders that can reproduce images/video on both the PAL and NTSC (US) TV's. We tend to move around a lot and would prefer a camcorder that has this flexibility.  Although it is not as important, are there any still digital cameras that can also work on both systems?
Stuart Donald, via email


Sadly the answer is no to both questions. PAL camcorders have PAL video outputs, and NTSC models have NTSC video outputs. As far as I am aware no one has yet marketed a multi-standard machine in the UK probably for the simple reason that demand would be very small. The situation is slightly different for digital still cameras since not all models have video outputs – they are usually designed to interface with a PC – but on those that do, the video output will normally be appropriate for the market in which they are sold. Quite a few PAL TVs can display NTSC video signals but it’s not so common the other way around, relatively few TVs sold in the US (except dedicated multi-standard models) are able to display PAL video. If you are going to be abroad for any length of time it might be a good idea to invest in a multi-standard TV. Alternatively, you could watch your movies on a PC fitted with a TV/video adaptor card, most types can handle PAL and NTSC signals and you can also get video to PC adaptors for laptops, 



I want to buy a digital camcorder to use for teaching. My aim is to download stills and short video clips into a PC for presentations. I am not interested in editing or producing whole movies - we have a media department who can do that for us. What I will need to look for in a camcorder and what software and extra hardware I'll need?

Kevin Thompson, via email
The camcorder bit is easy, virtually any model will do since they can all produce high quality video and stills suitable for downloading to a PC and using in a PowerPoint type presentation. Judging by the feature list of the PC you’ll be using there’s little to add to that either, since it has a FireWire input, a fast processor, good graphics capabilities, lots of memory and a fairy large hard disc drive. About the only thing you are missing is some video-capable presentation software. Scala MM200 is widely reckoned to have set the standard by which others are judged, but it can be quite expensive. However Scala has recently introduced a new package, called iPlay, which is a good deal cheaper and might suit your needs, what’s more you can download a free trial version from the Internet, so you can try before you buy, the address is:




Ó R. Maybury 2000, 2006




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