Wednesday, July 16, 2008

Video | Shot with a Canon: Dog guards house against ice cube

It's time for the much-awaited announcement of my new video camera.

Actually, this is so delayed that the camera isn't really new anymore. I got it more than two months ago.

After thoroughly researching the video camera market, I chose the Canon VIXIA HV30, whose predecessor, the HV20, has accumulated a cult following on the Internet. By browsing, a user message board, I realized that the camera made most everyone who had it very happy. Thanks to that Web site, I didn't feel totally lost in this media venture.

Now, a bit about the equipment.

The HV30 is a top-of-the-line consumer model. It's capable of 1080i high-definition video, producing rich colors, vivid detail and great motion. The 1080i part means that the picture has four times the number of pixels than in standard-definition.

I've been shooting in HD since I got the toy, just because it's new to me. But really, that's not necessary for most of the videos I post to the Web because sites such as YouTube and Viddler won't support such high-quality films. They must be compressed to no more than 500 megabytes for Viddler and 100 megabytes for YouTube. I upload videos to both, but I embed the Viddler version on The Offlede because of its superior quality.

My first big experiment with the camera comes in the form of - what else? - Nibbler the guard dog.

I discovered after shooting most of the video with the external microphone - a 16-bit Rode VideoMic that I bought separately (it almost dwarfs the actual camera, left) - that the sound needed to be kicked down a notch. Many of the peaks and pops are beyond the range of digital sound, making for a crackling noise at those heights. After consulting the handy-dandy user manual, I learned how to attenuate that noise and prevent distortion.

I did something in this video, "Nibbler: The Guard Dog," that I probably will never do again: I used music. I did it mainly to learn how to handle it during the post-production process. And the actual score, by the way, was provided by Kevin MacLeod at He allows the royalty-free usage of his work as long as it's credited. After listening to a few songs on the site, I realized that FLORIDA TODAY also uses his creations. But music doesn't go well with journalism, so I probably won't use it often - though I don't plan to do much real journalism.

As a pup, Nibbler isn't exactly a poser. She was quite antsy when I tried to get the crucial shot of her name tag. And using a tripod isn't ideal when your subject is always running, jumping and crawling out of the frame. The video shows that Nibbler is doing an excellent job protecting roommate Mark's house from tennis balls, pig ears, ice cubes, rope, insects and even her own leash.

I bought the Canon online through Meijer, a superstore chain in the Upper Midwest. I had never heard of the company before being referred by contributors to a special deal it was offering. The sale, combined with a 10 percent discount for registering for Meijer's Web site and its spam, put the camera into my hands for $330 less than the suggested retail price. I used the saved funds for the $150 microphone.

The VideoMic - probably the best shotgun mike of the less-expensive sect - came from the always-dependable B&H Photo Video in New York. Probably the biggest thing I miss about living in Long Island is its abundance of photo superstores and international camera companies, such as Nikon, that base their U.S. operations in the area.

I shelled out $670 for the camera itself, bringing the grand total to $820. I promised myself that it would be my last large purchase in quite some time.

I just bought a cup of coffee to allow me to write this post. Yeah, it's Starbucks, but it was only $2. So ... so far, so good.


Wordnerdy said...

She also protects you from vicious Florida bugs. Those can be a real threat, you know. Some people have bad reactions to, say, mosquito bites.

Andrew Knapp said...

Mosquitoes suck. But I'm immune.

Still, they are annoying, but Nibs does a good job. Better than those lazy dragonflies.

Wordnerdy said...

Obviously you don't have sweet Florida blood.

Andrew Knapp said...

Nope. Thank God.

Anonymous said...

That was pretty well-done. Good editing job. The dog's a cutie, too.

Andrew Knapp said...

Thanks. I just wish I had better lighting. That's what you get for being a night owl, I guess.