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Thread: Budget Camcorders for schools

  1. #1
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    Default Budget Camcorders for schools

    I've been asked to recommend a package of three cameras, PCs, tripods, lights, mic for a Prep school I work at. There is no budget - the PTA want an idea of cost.

    I'm a bit stuck with the camera as there are sop many on the market in the budget range. My immediate reaction was aPanny SD90, which would be adequate, but it does not have a headphone output. I think it's essential the children learn the importance of monitoring sound si I don't really find this acceptable.

    So, any recomendations for a camcorder in the 250-400 range with mic in/headphone out. I'd try to persuade them to go for a TM/SD900 or similar instead., but I doubt they can afford three of those and they want to do multi-camera shoots.

    They will be editing in Adobe Premiere Elements.
    Tim

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    Does it have to be HD?

    I know that we all are so stuck in the HD lane that going back to SD would be unthinkable but, for learning, is HD really necessary?

    Edit: I be a roit twat sorr!

    Just seen that you were looking at the SD90 not the HD90... doh!

  3. #3
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    I thought SD90 did HD, the S refers to SD memory....but am so often wrong...

    not really that the format "matters" but I suspect there will be Questions if a school is spending money on old-style gear (like Tape, HDD, ). Although sometimes there are "advantages" in having formats that are not used in the outside world - and I don't only mean Cameras.

    I'm sure you've thought of s/h like a "Pro-Camera" but then there is risk that it may pack-up....at least "new" stops you from becoming the all-time FallGuy.

    I do wonder about the headphone o/p -provided it has a mic-input (sorry don't know SD90, other than it's rated a capable budget camcorder). What I'm suggesting is that you can monitor the audio going in - with a pre-amp, having a buffer (and maybe a level-meter)..... maybe a Parent could make this for you (battery powered)..?

    Low-light may be an issue, but with modern lighting for drama productions that's hardly an issue and may help teach lighting too.

    Multi-camera shoots is reminding me of a phrase "Running . . . " was this your input, as I guess few members of the Public are really aware of the techy bits...... Also I suspect at least one Parent will loan a decent camcorder for Second Crew . . .

    Could you not have One SD900 for now, then as budgets allow . . . .

  4. #4

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    If they are looking at multi camera shoots, then a separate sound recorder might be a good direction for them as well. A Tascam or Zoom would be within the budget.
    Last edited by Midnight Blue; 03-22-2012 at 03:43 PM.

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    Ok to answer some of the comments and thus narrow it down further.

    Rob, vidmanners is correct the SD90 is an HD camera.
    He also answers your question about does it have to be HD? I know SD will be fine for what they want, you know that, and I'm quite confident that the teacher concerned will be comfortable with that - but again vidmanners has hit the nail on the head that the people spending the money are the ones who will see it as "old technology".

    From my point of view, the benefit of using standard def has nothing to do with the cost of the cameras (there's little in it and precious few standard def cams around) but more the power required and the ease of editing.

    I think a headphone socket is essential. I can easily demonstrate the difference between using a camera mic and an external. The additional hassle of plugging in a mic is fairly minimal. However, the idea of also connecting a pre-amp, with another battery to worry about starts to make this inconvenient. It's starting to take up a significant part of the 40 minute lesson.

    vidmanners, you've got the wrong end of the stick. This is nothing o do with recording a school production. the kit is to be used by the kids to make videos as part of "Art" or whatever they call it nowadays. So a parent lending a hand as second cameraman doesn't really come into it

    And (as I said above) I'm also being asked to recommend lights.
    Usual thing with schools: It's only for kids so it doesn't have to be pro gear, Right? Wrong, or so I'd have thought. Whilst it may not have to have pro quality light (even spread/colour etc), I would think that it will need to be manufactured of materials that can withstand being treated in the way that loads of people will treat equipment that doesn't belong to them. I'm guessing real budget gear will only survive if you look after it.Tell me I'm right ... or wrong ...

    Second hand cameras are a no go (a) for the reasons vidmanners states and (b) cos I'm highly unlikely to get three matching ones.

    I'm highly tempted to push them in favour of one better camera (how often will you really need to try multi camera shoots) like the SD/TM900 and that will certainly be one of the options I suggest.

    I'll even put in a pie in the sky suggestion of a Canon XF100 - with its 4:2:2 colour sampling it will work well for green screen stuff and I know that really captures the kid's attention. I've just done a bit of this with them and they thought it was great (although the results were rubbish from a techncal point of view)

    Anyways, back to the plot - any 250-400 camcorders with external mic and headphone sockets around?
    Tim

  6. #6

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    I've had a think about this. I can't offer the best lights to use but I'd definitely steer away from hotter than the sun types like red heads etc. LED would be best but they are pricey, SO I'd look at a florescent type of lighting kit, which there are many cheap ones around, the only problem is durability. I'd still go for a separate sound recorder with an external mic as this gives them the opportunity to play at being a sound engineer and will enable you to suggest the SD90s as the camera to get, it seems like having an earphone socket fell out of favour with a lot of manufacturers.

    Sorry I can't be any more use to you than this.

  7. #7

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    Hi Tim

    Shame they can't be persuaded to go for the Pana TM900's it got rave reviews when it was released ..... sorry I can't give any helpful suggestions with regards 250 - 400 camcorders ... would be a lot easier if they allowed the 2nd hand camcorder option but of course understand their mindset.

    With regards lighting what is the budget Tim ??? I know Rembrandt Rob recommended to me the "Ianiro ice units and Photflex Starlight ..... being a school situation I would think safety would be a big factor and heat of lights when on and when being dismantled more so.

    So would the cooler "Ianiro ice" be a good choice ??? Smaller one starts at 390 I think ................or is this way out of the budget ????

    I suppose if too expensive the Photoflex starlight softboxes start at 260 I think so a bit cheaper but obviously a lot hotter too I would think.

    Sorry cant be more help to you Tim but wanted to participate as best I could .


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    Thanks for the additional considerations. The TM/SD900 isn't a definite no-no and neither are any of the lights. We're not sure what the PTA might be prepared to cough up yet, so I've put some suggested packages together and we'll see whether we're talking 100s or 1000s.

    Incidentally I started googling the Photoflex starlight packages earlier in teh day and came away totally mystified as to what you get. Some phrase kept cropping up "used as part of a [I forget what] but it implied I needed some other stuff. I've just loked again and I can;t find that phrase and it all seems clear (except the bundles all come with 1000w lamps)
    Tim

  9. #9

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    Yes it will be good when you have a figure off them ..... If I remember rightly the starlight also come with 250w and 500w bulbs options unless the 1000w is always the standard given and the others have to be purchased separately ?? Sure they would allow you to choose what power bulb ...... I have found 550w (photofloods) very powerful but then again my studio is small and black so in a bigger school room a 1000w might not seem as powerful as it sounds.... to me anyway .


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    Thanks for the further details +++ and many suggestions for OP to think about.

    Lighting:
    I've seen Prolight kits (so-called pro) for 110 which fold up into a bag. I believe this is they way to go and the expensiveCF bulbs are included(and fragile), but they don't pop like halogen when switched-on. Also CF will come down in price and you can maybe get a discount as I expect the 50w versions are already used in Halls (in school). These kits are reflective cloth stretched over a spring frame, with a diffuser to make them really quite good as main lights. The tripods are moderately tough and should suit.
    Spots are something else, but maybe KISS for now?
    Some schools may even have an old Spot mounted on a trolley....That would help the Budget....or ask a neighbouring school, etc. such kit still works, although bulbs can be pricey. Use a dimmer to bring them up to temp (quickly) is worthwhile, IMHO.

    Whilst I agree an earphone is "essential" I was suggesting it doesn't have to be in the camera, that almost all"recorders" have a headphone monitoring feature and that could be split to camcorder without having to build anything (needs attenuator, sorry) . . . although a real mixer would be far better and I've seen semi-decent for 50 - getting the audio "right" will be easier to demonstrate "live" without having to film it, although obvious "faults" are best demonstrated so the whole class can see.

    A lesson dedicated to audio saves the Lamps.

    The big issue is, I suspect that the Purse-strings won't go to a new SD700 camera costing 800....but that's sure to drop . . . I recall folk have seen them nearer 500 (Amazon, today 549) - but beware dodgy suppliers. Of course stills cameras are better in low-light... DSLR's usually have APS-C sensors which may be 15x larger than a camcorder...

    One snag of "Earphone out" will be the H&S of children swapping headphones - although they might bring their own in-ear . . . just be sure they aren't wired into an iPod when teacher is talking.
    Last edited by vidmanners; 03-23-2012 at 05:13 PM.

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