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Nigel Heath

Help on Video Set Up for Modelling Demonstrations

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My model club is considering buying a video camera to help display modelling demonstrations. We already have an excellent screen and projector but are a bit clueless about the other kit required like a camera and lighting. Any advice on what is the best sort of camera, recommended models and lighting would be much appreciated. I think we will also need a tripod. Our budget can stretch to several hundred pounds.

Thanks,

Nigel

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Hi, Nigel.

My main bit of advice is DON'T worry about HD.... for what you want to do, you simply don't need it. Buy a decent video-light with a solid light-stand and use it all the time - a decent Mini-DV camera (or similar) shooting under good lighting will produce some very nice results. Think about sound as well... get the camera nice and close to the speaker and the results will be pretty good (the further away the camera, the worse your sound will be, due to the way the microphone is designed).

Also, buy a decent tripod (a company called Velbon make some good / cheapish tripods)....despite what many people will tell you, this is ESSENTIAL for producing good video. I'm not saying you can never hand-hold the camera, but for lengthy shots, you really need a nice, steady picture. Nothing marks out a video as amateurish more than really shaky camera-work.

Also, think about editing your videos. If anyone has a good DVD recorder in the club, you can do rough (but adequate) edits by simply playing your original video into the recorder and hitting the pause button at the right point. It's a bit fiddly at the start, but you will soon get the hang of it. Alternatively, you can download simple video editing software for free and edit on a PC or MAC (this has a much steeper learning-curve, though).

I would recommend E-Bay for buying most of this stuff, but be VERY cautious about the camera's condition. Always ask the seller about the camera's history. If they are vague and can't be bothered to answer your questions, AVOID them. There are hundreds of video-cameras of all types for sale on E-Bay at all times, so if you miss one, there's bound to be another one along shortly.

As for the type of camera, I would heartily recommend the Sony TRV-900 (I'm biased here... I have been using one for about 6 years now and still love it!). It an old design now, but if you get one that hasn't been kicked around and abused in it's lifetime, it should give you very nice pictures for a long time. The going rate for a decent quality one is around the 200 quid mark (I have seen well-used ones go for under £100). The picture quality is very good indeed. Make absolutely sure that all the important accessories are included in the sale... battery (if it's old you will probably have to buy a new one) and the original mains-adapter for powering the camera from a wall-socket. Some E-Bay video-cameras are sold without the original mains-adapter.... AVOID them!

If you do go down the E-Bay route, PAY USING PAY PAL (That is Rule No.1 in these situations!). If there is something wrong with the camera that the seller has not declared, then you can get a FULL refund via PAY PAL (I believe there is a 60 day window for buyers to make an appeal in). I have read that Pay Pal almost always support the buyer's rights in this situation and issue a refund quickly). If you've paid by other means, then getting a refund is entirely reliant on the seller's goodwill and honesty... which can lead to big problems, obviously.

I hope that this helps you.

Good luck, mate.

Chris.

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Chris, that is a priceless amount of information which I will pass on to the club. Wot about lights?

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Hi, Nigel.

Video lights are not cheap, so I would say go via E-Bay again (although you may find yourself in a bidding-war with other users, which will drive the price up). There's a German company called Wotan which used to produce some decent lights, but I think they went out of business a long time ago. Another company called Reflecta also produced some very good lights. One consideration is spare bulbs.... it's worth checking you can get spare bulbs for anything you buy, as obviously the light's useless once the original bulb has blown, if you don't have another.

By the way, when fitting a new bulb into your light, NEVER touch it with your bare fingers (the oils from your skin will cause a hot-spot on the glass and this will knacker the bulb very quickly). If you do accidentally touch the glass with your fingers, thoroughly wipe it down with some isopropol alcohol or similar product to remove the oils.

Hope this helps.

Good Luck, mate!

Chris.

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Thanks Chris, it certainly does. I will be going along to the next club meeting all smug with newly aquired expert knowledge on all things video related.

See you at the show,

Nigel

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Consider LED video lights. They use less power, last longer, (replacement lamps for any photographic lights can be expensive and go pop very quickly), and they run a lot cooler. The person doing the demonstration will be cooler and happier, and the model might be less hot and melty as well.

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