Video Camera Technology
Let’s start with a brief history of recording media from as far back as many would care to go and finish out with a more recent look at some of the video camera technology that is presently being used and developed.
Antiquated Video Formats
Back in the days when consumer cameras were first coming onto the market, most devices available to the general public were bulky shoulder-mounted monstrosities that shot in either VHS or Beta. That’s right, these cameras were big enough to hold full-size video tapes in their guts. They’d plug into an external output via RCA jacks and you could watch your home videos on television.
Following these large format cameras came slightly more compact models and tape formats including VHS-C. This was a miniature VHS tape that could be put inside a larger, VHS-sized adapter and played in any standard VCR. This format was still somewhat bulky, although the cameras themselves had become significantly smaller.
Eventually the VHS-C tape gave way to 8mm and Hi-8 formats, which used an even smaller tape. The Digital-8 tape was the next incarnation in 8mm technology, and these cameras started to be produced with digital USB and Firewire output jacks as computer capture became more common.
Eventually most 8mm formats went completely out of style, and while you might still be able to find 8mm tapes in some places, they don’t manufacture cameras that use them anymore.
The 8mm format was eventually replaced by an even smaller digital medium called the MiniDV tape. The MiniDV was the first true digital medium, and it was characterized by sharper image quality with better color reproduction, generally speaking.
Almost simultaneously with the MiniDV camera came a wave of DVD cameras that recorded to – you guessed it – a miniature DVD. These were popular because of their ease of recording and re-write capabilities. They were compatible with some DVD players as well.
High Definition cameras with onboard memory and/or hard-disk recording functionality are the current trend. Flash and SD memory cards eliminate the need for tapes and provide extremely compact means of capturing and storing video footage.
As computer hardware and graphics processing catches up to HD, and broadcasting standards have now met the standard as well, we’ve seen a complete shift toward the HD format in video camera technology. You’d be hard pressed to find a standard definition camera on the market anymore, outside of special cases or used equipment being resold.
This shift has allowed digital indie filmmaking to come closer than ever before to achieving viable results in the filmmaking world. Consumer camcorder manufacturers are now producing HD cameras that are literally just as small and lightweight as the MiniDV and DVD cameras that used to shoot standard definition, and with Blu-Ray media it is now possible to view and record feature film-length video to a single disc in High Definition.
The Future’s Looking Bright
Digital video still hasn’t reached the resolution of true film, but with the advent of high-definition video, we’re getting closer. Faster transfer speeds and internet technologies combined with new algorithms for compressing and streaming high quality video online are bringing the days of pixelated, blurry video to a close. As I’ve mentioned elsewhere, many of today’s digital SLR cameras are the perfect tools for an independent filmmaker on a budget.
Read up to find out more about how these new options in digital video camera technology will open up new pathways for how you make films. If you dedicate yourself to the craft, you’ll find that your future as a filmmaker will keep getting better and better!
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