Video equip for kayak lesson podcasts

-- Last Updated: Feb-09-09 4:58 PM EST --

I'm gonna post also in some video forums; Vimeo Cameras forum for one. Can you recommend other forums for this question? I know there's some smart people here too with video photography experience, so here goes...

I want to start doing high quality amateur podcasting for sea kayak training purposes; both indoor and outdoor, including on the water. Here's a couple low quality, just-do-it examples (if you didn't see my earlier post); , first 2 articles. If I can get one camera that does it all, that's great. If not, my first priority is for indoor instructional podcasting. I have friends who have cameras that can shoot footage for me at the pool and on open water; Olympus 1030SW I think (water proof, not sure about the video capability) and Canon SD950 (pool side.)

I currently have a HP Photosmart M425 4MP digital camera with a badly hissing microphone (almost useless) and a Sony Handycam TRV310 digital 8mm video camera with DV out (not bad video actually.) I might be happy with the TRV310 for a few more months if I could get live video to a monitor for real-time feedback while I'm podcasting. (I don't know if that's a typical requirement, but it seems to me like a good idea.) In any event though, pretty soon I want to do away with the lengthy process of transferring 8mm video to my tower PC through an IEEE 1394 card.

I'm not sure what I need. I've roughed out some specs, and listed possible cameras and microphones, as I do my research. I've made some comments to help you understand my reasoning, hoping you will point out possible misconceptions on my part. I'm sure there are at least a few.

Thanks for any help.

## Specs for camera and audio equipment.

* Intended use - High end amateur podcasting for kayak training purposes; both indoor and outdoor, including on the water.

* Budget: Would prefer not to exceed $500 in the first 6 months. Wouldn't mind starting at less than $200, and upgrading later, if realistic.

* Video Quality: High end amateur, DVD quality.

I'm thinking HD is not critical at this point. The HD files are too big and presently cost extra money per view beyond 500 views, on Vimeo at least. I could put them on my web host, but might also exceed file transfer limits there. Also it seems that streaming HD videos often doesn't keep up with the required viewing speed, and often pause while the download catches up. I do want the podcasts to be streamable.

I intend to focus on good lighting, and good editing practices, to optimize those parts of the video quality. However, I don't want overly grainy video. I want to be able to clearly see the facial features of the presenter during indoor podcasts, for example.

* Audio quality: Medium amateur quality. No severe audio defects; crackling or hissing for example. Can't sound like the speaker is in a barrel. Have to be able to hear the words. Voice doesn't have to be professional level warm, though. I intend to focus on vocal tone, tempo, and annunciation. I think that will be more important, cheaper, and simpler, than professional level audio gear at this point.)

* Live video output to a notebook computer or at least to a video monitor of some kind; for real-time feedback to the presenter. I don't know if this is a typical requirement for indoor podcasting, but it seems to me like a good idea. I have an LCD monitor with HDMI in, and a notebook PC with USB in. (In case it's possible to get live output from my 8mm camcorder with DV out, I have a IEEE 1394 card in a spare tower PC for DV in.)

* Waterproof or able to enclose in a waterproof case during use, if it's the on-water camera or a one-camera-does-all.

## Wants, maybe not musts.

* Takes an SDHC card. They're so convenient. My notebook has an SD card reader. I need to make sure it can read SDHC.

* Fast auto focus might come in handy for on water video of boat passing by at close distance, or during indoor podcast to bring a model kayaker and boat up close to the lens. (The latter could be handled by editing out the transition from human presenter at 6 ft distance to model at 1 ft distance.)

* Both optical wide view and optical zoom could be handy depending on the situation. Probably don't need extremes in either. Maybe 3x optical zoom to get closer up for surf video.

* Image stabilization that can be turned on or off, if that's possible. Optical preferred, as I've read that's more effective than digital. Might want it for stationary subjects, especially when filming on the water. Probably don't want it for moving subjects. (I've read the panning video can lag under image stabilization.) Maybe not critical as on the water video will usually be moving shots and I can use a tripod for shore side. Probably helpful though for point and shoot still photos if one-camera-does-all.

## Other wants that I'm willing to compromise on.

* Takes AA rechargeable batteries, seems ideal as long as a charge lasts for at least 1 hr of video. Though not ideal for water tightness if on water camera.

* Both an optical view finder and LCD display would be great.

## Possible equipment options.

* Cameras

If I want to go relatively low end for a while and see if I really get into this, I'm thinking maybe a Sanyo Xacti VPC-E2 Digital Camcorder and 8 MP Digital Camera, $170, as a does-it-all. I've read it takes good outdoor video and good still shots. The video samples I've seen on reviews look pretty good. Downsides are doesn't take good video in low light levels, and watertightness not reliable. I'm thinking I can spend a little money on good lighting indoors for the podcasts to overcome the low lighting issue. I should do that anyway. And maybe keep the camcorder in a waterproof case on the water when not using it, so dunking is only occasional. I'm not sure if I can do live output of the Xacti to a video monitor. I'm also cautious on this model in that I haven't seen any conversation on it on But maybe there just isn't much discussion about on-water video.

If I want to go higher end, maybe about a $400 video camera for now for shore side; and later a Canon Powershot and waterproof case, another $300-400, for on the water.

I know the typical point an shoot solutions are the Pentax W60 or Olympus 1050SW (or earlier models.) From what I've seen and read, the Olympus takes great still photos. I've read though in an review that the Olympus has a max of 10 seconds for 640 resolution video. I don't think the Pentax has quite the video quality I'm looking for.

* Microphones

For audio input at the computer, for voice over during video editing, or for style podcasts to demo nautical charts software, I'm thinking a Logitech USB Desktop Microphone, $23.

During indoor video podcasting, I want to try to use the camera's on board microphone in the beginning. That should sound OK I think. (There's something wrong with the mic on my 4 MP camera.) If that doesn't sound good enough, maybe go with the Sony WCS-999 Wireless Microphone System, $130.

Any thoughts or suggestions are appreciated. I'm new at this video thing, and still formulating thoughts. (My wife bought the TRV310, at a used camera shop, spur of the moment, actually.)


Your wife made a good purchase with the TRV310. I made a rolling video years back and still sell it. I edited in Final Cut Pro on the Mac. Forget a waterproof housing, it will cost more than your entire budget - same with a good microphone. Doing video well is quite a learning process. You can shoot all kinds of kayaking from dry land or a boat with super results. If you can afford a decent shotgun mic, that would be good but most kayaking videos rely on music and voice-overs.

Check out - loads of information and also see if there’s any video clubs around where people meet and share war stories.If you are going to DVD, then the quality shows but if your are just going to post on Vimeo or youtube then it really doesn’t matter and people get away with shooting video with Pentax waterproof still cameras.

Good luck. It’s a complicated medium with no 5 sentence answers. I spent a lot of time learning to edit well and the software is expensive.

Contact video businesses in your are to see if they know of any groups that meet. You have to experiment a lot with your equipment to see what you can get out of it.

I think you have it down
There are a couple of other things to consider - you’re going to need something to edit your video. I use MovieMaker which is free on Windows machines, but there are lots of options.

Outdoor shot are much more interesting than indoor, but getting good audio outside will be much more difficult than getting good video.

As your shots get more complicated, someone to run the camera will be a big help. I tried video taping paddling shots alone once, and it was such a pain that I never tried again.

Setting up the camera, paddling out to get in the frame, paddling back only to find that I missed the shot - much easier to do with help. The audio at the beginning of that clip is from my Optio W20.

Look forward to seeing what you come up with.

my only advice
lose those pajama bottoms

camcorder housing

– Last Updated: Feb-09-09 11:15 AM EST –

You used a TRV310 for your DVD?
Wow, that’s amazing! It does shoot pretty good video. I only tried it once or twice a few years ago, to let some people online analyze my steel tip dart throw. Focus on me was good (first priority), but got some fuzz in the background. Might have been the file compression. I was using Microsoft Movie Maker.

Thanks for the tip on I saw that in your reply to another post here, and the URL didn’t take right away. Works now though. Looks like a great site. I’ll check into a local club, too.

I think most of the video editing software is under $100 US now. The open source stuff of course is free. I’m still using MS movie maker for the moment. I’ll download trial versions of some other’s later.

Try to shoot from land. Got it.

Thanks again.


Nice video
What camera did you use?

Your vocal is good. Up beat, smooth.

I had to talk soft actually in the voice over for the role vid because I was using a little plastic mic that came with my Dell tower about 4 years ago. Too far away and it wouldn’t pick up, too close and I’d get a poofing sound from my breath. I wrapped a sock around it and talked softly : ). My $25 desk mic I’m ordering will fix that.


Professional Kayak Setup

Justine Curgenven, producer of ‘This is the Sea’ sea kayaking DVD’s has a blurb on her blog about her filming setup.

Of course I realize that she’s using production-level equipment but it might give you a little more info.

ps… I’m tracking down a really nice camera for the pool session on Wednesday. Interested in doing some rolls, etc and I’ll film?



Sounds good.
South Albany HS pool will have better lighting, too.

Professional advice…
Hey Paul,

I’ve been shooting professionally in sports and entertainment for a living for over 20 years with a few statues on the shelf, so I want to offer general acquisition advice first, rather than specific equipment info if you don’t mind. Equipment choices are everywhere, and I can point you in the direction of new and used options. Quality advice is harder to find than gear. Feel free to e-mail me with any questions once you’ve digested the following.

Camera…The zoom is not your friend! Always better to move the camera physically as close to the action as possible and shoot full wide. This provides the most detail, available light, and highest quality images, as well as most stable. The zoom is an “effect”, and unless you need to, better to stop, reposition, and shoot up close for “cut away” shots of detail. Don’t forget to white balance when you change lighting (indoors to outdoors, etc). Ensure that your filters(if provided) and iris settings are good. Set focal length by zooming all the way in to your subject, sharpen image, then zoom back out to your starting frame. If camera has a “back focus” adjustment, check each time you start your shooting day. If you have trouble holding focus after setting focal length, or if your image is blurry at full wide, your back focus is out. Use manual functions when possible. The new cameras with “menu” focus controls suck. Always try to have manual focus ring.

Audio…do not make the mistake of selling audio quality short. We are accustomed to taking in our images with quality sound. Scratchy, hissy, echoing audio will turn off the viewer. On-board microphones are usually crap. They are “do-all” mics that do nothing well, especially in the consumer product world. Best possible scenario is a camera with an audio input and a reasonably good microphone, wired or wireless. Shotgun mics are better than lavs in general. Set up a shotgun just off camera low and in front with a music or mic stand if possible. If you use the on-board mic, it is ULTRA IMPORTANT to have the camera physically right up on the subject. Even then, audio will be slightly hollow. Some on-boards will also pick up camera noise. Avoid on-board mics. use for nat sound only.

Lighting…to avoid grainy video on the budget you have provided, lighting becomes critical. I can make any camera look reasonably good if I light properly, and make sure my iris setting is correct. If shooting outdoors, keep the sun behind you, and on your subject. If you are shooting on a bright day, don’t forget to set the filter (if available) to add neutral density to cut down on sun. Think sun glasses for your lens. If shooting indoors, control your lighting as much as possible. Don’t have any windows behind the subject, DO NOT USE flourescent lighting. It will give a bluish or greenish tint to your video.

You might find decent light kits on e-bay or craig’s list. LowellDP, and Arri are excellent choices. This would be a worthwhile investment, as lighting technology is very slow to change. Don;t forget accessories like scrims, diffusion, and black wrap to help with a professional look to lighting.

Content…It’s great to have a professional on-camera look, or golden pipes, but not necessary. If you follow basic guidelines for quality sound and images, your personality is what will drive the content. You might want to keep in mind visual basics like the “rule of thirds”, “watch your headroom”, “conversation space”, “cut aways”, “reaction shots”, and an open and close whenever possible.

Feel free to e-mail me for further explanation or advice.


Great info, Ralph. Thanks.

– Last Updated: Feb-10-09 11:18 AM EST –

I tend to just need to be pointed in the right direction, then I can do further research. Really appreciate it. I probably will ask some specific questions later.

I think I'll probably stick with the TRV310 for now because it probably has a lot of the manual settings you're talking about, and most of the image distortion I was seeing before was probably lighting. I could put money into the lighting, filters if I need them, maybe a shotgun mic, etc. I'll just have the longer upload times, and maybe not optimum file compression. (Loss of quality in data codec/compression might be the biggest downside with hi 8mm, vs most recent digital cams, I'm not sure.)

Great tips on improving the photography, with whatever camera I'm using. Thanks again.


A nice used Canon LS or LX Series
would be killer for what you want to do. They were hi-8 and later digital 8 if I’m remembering correctly.

I still have a hi-8 edit deck (plays 8mm as well).

8mm was a good shooting and audio format that suffered from fragility due to thin tape. Didn’t stand up well to editing. We used to shoot hi-8, then bump up to betacamsp, which would look almost as good seven passes in as it did the first time.

Analog…I miss you already.

Hey CT…
Yer ever try de DSC Labs Fiddlehead backfocus chart instead o’ de Siemens Star fer backfocusin’? Woyks real nice.


Can’t say as I have FE…
We rarely chart 'em anymore. I usually find a nice edge somewhere across the arena or stadium, like a scoreboard or railing, then get on the headset, roll thru back focus once or twice, stop where it looks good on the trusty old black & white monitor and say “hey video, does this look good to you or what, 'cuz it’s time to go to lunch!”

Never even heard of the fiddlehead. ‘Cept of course when I’m out hikin’ in the spring. Looking forward to meeting you at Paddlesport 09. Let me know where you’re gonna be.


Here be de link, CT

Good ta hear yer be a’goin’ ta Raystown. See yer there.


Charts for backfocus
Thanks for the link FE. I sent it along to my engineering buddies. As a humble camera operator, my job is to be in position on time, frame, focus, pan, tilt, zoom, protect gear, shoot hot chicks (except on Disney shows) and not piss off the director. We used to use the FB College for grayscale charting of all cameras before the days of integrated circuits. Oddly enough I’ve never seen a specific back focus chart on a remote. We just find something at the furthest point of our area of coverage and let video talk us into focus, then we lock it in at the lens. Possible that the CCU in the remote truck had built in back focus charts right in the video monitors. I’m getting misty thinking about the good old days on the road. Semi-retired now.

The camera I want is Ty’s
The one that Ty uses on extreme home makeover looks to be the one to get. Small can be held in one hand and has broadcast quality video! I havent’ been able to find out what it is but I like the results that he gets with it.


Probably a sony…
maybe the successor the the v-1000 series. Panasonic also has something in that range. And canon has the LX/LS series. Avoid JVC for high end use. The bottom line for image quality is three chips for processing colors. Chips should be 2/3" for “broadcast quality” although that description has been dumbed down a lot with reality TV and “digital” video, another term with little meaning from a quality standpoint. Some cameras with three 1/2" chips are ok.

You can find a lot of cameras at B&H Photo/Video in NYC. Google them, but shop around as they are not the cheapest game in town.

Fer wat ah’ film…

– Last Updated: Feb-12-09 12:25 PM EST –

in HD (ah's not a pro)- ah' use de 1/3" 3-CCD JVC GY-HD100 which has now been replaced wit de GY-HD110. A step up be de GY-HD200 an' next de 250. De stock 16x Fujinon lens isn't de best in de world but more than sufficient. Iffin' yer got de wampum go fer de 13X lens - nice piece o' glass but pricey.

Comin' out in de next month or so be JVC's smaller 1/4" GY-HM100 ($4000) an' de larger 1/3" GY-HM700 (about $7800)wit an interchangeable Canon lens. Both are now solid state (no more tape - using inexpensive SDHC cards) 1080P cameras.

Sony has de new EX-1 an' EX-3 1/2" cameras which wat ah' hear are very, very good.

Now keep dis in yer noggin', pilgrim.... after de cameras, dis gizmo, dat gizmo, tripods, accessories, 'puter upgrade, editin' software, etc. ye will spend more on dis here stuff than buyin' a new car. Iffin' yer go real high end broadcast yer kin bump dat up ta de price o' a house. Jus' a woyd o' warnin' ta ye, dats all.

Now bein' more down ta eoyt... de SANYO Xacti E2 is purdy good. Ah' gots de older E1 which is ok fer wat it is - a low end point an' shoot waterproof. Yer not gon'na git any live output feed ta a monitor.


3 chips is key, no matter what size
FE’s right, you can ratchet up the costs pretty quick, even in the hobby zone. FE, you may not be a pro, but you sound like you know your stuff.