Consider your aim before investing thousands of dollars in digital equipment

Friday, October 13th 2000, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

By Doug Bedell / The Dallas Morning News

Bart Weiss has been teaching filmmaking for 20 years and is a visiting assistant professor at the University of Texas at Arlington.

Mr. Weiss was asked how he would advise consumers who want to delve into the world of digital desktop video production.

Mr. Weiss admits he's biased toward Sony. "Nobody ever got fired for buying Sony," he says. "You can't say the same for many other manufacturers."

Here are Mr. Weiss' digital favorites:

MiniDV technology

Sony TRV900

About $2,000

"What makes it so wonderful is that it's a relatively small size," Mr. Weiss says. "It's extremely unobtrusive. And this camera is easily handled and pointed." Without tape or battery, its total weight is less than two pounds, making it ideal for the high-end home user.

It features a helpful picture-steadying system, 31/2-inch swivel LCD viewer and 12X optical zoom.

Sony VX2000

$2,600 generic/digitalvideo/minidvcamcorders/ index.shtml

A feature-packed larger camera, it is the choice of the new brand of digital video "pro-sumers," people who want the capability to crank out professional-quality home productions. "You have to have manual control over exposure, and some of the smaller mini-DVs make that harder to do," Mr. Weiss says. "By the time you've found the buttons, clicked through the menus and checked the viewer, you don't have a shot anymore."

With these larger models, Sony makes it easy to adjust critical settings on the fly. Among its desirable features is a servo-controlled manual zoom.

Sony VX1000

About $2,000

If one camera led the way in the digital video revolution, it's this one. For five years, filmmakers have gobbled up this prosumer product as fast as the company could churn it out. Sony has updated this groundbreaking model with its new VX2000. But by aggressive shopping on eBay, in pawnshops and through classified ads, deals on this model can still be found.

"The better ones like this are made so you can sort of find the buttons with your fingers while you're shooting," says Mr. Weiss.

Canon GL-1

About $2,000

"This is a comparable camera to the Sony VX1000. It's got a very good lens on it," says Mr. Weiss. It features a 30-frame-per-second progressive scan model, which is ideal for filmmakers who want their works to look as though they were shot on film.

Canon XL-1

About $3,500

"The Big Daddy of the Canon line. It's quite a remarkable camera," says Mr. Weiss. "One of its disadvantages is that when you shoot with an XL-1, people know you're shooting." It's large but still easy to control. Canon has added a feature that allows you to use other Canon lenses on the camcorder. Mr. Weiss says that's not a useful feature for most people. The XL-1 has four audio inputs, while the GL-1 has only one.

Digital 8 technology

Sony TRV520

About $900 dcr-trv520.shtml

Sony developed Digital 8 technology as an alternative to pricey MiniDV models. These camcorders can record a digital signal onto a standard Hi8 tape. Sony's TRV520, which is in the middle of Sony's Digital 8 line, has a Memory Stick for digital still capture and 3.5-inch LCD.

Although it's a bit bulkier than a typical digital camcorder and the picture quality isn't as good as true MiniDV, the TRV520 offers an excellent, reasonably priced introduction to the advantages of digital video. And it's "downwardly compatible" with the SVHS and Hi8 video that may already fill your library.