Tech FAQ

Over the years, we have been asked many questions regarding the technical aspects of Paperclip Films.  The posts below are my attempt to answer some frequently asked questions.


Q:  What cameras do you use?

A:  We have used several cameras since 2008.  All of Anti-Social was shot using a Sony PDX-10.  This is a lower high-end camera of the Mini-DV era.  We have retired this camera due to the dawn of HD.  Currently we rely on three cameras: the Canon XH-A1s, the Canon HV-20, and the Canon T2i.

The XH-A1s is a monster of a camera with buttons and knobs for every setting you could imagine.  Some of our early HD videos (e.g. We’re going to Miss the Spaceship) were shot using the Canon XH-A1s. 

The Canon HV-20 is a small but impressive HD camcorder.  Before the rise of the DSLR, an HV-20 with a 35mm lens adapter was a favorite combo for many Indy Filmmakers.  We use the HV-20 when the XHA1 is too big to be practicable or at college with Gary (e.g. Grant for Congress). 

Recently we have added the Canon T2i, a DSLR with HD recording capabilities, to our lineup (e.g. Robin Hood is Alive).  With interchangeable lenses, 1080p HD recording, awesome low-light capabilities, and a compact size, it is an ideal camera for night time videos and videos shot on the fly.

Q:  What software do you edit in?

A:  Gary and I both edit and a program called Sony Vegas.  When I was 14, Gary introduced me to it.  In 2005 I bought it myself and never looked back.  Currently, (November 2010), Gary and I are both running version 10 of this software.  As far as video professional editors go, it is the cheapest.  It is a Windows only program and it, as I like to put it, will run on a dead horse.  I have run Vegas on my tremendously underpowered netbook (it preformed terribly, but I could accomplish a simple edit with a few cuts) and used it extensively on a single core Dell with 512mb of ram when I was younger.  Obviously, the faster your computer is the better it will run, but the fact that it will boot on anything is a plus in my opinion.  It is simple yet powerful and has unmatched audio editing capabilities.

Q:  Mac or PC?

A:  Oh dear.  Not this question!  At the risk of offending a few fans, Gary, Grant, and I come down on the side of the PC.

The main reason Gary and I ended up on the PC/Sony Vegas route was because we were teenagers with no money who had access to cheap family PCs.  In that situation, all we needed to do was buy a copy of Vegas with academic pricing and suddenly we were able to do things we never dreamed of.

Am I putting down the Mac?  Not at all.  Had we had more money when we were younger Gary and I might have ended up editing on Macs. 

Q:  Should I get a Tape, Hard Drive, DVD, or SD card camera?

A:  When it comes to video cameras, it is my personal opinion that cameras that record on tapes are the best. SD card cameras are a close second. Which you would want is based on your needs.

Do you plan to record hours of home movies? Do you need to back up your footage long term? Are you broke? If you answered yes to any of these questions, I would suggest a tape-based camera. The reason I like tape-based cameras is because tapes are relatively cheap and can be stored indefinitely. Also, mini-dv, the format used by most tape based camcorders, has been an industry standard for over a decade. Because of this, there will be thousands of old cameras on eBay in 20 years when you want to play back the dusty tapes you found in your closet. Newer formats do not present this advantage. Will your AVCHD files play on computers in 20 years? What if a better format is invented? What if your hard drive crashes? Because of these uncertainties, I generally suggest people give non-tape formats a few more years to sort themselves out and go with a reliable tape based camcorder.

Do you plan to record short videos? Do you plan to delete your raw files when your videos are completed? Do you want to cut down on capture time? Do you have a faster computer with the latest version of a popular video editor? If you answered yes to any of these questions, I would suggest you look into an SD Card based camcorder. The main advantage to an SD card based camcorder is the fact that you do not have to play back all your footage in order to capture it, as is the case with tape. One drawback to SD based camcorders is that most of them record video files in AVCHD format. AVCHD is a highly compressed HD video format which requires extra processing power to play back in editing. Also, it is only just becoming better supported by popular video editing software.

Long term storage is also an issue. It would be expensive to buy several SD cards to store your video files, so you must back them up on a hard drive… but hard drives are prone to crashing. It is questionable whether external hard drives or SD cards will even work with the computers of the future. For this reason, I suggest SD card based camcorders only if your raw video does not need to be saved long term.

As far as Hard Drive and DVD based camcorders are concerned, STAY AWAY! Once your camera's hard drive fills up, you cannot film until you back it up to a computer. While SD cards and tapes can be ejected and stored, hard drive cameras present no such option. When it comes to DVD camcorders, the market has basically figured out they are garbage (notice how you can’t buy them most places?).  For all of us who have ruined a DVD of their favorite movie, imagine dropping and scratching the DVD containing a once-in-a-lifetime shot? I will say no more.