I am pretty new to photo/video, but since I'm one of the computer guys at my job this has fallen to me and I honestly have no clue where to start.
We'd like to set-up a recording station for users to record presentations that they are practicing in a specific room. The room has a computer (Dual-boot to PC and Mac, but if the only solutions are PC only, that would be OK) and we'd like the recording to go directly to the computer, rather than using any tapes or other removable media.
In addition to recording presentations, we'd also like to be able to take still images with the camera. We'd like those to go directly to the computer as well.
We definitely want to have HD Quality video, as we also have plans in the future to put a green screen on the wall as well.
This also means that we'd probably want to have zoom capability so that we can change it from recording the entire front of the room (for presentations) and zoom in to get just the green screen. This needs to be controlled with the computer, since the camera will be mounted where users can't mess with it.
This needs to be something pretty user friendly, since this will be used by students who have never used the stuff before and we'd want to just have short instructions, rather than have to set it up for them or show each new person.
Any advice about what we could use for these purposes would be amazing. Thanks in advance.
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What is the purpose of this grand adventure? Do you plan to give copies to the presenters? Are you keeping these for future viewing?
I think giving copies away or keeping copies for the future is something to be worrying about later. That's mostly a question of storage anyway.
Try looking in the tools/downloads section under capture. That should help. I don't know what tools you'd need exactly myself.
You'll want your video to be in an efficient, well supported format. x.264/h.264 encoding is the best around now. h.264 can be stored in mp4/m4v (latter is quicktime) or mkv containers.
.mp4 would probably be better because it's more widely supported, both by software players and across platforms.
Zooming in software sounds problematic to me if you want to maintain hd quality. That may not be much of a problem.
You'll get a lot of recommendations for free/open source here. But, as I'm sure you realize, that stuff can easily end up costing more than software you pay for once you factor in the extra learning curve due to lack of docs and the lack of tech support. Digital video can get pretty complex once you get past a certain level. I'd want real pro stuff with good support if this was for work.
something pretty user friendly
This needs to be controlled with the computer, since the camera will be mounted where users can't mess with it.
You might suggest starting small, and ease your way into a larger setup when your boss feels comfortable with all this. For example, you could have a Canon Vixia with zoom, shoots AVCHD and mpeg4 @ 1080p on a good, strong tripod. Or you could go with something like this for a lot more money-I used these extensively: http://www.abcomrents.com/Sony-XD-Cam-EX-Full-HD-533.aspx. You can always expand later.
You can set up a remote mic at the front of the room if the onboard sound is not sufficient. The camera would be man-operated of course, but this will give you some experience as to what your boss will be happy with.
Thanks for all the replies. As far as storage that is not really a consideration at all. The main purpose is going to be practicing their presentations, and the idea is they can either watch it then, or save it to their own removable media when done. The computer wipes out all changes the user makes at reboot anyways.
As far as budget, you may have guessed it, but I do work for a University, and obviously our budget is very tight.
Maybe I am a little jaded, but I would think that there would be some intuitive solutions out there for this that users could learn on the fly. Really, all we want is record HD Video and take still images, and control the Zoom feature of the camera with the computer.
I found one software utility called DVDriver http://www.trackercam.com/TCamWeb/dvdriver.htm which would provide the zoom part of this, however, it doesn't record. I've looked around for a recording (capture?) software but don't really know what I am looking for. Ideally, the recording software would be able to do the zoom part without having this extra software component.
Zooming in software sounds problematic to me if you want to maintain hd quality.
I'll browse through the tools/download section a little. Thanks again everyone.
If you're working at a university and are on a budget, you might try something like this:
The first link will bring you to a webpage that offers software for both PC and MACs which will allow you to record video directly to the computer. This includes all the features you're looking for including zoom
Now as far as the camera goes, you don't necessarily have to invest in a really expensive camcorder. They sell HD Webcams that can record 720p HD video and usually hook up via a USB cable to your system.
The second link I provided is a good example of one such webcam. This one includes a microphone that can be placed over the ear for better quality sound rather than being integrated into the webcam itself. Furthermore, it is designed specifically to work with the software I posted a link to above.
The total cost for everything would be about 100$ or less (depends on how soon you buy because the software is 30% off until the end of March)
Hope this helps a little
This information is really helpful, thank you so much for posting it. I really like this idea. However, I hate to ask this because it seems like this should be something pretty easy to find, but I've been all over manufacturer's websites and forums, etc trying to find the answer to this and I'm not. With hardware, our purchasing department prefers we go through a particular vendor and they don't sell the Hercules brand. They have Logitech, Microsoft, Creative, HP and some others. However, when I look through them I cannot find one that states that it has zoom, and I have looked on the manufacturer's website, our vendor's website and googled every other site I can find.
http://www.altoedge.com/usbcapture/video.html This was linked from the Debut software, so I assume these would be good to choose from. My vendor has the Logitech B910, the Orbit, the Logitech C110 (not HD though I think) the Blue Microphones Eyeball and a few Microsoft ones, but not specifically the VX-5500.
I feel kind of lazy but I honestly have tried to search for this online extensively and am having trouble. Could you give me some more advice. If the only one that will be able to zoom like I want is the Hercules, I can convince them to buy it from this other vendor, but if one of the others will do the same thing they'd rather me get one of those. Thanks again,
Sorry I wasn't thinking about that. You're right, most Universities will want you to stick to name brand items, sold through a trusted vendor.
So as far as Microsoft Web Cams with zoom are concerned here are a few good ones:
And the other one I would recommend is the Logitech B910 Webcam (which does have digital zoom):