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5 Best Buys

The Gear To Get You Filming Fast
By JG Harding

New to the world of video production and unsure what gear to buy? Our guide to the five best options in three categories will get you started.

POCKET VIDEO RECORDERs

Camcorders and DSLRs aren't the only way to capture digital video. Here are five portable video devices that wil slip into your pocket and let you capture footage out and about. These are ideal for those wanting an easy way to shoot with no need to learn menus and settings.

5 Best Buys1. Aiptek ActionHD GVS (£169$249): Mini camcorder from the US with fip‑out screen and 5X optical zoom, shooting 1440 x 1080p and 720p to SDHC card. Records 30fps only, but a low price for the features. 5 Best Buys2. Flip Mino HD (£89$229): Popular pocket-sized 720p video recorder, runs for around two hours on a fixed internal battery. Fixed recording at 30fps, shooting to fixed 8GB internal memory only. Handy USB connector built in. 5 Best Buys3. GoPro HD Hero (from £199$269): Unique action camera shooting at up to 1080p, 30fps. Comes in kits to attach it to helmets, cars and surfboards! Waterproof casing and wide-angle view makes it a versatile piece of gear, shooting to SDHC card. 5 Best Buys4. Kodak Zi6 (£99$159): Kodak's portable recorder shoots 720p footage and sports a large 2.5‑inch screen. Shoots at up to 60 frames per second to SDHC, allowing for sharp slow‑motion video. 5 Best Buys5. Zoom Q3 (from £199$199): The only portable video recorders with a clear focus on audio quality, offering stereo 24‑bit WAV recording at 48kHz. Sacrifices some video resolution, shooting at VGA (640 x 480).

Professional Non‑linear Editors

These packages are built to handle the latest compression formats (codecs), and many have been used to create programming you will have watched on TV or the Internet. Depending on your budget, you may want to invest in a professional NLE and learn as you go, rather than starting with a simplified version.

5 Best Buys1. Adobe Premiere Pro CS5 (£793$999): Benefits from GPU (Graphics Processing Unit) acceleration with selected Nvidia cards and a 64‑bit video engine called Mercury, which allows native editing of many codecs. Closely integrated with other Adobe tools. 5 Best Buys2. Apple Final Cut Studio 3 (£816$999): Exclusive to Apple Macs; works closely with Logic Pro. Studio 3 includes Color for grading and Motion for animation. Benefits from widespread use across many levels of broadcast and film production houses. 5 Best Buys3. Avid Media Composer 5 (from £1522$2295): Cross‑platform editing; optional hardware acceleration; good Pro Tools integration; Avid software commonplace in professional suites. 5 Best Buys4. Grass Valley Edius 5 (£700$799): NLE from producers of professional video and large‑scale broadcast hardware and software; edits a wide variety of formats; comes bundled with iZotope VST plug‑ins. 5 Best Buys5. Sony Vegas Pro 9 (£580$569 download): Friendly interface for DAW users; edits many formats; integrates well with Acid and Sound Forge. A solid editing package.

motion graphics & video plug‑ins

Just as plug‑ins can put that extra polish on music when mixing, they can really enhance and speed up visual processing. Here are five suites to help you add a little visual flair, adding everything from colour grading to 3D environments and text. Individual effects from bundles cost less, and trials are available.

5 Best Buys1. Boris Continuum Complete 6 (from £649$995): Effects package for Apple, Adobe, Avid and Autodesk systems. Just under 200 plug‑ins included to spice up your video and graphics. 5 Best Buys2. FX Factory Pro 2 (£259$399): An effect architecture that powers many free and commercial effects for Apple and Adobe NLEs and motion graphics software. Pro version includes over 150 bundled effects. 5 Best Buys3. Genarts Sapphire 5 (from £1104$1699): Expensive set of plug‑ins for most platforms, can be rented on a mothly basis to cut costs. Over 220 processors, used in many movies. 5 Best Buys4. Magic Bullet Suite 2009.2 (£520$799): Effects suite plugs into popular NLEs and motion graphics software. Includes the popular Looks 1.2, a grading plug‑in with plenty of powerful colour, focus and exposure effects. 5 Best Buys5. Trapcode Suite 2.0 (£585$899): From the ubiquitous Shine effect to the complex but powerful 3D generator, Form, these plug‑ins have appeared in promos galore. Sound Keys generates keyframes from audio peaks: great stuff!

Published September 2010