Written in Stone, the series, and a plea for some advice


A few weeks ago, during the last part of the "So you want to write a pop-sci book" series, I briefly mentioned the idea of creating a series of mini-documentaries which would help promote my forthcoming book Written in Stone. The more I thought about it, the more I liked it, but I have a bit of a problem. I have never created a short film before (well, outside of TV class in high school), and I am asking for a bit of advice from those who are more experienced with video projects.

At the moment I have two primary questions. The first is, what sort of digital video recorder should I buy? I only have about $400 to spend, but if anyone has any suggestions on good digital camcorders in that range I would most certainly welcome them. My second question has to do with video editing software. Are there are particularly good programs that won't clean out my bank account? I don't need anything extremely fancy; just something that makes it easy to piece together pieces of video taken in different places.

I already have a few ideas for the short films, from on-location stories about fossil sites to more general explanations of our relationship with apes, and I imagine that much of my summer will be spent putting the films together. If they are successful, I might make video stories a fairly regular part of my work, but first I need to get my equipment together.

Note: I forgot to mention that I would be doing all this on a Dell Studio 17 laptop running Windows 7.

More like this

Thanks, Sarah, though I forgot to mention that I'm running Windows 7 on a Dell laptop. I'm sure it would be easier with a Mac, but I had not thought about that when I bought my new computer.

If you are creating something for the internet, than image quality is not primarily important. Sound is. Whatever camera solution you use get a good sound recording device. Check out the ZoomH4N (http://www.zoom.co.jp/english/products/h4n/) which goes for about $300. It has a smaller brother for abou half the price.
I'd personally buy whatever camera you fancy, just get that sound quality up there.

Windows Movie Maker may not bell and whistle the same tunes as more expensive software, but it can probably do everything you need it to. Is it already installed? I'm not sure which versions of the OS come with it.

I've used that and I've used Magix Video Edit, which is usually pretty cheap. The one you'd pay for has a few more features. I'd recommend trying the one you already have and then downloading and testing something else if you feel it's lacking.

Whatever you use for software and hardware, make sure they like each other. Video can be hell. There are way too many formats and few of them seem to play well with each other.

I'm also a PC person and I just bought myself a digicam quite recently after some research, so a couple of comments (not that I'm an expert). First of all, I decided that I would sooner spend the same money getting a really good non-HD camera than get HD which neither my computers and software nor my current TV's can handle. So far I'm very happy with that decision.

Second, I read a great deal about problems with compatibility of camera formats with different editing software - so, having bought a Sony camera, I bought Sony editing software (they put out a range of varying sophistication). So far, I have only begun the learning curve of using the software - but I know it works!