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The Gizmo Guy: The Eyes Have It
By Gordon Meyer
One of the fun things about perusing the world of consumer electronics is discovering products that can provide major benefits to filmmakers at bargain basement prices. Case in point: the growing family of exceptionally compact video cameras that can capture 720p and even 1080p video in their native modes.
It’s no surprise that many DPs have turned to these inexpensive, compact, devices to complement their principle photography. Several of the DPs I’ve spoken to for both articles I’ve done for the print edition of P3 Update as well as this online forum have talked about using products like the palm-sized Flip HD camcorder.
Well, it was only a matter of time before that old stalwart of online chatting, the webcam, caught up enough to become a useful tool as well. Most webcams just don’t have what it takes to capture quality footage. For example with the $13 entry level model I recently set up for a friend of mine you have to manually focus a pretty crude lens with not a whole lot of depth of field, it’s standard definition, and it doesn’t have a very fast frame rate. It’s perfectly adequate for use with an Internet-based video chat system like Skype, Google or Yahoo. But the quality is about what you’d expect from a $13 webcam.
This is why Logitech’s new HD Pro Webcam C910 stands out so strongly and has the potential to be used in situations where you want to discreetly place a very compact HD camera – and it sells for under $100. The HD Pro captures full 16:9 1080p footage with its Carl Zeiss autofocus lens. Using proprietary technology, the HD Pro automatically adjusts the frame rate, color and sharpness to provide the best possible picture and motion. The HD Pro also comes bundled with video and photo capture software and the entry level Magix Video Easy editing program to do your initial capture with. Seasoned techies can no doubt devise more sophisticated ways to handle footage captured with the HD Pro.
Since this is a consumer product, there are certainly trade-offs. For example there is no manual override option on the HD Pro’s automatic focus and exposure features, nor is there a zoom lens. And while the built-in stereo mic is perfectly adequate for its primary intended use as a webcam, I wouldn’t count on it as anything more than a reference audio track. But for under $100, you’ve got a nifty way of capturing good quality full HD footage in environments where a full-sized camera just isn’t an option. Ain’t technology fun!