Answer Best answer as chosen by user TrixiRacer
several things gong on...
1) Current camcorder process flow.
Too bad you did not tell us the model number of the DVD based camcorder that you are using. Assuming it is standard definition video being captured, the normal process flow for editing would be to:
capture the video;
finalize the disc in the camcorder;
take the finalized disc out of the camcorder;
insert the finalized disc into the drawer loading DVD drive of the computer;
use a DVD ripper (like HandBrake - www.handbrake.fr ) to rip the video to a low compression WMV file;
quit the ripper;
launch the video editor and drag the converted file to the video editor's "storage" or sequence area.
Please note that the VOB files created by the standard definition DVD based camcorders apply the most compression of pretty much any of the camcorders available. Video compression = discarded video data = reduced video quality. I would never ever recommend a DVD based camcorder to anyone - between the short record time, lots of compression and expensive media, DVD camcorders were a good concept that should never have seen the light of day.
2) New camcorder selection.
Low lighting environment means large lenses and imaging chip (or, preferably, 3-chip array) is REQUIRED. Most consumer camcorders under about $1,000 have small lenses (37mm filter diameter or less) and small (1/4" or less) single imaging chips systems. The Canon HF S series and Sony HDR-CX500 series have lens filter diameters in the 58mm range... which is OK, but not great. The single imaging chip varies in size (remember, larger is better).
Your setting the $1,500 limit is useful - but as you may have already discovered, there's not much selection in that area. And there is more to capturing good video than lens and imaging chip size.
Fast action and heavy video compression do not get along too well. Specifically, the artifacts that consumer grade AVCHD compression provides are irritating, at best. So, your goal should also include a low compression storage method. In the consumer - maybe "prosumer" space, this means miniDV tape writing low compression DV or HDV format video to digital tape. There are many other advantages to digital tape - but we can go there only under the condition that your computer has a firewire port or you are willing to add one if needed.
3) "Ease of transfer to a computer".
Connect the Camcorder's DV port (not USB) to the computer's firewire port (not USB);
Power up the camcorder in Play mode;
Launch the video editor;
Select Capture or import. This is a real time activity - 30 minutes of DV or HDV video takes 30 minutes to import.
Do not reuse the tape. It is the archive and when stored in a cool, dry environment will be available in 10, 20 or even 30 years. If the video is edited, the final project can be exported back to the camcorder for archiving to digital tape or use the camcorder as a play-back deck (especially handy for high definition playback if burning Blu Ray compatible discs is not possible).
Flash memory or Hard disc drive camcorder:
<div>Camcorder on or off;
Connect the Camcorder's USB port to the computer's USB port;
Power up the camcorder in Play/PC mode;
If the video editor is not AVCHD video file capable, copy the MTS files to the computer;
launch a transcoder (I like MPEG StreamClip from www.squared5.com ) to a file type the video editor can deal with;
when the transcoding is done, quit the transcoder and launch the video editor;
drag the transcoded files to the video editor's and drag the converted file to the video editor's "storage" or sequence area.
If the video editor is AVCHD file compliant, there will be a specific Capture command sequence that will be specified by the video editor. Multiple MTS files can be decompressed simultaneously using this method - but one at a time will allow more CPU cycles to the single files decompression. This is faster than real time and depends on the number of files you need to baby sit and the computer's CPU.
In either case, you need to understand how you plan to archive the video files so they can be viewed in 10, 20 or 30 years - unless you don't care. If you don't care, then after copying the video from the camcorder to the computer, you can delete the video from the camcorder storage media (using the camcorder's file delete commands - not through the computer... further discussion on this is available).
Once the video is useable by the video editor, most of the steps are the same. Edit, add scene transitions if needed, add audio if needed, add titles and credits if needed, add special effects, color balancing, etc... if needed.
"Ease" is relative - I prefer clicking "Capture" and walking away to do something else rather than baby-sitting transcoding. But without a firewire connection, you may not even have this choice.
3) There is no single file type that can be used for all audiences. Typically, I render:
a) back to the camcorder for best quality (I use miniDV tape based camcorders) for the archive in addition to keeping the original tape locked and intact - it has all the cut scenes I may want later;
b) a high quality computer readable video file that is typically used for computer playback - this is also used as the source video file used by a DVD authoring too to create standard definition DVDs playable in a regular DVD player;
c) a medium quality computer readable file that is typically used for uploading to video sharing sites;
d) the standard def video version that can be played by a regular DVD player (source video from "b" above);
e) a very compressed MP4 version for use by personal media players like iPods...
f) and an occasional BluRay capable DVD in a high definition video file format.
4) What you have to choose from:
The previously mentioned Canon HF S200 series; Sony HDR-CX500 series (this has an interesting "SmoothSlow Record" feature you might find interesting). The Panasonic HDC-TM900 looks interesting (2D and 3D capable)... All of these use AVCHD compression and would normally fall off my short list using your specific requirements. The Sony HDR-FX7 is great for a few more $. Even a used HDR-FX1 (in good shape) would be a good choice. Hard disc drive camcorders are not recommended - there is a recent post in this forum about hard drive issues with a hard drive based camcorder - and how data recovery might be possible. bhphotovideo.com is a good source. So is adorama.com. There are a few others, but the "if it looks to good to be true, it probably is" line definitely applies to many other distribution channels applying huge "discounts".
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