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Old Dec 4, 2004, 9:25 AM   #1
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I have a son who would like to make Lego movies. I need an inexpensive video camera with stop motion function. Suggestions would be appreciated. Thank you,

Karen
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Old Dec 14, 2004, 11:35 PM   #2
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Cool, my bro (who isn't a kid =) is doing what your kid wants. We don't have a digital camcorder, but as far as motion capturing goes, they're all in the same ballpark. All consumer grade camcorders are 8mm NTSC video.

***
Before reading
- Consider buying a digital camera instead. Best motion captures with Lego or other inanimate objects are best suited with multiple still images stitched together into an animation. Digital cameras also provide near-same grade video capture quality as digital camcorders should the situation call for it. Digital cameras are much cheaper and are superior for still shooting. When you consider the return on investment, digital cameras blow camcorders out of the water.
***

If you're looking for the cheapest prices, look for analog camcorders. Make sure you have the necessary PC connectors to use the camcorder. You'll need either an S-Video (6 pins + 1 tooth) or Composite (solid pin) input along with a program to receive video signals, such as WinDVR, VirtualDub, VirtualVCR, etc... Some are free, others are not. Motion capture from this grade camcorder will be poor. Your resolution will be limited to 8mm NTSC tape resolution, which is roughly 512x384 and your videos will be interlaced.

If you want to go digital, the price will be a bit more and you'll need to make sure you either have a USB or Firewire port. I recommend Canon or Sony digital camcorders as they both provide the best quality and features. Digital camcorders are capable of giving you much higher quality than analog ones since the signal is digital to start with and there is no interlacing artifacts. The Canon ZR series are the cheapest, but some lack certain features your kid might want, such as image capturing. Sony's TRV series are their cheapest models and come fully equipped. As you go up Sony's price ladder you're just upgrading the quality, not necessarily the features.

For analogs, a typical price range is between $200 and $400 CAD. For digital, a typical price range is between $500-$600 CAD. For the price you pay on a digital camcorder, you could get a very nice digital camera. Something to consider given the primary purpose of your kid's use of a camcorder.
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Old Dec 15, 2004, 10:15 AM   #3
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I agree with everything that The Ghost said. I have never done stop action movies, so hopefully someone that does will also answer you.

I wanted to add a little about the cameras that can do movies - many of those can also do time lapse movies (my Nikon 3700 actually takes flash pictures that it stitches together for you for the time lapse movie mode). You set the time you think you will need between frames and it will wait that long before taking the next frame (options on my camera 30s, 1m, 5m, 10m, 30m and 60m). It MAY be an easier way to get a video via a camera than manually stitching the pictures together. However the total lenght of one clip will be severly limited. In time lapse movie mode only, my camera limits you to 1800 frames and makes the movie 30 frames per second for a total movie of 1 minute (if you have a big enough SD card). In other movie modes it doesn't limit the lenght other than available space. Most of the time you are only going to see the normal movie mode time limits listed, so you will have to ask in the forums for any camera you are interested in for more details on time lapse movie limitations. Actually my camera screen didn't tell me that I would be limited - just the manual. When I have more time I will test the camera to see which is actually correct.

Normally when doing videos you want the highest possible resolution and frame rate you can get to make the smoothest movie possible. However unless your son wants incredibly smooth short videos and has infinate time on his hands, you would be better off with a lower frame per second camera (unless you plan on stitching pictures together yourself). A camera that can only do movies at 10 or 15 frames per minute would most likely be better. Or a camera (if one exists) that you can set the options all the option in the time lapse mode. The good news is that these cameras should be cheaper than the cameras that do the higher frames per seconds.

If you go with the option of manually stitching together pictures from a camera, you only need a camera that can do 640x480 to get a high resolution movie.

You might see if you can find a forum that is geared to Lego stop action movies.
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Old Dec 15, 2004, 11:18 AM   #4
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Thank you Ghost,

You have no idea how difficult it is to find someone who can answer this question. There are mostly sales people in camera stores these days, not folks actually knowledgeable about the equipment they sell.

Not even the folks on the Sony website know all of the features of their equipment. They suggested the DCR-HC30 does time-lapse recording by portions of a second. My son thinks that he would like the control of recording by frames, though. So, the Sony person finally agreed that this model would do this also. Does that mean that it does, or she just wanted to make the sale? I find that this camera runs about $400-550, depending on where you purchase it. I think this is a little much for an 11yo, especially considering my budget. But, I also know that this has been an ongoing passion of his for about 4 years. It started with a Lego Stephen Spielberg Movie Making kit, which hasn't kept up with the technology of changing computer systems, and is now no longer produced.

I have thought about the digital camera as a short-term fix. I agree that it would be a financially better move at this time. And,I'm sure that he would be able to figureout how to do this.

I greatly appreciate your response. I can't thank you enough for explaining what eachoption would do, and what I would need to use it. This is exactly the information that I needed.

Thank you again.

Karen
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Old Dec 15, 2004, 11:28 AM   #5
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Thank you Beverly,

I also appreciate your answer very much.

I was aware that digital cameras could do limited movies, but not really how they did it. Thank you for this info. I did know that there was a time limit factor, and thisis areason that I haven't made this decision immediately. He writes impressively long scripts, and loves details.

I hadn't thought of a Lego movie making forum. What a great idea!

Thank you,

Karen
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Old Dec 15, 2004, 2:17 PM   #6
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Interesting requests and ideas. Here is my $.02:

"Real" stop motion animation is created by setting up a film movie camera, positioning the subject, taking one frame shot, repositioning the subject slightly, taking another frame, etc. Although video has 30 frames per second, and film 24 frames per second, I believe most animation is in the neighborhood of 12-15 frames per second.

My suggestion would be to use a digital camera to take individual still frames and then use video editing software (like Apple's iMovie, Adobe Premiere, or others) to paste in the frames. Nearly every video editing software suite allows the importation of still frames, and using a video editing system would allow more flexibility over the final project -- (that is, you can take multiple pictures of one still frame, add more frames if necessary, work with timing and animation speed more easily, etc). The downside, of course, is that you don't have a finished product right out of the camera... but my guess is that your son's projects won't be anywhere close to a finished product right out of the camera anyway. And you have to find a way to get the video out of your computer, but DVD-RAMs or video interfaces to allow you to export to a VCR aren't that expensive these days.

Good luck!


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Old Dec 15, 2004, 6:19 PM   #7
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After hearing more about your son's needs, I doubt a camcorder is going to be your solution. You will probably want either a webcam or a still camera (one that does 640x480). A good place to start investigating this might be this site I found that tries to walk people though their process of getting into stop action movies. There probably are better starting points, but this one looked somewhat promising on my Google search. Note: The Lego studio product is no longer available that some sights refer to.

http://fll-freak.home.comcast.net/2003/2003_movie.htm

I can say that I have had good luck with making movies from still pictures using iMovie or iDVD for the Mac. Good luck in your search.
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Old Dec 15, 2004, 6:25 PM   #8
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A camcorder is absolutely terrible for stiching movies unless you want a lot of post-shot working.

The Panasonic FZ series has a mode for this sort of thing but seeing as how I have not used it, I do not know all about it.

I'd say go with a camera, then stitch it together.

We did time-lapse in media, but that involved high-tech equipment. What we'd do is burst a few frames, then back up the film so we got two frames for each shot (on the fly editing, so to speak). You can't do this with a standard home camcorder. I suppose you could take the video in short bursts, but then you'll have to grab a frame or two from each shot and stitch it.

Now I have done a video with just pushing the button, then pushing to stop, with no post-editing, but those don't look as nice.
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Old Dec 15, 2004, 11:27 PM   #9
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Here's a sample flick I did with my Canon A70 digital camera, just to show you what a digital camera is capable of. You'll need DivX in order to run the movie.

Lego Wars - DivX

This scene took me no longer than 10 minutes to create. I'm using my own software I programmed (Remote Capture) to handle the numerous frames. I basically setup the scene, click capture, and the photo is transferred directly over to my PC for review. Digital Camcorders would be able to do the same thing, but you'll need video inputs into your computer (S-Video or Composite) along with "VCR" software to capture still frames or record movies. However this defeats the purpose behind a digital camcorder since it would be functioning like a webcam, which you can buy for close to nothing.

The Sony HC30 and Canon ZR80 & ZR90 are nearly equivalent in specs and would suffice to do what your son wants, but neither of them has remote control facilities. With a digital camera, your son would be able to take short movie clips (mainly because digital cameras impose a limit on movie lengths) as well as exceptional still images. So if your son wanted to record a 30 second 640x480 movie clip of a ship flying by, he could pull it off. When he needs to aim at a complex environment of people and take still frame shots to merge into a movie, he could easily pull that off. A remote capturing tool for the PC really improves productivity with that sort of work and the mobility of a digital camera makes it easier to get around tight corners. Hence why digital cameras offer more return on your investment. They truly are multipurpose tools.

It's also worth mentioning a tripod would come in handy for this type of work. If you don't already own one, the money you save by going with a digital camera choice would allow you to also invest in a tripod.
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Old Dec 16, 2004, 1:20 AM   #10
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i have a sony HC30 DV camcorderand i think it may be what you are looking for...

it has a mode called frame record where every time you hit the record button it records a frame. i had a longer post but i hit the back button and am frustrated....sorry for the short post
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