Home movies have been a part of our lives almost as long as the technology was available. Our parents and grandparents made home movies on shaky Super 8 cameras, and later, we moved on to video camera and camcorder technology. Camcorders are so named because they contain both a video camera and a video recorder in one unit. They have been used from everything to recording life’s most precious events – weddings, parties, family reunions – to making amateur horror movies in the basement’s of aspiring auteurs everywhere.
Just as the fashion, hairstyles, manners and homemade special effects you might see in those old Super 8 movies have come a long way, so has camcorder technology. The earliest video recorders, before they were combined with video cameras to become camcorders, required a video recorder for taping and a video cassette recorder for watching. The earliest camcorders were analog, and recorded straight to video tape. In the 1990′s, digital recording and HD video camcorders became the accepted norm, though they continued to record onto video tape. By the early 2000′s, though, HD video cameras began embracing other, tapeless, storage solutions, such as optical disks, hard disk drives, and flash memory. These solid state HD video camcorders are usually called Hard Disk Drive (HDD) camcorders if they use hard disks. Camcorders that use two different types of media, for example, a hard disk drive and a memory card, can be referred to as hybrid camcorders.
As with many technologies, miniaturization allowed HD video camcorders to find they place they enjoy today in many homes. Original video cameras were, of course, designed to record pictures for television. The first professional camcorder was a Sony product called Betacam. They used VHS-C tapes, which were essentially VHS tapes reduced in size so that they were usable in miniaturized camcorders. Sony followed the Betacam up in 1983 with the first consumer camcorder, the Betamovie BMC-100P. This units were large and typically had to rest on the video taker’s shoulder. JVC was also in the camcorder game at this point, releasing their own consumer camcorder.
Camcorders attained digital capability, like so many other technologies, in the mid 1990′s. This was achieved with the introduction of DV and mini-DV technology. The small size of these cassettes allowed for even further miniaturization for HD video camcorders, and meant that most anyone could now use a camcorder. Variations on the popular DV camcorder include the Digital8 camcorder and the MPEG2-based DVD camcorder. At the time, some users complained of background blur or a buzzing noise with the early HD video camcorders, but technology has improved enough since to phase those problems out.
Most camcorder aficionados now agree that modern digital camcorders are far superior to analog camcorders. First of all, they are smaller and use more readily compatible methods of storage. Even more importantly, their image and sound quality is superior. HD video camcorders allow for full resolution translation from camcorder to playback on the screen. On the other hand, while analog and digital video can both suffer from storage problems; digital video is more likely to be completely lost. In theory, digital video can be stored indefinitely with little deterioration (unlike analog), but history has not borne this out. Further, HD video camcorders are more vulnerable to wrinkles or stretches in the tape that could permanently erase several scenes worth of digital data, something that no home movie or amateur film buff will stand for.
HD video camcorders are an almost ubiquitous part of our home lives these days. Imagine what your older relatives, with their Super 8 cameras, would think about that.