Make Your Own TV Show!

Make Your Own TV Show!


That cable box isn’t going to fill itself.There are hundreds of channels out there, and not all of them can show endless reruns of Who’s the Boss? No,

TV-land needs new shows, and lots of ’em.If you’ve spent any time watching what passes for entertainment these days, you’ve probably thought, “Heck, I can do that!” Well, why don’t you, then?


On the next few pages, we’ll help you get started in the wild world of television production, or at least give you enough ammo to get your own show launched on the Web. Keep reading for our tips on what kind of camcorders to consider, the essential rules of good editing, and how to share your finished product with the world.


Who knows, maybe that Showtime producer is combing through YouTube right this moment, looking for the Next Big Thing—and it could be you!


1. Shoot It

There’s a dizzying array of camcorders crowding the market today, from really cheap gizmos to shoulder-hoisted monsters that cost as much as a down payment on a house. We’re keeping this list on the lighter side of the wallet, because when it comes right down to it, you’re more likely to catch a producer’s interest with a good story vs. slick video quality. And remember, when you make video designed to go on the Web, it’s likely to get pretty seriously compressed anyway, eroding much of the visual quality that you see on your monitor.


Easiest: The Flip Video Ultra

No-frills video at a rock-bottom price, $179,


It’s small and only does 640x480 video, but the Flip is absolutely fine for getting your videoin’ feet wet with minimal monetary outlay. The thing we really dig about this tiny device is that it’s perfect for capturing wild effects shots—use some good ol’ duct tape to attach it to the front of your car, hit record, and you’ve got up to 60 minutes of seriously cool on-the-road footage, without major concern for getting squashed bugs or mud off the lens.


Fair warning: Make sure you get the Ultra version, which includes a tripod mount on the bottom—this is crucial for any camera you’ll ever want to use for real video work. The audio capabilities also aren’t stellar, but they’ll be OK as long as you record synchronized audio with a field recorder (see “Format Facts,”), and you’ll want to make sure to download the Perian QuickTime codec (free,, which lets you directly access the AVI files generated from the Flip with the QuickTime player and open the AVIs in iMovie, Final Cut Pro, or any other video editor you’re likely to use on the Mac.


Better: DXG-566V HD

Upgrade to high-def on a budget, $149,


It’s not a whole lot bigger than the Flip, but this insanely inexpensive camcorder bumps your resolution up to 1280x720 and offers more controls and creative options. Given the review of the DXG-110 digital still camera in a recent issue of Mac|Life (1 out of 5 stars, Apr/08), we didn’t have high hopes for the DXG’s video quality, but the H.264 QuickTime movies that emerge from this camera are really not bad, given the low price.


If you put this camera on a tripod, and record audio with an external recorder, you’ll be pleasantly surprised by the results. It also doubles as a still camera—no great shakes there—but the low light mode takes advantage of the pair of bright LEDs built into the front of the unit. You can also lower the capture resolution to either 720x480 or a smaller 320x240 size, which gets you more time on the same SD card, a nice touch.


While the DXG-566V HD feels a little cheaply made, the price is so low that we don’t mind recommending it as a good entry-level camera. In fact, with the money you save on this puppy, invest in a copy of Red Giant Software’s sophisticated video-processing software, Magic Bullet Looks (4 out of 5 stars, May/08), and you’ll be thrilled by the results.


Best: Canon Vixia HV30

A beefy camcorder perfect for any pro, $999,


This is simply the best overall choice for a great balance between quality and cost: For under $1,000, the HV30 has the kind of power typically found in pro-level hardware. It uses MiniDV tapes to capture video at full 1080i HD resolution (1920x1080) and 24 frames per second, which yields a more filmic look, given that genuine film is also shot at 24 fps. You can also switch down to 1280x720, if you want to work in standard definition.


In addition to tape, the camera supports SD cards for shooting, and there’s even a built-in flash when using it as a still camera. If you’re going to be shooting exclusively with ambient light, or in low-light situations, you’ll notice the superior video quality, as well as the benefits of Canon’s excellent optics—the video that comes out of this small camcorder is just shy of being truly broadcast quality (though in today’s digital media salad, we could totally see making a TV show with a few of these little gems and some creative postproduction).


The smooth optical stabilization makes a huge difference if you’re shooting handheld—it can’t make everything stable, but as long as you’re trying to hold the camera still, you’ll be rewarded with rock-solid video that seems almost magical. The built-in microphone is quite good, and it even records in stereo, a nice touch for added realism. Additionally, there’s an audio input for plugging in an external microphone, which is perfect for using a boom-based mic rig. Given all of this awesome power, it’s almost scary to see just how much is packed into its diminutive case.


A little-known feature that makes this camera extra special for studio work is the HDMI output, which works in a pass-through mode-—meaning that the HV30 can be used to pipe its digital output in real time to an external HD recorder, or a Mac equipped with an HD capture board. Why bother? Well, with support for 4:2:2 HDMI output, the high-end color sampling results in truly professional quality, making it perfectly suited for doing real-time compositing with DV Garage’s amazing Conduit ($199, This kind of rig would have set you back tens of thousands of dollars just a few years ago, but now puts instant blue- and green-screen capabilities into your hands for virtually peanuts.




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"You can also switch down to 1280x720, if you want to work in standard definition."

WOW, that's some pretty high resolution standard def.


1280x720 is high definition video...


David Biedny

Indeed, that should read 720p Hi-Def, thanks for pointing out the error.

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