Camcorders for recording classroom - AVS Forum
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post #1 of 11 Old 01-17-2013, 01:20 PM - Thread Starter
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I am teacher. I am looking to get a camcorder that will record my classroom so I can watch myself and my students and then evaluate accordingly. Sound will be very important so I assume some sort of external mic will be necessary (preferably one that would pick up audio from all the classroom). My budget for both is $500. A camcorder that records to sd card is preferable as well. Do you guys have any suggestions? Thank you so much!
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post #2 of 11 Old 01-17-2013, 03:43 PM
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The Canon HF M500 ($349) has decent built-in microphones (scroll to "Superb Audio in Any Situation" section):
http://www.amazon.com/Canon-VIXIA-Image-Stabilized-Camcorder/dp/B006UMMPGE/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1358465194&sr=8-1&keywords=HF+M500

One card slot for SDHC or SDXC cards. If you get that one, pick up a couple of SDHC cards, class 4 or higher. I would say get an extra battery, but if you're always in a classroom you can use the provided AC plug or if only an hour at a time use included battery.

There is also the Panasonic V700 in that price range. The audio quality may also be good, but I am less-familiar with Panasonic camcorders.
http://www.amazon.com/Panasonic-HCV700K-Angle-Camcorder-Black/dp/B0072B5E7E/ref=sr_1_2?s=electronics&ie=UTF8&qid=1358465499&sr=1-2&keywords=v700


I do know that the Canons from 2012, including the HF M500 and the HF M4 models from 2011 have improved audio with the ability to record with the onboard mics as usable audio. The Canon camcorders from just a few years back 2008-2010, the audio from the onboard microphones were unusable although they had an external jack to add a microphone. You can also plug a mic into the HF M500.and V700.
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post #3 of 11 Old 01-17-2013, 09:02 PM
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In general for good audio, you have to get the microphone close to the sound, even for directional microphones such as shotgun microphones. Shotgun microphones don't zoom in on the sound in the way that a zoom lens does. Instead, they tend to exclude side sounds.

If you just set up a camcorder on a tripod with a wide shot of the entire classroom, including you and your students, and use the built in mic on the camcorder, the sound will not be very good. However, it might be usable for basic purposes, if everyone talks loud. If you want better sound, you will need to move the camcorder closer to each person speaking as they speak, or you will need to have an external wired mic with the camcorder that is placed close to each person as they speak.

Trying to record audio from many people at various locations in a classroom is non-trivial to do reasonably well. Don't expect miracles just because some camcorder is claimed to be good at audio. The basic physics of microphones just doesn't allow that.

Perhaps you could describe more thoroughly the scenario you are trying to record. For example, if you only need to record your own voice, then a lavalier microphone on your lapel wired to the camcorder would be the way to go, but it would be poor choice if you are also trying to record what students are saying.
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post #4 of 11 Old 01-17-2013, 09:30 PM - Thread Starter
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Hearing everybody is equally important....just hearing the teacher wouldn't be possible. Walking from student to student with the camcorder wouldn't be feasible either. Knowing that the comments won't be great, but is the best option to get equal sound from all participants? Thanks.
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post #5 of 11 Old 01-18-2013, 06:58 AM
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I have a Pansonic similar to the V700 mentioned my xfws above. I also have a small Sony. I have no doubt either would work for a self evaluation project in a classroom with their built in mics. The sound will not be "studio" quality, but everyone and everything will be recorded at a usable level.

This is one of those situations where simple and automatic are best. The OP does not need to teach and video at the same time. Better to set the camera on a tripod, turn it on and not fuss with it.

Everybody that sells cameras today has a 30 day guarantee. If it does not work as hoped or expected, you send it back.

Bill
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post #6 of 11 Old 01-18-2013, 07:23 AM - Thread Starter
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Is there a difference between the above listed V700 and this one
http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/product/839122-REG/Panasonic_HC_V700_V700M_Full_HD_Camcorder.html

It seems there are different v700.

I am probably going to buy one of these (V700) and then, if we want to buy an external mic, we can do so because it has the ability, right?
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post #7 of 11 Old 01-18-2013, 07:54 AM
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It might be worthwhile to buy a camcorder and send it back if it doesn't work out as bsprague has suggested, or another possibility is to ask around of your fellow teachers and students to see who has a camcorder that could bring it in to setup on a tripod to try it out to see if it achieves what you want.

Don't get your expectations too high about the audio quality, but hopefully it will be usable. My concern is the size of your classroom, the number of students and the placement of the camcorder. I don't think there will be any problems with students speaking near the camcorder, but students on the other side of the room, who ask a question and don't speak up, might be recorded essentially inaudibly. I have taught college classes (physics for about 27 years and more recently astronomy for about 8 years) and in the astronomy classroom (actually a planetarium) I have over 80 students. I know for sure that if I set up a camcorder at some location in the classroom, the students who are far from the camcorder would not be recorded properly, as some don't speak up loud enough. I often repeat their questions so that everyone can hear. Hopefully you are in a smaller classroom with fewer students. Good luck with your project.
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post #8 of 11 Old 01-18-2013, 10:10 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by primetime34 View Post

It seems there are different v700.
One has some built in memory and uses SD cards for more. The other only has SD cards for memory. Most prefer the SD cards because they are so cheap, reliable and make transfer to computer easier.

Bill
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post #9 of 11 Old 01-18-2013, 10:13 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by primetime34 View Post

........ if we want to buy an external mic, we can do so because it has the ability, right?

Yes. It has a mic jack and the ability to use a wide variety of mics.

Getting good sound can be harder than getting a good picture. Camcorder now use Automatic Gain Control or "AGC". It will try to adjust itself for quiet sounds from across the room and too loud sounds from close by. Rooms and acoustics vary. Since you say your are evaluating your teaching, only you will probably listen to and watch. Sharing your video might upset parents over privacy issues as well.

I give it a better than even chance you will be able to hear what is said from around the room. It may not have great tonal quality, but for your purpose may be fine. If not, you can turn off the AGC and try manual. If that does not work, mics of all sizes and shapes are available.

Bill
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post #10 of 11 Old 01-18-2013, 10:46 PM - Thread Starter
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Any suggestions on possible mics that fall into the $100 range? I really appreciate all the help! Thanks.
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post #11 of 11 Old 01-19-2013, 12:45 AM
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Primetime - with a $399 Panasonic V700 and a $100 used Rode Videomic, you should be able to capture the audio and video quality that you want.

Hope this is helpful,

The Other Bill
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