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How do Digital Video Camcorders Work?

May 27, 2008
As technology continues to progress, newer and more complicated media equipment is available to the general public. Digital video cameras are no exception. Just as quickly as the film-use camera has been rendered obsolete for your average shutterbug, VHS camcorders also have gone the way of the dinosaur. Everything, it seems, has gone digital and convenience is only one of many reasons. Newer digital camcorders also offer compactness, better image quality and quicker viewing capabilities.

The same activities that were recorded with the bulky video cameras of the 1980s and early 1990s are still popular today. Children's sporting events, awards ceremonies, family gatherings, performances and other special moments are memories people want to preserve. The difference now is the accessibility of the images and the ability to share them with people around the world in a matter of seconds. But how do digital video camcorders work?

For gearheads and technophiles, there's no mystery to the workings of most digital gadgetry. But for the average consumer, even basic operation can be perplexing. Here's a look at how a few different types of digital video camcorders work.

As with film cameras and analog camcorders, digital camcorders use a lens to see the images they record. These lenses transform the various elements of the image in front of the camera into information that can be processed and recorded. In a video recorder, these lenses focus the light-intensity colors onto a semiconductor image sensor. This sensor is called a charge-coupled device, or CCD. The more of these a camera has, the better the picture quality. The final step in digital video camera operation is what separates them from older camcorders. The information is turned into bytes of data. The contrast and colors become binary code (1s and 0s), and this data is stored as digital video.

Most digital camcorders on the market from major brands use a MiniDV tape, which processes and records information digitally. These tapes are a fraction of the size of old VHS cassettes. Digital video is the standard for home and semi-professional video production and is sometimes used by the news media. Beginning-level professional digital camcorders have three CCDs and record onto DV CAM or MiniDV tapes.

Digital camcorders have a FireWire port on the back of the camera that plugs directly into your computer. The data from the camera is sent to the computer's hard drive. The video files can then be edited with the appropriate software, if desired.

There are extremely compact digital video camcorders with limited recording length (approximately 60 minutes) and lens capabilities. These are handy for quick and convenient video sharing and allow for very easy transport. They require no memory card and plug directly into your computer with a USB plug. For lengthier recording or better image quality, the MiniDV camcorders are a better choice.

Lower-end digital systems that don't use tapes record in MPEG-4 format as digital memory. Some higher-end versions use hard disks or memory cards instead. This allows for more data to be stored, hence the better image quality.

Most digital video camera manufacturers focus on the most commonly used computer operating systems. Windows- and Mac-based computers are usually compatible with most cameras on the market. Beyond these, consumers may run into trouble. Some tape-less recording devices are not compatible with anything but Windows, so consumers should be sure to check the details before making a purchase.
About the Author
If you would like to read more informational and buying guides to digital camcorders as well as to browse all brands and models of digital camcorders at discount prices please visit: JR's Discount Digital Camcorders
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