Tuesday, August 15, 2006

HD Power to the People (Part 2)

So, you’ve got your new AVCHD camcorder (or perhaps Canon’s new HV10, a HDV camcorder priced at $1,299.) You’ve got just about everything else you need to create a professional-looking video—tripod, filters, lights and external microphones. Perhaps you’ve already invested in some decent video editing software for the PC or Mac. And yet, your videos look like…crap.

Most consumer-produced videos look crappy—go visit YouTube any time and do a random search for just about anything. The problem isn’t equipment, it’s technique. Getting good, consistent video and audio out of even the best consumer camcorder is a matter of luck, unless you know what you’re doing. (And spending more money won’t necessarily make it better; more expensive equipment is designed to be run in manual mode, which demands much more skill on the part of the user.)

What you need isn’t a better camcorder—it’s hands-on training with a competent teacher. Where can you go to learn how to use your camcorder and computer to make good-looking videos? In most places, courses are offered in local community colleges, if you know that they’re available and can fit them into your schedule. But as often as not, the courses you need are only taught a few times a year, at inconvenient times.

You should be able to get training where you bought your camcorder. It amazes me that consumer electronics chains like Best Buy and Circuit City don’t offer a lot more consumer-level video training in their stores. These are the companies that get battered by Internet retailers offering the same products for a few (or a few hundred) dollars less, but the Internet merchants are in no position to offer their customers any training. If Best Buy said: “Buy any camcorder over $500 and get a four-hour class on how to make great-looking videos,” would that be worth $100 difference in the sales price of the camcorder? For many consumers, the answer is yes.

“How-to” books and videos are great—I make my living (in part) by distributing them online. However, they’re no substitute for real, hands-on experience. Twelve hours of training over three or four days would make a world of difference, and the cost is likely to be less than the accessory pack for your camcorder. What’s more, dealer-offered high-quality training would increase customer satisfaction and loyalty, two elements sorely missing from today’s consumer electronics market. So, in my humble opinion, the second half of the equation is hands-on training. Without it, most of what these new HD camcorders will be used for is producing better-looking junk.