Monday, March 29, 2010

Inexpensive Video Recording Solutions

One of the most powerful practicing aids is to record your practice sessions. I do this to not only catch those serendipitous moments when a mistake leads to a new lick or variation on a groove, but to also check my posture and state of relaxation. I have caught recurring tenseness more than once, as well as less optimum movements, which leads to overall improvement.

If you teach there is a lot of value in recording your students' lessons for playback and critique.

Finally, having an inexpensive video recorder is great for sharing tips and techniques - or even gigs - with fellow drummers. YouTube is full of such videos, and many are great learning experiences (not the mention the self confidence you gain from posting your drumming.)

The current darling of the music world is the Zoom Q3 Video Recorder. The key strength of this particular recorder is the outstanding audio capture, which has no rival in low-end video recording devices. Moreover, it does not need an external microphone. What it lacks is truly good video capture. In order to obtain decent video you need very good lighting. Also, despite the Zoom name, it's zoom features are abysmal at best. For recording practice sessions and lessons it is, in my opinion, weak. For capturing performances, however, it is my first choice because of the audio features.

Here is the manufacturer's product review that steps through the main features:

Another review, done by the great Peter Erskine, is not as slick, but he used the Q3 to make the video, so you will get a more realistic view.

If, like me, your main use is as a practice or lesson aid, then you may find the Kodak Zi8 Pocket Video Camera to be better suited to your needs. One key advantage is, unlike the Q3, you can purchase an inexpensive remote control for the Zi8 . This is an essential feature for any recording device that is used to capture practice sessions (unless you can convince someone to operate the recorder for you.) A quick summary of features is provided in this manufacturer's video:

As mentioned, the remote control feature alone sets this recorder apart from the Q3 for capturing practice sessions. The video is better than the Q3, although the audio is not going to come close to what you can achieve with the Q3.

While both the Q3 and the Zi8 function well as hand held recorders, for recording practice sessions you are going to need a tripod. My favorite is the Vista Explorer 60" tripod because it is easy to adjust to any angle, sturdy and relatively inexpensive.

There are other video recording solutions besides the two I mentioned. I feel that the Q3 and the Zi8 are two of the best values for low-end solutions, and each has key strengths for different purposes: the Q3 for recording live gigs or making demos, and the Zi8, with the add-on remote control, for recording practice sessions and lessons.

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