Some New Gear

hc20Over the past few months I have been doing some freelance video work for some folks. So, a few paychecks and a good tax refund later, I am finally getting some new video gear. I started video blogging partly because I got an ibook for Christmas in 2004. Shortly after that I was enrolled in a television production class at Calvin. I was allowed to take out video equipment whenever I wanted. I always checked out the tiny HC20 Sony Handycam that was available. That is what I started video blogging with. I borrowed it for all my videos until May 2005 when class ended and I bought my own HC20.

imovieI always edited my videos using iMovie. I tried to push the software to the limits. I utilized free plugins to do some picture in picture stuff and over time gained an extensive of the software’s quirks. But over the past two years, there were always some things that really irked me about iMovie’s limitations. I wanted to edit my brother’s wedding video. He had three cameras covering the event, but with one video track, it was a big pain to do, so I haven’t edited it yet even though they got married in the summer of 2005. The other thing that really bugged me was the limitations of titles. The lower thirds were unimpressive, and placement of titles was really limited. So even though I had used iMovie for hundreds of videos, I finally decided it was time for an upgrade.

In addition to iMovie I was starting to realize that while my HC20 is small and easy to use, it is limited in it’s low-light performance. It wasn’t as sharp as a nice 3ccd camera. I wasn’t able to do analog pass through and I couldn’t monitor the audio with headphones. I needed an upgrade with my camera too!

ibookg4But with these two changes in my brain, I started to think that it might be a good idea to get a new computer too. My 1.33ghz 512mb RAM iBook G4 served me fine for the past 2 years but if I was going to have fancy editing software and a fancy camera, I would probably need a computer that could handle all the complex edits and loads of video I was going to be working with. So I decided on a computer upgrade.

After much research, I have decided on the following: Final Cut studio 2, the Canon hv20, and a 24 inch iMac.

final cut studio 2Final Cut Studio 2:
I learned first how to edit with iMovie. Then in my college courses, we used Avid. I never really liked avid all that much, because iMovie was so easy to use. I am excited to use Final Cut Studio to make more advanced videos but I am also intimidated by all the features that I will have to learn to use. I worry that my patience for learning will make me resort back to iMovie to make my videos unless it is a really complicated video. I am most looking forward to having some new visual effects using Motion and have the option to edit multiple tracks of video for once!

canon hv20Canon HV20
I didn’t want to spend a crazy amount of money on a camera, but wanted something that wouldn’t be completely obsolete and make me want to get a new camera in 2 years. I wanted something that did really well in low-light, had a mic-in and audio-out ports, could handle some advanced accessories, and was small enough to hold at arm’s length. I did some research reading lots of reviews and then decided on an HD camera. I figure that over the next couple of years everything is gonna go HD so I might as well get in now and not have to change again later. The Canon hv20 got some good reviews, had what I wanted and was in the right price range, so I went for it. The camera should be arriving on my doorstep this week.

24 inch iMac24 inch iMac
I love my iBook, it is a big reason I am a videoblogger. But video is an information-rich medium and it takes a lot of processing power and memory to deal with it all. I have a good iBook, but If I am going to continue to push myself and my video production, it was inevitable that I would need a more powerful machine. I like having a lapop, but I also like having a large visual workspace to edit on. I needed a big monitor, but I can’t afford a powermac with a cinema display, so I decided on an iMac. I figure I will upgrade a few things like the memory to 2 gigs and the hard drive to 500 just so It won’t be obsolete in 2 months. I am going for the 24 inch version, that way I have enough work space without having to do the dual monitor thing.

Do any of you have any of these three things? If so, what has been your experience with them?


  1. Wow. Good decision – and good choices.
    Oh, God. I am jealous. I have old versions of all this kit, and can’t afford upgrades at the moment… but it all looks so shiny 🙂
    It’s all good stuff. You will love FCP – it will change your life 😉
    And the tutorials that come with it will teach you all the important stuff. Then you’ll find the other stuff through the amazing online forums and bloggers who post cool hacks and tips.
    (and, of course, the rest of the stuff in the package is great)
    I bought a 24 inch imac for a client to use for editing a couple of months ago. It was great. Well, actually there were some software installation problems – it had a faulty install – but nothing serious.
    I recommend you get a very fast second hard drive to run your media off. FCP used to work better running media from a different drive to the one that it itself is installed on. I’m sure that’s still the same. Not sure if Firewire 800 drive is fast enough for lots of data instead of a faster connection or second internal drive – but worth looking into online. Also, a removable drive gives you much better backup options and protection from dodgy Apple hard drive problems – oh, yeah, I recommend you get yourself some Apple Care with it. Almost all Apples seem to have some kind of hardware problem when they’re just out of their 1 year warranty…
    And as for the Canon – I’d have my eye on that one, too if I had deep pockets. I have a 5 year old Canon XL1, which is way too big for videoblogging but is great for corporate work. I love the way Canons deal with color and low light. But for the moment, I’ll just have to stick to my phone.
    Good luck with it.

  2. Wow, cool stuff!! I’m jealous 😉 I’m sure you still could do way cooler stuff on iMovie than I could do on Final Cut… but I switched to Final Cut awhile ago. It’s definately not easy to teach yourself like iMovie is, but if you don’t want to purchase a book or a tutorial, I found a Video Podcast that at least laid out the basics for me.

    There are others as well, but I found that one the most helpful. LiveType is awesome as well… and pretty easy to figure out.

    There will be no stopping you now!!! 😀

  3. excellent choices, my friend! i plan to get the HV20 and FCS2 as well.
    i find Final Cut way more intuitive than iMovie, but I started on Final Cut…

  4. Ooh, you’ll like that iMac. I’ve got one and it’s AWESOME. Ironically I bought mine to replace my 1.33ghz iBook G4. As for the specs, get the biggest and best options that you can afford. Especially with the new Final Cut suite, it will love extra RAM (Apple makes you pay out the butt for it so you might want to look into the after-market suppliers like OWC) you’ll probably also want to get the better video card and processor. It will make things much faster.

  5. Great list of stuff, and I wish I had that much free and clear from taxes, but my car pooped the bed. : (

    I second Rupert’s comments about a fast second external drive. Keep the internal drive for your apps, your cache, and some scratch space, and keep your media on external drives. One, you can swap them out faster (as media will fill drives up like no one’s business). Two, if your machine needs repair, you don’t risk sending in your entire video collection. Three, you can buy a 3rd external drive, dupe your 2nd drive, and bring it over to grandma’s house a few cities away to preserve your data in disaster-recovery-like style. (Just remember to repeat this exercise every month or so).

    Good on you.

  6. Good for you Josh. It looks like you have made all good choices. We have final cut express, and it’s great, but there are always some things we wish we had. . Same with our screen…now that we’ve made some videos for awhile, we can really appreciate screen size. 24 should be nice. Also, we see what a killer low light is and these should help you out. Hope you enjoy it all.

  7. Hi Josh,

    it was the same with me. I started with an iBook and iMovie and i felt the same pain as you: the missing second movie track and went over to Final Cut. AND? It isn´t as hard as I thought. Well, the first episode on FCP took me hours of time, but as alsways, the more you work on a software, the better you get.

    Good choices on all of your topics. Don´t think about to buy a MacBook, it doesn´t work with the new Final Cut Studio …

    Keep on vlogging, you are one of my favorites.

  8. Congrats Josh on the upgrades…loving the vlog in hd already too! I have been using FCP since version 1. For TV, DVD, Web and family fun.

    Feel free to ask if you ever get stuck.

    Keep up the great entertainment!


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