I’ve been taking violin lessons for over a year now. Back at the 12 month anniversary, I thought it would be cool to create a vid of my playing to look back at on the second anniversary, to measure my progress.
My first attempt was with my Acer Aspire One netbook. I’ll spare you the gory details, but sufficeth to say, the Aspire One SUCKS at video (though the blur effect on the bow was kind of cool; man I must be able to play fast!).
For awhile I’ve been thinking it would be interesting to get a digital camcorder, but, as I don’t have loads of disposable income, they would have to come down significantly in price. But frustrated by the netbook and feeling the pressure of passing time, “significantly” suddenly took on a lower value. When I saw the Samsung U10 for sale at ncix.com for $200, I got one.
Mounted on a tripod with the handy tripod mount attachment, it did a good job of documenting for myself, and no one else in the world ever, ever, ever, the current state of my violin playing. Some vids are not for YouTube.
The subject of my first attempt was actually my cat. I wanted to see what sort of quality this little beasty could crank out, so I made sure it was set to max HD. Interestingly, it turns out that my computer can’t play full HD video. It tried valiantly, but there were lots of dropped frames, and, in places, it was just a slide show. If quality at a low price is your objective, this little unit may suffice, but unless you’ve got a recent computer with a graphics subsystem that can handle it, you may not be able to play it back.
Of course, you could always play it back through your TV, since it comes with cables for that. What it doesn’t come with, surprisingly, is even a small SD card. Since it records to SD, you would think that they’d at least include a little 4 GB one, good for a little more than a half hour of HD vid. But no, and until you get one you’re out of business. Also missing is any sort of cover or sleeve — again, a cheap little extra they could have included.
And don’t look for a printed manual. That would have been very nice, since the interface sucks so badly I actually had to refer to the one provided in pdf format on a CD that was included. I would guess that Samsung did not do extensive prototype testing with actual human beings, refining the design with their feedback. If they had, it wouldn’t have this interface.
Here’s a glaring example. What does this button do?
Wrong! That’s not a play button, that’s the “mode” button. It switches you between record standby mode and file management mode. If you want to play a vid or view a still, you switch to file management mode, use the dicky pressure pad buttons to select the file and then, if you’re like me, you press the play button and get switched back to record standby mode.
I got my first cassette recorder when I was a child and have had numerous recording devices and programs since. That symbol is burned into my brain as the play button. I’m pretty sure I’m not alone in that, and that it really does qualify as a universal symbol. To play the selected file, you’re actually supposed to hit the “ok” button on the dicky pressure pad.
“Dicky pressure pad” is not Samsung’s term. If I had a handy printed manual, I’d look up whatever they’re calling it, but I don’t and am too lazy to find the CD and look it up in the pdf. But “dicky pressure pad” describes it well.
Because the dicky pressure pad is flat with no raised buttons to inform your fingers of where they are, you have to pay careful attention to what you’re doing to use it. It seems to have been designed for the fingers of a geisha, and is not well suited for meaty man fingers.
Miskeying is a common experience. Reliability is also an issue. Sometimes I’ll get a double keying, other times no effect at all. This, plus the way the software works, makes selecting and deleting some files, but not others, a royal pain. Even if you finally get marked all the files you want to delete, and manage to get to the menu option to delete, you have the opportunity to screw the whole operation up by miskeying the confirm dialogue. For cleaning out files it is definitely better to use the provided USB cable to connect it to a computer and use the operating system’s file manager to do the job.
Because of the interface, I would only recommend this sweet little horror if you need something small and cheap which produces high quality vids right now. For only a hundred bucks more you can easily get something a little more conventional (although I marvel at how small even the conventional camcorder is becoming) with a more mature, less flawed interface. Or if you like the idea of a high def camcorder you can slip in your shirt pocket, I doubt it will be very long before the competition comes out with something better, perhaps even by the time you read this. So shop around.
I’ll close now with a clip originally shot in HD. It’s about a minute and three quarters. It was around five, but I used the built in split feature of the U10 to divide the video in two. Sadly, as unpleasant as the experience was, it was easier than trying to edit video on my otherwise redoubtable Linux operating system. The video split feature is another reason not to lose the CD with the manual, or if you’re blessed with an OS and software that edit video easily, do it there.
Without further ado, I present my cat, the inimitable BB Rose in her online video debut.