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Consumer Electronics Show Report: New Video Hardware for eLearning

by Stephen Haskin

January 29, 2014


by Stephen Haskin

January 29, 2014

“This is such a fluid market that no matter what I say this year, next year will bring something better. Heck, probably next month will bring something better, cheaper, and different. The whole bar is rapidly moving up.”

The Consumer Electronics Show 2014 (CES) has shown us new video cameras aplenty. The trickle-down of technology has seemingly accelerated. Two years ago, many of the features on the new offerings were only on high-end cameras. There are still differences between the high-end and the mid-to-low-end equipment, but anyone can now make a 1080p video for not a lot of money. (I’m not going to talk about cell phone video in this article, by the way.)

4K (UHD) video

This year the buzz at CES was about 4K and “wearable” cameras. 4K or UHDTV is video with 3,840 pixels across and 2,160 pixels vertically. This is exactly double (so four times the pixels) the dimensions of HD (1920 x 1080 pixels). Why would you want to shoot anything for eLearning in 4K? Pixels—lots of pixels. You can zoom in and out if you’re developing in HD and not lose an iota of resolution. If you still need to shoot in 720 x 480 SD, then you’ve got a crazy number of pixels to play with. But that’s a different story.

The biggest problem for 4K video is this: while there are plenty of displays that are 4K, there’s very little content … yet. But H.265, high efficiency video coding (HVEC), the successor codec approved last year to H.264/MPEG-4, allows you to develop Blu-ray discs in 4K. There are lots of cameras with this capability either out now or coming in the next few months. There are other issues with 4K, but that’s another story too.

What’s new?

There’s a lot this year that looks terrific to shoot with. The easiest way to describe the equipment is to break it down into three categories: small or “wearable” cameras, regular camcorders, and DSLRs. There are many differences between these, mostly because of sensor size and dynamic range.

Small action and “wearable” cameras

Everyone is trying to emulate the GoPro. The GoPro cameras are amazingly light and small. They designed them to be worn on your body, or put in a drone. The top end GoPro sells for $400 and you get a camera that can shoot 4K or slow-mo. 120 fps at HD resolution is amazing for $400.

Sony showed the AS100V as a direct competitor to the GoPro. The specs are very similar to the GoPro Hero 3 Black Edition, but for $100 less. You can get Sony’s live remote for $100 more, making the Sony exactly the same price as the GoPro Black Edition but with remote.

In other mini cameras, the Canon Vixia X has better audio than a regular camcorder. It’s a camcorder and an audio recorder with good condenser mics. It’s not available yet and there’s no firm release date.

You may be asking, “Why?” Sometimes you need to show something that you can only shoot from a camera on a drone, or attached to a person doing a particular job. In eLearning, these small “action” cameras can be perfect for that.

Google Glass has set the bar for the wearable category and many are trying to emulate the concept. Others are introducing clip-on cameras you can place anywhere. “Wearable” cameras are not yet ready for eLearning video, though.

Larger camcorders

Sony seemed to be the only player with a new camcorder, the FDRAX100. This is a 4K camcorder aimed at the Prosumer market. It’s estimated cost is ~$2,000. Without testing, my guess is that it will have greater dynamic range than the GoPro cameras, with many additional features and a good lens.

DSLR Cameras

For the last few years DSLRs have been making a big splash as video cameras. They have huge sensors (compared to most camcorders) and lots of pixels. CES is not the show where new DSLRs are usually shown (this is more of a point-and-shoot show), but there was one DSLR of note: the Nikon D3300 is a 24mp camera with extensive video capability. And since it’s a Nikon there are many lenses available for it. This flexibility is great for a shop that produces a variety of eLearning. DSLRs have the advantage of larger sensors (good for video) as well as terrific still capabilities, so are highly useful to eLearning organizations for both still and video.

Wrapping up: stay tuned!

This is such a fluid market that no matter what I say this year, next year will bring something better. Heck, probably next month will bring something better, cheaper, and different. The whole bar is rapidly moving up.

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