How to choose the right camcorder for filming your football, basketball, hockey, soccer, volleyball, lacrosse, and any other sports games

At VidSwap.com I get a lot of questions about choosing camcorders, so in this post I’m going to cover how to choose the right consumer and prosumer camcorder for filming your football, basketball, hockey, soccer, volleyball, lacrosse, and any other sports games. If your looking for professional models go to this post. If your looking for the perfect HD camera setup and want to bypass everything below, go to this post. The first major question to ask is should I go HD…and the voice in your head should scream, “YES…of course!!!!!”. The quality of video compared to old standard definition cameras will blow you away and actually make it fun to watch scouting video again. The prices also make this a no brainer because you can get great models as low as $300…and I don’t mean those crappy blogging, flip cameras or the brands you’ve never heard of. These cameras also make it really easy to upload to VidSwap.com, so we can breakdown and edit your games for you (that’s right, we do the work for you). So, let’s get started…

(Note: We use personal experience and www.camcorderinfo.com for all of our recommendations)

1) What brands should I stick with?

 

2) Hard drive or SD card and how much storage should I get?

Stick with SD card dominant cameras and minimal hard drive space because you’ll save money and stay current with SD card options. Keep in mind most cameras now days have built in hard drive space, a minimum of 8-16 GB, and an SD card slot to compliment. Just don’t splurge on a camera with lots of hard drive space if there’s a model with less hard drive. SD cards get cheaper and bigger every year. You can get a 32 GB card on Amazon for $25…you might spend an extra $100 on a camera with 32 GB of internal storage. Get as much as you can afford, but don’t go lower the 16 GB.

32 GB SD card

3) AVCHD, MP4, h.264…what the heck are these and which one do I choose?

These are video formats used to create the great looking video and are all related but used confusingly in marketing.

  • AVCHD is the flavor of h.264 video used that is Blu Ray compliant
  • MP4 is the file format that h.264 video is used in…usually NOT AVCHD but straight h.264 or quicktime video
  • h.264 is the main video codec or compression used to deliver HD video

Up till now most good consumer and prosumer level camcorders have been AVCHD, but we’re starting to see the release of MP4 cameras. The reason is AVHCD can be difficult to work with, playback, and convert…and the obvious is Blu Ray is becoming more irrelevant every day. MP4 video is playable and uploadable by any computer and is THE standard for broadcast and internet video. All internet streaming video, HD broadcasts, Netflix, and iTunes video is h.264 video which is usually an MP4 or MOV flavor.

Stick with an AVCHD/MP4 based camera from one of our 3 recommended brands.

4) 4k, 1080p, 60p, 60i, 720p, 30p…what the heck does this all mean?

These numbers refer to either the frame size and/or frame rate. They are widely miss used in marketing and very confusing. There are 3 specs you should be concerned with…

  • frame size…4k, 1080 or 720 aka 1920×1080 and 1280×720, this tells you how big the viewable picture is. All good HD camcorders shoot in 1080, and more are coming out with 4k and 720 options. 4k is great but very difficult to work with and most computers and mobile devices still dont handle this very well. If your uploading the video to VidSwap or another web site, 1080 or 720 is the recommended frame size and if you want to play back well on most devices.
  • frame rate…60 or 30 fps. This means how many frames there are per second. More frames means a smoother, more lifelike video. Smaller number of frames gives a more cinematic and preferred look. All web based video is 30 fps, all TV and movies are 24 fps. We’re starting to see more 60 fps devices and I would only recommend these for sports, but the main problem is there are still lots of devices that don’t support 60 fps playback at all or very well. iOS devices won’t playback 60 fps and unless you have a suped up computer, you’ll still have issues playing this back. It requires a lot of computing power to playback all the extra frames.
  • p or i…progressive or interlaced. The short answer is always choose progressive. A long time ago interlaced was developed to help deliver a good picture with lower overhead. Interlacing means each frame is halved then put together to form 1 full frame, so you can fit half as much info in a 60i video and still get nice, smooth video. For example, 60i = 30p in terms of the amount data thats being processed…but 60i will look smoother then 30p. The biggest problem is that most devices now days are progressive, specifically computer and LCD screens. As a result, more cameras are shooting in full progressive because in the end it simply looks better. Full frames look good no matter what device your watching them on.

Putting this all together…we actually use terms like 1080p30, 1080p60, 720p30, 720p60. You’ll be fine with a 1080p30 camera, but 1080p60 is very nice. Many 1080p60 cameras also shoot 1080p30. Canon’s consumer line doesn’t support 60 fps yet, but Panasonic and Sony do. The new line of Canon’s support 720p30 MP4 video which is ideal for uploading and sharing.

5) Does it have a LANC connection?

This is a dying feature on consumer and prosumer models, which is being replaced by wifi. If you need to connect a remote to the camera for an endzone camera or like to use one on your sideline camera…which I highly recommend, then this is very important. (Note, all pro level cameras have these connections, but prosumer and consumer camcorders don’t always.) Check the specs of the camera to see if it supports LANC or a remote. It looks like Sony is the only consumer line that supports this now via the multi terminal cable.

6) Do I need wifi?

Wifi is becoming a common feature in all consumer camcorders now days. As of now the only real value it can provide coaches is the ability to remote control the camera from a distance, most notably if you have the camera on an endzone or telescoping pole. The neat thing is you can monitor the live video feed and control the cameras zoom and record from your iOS device, but this doesn’t really work very well and is really slow. From our experience, I wouldn’t recommend wifi as a necessity.

7) Other specs like… stabilization, low light performance, optical zoom, manual controls, etc

For prosumer and consumer level cameras these specs are usually limited and quite similar but can easily set one above the other. We use www.camcorderinfo.com for indepth testing results on all the major brands. You can go to their site and look up most of the popular models and see their results, recommendations, and video tests. It’s from these tests that we’ve seen Canon consistently score above the rest in most categories, although Panasonic is right up there as well. Keep in mind when we talk about video quality, you must think about all of the adverse conditions you might film in…at night, in the rain, etc.

Canon and Panasonic will produce the best video quality.

Conclusion…

Canon AVCHD/MP4…this is what we recommend as they provide the best video quality, and a wide choice of manual settings and controls. Most of all we really like their line of MP4 cameras that shoot amazing video, are really affordable, and make uploading a breeze.

Canon Vixia HF R700

Canon Vixia HF G40 (if you can afford it, choose this one…higher end prosumer model)

Check out this post here for the perfect HD camera setup.

 

Sony AVCHD/MP4 is certainly dependable and has all of the features and controls we like, but severely lacks the video quality in comparison to the others. They also tend to be a bit more expensive.

Sony has finally added an MP4 shooting mode in their new 2013 models, but I would avoid the added expense of the built in projectors. They do have LANC via the multi terminal plug in. I’d recommend these models primarily for endzone or telescoping poles.

Sony HDR-CX440

Sony AX 53

http://VidSwap.com breaks down your games. We’re a web-based video editing and analysis application for sports organizations, specializing in breaking games down for you, game exchange, video sharing, and game analysis. We serve HS, amateur, college, youth, and pro teams. We support football, soccer, basketball, hockey, lacrosse, volleyball, rugby, and many other sports.

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