CCD chips - charged coupled devices - a chip that captures the image. generally the bigger the better. broadcast cameras ofen have a 1/2 to 2/3 inch CCD, while consumer camcorders are 1/6 to 1/3 inch.

the larger the CCD, the more light is taken in with the image, resulting in brighter pictures and better colors.

CCD size is important in low-light situations.

the term "3 CCDs" refers to three CCD chips each capturing a different color resulting in greater accuracy and a sharper image.

image stabilization

optical stabliization uses prisms or mirrors to compensate for camera shaking, is more effective.

most cameras on the market use digital or electronic stablization which crops the edges from the image and uses these spare pixels to compensate for a shaky camera causing some image degradation

Camcorders: A clearer picture MiniDV, DVD, CVS? Experts offer advice on what to look for

Dec. 8, 2005 12:00 AM

Electronic experts are calling this past year the most eventful in camcorder history.

On one end and selling for $30 was the debut of the CVS drugstore-issued "disposable" video camera, and on the other was the attention-grabbing $3,000 high-definition camcorder.

But all the buzz really belonged to DVD camcorders. advertisement

"They've skyrocketed in popularity," said Robin Liss, founder of "The prices are dropping, and the quality is really improving."

The cameras record on DVDs, enabling the user to pop the recorded video into a DVD player for instant viewing. This makes it easy to supply Grandma with a copy of the little one's birthday party.

"If you don't want to worry about hooking up the camcorder to the VCR and you're not really into editing, this is the way to go," Liss said.

The DVD format accounts for 22 percent of the camcorder market, or double a year ago, according to the NPD Group, a market research firm.

Liss and other electronics experts, however, recommend that users seeking the best-quality picture purchase a MiniDV camera, which uses tiny cassettes. The tapes are played back through the camcorder via connectors to a VCR, TV or computer.

"The quality is so far superior to DVD camcorders," Liss said.

Jerry Costello, 48, a video enthusiast and community college photography instructor from Phoenix, and Henry Williams, 40, of We Got It Productions, a Chandler video production business, spend hours each year perusing new video cameras at such outlets as Best Buy and Circuit City and shoot their share of home videos. Here are their suggestions for improving buyer satisfaction:

Consider buying a camera with manual audio control. People pay so much attention to the quality of the video, they forget when making home movies that audio can make or break the film, Costello said.

Get a tripod. No matter how much the camcorder boasts image stabilization and the user attempts to stand still, video will sport some wobble without a tripod.

"A lot of people like to use the camera as their eye," Williams said. "That just makes for a shaky video."

Think about your editing capabilities before buying a camera. Do you have the equipment on your computer, VCR or DVD player to allow you to edit? What will you need to buy? Do you have the technical know-how to edit? Some cameras allow easier editing than others.

Spend the extra money to buy a microphone and external light. A top complaint from camcorder owners is poor sound quality and a dim picture. Microphones, which can cost $20 for wired and $100 for wireless, and a $30 light can enhance the performance of even the cheapest cameras, Williams said.

Try it before buying. People will test-drive a car but often won't hold a video camera in their hand before plunking down the credit card. "Most of those really small cameras have really small controls. People with big hands are going to feel uncomfortable," Williams said.

Podcasting faq now offers podcasts, small MP3 audio files you can download onto your computer or portable MP3 players like an iPod.

There are several ways to listen to podcasts. You can simply click on the "Stream this article" link from selected stories on the site and the podcast will automatically start playing on your computer. You can subscribe to our automated RSS feeds, download them, then listen whenever you want. The feeds are available by subject area in both daily and weekly formats. And you can visit our 'podcasts and story links' page to either listen to the files or to read individual stories. You will also find links to previous days' content on this page. How does it work?

By downloading and installing a free podcast program, you can subscribe to and automatically download new podcasts. From the podcast RSS page find the topic area you want, select from the '1 Day Feed' or '7 Day Feed' option and then simply copy and paste the URL link of the feed you want into your podcast software. The software takes care of the rest.

Each time you go online, the podcast software will connect to and search for new podcasts. You can then transfer them to an MP3 player or iPod and listen to them on the go.

How do I get started?

1. Get podcast software There are a lot of programs on the Web, but we recommend iTunes for both Mac and PC. Dowload the iTunes podcast receiver and follow the installation instructions.

2. Subscribe to podcasts For feeds, simply click on the topic area you are interested in, select the 'http:// ...' url ( , for example) from the address bar, and paste the url into your software's subscribe field. Once you are subscribed to a podcast, your podcast playlist is updated automatically whenever the directory is updated.

You can also listen to individual stories on your computer by simply clicking on the "Stream this article" link. The podcast will run in any MP3 player you have set up on your computer.

3. Get iPod (optional) You can listen to any podcast straight from your computer, but if you have an iPod (or most any other USB music player) you can easily take updated shows with you even when you're not online. Just plug in your iPod, and set your iTunes 'Preferences' to automatically check for new shows as often as you like.


If you have any questions or concerns about podcasts, please contact us at Please include Podcasting in the subject line of your email.

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