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Equipment for Training Videos

Written by Ed Nowicki

This is the second installment in a multi-part series of articles on producing a law enforcement training video, from start to finish. This column will be directed on selecting and obtaining necessary equipment, both hardware and software, needed to produce a law enforcement training video. The cost of this equipment will depend on how much equipment you already have.

You should find out the amount of money that you’re able to spend. If you have no equipment and you need to purchase a video camera, accessories, software, and a computer, you may be able to get by for about $1500. You can spend about $10,000 to get some great equipment, which is just under what the full-time professionals use.

All editing should be nonlinear editing. This type of editing is where a computer is used to store video and audio on the computer’s hard drive for editing purposes, instead of on a tape. This eliminates rewinding and the loss of video resolution with multiple dubs, since nonlinear editing is digital. Scenes can easily be removed or relocated anywhere with nonlinear editing.

If you have a computer with at least 20 GB of hard drive space available, you’re probably OK since storing videos gobbles up hard drive storage capability. The faster the computer processor, the better, and dual processors are generally better than single processors. If possible, your video editing computer should be dedicated to just editing video to maximize the computer’s full power, and to eliminate any virus problems. As a side note, less than 1% of viruses impact a Mac. The question is, “Should I choose a Mac or a PC?”

The Mac was and still is the computer of choice for most high-end video editors, but PC’s are narrowing the gap. A “less filling” or “tastes great” debate can be made between Macs and PC’s, so if you’re very familiar with PC’s, you should probably stay with the PC. If you’re a Mac person, you can probably look down your nose at the PC folks—for now. When comparing processor speed for Mac’s and PC’s, don’t compare one with the other, since they are different systems. Still, Mac and PC’s are much more compatible than a police chief is with a police union president.

You want to get as fast of a computer (the processor speed) as you can afford with as much RAM as possible along with the largest hard drive possible. A DVD burner is also a must. Make sure that the computer has a “fire wire” port for connecting a digital camcorder to the computer.

Purchasing your computer can be through a retailer, a discount mail order business, or directly from the manufacturer. If you are a part-time faculty member or if you have a school age child, you can buy directly from Apple, manufacturer of the Mac, at reduced educational prices. Some of the multitude of PC manufacturers may have similar programs.

Selecting a camcorder can be tricky. You definitely want a digital camcorder, which will probably be either a MiniDV or Digital8 format. MiniDV camcorders are generally a bit more expensive and a bit smaller than Digital8 models. DVD and MicroDV camcorders are also making a push, and there’s even a new JVC camcorder with a built-in 20 GB hard disk for directly downloading into a computer.

An advantage of a Digital8 camcorder is that you may still be able to import into your editing computer any 8mm or Hi-8 tapes that you or your agency may have. Not all Digital8 camcorders will do this, so make sure that this is an available feature if you plan on doing this. Digital8 camcorders use standard Hi-8 tapes for recording, but the images are recorded as digital instead of a Hi-8’s analog.

Don’t worry about the digital zoom capability on a camcorder; it’s the optical zoom feature that’s important for image clarity. Three CCD camcorders usually offer better color separation versus a single CCD camcorder, but you’ll pay more for those two extra CCD’s.

Make sure that your camcorder has an external microphone jack and an external headphone jack. Professional video cameras (anything that costs $20,000 or more can’t be called a camcorder—it’s like calling your hand-held radio a walkie-talkie!) use XLR audio jacks. Most “prosurmer” (hi-end consumer approaching professional) camcorders use 1/8” stereo mini audio jacks.

Ed Nowicki, a nationally recognized use of force expert, is a part-time officer for the Twin Lakes (WI) Police Department. He presents Use of Force Instructor Certification Courses across the nation and is the executive director of ILEETA. He can be reached at ed@ileeta.org.

Published in Law and Order, Oct 2005

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