Further VPC-C6 observations

I've played more with the VPC-C6 now. Some hints and tips:

It takes at least a few seconds after shooting a clip before you can start shooting another one. I don't know how much impact card speed has on this, but if interesting things seem at all likely to keep happening then you should keep the camera rolling. That's standard video-making advice anyway; people who maniacally try to save tape by toggling pause and play all the time are likely to end up with lots of footage of them saying "C'mon, guys, do it again!"

Incidentally, these new-fangled cameras which (a) make no noise and (b) can take still images as well as videos give a new way for amateur videographers to screw up when recording important events.

The old fashioned way is misreading the setting of your record/pause control, so that you're paused when you think you're recording and recording when you think you're paused. Thus are hours of magnificent "foot shots" created.

With a silent solid state photo/video camera, though, masterful users gain the ability to simply press the wrong button when attempting to record an important event. They, therefore, take one still picture at the beginning and another at the end.

Getting back to the hints - the C6's teeny lens goes to a maximum aperture of f/3.5, which does not let a great deal of light into the camera.

This is a normal problem for consumer digicams, though most of them do at least offer f/2.8, which lets more than 1.5 times as much light into the camera. The C6's particular problem is that its auto-exposure mode, when you've got the flash turned off, seems to like to keep the ISO sensitivity down, so you get nice smooth un-noisy pictures.

That's great, and all, but not when it means you have to take pictures with half-second shutter speeds. The C6 will cheerfully do this, even in rooms that're lit to a normal indoor daytime light level.

Turn the flash on and the C6 happily drops to a generally-OK 1/30th of a second (and often winds the ISO up to about ISO 250 anyway, presumably to compensate for the weediness of its little flash), but on-camera flash makes everything look flat as a pancake. It's a last resort if you care at all about taking good-looking photos. And it flattens the battery, too.

The solution to this problem is to use the C6's menu system (which works very nicely - it's not cluttered with unnecessary settings, and it remembers what you changed last and starts up again in the same spot) to wind the ISO sensitivity up - to 200 for most indoor shooting, and all the way to the camera's noisy maximum 400 for night-time indoor flash-free shots, because that's the only way you'll avoid hideous blur, stabiliser or no stabiliser. Use exposure compensation (also easy to access) to wind the exposure down by about a stop as well, if you like; that'll speed up the shutter a little more again, and you can brighten the images up in a fraction of a second in post processing.

The result is lots of crunchy noise, of course, but better a grainy picture of something than a smooth picture of nothing, if you ask me.

(If you leave the C6 on auto-everything mode then its flash will allow it to salvage many low to medium light shots, more or less, but don't expect it to be able to light a large room.)

In my MiniReview I mentioned being perfectly happy to use good old VirtualDub to do basic editing of the C6's clips, without actually mentioning that it can't, in point of fact, load the MP4 files the C6 produces.

You can still use it, though.

MP4Cam2AVI can rapidly convert MP4 video into an AVI file that VDub can load, and it can also convert the non-VDub-compatible AAC audio to MP3 or uncompressed PCM, which gives you a 100% VDub-compatible file.

VirtualDub still can't save MP4, though. If you'd like to avoid format conversion and just want to chop clips out of MP4 files, YAMB works well enough. Play the clip separately, find the start and end of the clip you want (in plain old seconds-from-start if you like, or full hh:mm:ss:ccc timecode), enter numbers, click button; bing, smaller MP4s.

YAMB can also extract video from an MP4 to a soundless, VDub-compatible AVI, and separately extract the audio as an AAC file (C6 audio is 48000 bit per second two channel allegedly-VBR LC-AAC), and then you can convert the AAC to WAV or MP3 (I use Winamp's stock Disk Writer Output plugin for that), and then load that as the audio track for the soundless AVI in VDub.

Or, like I said, you can just use MP4Cam2AVI.

If you really want to get devious, you can trick VirtualDub and various other software into dealing with MP4 files without knowing it by doing all this. Well, apparently you can - I'm buggered if I'm going to try it.

MP4 may be a bit of a pain to edit on Windows (there are various full-featured editing packages that can handle it on load and save, but they're massive overkill, not to mention expensive, if all you want is cut-cut editing with the occasional soundtrack replacement), but it's widely compatible elsewhere. Modern Macs can play it natively, and you can also upload it straight to Google Video, no problem.

(Yes, I know the title has an extra R on the end. I changed it right after I uploaded it, but the change has not yet appeared.)

2 Responses to “Further VPC-C6 observations”

  1. qupada Says:

    I have used AVISynth's "DirectShowSource" filter, and it does work, although the video outputted to VirtualDub is uncompressed (RGB, YUV or whatever, depending on your source file), and requires recompression. The audio track usually passes untouched in whatever compressed format.

    You can also add other avisynth commands to the file, like "Trim()" (selects a range of frames), "Crop()", variations on "ResizeFoo()". Avisynth installs suprisingly good html-format help with a list of all of them, syntax and exampes.

  2. pkulak Says:

    Don't use AVISynth to actually output uncompressed data, use it as a frameserver for VDub.

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