The following is a bit of a how-to guide to capturing video onto your computer. You can use a camcorder, webcam, digital camera, or cell phone to record video. These tips should help you get started - and so should our own instructional video, which you can watch right here!
Camcorder: Camcorders are going to provide the highest quality video since they are dedicated to this task. If you don't have a camcorder and were considering one anyway, then now's a good time to pick one up. Low-end consumer camcorders can be bought for under $200, with higher-end camcorders costing in the thousands. There are many options to choose from when purchasing a camcorder, so you'll want to do some research to find a camera that fits your lifestyle and needs. For more information, you can view CNET's buying guide. That being said, having a camcorder with the ability to record onto memory sticks will make your life easier when transferring video to your computer. Barring this option, a firewire and/or USB port is the most important feature you'll need in order to capture video.
Pros: Best video quality, can use the equipment for other uses
Cons: Most expensive option, capturing to a computer requires more equipment
Webcam: If a camcorder is out of the picture, then a webcam can be a makeshift option. Webcams are relatively inexpensive, and the video is recorded onto your computer, so you won't need to transfer video from one device to another. Webcams are designed for PC teleconferencing, where the camera records the subject matter from a fixed position. Many webcams feature built-in microphones, but you might need an external mic if you have an older model with fewer features. The webcam is best suited for video blogging, but there's room for creative experimentation. Be aware that for anything you record, you'll be limited to the camera's position and ability to focus. Frame rates and image quality are also nowhere near camcorder levels, so shell out the extra bucks for a camcorder if production value is a concern.
Pros: Records directly on your computer
Cons: Static placement of camera, low image quality
Digital Camera: Some digital cameras have an option to record video. The quality won't be as high as a camcorder's video, but it is perfectly acceptable for video streamed on the Internet. You'll also be able to transfer the video to your computer from a memory stick, making it quick and easy to submit video.
Pros: Video is easy to transfer, digital cameras are small, video quality is acceptable
Cons: Good audio quality may be hard to obtain
Cell Phone: If you can record video on your phone, all you need to do is send the video to your computer and you're set. However, don't expect too much from the video and audio quality.
Pros: Video is easy to transfer, cell phones are small and probably with you at all times
Cons: Good video and audio quality may be hard to obtain
Your next step is to capture your video to a computer. The following is a list of hardware options you can employ to capture video.
Firewire capture: If your recording device has a firewire port, then you'll most likely want to go with this option. Almost all video cameras and professional recording decks released in the past few years have a firewire port. There are two types of ports: 4-pin and 6-pin. An important thing to note is both ports can connect to each other. So a 4-pin port can connect to either 4-pin or 6-pin, and vice versa.
Camcorders will almost always have the 4-pin port. This port looks like a small rectangle with one of its long edges bent slightly inwards. It can be identified by the words DV, Firewire, or IEEE-1394 near the port. If you cannot find the port, please refer to your device's owner's manual. A lot of modern motherboards have a firewire port, but if your computer does not have one, you'll need to buy a firewire capture card. You can pick up basic cards for under $30, and you can find them at your local computer hardware store or on the Internet. If you don't have any type of recording software (see the editing section for more information), then you may want to consider a card + software package. You'll also need a cable to connect the recording device to the firewire port on the computer using the appropriate ports. The most common scenario will be a camcorder with a 4-pin port and a capture card with a 6-pin port. You'll want a 4-pin to 6-pin firewire cable if this is the case.
USB 2.0 capture: Some camcorders have a USB video output. You'll also want to use the USB port to transfer video from a digital camera's memory card. You'll just want to make sure that your computer has USB 2.0 and not USB 1.0 or 1.1. The latter two are too slow to handle video transfer, but fortunately anything released in the past few years will have USB 2.0. If you don't, then you can pick up a USB 2.0 card from a computer hardware store (or online) for around $20. There are a variety of USB ports, so make sure that you have the proper cable to link up your device to the computer.
Direct Capture: If you plan to skip a recording device and go directly from your console into your computer, you'll need either a video capture card or a device to convert your video signal into firewire or USB.
Capture card: You can buy capture cards that will accept composite, S-video, or component signals. They can cost several hundred dollars, though, and won't have any significant difference over using a device that converts video into firewire or USB. So unless you want to use your PC monitor as a TV, you should go with the next option.
Firewire or USB converters: You can get a device that converts your console's audio & video signals into firewire or USB, depending on your preference. Firewire converters can be somewhat pricey, but do work well. If you're on a tight budget and don't want to spend a lot of money, then getting a USB converter would be the best choice. Assuming your computer already has a USB 2.0 port, all you would need is the converter. However, we have no experience with USB devices so you'll want to do some research on the subject. Do an Internet search for "video usb adapter" and you'll come up with several products. One product you may wish to consider is the Dazzle Video Creator 85, priced at $50. It comes with the device and software to capture and edit.
Once you have your devices connected, launch your capturing software. You'll most likely want to use the software that came with your camcorder or video adapter. The software should have a manual with instructions on how to capture and edit your video. Bundled editing software can be any where from really basic to fairly complex, so take your time with learning the tools.
If you want more advanced editing software, then you'll need to throw down some serious cash. Products like Adobe Premiere Pro or Apple's Final Cut Pro will cost you hundreds of dollars. Alternatively, you can purchase older versions of the software for a discount. Or, if you're a student, try to pick up a student copy through your school.
If you don't have software with your device, you can use free software to capture and edit your video. Microsoft has Windows Movie Maker bundled with Windows XP. VirtualDub is something we've used and can recommend. WinDV is a very small program to capture video, but we have not used it before so your mileage may vary.
When you've edited your piece, export it and submit to TV.com!