The Steady March of Technology

Something that many folks aren’t aware of is that I used to spend a lot of time playing with video. My first job was as a tech assistant at a public access television station, and from there I eventually moved up over the course of years to the lofty (and mostly meaningless) title of Operations Manager. I did a lot of sideline work as a videographer, freelance editor and equipment operator for several video production houses as well as the local NBC and PBS affiliates.

I enjoyed it, for the most part. Until it all fell apart due to political machinations and flushed over a decade of work down the drain anyway. I moved into simpler fields, and essentially left it to rot.

I’ve made attempts at poking the beast, trying to remember what it was that enamored me with AV work and making pretty talking pictures on the TV. Never really had the proper tools to do anything that I found pleasing. Drive and vision is all fine and well, but when the end product comes out looking like ass due to inferior equipment, it’s rather disheartening, at least for me.

Of late, I’ve been looking at cameras, contemplating. And then I realized something depressing.

I have no fucking idea what the hell I’m looking at.

When I last owned a camera, the lingo was all about chips, tape format, compression rates. The war was on between digital and analog, and if you wanted mass distribution, you did it on VHS, unless you had $500 bucks lying around, minimum, to buy a DVD burner and were willing to wander away from the computer for 3 hours at a stretch to let them create the disc.

Now I look over the spec sheet of a camera or camcorder, and it’s utter gibberish. DSLR, mirrorless, megapixels (which apparently don’t mean the same thing they did when I last owned such a device, and apparently don’t even match up with the same rating on most consumer still cameras or the cameras on one’s phone or tablet), AF depth adjustments, and seemingly no easy way to tell if a given camera/camcorder records sound or not and what manner of output it uses to get it into your computer or editing station.

Perusing the tech site’s lists of  “best cameras for X” haven’t been much help, either; they seem just as chock-full of specs that are meaningless as the rest, frequently base their reviews on devices that they’ve applied all manner of after-market parts or add-ons to, and seem somehow averse to posting a picture and a short clip taken on the camera so you can see what the bloody thing looks like.

While part of me acknowledges this is pointless – buying one would just relegate it into the same camp as any number of other tech toys purchased with the eye on getting me off my ass and creating instead of staring at the walls and beating myself up, I’m sure – there’s the small part that says “Nah, we can find something cool to do with it.”

But overall, it’s just made me feel very old, and how quickly things change so completely that any familiarity you might have once had with a subject is utterly useless and irrelevant.

Any of you little whippersnappers out there who can help an old fart like me figure out what that all means? Suggestions on decent cameras for the production of short films/YouTube fodder that record at least acceptable audio and don’t involve nightmares and six Xanax to get the footage into a computer (probably using either Final Cut Pro or Premeire, haven’t decided which yet) for editing? That have options to expand (particularly in the sound and lens areas) later, if the need arises? And overall, preferably in the $200-$500 range, tops. I know it’s a long list, but hey, it’s Christmas! Or Black Friday, anyway.

Alternatively, if you’re an old fogey that’s had the same problem of technology leaving you behind, share your story with us; how’d it happen and how did you deal with it? Let us know in the box below.

As for me, it’s off to stare at the arcane runes of the Best Buy ads again.

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