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Tools of the Trade

Want to shoot your own videos? Here’s what you need to get started:

Video Camcorder. Many older cameras will work if you’re going to produce only low-resolution analog videos (perfect for Web sites). Because all television is now digital, we chose a Panasonic Model HDC-SD1PP high-definition video camcorder. Panasonic camcorders, and many Sony camcorders, record 1080i resolution on an inexpensive SD memory card in a format called AVCHD, which produces high-quality DVD video (and low-resolution for Web).

Video-editing Software. We wanted an inexpensive, easy-to-use program that would edit many different formats, including AVCHD. Pinnacle 12 was our choice. It has easy drag-and-drop editing for video and a library of music. The program even has a direct YouTube download capability. Prices range from $50 to $130, depending on the version you choose.

Computer. We chose an Apple MacBook Pro with Intel Core 2 Duo processors that run at speeds over 2.4 GHz. The newer Apple computers run PC software in addition to Apple software.

Tripod. Holding the camera steady can be especially difficult when zooming in for a close-up shot. A one-legged monopod can be an easy-to-use option.

External Microphone. In-camera microphones record too much background noise. Professional sound can be obtained by plugging an external microphone into the camcorder. Look for a camcorder that has an external microphone input jack. The video microphone we tested is the Rode VideoMic ($150).