Alesis VideoTrack $299 MSRP, $200 street www.alesis.com
THE BIG PICTURE
We literally mean “the big picture”—this pocket recorder does video, audio, and even still shots. Yes, you can record a rehearsal with a cool little audio recorder, but actually seeing how you come across is a step up. It’s also great for documenting recording sessions, and if you want to do a quick video of your band playing live or in the studio and upload it to YouTube, you’re covered.
The F=2.8 lens is teamed with a 1.5" x 2" (2.4" diagonal) color LCD—a decent size for seeing what you’re shooting (or have already shot). Video and photo resolution is 640 x 480, with videos saved to MP4 format and photos to JPG; a built-in flash allows taking photos under low-light conditions, and you can output to PAL or NTSC video formats. For storage, VideoTrack accepts SD and SDHC cards up to 16GB (Figure on about 50 minutes of video recording time per GB.)
The package comes with a standard-USB-tomini- USB cable, 2GB SD card, rechargeable Li-ion battery, carrying pouch, palm strap, AV cable, and hand grip. There’s also Windows software for transferring/ viewing images, doing primitive editing, and uploading direct to YouTube. But no worries, Mac fans: On either platform, the VideoTrack appears as a mass-storage USB device for easy file transfers.
VideoTrack is exceptionally easy to use. Options are few—it’s “point-and-shoot.” The internal video processing DSP is outstanding, as it transparently adjusts light balance and focusing (in fact, better than my miniDV camera that cost five times as much). The battery is user-replaceable, so carry a few spares and you won’t have to worry about running out of juice; you recharge the battery through the VideoTrack’s USB connector, powered by either a computer or optional-at-extra-cost AC adapter.
HITS AND MISSES
So why bother with a VideoTrack if your cell phone does photos, videos, and audio recording? Well, compare the audio quality: VideoTrack has stereo condenser mics that do the audio proud. Also, your phone probably doesn’t have the kind of image-processing DSP that can make videos look better than they probably should.
The biggest miss had been the inability to zoom while recording, but a recent firmware update fixed that (and it’s a good sign that Alesis continues to tweak the performance). The one thing you’ll definitely need is a wind screen for the mics if you do outside recording, because they’re quite sensitive.
Another potential problem is landing in jail. I was at the Seattle airport, and as part of a video about gigging in Europe, wanted some footage of traveling between terminals on one of those Disneyland- type terminal shuttles. Of course a security guard wanted to know why I was taking videos of an airport transportation system; but I avoided any problems with the magic words, “Want to be in a documentary video?”
Me! Seriously, long before I got into video, I always carried around some kind of portable recorder, and have the sample library to prove it. But now I do a lot of video work, and the VideoTrack quality is sufficiently good that if I capture a decent clip, I’ll likely be able to edit it into a “real” video. VideoTrack is also a great way for audio types to ease into video at minimal expense, while still getting decent quality . . . it’s pretty astonishing what a couple hundred bucks will buy these days.
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