Making films can be really easy using just a common camcorder - in the last 5 years or so the quality of home camcorders has become so good (at such a cheap price) that it is giving professional equipment a run for its money, and means that anyone can make great quality movies. Here is a basic guide to what you would need.

The Camera

my camera!    
I would reccommend you try and get a digital camcorder. These start from about £500 ($350) but give you several advantages over 8mm or Hi8 (analouge) cameras. Digital gives you not only better sound and picture quality, but means that it will easily plug into your computer with a £60 ($40) Firewire card. If you have an analouge camera, you will need a more expencive card in your computer to convert the information, and a faster processor. Most digital cameras can also be used as a digital still camera and a webcam.
Digital camcorders record onto either Hi8 or MiniDV tapes. Hi8 tapes and cameras are cheaper (just about) and the quality is nearly the same as MiniDV - although MiniDV is the superior standard. You do not need to buy Digital 8 tapes on a Digital8 Camera! They are more expencive, but standard Hi8 tapes work just as well!!! It's a bit of a con :)

Look for a good brand. There are lots of moving and complicated bits in a camcorder that can go wrong, paying a bit more for a solid camcorder could save you a lot of money later on. Sony and JVC are the industry leaders here, although Cannon have a lot of professional camera experiance too. Personally I use and trust a Sony camcorder, although I have had some occasional problems with it!

The Computer


scart -> phono
A lead that converts a 1/4" jack (from a computer) to a SCART socket on a video recorder (on the left)
The computer is what allows you to really make a difference. On your ordinary home computer you can record video, edit, and then save it on CD's, DVD's or export it to the web. Most computers with a TV out card will allow you to put your completed film onto a standard video cassette just by plugging it into your ordinary video recorder.

You may need to buy a card that will allow you to plug your camcorder into your computer. Digital ones use the Firewire port, the cards costing around £60 ($40). These often come with basic software to edit your film together. Your computer needs to be quite fast to cope with the large size of video - it will come from the camcorder at 4Mb/second! A 800Mhz computer is a minimum, and 128MB RAM a must. But the faster the better, with no limits! Bear in mind that my 1.4Ghz computer takes 30 minutes to save a finished film! That also means you need a BIG hard drive. Bear in mind that one hour of raw video, before it is compressed (squashed to make it smaller) will take up about  14 Gb (That's GIGABYTES!) of your hard drive! You also need to have a hard drive that can write fast enough for video, realistically that's a hard drive that spins at 7200 rpm. Fortunately these hard drives are now very cheap, you can get a 40 Gb one (which should be enough) for around £60 ($40). Once you have finsihed working on your video, you can compress it into a file such as an MPEG which does not take up as much space.

If you want people to see your films, you need to think how you will distribute it. If you have a TV out card it is easy to plug in a standard home video recorder, and put them onto VHS. You will need a cable to do this, but these are not expensive. The cable you need will depend on the output socket of your video card, and the input socket of your video recorder. Your local electrical shop will help you get what you need.
Another way to get people to see your film is to put it on CD or DVD. CD writers are cheap (£40/$25) and fast, and writable CD's are very cheap when brought in bulk, around 20p (15 C). You can compress your film to a format such as MPEG or DIVX, and put it on a CD that any computer with a Pentium 266Mhz or higher processor will play. You can also make VideoCDs, a special format that will play in DVD players. You could also make proper DVD's, but bear in mind that DVD writers are expencive (£250/$180) and so are writable DVD's (as much as £8/$5 each).

The Software

Adobe Premiere 6    
You will need some software to edit your film on. You will want to take bits of footage out, rearrange scenes and add music and special effects, including fades and wipes. Simple editing software can be very easy to use, just a case of clicking on a section of film and moving it to where you want with the mouse. It is easy to learn, and the software will come with manuals to help you get started. Cheap software such as Pinnacle Studio DV or Matrox Video Wave might be bundled with your video card, or are available to buy for around £40 ($30). If you really want to take it seriously, I would recommend you try some more expencive, but vastly superior software such as Adobe Premiere. It allows you to do much more with your footage such as special effects and it is also more reliable and versitile. If you really have money to burn, (eg about £5000/$3000) get Avid (and a Mac to go with it!) This is what most TV programes and big films are made on!

If sending your film out over the internet you will need to save it as something small so people can donwload it easily. I  use Real format, which makes small files, but not brilliant quality. The best is DivX format, which is the next generation of MPEG - the file that DVD's and digital TV works on. This makes bigger files, but are much better quality -as good as a DVD.