The VanceCam VC25P Homemade Camcorder

VanceCam VC25P Camcorder (Images courtesy Dan Vance)
By Andrew Liszewski

Like most independent filmmakers Dan Vance had a limited budget when he set out to shoot his movie The Shivering Earth. Of particular concern to him was the cost of shooting on film and the expensive rental rates for high-end video cameras. Since he also didn’t want to settle for the relatively small 1/3 inch CCDs used on cheaper prosumer cameras he figured he’d just build his own instead.

The final version now known as the VC25P was built around PAL video technology since it records footage at 25 fps which is very close to the 24 fps that film uses. (NTSC on the other hand records at 30 fps.) In addition the PAL frame size is about 20% larger than NTSC which helps when the final product is being transferred back to film. As for hardware specifics the component video signal coming from the camera is sent through an analog to firewire convertor which then feeds a DV signal directly to a hard disk recorder. An audio preamp was also constructed to allow a microphone to interface with with the A to D converter’s line-level input. The final product doesn’t exactly look high-tech but the fact that it works is impressive enough.

And I have to admit Dan is a brave guy. I usually worry about cameras from Panasonic and Sony breaking down on set and causing delays in a production. And those are from companies who’ve been making these devices for years. I’m pretty sure if I had to shoot an entire movie with a homebrew camera I would end up with an ulcer.

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