The "Camcorder" is the commercial name for professional and home video cameras that combine a camera and video recorder in one unit. Since the introduction of this technology in 1981, camcorders have become the tool of choice for local and national Electronic News Gathering (ENG). Consumer camcorders, introduced by Sony in 1985, have rendered Super-8 film for home movies obsolete. Moreover, some critics and academic media theorists claim the camcorder has democratized the media, as well.

Professional and consumer camcorders are based on several, non-compatible formats. Ed Beta and MII are popular professional formats, while VHS, Compact VHS, and ultra-compact 8mm dominate among consumers. The 8mm format lead to significantly smaller cameras that can be operated with one hand (Sony uses the trade name Handycam to describe their 8mm models). Super VHS (S-VHS) and Hi-8, which are compatible with their lower resolution counterparts, offer higher definition and color control when used with high resolution playback equipment. S-VHS and Hi-8 are used by high-end consumers, as well as academic and industrial videographers. The camcorder has also lead to a growing sophistication in ancillary equipment for the home video market, with numerous titlers, editors, and mixers available to both average and high-end users. Computer-based multimedia allows camcorder images to be incorporated in computer presentations for business and instructional use.

The camcorder came into prominence in early 1991, when Hollywood plumbing store manager George Holliday focused his camcorder on the beating of Rodney King by members of the Los Angeles Police Department. The tape, which Holliday submitted to KTLA, received international attention, and showed the power amateur video can wield over the national, indeed, world psyche. Previous to this, local stations, as well as cable news giant CNN, had solicited and used newsworthy amateur video. The popular ABC series America's Funniest Home Videos and similar television programs throughout the world are based on the existence of camcorders, as well.

The camcorder has also become an icon of numerous dramas and sitcoms, which commonly frame home and family scenes within the confines of a camcorder viewfinder, replacing the very notion of "home movies" as a form of expression.

-Michael Kassel



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See also Experimental Video; Home Video; Public Access Video; Videocassette; Videotape