DSLR as a Webcam – something simple, that’s really not. Until now.

For a while I’ve been looking for solutions to quick and easy recording video directly to the computer I’m going to edit on from a DSLR.

In the normal TV production-land, we’ve been doing this for years, we call it live-to-tape (or now, live-to-SAN) and it’s done because it’s the most efficient method of capture>edit.

In the consumer world, this has been pretty much impossible for a long time save for the use of cameras that have live component, HDMI, or HD-SDI output and a capture card that supports the same. Definitely a less-than-ideal situation when there are hundreds if not thousands of models of cameras out there that have quite good sensors, reasonable lenses, but no way to live preview on the computer system or capture the live preview.

For the past several years, there have been clunky workarounds based on screen capturing some of the live previews via software that been available for some Canon cameras. The workarounds worked, in the loosest sense.

However, as I’ve been helping my wife look at doing some vlogging, I wanted t see if there had been any advances in the ability to capture from DSLR live preview, and today, found something called SparkoCam. I was dubious, but thought I’d give it a try.

I’m also not a guy who usually posts reviews of just about anything; in this case, the team (?) behind this software really went above and beyond in their product.

Looking past the goofy “put a mustache on it” composites, the software first of all does what it says.  You can plug in your Canon DSLR via USB, pull up the Live Preview, set your video bitrate and resolution, your audio source bitrate, and record your videos straight off the camera.  I would probably suggest slating your audio/video since you’ll probably have slight sync issues in the audio that doesn’t get fed through the live preview/USB.

Here’s where I ran into a snag – the software had a default path to save recorded videos, and every time I attempted to change the path, the software crashed (running Win 7 Pro).  So I send an email to SparkoCam support with details on the crash, and expect to not hear anything back for a week or so; and then maybe a “sorry, it doesn’t work.”

Instead, I get an email back within 2 hours saying “hey, thanks for the crash report, we’re working on fixing it, and will have a new release up soon you can download that should fix the problem.”  OK, that’s a pretty good response, and I was encouraged by it.  I’d be happy to wait a few weeks or whatever.

Instead, I get another email 3 hours later from their support team, saying “We’ve fixed the problem, and pushed out a new update to our servers, feel free to download the new package, and if you like it, we hope you’ll buy it.”

Three. Hours.

Downloaded, installed, and lo and behold, they had indeed fixed the issue.  It was so fast, it’s probably a problem they’d run into in a prior version and the bug worked it’s way back in.  However, that’s almost besides the point that their response time was so good, and that the response included making the product work right.

I’ll wrap up the post by saying that the software is *pretty good* – it records only to WMV format, which isn’t ideal for source quality; but it IS good enough and it takes far lower CPU usage to capture and process than traditional AVI recording.  I was also able to record in 1280×720 WMV and drop those WMV’s right into the timeline in CS6 Premiere to start editing right away.  The only way this could be any better is if it recorded straight into Adobe Premiere:) (*cough* plug-in? *cough*;) – oh, and on a Mac would be nice too – but c’mon, even if you’re Mac, if you’re doing a lot of video work, you’re dual booting these days anyway, right?

Huge kudos to the people behind this product – they should be proud of it, and if you’re looking for something that enables a far better and faster live video recording workflow, definitely check out SparkoCam.