3. Don't Try This at Home
Are you looking to make the next indie action flick on the cheap? (Hey, don't laugh--Robert Rodriguez's El Mariachi, the prequel to Desperado, was made for US$7000.) Camcorders are inexpensive, but dunk one in water for your scuba-diving fight scene, and you'll be hitting eBay for a replacement. Ditto if you try to remake the French Connection car chase with skateboards, or shoot during a dust storm at Burning Man. Face it: The most exciting films are the most punishing on the equipment used to shoot them.
Much of the problem can be traced to the cameras' many moving parts and fragile recording media--but for a spate of low-cost, flash-based camcorders, it's a nonissue. Two Sanyo cameras, the US$419 Xacti CA6 and the US$399 Xacti E1, are splashproof and waterproof, respectively. (The E1 can survive for an hour at depths up to 5 feet.) Both cameras record on SD Card.
Panasonic's similar line of SD Card-based cameras includes the water-resistant US$249 SDR-S10P1 and the US$399 SDR-SW20, which is waterproof, shockproof, and dustproof. And unlike the Xactis, both are capable of shooting wide-screen video.
All of these cameras shoot only standard-definition video.
Let the extreme cinematography begin!
4. Rhapsody in Blue
Ever seen the 1983 cult animated film Rock & Rule? Set in a post-apocalyptic, unnamed future, it's filled with technology both old and new. Toward the end, rock god Mok Swagger performs a song with an instrument that he plays by waving his hands in the air over glowing tubes. Fortunately, we didn't have to go through a nuclear war to get the same gadget in real life. Two of the results of ToyQuest's partnership with the Blue Man Group are the US$79 Percussion Tubes and the US$69 Keyboard Experience.
Loaded with a handful of preprogrammed Blue Man Group drum sounds, the descriptively named Percussion Tubes are an array of eight motion-sensitive tubes that you can play--and that includes altering volume and tempo--by waving your hands in the air above them. You could just use the included drumsticks, but where's the fun in that?
The Keyboard Experience has two fewer tubes but includes a 37-key synthesizer. Both toys sport an input for an MP3 player (for playing over your favorite tracks), a recording mode, and an audio-out jack.
5. The Only Scratch You Want on Your iPhone
In the early 1980s, I had everything I needed to be a DJ: two turntables, a microphone, and a massive collection of records. The only problem was that the turntables (and most of the records) were my father's; if I had actually performed any kind of scratching with either, I wouldn't have lived to see my 14th birthday.
Wannabe turntablists have had several, um, scratch-free options in the digital era, including CD turntables and an assortment of software DJ tools. MixMeister is one of the companies that makes DJ software, but MixMeister Scratch--soon available as a free download--is quite possible the only truly portable scratching tool you'll find.
MixMeister Scratch runs on the iPhone or the iPod Touch. Just play a song from your collection, pick a scratch type, and spin your mix right on the screen. It's quite possibly the only DJ-ing you can do during a train ride.