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Best camera for HD


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#1 Chiron Forsyth

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Posted 06 February 2007 - 12:21 PM

This year I will be producing and directing a feature-length horror film on HD, with the goal of a release on DVD (possibly broadcast on some cable venue like the SCI-FI channel as well)
The entire budget for this project is in the $100,000 range.
Most of the scenes are outdoors, mostly day, but some at night, and the project will have to be pulled off by a skeleton crew shooting in somewhat rugged conditions.

While I initially considered buying a camera, I realize that it makes more sense to rent as high quality a camera as I can afford.
Which HD camera will give me the highest quality product for my investment (and, for that matter, about how much is it renting for these days?)
In other words, which camera will give me the most bang for the buck?
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#2 will griffith

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Posted 06 February 2007 - 01:01 PM

>>The entire budget for this project is in the $100,000 range.
(1) Canon xl-h1 w/16x manual and 6x Wide lens, (1) Canon A1 (B-cam)
EST. TOTAL: $15,000...sell after feature in the can for $10,000+

>>shooting in somewhat rugged conditions.
The A1 will do great. Pick up a HV20 when it is released for really tight
and dangerous shots. (1080 24p HDV)

>>rent as high quality a camera as I can afford.
That is the safe option, and a good idea. It will be much more expensive
though unless you can shoot everything in one week. You could buy a
prosumer cam and sell back when finished for a MUCH cheaper option.
Both options have their plusses and minuses.

>>which camera will give me the most bang for the buck?
Personaly I say the XL-H1. Te DOF sucks, but I am still floored by the clean
image.

I would so some tests if I was you.

will griffith
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#3 Brian Drysdale

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Posted 06 February 2007 - 02:45 PM

One of the JVC range (HD110, HD200 or HD 250) are another alternative. They give a more filmic image and have manual lenses, although for drama you might want to use the wide angle 13x zoom which give better picture quality and less breathing when pulling focus.

You should really have a hands on test with these cameras to see which works best for you and your film.

Currently the next cameras up are the XDCAM HD range, which I suspect will break your budget, but might be be worth costing.
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#4 will griffith

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Posted 06 February 2007 - 03:03 PM

They give a more filmic image and have manual lenses,

I'll have to disagree on both here.

More filmic is subjective and the Canon can use the 16x manual which does
resolve HD resolution.

Canon Manual Lens

I like how the JVC outputs 60p though. That is pretty nice.
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#5 Troy Warr

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Posted 06 February 2007 - 04:04 PM

Hi Chiron,

If you're going for a cinematic aesthetic, you might consider what's become a very potent and popular combination, a Panasonic AG-HVX200 camera and a 35mm lens adapter like the Cinevate Brevis35 or the Redrock M2. B&H Photo has a *ton* of accessories and kits to fit just about any production need.

The HVX200 is very compact, and yet delivers a beautiful image and variable frame rates (at 720p). Both the Cinevate and RedRock websites have some impressive sample footage taken with this combo. In the rugged conditions that you mentioned, I would guess that the P2 card workflow would be more robust and dirt/dust/impact-resistant than tape, and an assistant could offload the P2 footage from one card while you're shooting with another.

The 35mm adapter will give you the option for shallow depth of field, repeatable and more precise focusing, a wide choice of lenses (Nikon manual-focus glass seems to be very popular), and should work well at least in daylight shots (you'll lose 1-2 stops of light, the Brevis35 being the brighter of the choices). For low-light shots, you could either use extra light, fast glass, or just remove the adapter and shoot without it (albeit with footage that will look somewhat different).

Depending on your choice of accessories, you'd be looking at about $10-20K to purchase such a setup, and you should be able to easily sell it after the production for 50-75% of the purchase price. That would leave you a large portion of your budget for other production costs.

Best of luck to you!
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#6 will griffith

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Posted 06 February 2007 - 04:19 PM

>>The HVX200 is very compact
...but not if you add an adapter.

Also..be careful with using any adapter in harsh conditions.
There are more things to worry about when using them.

>>shallow depth of field, repeatable and more precise focusing,
a wide choice of lenses

can't argue with that. There is some great looking footage out there
that was shot using 35mm adapters.

As far as the P2 argument I actually think tape makes more
sense in those conditions because of the long record
times and less hassle when you are on a mountainside, etc.
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#7 Chance Shirley

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Posted 06 February 2007 - 04:28 PM

Unless they've changed their policies recently, the Sci Fi channel prefers movies they pick up to be shot on film -- 35mm, or at least 16mm.

If you can get some good deals on camera rentals and processing, and you keep your shooting ratio low, you could reasonably expect to shoot on Super 16mm for as little as $10,000.

Edited by Chance Shirley, 06 February 2007 - 04:29 PM.

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#8 Phil Rhodes

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Posted 06 February 2007 - 04:36 PM

Hi,

I'm a big fan of the JVC GY-HD series - with the appropriate menu settings, you can get what seems to me to be a much smoother, cleaner, less processed image out of it. The Canon stuff always seems harsh and edgy even with all the processing turned off - I think the baseline of things like aperture correction and gamma framing are far too aggressive. The sharpness is very high, but that's about all it has going for it - and once you switch it into 24/25F mode, the difference in sharpness is so small as to be nearly undetectable. The Canon series are fantastic documentary cameras, but for drama, JVC every time.

Phil
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#9 Jonathan Bowerbank

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Posted 06 February 2007 - 04:58 PM

Most of the scenes are outdoors, mostly day, but some at night, and the project will have to be pulled off by a skeleton crew shooting in somewhat rugged conditions.


How many days of shooting are you planning and what's your camera budget?

I'm partial towards the Canon XLH1 for it's interchangeable and high quality lens. But the Sony XDCAM HD is also quite nice, and they should be coming out with a new model this year that has larger sensors. A lot of TV shows (such as "The Office) are being shot with the Sony HDW900, and the XDCAM is just a less expensive and simplified version of it. Plus, I'm a fan of the optical media it writes too...but I'm not so big a fan of its compression rate.

If we're talkin' "bang for your buck", the Panasonic HVX is nice. It's uncompressed HD if you're shooting to the P2 cards or directly to a Firestore/External Hard Drive. I'm not too impressed with its abilities with flesh tones, though.
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#10 Troy Warr

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Posted 06 February 2007 - 06:26 PM

>>The HVX200 is very compact
...but not if you add an adapter.

Also..be careful with using any adapter in harsh conditions.
There are more things to worry about when using them.

Both true. Still, the HVX200 with a Brevis35 and rails would remain relatively light (the adapter itself is carbon fiber, and very compact, at least compared to the Redrock M2) and maneuverable. Cinevate also makes a very affordable rails and support system, not to mention film-pitch follow focus gears (and I think a follow-focus unit is on the way soon). If you look around the cinevate.com forum some, there are several people who have posted their setups, and some have created some interesting DIY configurations that allow for comfortable shoulder-mount work. You could also get away with a relatively lightweight tripod since it's not too huge or bulky.

Using the adapter in harsh conditions is a valid concern, since you're going to be exposing the diffuser during lens changes, and any dust or dirt will show up on the footage. So long as you're careful, carry some compressed air, maybe change lenses in a film changing bag, and use a high-quality 720p monitor, you should at least be able to avoid any specks on your footage. Still, any digital camera with interchangeable lenses will have similar problems regarding dust or dirt on the CCD(s) or otherwise in the image pathway.

>>shallow depth of field, repeatable and more precise focusing,
a wide choice of lenses

can't argue with that. There is some great looking footage out there
that was shot using 35mm adapters.

As far as the P2 argument I actually think tape makes more
sense in those conditions because of the long record
times and less hassle when you are on a mountainside, etc.

Those are good points. The P2 workflow is quite a bit different than tape, and has its advantages and disadvantages. I was thinking mostly about the physical integrity of either format, in that P2 is solid-state and metal-encased. Tape isn't exactly flimsy, but I think it would be more affected by grit, grime and the elements. As long as you protect the contacts of the P2 cards I'd think they're pretty safe.

Of course, Will is correct about less hassle with tape, and longer recording times (by far). If you need long takes, uninterrupted periods of shooting, a high shooting ratio, etc., tape or other long-form media might be the best way to go. You're also talking about a lot more necessary storage space with P2, so you may need to think about extra hard drives or other data storage methods, not to mention data backup.
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#11 Phil Rhodes

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Posted 06 February 2007 - 06:28 PM

Hi,

> It's uncompressed HD if you're shooting to the P2 cards or directly to a Firestore/External Hard Drive

It most certainly isn't - it's very compressed HD in either case.

Phil
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#12 Troy Warr

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Posted 06 February 2007 - 07:36 PM

If we're talkin' "bang for your buck", the Panasonic HVX is nice. It's uncompressed HD if you're shooting to the P2 cards or directly to a Firestore/External Hard Drive. I'm not too impressed with its abilities with flesh tones, though.


Actually, just today I read an interesting article by Adam Wilt in which he seemed to notice that the flesh tones can be good depending on the gamma mode that you shoot in. The "Texas Shoot-Out" article from DV magazine seemed to find a yellow cast in skin tones, but he seemed to think that their chosed gamma preset was not ideal for that.
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#13 Matthew Bennett

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Posted 06 February 2007 - 10:10 PM

The ultimate HD bang for buck is probably the Andromeda system. www.reel-stream.com. It's a modded DVX100 that outputs 1540x984 frames at 4:4:4 It's under 6K for the whole camera system. Then you buy a cheap mac laptop and cheap harddrives to write raw data to. For frame size and data quality, I think that it's definitely tops if not up there on the list.
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#14 Phil Rhodes

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Posted 07 February 2007 - 07:33 AM

Hi,

> It's a modded DVX100 that outputs 1540x984 frames at 4:4:4

It certainly does not - the chips aren't that big. It's pretty convincing video, but it's not nearly 4:4:4. It's at the very most 720x576 pixel shifted, so you could claim a bit more, but it's not full HD.

Does look quite nice though.

Phil
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#15 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 07 February 2007 - 08:25 AM

I once rented a small Sony F900 package for a month for $10,000 total, the cost of buying a Canon XLH1 set-up.
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#16 Phil Rhodes

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Posted 07 February 2007 - 01:38 PM

Hi,

> I once rented a small Sony F900 package for a month for $10,000 total, the cost of buying a Canon XLH1
> set-up.

Sure, but to be scrupulously fair, you're, well, David Mullen, even if you weren't ASC then.

It would cost that per week at least for the body and one ENG style zoom here.

Phil
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#17 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 08 February 2007 - 12:44 AM

It was a privately-owned F900 package -- a camera and one zoom, a Miranda downconverter and an NTSC monitor, a 14" HD CRT monitor, and a few other items. The owner used it for Discovery Channel type shooting I think. We got a deal through Jeff Blauvelt at HD Cinema. Had nothing to do with me; the director arranged the deal before I was even hired.

My point is that if I had $10,000 in the budget for a camera and had to shoot one feature on it (let's say, a 3 to 4-week feature), I'd rent the camera, whatever the camera, because it would be better in quality than the camera I could afford to buy for $10,000. You can rent a better camera than the Canon XLH1 for the cost of buying a Canon XLH1 if the shoot is of a limited period, not spread out over time.
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#18 will griffith

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Posted 08 February 2007 - 10:28 AM

My point is that if I had $10,000 in the budget for a camera and had to shoot one feature on it (let's say, a 3 to 4-week feature), I'd rent the camera, whatever the camera, because it would be better in quality than the camera I could afford to buy for $10,000.

I agree. You also get more DOF from the 2/3" chips in the F900, etc. and have a lot more REAL lens choices.

All that adds to the price though, and it just depends on how he has the production scheduled, availability of
crew/actors, etc.

If it's a 3-4 week like you said then renting is a no brainer. I get the impression this project will not be as strict, but I'm just guessing.
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#19 Michael Nash

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Posted 12 February 2007 - 07:09 PM

I agree. You also get more DOF from the 2/3" chips in the F900, etc. and have a lot more REAL lens choices.


You mean less depth of field, actually. But I also agree with the points.
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#20 will griffith

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Posted 14 February 2007 - 08:57 AM

You mean less depth of field

Oops. Typing too fast again.

anyway....this new Panasonic is looking pretty nice for that reason.
you can use digiprimes on a 14000 camera with variable frame rates
and (finally) some bigger P2 cards.
AG-HPX500
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