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Making HD Camera Selection


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#1 Frank DiBugnara

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Posted 29 June 2007 - 08:25 PM

I am preparing to shoot a spot next month. Image quality is very important to the producer but he would like to rule out film so as to be able to just "let the camera roll" a lot. It is a talking head in-studio green screen job. We are toying with the idea of shooting two cameras at all times--one on a dolly creeping back and forth on a wide shot and one on a longer lens on a floating medium shot.

I am struggling with camera selection. I have shot many green screen projects with the F-900/3 and have not been thrilled with the result. I can't rule out that the post production path or color correction was part of the reason for my dissatisfaction.

Is it worth trying to move up to a Genesis for the shoot? I know they are in demand and might not even be available. Would I see a huge difference over the Sony in a standard definition final product? Would a more current Sony model produce a significantly better image (the 2/3" chips worry me, though). What other options should I consider? On a practical note: the shoot is in Phoenix, AZ.
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#2 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 29 June 2007 - 08:41 PM

If you're talking about greenscreen composites, I'm not sure it matters that you're using 2/3" CCD cameras in terms of the extra depth of field - you've just got a green background and you can adjust the focus of the background plate when you do the composite to make it as soft as you want.

You get better quality than the F900, you'd be looking either into shooting 4:2:2 with less compression than HDCAM, or 4:4:4. This probably means a Viper, F950, Arri D20, etc. going to an SRW1 deck, or the Genesis or new F23. Can you afford any of that?

I was just at the SIM Video Open House today discussing this problem - that any HD solutions better than the F900 basically double your camera rental. A camera and a SRW1 deck, or a Genesis / F23 with its own internal SR deck, basically add up to twice the costs of the F900 and there doesn't seem to be any inbetween solution with an inbetween cost. This is the main reason why after seven years, the F900 and the Varicam are still fairly dominant. For example, I've yet to shoot any higher-quality HD because of that price jump to the next level. Paying an extra $1500/day, or $4500/week more, on a 6-week feature, is $27,000 extra -- and that's just for single-camera shooting. Double that for a two-camera package with two SRW1 decks, and suddenly shooting in film doesn't look like such a bad idea, cost-wise.

Hence why over the past few years, most producers thinking of HD for a feature that I've been talking to, either settle back down to the F900 or make a jump up, but to shooting in film. Shooting really expensive HD doesn't appeal to them.

This is another reason why the RED camera interests me. In fact, I heard a rumor that SIM Video ordered 25 of them, and Clairmont Cameras ordered 10 of them. Even with a couple of RED Drives thrown into the rental package, I can't imagine it's going to cost more than $1000/day to rent (depending on the accessories, lenses, etc.)
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#3 Frank DiBugnara

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Posted 29 June 2007 - 09:11 PM

Thanks, David....Yes, on one hand greater depth of field would be the way to go to keep tracking marks in focus---When keeping the subject away from the green screen to minimize bounce back combined with shooting 35mm, the tracking marks get mushy so fast. This happened to me a bit on Tuesday---I think I'm gonna hear about it from the compositor. On the other hand, for the close up stuff, it is nice to be able to focus on eyes and let the neck tie go soft....which should still be easy to achieve even with 2/3" chips and long glass.

I won't know exactly what the producer is willing to pay for until I show him real numbers including travel time/costs for the gear and shipping in a DIT who knows what he's doing with that particular package (the only DITs in Phoenix that I know of are F-900/Varicam only). So I'll hit up some of the bigger more common rental houses on Monday morning. But if anyone has suggestions on houses to rent Viper, F950, F23, Arri D20--I'd love to at least quote it.

The question is just how much with all honesty and in good faith can I really talk up the quality improvement of a 4:4:4 system? I also have never shot with anything better than the F-900 in the HD world. I think the F-900 provides plenty of information to pull a good key, when shot under the right circumstances. My concern is getting the subject to look better.
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