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Am I buying the right stuff for my small budget? HV20 etc...


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#1 Markus Jacinto

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Posted 11 June 2008 - 01:48 PM

So I am a total rookie that would like to get more into cinematography. I have about $2500 to spend (that's all the wife will allow). The setup I've come to think I like from browsing this and other forums is this:
1. Canon HV20 - approx $750
2. Brevis35 MP.1 Imaging Bundle (including flip module) - $1,455
3. Step up ring set - 43-72mm - $19
4. Nikon 50mm f1.4 Lens - $300

$750 + $1455 + $19 + $300 = $2524

Is there anything you can see that I'm missing?

Also, when it comes to lenses do I buy the same lens you would use on an SLR camera? Like this... http://www.bhphotovi...ikkor_50mm.html

Are there any other lenses you'd suggest to shoot in low-light and maybe 20 yards away?

Sorry for the rookie questions. Just want to be sure before blowing my money.
Thanks for any insights.
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#2 Adrian Sierkowski

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Posted 11 June 2008 - 01:51 PM

Lights.

Cinematography is so much so linked to lighting, that it's probably a lot better/wiser to invest in a lighting kit than a Brevis. The Brevis will eventually go the way of the dinosaur; but lights are needed on every shoot.
Also a tripod, and a bunch of books on cinematography (check out the student section on the ASC website, here : http://ascmag.com/st...me.php?cat=261)

And then just go out and practice.
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#3 Markus Jacinto

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Posted 11 June 2008 - 02:04 PM

Thanks for the quick reply Adrian.
Lights...yes. That's definitely something I'll have to take into consideration with my budget.
As for the Brevis, I want to get a nice DOF for my shots that I don't think I can achieve without getting it. Should I wait and spend more money on a more professional cam?

Also, can you shed any light on my lens question?
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#4 Adrian Sierkowski

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Posted 11 June 2008 - 02:10 PM

The lens question doesn't make sense, really. Here's the thing; how the lens sees, and how much light it needs to register a picture is dependent upon what camera you use, and how it reads light. But you will loose light through any adapter.
I'd not recommend getting an HV20 overall; why spend the $$ on something so limited? If anything, invest in a used SD camera (check the used section on BHphoto for an example) and get something that maybe you can par-lay into some weekend work shooting randomly.
I only last year bought my first camera, after working for awhile. And even not I still don't have HD (will have that this fall).

Yes you do buy SLR lenses based on your adapter; it really is just a lens mount on there, be it Nikon, or Canon, or PL (PL being the cine lenses).

As for DoF
Depth of field is part your recording image size, your lens, F stop, and where you're focused. You can achieve shallow DoF w/o an adapter by opening up the iris and zooming in the lens, for an example. I feel, also, and don't take this the wrong way, that you're focusing on getting DoF to get a "film look," which isn't really proper. There are times you'll need/want shallow DoF, and other times you won't. Deep Focus Cinemtography, by the by, was all the rage, look at the cinematography of Greg Tolland (sp? Citizen Kane) for an example.
Also you're spending almost DOUBLE for the adapter than for the camera, it would probably be wiser to reverse that, and invest in a better camera system which will give you more manual control, and is more adaptable to multiple situations/locations (DVX comes to mind here).


p.s. no reason to buy an autofocus lens; it won't work and will only cost you more. The adapter doesn't autofocus.

Edited by Adrian Sierkowski, 11 June 2008 - 02:12 PM.

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#5 Markus Jacinto

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Posted 11 June 2008 - 03:21 PM

Wow...thanks for the insightful post Adriane.

When you spell it out that I'd be spending double for the adapter than the camera, it does sound kind of silly. What you said about DoF is for sure true, but I just wanted the option to be able to have some of it (without having to fake it all in post... heheh).

Your suggestion to go SD is probably the wisest thing for me to do...instead of going low-end HD. I saw you mentioned DVX which I imagine you mean this... http://www.bhphotovi...4p_Mini_DV.html

...this does look pretty sweet and is in my price range. Is there anything else that you would personally suggest?
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#6 Adrian Sierkowski

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Posted 11 June 2008 - 03:46 PM

DVX is in my experience a pretty de-facto camera now a days for a lot of low-budget doco/live event/reality tv stuff and even indie films. This will change, however, as SDTV gives way to HDTV. Other cameras of interest which have been around for awhile would be the Canon XL series (XL1s and XL2 being the newest). Sony also had a run with their PD series, the PD150 and PD170 spring to mind pretty quickly. On the lower end there was the Canon GL, which was popular with skateboarding videos due to it's smaller size and the ability to throw a fish-eye adapter onto it.
Things also to look for, new would the new Canon XH series, which is similar to the XL, though now recording an HDV signal, same as that HV20. I believe the XHA1 goes for around $3000 or so, and should be usable for the next few years.
RED Digital Cinema, makers of the REDOne digital Cinema camera is also releasing Scarlete, a 3K resolution camera early in 2009, though currently details on it are sketchy, check out Red.com for all the newest info on it. Supposidly it should cost less than $3000, though that could just mean $2,999.99!

Hmm. . that's about all I can think of off hand for the moment.
Know that MiniDV, while a nice format, does has limitations; primarily that it's not HD. HDV, though also has limitations to it on a technical side, and choosing the right camera for any shoot is a multiple variable problem. Things to consider, for me at least, are the following

Intended Distribution (web/tv/ etc)
Budget (can't rent out an F900 on an HVX200 budget!)
Location (wouldn't want to try to bring an HDX9000 for a "we're not filming this" type shoot)
Style (run and gun vs studio for example)

and from there select the best fitting package. Now, you're buying, so you have to fit the camera into how you intend to use it/wish to use it and can afford, if that makes any sense.
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#7 Markus Jacinto

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Posted 13 June 2008 - 01:34 PM

Sorry for the late reply...but thanks again for the knowledge Adrian.

I've really been deliberating between the DVX and the HV30, but for the sake of cost I think I'm going to go with the HV30. I have been checking out videos on vimeo.com for people using the HV20/HV30 and there's some nice stuff. Also, I am by no means a professional...just a hobbyist. If/when I buy a 35mm DoF adapter, if I'm not mistaken I think I can use it for a higher-end professional HD camera whenever I decide to buy one down the line.
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#8 Scott Fritzshall

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Posted 13 June 2008 - 02:17 PM

The other thing to think about with the adaptor is that right now your plan calls for you buying a single 50mm lens. Almost no one shoots an entire film on a single lens, and if they do it's only for some aesthetic reason. People spend a lot of money for lens kits so that they can have a wide range of lenses. You'll never be able to get any wide shot in smaller spaces with a 50mm, and you're pretty much going to have really shallow focus all the time, whether you like it or not. Most professionally shot films actually have most of what they shoot in focus, but the recent indie trend of using adaptors seems to have led to shallow focus all the time, regardless of whether or not it's appropriate, as well as a million rack focuses just because they're able to, and it's all kind of silly.
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#9 Markus Jacinto

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Posted 13 June 2008 - 03:16 PM

Hmmm...yeh Scott, you bring up some interesting points. I was wondering about the whole wide shot scenario. Buying lens kits sounds like it's gonna set me back quite a bit, plus I have a Canon SLR so I can't exactly kill 2 birds with 1 stone. How many lenses would you say one would need? Probably 3 or 4 huh?
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#10 Pete Von Tews

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Posted 14 June 2008 - 12:36 AM

Hi Markus

My advice would be to go get the HV20, a good bogen tripod and some lowel lights. And of course some good books.

Instead of getting the 35mm adaptor/lenses, get some rails supports like the zacuto.com ones and a mattebox plus some filters like a polarizer and ND neutral density grad filter. This will give you great image quality and control over your image. Add to this a good editing/fx suite like final cut / after effects, and your images will look really good.

Also, instead of relying on a shallow depth of field (by getting the 35mm adapter), try experimenting with camera movements, framing, lighting and think up of some cool ways to mount/move the camera.

When you outgrow the camera, you will still have good gear to keep like the lights, the zacuto baseplate, filters, mattebox can be used with another camera in the future so you won't have to spend money twice.

The 35mm adapter - who knows what will happen to that technology? unless you get a P+S Technic , most of the stuff out there is kind of "home made" rigged stuff (but it can get good results and can be used to make great stuff, I own a RedRock myself) BUT, what if the camera manufacturers get with the program and make something like a HVX200 (with no lens) but with a Nikon/canon/PL mount , built in achromat and no handle? That 35mm adapter technology will be obsolete. And as I see it, the big camera manufactures ARE aware that there are MANY people out there making low budget films, that would like more control over their image by having a separate lens option, but when it becomes financially viable for them, then they will make the right tools. Like Adrian said about the compact RED, its probably coming.

Till then, its all about future-proofing your bought gear and learning cinematography! That's the hardest and most rewarding part, being able to use the tools at hand to turn typed words into images.

-pete

Edited by Pete Von Tews, 14 June 2008 - 12:38 AM.

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#11 Scott Fritzshall

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Posted 14 June 2008 - 02:45 AM

Hmmm...yeh Scott, you bring up some interesting points. I was wondering about the whole wide shot scenario. Buying lens kits sounds like it's gonna set me back quite a bit, plus I have a Canon SLR so I can't exactly kill 2 birds with 1 stone. How many lenses would you say one would need? Probably 3 or 4 huh?

The standard 35mm lens kit would probably be along the lines of 18mm, 25mm, 35mm, 50mm, 85mm, 100mm, or thereabouts. This is if you are absolutely dead-set on getting the adaptor.

My sincere advice to you, however, is to skip the adaptor for now. If you are just starting out and your goal is to figure everything out, it's silly to put so much money into this. Depth-of-field is one single aspect of cinematography. It's important to know, but probably not as important as things like lighting, framing, exposure, color, movement, continuity, etc. Concentrate on learning the fundamentals now, then later when you've got more experience under your belt, maybe you rent an adaptor and some lenses, or you upgrade your camera, or whatever.

Buy a cheap miniDV camera that has as many manual controls as possible (this is one of the primary criticisms I've heard about the HV20- that too many of its controls are automatic, which makes it hard to use and hard to learn with). You didn't mention if the $2500 was just for the camera or your entire budget, but you also need to purchase a tripod and some lighting equipment. I really think you've got to straighten out your priorities here.
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#12 Markus Jacinto

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Posted 16 June 2008 - 09:49 AM

Thanks for the input Pete and Scott.
Yeah, the lens adaptor would be a 'down the line' kind of thing. I'm not completely sold on it (mostly because of the cost), but it'll be hard to judge till I actually start shooting and seeing what I need.

For now, I don't think I'll use all of my $2500 budget. I'll just save it now, so in a couple years or so I can talk the wife into letting me get something higher end. I will probably buy some lights. Can you guys suggest any less expensive lighting equipment to get started?

Also, I'm looking into building a DIY steadicam since I can't justify buying a Merlin just yet.

And for sure...for the time being I will immerse myself into learning the fundamentals. (I wouldn't know where to start trying to use filters like a polarizer and ND neutral density grad filter Pete)
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#13 Nate Downes

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Posted 16 June 2008 - 09:57 AM

Want to know my training setup, to keep myself sharp?

A Canon Optura 20, a homemade stedicam, an $80 Quantaray tripod and a homemade set of lights.

I also own a few 35mm SLR cameras.

Between those two, I keep myself focused.

The Optura was, when I got it, the equivelent of the HV20/30, a consumer camera with professional features. Manual enough to get the job done, to learn.

Edited by Nate Downes, 16 June 2008 - 10:00 AM.

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#14 Markus Jacinto

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Posted 16 June 2008 - 12:59 PM

Nate, who's/what steadicam did you do?
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#15 GeorgeSelinsky

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Posted 09 July 2008 - 12:17 AM

I'm actually toying with the idea of buying an HV 20 and getting a DOF adapter. Granted, I've been shooting for quite a few years (and have shot all film formats save for 65mm), but I admit that I like the idea of cheap equipment being stretched to the limit.

Personally, what I like about the 35mm adapter aside from the DOF possibilities is that you can manually focus with it as opposed to that horrible servo focus that so many prosumer cameras come with (like the XL1, a great camera but I'd shoot the guy who invented the servo focus ring!) Also, it encourages you to use primes, which is a healthy habit to get into I think.

So I think a DOF adapter isn't necessarily a bad thing for someone who wants to learn. Focus is very important and I think one of the greatest plusses about film students who learn on 16mm and project their work on a large screen is that they become quite aware of focus. With a 1/5" CCD camera playing back on a 20" TV screen you really don't take as much notice of it.

Btw, I'm really against this idea of "zooming in and getting more DOF" that way. First of all that goes against the basic fact that DOF itself doesn't change if you want to keep the same subject to frame relationship. As my cinematography teacher said "You get nothing for nothing". If you have a guy's head filling a frame with a 25mm lens, then you back away and have his head fill the frame with a 50mm lens, the actual technical DOF is identical. What is happening is that the lens's perspective is making the softness in the background more obvious. Either way this is just a gimmick and you're not going to get 35mm like DOF by doing that trick. What you will get is a camera operator who's backed up against the wall who has to have a feather touch on the tripod and have at least 4 hours of sleep from the night before :lol:

Definitely get a few primes. I'd get three: 25mm, 50mm, and something in the telephoto range. That's enough to do most work I think. I'm not really big on using like a 40mm versus a 50mm. And what's great is that if you want maximal Toland style DOF, you just take off the adapter and do your thing with the stock lens.

And absolutely don't go overboard with always shooting at an f 1.4. Many DP's generally like to shoot between an f4 and f8. That's exactly how I'd use my DOF adapter, to give it a real 35mm look, not the "swimming in circles of confusion" look :P Sure it's great to be able to get f1.4 dof outdoors without having a huge stack of ND's but why bother if it's not needed?

What concerns video gear and the moment when built in achromats will be the case, that day will surely come. But I'm sure we won't see that in reachable grasp for quite some time to come. It took quite a while for the 24p video camera to come out, and remember how badly people in this forum were clamoring for it years earlier?

Generally, I think the best learning tool is probably an Arri S loaded with Plus X and Tri X reversal filmstock. But if we're to play with video, your option here is actually not so bad. I just HATE HATE HATE those consumer camera's so called "manual overrides". That is my biggest criticism with such a package. A good learning camera should easily let you control everything, but in the video world such combinations are usually not cheap, whilst a Bolex lets you control everything you need to.

My opinion FWIW...

Edited by GeorgeSelinsky, 09 July 2008 - 12:20 AM.

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