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Novice Doc director needs new camera? HD?


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#1 Kate Donalek

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Posted 20 April 2009 - 12:45 AM

I'm an amateur documentary filmmaker and I've got a camera department budget of $1000 on my next project. I've got a Cannon GL2, but after talking with some cinematography students, it seems that the consensus is that I should get a $3000 HD camera. That's not going to happen, but it has lead me to do some more research into purchasing a new camera.

Also, I'll be shooting in Dubai so it'll be hot and sandy sometimes, so I'm not sure I should buy a new camera for this film.

The GL2 and I have been through some pretty great shoots together, but the HD footage I've seen recently has intrigued me.

I'm not a cinematographer by any means, but on my mini-budget productions we are trying to operate with just 2 people in interviews etc... One on camera, and one on sound, a la Nick Broomfield. So I appreciate all advice and suggestions.

Thanks in advance!
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#2 Rhys Cooper

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Posted 20 April 2009 - 04:27 AM

Where are you planning on having your films end up? YouTube? DVD? BluRay?
I wouldn't bother with HD unless you had both a BluRay burner and player, you're basically just getting bigger dimensions which won't burn to DVD that is compatible with DVD players. If it's going on the net there's not great use for it either. It's most likely going to be compressed by either you to uploaded it faster, or the website so users can download it faster.
If I were you I'd buy camera accessories, from an underwater box (if you ever want to shoot underwater, it would also block sand), to filters, lenses, lighting equipment, etc.
The Canon GL2 is fine, you just gotta learn how to use it to achieve a more professional look.
After all -- great equipment has little use without a great person behind it.
All that really depends on how much time you have to set up, how much space you generally have, etc.

It's all up to you buddy, but I'd suggest using that money towards something that is more likely to help you out. With $1000 you're going to get a fairly basic consumer camera, especially if you want HD. After that you need to start thinking about the formats it is on, and if you'll be able to edit with it. Stick to what you got.
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#3 Matt Read

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Posted 20 April 2009 - 12:18 PM

I completely disagree with Rhys. I think you should upgrade to HD as soon as possible.

First and foremost, if you are even considering getting any of your docs onto broadcast TV, you need to shoot HD. Most stations won't even look at SD footage anymore, no matter how good of a doc it is.

You should also consider HD if you are planning on exhibiting on the web. There are plenty of websites that support HD, including Vimeo and YouTube. Even if you decide to upload your doc to a website that will compress your video, compressed video that started as HD will always result in a higher quality image than compressed video that started as SD. Most web users are willing to wait the extra time to watch an HD video rather than an SD video, so I wouldn't let download time affect your decision, either. If that really is something you are worried about, you can always compress your video down to SD and upload that as well, so your viewers will have a choice.

If you are planning on exhibiting via home video (i.e. DVD or Blu-ray), you should also consider HD, even if you don't have access to a Blu-ray burner or player. Shooting in HD will give you the option of making Blu-rays in the future as well as DVDs in the present. Most of the time when you compress HD video down to SD, it will look better than video shot directly in SD, as well.

Upgrading to an HD camera will give you more options now and future-proof your videos for later. Canon's HV10, HV20 and HV30 are all cameras in the ballpark of your $1000 budget and when in the hands of a talented cinematographer, can create very nice images.
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#4 Rhys Cooper

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Posted 21 April 2009 - 04:05 AM

Most stations won't even look at SD footage anymore, no matter how good of a doc it is.

Look at a few movies. 28 Days Later for example. It's still shown on TV all the time. The majority of the audience don't even realize it was shot on SD. HD doesn't make a great difference. If you have the money, go for it, but when you only have $1000 you aren't going to get much CONTROL (and control is what will get you that picture perfect image). People shouldn't be focusing on whether its HD or SD, but if it is believable and looks good (that is lighting and cinematography, not the extra pixels).

There are plenty of websites that support HD, including Vimeo and YouTube.

YouTube doesn't use real HD. Real HD would take forever to upload and download. I use YouTube's HD filter to export and keep my footage in its original aspects and quality (shot on SD).

Most web users are willing to wait the extra time to watch an HD video rather than an SD video, so I wouldn't let download time affect your decision, either.

It depends on where they are from. In Australia that broadband speeds aren't exactly great. The majority of users won't watch it in HD unless they know they'll be getting a professional product or their internet speeds skyrocket.

If that really is something you are worried about, you can always compress your video down to SD and upload that as well, so your viewers will have a choice.

There's really no use in that. People are just getting excited about the "HD" thing because it's new. Yes, that will be the future, but like I said, most wont realize right now (fake it and keep them happy). The only place you have to start worrying about HD is if you want to exhibit to a theater or on HD broadcast. Even then... a lot of viewers wouldn't realize. BluRay still isn't a large enough product lately. Under half of new movies are distributed to BluRay.

Most of the time when you compress HD video down to SD, it will look better than video shot directly in SD, as well.

Well of course, you'd chose HD over SD if you were buying a new camera, but the camera he has is fine.

Upgrading to an HD camera will give you more options now and future-proof your videos for later. Canon's HV10, HV20 and HV30 are all cameras in the ballpark of your $1000 budget and when in the hands of a talented cinematographer, can create very nice images.

I wouldn't say "future proof". They are soon to make holographic disks that will be able to contain over 3 terabytes of data. In about 10 years they will be the new BluRay, and would be swarming stores. People would be able to get cinematic aspects at home. Technology is changing far too quickly to say that anything is future-proof.

I am a firm believer in quality over quantity. Why have 1080 pixels and still be an amateur if you can have 720 and make yourself pro? Work on visual quality now, camera quality later.
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#5 Adrian Sierkowski

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Posted 21 April 2009 - 04:58 AM

Pocket the $1000 for the unforseen "costs" of shooting overseas. Trust me, you'll need that money for SOMETHING when you're in country.
Bottom line is you haven't got enough money to spend on upgrading anything. Now, if you have 5 or 6000 to spend on a new camera, then we could get into some interesting debated on the pros and cons of SD or HD [I tend towards best to have the HD option even if you don't need it than vice versa, but a lot of this will depend on what else you have in your kit and your own preferred working style]. But, as you've only $1000 to spend, you're pretty much limited to 2nd hand prosumer cameras and/or higher end consumer cameras. Why bother when you have a camera already which you know how to work (and which is blessedly tiny and can be taken on board as carry on... very important). Perhaps invest some cash in extra batts, lots of taps, and an on camera AA powered light or something similar. Or pay someone $1000 to fly out with you as a shooter with their higher end camera (hell I'd do it if you wanna get me air fare and a spot on the floor someplace and some rice or something!) It'd have to be someone motivated which isn't impossible. Some people (me) enjoy just shooting in other countries (working to get into that more in fact)
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