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DoF, HD Cameras & Compositing - Need Pro Help


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#1 Andrew Spirk

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Posted 27 July 2009 - 02:25 PM

Hi everyone!

I am looking to rent a camera that isn't going to cost over 2000K for a weekend rental, and can achieve filmic depth of field and a very high quality image for greenscreen/motion tracking. While the DV color space is a pain for greenscreening, I don't know if there are any cameras in this budget range that have anything more suitable.

I'll cut to the chase:

Currently what I have at the moment is a GY-HD110U and a RedRock M2 Adapter with a couple really cheap Nikor lenses. Everything I've ever shot with that configuration has been a bitter disappointment and has yielded some pretty awful picture results.

-Our camera has the ccd 'defect' which still needs to get sent in for replacement. What happens is the camera has (to the best of my knowledge) a set of two ccds that are put together to make up a single frame. Due to the defect the right side is sometimes darker than the left in certain lighting conditions.

I also live and work in Cleveland, OH and there are very few rental houses that provide anything other than news camera style rentals. The closest around here is Industrial Video, and they have the Sony XDCAM PDW-700F (I think it's F) and the panasonic equivalent. I have no problem driving within a 100 miles to pickup a camera, but again, the closest pro rental house I can find is in Michigan (Fletcher).

The important things I'm looking for is a camera that has a high quality image, 'film' depth of field using either the built-in lens, the M2 adapter, or getting an adapter and a few prime lenses from the rental house. Another important consideration is the ability to bring the footage into FCP and after effects with some degree of flexibility. In addition, a number of the shots will have windows green screened out, and the easier that will be to deal with in post, the better.

I realize this is a lot to consider, but I'm hoping some of you can sympathize with my situation and offer some advice on the options I have. I've been doing quite a bit of research, but I can't seem to find anything solid.

Thank you!
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#2 Andrew Spirk

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Posted 27 July 2009 - 02:57 PM

Another option I was considering is just picking up a Canon 5D Mark II and shooting with that. From what I understand you can rack focus with it, and I believe it would work in a FCP/AE workflow.

Edited by Andrew Spirk, 27 July 2009 - 02:57 PM.

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#3 Scott Fritzshall

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Posted 27 July 2009 - 04:01 PM

I don't know what your actual budget is like, but you could try calling up Fletcher to see if you can work out a deal. Maybe you can end up getting a Varicam or HPX-2000. If not, I suppose I'd say to look at the EX1, which has fairly decent image quality for a cheap camera. It is heavily compressed and subsampled, though, so that will make it a bit more tricky to work with for compositing. My personal opinion is that lens adaptors are silly and cause way too much image degradation, but some people insist on using them either way, so it's going to be your call. Similarly, I think that using a dSLR as a motion picture camera is really silly and causes you to jump through all sorts of hoops during production and post, but some people do that as well.

Anything in your price range is going to be compressed and subsampled, though.
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#4 Adrian Sierkowski

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Posted 27 July 2009 - 04:33 PM

I totally agree with what Scott says. I had a lens adapter and sold the damned thing because it was far too cumbersome. Also a DSLR for motion picture work will be equally as cumbersome to work with I would say. Varicams are nice systems and have been 'round for a bit so you might be able to cut a deal. Same goes for an F900. I know a package 'round here goes for about $900/day, but you can often negotiate down. I don't recommend buying a camera, really, unless you have a lot of shoots lined up on it which'll pay for it. I didn't take that advice when I bought my SR3, not that I regret it @ all, just that I dropped 30K on a camera system which hasn't yet, and possible won't turn a profit. That was a personal decision, and not a business one. When it came time to purchase a camera, I went with an EX1 which is a nice camera (haven't done green-screen on her yet) and only then once I could pay her off within 3 or 4 shoots I had upcomming.
If you do go with the EX1, perhaps you should just rent a deck and go out of the SDI and record on a proper deck for any G/S Shooting, or if viable even bring it into the field. I know there's a device called the Flash XDR that supposidly records to CF cards with 4:2:2 color space off of the EX1, hich is another thing to look into.
But cameras, you know, they're like cars. They all do essentially the same thing, you just need to find the one which fits your personal needs and your price (hence why I roll in a 1987 Oldsmosbile Ciera!)
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#5 Andrew Spirk

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Posted 27 July 2009 - 09:12 PM

Thank you both for your very considerate and detailed posts. Those were exactly the answers to the questions I was thinking.

Unfortunately this is spec work and coming out of pocket, so it's a little difficult to get the funds in order and justify a big package. However I'm going to look into the EX1 (never used it) and see what kind of wheeling and dealing I can do with some rental houses. I think with some creative thinking I can still get this project done, and either way, make due with a camera that's not top of the line. The EX1 is a very good suggestion, especially the idea of using a deck and feeding it the footage for minimal compression.

I'm actually pretty relieved to hear about your experience with the 35mm lens adapter. I spent way too much time and far too much effort trying to get that thing to work the way I needed it, but in the end it just made the footage look like crap. The depth of field was pretty cool, but I could get similar results by just backing the camera up and crashing the zoom. Granted, it compressed the space, but it also doesn't require all that extra equipment which slows down setups tremendously.

At the end of the day, I'm probably going to end up either sticking with the HD110 and biting the bullet by making the best of it, or possibly renting an EX1 with a deck. I'm still going to continue my investigation on the matter and either way I'll post back in this thread with my decision/results when all is said and done.

Thanks again!
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#6 Jim Hyslop

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Posted 28 July 2009 - 10:21 PM

Thank you both for your very considerate and detailed posts. Those were exactly the answers to the questions I was thinking.

Unfortunately this is spec work and coming out of pocket, so it's a little difficult to get the funds in order and justify a big package. However I'm going to look into the EX1 (never used it) and see what kind of wheeling and dealing I can do with some rental houses.

I don't know how Cleveland's rates compare to Toronto's in general, but here in Toronto you can get a basic EX1 package (with one 8GB card) for $250 for a weekend (for $350 you can get two 16GB cards and some other bells & whistles). I expect you should be able to find something reasonably priced there.

--
Jim
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