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HD camera recommendations...


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#1 Patrick Barry

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Posted 05 September 2009 - 07:59 PM

Hey all,

I am in pre-production for a feature that mixes S16mm and video. The film (reversal, actually) is black and white, grainy, contrasty, etc. and the video is supposed to be the opposite, color, glossy, polished. We're planning on getting an SD telecine for the film, exporting an EDL and rescanning 2k for the film, should anybody be interested in picking the film up.

However, I'm only sorta knowledgeable about the latest prosumer cameras but could use some help, as RED is most likely out of our budget. I'm thinking something along the lines of an HVX. I recently saw some shorts shot on the HVX at a film festival and projected on an HD projector and they looked really good. What's the latest of these cameras? Does anyone have any recommendations?

Also, what are your thoughts on these DOF adaptors? Are they worth it?

Thanks all!
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#2 Patrick Barry

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Posted 05 September 2009 - 08:03 PM

Also forgot to mention - a local still photographer friend of mine recently purchased a $5k (still) camera that apparently shoots HD video..(I know I'm out of the loop here)... he said it can compete with the best prosumer cameras b/c it has a 35mm-sized sensor.

Is this true? thanks! :rolleyes:
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#3 Denair Isaac

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Posted 05 September 2009 - 11:15 PM

Also forgot to mention - a local still photographer friend of mine recently purchased a $5k (still) camera that apparently shoots HD video..(I know I'm out of the loop here)... he said it can compete with the best prosumer cameras b/c it has a 35mm-sized sensor.

Is this true? thanks! :rolleyes:

This is true these still camers have great resolution but u have to look at how much it compresses the image. This might matter if you want it to be blown up and projected The hvx is nice because it compresses it image the least out of the camera in its prosumer bracket. Im looking into the hpx170 which is the hvx but just P2 and a few real nice upgrades. Like the fact you can do uncompressed 10-bit 4:2:2 HD-SDI. Hope i was somewhat helpful.
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#4 Satsuki Murashige

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Posted 06 September 2009 - 03:29 AM

1. Are you looking to rent or buy?
2. What is your budget?
3. Does the depth of field between the two formats need to match?
4. Does the frame rate between the cameras need to match? Is that frame rate 24, 23.98, or something else?
5. Does it matter if the glossy color footage obviously looks like video? Or does it still need to have a film look?
6. Does the color footage need to be finished at 2k to match the specs of film scan? Is 2k your finishing format?

Matching between film and digital formats tends to work best when both formats have approximately the same sized imager (film format or sensor size) for similar depth of field, and also when you can use the same lenses between formats. The lens makes the picture as much as anything else.
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#5 Brian Drysdale

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Posted 07 September 2009 - 11:05 AM

The Sony EX1/EX3 series should also be considered. The stills camera could have frame rate limitations, many models are only 30p and have other limitations that should be considered if you're planning to use one as the main production camera.
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#6 Patrick Barry

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Posted 07 September 2009 - 02:33 PM

1. Are you looking to rent or buy?
2. What is your budget?
3. Does the depth of field between the two formats need to match?
4. Does the frame rate between the cameras need to match? Is that frame rate 24, 23.98, or something else?
5. Does it matter if the glossy color footage obviously looks like video? Or does it still need to have a film look?
6. Does the color footage need to be finished at 2k to match the specs of film scan? Is 2k your finishing format?

Matching between film and digital formats tends to work best when both formats have approximately the same sized imager (film format or sensor size) for similar depth of field, and also when you can use the same lenses between formats. The lens makes the picture as much as anything else.


Thanks guys for your replies. With regards to Satsuki's questions...

1. Hopefully borrow, possibly rent
2. Under 50k.
3. Not necessarily. The video segments are supposed to be documentary-ish, so the different depths of field might be interesting... but, do the "Red Rock" type adapters correct this at all?
4. Frame rate will probably be 24, but I'm going to check with the lab to see what they will telecine the film as and just match the rates that way.
5. What do you mean by this? Doesn't 24p eliminate some of the video look? That and the depth of field issues? I don't mind if it looks somewhat video-ish. It is supposed to be mixed media, but I'd prefer to not look like bad video, if that makes sense.
6. I've spoken with the lab and they are going to work with me on this. I am shooting for a HDCAM-SR master when all is said and done. He had mentioned something about up-rezzing the HD footage to match the film when we send him the EDL.
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#7 Satsuki Murashige

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Posted 07 September 2009 - 07:05 PM

1. Hopefully borrow, possibly rent

Good. That opens up more possibilities.

2. Under 50k.

Sorry, I should have been more specific. I meant, what is your camera rental budget for this video camera that we're talking about?

3. Not necessarily. The video segments are supposed to be documentary-ish, so the different depths of field might be interesting... but, do the "Red Rock" type adapters correct this at all?

Ok. If it's supposed to be documentary-style then having a sudden change in DoF is not necessarily a bad thing.

Yes, 35mm lens adapters like the Redrock, Letus, Brevis, etc. will give you a shallower DoF look associated with the 35mm format. So you will have shallower DoF with 35mm lenses+adapter+video camera than you will with 16mm film.

4. Frame rate will probably be 24, but I'm going to check with the lab to see what they will telecine the film as and just match the rates that way.

With film, you would typically shoot at 24.00 fps, and the lab would telecine the film at a slightly slower frame rate, 23.976 fps progressive scan (or 29.97 interlaced with a 3:2 pulldown). This is because these slightly slower frame rates are the SD and HD video standards. Most video cameras that shoot 24P are actually only able to record at 23.976. Only a few high-end cameras can shoot true 24.00P, for the express purpose of making it easy to record back to film (the Red is the cheapest one of those).

If you are finishing to video, you would either record sound at a slightly higher rate, 48.048 Hz to make up for this difference, or shoot at 23.976 fps (if you have a film camera capable of doing this) and record sound at 48.00 Hz. Or you could shoot at 24.00 fps, record sound at 48.00 Hz and slow down the sound by 0.01% digitally in post to maintain sync.

5. What do you mean by this? Doesn't 24p eliminate some of the video look? That and the depth of field issues? I don't mind if it looks somewhat video-ish. It is supposed to be mixed media, but I'd prefer to not look like bad video, if that makes sense.

The "video look" is a broad spectrum, a lot of looks fall within it's borders. Toward one side of the spectum, video can look very close to 35mm film. Part of that is the size of the sensor and the resulting DoF, and the ability to use cinema lenses. Part of it is 24P, 1/48 sec. shutter. Part of it is the camera's ability to capture a wide dynamic range of light so highlights don't clip under normal lighting conditions. And part of it is how colors are rendered. It's not any one thing, but a matrix of all these variables.

I think it's helpful to categorize the cameras by "the look" that each type of camera is typically asked to produce. That way, you can quickly narrow down the selection by what effect you're trying to achieve and pick the right tool for the job.

1. The webcam/home movie look. The sub-1/3" sensor cameras, handycams, camera phones, etc. Most of these will do either 30P or 60i only, some only have auto controls. Some can be made to work with lens adapters, like the Canon HV20. It's a huge hassle though.

2. The low-budget Indie film look. The small sensor HD 24P cameras like the Panasonic HVX and Sony EX1 which you are probably familiar with. Very deep DoF, but when combined with a 35mm lens adapter, can give very filmic results. The downside is that the image then becomes a bit diffused, not all that sharp.

3. The broadcast video look. The HD broadcast cameras with 2/3" sensors. There is a wide price range of cameras to choose from, but basically they will give you a broadcast tv look. Everything from the local news in 60i to more filmic cable shows like "Project Runway" and "Laguna Beach." The 2/3" cameras will have a very similar DoF to Super 16, since the sensors are almost the same size. However, the lenses cannot be interchanged between the two formats. You can also put 35mm adapters like the P+S Technik and the Movietube on these cameras to get that shallow DoF.

4. The high-budget Indie film look. The weird mid-range that includes high end 2/3" cameras like the Panasonic Varicam/HPX3000, Sony F900/F950, Silicon Imaging 2K, as well as low-end 35mm sensor cameras like Red. All of them have been used on big feature films, and they have a hybrid look that's both film-like and video-like.

5. The high-budget Film look. Then we hit the other end of the spectrum with the high end cameras: Panavision Genesis, Arri D21, Viper, Sony F23/F35, Phantom HD.

So the question of which camera you want will be partly determined by what specific look you want, and what you can afford to pay to rent it, including all the support gear. I suspect you'll be looking for a low to mid-range broadcast camera like the Panasonic HDX900 or Sony PDW700, since that will give you the most flexibility and bang for your buck.

6. I've spoken with the lab and they are going to work with me on this. I am shooting for a HDCAM-SR master when all is said and done. He had mentioned something about up-rezzing the HD footage to match the film when we send him the EDL.

In general the Panasonic 2/3" cams are 720P, while the Sony cams are 1080P, so the Sony footage will up-res better. The Panasonics generally render colors in a more film-like way and have a greater choice of frame rates.
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#8 Satsuki Murashige

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Posted 07 September 2009 - 07:15 PM

I forgot to mention DSLR cameras that can record HD video. At the moment, the three cameras of choice are: the Canon 5D Mark2, Canon 7D, and the Panasonic GH1. There are others, but those seem to be the most popular. The 7D just came out last week.

Basically, they are good for run-and-gun, MOS shooting on a budget, especially in very low-light conditions. They all have very compressed video, various aliasing issues and artifacts, and require transcoding to edit properly. One huge issue is sync sound. The 5D only records 30.00P. The GH1 does 23.976 (I believe) but adds in a non-standard 3:2 pulldown. The 7D will do 23.976 and 29.97. It is also very hard to keep images in focus with these cameras.
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#9 Patrick Barry

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Posted 08 September 2009 - 12:28 PM

Satsuki, thanks for your in-depth posts. I think the best we'll be able to do is probably HVX or EX1. But it should work. I didn't mention that the video segments are supposed to be reminiscent of skating videos, where everything is in focus all the time, in a sort of documentary approach. So the DOF issue should matter, or perhaps add to the realism, if anything.
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#10 Satsuki Murashige

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Posted 08 September 2009 - 05:39 PM

Satsuki, thanks for your in-depth posts. I think the best we'll be able to do is probably HVX or EX1. But it should work. I didn't mention that the video segments are supposed to be reminiscent of skating videos, where everything is in focus all the time, in a sort of documentary approach. So the DOF issue should matter, or perhaps add to the realism, if anything.

Ok, I'd go with the EX1 then. It'll up-rez better than the HVX.
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