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ok... I need some pointers...


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#1 Randie Balexandra

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Posted 07 January 2012 - 12:30 AM

Hi!
I don't own a video camera, and I'm not in school for it so I don't really have other people to ask.
I'm interested in taking up videography... I'd like to make a documentary.
Somebody I know uses a Canon 5D and gets beautiful HD video out of it.
I was previously under the impression that a 'professional camcorder' was sort of the only way to go, but after seeing his videos, I'm back to square 1 with confusion.
Can somebody point me in the right direction towards a DECENT camera for shooting primarily video? I'm hoping to keep it at $3,000 or less before taxes.

And - what are the trade-offs between using a DSLR with nice HD video, vs. a similarly priced (albeit slightly more expensive) professional camcorder? I assume there are huge advantages with the pro. camcorder when it comes to sound. But in terms of video quality, how would you explain the advantages of the camcorder over the DSLR?

I appreciate any responses, and I thank you guys for taking the time to read this.
...sorry for knowing nothing on this topic! :)

Namaste
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#2 Paul Bartok

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Posted 07 January 2012 - 02:42 AM

Hi, I highly recommend getting your own gear, especially so that you can go out and just film and film, keeping filming learn the basics, I learnt allot through watching your own mistakes and improving, I do recommend taking up some classes to learn the basics, like 180 degree rule, rule of thirds etc. But teach your self the rest that's what i did.

choosing camera's isn't easy. with your budget get a HDSLR, with accessories alone it run up to your budget really fast, they have problems but in terms of price vs quality highly acceptable.
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#3 Evan Kimball

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Posted 15 January 2012 - 02:23 AM

Well, most of this would be online. BH photo has a segment on their site that lists HDSLR equipment and knowledge.
A camcorder is better for recording long periods of time with good audio. For example, my camera can shoot 7 hours before having a new battery or changing out cards. The 5d can do maybe 2 hours on battery and no more than 12 minute long clips till a few hours have been recorded.
Another issue is depth of field and focus. Canon never made a SLR with continuous auto focus, so you have to pull focus yourself. A full frame camera has a very shallow depth of field, meaning generally not a lot is in focus. Great for portraits or two man teams- tough on you. The GH2 by Panasonic allows continuous focusing with native lenses, has twice as much depth of field as the 5D, takes great video, and can record 2 hour long clips. It is good for documentary work, but it can't do sound. It costs a grand right now.
The camcorder I use for doc. stuff has a sensor that is 1/8th the size of the 5D, so it has way more depth of field and it does continuous auto focusing and balances mike levels for me, and can take up to three microphones at once. It also has a should mount so it easily rests on myself and stays nice and stable. A run and gun documentary on a 5D can be a mess and more difficult than it is probably worth since image quality doesn't sell a doc- the subject and editing does. And trust me, shooting as much footage as you can is just genius when making a doc. A downside to those camcorders is small sensors are not as sharp looking and have more noise. The three-mos type out there use three sensors and each one is devoted to a color, so they actually pull a lot of color compared to 5D. Maybe too much? Depends what you like really. Makes sure to watch footage and read all your options. I have always used Panasonic stuff because I like the in depth menu options and tapeless media systems, but now a days all the companies kinda seem the same.

That's all I can think of for now, enjoy the typos.
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#4 Brian Drysdale

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Posted 15 January 2012 - 07:01 AM

With a video camera you won't get the high levels of moire patterning that the DSLRs are prone to. Although, the GH2 is less prone to this.

It really depends on the style of documentary to want shoot and the subject matter. Smaller sensors tend to make more sense for most documentaries, although HD 1/3" sensor cameras are not so hot on the sensitivity front.
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#5 Samuel Laseke

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Posted 24 January 2013 - 06:02 AM

The new T4i does have auto focus lenses as does the GH2 and GH3. The GH2 and GH3 will also record continuous until the card runs out. The T4i will record I believe 24 minutes. Everything is a trade off so I would seriously think about what you will shoot most and then choose based on what you must have first and what you will use most second. There aren't a lot of video cameras in your price range that are better than an HDSLR. But if you need the features of a video camera that's what you should get. I have both but most of my clients require that I not use an ENG style video camera even if it's the better choice for their project. They prefer the cinematic look of the HDSLR. The HDSLR is also better in low light as Brian said. I just shot an entire documentary with practical lighting due to restrictions of the location. I could not have done that with my ENG camera.
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#6 Matthew Kane

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Posted 25 April 2013 - 10:06 PM

What's your experience level? If you've done still photography with an SLR, you're somewhat familiar with how a DSLR will act when shooting video.

 

If you're totally new to shooting video (aside from a camera phone), I think you need your friend to give you an in-depth introduction before you spend that much on a camera, especially for a single project. The pros and cons of any given camera will be important if you keep shooting, but if your fundamentals are weak, trying to learn only by doing could be really frustrating--especially if you're hoping to come away with a finished product. Borrow a camera and play around with it, look at some footage on a decent HD display, and then start thinking about buying. Just my approach, but I may be overcautious.

 

DSLR's are not *that* hard to get a handle on, but make sure to take plenty of time to work out how to use it, and ask for (in person) help. I'm not of the mind that you need a lot of gear to start out with a DSLR (a variable ND and some kind of shoulder pod/handle/tripod/monopod/large rock will get you off to a nice start).


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#7 Jaron Berman

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Posted 27 April 2013 - 01:32 AM

The one thing nobody mentioned is lens flexibility.  I've shot a number of docs, and yes - the large-chip (dslr-style) look is beautiful and "high-end" but it's FAR more difficult to do well in a verite situation.  Ask any operator who's shot a full-on verite piece on a DSLR or even a true large-sensor camera like an F3/F5 or C300 or Alexa - it ain't easy!  If you get past the immediate drawback of DSLR's - not being able to even reliably tell when you're in focus, then you're still left with the biggest drawback of ANY 35mm-style camera.... lens range.  With "video" (referring to 1/3", 1/2" or 2/3" sensors) 20x, 22x, or 13x wide lenses are common and on many prosumer cams they're built-in.  What that means is that when you're covering a group of people, you have the ability to frame a wide shot and then snap in to faces when things happen.  On a DSLR that range simply does not exist.  You could rent an optimo 24-290mm lens, get an adapter and use it with your DSLR but even then you only have a 12x lens and the rig weighs 27lbs!

 

So doom and gloom aside, how can it be done in real life?

 

1) Get a video camera.  Even the sony/panasonic/canon handicams have 1/3" chips, 20x optical zooms, excellent stabilization and full manual control.  They can all take audio inputs and have excellent image quality.  I have plenty of footage from my sony and panasonic handicams on national television, all the time.  Or stretch your budget and get something used and tape-based, HDV (like the Sony Z5, it's great when there's a lot of light).

 

2) Get a DSLR that's GOOD for video, such as a Panasonic GH2/3 or Sony Nex 6 - either will allow options with zoom lenses and the Sony has focus peaking - CRITICAL and reliable for knowing you're in focus.  I've used both on national television too, both work very well.

 

3) Get a DSLR with a video body like the Sony NEX VG30 - never used it but it looks like a rehoused NEX6, so whether the price jump is worth it....your call - I'd save the cash for a good lens and support

 

 

 

Drawbacks and workarounds:

 

1) Low light - on any 1/3" cam, low light will suck plain and simple.  Depending on your subject this may or may not be an issue.  Some of the best and most entertaining docs are grainy, low saturation and somewhat ugly - but the subject matter is so compelling it doesn't matter.  When I started photography, I worked as a photojournalist and in the advent of digital we all tried VERY hard to minimize noise and banding in our images.  In a critical play in a critical football game, I was the only guy of all the shooters in the right spot.  I hammered away and "got it," with a super low ISO expecting the shot to be beautiful.  When I got into the press room to edit, every one of my shots was motion blurred.  No noise, tons of blur and hence unusable.  Another guy was far away and high ISO but his shot ran on the wires as the shot of the game because unlike me - he got the moment.  Moral: we can obsess over quality and pixel peep till we're blind in one eye but NONE of that matters if you miss the moment.  In a documentary, which would you rather - pretty shots with shallow depth of field and miss all the good moments - or capture the moments gritty but real?

 

2) Drawbacks of DSLR are too numerous to mention, but ergonomics top the list.  You'll need some kind of way to balance the cam and eliminate your movements from the shot - shoulder rigs work well when counterbalanced but they make the cam grow.  You need a way to monitor focus - Sony has peaking on their DSLR, panasonic has a full rez output on the HDMI and can use a monitor.  But then you need a monitor.  So now, how do you get around the issue of lens range?  You move your body.  A LOT.  I shot 3 docs recently using the Canon C300 and personally I found the compromise to be worth it.  I used a canon 24-105 for most coverage, it's a great range... and a sigma 50-150mm for scenes involving 1-2 people.  I had to run a LOT to keep good coverage, and that's the report I hear from all the others I know who have attempted verite on large-sensor cameras.  Essentially you need to know the exact limitations of your gear and use them as creative constraints.  Know them well, test everything so that when you get into that situation where a critical moment is happening and you physically can't get closer and are stuck on a wide-ish lens - you have to know a solution.

 

3)  These cameras generally come bundled with superzoom kit lenses which attempt to bridge the gap between 1/3" video and DSLR - the zooms themselves at f/5.6 combined with the clean sensor basically equate to the same sensitivity as the 1/3" handicams, BUT one advantage is if you're doing B-roll or interviews or any "controlled" scenes, you can snap on a faster lens and achieve the shallow DOF look without switching camera systems.  This applies to DSLR too, but my understanding is that the video-body dslr do a better job of maintaining f-stop on the superzoom lenses, so they work better in run-n-gun situations.


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