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Canon ZR60


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#1 Abyssa Znebaka

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Posted 22 August 2005 - 04:15 PM

I am planing on making a documentary and I was hoping to distribute it on DVD.
I own a Canon ZR60 Mini DV camera and I am wondering if this camera is good enough for such a project.
I also would like to know what 16 bit means the camera tells me its recording in that format.
Thanks
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#2 Drew Fortier

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Posted 22 August 2005 - 05:17 PM

well you can shoot on that camera, and then absolutly make a DVD from it... but it might not look as amazing as it could. that camera is only a single CCD, so it doesn't shoot the same "quality" as something like an gl1 or something. Basically, it doesn't shoot "broadcast" quality. But this shouldn't disxourage you from shooting... just don't expect it to look like Kill Bill or somthing.

I find the ZR line of canon cameras don't like to shoot indoors. And if you do, you have to use a lot of light, so as not to have an image that is really grainny.

and 16bit refers to the quality of audio the camera is recording at. 16bit I think is medium quality on those camera's ( I am not shure what quality CD's are recorded at 16bit or 24bit)

hope this helps




I am planing on making a documentary and I was hoping to distribute it on DVD.
I own a Canon ZR60 Mini DV camera and I am wondering if this camera is good enough for such a project.
I also would like to know what 16 bit means the camera tells me its recording in that format.
Thanks

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>


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#3 Tom Wills

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Posted 22 August 2005 - 08:17 PM

Hey, I use my ZR for filming docs and short films all the time. Get a wide angle lens for that puppy though, they really need it in my opinion. Turn the windscreen on (in Audio section), use manual focus only (the auto jumps around) and if possible use manual exposure too. Get a nice set of worklights if you're going to be doing low-light shooting.

The camera works surprisingly well if you know how to use it properly. It has some of the most beautiful, saturated, clear pictures of any camcorder in it's price range. When I use Magic Bullet for Editors with it, it's just... incredible.

Good luck with your film!
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#4 Denis Warburton

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Posted 23 August 2005 - 01:45 AM

While the camera's small footprint can certainly be an asset in documentary, I would not recommend using this camera for a "professional" production. If your project is a student project, one that you are doing to learn documentary, or one in which you are giving your subjects cameras to document their own lives, then please keep reading to the end.

As Drew noted, the camera is a single CCD camera, and as a result doesn't exactly produce the best images. As a rule, the camera does not do well in low light situations - you will get the best pictures only with a generous amount of light (read: well lit).

Aside from the technical specifications of the ZR60, there are issues with both the build quality and usability. In terms of build quality, in my experience with any regular use they seem to break within a year - two units which were used regularly but lightly suddenly stopped capturing images almost exactly one year after they were purchased. (Only a black picture, or occasionally one with thin, multicolored vertical lines, were output in camera mode.) Anecdotal information from web searches seemed to confirm that this problem was not unique - so be aware that it is possible for the imaging portion of your camera to unexpectedly fail. Since documentaries often shoot quite a bit of footage over extended periods of time, this possibility may be of concern to you.

As for usability, as far as I could tell exposure in manual mode is never truly manual: the camera's AE shift function / mode - your only means of exposure control - will still automatically adjust exposure to a certain degree in response to changes in lighting conditions. When operating, you should keep in mind that you must toggle between controlling exposure and focus by pressing the button matched to that function - this may prove to be a problem if you have to quickly and smoothly (i.e. without much camera shake) make focus and/or exposure changes during a shot.

Of course, depending on the nature of your production and where it will be distributed, the shortcomings of this camera may not be all that big of a deal. Indeed, if you are doing this project as a student project, as an exercise in learning documentary, or are literally handing over cameras to subjects so that they can document their own lives, then this camera will likely work well for you, as its lack of certain manual controls is made up for in terms of its ease of use. However, the professionalism of your end product - and possibly your avenues for distribution - will be limited by the control you have over your images: auto-focus and auto-exposure are hallmarks of amateur productions. (And yes, I know that there are some documentaries that egregiously use auto-focus and auto-exposure, but this is a cinematography forum, where we try to create 'accomplished' images.) So, in the end all I am saying is that you need to understand the limitations of your equipment. If you really want to have greater control of the images you create, then I would suggest using a more advanced camera.

As for your other questions, assuming that there are no problems with your tapes, you should have no problem creating a DVD from the material you shoot with this camera. When your camera indicates it is recording in 16-bit, this is merely telling you that the camera is recording its audio with 16-bits (the same number of bits as an audio CD), and not 12-bit. 16-bit is the highest quality of sound recording in the mini-DV format, and as such you should always use this mode. There are few, if any, benefits to recording your audio in the 12-bit mode.

Good luck on your project Abyssa!!!

Best,
Denis
(who once taught a video/filmmaking class with a couple of these cameras, as well as others)
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#5 Charlie Seper

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Posted 23 August 2005 - 03:09 PM

I just got into video 2 or 3 years ago and matter of factly, the ZR60 was my first camcorder ever. I also have a much costlier JVC GR-DV3000 now. I still have the ZR60 but don't use it much anymore. I've hung-on to it in case I ever get into the dreaded wedding video biz in which case I can keep the ZR60 as a backup. I mean its lousy in low light but at least it would be something.

The only major gripe with the ZR60 is the low light performance. However, if you keep it indoors and flood your subject with light (I used some hallogen work lights with it, as high as 500 watts) it can look very good indeed and actually on a par with my JVC cam. Out of doors is where the big differences show. There's a strong lack of detail in the Canon because of its small 1/6" CCD and its effective sensor resolution of 340,000 pixels. Indoors that's normally plenty of resolution, or out of doors as well if you keep your subject close and make sure its a bright sunny day. But its one thing to shoot someone standing on their front porch and quite another to shoot them in front of a forest.

Now my JVC is also a 1-chip model but its a 1/3.6" chip (closer to a 1/2" than 1/3") and has an effective sensor resolution-- 1,330,000. Obviously its gonna do a better job of shooting big landscapes and so forth. The other big difference is that it has a Super-Bright Aspherical F/1.2 (F-stop) lens. That's quite a bit brighter than my ZR60's F/1.6 lens. The Canon does terrible in low light because of that lens they saddled it with. I mean, Canon makes good lenses but in the case of this one you'll need plenty of light. But heck, light is cheap, ya know? So I wouldn't let that stop me. If you're doing something for a DVD only release then the Canon may serve you well depending on the circumstance.

I would agree with most of what the gentleman before me said except, I wouldn't belittle the 1-chip design quite so much. About the time this cam came out was around the same time that big strides were made in 1-chip designs. They handle color very well now in my opinion depending on how you use them. The Canon ZR60 produces especially fine color if you can manage to use the "Portait Mode" as often as possible. It also has a slower shutter speed in this mode however, which will give it a look much closer to that of film, but on the other hand, won't allow you to shoot a sword fight too well.

It wasn't that long ago that 1-chip cams looked pretty bad but that's changed a lot in recent years. The same can be said of electronic stablizers. They used to be almost unusable but, those are pretty good now too.
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#6 Abyssa Znebaka

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Posted 24 August 2005 - 10:48 AM

:)
Thanks everyone for your responses, they were great help.
My documentary will be mostly indoors focusing on arts and crafts in the midwest.
Is there anyway I can get decent lighting on a low budget? Say $100-150?
What do you guys recommend? Links would be most appreciated.
Thanks again
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#7 Charlie Seper

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Posted 24 August 2005 - 12:39 PM

:)
Thanks everyone for your responses, they were great help.
My documentary will be mostly indoors focusing on arts and crafts in the midwest.
Is there anyway I can get decent lighting on a low budget? Say $100-150?
What do you guys recommend? Links would be most appreciated.
Thanks again

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>


Halogen work lights would be good for a guy with a small cam and a limited budget. You can find them in any hardware store. I have a tripod with a pair of 500 watt lights on it like this:

Posted Image

I also have a couple of smaller ones for fills; a 250 watt and a 150 watt. Actually I use these most of the time and use the bigger ones for filling a room with light by bouncing them off the cielings and so forth. If you put a 500 watt light on someone's face then you'd have to be a good 15' back or its just too much. Also, get some ND filters. First over-expose your subject with a little too much light and then use the filters to bring it back down. You'll be amazed how good that looks. Get an ND2 and an ND4. Anything darker is rarely good for anything IMHO. You can find cheap ND filters to fit your Canon at Best Buy. And a polarizer filter will help with bright outdoor shots. An ND2 can look almost the same as a polarizer though.

Posted Image

And you'll have to take off these wire sheilds or they'll show up as shadows on your subject. Needless to say, these lights are extremely HOT, so be very careful with them. Really, they're so hot that they're dangerous which is why they have the face sheilds. Its like touching a burning skillet.
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#8 Abyssa Znebaka

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Posted 25 August 2005 - 02:15 PM

Thanks again for your response.
I am also curious about editing software. I can't afford editing equipment. I do have a fast PC with AMD 64 3800 and Windows XP Pro 64. Is there any good editing software that I can buy for a reasonable price? Windows has a movie maker but I doubt using that would give professional results.
Thanks again
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#9 Rik Andino

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Posted 26 August 2005 - 01:20 AM

Perhaps the biggest problem with using consumer cameras for production work
Is the sound quality...onboard camera mics usually suck (as a general rule)

You won't be able to plug a good mic into the camera
If you're shooting double system...you might be able to control the sound better
But you'd have to hire a sound guy with a DAT or some other audio recorder.
Most likely you'll be relying on the onboard camera mic (which sucks)

Now if you're filming arts peices upclose and personal
You might be able to get an onboard camera light and and shoot really good pics
And then add them

Now if you're considering doing this as a professional documentary
And are aiming for a succesful distribution deal...
I recommend you find better equipment
And perhaps hire some folks with experience who can help you out.

As for editing software I find the best and most userfriendly software for PC...
To be Adobe Premiere Pro---you could also Avid Xpress
But that can be a little more complicated.

Both these software can be a little expensive
But if you can't afford to buy it...
I'm sure you can find a friend who has it that can let you edit on his console...
Or you can search the web for cheap versions of the program.

And if you're really in a bind I'm sure you can find a student editor...
Who'll edit your project for experience,
And they should have their own editing console.

Part of film production is learning how to make due with what you got...
And all of us gotta make due with what is given to us...
So if you use your brain and have the talent you can make something good



Good Luck
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#10 Charlie Seper

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Posted 27 August 2005 - 04:24 PM

Yeah, the onboard mic with the ZR models is particularly bad. Using the mic input won't help either because it has a built-in compression system that can't be turned off that just ruins the sound. But the thing here is, that its foolish to record sound into any camcorder in my opinion, no matter what mic you're using. Then you've got all this extra junk you're dragging around attached to your cam and its nothing but in the way. Get a decent DAT or minidisc and a couple of good condeser mics and be done with it. And don't worry about syncing with sound code and all that jazz. Nobody in his right mind would bother. Scene edits seldom last more than a minute and you can easily cut and past your outside sound in sections and line them up in some decent editing software (I use Adobe Audition for this) later.

Editing is where things get expensive. I use Adobe Premiere but I was fortunate enough to find a used copy at Software Plus in St. Louis. Premeire and Audition will run you over a grand together. The only cheap software suits out there all seem to have problems. Windows Movie Maker might do for you but let me warn you up front that you can't edit DV footage properly with it. For some stupid reason they make it default to 16/32 sound while importing video and then output it at 16/48 (like it ought to be) but it doesn't dither the sound correctly and you end up with a high pitched squeal! So if you plan to use it, the only way around the sound problem is to use its own WMV codec. Then it'll handle the sound correctly somehow, but you end up with video more compressed than DV. Maybe you can live with it depending on what you're doing.

Another cheap program with sound problems is Magix Video Deluxe. It could have been a great program (I actually use it for some effects and for out-putting stills, which is something it does better than any program I own) but it outputs sound with DV at 16/44.1 with no way to change it. That will cause you all kinds of problems unless you use its built-in MPEG encoder to make DVD's with. Its not the best though. It could have been a great program though and its less than a hundred bucks. I wrote a review at Amazon showing all its faults. Please do read it before you buy it.

So...save your money.

Edited by Charlie Seper, 27 August 2005 - 04:27 PM.

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#11 Abyssa Znebaka

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Posted 30 August 2005 - 04:15 PM

The work lights are great, I bought 2 sets of 1000 Watt but the people look really flush. I practiced on my sister and she had to put a ton of makeup on for her features to show. I mean her makeup was so heavy that she looked like a clown off-camera. On Camera though she looked much better. Are there any lenses I can use to get people to look normal without all that makeup. Some of the people I am interviewing for the documentary are pretty old and I am not sure cake make up would go down with them. :)
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#12 Eric Brown

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Posted 30 August 2005 - 08:26 PM

The work lights are great, I bought 2 sets of 1000 Watt but the people look really flush. I practiced on my sister and she had to put a ton of makeup on for her features to show. I mean her makeup was so heavy that she looked like a clown off-camera. On Camera though she looked much better. Are there any lenses I can use to get people to look normal without all that makeup. Some of the people I am interviewing for the documentary are pretty old and I am not sure cake make up would go down with them.  :)

<{POST_SNAPBACK}>



As suggested earlier in the thread, use some ND filters (neutral density) on camera (local video supply shop) or hang some type of scrim, diffusion material in front of the halogens to soften the harshnes of the light (always keep diffusion material at a distance as it will possibly catch fire if too close to hot work lights).
You should never have to adjust the makeup on a person that radically to get the best shot. Get your lighting in order and they will look great.
You also might want to check this out.

http://www.dvcreators.com/lighting/

For someone starting out, their is a lot of practical information on the DVD.
Hope this helps and good luck with your project.
p.s. be sure to scroll down that particular dvcreator page as there are helpful links on lighting as well.

Edited by Eric Brown, 30 August 2005 - 08:30 PM.

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#13 Charlie Seper

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Posted 01 September 2005 - 01:13 PM

Yeah, what Eric said.

Also, think about getting a 250 and a 150 watt light, and use them to light faces with most of the time. Those lights I showed you before were pics I got off the web. Here's what I have by way of my halogen rack:

Posted Image

Notice the 250 watt in the middle and a 150 down below. Those two lights are on clamps and can be taken off and clipped to various objects around the room (and I can't caution enough about the heat from these things). Generally, I'll leave the 250 on the stand in a two light setup and use it as the main (key) light for subjects and especially for faces. Then I'll find a place opposite the key light to clamp the 150 to and use it for a side fill. For interviews, two lights will generally work fine. I mean, you could always use a third light above and slightly to the back of the subject's head for a regular three light setup, but that's something that photographers do more than videographers. With the 250/150 setup, I'll generally use an ND4. This works way better than adjusting the exposure.

If I want to get a shot of more than one person or an entire room, then I'll step back a bit more and use a 500 watt for a key and the 250 for a side fill, and sometimes will bounce another 500 off the ceiling, while also sometimes using the 150 for an overhead or for an underneath light (generally keeping it on the rack) pointed up toward the subjects waistline.

If I want a darker, brooding shot, then I'll use a different light setup. I just have some cheap old fashioned clamp-lights that you can buy at any Wal-Mart and are meant to be used with normal household bulbs. I use GE Reveal Bulbs with them because they have a great color balance and aren't yellowish like most incandescent's. You can get them up to 150 watts tops and in flood light style bulbs, which make a closer light dispersion, kind of like spot lights:

Posted Image

You won't want to use an ND filter with these however because they don't output that much light. They're good for extreme close-ups. Now with my JVC cam, I use the GE's much more often than the halogen's because the JVC doesn't need much light at all to get great results. Heck, I've even got good footage of clouds going past the moon at night with this thing. But you'll use the halogen's much more with the Canon.
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