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Inde filmmaker on a 500-1500 budget, wonderin wat camera...

by Villreal / January 7, 2011 4:13 PM PST

Hi, I recently started making shorts with rented equipment. But I'd like to purchase my own camera. I am very particular about the picture quality. I'm guessing I'd need a HD Camera. Btw I have a mac book pro and My budget is $500-1500.

What type of camera should I get?

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A bit more info, please...
by boya84 / January 7, 2011 10:16 PM PST

iMovie, Final Cut or something else? What version?

What kinds of "shorts"? Any fast action? What is the lighting?

What are you renting - and do you like what you are renting?

What have you found in your price range?

Are you capturing the audio separately or expecting the audio to be captured by the camcorder? Can the audio be really loud?

Does this budget include mics, video lights, optional rechargeable batteries, cases, lenses, filters, boom pole, shock mount, etc?

Where do you plan to store the original video in case you want it in... 5, 10 or 15 years? Or is this not important?

There may be more...

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Sorry about that, here's more info:)
by Villreal / January 7, 2011 11:56 PM PST

I have Imovie(8.06) for now on a mac OSX 10.6.6 , but I'm working on getting final cut pro. For now, I am concentrating on comedy and drama- nothing too fancy for now. I want a camera that has a decent sound system, because I am working with a budget and I cannot afford a lot of equipment yet.
I believe the one I was renting was a basic PANASONIC DVX100A camera. The picture quality was okay, but I want like super sharp footage. Colour/ picture quality is the one thing I don't want to compromise on. I want the absolute best.

So far with my budget, I was thinking of going for the Canon 60 D or canon 5D max II because of their colour and picture quality. However, I heard that they automatically shut down after 20 seconds of inactivity and that can be kind of a hassle when filming for long hours.Also, they are DSLR, and apparently they have some problem with achieving swish pans or fast movements without creating artifacts. The most attractive thing about these cameras, is their awesome picture- but I fear they might be a bit high maintenance. What are your views? I plan to buy a couple of video lights,batteries, cases and lenses for starters.

I considered the Panasonic HDC tm700, but it is hardly compatible with any editing software in the market.
Also , the Sanyo CG-10 is very impressive because of its amazing picture quality, and it goes for just $150.

I'm leaning towards buying the sanyo on monday and then I'll keep saving to buy the Canon 60D and gadgets in 3 months time( After i graduate).
As far as longterm storage goes, I haven't thought that through. A hard drive maybe? Any suggestions?

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by boya84 / January 8, 2011 3:30 AM PST

Starting with the Panny you've been renting... That particular model has been around a few years - and while *only* standard definition, is definitely on the "professional grade" track. Low compression video (DV format onto miniDV tape), LARGE lens, LARGE 3-CCD imaging chip array, all the requisite manual controls easy to get to on the outside of the camcorder. The large lens and 3-chip system are keys to better low-light behavior (your "drama" work). The comedy stuff can work with LOTS of light, so not too much of a concern.

As we look through your requirements, your budget puts us in the high end of consumer camcorders - not pro grade. In this area, the lenses and imaging chip (most times single chip; even the 3-chip systems in consumer cams) will be much smaller. Expect reduced low-light behavior (the result will be grainy video being captured). As well, the XLR audio-in connectors are replaced by a single, stereo, 1/8" (3.5mm) audio-in jack. This can be adapted for use with XLR connectors using a XLR adapter - but is something you need to know about (see juicedLink and BeachTek).

Going with a dSLR is one way to go. You have noticed the "artifact issue" with high compression video - this is not isolated to dSLRs, but pretty much any camcorder that captures high compression video. It has to do with the way the frames and the compression deal with the video data. These "artifacts" are less when the video format uses less compression. DV/HDV, DVCPRO/DVCPRO HD, HDCAM/XDCAM, and a few others are the more common low-compression formats...

The "sleep timer" on the dSLRs can be dealt with. This just means the cam sleeps when not in use. Camcorders do this, too. When recording - obviously - it is working so it will not go to sleep. Maybe I don't understand why this is an "issue". In my opinion, another potential issue is the video file size limitation many flash memory or hard disc drive camcorders (and flash memory cameras) have - this is a camcorder "operating system" (in conjunction with some computer operating systems) item and can segment the video files. Video data is not lost in the process, but something of which you should at least be aware.

I sincerely appreciate the dSLR's ability to take great stills - that is what they were designed to do. In my opinion, video capture is a "convenience feature" that some are capitalizing on - but if you want good video, my recommendation would be to use the devices designed for video (which happen to take not-so great stills)... As well, and as with camcorders, the dSLRs that can capture video may or may not have a (1/8" - 3.5mm stereo) mic jack. And as far as I can tell, only those at the higher end have any manual audio gain control.

Since you are using a MacBook Pro, it does not really matter that the Panny HDC TM700 "is hardly compatible with any editing software in the market"... As long as it can be used with your MacBook Pro and the versions of Final Cut or iMovie you use, that is all you need.

The Sanyo CG-10 is a pocket camcorder. Under good lighting conditions, it should provide fine video - but we don't necessarily capture video under ideal lighting conditions. No manual focus and extremely limited depth of field control. No audio inputs and no manual audio control mean external audio capture and syncing - not a bad thing but an additional editing step. Personally, if you are comparing the DVX100 to the CG-10, I strongly suggest you continue your investigation and get a better understanding of your real requirements. All the sample video I can find for the CG10 is brightly/well lit. If you truly believe a $200 "toy" will meet your needs, great - after using the DVX100, I *think* you'll be setting yourself up for failure/disappointment. But that is just my opinion.

Video lights:
Standalone or camcorder mounted? LEDs are good. Dot Line has an inexpensive camera-mount LED array. Lite Panel makes good AC-powered standalone lights (but they can be expensive).

There is no single "best" mic. A decent shotgun from Sennheiser or Audio Technica is preferred - they use XLR connectors. A boom-pole and shockmount is strongly suggested. Wireless lavalieres are VERY handy. I use Sennheisers. Audio Techinca makes good ones. Whether you need/want portable base stations (recommended) is up to you - otherwise, the rack-mountable (or desktop), AC powered base stations (with XLR connectors) work fine.

bhphotovideo and adorama are good, reputable sites... there are a few others.

We can go down the "hard drive storage" path...
Have you ever had a hard drive fail?
Do you know how much room video needs?
Is your expectation that 5, 10 or 15 years down the road that the archived digital video will be available?
Do you know what RAID1 means?
If you had a computer 5 years ago, did it have an external drive? What happened to that drive?

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by Villreal / January 8, 2011 9:16 PM PST
In reply to: so....

Thank you so much for the information. I feel like I'm a million steps closer to finding the right camera and equipment.I will definitely look into getting mics, standalone lights, boompoles and a shockmount, but for now I am focusing solely on a camera.
First, I think you are right about the Sanyo thing. Definitely no to down grading!! You raise a strong point about the DSLR's, however I have seen a lot of footage from various cameras and non comes close to the picture quality dslrs especially the canon D's produce . I am particularly crazy about this footage(
Besides the reviews this is what sold me on those D's. I'm a sucker for good picture. I'm usually thrilled with a luminous, stable and colourful picture- never mind the story- although the story is important. Then again, it might be the settings, lenses or the lighting. Anyway, I bet with the right lenses and settings I can probably get the desired clarity on the panny hdc tm700. However if I decide to go with a canon D, I have to figure out a way to play around the small memory capacity of the camera.

As for the hard drives I have absolutely no idea where the ones from years ago are. So yeah, its probably not a good idea to use it for longterm storage. I just read a bit about Redundant Array of Independent Disks on google- thats pretty much all I know about it it. And yes I'm hoping that 20 years down the road, my footage will still be available.

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OK - so we need a camera or camcorder
by boya84 / January 8, 2011 10:22 PM PST
In reply to: Ok...

into which you can grow.

On dSLRs - I agree, their video is good. You just need to know what you are getting into - eyes wide open. And as with image capture device, when used within its specs, any camera or camcorder can capture nice images. Be sure to download the manual and read through it. Don't assume anything - if "it" is not in the manual, "it" likely won't be available. For example, you like a "a luminous, stable and colourful picture". How is the video (not still image) stabilization done with the camera? (Hint: plan to ALWAYS use some sort of stabilizing device - tripod, vest system, anything but handheld.)

The flash memory image storage = unlimited. This is the same for both on your short list. I would stay away from using any of the internal memory if available.

RAID1 short version:
Single box with two (usually identical) hard drives in it. They have the same information. From the computer you copy once; the RAID1 settings copy the data to the other drive. Since the drives generally won't fail simultaneously, it is considered relatively "safe" for data storage. When one drive fails, replace it with a working drive and the data from the intact drive is automatically copied over. There are several home/small business systems available (NetGear, Buffalo, D-Link, Promise and MANY others make them. Fry's Electronics (among others) have a selection to investigate.

On the other hand, low compression 1080i resolution HDV stored on digital tapes (in your budget range, miniDV tape) hold up to 63 minutes of HDV format video and when stored in a cool, dry, place are the archive - no extra infrastructure or copying steps... And your MacBook Pro has a firewire port - the required connection for working with digital tape camcorders. The Canon HV40 and Sony HDR-HC9 fit. The Sony HDR-FX7 would be more appropriate (bigger lens and imaging system) and closer to the manual control access of the DVX100, but is outside your budget.

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Camcorder for sure
by Villreal / January 9, 2011 8:15 PM PST

Thanks a bunch. i will be sure to read the manual. I wonder what I meant by "stable" must have been the artifacts but there really isn't anyway to eliminate that entirely. I guess it's just one of the perks of having a DSLR. Then again all cameras have their limitations.
At this point, I'm thinking I'll just take my chances with the Canon 5D max II if I am able to raise enough money. It seems to be one of the best DSLR's in my price range( a bit higher than my budget, but I'll take my chances). In reference to your statement "You just need to know what you are getting," what is the biggest con of DSLR's?

And I am completely sold on the RAID 1. I will look up prices online.

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The camera is the Canon 5D Mark II
by Desperado JC / January 10, 2011 12:15 AM PST
In reply to: Camcorder for sure

not Max II. It does produce excellent video, but is not really intended to produce audio. B&H says the body is selling for $2,500. If you are expecting to get it for a lot less than that, be very careful. Rock bottom prices are an open invitation to be ripped off. The $2,500 does not include a lense. Good lenses will substantially increase the price of the camera, and good lenses are needed to produce good video. The removable lense is what makes the camera such a great solution for video, but, to repeat, the lenses are expensive.

Audio can be handled separately.

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okey dokie.
by boya84 / January 10, 2011 12:38 AM PST
In reply to: Camcorder for sure

Link to the manual:

I agree - all cameras have limitations.

In my opinion, "the biggest con of DSLR's" is that they are designed to capture stills and do that well but video/audio is a "convenience feature" that some think will equate to the stills captured. This is just not the case.

The EOS 5D Mark II has an MSRP of $2,499. It has a mono built-in mic, so if you want stereo audio you must add a stereo mic - to mount that external mic to the MkII, you probably want to use a camera bracket rather than the camcorder's accessory shoe. The alternative is using an external audio field recorder and syncing the audio when editing. And, when taking a still in low-light, use a flash - for video, use a video light. These are very different.

If that is your budget, I think something designed for video/audio capture is at least worth investigating (rather than a dSLR). You have an interesting selection:
Sony HDR-FX7, Sony NEX-VG10
Canon XA10
Panasonic AG-HMC40

Or... with all the add-ons you'll need to get for the Mark II, the Sony HDR-FX1000 or Canon XHA1 are in the ballpark, too.

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The video coming from the 5D II is NOT a con.
by Desperado JC / January 10, 2011 10:14 PM PST
In reply to: okey dokie.

It produces GREAT video, and is a very elegant solution to producing high quality HD video which CANNOT be produced by most (nearly all) video cameras in the consumer and prosumer categories. It is a low cost alternative to the Canon XL2 whose cost was much greater than the Mark II's. It derives its value from the ability to shoot full HD video AND to use removable lenses. Thus, there is a huge ability to adjust numerous capabilities of the camera, such as depth of field, focal length, etc. merely by attaching the appropriate lens to the camera.

That does NOT mean that it is a good solution for those who want a high quality video camera for a consumer price. It is a low cost solution for what it does, but you must know what it does and does not do. Audio is one thing that it is not intended to do.

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