How to shoot your own car videos
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How to shoot your own car videos

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-Now, top of the stack is this old war horse, the Panasonic HDX900, the 900. This is a pro-camera. It's a pro news camera, technically speaking, and pro means expensive. The body of the camera, the camcorder part, is about $30,000. Lenses, like this Fujinon zoom lens, can push $30,000 pretty easily. That doesn't include battery pack, wireless audio receiver. You got your choices of viewfinders. This is the real deal. Those pro viewfinders, by the way, are almost always black and white because the pros know that critical focus is easier to eyeball without color. Now, as I mentioned, this guy is a camcorder. So, it's got a tape that go over here. You can run a DVCPRO HD tape in there. We only use that for backup. Instead, for primary, we have what's called the Samurai these days that mounts on top of the camera and that's got a built-in hard drive for full-res capture and also a touchscreen for control of recording as well as being a built-in preview and playback monitor. You really can't say too much about this camera. It has a beautiful image. However, with its roots as a news camera, an ENG camera, it's not given to those shallow depth-of-field effects everybody likes and it's a handful to lug around. This is why Charlie's vertebrae all make noise when he moves these days. He's been lugging this in cars for a long time. Oh, and when you're out using one of these, someone always seems to ask you if you have a permit. Now, next down the stack is this guy, the Panasonic HVX200. This is our favorite run-and-gun camera. You can see it's a lot more compact and it's way cheaper than the 900. This guy costs several-thousand dollars, a fraction of the price of the big boy. Notice a few differentiating features from the 900, though. This zoom lens is fixed to the camera. It's permanently mounted. You can't change it out. As a result, we often use this giant, pro-quality, wide-angle adapter that screws onto the front of the lens like so, but it weighs almost as much as the camera itself. But with this adapter on there, this guy is really wide and a wide lens is also very stable. So, this is a great lens for shooting those interiors of the cars you've often seen or just running around without a tripod grabbing details on the outside of the car 'cause wide angles take out shake. Now, on the back of the camera, you'll see one of the key features. These are P2 memory cards we record to. They're kind of like a very expensive version of an SD card, but these allow you to get the video on here in really high res and then transfer it quickly to your edit machine without having to didge in a tape which this does record too. We just never use it. And lastly, like the 900, this guy's sensor design lends it to getting everything in focus or a lot of the field in focus. It doesn't really like to do short shallow depth of field. Now, of course, everyone's in love with the shallow depth-of-field look these days and two cameras we use that nail that are the Sony FS100, this kind of odd box-looking body here, and of course, the Canon DSLR 5D Mark III is the one everyone's in love with. What's interesting about these cameras is they have sensors that allow you to use lens and sensor combos that give you very shallow depth of field or shallow depth of focus if that's the look you're trying to achieve and just about everybody is these days. You can also use a wide variety of pretty affordable lenses, both zoom lenses that are basically still lenses as well as prime lenses like this one. It's actually a cine lens and prime lenses are interesting because they're very fast. They gather light really well because they're very simple and that lets you use aperture more creatively to handle focus and composition and not just exposure. Look at this same shot done with our 900 and the DSLR. Because we can do such tight selective focus, we can really call your attention to one part of a busy scene with the DSLR. On the other hand, working with shallow focus can be very picky especially for something that moves like a car and you need to use the look sparingly since everybody is doing it and overdoing it. Next up is the action camera. This might be the biggest accessible revolution in HD video in the last couple of years and we, of course, use a slew of them. And the best known of them all, probably 'cause they throw money at marketing, is GoPro. They have several models of these right now. They're all kind of in this cube shape and these are great cameras. They have an amazing array of video settings and types they can capture, and generally, really good image quality. The thing I don't like about them is the ergonomics. You gotta work with this clear case to get a tripod mount, which isn't the only camera like that, but once you get it in there and start to fiddle with these buttons on the top and the bottom, I find it's a real pain to access the one you want and this included mount always swivels in every way except the way you need it to which brings me to the Contour camera. I like the simplicity of these guys, more of a bullet shape and a square-cube in the air, simple big ole switch here that tells it to start rolling or to stop. And the other cool feature about this guy is it's got a rotating objective on the front. You can rotate this almost all the way around the compass. So, no matter which way the camera is pointing, the lens can be lined up the way you want it without worrying about critical alignment of the body of the camera. Now, couple that with a nice PanaVise mount with a ball joint on the top and you've got unlimited flexibility on top of unlimited flexibility. Thus, as long as you get this thing stuck somewhere, the camera is gonna follow and eventually get lined up the way you want it, either through the objective lens or moving the body around. This is really convenient for a fast setup. Now, new on the scene and I'm really big on these are Sony's AS10 and AS15. These cameras are noted for really good optics. They've got that typical Sony Zeiss lens. The 10 is the basic model. The 15 here has this Wi-Fi ability which I find is a waste of money. It's cumbersome to deal with and it doesn't really get you very far, but if you wanna be able to frame this thing up and start and stop it from your smartphone, you have that option. I'd pass on that. Get the AS10 instead. By the way, both of these have really good image stabilization which is important with a camera like this that's gonna be on a car getting lots of vibration. Instead of getting the Wi-Fi model, spend your bucks on this optional LCD case for either model and when you dock that guy in there, you've now got the option of a traditional framing LCD that you can also turn around to face yourself and it also gives you a tripod mount which the camera itself does not have on it, kind of like a GoPro. Action cameras can get the shot easily from places you could never mount a camera before. They all run real wide. So, vibration is minimized as well as the need for critical composition. On the downside, they often shoot at fisheye angles which can kill detail and composition. And here's an odd little camera I use from time to time. It can be a lifesaver. It's a Samsung DV300. What's interesting about it is it's got a front-facing framing monitor. See that one right there? It's actually in the panel of the camera. That's great when you're using it and you have to frame yourself up in the car. -Take two on the driving rear, all the way through. -You can actually see what you're pointing at, which is tricky on this one because you typically use it zoomed a little bit. That's its advantage over the typical action camera. So, when it's zoomed, you've gotta make sure it's pointing the right way and that little monitor helps you. Plus having that zoom lens means you can use it for detail work. If you see a shot of a gauge or an instrument doing something while the car is driving, you couldn't get that with a Contour or a GoPro, it's too wide. A camera like this can nail it. On the other hand, when it's zoomed in, you've gotta manage vibration 'cause it gets real shaky. Now, by the way, regardless what the manufacturers will tell you, all those action cameras sound like hell. They have lousy built-in mics. You can connect an external mic. That's really cumbersome with what is supposed to be a very easy to use stick-and-go camera. So, when I'm using an action camera, I always capture sync audio on a portable recorder. I like this one a lot. This is the TASCAM DR-08. I've tried a lot of these. This one is my favorite partly because it has two articulated and very good quality microphones here on the top. Now, of course, these mics need to be covered with these little windscreens almost every situation where they pick up a lot of wind noise in a moving car, but they work really well. Also, I like to use a little foam boot like this whenever I'm mounting it on the car whether it's taped or up in the windshield visor, which I do a lot, that isolates the body from vibration which would be picked up by the mics. And in those cases where we have a car with a great sounding exhaust and we wanna record that sound, we use the unfortunately named Dead Kitten which slides over the top here. It's a small version of what's been known in the business forever as a dead cat and this fluffy thing blocks wind noise outside the car amazingly well. You will pick up exhaust sound well and almost no wind. If you've seen the time lapse we ran during the credits on CNET on Cars, that's done with the Brinno 200 Time Lapse camera. It has an articulated lens that makes it easy to frame and it seems to run forever on four AAs. I don't think I have ever replaced them. Coupled with a magnetic GorillaPod, you can make this thing fly on the wall almost anywhere. So, there you go, a look at the tools we've learned to love in almost a decade of shooting cars here at CNET and it matters less than you would think if your camera costs 200 bucks or 60 grand. If it gets the shot you need to tell the story and the video quality is good enough to not call attention to the camera you use, you're in pretty good shape. -All right. -All right, good deal. Excellent.

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