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Old March 16th, 2008, 09:37 AM   #1
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A little camera to use as B-cam to an EX1? Mac compatibility needed

Hello all-
Just got an EX1 on Thursday - an amazing machine! We need a little B-cam or two to go with it by late summer, for a couple of reasons. I'm involved with the media arts program at a summer family camp, as well as doing my own natural history photos and videos (I'm a doctoral student in Environmental Studies with a focus on combining art and science to to tell the story of the landscape). I'm happy to do the cinematography on kids' movies at the camp, but I won't hand over the EX1 and let a 12 year old do the shooting with it, because of the chance of a $6500 accident! A $1000 AVCHD (or HDV) cam is a lot less scary. A really compact camera would also be nice for use way out in the field.
The footage needs to mix well on the timeline with EX1 stuff (I know that indistinguishable is a pipe dream - there's a reason the EX1 weighs 6 lbs and costs $6500). It also needs to get into FCS2 without giving me conniptions, and faster than realtime - otherwise, why not use an HDV cam as the B camera? A couple of the Mac workflows people have mentioned take 90 minutes for 60 minutes of footage! Is this only for specific cameras that don't have Mac software, or is this for any AVCHD camera?

-Dan
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Old March 16th, 2008, 03:02 PM   #2
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Hi Dan -

If it's for "family" use, consider the CX7 (it's due for replacement, so if you've got time, maybe "CX9" or whatever replaces it - there are only rumours at the moment).

Ultra small, and substantially lighter than the tape or HDD cameras - my 5 year old can handle it, it's a very good "family camera", nearly pocketable!

I think if you use 4G MS Duos (cheap, 1/2 hour of footage at highest res, 1 hour at next res which is still pretty good), you should be able to just drag and drop from any card reader - I've had challenges with 8G cards... only the cam with the included (PC) software seems to work OK with 8G cards - I'm sure it's a driver update or something, but stick to the 4G cards for compatibility for now would be my advice, unless you test and can read 8G ones on your machine.

I had one old reader that COULD read the 8G cards, and was exceedingly slow on PC (like 4x real time, from the cam is 1/3 real time or faster), so there are some strange compatibility issues with reading the big MS Duos correctly.

Look around the web a bit, and you'll find some pretty stunning stuff shot with this little "stealth" cam - I had my doubts about it at first, but it's the "everyday cam".

Oh, and I still swear it is the best in low light I've seen in an HD cam - noise, yes, but it comes close to being able to shoot a black cat in a dark room (not really, but that seems to be what everyone expects!). It will shoot in rather bad lighting conditions with less noise than I saw from my HC7.

The SR11 is getting some rave reviews so far (haven't tried one...yet) - the HC9 is a pretty stout little cam with decent manual control (maybe too much if you put in amateur hands), so those two probably would be your other two options if "now" is the purchase timeframe. But give the little CX7 a look if you get a chance - good thing in small package!!
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Old March 16th, 2008, 04:31 PM   #3
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I can give you a big time rave review on the SR12 (same cam as the SR11 but with a bigger HDD)! It's the best consumer HD cam I've ever tried (I've had the HC1, HC3, HV10, HV20, FX7 and FX1). Of course the FX1 & FX7 are more in the prosumer range, but I'll tell you the SR12 clips hold up very favorably to even those!

This thing present the cleanest HD picture I've ever seen from any of the cams I've mentioned above. The colors are very nice as is the resolution and sharpness without any signs of edge enhancement. Topping it off is an amazingly solid 5.1 surround sound that creates the best overall sound quality and ambiance I've ever heard on any cam I've ever owned.

AVCHD has grown up guys.
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Old March 16th, 2008, 04:56 PM   #4
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Gee Ken -
You're gonna make me go get one of those aren't you <wink>? I've been watching the SR11, looks like a winner all around, covering several other cameras I've got at least well enough to justify the switch.

The CX7 sold me on the tapeless workflow, but I picked up the HC9 so I still have a tape camera for my archived stuff.

I'd say if you can figure out the workflow, which may take a bit of doing, AVCHD definitely has it's advantages.

I'm almost trying to hold out to see what the "CX9" looks like when announced (I'm sure it's out there, as is perhaps a "FX9", following Sony's numbering logic and current product refresh list), but the SR11 does looks sweet, and the reports of you lucky guys who got one right out of the gate are quite encouraging.

I'm sold on the super small size of the CX7 for many purposes, and other than a bigger screen (like the SR11), I don't think I'd change much on it!
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Old March 16th, 2008, 05:14 PM   #5
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Yeah, it is one sweet camera. The only issue I have with cams like the SR10, HF10, HF100 and CX7, are the lack of a viewfinder. I have yet to see a cam (even the SR12 with it's big flip out LCD) that's good enough in the bright sun to really do the job. You just can't critically focus and frame with the ease of a viewfinder (forget that I need my reading glasses to see the damn thing). I can understand the small size, but they could have kept the size almost as small with a viewfinder.

I don't see doing much editing for awhile with the footage, and frankly with almost 15 hours @ the best quality setting, I can just leave the footage on the HDD if I want. In the interim you can just throw footage on a DVD-R in HD and play it on a Blu Ray player or just hook the cam up to an HDTV. But I'll tell you, I'm sold big time on the instant, non-linear access.
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Old March 17th, 2008, 12:34 AM   #6
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Another Sony would make sense, given the Sony " A camera". Another thread here suggests that they may have trouble getting footage into Final Cut on the Mac, though. Ken, do you ever use a Mac with your SR12? Does anyone know how the all solid-state Sonys compare with the hard drive models - since kids will be among the users (as I mentioned in my first post, it's going to a family-oriented camp, and will be used for everything where I won't risk the EX1), the idea of a spinning hard drive in a camera that might get shaken up a bit scares me.

-Dan
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Old March 17th, 2008, 02:36 AM   #7
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Dan -
One of the reasons I suggested using the CX7 and 4G memory sticks is the 4G ones should read in any standard card reader - allowing you to drag and drop the .MTS files into any compatible program - I believe some of the challenges being reported are for the HDD cams, where I'm guessing drive access is an issue requiring special drivers (all the Sony cams come with the PMB software on CD, and as near as I can tell that software probably includes drivers that allow the computer to "see" the camera, along with stitching files that exceed 2G size together into one long clip.

I didn't have the PMB software for a couple months (and only shot short clips)when I got my display model CX7, but just transferred files by sticking the MS Duo in a reader and dragging and dropping the files. As long as the files don't exceed the 2G (15-17 minutes in highest quality) size, you shouldn't hit any snags at all if the NLE handles the format.

The CX7 is built like a tank generally, as are most of these small Sonys, not unbreakable obviously, but probably more durable than most cameras... As I mentioned, it's probably due for an update within a few months, but as it was later than the rest of the "7" series cams, I think it was superior in image quality - can't compare to the SR (yet), but the HC9 improved the HC7 and better matches the CX7 video color wise - the HC7 was great, but strangely didn't match the CX7 as well as I'd hoped - and the CX7 seemed "truer" to me ever so slightly. The lack of a viewfinder (and yes, I now carry reading glasses too... ugh) is a negative, although I've used my CX7 outside in desert sunlight without a problem... again small size and significantly lighter in weight may be a plus in your situation.



You can dub files off the HDD of the SR11/12, so a 4G stick might alleviate transfer issues, not sure if you can "park" the drive, but I think I saw an "anti drop" feature in the manual (?) that was designed to prevent damage to the HDD if the camera was dropped.

It might be a bit extreme, but you might consider the sports packs for the small cameras when lent out, especially if your camp involves water in any way shape or form... or dust and dirt... or basically is a CAMP!

Hope that helps clarify - I hope to be able to comment on the SR11 from a "hands on" perspective one of these days soon... but did I mention I love the little CX7... and it's a camera that made no sense to me when I first looked at it!
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Old March 17th, 2008, 07:33 AM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dan Wells View Post
Another Sony would make sense, given the Sony " A camera". Another thread here suggests that they may have trouble getting footage into Final Cut on the Mac, though. Ken, do you ever use a Mac with your SR12? Does anyone know how the all solid-state Sonys compare with the hard drive models - since kids will be among the users (as I mentioned in my first post, it's going to a family-oriented camp, and will be used for everything where I won't risk the EX1), the idea of a spinning hard drive in a camera that might get shaken up a bit scares me.

-Dan
Sorry Dan, I'm a PC guy. I use Grass Valley's Edius Pro 4.5, so I can't help you out with questions on the Mac.
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Old March 17th, 2008, 07:37 AM   #9
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Originally Posted by Dave Blackhurst View Post
You can dub files off the HDD of the SR11/12, so a 4G stick might alleviate transfer issues, not sure if you can "park" the drive, but I think I saw an "anti drop" feature in the manual (?) that was designed to prevent damage to the HDD if the camera was dropped.
Yes Dave, you are correct, the SR11/SR12 does have an 'anti drop' feature that can be engaged or disengaged.
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Old March 17th, 2008, 11:25 AM   #10
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From what I can find, the AVCHD cameras all have to transcode to Apple ProRes when importing to a Mac. This means that the import actually takes LONGER than capturing HDV off a tape! There is still the advantage of pre-divided clips. On another note, I really like the sports pack suggestion for a camera that will be handed to a lot of folks, including kids!
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Old March 17th, 2008, 04:17 PM   #11
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HMMM, are there any Mac platform NLEs that handle the .MTS files native? If you need some small files to test, just PM me, I'll send you some to test with - the exact ones dragged and dropped direct from the MSDuo/Card reader.

Transcoding is a pain, I dealt with it a couple times when HDV was "new", big files, mucho time wasted, within a couple updates, Vegas got the hang of handling the files without transcoding, and I got a faster machine, no more transcoding for me, thanks...

I think much of the challenge with AVCHD is the format is "new", and there are still kinks to work out here and there. But I had no problem with short clips drag and drop from 4G MS Duos, when I went to 8G stick and long clips, then the fun began... but no problems NOW, and it's a faster workflow by far for me.

My guess would be that any hurdles with Mac compatibility will work themselves out sooner than later - these small cool cameras are exactly the sorts of things "Mac people" like <wink>. It'd just be stupid for the cam manufacturers to ignore the creative side of the market! It was probably easier to let the geeks that are used to "fixing" their computers all the time find all the kinks and work them out <wink, wink>!
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Old March 17th, 2008, 04:29 PM   #12
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Dave, it's weird there would be a difference between how you can handle these files off of a 4gig MS vs an 8gig. Any ideas why this would be?
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Old March 17th, 2008, 06:33 PM   #13
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Well, I wish I knew... I CAN pull files off the camera (able to view the individual files in windows explorer) when on an 8G stick (but that requires the PMB software, thus creating a problem for our Mac bretheren...), and of course any long clip must be stitched together with the PMB software...

I can't seem to find any external readers (except a clunky slow old USB 1 device) that will read the 8G cards, they all ask to format the 8G as a 4G...

I've got every concievable patch and current software on my machines, and have tried multiple readers (including Sony latest and greatest) to no avail. I know for certain that both the Sony cards and the Sandisk ones (which require a patch, but work great) are 100% legit, but they sure don't want to read in anytihing I've got!

The 4G cards in contrast show up instantly and have no problems with being read... Thus why my suggestion that this might solve any issues for a Mac user as long as the NLE ingests .MTS directly.

It's not a big thing having to use the cradle and the PMB, as the file dump is so fast, but it is strange to say the least!
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Old March 21st, 2008, 05:40 PM   #14
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Regarding editing on a Mac, yes the ingest/transcode time into FCP is a bit of a pain - it takes about 50% longer to ingest and transcode into my Quad 3.0Ghz Mac Pro - the new 8 cores might be faster. Also, the ProRes files are pretty freaking big! On the other hand, the process has so far been rock-solid and completely painless for me (I know others have had problems).

The alternative is to use an Intensity Card, capture through HDMI, either live or off media (HDD in my case - I have 3 SR7s) and use ProRes or DVCPro HD. I've been going directly into FCP because it's so seamless, and have only played with the Intensity card a little bit, but the good news there's more than one way to skin this particular cat.

I was so pleased with my SR7s on a recent live event shoot, I am very curious to see how much better the SR11/12 might be... Ken's glowing praises have definitely piqued my interest.
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