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Canon VIXIA Series AVCHD and HDV Camcorders
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Old February 22nd, 2008, 02:59 PM   #1
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HD Canon camcorder I should purchase?

Hello everyone.

I'm an actor looking to purchase a camcorder to shoot scenes for my future reel (which I'll be editing on a mac). I've acted in 7 student films and have been very disappointed with the quality of the final film once I receive the DVD each time. It is time I invest in a camera of my own, and shoot my own scenes, with other actors.

On top of that, I have an interest in shooting some short films I've written. I just got off the phone with a man who has a ton of knowledge regarding video cameras. After his talk, I've decided I do not want to invest in anything above $1,200. I don't have the funds to buy something in the 2 - 4 grand range, nor the desire to learn a camera of that quality.

If I want to get a camera just to shoot my reel with, I reckon I can get something under a grand in standard definition. But if I want to start shooting shorts (along with scenes for my reel), I was thinking I'd have to go the next level and invest in something HD and in the $900 - $1,400 price area.

In an ideal situation, I'd like to purchase a camera that would be great both for my reel and to shoot short films with. If you have recommendations for both , given what I've written previously, I'm all ears. I would also like it to be Canon and using mini-dv's (I'll be editing the footage myself on a mac). From what I can gather reading in forums, the HV20 seems to be a popular choice. Also, a camcorder that I can use an external mic with would be necessary.

Thanks in advance!
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Old February 22nd, 2008, 03:06 PM   #2
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It sounds like the HV20/HV30 would be a great choice for you. The HV20 is discontinued though, and although you can find it for less than $800, it won't be available for much longer. The HV30 its replacement, and is pretty much the same aside from the body color, an improved screen, and a 30F feature. Both of these cameras have the microphone jack so you can use an external mic.

Good luck!
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Old February 22nd, 2008, 04:37 PM   #3
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The HV20 or HV20, I agree.

There are/should be plenty of HV20's around, and the HV30 will be coming out soon. For 'film-making', the HV20 will work great with it's 24P. The HV30 is simply a slightly upgraded, black model. For most users, the HV20 is still cheaper, and thus, better value. Great cameras, either one of them.
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Old February 22nd, 2008, 05:36 PM   #4
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Follow Up Questions........

Gentlemen,

Thank you both for your replies.

I have virtually no experience editing video, but I'm a bright guy, and I like to think I can figure it out with some time and effort.

Could you give me a little info about 24p, and how it easy it will/may be for me to shoot and edit footage this way? I'm going to purchase a mac laptop in conjunction with my hv20/30, and start with Imovie and then move to FCE if I feel the need to.

Also, is it worth paying more for the hv30, or should I save my money and go with the hv20?

How good do you think my footage will be if I make sure the footage I capture is well lit (in regards to it looks as close to film as possible)?

And lastly: Will people with HD televisions be able to see my footage in HD if I burn the footage onto a HD compatible DVD? What will the result be if I just use a standard DVD, quality wise?

Sorry for all follow ups, but all are important questions I have. Thanks!
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Old February 22nd, 2008, 06:36 PM   #5
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Originally Posted by Blair Harrington View Post
Gentlemen,

Thank you both for your replies.

I have virtually no experience editing video, but I'm a bright guy, and I like to think I can figure it out with some time and effort.

Could you give me a little info about 24p, and how it easy it will/may be for me to shoot and edit footage this way? I'm going to purchase a mac laptop in conjunction with my hv20/30, and start with Imovie and then move to FCE if I feel the need to.

Also, is it worth paying more for the hv30, or should I save my money and go with the hv20?

How good do you think my footage will be if I make sure the footage I capture is well lit (in regards to it looks as close to film as possible)?

And lastly: Will people with HD televisions be able to see my footage in HD if I burn the footage onto a HD compatible DVD? What will the result be if I just use a standard DVD, quality wise?

Sorry for all follow ups, but all are important questions I have. Thanks!
I would suggest one thing - the footage will likely not turn out quite as you wanted or expected. It may seem easy to point and shoot a video camera, but there's a lot of stuff you need to know. I'm by no measure an expert, but I am winding down from a first "scripted movie" and have been very surprised where I had trouble. Previously my work has been in editing, starting with a desire to make home movies less like home movies.

This time around I built some equipment - a dolly (non-tracked) and a crane. Both worked very nicely, though I bumped the crane during the shoot and did not get another take. The dolly worked well-enough, but the road I used it on was much rougher than I anticipated, and my wheels were not as good at absorbing the vibration as I had thought. That wasn't what got in the way, though - it was actually the audio. Though I used a remote mic on the talent, it still picked up the noise from the dolly enough for me to have to do overdubs.

I also bought an external mic - a very modest mic mind you, to use as a boom mic, and when conditions are right it provides far superior sound than the on-board mic. But I ran into some other issues:

1) I though having the mic at the end of a pole on a separate mount would isolate it from noise. The opposite is true - every little noise from holding the pole is transferred to the mic. Hence the need for a "shock" mount.

2) The mic is "mono", and when plugged into my HD cam records good quality audio onto one channel of the stereo camcorder. Thus the other channel is there but contains no audio. Not really a big deal except my editor (Liquid) didn't really like that idea.

3) Use of camcorder power pack. Don't ever, unless you know your audio won't pick up the dreaded hum. I got burned when I didn't monitor my audio - I assumed it was all good because the preliminary check sounded fine. My final audio from some scenes had a hum through it caused by the AC adapter.

4) Laptop power pack - see above!

5) Those cheap digital recorders - don't! Unless you can find one that records with really good quality audio.

With regards to the 24p - for a long time I thought that was the holy grail of amateur film making. But poorly done video is poorly done video regardless of whether it's 24p or not. I'm not convinced 24p would help me where I'm currently at - there are just too many other factors involved, the biggest (to my surprise actually) is sound. I've got some really good shots but poor audio and it just - I dunno, maybe it's just me, but I've actually gone back and tried all kinds of tricks to make it work - noise reduction, using audio from alternate takes, if they fit, to overdubbing, etc.

Depending on what kind of movie you intend to make, you may want to consider adding a 35mm "DoF" adapter to your list. My opinion, such that it is, would be to consider an HV20 and a DoF adapter instead of "just" an HV30, unless your budget allows for both anyway. There are so-called "tricks" to emulate the depth of field effect without the 35mm adapter, but the results are lacking.

Editing the final result can be challenging, but is also very rewarding when it goes well. It's an art all in itself, but if the source material is good, then editing will be fun. But if you are going to shoot 24p be absolutely sure your editing software will support the 24p from the HV20 - apparently not all editors do.

Anyway, this is just "input" as it relates to my experience. Hopefully it is of some help.
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Old February 22nd, 2008, 08:07 PM   #6
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Paul,

Thanks so much for this response.

I wanted to follow up and ask if you could provide me with more details regarding an 35mm "DoF" adapter. I was reading on some other forum about said adapter, and they also mentioned depth of field, but any additional info you or anyone could provide would be fantastic. Thanks!
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Old February 22nd, 2008, 09:27 PM   #7
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Hi Blair,

I'd agree with the HV20 but I must disuade you from shooting your own showreel.

I'm an actor and now a film maker (with training wheels) and agents the world over are turned off by home made showreels.

you may have a great couple of monologues and scenes up your sleeve but without exceptional production values it wont do you any good. You are better off getting a professional to make you a showreel and much better off piecing your showreel together from actual work that you've done.

What does a prospective employer want to see? (they could be a big name casting director or one of the film makers from this site looking for the right actor for their next short)

they want to see a headshot - what do you look like, do you look suitable for the part.

they want to see a CV - can you act, how much work have you done, where have they seen you.

they may want to see a showreel - let's see you act, let's see some things you've done, let's see how you look on the screen.

Casting directors are notoriously short of time (arn't we all) and unless you can grab them with something exceptional (in acting AND production values) - they won't watch it.

All of this is (I believe) best presented on the web.

My CV & showreel arn't anything special (I haven't updated them for a while) but were I you - I'd start by looking at what others are doing - especially the more successful actors. What do their showreels look like?

I'll bet you won't see any self made stuff.

good luck with it all, whatever you decide

www.mailath.com
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Old February 22nd, 2008, 09:43 PM   #8
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Originally Posted by Blair Harrington View Post
Paul,

Thanks so much for this response.

I wanted to follow up and ask if you could provide me with more details regarding an 35mm "DoF" adapter. I was reading on some other forum about said adapter, and they also mentioned depth of field, but any additional info you or anyone could provide would be fantastic. Thanks!
In a nutshell, it provides a way of getting that foreground in focus/background blurred or background in focus/foreground blurred that creates a depth by separating the foreground and background (if you didn't already know that). The small CCD/CMOS sensors in typical camcorders cannot really produce this effect - they can sort of simulate it by using the zoom with a neutral density filter (to open the iris), and you certainly will get what at first looks like the effect, but it's not the same as real DoF, and often the camera has to be far away from the talent.

Probably one of the better sources of info on these things is: http://www.jetsetmodels.info/tutorials.htm, with sample videos http://www.jetsetmodels.info/sample_footage.htm

Youtube has many sample videos as well, but the high compression doesn't really do many of the videos justice. This particular example was found at vimeo - I've no idea of the audio, but the video seems to be a good representation of what these gadgets do (this particular video uses a Letus, as the title says), and it's shot with an HV20! http://vimeo.com/639162

This one also shows what a DoF adapter can do, but as a bonus it includes a good example of what you can end up with if you don't set it up "just right"! http://vimeo.com/655530

Last edited by Paul Nixon; February 22nd, 2008 at 09:47 PM. Reason: added info
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Old February 22nd, 2008, 09:54 PM   #9
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Paul Mailath,

Thanks for your words. But I will have to disagree with most of what you said however, and my reasons come from a lot of experience that I have working behind the scenes in film production in NYC.

My main objective is to present agents and managers in Manhattan with my headshot, resume, and completed reel (both on my actor website and via dvd in my mailing). Casting directors almost never keep anything they receive unsolicited from a non union actor. So they are completely out of the equation. Casting directors only come into play when you already have an agent and or manager.

As for creating my own reel: I've acted in 7 student films in the past year. All leading roles, some even shot on film with a very large crew. And never have I been content with the final product. Student films are the most common tools us for someone looking to obtain footage for their reel. Yet it came to a point where I realized I could do a better job writing and shooting my own scenes vs. the crapshoot that is student films.

So the decision was made on my part to purchase an HD camera, and do it all myself. The truth is, I'm entirely confident that whatever I end up shooting on an HV20 will look better and more professional than anything I've acted in already. And once I've recorded my scenes with other actors that I'll be casting, then I can use the footage of all the scenes, edited nicely together, to start reaching out to agents and managers. To hire someone to professionally shoot me and other actors doing short scenes would cost an absolute fortune.

I'm a bright guy, and I'm confident with proper light and sound, that I can put together something that is very good in quality. You'll never be able to tell I shot them myself. Especially compared to all the mediocre stuff I've been in so far.

Anyone with any info about the 35mm "DoF" adapter would be great. Thanks!
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Old February 22nd, 2008, 10:00 PM   #10
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Some follow up questions.......

Paul Nixon,

Thanks so much for clearing that up! I will most likely purchase a dof adaptor.

Do you know anything about "wide angle lenses" to use with an HV20, and if they are worth getting?

Here are accessories I've thought of getting in addition to the camera. Please let me know if I'm missing anything or anything else you suggest: tripod, external microphone, mini-dv tapes, additional battery pack, carrying case.

A million thank you's in advance.
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Old February 22nd, 2008, 11:50 PM   #11
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Do you know anything about "wide angle lenses" to use with an HV20?
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Old February 23rd, 2008, 09:22 AM   #12
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Paul Nixon,

Thanks so much for clearing that up! I will most likely purchase a dof adaptor.

Do you know anything about "wide angle lenses" to use with an HV20, and if they are worth getting?

Here are accessories I've thought of getting in addition to the camera. Please let me know if I'm missing anything or anything else you suggest: tripod, external microphone, mini-dv tapes, additional battery pack, carrying case.

A million thank you's in advance.
As I said previously, I am by no means an expert on film making, but there are a few things I have come across.

I don't know much about wide angle lenses other than be sure to get one that will work with an HD cam. I used the same WA lens I had for my SD cam and the results were less than good - color fringing (objects had a small amount of blue on one side and yellow on the other). Same with a telelens (also a handmedown from my SD cam). Some people swear by them, but you would have to decide for yourself - some have a "barrel effect" in that what would be straight lines at the edges appear curved.

MiniDV tapes - there are a number of current threads regarding drop-outs (http://dvinfo.net/conf/showthread.php?t=99108, for example). I mention this because while some folks are lucky enough to not have a problem, drop-outs can and will happen when you least want them to. Just be aware that this happens.

Additional battery pack - definitely.

As for additional equipment, I would add a circular polarizer to your list. There's probably more for the "basic" list, but that's a good start.

What kind of films you envision making will likely have an effect on what additional equipment you are going to want. The good news is that there are many sources of information for making some of this equipment, e.g. http://www.vfx.co.nz/build.html

Good luck
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