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Canon VIXIA Series AVCHD and HDV Camcorders
For VIXIA / LEGRIA Series (HF G, HF S, HF and HV) consumer camcorders.

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Old July 11th, 2010, 05:04 PM   #1
Join Date: Jul 2010
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Rockumentary Advice

Hi everyone! I'm new to the forum and a total noob when it comes to filmmaking, and I was hoping I could gather some advice about a project I am about to undertake. I am planning to make a no-budget documentary about a punk band's upcoming U.S. tour. This isn't for promoting the band, it is entirely my project.

Firstly, is an HV20 a suitable camera for this project? It seems to me like the best camera for the job it that it's price range it mirrors the low budget amature nature of the tour, but also makes use of newer technology to deliver a decent picture. Essentially, I want to find the 2010 equivalent of the Sony VX1000 or Super 8.

Secondly, I need to record sound at many of the gigs. None of the venues will have sound systems aside from a PA for vocals, so soundboard recordings are out of the question. The band plays extremely loud/fast/aggressive music, so even if the recording is done faithfully wiht high-tech gear, it will be awful ear-splitting noise to most people. Could I attach my SM57 to the camera and record directly onto the MiniDV, or would it be worth it to buy a separate sound recorder? Or is there another camera mic which could deliver decent results with both speaking and high volume noise? Any advice is appreciated!
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Old July 14th, 2010, 07:04 PM   #2
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You would be better off recording audio separately and mixing it in later. The SM57 is a mono vocal mic and would not work. You would need either a good quality single point stereo mic or a pair of mics recording to a separate recorder. You could also look at a good quality hand held recorder with internal mics like the Zoom H4N, Sony PCM-D50 or M10, Edirol R-09HR, etc...

The combinations and choices really are endless. It all depends on what your budget is and what sounds good to you. If their music is as loud and aggressive as you say you'll need to make sure your mic(s) can handle high SPL. The higher the number the more volume they can handle without distorting.

When you're filming the performances set your focus manually before it starts by zooming into something on stage and getting it into focus. This way if they have lights that will be flashing and changing during the show it won't throw the focus off. If you use auto focus the changing lights will throw it out o whack.
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Old July 16th, 2010, 07:46 PM   #3
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Having just finished a 34 minute documentary (not music oriented) with an HV40, I can add to the comments above.

First, canon makes a shotgun mike that shoe mounts, it's very good for the non-music audio - I used it exclusively on my film, and was amazed (I am a 40 year veteran of documentary filmmaking).

Second, yes, get a good audio recorder - they're everywhere now, and pretty cheap, but get a decent mike, even if you have to rent.

And try to find an audio guy who knows what he's doing and will work for free for the experience (like a student). 10 years ago I made a doc about a piano competition, assuming that the performances were being recorded by the venue - they weren't. So, even though I had a sound man and a decent mike (Sennheiser 416), the finished film failed miserably because the piano geeks were disappointed in the quality of the instrument (and I don't blame them at all, but I do blame others). With music, audio is everything.
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Old July 19th, 2010, 09:07 PM   #4
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Thanks for the advice! I just picked up my HV20 and I decided to go with the Rode Videomic for interviews. I'm gonna try the Videomic and the onboard mic for the first couple shows, and pick up an xlr adapter if need be. 99% of people are going to find a HiFi recording of this band unlistenable, and plenty of my favorite rock films like 1991: The Year Punk Broke have bad audio quality, so I'll just see how it goes and try to adapt until I get something workable.

Now I have a new set of questions. Should I shoot in HD and do I need HD tapes? I figured I would shoot in HD and reduce to SD if I need to in post production. Is there a drawback to shooting in PF24 cinemode the whole time? I figured I might use that for landscapes and "life on the road" type senquences while using something a little more stripped down for interviews ect. Lastly, is there an advantage to shooting in B/W mode on the camera, or would it work just as well to convert certain scenes later?
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Old July 22nd, 2010, 02:01 PM   #5
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Always shoot in HD - I see no advantage to SD.. I haven't edited anything in SD for nearly 10 years.. it's a simple matter to convert the edit file when done. The most affordable quality tapes are Sony HDM-63VGs, but Sony Digital Masters are what I use mostly with the Canon. An important note: Don't switch between tape manufacturers - pick a brand and stick with it.

The show I just finished will seldom be seen in anything but SD anamorphic - but I had a a Blu-Ray made last weekend for a festival and it looks terrific - better than I expected - so I always have that option because I originated in HDV.

Convert to B&W in post. That way you have color as an option if you change your mind (and you can desaturate it so it has the feel of B&W but still has some chroma). I do occasionally shoot in B&W however. One reason is that if there are other people (ie clients) involved, they can't dictate going back to color against your wishes. But I would test your location to be sure that's what you want before committing to it. If the lighting is flat, B&W will look pretty bad. B&W likes hard side and back light or it just looks like a mistake.

Personally, I shoot everything 24p, but there seem to be a lot of opinions about it. Because my "A" cameras are a Panasonic HPX500 and an HVX200, I have settled into shooting 720/24pn - that gives me the slo-mo option with the Panasonic cameras - and I just like the look of it anyway having shot 16mm for most of my life. But 24 fps is a personal choice.
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Old September 12th, 2010, 10:01 AM   #6
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Currently involved with one of these myself, here are some pitfalls and tips from what I have seen.

1) Mics on the camera do not work as well for live events. Use a field recorder, then also record from the camera to match in post. I used a Zoom H series and had great results. Stay off the board if you can, why? The minute you walk away someone will come over and start playing with stuff. My best solution was using the built in mics, with a couple of low cost condensors (audio technica $89.00) in a Y pattern.
These guys have blown 3 concerts so far, audience loved it, but nothing to show on the recoring side from them. I try not to rely on anyone anymore for audio options and started covering my self with.

2) Shoot in HD, then down convert in post. Your footage will look better.

3) Rhode mic is perfect for interviews. I have the interviews rolling on a split screen, with footage from the practice sessions on the reverse, with a lower auido then the interview.

4) Camera setup - I usually work with at least 2. I have one stationary on a tripod, then another somewhere close (so I can watch the un-manned units) that I control to get "B" roll, close ups, and crowd shots. I shot the biggest concert with 4 cams and I was the only operator. Set 2 on stage and walked away. The footage came out quite well and gave me quite a bit of options when needing fillers.

Need any cheap advice, feel free to email. I am about 13 months into mine and just about done getting all the footage I need.

- Michael
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