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Documentary Techniques
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Old March 17th, 2002, 12:24 AM   #1
Mark Percival
 
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Documentary Camera

Ok this isn't a XL1 vs VX2000 question, well kinda, but not really. I'm just looking for some opinions on the XL1 and VX2000 for a certain format.

Here's the rundown.

I want to make a documentary, and I'm looking for a good DV camera to buy for that purpose. Now I've narrowed it down to the vx2000, the XL1s and the PD150, which I know isn't really narrowing it down much.

There's gonna be a lot of indoor shots and its gonna be done handheld most of the time. Alot of run and gun. I'm looking at the XL1s and it seems like a great camera but what about shouldering it. I love to shoulder cameras, its so much easier to get a steady shot, and with the XLR adapters the XL1 is shoulderable, but supposedly still front heavy. If I get the VX2k or the PD150 then I've got to buy a habbycam or something similar to shoulder it. And its still got the viewfinder at the back which is annoying to look through shouldered.

Then there is the viewfinder on the VX2k, I think this would be a great addition but I've never spent any real time using a camera with an popout LCD. Any of you guys find the XL1's lack of LCD monitor a problem(I know you can add one on, but if you don't have one added on, do you ever wish to did)

The last is the look, which in most cases I wouldn't give a damn about but now it could be an issue. Its stupid but when you walk in with a VX2k only a pro is gonna know what you've got. The XL1s makes you look like a pro, which in alot of cases is a really good thing. Tell someone your making a doc and you hold up what to them looks like home camcorder and sometimes they don't take your seriously, which can be a good or bad thing. For the doc I want to make I really would rather look more like a pro, I think in a few instances it would get me access to some people that would feign away from doing the interview when a guy with a handycam shows up. The PD150 also beat the vx2000 here.

Anyone have any experience with the XL1 in a documentary setting? Not just tripod shots and setup interviews, but run and gun guy-on-the-street style interviewing. Pros, Cons, and other cameras that would do the job better.

I'm also not looking to spend a fortune. A couple good mikes, and XLR adapter, and maybe a steadicam or some variant(which means an LCD too for the xl1) and thats its. The XL1s might bump me above budget but I would be willing to shell out a little more if its the better solution.

So I what do you guys think?

Mark Percival
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Old March 17th, 2002, 10:12 AM   #2
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Mark

Other will chime in with their own advice but real quickly I just want to say that you really need to pick up and hold each camera for awhile and look at their video on a pro monitor. The right camera for you is the one which feels right in your hands and looks best on the monitor. You're asking the right questions here but it's very important that you choose the one that feels best in your hands.
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Old March 17th, 2002, 03:00 PM   #3
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The VX2000 and the PD150 are pretty much identical when it comes to the way it sits in your hand :) Trust me and take chris's word on this as he helped me out a lot with my purchase.

I went with the PD-150 over the XL1S because of the features suited what I needed....

I printed off the two spec sheets and put them side by side and compared and the PD-150 (out of box) in my opinion out does the XL1S but if you have more money than GOD then you can rig up the XL1S to out perform the PD-150, By the time you have spent all the cash adding crap to the XL1S to bring it to pro level you could of just bought a better cam with bigger CCD's. The PD-150 has more ACTIVE Pixels than the canon: PD-150 340,000. XL1S 250,000 which makes a huge differance.... I had both cams in my hands and you could visually see that the PD-150 had a better picture than the canon. (Viewing on a studio monitor). In my opinion the PD-150 is an all around better camera. (For me)

Check out the below thread it might answer your questions before you ask em hehehe.

http://www.dvinfo.net/conf/showthread.php?s=&threadid=1185

Also with the aid of the helpful people on this forum I have made the below purchases and I am sooooo happy and pleased with my choice. As The equipment handles like a dream and the quality of picture and sound makes me want to do back flips... I am very happy. Also I am making a documentary as well and on my first shoot (tomorrow) I know it will perform the way it has on the HARSH tests I have put this cam through.

http://members.shaw.ca/kloudi/equipment.htm
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Old March 18th, 2002, 01:02 AM   #4
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The Fright Factor -vs- A Frightful Impression

First off, the XL1s, VX2000 and PD150 are all outstanding cameras that each have their assets and liabilities.

But if you're planning to shoot casual "just talk to me" style documentaries consider the fright factor. People are more apt to feel comfortable quicker in front of a smaller camera than a larger, shoulder-mounted camera. I sometimes use a GL1 for such work and try not to hold it in the standard hand-through-the-loop style, opting for holding it lower in a less intimidating style.

On the other hand, if you're aiming to impress people nothing short of a full-size ENG camera will impress (or scare) people more than a fully-outfitted XL1s bristling with battteries, isolators, equalizers, flags and XLR cables staring at them.
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Old March 18th, 2002, 01:15 AM   #5
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So Ken, you're saying size DOES count. ;)
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Old March 18th, 2002, 11:44 AM   #6
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Camera

You say that you are concerned about how professional a camera may look, well this can also be a problem. I used an XL1 on a documentary and it caused a lot of headaches because it looks professional. When you pull out flashy looking gear people tend to expect more from you and assume that you have lots of $$. I often found that the XL1 made people more likely to ask for money when I was shooting footage of them. Also, it made people act less natural when I was shooting b-roll. They seemed to all want to act for the big camera and I would often have to spend a lot more time letting them get use to me and the camera. The XL1S and pd150 are both excellent cameras that will give you great footage. I would suggest imagining how each will fit into the situations that you wish to shoot in and weigh that heavily into your choice.
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Old March 20th, 2002, 06:00 PM   #7
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My thoughts from field exprience...

I didn't want to compare any model, because it is really what you feel comfortable with, as stated above.

I use an XL1s to shoot my paranormal documentaries and after spending some money on some extras, it is working well. The most important for me is my SP-7 shoulder brace. (as reviewed on The Watchdog - thanks for the heads up guys).

The shoulder braces offered by Canon are a joke. They only add to the unbalanced feeling of the camera. With my SP-7, I can shoulder for hours at a time.

But be warned it is not a setup for the less physical cameraperson. It has quite a bit of weight to it. To me this is a plus. I fell it gives me a more cinematic feeling because the weight of the camera affects its movement. This subtlety is discussed in length by David Lynch on his PS2 TV ad.

Just my two cents.
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Old March 20th, 2002, 06:29 PM   #8
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Quote:
So Ken, you're saying size DOES count. ;)
LOL!

Actually, this is a real thinking point! the size and heft of the XL1, let alone a big ENG cam, make it a bit cumbersome and slower to get around than, say, a GL1 when you want to maneuver among crowds and just bring it all around with you without having to "set up." Particularly at party-type events where the spontaneity can be drained when you have to go "excuse me while I shoulder and focus my movie camera." Of course, on the other hand, the XL or any bigger cam is a lot easier to hold steady.

I have been out shooting docs of promotional events (yes, parties) where it's a double-edge sword. You get great shots and, yes, people do notice that it's a quality camera and not Aunt Matilda's palmcorder, so they feel the event must be more important to justify a "film crew"...BUT, when you start working the crowd when they are butt-to-belly, you wind up knocking people in the head with your lens hood. And you do have a tendency to put it down instead of slinging it under your arm when not shooting.
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Old March 20th, 2002, 06:42 PM   #9
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<<This subtlety is discussed in length by David Lynch on his PS2 TV ad.>>

What's PS2, Codeman3D?
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Old March 20th, 2002, 07:13 PM   #10
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Playstation2. You can check out the article at:

http://www.dv.com/magazine/2001/0901/billups0901.html
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Old March 20th, 2002, 08:17 PM   #11
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Wow! Great article. Thanks, Codeman3D.
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Old March 20th, 2002, 08:36 PM   #12
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So now we see that David Lynch also thinks that size does count! :-)
(augmented by metal plates--kind of what I used to do to cheap consumer turntables to give them a heft comparable to that of the Technics SL1200)

"focus ring from hell!" Funny, that sounds familiar! To those of us who use the standard XL1 16x lens, anyhow.

Hey, did anybody notice that Lynch posted this project in FCP? He must be another "avid" FCP user!
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