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Old May 25th, 2010, 09:18 AM   #1
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docu film equipment. P2/SD/or Canon 5D?

I am shooting a documentary at some point this year (waiting on funding).

I will be in locations that have zero resources for buying any kind of equipment. Top priority would be an efficient way to store 100's of hours of footage that will not cost "too much money". I am also looking for the best possible quality for the money. My budget at the moment is $7500-8,500 for cam, lights, and sound

I am split between:

Panasonic HVX P2 system, which bothers me due to the absurd cost of the P2 media. And we all know what happened to Pani with the DVCpro tapes... so this whole thing bothers me

Would rather go with Panasonic HMC150 and shoot to SD cards, but i get mixed reviews about low light performance on this model vs. the P2

And lastly, I am fascinated with the Canon 5Dii quality over anything in this price range right now. It is also attractive because i already own a 23-105 L kit lens and 70-200 L, and 50 1.4 lenses for my old 20D. I have never shot on an SLR, and i am used to shoulder mount or prosumer sized cameras. Not sure how this would work for a docu situation.

I also wanted peoples opinions on off loading footage to a cheap netbook onto a large HD, i have a 17in apple pro but really dont feel like lugging a full sized 3,000 dollar laptop around with me. Another option was the Nexto DI Nexto Video Storage Device (320GB) devise, again never used it....anyone ever seen this thing in action? Other suggestions for work flows for archiving footage?
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Old May 26th, 2010, 12:14 AM   #2
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I shoot with the 5D, both narrative and doc shorts as well as some corporate work. Personally I really like it and wouldn't shoot with anything else at this point - but I hesitate to recommend it to others because it's a very particular beast and you have to really get familiar with the operation, capabilities and workflow in order to get consistent results out of it.

Not really knowing your experience level, I'd only recommend it for you if you have the time to get it and shoot a few test projects before you start your doc. It also depends on what and how you plan to shoot... for instance you'll need to get a separate audio recorder, and you'll have a tough time getting good audio unless you have another person to run it, at least in uncontrolled situations. So your subject may also determine it's suitability for you.

All that said, I don't think there's much comparison quality wise with any of the HVX series. After shooting with the 5D for over a year now the couple times I've had to work with HVX footage recently (200 and 300) it seemed soft and noisy, and it fell apart much more quickly in Color (I do convert all 5D footage to prores for post). If your subject potentially includes a lot of low-light shooting you'll definitely get better results from the 5D in most cases. I don't have any experience with the HMC150, but if I weren't going to shoot with a DSLR personally I'd lean in the direction of the EX1.

Storage-wise an hour of 5D footage is about 18Gb, so '100's of hours' will eat up terabytes of storage, especially if you plan for redundancy (which you should). So with portable drives you're looking at a minimum of 4 500gb drives to give you capacity for two copies of 100 hours of footage, if you buy bare drives and enclosures that's $350-400 worth of hardware. I carry an old macbook to shoots just for the offload so I don't have to lug the 17" around - so a netbook would certainly be a good lightweight solution as well.
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Old May 26th, 2010, 08:02 PM   #3
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While I enjoy my HVX, I don't enjoy using it in anything low-light.

Is there any particular reason you've ruled tape out? For all its faults (HDV, capturing, dropouts, etc), it's a pretty sturdy and efficient way to store footage away from the "civilized" world.

Another possible contender: Something like the Sony Z5U with an MRC1 CF card recorder? Great low-light shooter, can also shoot tape, albeit the bothersome HDV codec.
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Old May 26th, 2010, 11:38 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Brian Angelini View Post
I am shooting a documentary at some point this year (waiting on funding).

I will be in locations that have zero resources for buying any kind of equipment. Top priority would be an efficient way to store 100's of hours of footage that will not cost "too much money". I am also looking for the best possible quality for the money. My budget at the moment is $7500-8,500 for cam, lights, and sound

I am split between:

Panasonic HVX P2 system, which bothers me due to the absurd cost of the P2 media. And we all know what happened to Pani with the DVCpro tapes... so this whole thing bothers me

Would rather go with Panasonic HMC150 and shoot to SD cards, but i get mixed reviews about low light performance on this model vs. the P2

And lastly, I am fascinated with the Canon 5Dii quality over anything in this price range right now. It is also attractive because i already own a 23-105 L kit lens and 70-200 L, and 50 1.4 lenses for my old 20D. I have never shot on an SLR, and i am used to shoulder mount or prosumer sized cameras. Not sure how this would work for a docu situation.

I also wanted peoples opinions on off loading footage to a cheap netbook onto a large HD, i have a 17in apple pro but really dont feel like lugging a full sized 3,000 dollar laptop around with me. Another option was the Nexto DI Nexto Video Storage Device (320GB) devise, again never used it....anyone ever seen this thing in action? Other suggestions for work flows for archiving footage?
Ever consider a Sony EX1? Great in low light, great audio quality. After reading reviews I bought one because it'd handle almost every situation that documentary/event shooting demands.

Footage at high quality is 35 MB/s, so it uses about 1/3 the amount of hard drive space as P2 video. If need be you can shoot at 25 MB/s which isn't too bad for headshot type of stuff (locked down camera shooting an interview).

Or you could shoot standard definition onto tape. The DVX100b, Sony PD-170...all great low light standard def cameras.

Your best bet is to browse this forum to find answers, as equipment purchases have been addressed ad nauseum.
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Old June 3rd, 2010, 03:34 PM   #5
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You might think about your project and the intended audience and then decide on a camera. How predictable and manageable will your surrounding be? is is mostly hand held or tripod? Inside or outside? what kind of lighting? As mentioned above single system sound or dual system sound? The more run-and-gun, the more you need a a video camera. If imaging is very important and you have lots of control, say a fine arts project, then a DSLR would be a good choice. I also recommend the EX1. If you are shooting potentially for broadcast then you should not be thinking about video cameras with 1/3" chips. Not acceptable.
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Old June 3rd, 2010, 03:44 PM   #6
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Assuming a 1/3-in camera is acceptable for the target outlet, here's my input:

I was in a similar situation. I often shoot for days in rural areas, often in dusty or muddy situations (tape dropouts a massive problem). Considered going with the 5DMk2 (I have all Canon lenses already for still photography), possibly the 150 or the 170.

I love the look of the DSLR rigs, but I often do one-chance interviews and couldn't risk cutting off a subject when the 12 minute mark is hit. Also, the run-and-gun sound options are less than ideal.

I tentatively settled on the 170, but just couldn't get my head around the pricing of the P2 cards and accessories. Just. Couldn't. Do. It. Also, not a fan of Anamorphic source, but that wasn't the deal killer.

Ultimately bought the Sony NX5U. Good glass (very good low-light performance), a highly efficient storage format (requiring less drives in the field for offloading), HD-SDI if i ever need to shoot to a Nanoflash, cheap and available media (SDHC), a very good optical stabilizer and an option for a big data tank if I want/need it (128gb module). Been using it for a month now. Have had shoots in LA, Moab and just got back from NY/CT. Very happy with the results.

Just buy lots of SDHC cards (32GB class 4 cards are about $60-70 each and hold about 3hrs of 720p60 24mb/s footage per card), as you fill them up, copy the contents of each to a LaCie Rugged. Lock the SDHC and put it into a Pelican storage case. Store the cards in your camera bag, and the drives in your luggage (or in the car), in the event one or the other is stolen or lost you'll still have a backup.

Given your budget, you may try to eeke out an EX1, but that negates the storage benefits of AVCHD in exchange for better low-light and the other obvious benefits of the EX.
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