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Old November 28th, 2007, 11:12 PM   #1
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SR8 or HG10 for aerial fire fighting filming?

Hello,
I’m working for a company doing aerial fire suppression. We fly Air Attack Supervisors as the airborne control tower for the air-tankers, sky cranes, helicopters, ground crews, etc. We have eight planes and want to kit some of them with HD video for training & informational films.

I have a Sony SR1, but it locks up instantly when mounted. The plane’s vibration freaks out the hard disk with “Buffer Error”, and the camera must be power cycled. We’d like to turn on a camera mounted above and behind the front seats prior to takeoff, and let it run for 2-5 hours.

Does anyone have experience with the Sony SR8 and Canon HG10 for durability against vibration?
(I do have a solid state Sanyo HD1a, but it does not record long enough and is only EIS)

Other items that I’d appreciate input on:
- We actively work 5-8 different FM and VHF radios. The pilot and the Supervisor have separate audio panels to differently mix their frequencies. These two mixes are plumbed into the separate stereo channels through a Beachtek. Is there a way to record more channels? We’d like to capture the intercom as a third channel.

-Optical Stabilization is important because sometimes we will grab the camera to hand hold zoomed in shots of fires and activities below. Both cameras claim to have extra good OIS. Does anybody know if one OIS is better than the other?

-Progressive is preferred (30P, but maybe 24P will work). Some stills will be cut out as snapshots for ground operations to use after returning to base. Which has the best progressive?

- Things must work very simply and automatically one handed. Skill & willingness vary between different pilots and Sups, but they will both be always very busy. The simpler and easier things are, the more shots we’ll get. Cameras will spend most of the time roof mounted and focused over the shoulders on the control panel. Occasional outdoor shots will be through windows (we keep them clean, but they get peppered with ash and I don’t want that to become the focus point). It would be nice to pre-program and switch between two focus distances (1 meter for the cockpit and infinity for outside). Exposure, white balance and everything else will need to be auto, maybe focus too.

-Are there suggestions for other small HD camcorders with mic input, OIS, 1080x1920 and long recording?

-MarkZ
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Old November 28th, 2007, 11:43 PM   #2
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The recording time of the SD5 is as bad as the Sanyo but they do claim to have an advanced stabilizer. I can’t remember if the SR8 or the HG10 has a buffer but the SD5 does have one. If selected, it gives you 3 seconds of prerecorded footage once you hit the record button.
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Old November 29th, 2007, 08:10 AM   #3
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I would say all hard drive cameras would do this, since sonys have the fall protection its probably trying to protect the harddrive since the head is vibrating to hell, so it would most likely not be able to write data without it being corrupted or something getting ruined.

My Sanyo palm camcorder had EIS, it worked pretty crappy compared to the SR7 OIS...it keeps the picture stable, but when you go to move its like it "breaks out" of the held frame and doesn't hold the stabilization during motion, but when it gets slow enough its able to center and hold the frames.
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Old November 29th, 2007, 09:06 AM   #4
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I would have to agree with the notion that you're going to have trouble with *any* HDD camcorder. In my opinion, solid-state flash memory recording (no moving parts in recording) is the best way to go for this application. Look into the Panasonic AG-HSC1U.
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Old November 29th, 2007, 09:24 AM   #5
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I would also strongly recommend you look into a CCD camera rather than CMOS for this application. The rolling-shutter effect of a CMOS camera can cause serious distortion in the video when subjected to vibration.
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Old November 29th, 2007, 07:44 PM   #6
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Hi Mark -
Or look at the Sony CX7 - solid state memory, but you can only record 1 hour at highest quality on 8G... the largest available stick. Maybe get 2 hours at the second highest setting. I believe it has the same OIS as the SR7 - it's pretty stable in my experience, read my comment on low mass below - you don't have to fight the inertia like you do with a bigger cam. It's VERY limited in controls, but points and shoots REALLY well <wink>. It does have the touchscreen manual focus, which might work for you.

Spot (DSE) shot some skydiving footage with it, seemed pretty good, I haven't beaten mine up that much yet, but it's a cool little camera, definitely far more than meets the eye!


Your main challenge is going to be stabilization, and the Solid state cams are really small and light, so not much mass to try to control - may help you there.

Main thing is how long you need to record uninterrupted... either will need to swap memory cards/sticks or be satisfied at lower quality settings. HDD would be great, but I suspect the other poster is correct that the camera senses "head crash imminent" and shuts itself off to prevent permanent damage - also HDD has altitude issues potentially, although I don't know that you'll be up that high?

Oh yeah, not sure if any of the memory card type recorders have audio inputs... the CX7 has the potential through the A/V jack with modification or via a sony adapter through the AIS shoe, but not certain how capable it is just yet. You probably might consider some small recorders like the Zoom H2 and mix audio later.

You won't probably find ANY camera shooting progressive to be acceptable with all the movement - 24p would probably be a mess. BUT, you should be able to pull stills off the timeline in most NLEs - with memory card/stick, you can't be playing back and record a still like you can in tape based cams (just checked), although you can take stills WHILE you shoot - Sony buffers up to 3 stills. I've pulled very acceptable stills from my HC7 video in Vegas.

Oh yeah, one other thought, since typically you'd be in a tight cockpit, you're going to need a WA or more likely a fisheye lens like the skaters use (Century baby "death lens") - the GOOD thing about using a lens like that is it will help reduce the perception of shaking, maybe even more than a good OIS!!
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Old November 29th, 2007, 10:35 PM   #7
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Thanks to everyone for the insightful information.

If all hard disks will be susceptible to falling sensors, vibrations and altitude then may maybe a solid state camera will be best. The Panasonic AG-HSC1U does look pretty interesting except that it has no headset output jack.

Also Toshiba has announced 16 & 32 GB SDHC for delivery before next fire season, so that will provide good capacity. I hope to be at DV Expo West and will watch for this stuff.

btw, the camera might point much of the time at the control panel, but it is the fire shots and retardenant drops that are most desired. Stablization will help only a bit, concentration is more important for me to hold still. Are there any tutorials or techniques on how to hold steady, especially when doing something else?

thanks again,
-MarkZ
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Old November 30th, 2007, 02:08 AM   #8
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With the summer density altitudes you will experience around some of your high country, chances are you will hit the purported 8000ft limit for hard disk drives at your actual operational altitudes as a spotter.

If you are actually handholding the camera yourself, add some inert mass to it via the camera baseplate, maybe a dive weight wrapped in padding, drilled through to screw on. I can only speak for the Sony PD150.

For aircrew safety and your own, since you have a personal investment in them remaining competent and functional, fasten a stout lanyard to the camera/inert mass combination and an approved point on the airframe to guarantee it pulls up short of actually reaching any aircrew, instruments or controls during a violent event. Take care to fasten directly to the inert mass itself as the camera casework may break away and let the inert mass go.

When handholding with added inert mass, adopt an arm posture which emulates the iso-elastic arm on a steadycam. I find it helpful to use the left hand palm uppermost, facing backwards, to support the very front of the camera and operate the manual lens controls and to use the right hand, also palm uppermost, facing forwards, under the camera battery to support the very rear of the camera and work the run button with finger number four - takes a bit of practice.

Support the camera away from your body as close to the window as possible and let your arms float a little. This action is as close to parallel as you will get handheld and minimise angular deflection of the lens axis. The extra inert mass will help take care of rotor shake handheld. Use the LCD screen for sighting. The eyepiece viewfinder in use becomes anchored by your eyesocket and aggravates angular deflection of the lens axis during movements and a decent bump might bung your eye up.

This clip illustrates what to expect from my handheld technique, but cheats a little in that I also used a home-made sort of steadycam to allow zooming in a little closer.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=cdMgDdks8MY

Enjoy.

Last edited by Bob Hart; November 30th, 2007 at 02:36 AM. Reason: added text
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Old November 30th, 2007, 02:31 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dave Blackhurst View Post
Hi Mark -
Or look at the Sony CX7 - solid state memory, but you can only record 1 hour at highest quality on 8G... the largest available stick. Maybe get 2 hours at the second highest setting. I believe it has the same OIS as the SR7 - it's pretty stable in my experience, read my comment on low mass below - you don't have to fight the inertia like you do with a bigger cam. It's VERY limited in controls, but points and shoots REALLY well <wink>. It does have the touchscreen manual focus, which might work for you.

Spot (DSE) shot some skydiving footage with it, seemed pretty good, I haven't beaten mine up that much yet, but it's a cool little camera, definitely far more than meets the eye!


Your main challenge is going to be stabilization, and the Solid state cams are really small and light, so not much mass to try to control - may help you there.

Main thing is how long you need to record uninterrupted... either will need to swap memory cards/sticks or be satisfied at lower quality settings. HDD would be great, but I suspect the other poster is correct that the camera senses "head crash imminent" and shuts itself off to prevent permanent damage - also HDD has altitude issues potentially, although I don't know that you'll be up that high?

Oh yeah, not sure if any of the memory card type recorders have audio inputs... the CX7 has the potential through the A/V jack with modification or via a sony adapter through the AIS shoe, but not certain how capable it is just yet. You probably might consider some small recorders like the Zoom H2 and mix audio later.

You won't probably find ANY camera shooting progressive to be acceptable with all the movement - 24p would probably be a mess. BUT, you should be able to pull stills off the timeline in most NLEs - with memory card/stick, you can't be playing back and record a still like you can in tape based cams (just checked), although you can take stills WHILE you shoot - Sony buffers up to 3 stills. I've pulled very acceptable stills from my HC7 video in Vegas.

Oh yeah, one other thought, since typically you'd be in a tight cockpit, you're going to need a WA or more likely a fisheye lens like the skaters use (Century baby "death lens") - the GOOD thing about using a lens like that is it will help reduce the perception of shaking, maybe even more than a good OIS!!
General Note: The lens suggested here by Dave is the following. It is a 37mm thread. We also make this in a 58mm thread with a 43mm version coming soon. . .

http://www.schneideroptics.com/ecomm...=1069&IID=1755

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Schneider Optics
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Old November 30th, 2007, 11:50 AM   #10
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Hi Mark -

Looks to me like there's a "consumer" version of that Panasonic cam too, and IIRC it's already been replaced by newer model... you might want to be aware of that - things change in the HD cam market so fast, it's hard to keep track!

And it looks to me like you'll need a few cameras - at least two, as one should probably be pretty well secured to the airframe for safety, and one handheld?

While Bob's observations about stabilizing a camera may be correct for a "larger" camera, the extreme small size and low mass of these little memory card/stick cameras mean they have a very low inertia, so the game changes quite a bit - you no longer are fighting the mass/inertia that the camera itself presents, and you won't find a viewfinder on any of them... not big enough to have one!

These tiny cams are really almost featherweight, and while I spent a good amount of time learning how to effectively stabilize my HDV cameras (since HD shows EVERY movement), I'm finding that the little CX7 is a breeze to handle by comparison, and does not seem any where near as prone to the typical "bounce".

If the OIS in the Panny cams is a good as they say it is, they could work quite well for you. But you may have to find some closeout stock quick!
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Old December 1st, 2007, 08:19 AM   #11
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Actually, I find that the heavy camera tends to float itself and trail airframe movements and unsteady human inputs and provide a steadier image. The lighter the camera, the more antsy it becomes. But that's me. Other operators may find differently.
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Old December 3rd, 2007, 12:38 AM   #12
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Hi Bob -

There are sort of two ends of the spectrum - a heavy camera with reasonable inertia of it's own can perhaps have better stability under many conditions - think the shoulder mount cams vs. a "handycam" - which has more stability... the bigger one typically. The mass tends to "anchor" the cam

The little memory stick cams are a whole different thing, they have very low mass and thus not much inertia at all, so they can be pretty easy to hold stable - you aren't trying to counteract the movements of the camera, only keep it aimed and level, which is oddly easy to do!

It's hard to describe until you play with one of these "ultralights" a bit, but I noticed it fairly shortly after getting the CX7. Of course you throw a WA and the biggest battery on it...
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Old December 10th, 2007, 02:45 PM   #13
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Mark,

This doesn't answer your locking up problem, but you might want to consider this article with Helicopter footage and the rolling shutter problem.

HG10 can turn off the drop sensor.

http://dvxuser.com/jason/CMOS-CCD/

Search on Helicopter and download the video for rolling shutter issue on CMOS cameras.
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