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Old July 24th, 2011, 11:54 PM   #1
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Comparing Camera Systems for Feature Films

I have put together a chart to compare five different camera systems - the F3, the AF100, the 600D, the 5D Mark II and the out-dated JVC 111E. This is strictly keeping in mind the budget conscious low-budget filmmaker who's out to make his/her feature film.

Here's a link to my post: A Comparison of Camera Systems for Feature films | Sareesh Sudhakaran

What I've learnt so far, is that among all the systems, the best is either the Canon 600D or the Panasonic GH2. I would appreciate any feedback or comments regarding this. If I've made an error, please let me know.

Thanks,
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Old July 25th, 2011, 05:21 AM   #2
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Re: Comparing Camera Systems for Feature Films

You haven't included the Sony FS 100, although in the end your options are always limited by the available budget. However, you don't make mention of the downside like the moire found on the Canon.
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Old July 25th, 2011, 06:14 AM   #3
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Re: Comparing Camera Systems for Feature Films

Thanks Brian...I avoided the FS100 since its 'class' was already covered.

Moire is an issue with the Canon cameras, but it can be minimized through clever usage - especially in a feature film.
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Old July 25th, 2011, 06:29 AM   #4
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Re: Comparing Camera Systems for Feature Films

I'd say moire would be even more of a problem on a feature film because detail and art direction is important, as is the camera's resolution.
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Old July 25th, 2011, 10:25 PM   #5
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Re: Comparing Camera Systems for Feature Films

Good art direction, costumes and makeup are essential for feature films. So, if one knows about moire, the designers just have to be careful - the same amount of effort and money is spent in either case.

35mm has limitations too, which the industry has learnt to avoid over the years.
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Old July 26th, 2011, 01:17 AM   #6
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Re: Comparing Camera Systems for Feature Films

It can be a bit difficult to avoid brick walls and roof tiling, especially on a low budget film. 35mm film has some limitations, but moire isn't one of them. Surely, it's a case of if you can afford to use a camera that doesn't have an issue like this why use one that does?
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Old July 26th, 2011, 01:32 AM   #7
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Re: Comparing Camera Systems for Feature Films

You're absolutely right, of course.
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Old July 26th, 2011, 10:22 PM   #8
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Re: Comparing Camera Systems for Feature Films

Quote:
Originally Posted by Sareesh Sudhakaran View Post
What I've learnt so far, is that among all the systems, the best is either the Canon 600D or the Panasonic GH2. I would appreciate any feedback or comments regarding this. If I've made an error, please let me know.

Thanks,
Reading your chart, you seem to conveniently ignore quite a few obvious advantages of the F3 and AF100... like not turning to Jello instantly when moving the camera from side to side. Fader ND in all your different filter thread sizes (you aren't just using 1 zoom to shoot your feature, right?) adds up to a lot more. You've also failed to factor the cost of attaining equivalent high speed focal lengths on the m4/3 cameras, which believe me, is a fatal drawback. Not a lot of 14mm f1.2s out there.

If by "best" you mean "cheapest", then your conclusion seems to be correct.
Out of curiosity, what camera(s) do you own and which of these have you shot with?

PS. I think if you included the FS100, it would come up at the top once you factor the weaknesess of the DSLRs in.
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Old July 26th, 2011, 11:14 PM   #9
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Re: Comparing Camera Systems for Feature Films

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Reading your chart, you seem to conveniently ignore quite a few obvious advantages of the F3 and AF100... like not turning to Jello instantly when moving the camera from side to side.
A DP on a feature film will be aware of this issue and will avoid it. In your opinion, does the F3 or the AF100 totally avoid this effect?

Quote:
Fader ND in all your different filter thread sizes (you aren't just using 1 zoom to shoot your feature, right?) adds up to a lot more.
Lenses are not changed hourly on a feature film. And not all shots on a feature require an ND filter. With proper lighting, it is a redundant tool.

Quote:
You've also failed to factor the cost of attaining equivalent high speed focal lengths on the m4/3 cameras, which believe me, is a fatal drawback. Not a lot of 14mm f1.2s out there.
That's an issue for the AF100, too, isn't it? The good thing about lenses is that they can be rented if required. Nobody said lenses were cheap. In fact, the lens I used in the chart is around $3,000.

Quote:
If by "best" you mean "cheapest", then your conclusion seems to be correct.
I mean best. I don't plan on spending a few extra thousand dollars just for 8-bit 4:2:0 video (which is the baseline for this chart). Considering all the compromises a low budget indie makes on average, the extra gain in 'quality' is hardly discernible under practical conditions (nor by its audience, let me add).

Quote:
Out of curiosity, what camera(s) do you own and which of these have you shot with?
I used to own the JVC111E and now I have a 550D with Nikon primes. But I've also shot with the 5D Mark II, a digibeta and a PD170.

Quote:
PS. I think if you included the FS100, it would come up at the top once you factor the weaknesess of the DSLRs in.
At roughly the same cost as the AF100 and with a 24Mbps MPEG-4 codec, I didn't think it was worthy of a class on its own - it is represented in the chart by the AF100. I've also added the JVC111E to 'represent' small format CCD cameras like the EX3, HVX, etc.

The idea is to show newcomers to the indie world (whose questions pop up here everyday - as mine did when I started), that a 600D Rig will be good enough for their purposes. Now they can concentrate on the storytelling part of filmmaking. DPs can understand the issues with the HDSLR system and work around it. If one has more money to burn, I would recommend they burn it on good art design, costumes and makeup; plus on rehearsals and additional shooting and lighting time.
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Old July 27th, 2011, 01:51 AM   #10
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Re: Comparing Camera Systems for Feature Films

Regarding the "jello effect", if the story or the way the story is told can't avoid bringing about this effect, it's not up to the DP to avoid it, more they are using the wrong tool for the job. The F3 and AF100 may not totally avoid the jello effect, more reduce it to levels that aren't so significant.

Lenses can get changed on every shot on a feature, it really depends if the DP is using a zoom or prime lenses. If you're shooting a feature with DSLR cameras, because ot the limitations of the available stills zooms (not just the aperture). you're more likely to be using prime lenses.

You're ignoring a number of aspects to camera performance, like resolution, dynamic range and sensitivity, whilst being totally focused on 8 bit 4:2:0. You can't ignore the FS100 because you've got the AF100, because in a number of aspects key to a feature film it out performs the AF100. Nor can you lump the 1/2" sensor EX3 with the JVC 111.

The DP should be working towards a higher level than what an audience perceives.
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Old July 27th, 2011, 02:42 AM   #11
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Re: Comparing Camera Systems for Feature Films

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Originally Posted by Brian Drysdale View Post
Regarding the "jello effect", if the story or the way the story is told can't avoid bringing about this effect, it's not up to the DP to avoid it, more they are using the wrong tool for the job. The F3 and AF100 may not totally avoid the jello effect, more reduce it to levels that aren't so significant.
It can be avoided. Filmmakers have worked around camera and technological issues for a 100 years, and this has resulted in aesthetic innovations. In simple words - just tell the story differently.

Quote:
Lenses can get changed on every shot on a feature, it really depends if the DP is using a zoom or prime lenses. If you're shooting a feature with DSLR cameras, because ot the limitations of the available stills zooms (not just the aperture). you're more likely to be using prime lenses.
It's not a perfect world, I agree. How much time does it take to screw on an ND filter? And how many shots will need it?

Quote:
You're ignoring a number of aspects to camera performance, like resolution, dynamic range and sensitivity, whilst being totally focused on 8 bit 4:2:0.
The perceived resolution of all the systems I have compared should be about equal on the silver screen.

Dynamic range is only an issue for those unprepared or who are shooting under tough conditions. A little more dynamic range for the folks who do so are not going to make their footage any better. It is far more productive to control DR with lighting, design and planning.

Quote:
You can't ignore the FS100 because you've got the AF100, because in a number of aspects key to a feature film it out performs the AF100. Nor can you lump the 1/2" sensor EX3 with the JVC 111.
Obviously each system is different, but these differences were irrelevant to the comparisons or the point I was making.

Quote:
The DP should be working towards a higher level than what an audience perceives.
I would love to see 'higher level' filmmaking on a feature that has a budget of less than $100,000. I can't think of any, really. Even if there were, it would be a less than a handful.

Most new filmmakers focus on the wrong things, unfortunately. Please don't consider this chart to be for professional use. It isn't.
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Old July 27th, 2011, 03:01 AM   #12
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Re: Comparing Camera Systems for Feature Films

Err... so you tell the director to tell the story differently?

I think you're ignoring many of the decisions that DPs have to make and reducing it to just using the cost factor, but bear in mind on a larger screen the flaws tend to become more noticeable. In the end, by using a better dynamic range and sensitivity, you could reduce your lighting costs .

I think there are many DP who do amazing thing on a very low budget. Although, by the time you kit up a DSLR for a feature, the costs aren't that far away from an AF100 or FS100 and you don't have the disadvantages of the DSLR. If you can't afford either of these cameras, that another matter, but you don't need charts to justify your choice, you really don't have any other option.
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Old July 27th, 2011, 03:07 AM   #13
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Re: Comparing Camera Systems for Feature Films

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Originally Posted by Sareesh Sudhakaran View Post
Obviously each system is different, but these differences were irrelevant to the comparisons or the point I was making.
I have no axe to grind here as I use both 550D and real camcorders, but it does seem that the comparison has been prepared to justify an existing point of view rather than analyse the differences between major camera options. As can be seen from the responses above, available equipment has been excluded and issues with the kit that was included have been glossed over.

Steve
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Old July 27th, 2011, 03:16 AM   #14
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Re: Comparing Camera Systems for Feature Films

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Err... so you tell the director to tell the story differently?
In my case, I am the director. :) If it is critically important to shoot in jelly-cam mode, then I don't see any better format than 16mm film (assuming 35mm film is out of budget). I don't see the F3 successfully shooting the Blair Witch Project either. Maybe a 3-CCD camera, but definitely not a CMOS.

Quote:
I think you're ignoring many of the decisions that DPs have to make and reducing it to just using the cost factor, but bear in mind on a larger screen the flaws tend to become more noticeable. In the end, by using a better dynamic range and sensitivity, you could reduce your lighting costs .
Dynamic range is important. However, the differences in DR comparing an HDSLR to the F3 isn't that great to cover up bad lighting. Just experience speaking. One can screw up even an 18-stop DR with a poorly planned and executed shot.
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Old July 27th, 2011, 03:27 AM   #15
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Re: Comparing Camera Systems for Feature Films

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Originally Posted by Steve Game View Post
I have no axe to grind here as I use both 550D and real camcorders, but it does seem that the comparison has been prepared to justify an existing point of view rather than analyse the differences between major camera options. As can be seen from the responses above, available equipment has been excluded and issues with the kit that was included have been glossed over.

Steve
Actually Steve, I started out by favoring the AF100 and the FS100, believe it or not! My friend is planning on investing in the AF100 for professional video use (not features), and I have been following this system for a couple of months now. I used the JVC111E to shoot my first feature. I bought my 550D for photography.

I realized, for the low budget filmmaker, it wouldn't help at all. Every other camera in the list offers a very slight improvement in the video signal at a disproportionate cost increase.

Even the AF100, the FS100 or the F3 are nowhere near the capabilities of a Red Epic, an Alexa or the Cinealta. They have weaknesses just like every other system. In the case of HDSLRs, the weaknesses are not crippling. It's actually good enough for most independent films.
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