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Old March 23rd, 2006, 07:24 PM   #1
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Another HD or DV dilemma...

Sorry in advance for the long post…

I’ve been making action sports videos (rollerblading) for quite some time now, but I know very little about the potential and limitations of the equipment I use. And this needs to change for my next project.

I am in need of a new camera to shoot our upcoming video and am looking to invest a good chunk of change (in my opinion) for a good camera. However, my last attempt to upgrade my video equipment had less than desirable results. Three years ago I bought a Canon XL-1s to act as the main camera over our very dependable GL-1. I mainly did this because I was told the XL-1s had better resolution and was better for night-shooting. Sounded good to me. But with no research on my part to support those claims or their relevance to what I shoot, it may be no surprise that I came to hate the more-expensive XL-1s. Its better resolution wasn’t apparent to me, and all of our night shots came out blurry due to the XL-1s constantly adjusting the focus, despite the fact we set it to manual -- this was never a problem with the GL-1. Either the XL-1s was not all it was cracked up to be, or it wasn’t right for our project…or I didn’t know how to use it properly.

For our last video we dumped the XL-1s and shot everything on the GL and a Sony VX2000. I was very happy with the VX for action shots and would continue to use it if it weren’t for two things: 1) The last video included skits that were dialogue intensive and shot on a tripod with independent mics. I felt that the skits were planned and executed very well, but the final product looked too…well, too DV. This new video will include even more skits/scenes and I don’t want to make the same mistake. I want it to do everything I can to make it feel more “real” and less “camcorder”. 2) I’ve been told that there are now affordable HD cameras that can help me in my pursuit.

My question is: For a video that will mix skating shots with dialogue scenes (where we have a VX and GL for the skating), what is the right camera for the acted scenes? The video will be shown at at least one film festival this fall and will be sold on DVD afterward. I edit on FCP HD. My budget for my new camera is around 5k.

Most cinematographers I know have recommended that I get the Sony HDR-FX1. However, others have said that it isn’t worth getting because it’s not true HD. Still others have said that the XL-1s will produce the exact same results as an FX1 when viewed on a typical TV (where the video will mainly be viewed) and that since I didn't like that I’ll just be wasting my money. And then the reading I have done on this site suggest that there are cheaper HD cameras or even new DV cameras like the Sony HVR-A1U that will give me good results. (With these, I would also be able to afford to buy some lenses too.)

I’ve searched this site, and read some posts, but haven’t found anything very specific to my application.
http://www.dvinfo.net/conf/showthread.php?t=63254
http://www.dvinfo.net/conf/showthread.php?t=63170
http://www.dvinfo.net/conf/showthrea...ghlight=camera (this one was just plain confusing)

I’ve also read a bit about RED (which sounds great), but I need to buy a camera some time in April so I am in need of something that is available currently (or shortly). If anyone has any words of wisdom before I spend all of my cash, it would be greatly appreciated. Thanks.
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Old March 23rd, 2006, 10:46 PM   #2
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FX1 is a great camera that shoots in native HDV, and 16:9. If you want a DV project, you can shoot in 16:9 DV, or shoot in HDV and down convert to DV, either out of camera, or in post. Your output from HDV to DV in the downconvert will be superior to any regular DV you've done. A1U also does HDV, but low light is not as good as FX1, which itself is not as good as VX2000 you used. Whoever told you that it isn't real HD does not know the definition of what HD is. For $ 3K at BH you are getting a fine HDV shooting camera. The rest- including making the tape look like film, depends on your shooting skills, and post editing !! For 5K budget, you can go to Z1 which gives you a lot more professional features--- but at that price point you have some other choices too--
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Old March 24th, 2006, 12:56 AM   #3
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The Canon XL series are very hard to use, they are the best in the class but lack the training wheels many other camera have. The Sony's are great in low light and fairly easy to use, however, the HDV codec adds some knowhow. You need to know how to tweak the settings to make the camera perform better in certain situations.

The Sony PDX10 is a cheap true 16:9 camera but it is SD. You might be able to use it as a "b" cam to the FX1.


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Old March 24th, 2006, 04:38 AM   #4
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Point 1: Whoever told you that the FX1 (HDV) is not real HD is a ninny and doesnt know his tripod to a man with a walking stick.

Its only a format, and the end product is an image that fits under the HD standards. (I'm trying not to be accurate here.... Just trying to use laymans techno babble.... I think I shouldnt be using the words format and standards, as they can be a little interpretive.)

Point 2, The A1, and the FX1 will give you the same pictures. But on several points of differences.
- The A1 is cheaper and has some "pro options" and is considered a pro camera
- The FX1 is bulky, and big, and oozes cool - Best on a tripod and can be held steady with both hands without fear of heavy shake
- The A1 is small and camcorderish, but is more portable. You Must use a tripod for best results when setting up a shoot. But its great as a run-and-gun camrea.
- A1 has poor(er) low light capabilities than the FX1
- Both cams dont do that great in Low light. (About 5 to 7 lux is thier minimum until you start to see distortion - Sometimes uppping the gain just makes more distortion.) Its not bad, but its not good either. Use the VX and the GL1 for the night shoots.
- Unless you have a video mic, or an XLR adaptor for the FX1, the A1 will outperform the FX1 due to its standard XLR shorgun mic with XLR adaptor provided.
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Old March 24th, 2006, 01:16 PM   #5
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Now this is the type of info I needed...thanks so much.

So, it seems that things have been narrowed down to the FX1 and A1. Main differences (for me) being:
-Price -- advantage A1
-Size/bulk -- advantage A1
-Shooting in low light -- advantage FX1
-Extra features -- advantage FX1

I won't necessarily need the shotgun mic on the A1 because I plan to purchase a separate shotgun with a wind cover for our outdoor shoots. That said, it still looks like the A1 has everything I need (at a better cost).

However, in looking at lens options, it seems the FX1 just has more. I'd like a camera with the potential for as wide an angle as possible (.3x). Century offers a .3x for the FX1, but it doesn't seem like people are all that happy with it...and I don't want any vignetted shots in the video. The widest lens I found for the A1 was a .7x. However, once I were to zoom in on the FX1's .3x I might be at .7x anyway. Century also makes a .6x for the FX1 -- not sure if it has any vignetting.

For the mention of the Z1, I did a little reading and it looks like peoples main concern in the FX1 vs. Z1 argument is the FX1's lack of "black stretch". I looked for a FAQ on here and even Googled "black stretch", but all I came up with were links to lady's fashion boots. Would someone be able to give me a quick schooling?

Thanks.
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Old March 24th, 2006, 01:20 PM   #6
 
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Blackstretch shifts the gamma in the low ranges, allowing you to pull greater detail in most/some situations. Additionally, it provides the appearance of less noise due to the combination of blacks.

Ihave a .7 from 16x9inc on my Z1, love it. No barrel distortion, vignetting is minimal at widest point.
I have a .7 for the A1 as well, from Century. It distorts a tad at the widest point. I have a noname that I found at FarrWest camera supply that is the correct thread/size, and says "High Definition" on it. It looks like the ones you see on Ebay. It's better than the Century, but not as good as I'd like. But heck, it's a cheap cam, no one is gonna make a 700.00 WA for a 1900,00 cam.
Bear in mind that the A1 is a single chip CMOS cam, and the Z1 is a 3 chip CCD cam. Each has its own advantages, but if the option and budget is there...no question. Z1
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Old March 24th, 2006, 04:43 PM   #7
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Welcome to DVinfo Shane. See my thread about the Century .6x here:

http://www.dvinfo.net/conf/showthread.php?t=58525

There isn't any noticeable vignetting but it isn't fully zoom-thru. There's pretty pronounced barrell distortion, so it might not be good for some things. But it is capable of some nice scenic shots outdoors: http://forums.njpinebarrens.com/gall...706&fullsize=1
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Old March 24th, 2006, 05:09 PM   #8
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Here's a thread that includes a post with some framegrabs from a Raynox 0.3X for the A1:

http://www.dvinfo.net/conf/showthrea...hlight=century
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Old March 25th, 2006, 12:02 PM   #9
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Thanks to everyone for the warm welcome and all the advice. It has been really helpful. Based on the advice and the reading I've done, I've decided to go FX1 and am going to start quoting prices now.

Also, thanks to everyone for the lens knowledge and all of the links. I've replied to some of the separate threads so that things stay on topic. One thing that I found, however, regarding .3x for the FX1, is that the Raynox doesn't have vignetting like the Century: http://www.raynox.co.jp/english/video/hdrfx1/index.htm
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Old March 25th, 2006, 12:23 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Shane Coburn
with no research on my part to support those claims or their relevance to what I shoot, it may be no surprise that I came to hate the more-expensive XL-1s. Its better resolution wasn’t apparent to me, and all of our night shots came out blurry due to the XL-1s constantly adjusting the focus, despite the fact we set it to manual -- this was never a problem with the GL-1.
the xl1s does *not* constantly adjust the focus when it's set in manual mode... whatever you experienced was most likely the result of operator error, although things like depth of field can be an issue.

in light of that, throwing a bunch of money at new hdv gear could bring some disappointments as well... i would suggest that you go back to square one and figure out why your footage doesn't look the way that you want it to... things like lighting can make a huge difference in how professional it looks.

you can always rent hdv cameras for comparison purposes, it would be worth it to see how well they work for night shots.

as an aside, skating footage can be re-purposed for the web, i think that there are some good opportunities for monitizing your content there, with the video gear that you already have.
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Old March 25th, 2006, 04:17 PM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Shane Coburn
Thanks to everyone for the warm welcome and all the advice. It has been really helpful. Based on the advice and the reading I've done, I've decided to go FX1 and am going to start quoting prices now.

Also, thanks to everyone for the lens knowledge and all of the links. I've replied to some of the separate threads so that things stay on topic. One thing that I found, however, regarding .3x for the FX1, is that the Raynox doesn't have vignetting like the Century: http://www.raynox.co.jp/english/video/hdrfx1/index.htm

Make sure to use a reputable dealer like BH. You will see some cheaper quotes, but you may not end up with the same thing. Some low priced dealers will sell you the camera, but then tack on the accessories that come in box as extras. I paid around $3K at BH about 5 months ago for the FX1.
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Old March 25th, 2006, 04:40 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dan Euritt
the xl1s does *not* constantly adjust the focus when it's set in manual mode... whatever you experienced was most likely the result of operator error, although things like depth of field can be an issue.
I know it's not suppose to, but it did. It was really only an issue at night or when we had the Century .3x on. Switching from auto to manual was the same process on the GL as on the XL, but for whatever reason the XL would still try to adjust itself constantly. We tried everything and nothing detered it. I never did figure out why...maybe because it was an XL1S and it was more sensitive to the night shoots? I don't know...it still doesn't make sense to me. I traded the XL and the lenses to our tradeshow guy for a booth he built for us. He films daytime architecture and nature, mainly with a telephoto, and hasn't seemed to have any issues.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Dan Euritt
as an aside, skating footage can be re-purposed for the web, i think that there are some good opportunities for monitizing your content there, with the video gear that you already have.
Actually, the FX1 will be primarily used for the skits in the video. The skits in our last video lacked image quality and I want to improve upon that for this project. The skating stuff came out good, and we'll use a GL1, VX2000, and one of our rider's GL2 for most of the action.

We've done several videos before and expect to distribute 5-8k DVDs to our customers. Those number could increase if we are successful at a film festival. We'll just be using the web for our trailers, marketing, and to promote the music artists in the video, as the main purpsoe of the video is to get it in skaters hands as a complete package (it'll be 45-60 min.).
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Old March 25th, 2006, 04:53 PM   #13
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Quote:
the xl1s does *not* constantly adjust the focus when it's set in manual mode
Not sure about the XL1s, but I've certainly seen it happen on the original XL1. Camera set up on a tripod, no-one even near it, watching the footage on a monitor while people were setting up the lights, and every so often it wandered out of focus. Pretty much every XL1 owner I knew complained about it at some point.
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Old March 25th, 2006, 05:03 PM   #14
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The XL focus hunt is operator error. If you switch the lens to manual focus but leave the camera in "AUTO" mode, the camera will still auto-focus.



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Old March 25th, 2006, 05:04 PM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Chris Barcellos
Make sure to use a reputable dealer like BH. You will see some cheaper quotes, but you may not end up with the same thing. Some low priced dealers will sell you the camera, but then tack on the accessories that come in box as extras. I paid around $3K at BH about 5 months ago for the FX1.
I was planning on BH, actually. I've seen the FX1 as low as $2500 on the web, but I definitely want to be dealing with an authorized dealer who can answer questions and isn't going to out of business in three months. I also have to buy some other equipment (lenses, mics, etc.), so maybe they'll even be able to swing me a package deal of some kind.
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