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General HD (720 / 1080) Acquisition
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Old October 3rd, 2006, 06:18 PM   #1
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Hello new to the forum and the world of HDV


I've finally deciding to seek the help of the many resourful people of this forum. I've been reading you guys for a while, but never posted.

I used to have PD 150, I shot a few shorts, entered festivals, a lot of fun.
I'm not a pro, believe it or not I've edited all my short on a 2001 Imac3 with Imovie.

I'm ready to move up. Well, I'm ready because somebody dropped my PD in a lake last weekend and it' s gone, for ever.

It's fine. I've been proscratinating about moving up to HDV. Now, I have to. Tha'd be crazy to buy a SD cam these days, right?

But still, I'm not ready to spend $ 4000+ dollars for a cam. It's not justified, I don't make a living with video, it's just a hobby.

So even though I'd love to have a A1 or a V1, I think I should be reasonable and get a HVR-A1U. I know, it's not that great, but I've read good review about it. The quality should be higher than my defunct PD150, right?

I'm aware of the shortcomings of the cam. Bottom loading and not good in low light. But I will always work in controlled lighting so I don't care about about lack of ability in low light. As for bottom loading, I used to shoot with a 16mm and loading those Aaton was not that quick, not for me. So It's Ok for me to stop and remove the cam from his tripod.

so besides these two issues, what is wrong with that cam?
Why shouldn't I shoot shorts and small docs with it?
Should I really use plastic and get an A1 or a V1? As a non pro only interested in submitting shorts to festivals, should I make the big jump to a 4000 bucks cam?

Also, I've been editing with Imovie, please, don't laugh. I'm use both Macs and PC at work, so no big deal. What do you recommend for editing my HDV footage?

Thanks so much
Andrea Miller is offline   Reply With Quote
Old October 3rd, 2006, 07:03 PM   #2
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I had been using Sony PD 170s until I decided to buy a Sony A1 as an inexpensive way to explore the HDV format. I was frankly amazed at the image quality. It was hard to believe that such a rich, detailed image could come out of such a tiny camera. I did one complete project (40 min. Italian travel doc.) using only the A1. It totally sold me on HDV, but also exposed some of the limitations of the A1. I now use the Z1 as the main cam, and the A1 as the second cam. Some limitations I observed:
1) It is basically a consumer cam layout, with an XLR audio section. Most of the settings are menu driven, rather than accessed by on camera controls.
2) Viewfinder and LCD are pretty marginal for fine tuning image, exposure, and focus settings.
3) Manual focus ring is difficult to use effectively.
4) Low light/available light performance is poor (7 lux min for A1 vs. 3 lux for Z1)
5) Dynamic range seems somewhat less than 1/3" 3 chip cams
However, in the presence of good balanced light, it does make beautiful images. I certainly found the A1 to be a very satisfactory intro to HDV. Also, the camera is very small. It makes for a perfect travel cam.
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Old October 3rd, 2006, 07:36 PM   #3
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Welcome to DVinfo Andrea!

The A1 seems to have a loyal following, so I think you can take it seriously. One of the features that I dislike is the bottom tape loading which requires removal from a tripod, but that may not be an issue for you.

An FX-1 might be worth considering as you would get better manual controls. I was really impressed with the V1 when I saw it at Sony's event; if you can afford it I'm sure you would be happy. I have a Z1 and have been pleased with it as well.

How long do you plan to keep this camera before upgrading again? Look at the cost divided by that number of years when you compare cameras. It can be frustrating to wish you had spent a little more money a year from now... four years ago I got a VX-2000 and always wished I have spent the extra money on a PD-150 (although in my case it really wasn't an issue because there were long waiting lists to get a PD-150 back then and I couldn't wait that long).

I think you have to establish what the absolute top price is which you can afford for starters. Then evaluate the different choices with that number in mind. You will then be able to play "what if" and look at different scenarios of buying a less expensive camera and putting some money into a computer upgrade, etc.

Let us know what you decide!
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Old October 3rd, 2006, 08:57 PM   #4
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Hey Andrea. . . .

I think that's a wise choice for your situation. There's absolutely nothing wrong with your choice of video and editing gear. Whatever suffices for the given situation will do. In purchasing a camcorder, you should only take into account that which you need (features, functions, etc. that best suit your conditions). There's no need to buy a yacht if you're going fishing in a pond. And if your editing style is basic, then any sort of NLE system will do as well; especially since this sounds like a hobby and not a profession.

In deciding what to get, you just have to ask yourself, "What do I REALLY need?" Good luck. . . .

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Old October 4th, 2006, 06:55 AM   #5
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thank you

thanks all of you for your answers.

Yes, I agree, why buy a toy that I don't need. On the other end, I'm as somebody suggested, I might regret a lesser cam.

By the way, I've read a lot about the V1, that's all I can do, also about the XH-A1 and I don't understand why they're cheaper than the Z1? If the V1 is supposed to be maybe the best sub $6000 HDV cam, how come it's cheaper than the HVX form Panasonic and the Z1 from Sony.

I'm hesitating between Vegas 7 and Final Cut Pro.
I've "heard" or maybe "read" that Vegas is the only NLE that doesn't use native editing to handle HDV and as a result it's not as good as Premiere, Avid, or FCP, is that right?

I guess, if I edit HDV I'll also have to buy a HDV screen compatible, right? at least 1920 X 1080? Can I edit HDV with a smaller screen? I'm going to miss a lot, correct/
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Old October 4th, 2006, 07:35 AM   #6
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I would go with Premiere Pro, and add Cineform Aspect HD to make it realtime. There is no harm in using an intermediate codec like Cineform to avoid editing native M2T. It can be a serious advantage. So don't let that stop you. Even if you choose Vegas.
Steven Gotz
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Old October 4th, 2006, 05:52 PM   #7
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I would second Steven's suggestions. I've been very happy with the Adobe software and Cineform Aspect for HDV editing.
I would also like to point out that it is not necessary to upgrade everything at once. You can shoot HDV with the Sony A1, use the in-camera downconvert function to capture very, very nice looking 16:9 standard def DV to your editing system, and edit as you have been doing in the past. At some later date, you can always return to that project, recapture as HDV, and recreate the production in Hi Def. By acquiring in HDV, you will be "future proofed".
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Old October 4th, 2006, 08:33 PM   #8
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anyone who laughs at iMovie has not used iMovie...it's remarkably powerful. i primarily use FCP for my business but often use iMovie as well for its efficiencies. plus there's a plethora of plug-ins (try saying that ten times real fast....) which narrow the gap between these programs. if you're doing a project that doesn't require compositing, then the workflow is much faster. and no one can tell the difference once you've delivered the final products....that's a bit of snobbery i've never understood.

one thing, the sound delivery is decidedly better in FCP....

anyway, welcome to dvinfo. the A1 sounds like a really good choice for what you're describing.
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Old October 5th, 2006, 08:21 PM   #9
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My only thought is, if you're having a hard time choosing between Final Cut Pro, Vegas or Premiere then get one of the new Macintoshes. You can boot them into either MacOS X or Windows XP and they're fast in both environments. This will give you the best of both worlds.

I was kind of surprised today to read an article in the business journal Barrons which reports that Apple now has 12% of the laptop market. Multi-platform capability has evidently been a big factor in Apple's growth.

Recently I met someone who is involved with Vegas software development and marketing. I told him I'd heard great things about their program, but I was a "Mac Guy" and had never tried it myself. He looked a little embarassed and confided that he just bought a MacBook Pro and is running Vegas on it :-)
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Old October 5th, 2006, 08:56 PM   #10
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To answer your question about why is the upcoming V1 cheaper than the Z1. It's because it has smaller chips--1/4" chips as opposed to 1/3" chips. And it has a smaller diameter lens, presumably cheaper too. The bigger the chips and the bigger the glass, the bigger the cost.

Sony seems to have used their technological savvy with this upcoming camera to make us start to change our minds about 1/4" chips. After all, it wasn't that many years ago that we said 1/3" chips weren't good enough, yet today a camera like the Z1 can look as good or even better, in most situations, as a camera like the DSR500/570, which with lens costs 5 or 6 times as much. Maybe these 1/4" CMOS chips are going the be the 1/3" chips of the near future. Or not.

But probably the real reason the V1 is going to be cheaper is that Sony wants to take a shot at Canon. And the reason the Canon A1 is cheaper is because Canon probably wanted to take a shot at the Z1. Who knows what goes through the minds of the marketing geeks.

I've seen some pretty good footage out of the Sony A1U, but as you've probably noticed, it is just a touch consumery--that touch screen menu stuff is something I don't like. On the positive side, it's relatively cheap and for that price a person can usually learn to live with some added limitations. There is, by the way, a place that sells a little L-shaped offset bracket for the A1U so you can reload it without taking it off the tripod. Dougleas Spotted Eagle, on here, pointed it out some time ago. It's about 50 bucks or less, as I recall.

Here's what I think I would do: If I could pay cash for the A1 and liked it, I would probably get it. But if I had to use the plastic and string it out, I'd probably say, what the hell, I'm in debt anyway, might as well go all the way and get the Canon A1 or Sony V1--it's the American way, stay in debt till you die.

I like the Canon A1 because it has 1/3" chips, it does 24F (not P but close enough to give you "real" 24 frames if you want), it has a nice wide angle lens, about 32.5mm in "real" lens terms. It could also be considered a second generation camera, since the electroguts are the same as the XL-H1, and that's nice. I believe the V1's lens only zooms back to about a 38mm (again, 35mm lens terms). To me that's a significant difference, and I'd probably have to buy the wide angle adapter if I went with a V1, which is another 500 bucks and might push me back to the Canon.

I like the V1 because it does 24P and should be (emphasis on "should") be compatible with Sony's new line of relatively cheap HDV decks, which I already know will NOT play back Canon 24F and JVC 24P, but one would think they would play back Sony 24P, hopefully. I like the resolution of this camera and the advertised dynamic range. I do not particularly like the 1/4" chips, even though they are supposed to be way cool. With the Canon's 1/3" chips, it will give you better depth of field control, if that's a big deal for you. It is for most people.

What I think is amazing about both of these cameras, and the A1U for that matter, is that for under $4,000 you can shoot movies that will look better than those shot with $40,000 cameras not all that long ago. I don't think you can go wrong with any of them. Although I haven't seen either the Canon A1 or the Sony V1 in the flesh, I haven't found anything about either of them to turn things into a deal killer.

About editing, I can recommend FCP. I edited with Avid for over 10 years, but we switched both our suites to FCP early this year (there are certain things about its data management that work much better for us than Xpress Pro). It was a painful conversion, in terms of the learning curve, but now I really like it. And, it's format/resolution agnostic. Today, for example, I've been editing high resolution Animation and Graphics sequences with ease. You can do HDV, DVCPRO50, whatever. The latest upgrade allows you to use the Canon 24F and JVC24P footage, and no doubt there'll be yet another upgrade to use Sony's V1 24p by the time the camera is out. My suggestion if you should go with FCP is get the biggest Mac you can afford, with more processor power and more memory and more storage and a better video card than you think you need. And, be sure to buy the extended warranty Applecare package--these computers are like BMWs. Well, that's not a good analogy, they don't require maintenance all the time; but we've had hardware issues with 2 out of 3 G5s and 2 G4s. Once they were fixed (at no cost thanks to the warranty) they worked totally solid and even the oldest G4 is still going strong.
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Old October 6th, 2006, 09:15 AM   #11
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Thanks so much, Boyd and Bill

Yes, I'm leaning toward FCP. I've just realized that if one day I want to use Vegas, I can still use it with a mac, so getting a mac will allow me to have both.

I've come to like the Vegas trial version I have, but so many people told me that FCP is a tad better. Now, am I going to use that tad?

About the mac, should I get the Imac24" or a mac pro? Of course the mac pro is better, but realize one thing: I'm not a professional, I'm not going to make a living editing, ever, well I think, so maybe the Mac Pro is a nice toy that I don't need? When I go on Apple site, it's clear to me that the Imac 24" should do the job? It will allow me to connect an external HD to store footage, it can run FCP, I can upgrade to a "better graphic card" when I configure it, so why go with the Pro?

As far as the cam, yes, those z1, v1 and HD 110 are really nice, but not in my price range, I think it's becoming more and more clear. I'm going Mac with a HRV-A1U.
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Old October 6th, 2006, 09:56 AM   #12
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I don't see why the iMac wouldn't work, but it would be a good idea to check that out with more knowledgeable people. I actually put FCP on my 12" iBook, the older first generation white one, so I could work on learning it at home. It worked fine, although I didn't load any HDV footage. I agree that there's no reason to spend huge amounts of money if you're not going to use the gear professionally ("professionally" here meaning to make money).

There are also some advantages to having a smaller camera like the A1U. I've borrowed friends' smaller cameras many times for guerrilla video shoots. For example, at our art gallery here, if you walk around the grounds with a professional camera, the goonsquad will be on you in less than 2 minutes (I've actually run in, got a shot in 2 minutes and got out as they were headed toward me). Last time I needed a shot of an actor going up the museum steps, I borrowed a PD150, took the mic and the lens hood off, and managed to get 3 long takes before they noticed me. A small camera like the A1U that produces excellent qualilty would be a good thing. I read one report about a guy getting one as a second camera but after learning all its intricacies, started using it as his main camera.
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