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Old October 2nd, 2008, 01:00 AM   #1
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Advice on gear for solo travel doc around SE Asia

Hi Everyone,

Long time reader, first time poster!

I've been searching the forums and reading all I can but due to the sheer volume of information and the rate at which technology changes I'm still a bit lost.. Let me explain a bit and hopefully a kind soul can push me in the right direction!

I'm heading to South East Asia for a few months before going on to the UK and thought this would be the perfect opportunity to get some hands on experience/practice at making documentaries at the same time.

Although I've gone back-packing before but this will be my first time solo, I've done a short-film course and a couple of short films, very little use of the camera though and I will be doing a short course in documentary making before I leave.

I'll be travelling to Thailand, Cambodia and Laos so obviously will be heading to some rural areas and at this stage I just plan on making some-what fluff piece travel docs on standard holiday stuff - Angkor Wat etc. - until I get a little more confidence or I find a story to follow (I'm not even sure I'm cut out for this yet!).

The footage is destined for the web but I would like it to be good enough to use later and I'd also like to get a bit of use out of the gear once I get to the UK, so I guess semi-professional would be the aim but not necessarily HD.

As I don't require HD and my budget is -very- low I've been looking for a 3ccd SD cam and I've sort of committed myself to a second hand XM2 that comes with an on camera light (VL-10Li), wide-angle lens and pelican hard case for AU$1900 (I plan to sell the hard case to recoup about $100) but if everyone thinks that's a bad choice I can still back out.

My priorities are:
1. Light and Compact
2. Bare essentials
3. Decent Sound - I was thinking a shotgun and wireless lav but I don't think the budget will stretch.
4. Ability to shoot indoors and outside (within reason)

I think my requirements come closest to those described in this thread...

http://www.dvinfo.net/conf/home-away...c-project.html

However I can only afford maybe AU$200 for the tripod and AU$200 for the sound - I assume that means no wireless lav.
I might be able to scrounge a little more money but I'm way over budget as it is.

Sorry for such a long post, any advice would be -really- appreciated, I'm beginning to freak out a bit that I may have bitten off more than I can chew here!

Thanks in advance for any and all help!

Gavin
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Old October 2nd, 2008, 01:04 PM   #2
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The XM2 package is a nice deal. If you really want a cheap lavalier, the Audio Technica ATR35s is as cheap as they get, you get what you pay for, but it does work.

Personally, I'd go with an HV30. I think you're more likely to use it because of it's size. Plus it will force you to get creative in the field and also leave you some extra money in the bank, that's always a good recipe for making films.
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Old October 2nd, 2008, 08:00 PM   #3
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Hi Gavin..........

I concur with Michael.

A HV20 or 30 is a much handier cam for the circumstances, takes great video and excellent stills (tho' low light ain't all that flash, but watchable).

Add the Canon WD73 (er, I think) Wide Angle and you have an even better package (watch out for the barrel distortion tho').

Much as it goes against the grain, I'd recomend going for the cheapest, lightest tripod you can find, or even settling for a monopod and a bean bag or bolt on camera support thingy. Judicious use of the HVx0 remote will save you shaking the support(s).

Yep, sound is really important. Throw most of your remaining budget at that rather than lights/ supports.

With such a small budget it's difficult to know what to suggest - consider the HVx0 option and let us know what's left of the budget if you decide to go that route.

CS
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Old October 2nd, 2008, 09:06 PM   #4
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Thanks for the responses... I did give the HV30 a passing glance because of it's size but dismissed it due to it being single chip, even though it is HD.

Will the single chip HV30 get better quality footage compared to the XM2's 3ccd?
Considering I'm not aiming for HD Televisions I assumed I would get better footage from the XM2.

Also, I forgot to write in my first post that I plan on editing the footage on the road - I can't believe I left such an important point out! - so I'm aiming at getting a laptop with something like a T8300 or T9300 Core 2 Duo processor and 2-4gb of RAM.. I've read on the forum that to edit HD a quad-core desktop is necessary, is this really the case, if I can't edit HD on a laptop it makes the decision quite simple!

I think the Wide Angle is the Canon WD-H43? I just did a quick search and the seems to be it, it's about AU$200, if I were to get that and an on camera light (how important is this? Considering I will be shooting indoors and possibly at night.) I'd be saving $200-300 which would allow for better sound and possibly a better tripod but I don't mind squeezing that much extra out of my finances if it means I'll get a better picture.

Forgetting the strict budget for the moment, lets just assume I have a little to play with and that cost isn't so tight that I need to scrimp on everything. - I can probably cut costs in other place to make up a difference of $500 or so.. maybe even a little more.

I'm looking at spending $200 or less on a shotgun mic, and maybe another $100 for a lav mic if it's worth it.

What I'm most concerned about is that everything is going to turn out looking like a glorified home-video. I'd rather spend the extra to give me the edge on that than scrimp and end up with another tourist video.
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Old October 2nd, 2008, 09:37 PM   #5
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Hi............

Starting from the top:-

It requires no more grunt to edit HD over SD, the bandwidth is pretty much the same. Once edited just O/P it as SD and you have your SD video. SD from HD is voted, by a large margin, better than SD from an SD source.

HD can be edited on a single core machine. Dual core is better, quad would be nice but certainly not necessary unless you're shooting "War & Peace" every week.

The three chips and big lens of the XM2 give it a light advantage over the HV's, tho' at the cost of sheer size and weight.

The HV wide (whatever it's called - I really should know, I've got one!) plus a light would indeed be a good setup.

I suppose the reason I'm back pedaling on the amount of gear is because I've hauled a shed load of kit all over South East Asia, and it weren't fun.

Trying to keep tabs on a pack AND your gear is a nightmare if going solo, and is not to be dismissed easily.

I can understand your concerns re "looking like a glorified home video", but the difference is how you shoot it, not what you shoot it with.

The best "Pro" camera on the planet takes incredibly "home video" stuff in the hands of an amateur, a "Pro" can make a blockbuster with a box brownie.

Remember too, most travel docs would be shot by a team of at least three: Presenter, camera & sound, and their equipment budget would most likely be 30 times yours.

You're two bodies and a hundred grand short, which makes it that much harder again.

I would get whatever your basic system is going to be and try making a couple of docs at home, you may find you cannot get the production values you want within either your budget or carrying ability - this last must be given serious thought.


CS
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Old October 2nd, 2008, 10:41 PM   #6
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get the HV20 or 30, a wireless mic set-up with a buttplug (be sure that you get the wireless setup that doesn't interfere with any local frequencies) -- that way you can do either lav interviews or use a shotgun for general ambient sound. get one of each of these:

AKG | 231/1 Miniature Tripod Microphone Desk Stand | KM231/1

spring clip mic holder avmicc2 | B&H Photo Video

with the shotgun plugged into a wireless setup, you'll be able to place the mic anywhere.

get an on-camera light, the litepanels micro is perfect for this camera, single-chip cameras are great by day, but it doesn't take much loss of light to introduce noise, this will be a must for after dusk and beyond.

and get one of these, so you can mount the light and the receiver on the shoe at the same time: Rycote | 037701 Hot Shoe Extension/Extender (20 cm) | 037701

and a bogen 560B monopod or light tripod of your choice...

bring a lot of AA batts!

and that's about as light as you can get, for the best image quality you can get.

add a Beachtek audio breakout box and an XLR cable, if you want to add a wired setup as a backup.

All of this fits in a fairly light daypack....

my super-light travel set-up! goes anywhere....
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Old October 3rd, 2008, 01:33 AM   #7
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You are all awesome!

Well, since the resounding opinion is to go for the HV30, I have cancelled the XM2 purchase and will be buying the HV30 over the next few days.. after reviewing the weight and size of each I'm pretty happy you all convinced me to go for the HV30 as it's half the length and half the weight of the XM2.

Quote:
HD can be edited on a single core machine. Dual core is better, quad would be nice but certainly not necessary unless you're shooting "War & Peace" every week.
This eases my concerns quite a bit Chris thanks!

Quote:
"You're two bodies and a hundred grand short, which makes it that much harder again.

I would get whatever your basic system is going to be and try making a couple of docs at home, you may find you cannot get the production values you want within either your budget or carrying ability - this last must be given serious thought.
Hehe, I don't expect to get National Geographic channel quality but I would like to get something that looks reasonable!
If I get better equipment it might make up for the lack of crew and experience just enough; it's the same mindset that made them make the new 'Journey to the Centre of the Earth' in 3D, with everything popping out of the screen at the audience the makers hope no-one will notice how bad the film really is!

Thanks for the equipment advice Meryem, the Litepanels Micro is a bit expensive for my budget but does look tempting and has been added to the list just in case I can scrounge up the cash!

With the lower cost of the camera I can probably spend a little more on the mics, can anyone recommend a good shotgun mic for AU$200-300 or a lav setup for around the same price - can I get a wireless setup for this much?

I've never used a monopod but read that it's harder to get a good pan due to the lack of stability, any thoughts on this?

Thanks again guys, I'm much closer to locking the equipment down and my stress levels have dropped considerably!
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Old October 3rd, 2008, 02:38 AM   #8
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Hi again..........

I suggest you take the audio questions over to the audio forum, believe me, you will get some pretty impressive (tho' expensive) alternatives.

As for the support question - hmmm, well, a monopod is a pretty blunt instrument when it comes to video, tho' given you're carrying abilities, may well have to be considered.

My best advice, given the constraints, is to go for the monopod and the other alternatives I mentioned, and forget the smooth pans etc that a decent tripod would give, keep the camera still and let the action do the moveing.

Hope it works out OK.


CS
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Old October 3rd, 2008, 07:29 AM   #9
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I did something slightly similar, a transatlantic sailing trip, with about as much experience as you and have and had to ask for lots of advice.
The kit worked pretty well and my only real regret concerned sound.
I was sold a Sanken CS3e shotgun mic and a G2 radio mic kit.
I realised pretty quickly that the Sanken is a wonderful shotgun mic but very directional - no good for ambience.
So I went to another store asking for something with a wider pattern and was recommended to buy a Rode NTG-1. That was a pretty stupid suggestion but I didn't know a lot at the time and was panicking as I only had a day or two left so I bought it.
With the mics that I had I couldn't pick up ambient sound and had to construct a soundtrack from more than one source.
If I was doing it again I would buy a lavaliere with xlr cable instead of the G2 (just about all my interviews were static) and I would buy something like a Rode Stereomic for picking up ambient sound. I'd use this on-camera, or with an MZ-R900 minidisc recorder to record stuff when I wasn't filming. I'd take the Sanken too but it's outside your budget, so another shotgun mic.
If you had more money I would suggest two DPA 4061s because they are very small and very versatile - you could use them as a lav or rigged on a coathanger for stereo etc etc
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Old October 6th, 2008, 04:59 AM   #10
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Gavin
This MacVideo interview may be of interest:
MacVideo - Camera Technology - Interviews - Kevin Augello - Producer/Cameraman talks about professional use of HDV

Coincidentally he's using a Sony A1 a lot of the time which is the camera I used for my Atlantic trip. I wouldn't hesitate to use it again. Lowlight performance is a weakness - but it has got infra-red.

Whatever you use, his message about story first, picture quality second is a good one I reckon.
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Old October 11th, 2008, 10:39 PM   #11
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Since it sounds like this isn't for a full on pro production, and more just for getting the feel, I would suggest the Sennheiser MKE400. That's what I pack personally on run n gun shoots. It's super small, yet yields a decent sound. It's one of those things where comfort and speed rule. I can pull out the camera and set-up quick and be totally unobtrusive. Yet, if I need to I can put a quick 10' extension cable on a K-Tek traveller boom or place the mic on a small tripod (it has a 1/4"-20 thread on the bottom). The windmuff is also very good. This mic is tuned for dialogue and will sound better than a RODE Videomic for voice. See this quick vid to see and hear a sample on the Canon HV20.

Sennheiser MKE400 and Litepanels Micro on a Canon HV20

If I'm to be a "fly on the wall", storming in with a full sized camera, lights blazing with a boom op creates a different atmosphere in a lot of situations. People just act different. The link above with the MacVideo interview says a lot. Worth watching. 100 countries, that dude is worth paying attention to if you're embarking on a similar adventure (Richard, thx for sharing this)

Great still images and a high quality audio recorder like the Sony PCM-D50 might be another option. I have a friend that produces a lot of content this way (BTW, their team just won another Emmy). See MediaStorm: A Multimedia Production Studio Founded by Brian Storm - Photojournalism, Photography, Video, Audio, Storytelling
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Advice on gear for solo travel doc around SE Asia-mke400.jpg   Advice on gear for solo travel doc around SE Asia-pi5j4389-version2.jpg  

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