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Old September 21st, 2003, 07:24 PM   #1
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Winning hearts and minds with "low" end cams

Anyone here enjoying the hobbyist's meager fruits of "low" end camcorders and equipment? I'm wondering who is making the most of the cheap er/est stuff, creatively and semi-professionally, and what you use it for. And I don't mean for animation, or your Bcam. Cheap cam ceiling is $2000, but ideal is under $1000. I asked this one over at Camcorderinfo, thought it was the most appropriate venue, but I'll try it out here as well. Just curious.

I own a PDX10 and would like a second for matching video and 16:9, but I'm also thinking about a pair of some other cam for less money, disregarding the 16:9 desire, to be used towards an ongoing educational/training dvd/video project. The new cams' footage does not have to match already shot footage. Who, for example, is winning hearts and minds with a couple of Optura 20s?

My idea of fun. Thanks very much in advance.

Shawn
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Old September 21st, 2003, 08:40 PM   #2
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How low-end do you want to go? Did you know that some low-end miniDV cams don't even have filter threads? I have some really low-end models listed on my website. They seemed "okay" for their low prices.
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Old September 21st, 2003, 09:33 PM   #3
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Folks here (myself included) tend to spend a great deal of time typing about the usage, capabilities and attributes of the sexy prosumer muscle cams.

But the unvarnished truth is that a feature's viewer never sees the camera. Yes, s/he sees bad camera work, bad sound and, most of all, bad story. Yes, better cameras producer better images. But they cannot produce better stories or better camera work. I have seen many excellent works produced using cameras costing $1,000 or less.
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Old September 21st, 2003, 09:34 PM   #4
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Go as low as your experience will allow. I'm interested in what people are doing, or have done, for however much money, to reiterate.
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Old September 21st, 2003, 10:34 PM   #5
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Yes, Ken! Thank you. Precisely where I would like to see this thread go. Who's doing what with what little?
I've been shooting this training project with a single trv740 d8 cam, in classrooms, under florescents. The cam belongs to the man on whose materials the videos will be based. The close ups of hands and graphics on tabletops is good, skin and colors are acceptable, though the 740 hasn't any white balance. I'm struggling to get the sound set up to it's best w/o much of a budget, but that's reflective of my inexperience, not my lack of posh equipment. Would like to get a pair of decent cams for this under $1000 each. that are at least as decent (7 lux) in a classroom amount of light. Recommendations are appreciated, but I'm mostly just relating my low budget experiences, and am interested in yours.
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Old September 21st, 2003, 10:48 PM   #6
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I wouldn't consider the TRV740 a low end cam. And Digi8 is probably less prone to drop-outs.
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Old September 21st, 2003, 11:24 PM   #7
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Listen--

No matter what cheapo video camera you have sitting on your desk, it's still capable of better images than any of the cameras used to make great movies prior to the late 1950s.

If you have a great story, tell it with whatever is at your disposal.

I just watched The Battle of Algiers, a 1966 Academy Award Nominee that won 11 international "best picture" awards. (I heard about it on NPR yesterday--apparently, the Pentagon has been holding screenings.) Its camerawork was fraught with shoddy operation, shaky, out-of-focus footage, typical of the European style of the 1960s. (Though the subject was French, the production was Italian.) But its story was so compelling, the production value was rendered irrelevant.

Think this isn't true 40 years later? Think again. Dogville, directed by Lars von Trier, was all shot handheld, documentary style, with long lenses, and yet, it's the most audacious, gripping movie of the past five years.

There are plenty of great examples of talented filmmakers wringing every bit of quality out of their DV cameras. 28 Days Later is only the latest example of XL1s's being put to judicious use on a major feature.

But at the end of the movie--if you've held on to your audience for that long--it won't be the image quality they'll remember.

On a shoot I did last year, one of the producers and I both had pocket sized Canon still cameras capable of taking short video clips. The producer told me he was interested in shooting an entire movie just using his little Canon digital camera, each shot being limited to 15 seconds.

There is probably a great movie that can be made this way. Likely it will be most suited for web distribution where the image compression won't be such an issue. But if the story and acting is memorable, it's unlikely anyone will carp on the shoddy video quality.
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Old September 21st, 2003, 11:27 PM   #8
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Shawn,
For starters while you're waiting for replies, look at some of our Lady X Films episodes (link is in my signature). Look at the gear listed on each episode's screening page -after- you watch the episode. Since our producers come from a variety of backgrounds (students, semi-pro's, hobbyists, etc.) they are using a wide variety of cameras and equipment to create their episodes. You may find some of the results inspiring.
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Old September 22nd, 2003, 08:57 AM   #9
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I started shooting with a Sony TRV525 D-8 and a cheap Sony hand mike. An artist friend of a friend, watching my vacation documentary on Portugal said "I could be watching CBC!" That's the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation for those outside our borders. Entry level DV is so good compared to anything the average joe could afford ten years ago that illustrating a good story with steady shots, thoughtful editing and decent light makes for highly viewable content.

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Old September 22nd, 2003, 10:17 AM   #10
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Talk about cheap!

For the last 3 years, I've been playing with my TRV320 (D8 again).
I've added a tripod with Sony remote control, the Sony Infra-red receiver (to play my videos wireless on my 32" WEGA TV set), a wide-angle adapter, polarizer and UV filters.
Then I made a foam windscreen for the built-in mics, a "hood" for the LCD screen, and I learned how to bypass all the preset adjustments in order to get a more natural picture overall.
I use all possible manual controls to get correct focus and exposure. I try to compose pictures carefully, and zoom or pan only when it serves the subject. (That took 3 years to learn)
I edit on el-cheapo ULead Video Studio 5.0, but I systematically avoid any complicated special effect. I use regular cuts and crossfades mostly.
Due to lack of manual white balance on D8, I spend a lot of time in color correction in post. But my original shots are rarely that bad. And the final pictures are sometimes impressive.
On my last vacations, I achieved quasi-documentary quality, and I'm very proud of it.
I don't know if I'd be prouder had I done this with state-of-the-art machines like VX2000 or PD150...
It's all in the fun of making great things with nothing. Really.
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Old September 22nd, 2003, 05:14 PM   #11
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The TRV950 is the consumer version of the PDX10 I believe. The footage should cut together perfectly because they have the same optics (like the VX2000 and PD150).

A lot of consumer cameras are pretty good nowadays. I would focus on getting steady shots and good audio since they are a lot more noticeable then the look that consumer cams give. Everyone notices shaky shots and poor audio.
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Old September 22nd, 2003, 06:22 PM   #12
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no budget/high concept = yes!

Yeah, guys!

It's interesting, Glen, how actual film makers employ "documentary" techniques to look like easy hand held video footage, eg more "realistic", while we video folk must swing hard towards proven film professional standard looks to be taken seriously in the markets. This, I think, is that democratization we're always talking about in effect. Video is striving to outgrow funniest home videos, film is letting it's hair down. Or, "Nothing is true, Everything is permitted," as my man Hassan I Sabbah used to say.
What, does Everyone begin with D8 :-) ???

Absolutely, Norm and David, vacations ought generally to beget documentaries. I traveled solo in South East Asia last winter, wishing I had brought SOMETHING that shot video, like the trv19 I just got in the mail today, or a gs70. I bought the trv19 to have as deck for the pdx10, but having played around with it for a couple of hours, I'm thinking it might be just fine for well lit close quarters interview shoots, and/or careful black/white work. Am eager to see how it does in florescent lit classrooms, the bulk of my locations for this training video. I'm needing to phase out the 740.

Ken, it was good to take a lick at the Lady X series, or at least the first one, to begin. James Bond action isn't quite my cup of tea, but I got to see video in a new light. Well worthwhile ( I did take a peek at cams used for some of the others in the series, couldn't help myself; I'm anxious to see the trv30 work, next to the rest, the stills look great, but I'm especially anxious to see the 950 work, as I become intimate with my pdx10) as well as instructive.

I'm wanting to investigate the local tv channel for this rural northern californian town I live in, find out what's passable for broadcast (small docs, sound and image collage, etc), while I'm here. Thanks for contributing, gents.
Let's keep those enlightening anecdotes coming! Where are those skateboard/video freaks?..........

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Old September 23rd, 2003, 11:23 PM   #13
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http://www.brickshelf.com/gallery/ch...insherwood.wmv

That's the movie I did for my graduation project. I procrastinated so I worked straight for 3 days to make that film before school ended.

I used a Samsung SCD51 and a TRV22, some lego, and masking tape I made that movie. The only thing that cost me was fishing line, which I didn't end up using. The Samsung camera is normally a very bad camera but it had more macroness than the TRV22. I switched cameras somewhere along and the white balance shifted. The camera's auto features were a real pain so you see the background shifting colors and sometimes the white balance changes. If I had thought of using the TRV22 then I could have set those things to manual. The Samsung had a cheesy focus dial which I used to pull focus. It... worked. I probably had decent depth of field because the Lego figures are so close and the camera is zoomed in.

I could have given that movie a bit more polish and started off with a better script and stuff like that. It was my first film ever so I'm happy enough. Hopefully I will find the time + Lego to do another film. I worked on the film with a friend who has Lego and I don't have ANY Lego at all.

Certainly a Lego stop motion film is in the reach of many many people. Check out similar films at brickfilms.com. Filmmaking has certainly become much more accessible!

2- At school I used to run a video production club. We didn't do anything too creative but did some highly technical things like doing a multi-camera production (mixed together live with a rented video mixer). The camera we used to own was a Digital8 TRV120. It was a wonderful camera but unfortunately it got stolen. Before that we bought a TRV22 so it wasn't too bad that the digi8 cam got stolen. I prefer the TRV120 over the TRV22 although the TRV22 has some advantages.
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Old September 24th, 2003, 02:14 AM   #14
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Get Glen some LEGOS!

Your address for brickshelf isn't working for me, so I'll have to go the long way through the front door. I had no idea the lengths to which people are putting their legos.
I'm not immediately into animation, stop motion and that sort of thing, but are you familiar with the work of The Brothers Quay, or the guy that influenced them whose name escapes me for the moment, Jan Svenkmaer or something like that? The Brothers do/did some rather incredible if a little bleak work. Great stuff. Also, have you seen a film called TETSUO: THE IRON MAN? Amazing, hilariously disturbed Japanese b/w movie that came out in the late 80s, early 90s, which show cases stop motion animation of humans as well as industrial waste metal to the nth degree. Would love to know what their budget was, it seems as though hyper b movie acting, a pile of rubbish, and painstakingly intensive camera work, was all that made this gem. Perhaps it cost more than it looks like. Hope not.
I am loving my trv19. Experimenting with black and white. I find video noise to be so much more acceptable in black and white. It feels....appropriate. One of these days I'll put together a little something and post it.
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Old September 24th, 2003, 07:44 AM   #15
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Amazing little video, Glenn! ("Brickshelf")
You seem to have taken control of that Samsung!
Lego animation is not easy, but your composition is very good.
I like the movements and the slow-mo parts of the fight.
Takes a lot of patience and attention to details.
Congrats!
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