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Old June 15th, 2004, 03:25 PM   #1
Join Date: Jun 2004
Location: Los Angeles, CA
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Professional camera or format?

Hi everyone,

I am a part-time videographer (mainly to supplement my income and to find an excuse to buy gadgets) using two Canon GL2's for filming weddings, etc. I am being approached with several proposals from different potential clients for making commercials for their small business to be broadcast on cable or local TV.

My question is: what video camera is commonly used to film simple commercials. What format of tape is used? I appreciate any suggestions as I may have to invest in a new camera in order to properly film these commercials. If you have suggestions on any other equipment used by such crews, that would also be appreciated (e.g. lighting, sound, etc.).

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Old June 16th, 2004, 07:55 AM   #2
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Location: Dayton, OH
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It really depends on your market and what the stations and cable company wants for playback. Depending on the shooting situation, I would say with the proper lighting, blocking, etc. your GL-2 would be fine. I live in Dayton, OH and have seen commercials that were shot with a GL-2. It just really depends. Beta SP is still the defacto standard, but that is changing market by market. It also depends with what you edit with. If you can't take in component video, than a DV type camera may give you overall better quality, but Beta will give you a softer look that may be important to the client. Choices, choices, choices.

Good luck,

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Old June 16th, 2004, 10:07 AM   #3
Join Date: Jun 2004
Location: Los Angeles, CA
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Thanks for the reply. I currently use Final Cut Pro on my Macintosh to edit my projects. I have never owned anything else other than "prosumer" cameras that are miniDV-based.
I am totally unfamiliar with any other format, but willing to learn the defacto standards of the trade if need be. However, if the learning curve is too steep, I may try to keep to miniDV if I only have one or two of these type of projects.

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Old June 16th, 2004, 03:10 PM   #4
Join Date: Jan 2003
Location: Kansas City, MO
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Most of the ordinary spots around here (ie., the car dealer commercials, furniture store, etc.,) are shot with 2/3" chip cameras. The higher end stuff is shot 35mm film, HD or Digibeta.
However, there are also some low budget things that you can tell were shot with smaller, probably 1/3" chip cameras, because of the softness in relation to the other spots that surround it. I haven't seen anything I'd say came from a 1/4" chip camera.

Formats vary. We used to shoot BetacamSP but now do DVCAM (with a DSR500). We don't do a lot of TV spots, however. If we did we probably would shoot Digibeta.

Year before last I did do some spots with a DSR250. They were freebies for a film festival and only shown on area cable. I needed a slow shutter effect (1/8) so I had to use that camera. Surpisingly enough, they looked pretty good. But, the shots were effect shots, done at night, and you really couldn't tell all that much about the grain or softness.

I think there are some cable spots that may be done by others like that because I've seen an XL1 shooting what I felt was a TV spot before. I think it just depends on your market and the client. If it's going to be a broadcast spot in the top 50 markets, the 1/4" chipper may not cut it, but on cable or smaller markets, it might be fine. One time we did an infomercial thing that was run on one of those home shopping networks. I did it with the 250 because it was low budget, and when it was shown, it looked as good as any of the other stuff and actually better than some.

So it just depends. Anyway, it's not the format that's important, it's the camera. In the DV25 world you can go from a 1/6" single chip camera up to a 3-chip 2/3" chip camera, with 1/4", 2/3" and 1/2" chippers along the way...from prices of under 400 bucks to over $25,000 (with lens).
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Old June 16th, 2004, 10:13 PM   #5
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Location: Toronto, Canada
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1- When I watch TV I nearly always never notice the difference in resolution between spots. This might be because I have a crappy TV with excessive edge sharpening. But the point here is that differences in resolution may be lost on your audience. Heck, the vast majority of television systems are mono!

When material goes to broadcast, it is limited to ~300 lines of resolution. Having a higher quality source will give you slightly extra resolution. However, most prosumer cameras have very good resolution. Cameras like the DVX100 get very close to DV's limit (540 lines). (I think the GL2 may be noticeably softer than the DVX100) Resolution is also lost as the signal goes through the viewer's VCR to the TV, at the TV, and at the viewing distance the viewer is sitting away from the TV.

2- I do notice crappy commercials on TV. The biggest flaws IMO are:
#1-Crappy content, crappy copy writing. I'd definitely hire a pro. Flaws:
a- Boring, doesn't catch your attention. They may pump you full of facts which you will never absorb because it's too boring.
b- You have no clue what they are selling. There are lots of commercials which do not get people to buy the product but end up winning advertising awards. It's good or bad depending on your POV.
#2-Crappy content
#3-Crappy content

#4- The video looks un-professional. The colors are flat, it looks washed out (needs more contrast and/or better lighting), and no lighting was used.
#5- The talent/speaker/narrator is bland and lifeless. There are a few cheap commercials where they stick the owner/CEO of the company on and the CEO/owner BSes about their company. Straightforward commercials are ineffective.

That's all I can think of right now. I don't remember commercials which have bad sound or shaky camerawork, which are typically problems found in low budget videos.

With low budget commercials, you can IMO be on the same level as expensive commercials if the content is good. There's lot of expensive crap out there which you can beat. Heck on a technical leve, those Coke commercials I have been seeing these days (the "I've loving it" ones) look un-professional (I suspect it was intentional).

2- Clients are not that knowledgeable and do not have golden ears or eyes. They probably won't notice the difference between downconverted HD and SD/DV/whatever. They also probably won't notice the difference between 2/3" and 1/3" CCDs and 35mm/16mm film. You can see stuff on television where there is flat/no lighting and flat narration. Some clients are not very critical of the work that is done for them. How else do you explain clients approving some of the crap that goes to air?

Clients may also be making bad decisions- a commercial may not be appropriate for their company or the commercial they have in mind may not be the best for them.

If you definite a professional as someone who gets paid, then as a professional you need to take care of tke keeping clients happy side of business (without it you won't have work and you won't be a pro). Be nice to work with, be on time, have them think you are doing quality work, appear to work hard for them, etc.
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