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Old May 19th, 2005, 10:37 PM   #766
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need an opion on the best, affordable, DV camcorder

I am a member of the Comedy group "The Bent Pennies”. We have put our wonderfully, hilariously twisted talents together to create a script that we think is worth putting on tape and eventually film. In order to help raise the necessary funds to produce the movie, we are looking at taping a short trailer as part of the promotional for the script.

We need a camcorder & here is the problem, we are running into a lot of hype about this camcorder and that camcorder. Truthfully we are doing allot of head scratching as we review what is available on the market, and what we can afford at the moment, for producing our promotional trailer. We are finding it hard to commit money to a camcorder that may be just allot of hype. We would like to tape our promotional in HDV but all the camcorders we can afford seem to have issues or formats that I have difficulty agreeing with. For example:

I was looking at the Sony HDR-FX1 supposedly an HDV camera with 3 CCD's yet they use mini dv tape as a storage medium and mpg2 format to get that supposedly HDV on to a smaller tape (mini Dv tape) Hmm something sounds a little fishy there. I mean wouldn’t you want to get all the data possible on your editing system rather than cutting it down with a mpeg compression format? Is it just me or does that kind of seem retarded?

We have also looked at the JVC GRHD1 again an Mpeg format on mini dv tape. Again making me a little leery.

Then I looked at the GL2 and the Xl2 (XL2 too spendy right now for us.) Thanks to this board I see that the GL2 has some issues as well. Nix that.

I am currently looking at Panasonic AG-DVC7. I'm not sure that this is an HD camcorder. Again it only has 1 CCD and mini DV tapes no mention of a compression format.

Perhaps someone could point me to a quality camcorder (HD preferably) that isn't going to break me or perhaps point out that I am mistaken that an mpeg format on mini DV tape is not the way to go. Any help is greatly appreciated. Thanks.
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Old May 19th, 2005, 11:38 PM   #767
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Steve Quimby
We would like to tape our promotional in HDV but all the camcorders we can afford seem to have issues or formats that I have difficulty agreeing with.
I think you mean to say that you'd like to record in High Definition, not necessarily HDV, because you're indicating some reluctance here about the HDV format itself. But what I'd have to ask you is, why do you want to record it in High Definition? What makes you think that you need record it that way. If you're going to distribute your promotional video on, say, DVD for instance, that's a Standard Definition delivery. If you're planning to send out VHS tapes, DVDs or put it on the web, then Standard Definition will do the job just fine. If you record in High Definition, how are you going to distribute that in High Definition?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Steve Quimby
I was looking at the Sony HDR-FX1 supposedly an HDV camera with 3 CCD's yet they use mini dv tape as a storage medium and mpg2 format to get that supposedly HDV on to a smaller tape (mini Dv tape). Hmm something sounds a little fishy there.
Well there's nothing fishy about it, and there's nothing "supposedly" about HDV. The HDV format was intentionally designed to be backward-compatible with existing Mini-DV cassettes, meaning, you can play back a standard def Mini-DV cassette in an HDV camcorder. You would not want to record HDV on a standard Mini-DV cassette, though. You'd want to record HDV on the proper higher-grade cassettes that are specifically formulated for HDV such as Sony's HD DVC media.


Quote:
Originally Posted by Steve Quimby
I mean wouldn’t you want to get all the data possible on your editing system rather than cutting it down with a mpeg compression format? Is it just me or does that kind of seem retarded?
It's just you. It's important to judge the format by the quality of the image with your own eyes rather than fixate on some numbers. The compression schemes are in fact good enough for very high quality video. One of the worst myths perpetuated on the net these days is that a higher compression ratio equals lower quality video. That's just not true. During the Apple press conference during NAB last month, I sat with hundreds of people thoroughly amazed at the beautiful quality of video projected on a large screen that had been compressed in the H.264 spec at a lowly 8mbps. It looked fantastic. Watch anything on satellite TV, and you'll see MPEG compressed at a level that's much higher than HDV, and it all looks great too.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Steve Quimby
We have also looked at the JVC GRHD1 again an Mpeg format on mini dv tape. Again making me a little leery.
Go with your gut feeling and stay away from anything that makes you leery. I'm not here to talk you into HDV or talk you out of it. But I will tell you that it's foolish to judge how an HDV camcorder uses MPEG2 compression without actually seeing the results for yourself.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Steve Quimby
I am currently looking at Panasonic AG-DVC7. I'm not sure that this is an HD camcorder. Again it only has 1 CCD and mini DV tapes no mention of a compression format.
It's a standard definition DV camcorder, and all standard definition DV camcorders use 5:1 compression (that's what makes it DV). While you're at it, look into the Panasonic AG-DVC30, a much better camera than the DVC7. If you like the size of the DVC7, then check out the Panasonic AG-DVC60. It's the same body as the DVC7 and the same quality as the DVC30. Then there's also the Panasonic AG-DVX100A. Any of these can be accessorized to shoot in a high quality "wide screen" 16:9 aspect ratio if you like that wide-screen look which a lot of people tend to associate with High Definition. Hope this helps,
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Old May 20th, 2005, 01:18 AM   #768
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1- Maybe a better option to find someone with a camera?

There are lots of people who own prosumer gear like the Xl1/2, DVX100, etc. etc. etc. Film schools + colleges, mandy.com, craiglist.org, the helping hands forum here would be places to look.

In a similar vein, you could also look at renting a camera kit. It may be cheaper to pay someone who owns their own gear though.

2- If you don't really need high production values, then I would be ok with a consumer-level camera (their video quality is definitely good enough). Just be sure to capture good sound, because bad sound would really hurt your performance. Either look at using a boom mic, or use wireless lavs on everyone (not cheap, but it's alright if you rent). Look for a camera with XLR inputs. The best approach depends on how you want to shoot, the blocking of the actors, etc. If it's just stand-up with people on microphones, then good sound would be really easy.

If you are looking for high production values, then just pay someone who has more experience with this stuff. If you are looking to generate interest then I don't think you necessarily need high production values.
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Old May 20th, 2005, 10:45 AM   #769
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i'll second the idea that you should find someone already equipped to shoot it for you, unless your group is willing to spend a lot of time and the long learning curve required to do a good job.

i came to video production equipped with a ph.d., teaching film criticism and literature at the universities, so i came into video knowing a huge amount about film history, production technique, narrative structure, composition, vectoring, shot duration, blahblahblah. i'm also a musician, so i know a bit about pacing, tension, atonality, etc., etc.

and i'm still humbled and grateful for all i have learned about how to put it all together and make something that looks and sounds decent. and still humbled and grateful for all i still have ahead of me to learn.

are you as committed to making a good video as you are committed to making good comedy? if so, i would advise you to proceed. probably an fx-1 is your best choice for the future, because it will work in either SD or HD, and will serve you well down the road--it is still a fine SD camera in its own right, though i have played with one, and you need to have a very good knowledge of lighting and a good lighting kit if you want to use it as such.

but if you are more committed to writing and performing comedy than you are to making video, then you should channel your energies to the area you are most committed and find someone else who is as committed to making moving images as you are to your group and its mission.

if you want a video camera, anyway, because you want to tape your group and provide feedback for yourselves, you can probably save yourselves a lot of money buying any GL2-ish or equivalent camera. i have a GL2 and it is a fabulous camera for the money. as much camera as you would need to make a decent trailer, if you changed your mind, and more camera than you need for general taping of your group. i get it that you have dismissed the GL2 based on things you've read on the board, but consider that the GL2 has a massive number of users v. almost any other camera of its range and therefore you are going to hear about more of the problems. it is generally one of the best in its class. others may have different opinions, and you should listen to those as well.

but my point is that this level of camera purchase may be more than adequate for your proposed needs. or get a PDX-10, if you want native 16:9--another great camera at a great price point. experiment with a few filters and create a signature "look" for your video. i've done that with my GL2 and now it looks better (though lower-rez and no native 16:9) than my XL2 (grrrrrr! and i'm not happy about it. now i have to do the same tortuous amount of test shots with my XL2....).

buying up because of a perceived need to better technology is sort of putting the cart before the horse.

in today's age, when even cheaper cameras can produce fabulous footage, i'd rather spend my time learning to be a better operator than spend my money buying a better camera.
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Old May 20th, 2005, 10:58 AM   #770
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Wow, what an excellent post, Meryem! Two thumbs up. Very well said!
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Old May 20th, 2005, 11:00 PM   #771
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Thanks

Thanks for the info. I think we will get the best camera we can possibly afford.

From what I have gathered from this board, and other sources, is that the Sony HDR- fx1 may be just what we need. So perhaps I was wrong in my assumption of the Mpeg compression as being a less than perfect solution to fitting the format onto mini DV tape. I have edited other DV video & then converted it to Mpeg2 format. The results were less than desireable... Ok, they were hidious, blotchy, grayed and blurrey I guess that is why my gut reflex to an mpeg compression conversion for HDv format just kind of makes me go (what the F***!). & still does to some extent.

We are looking at doing a lot of green screen both in the trailer and in the film (assuming of course we can get the investors for the film). so color pick up is important.
We are very passionate about this project It's kinda a do or die trying kind of thing for us. That is why we want the bestcamera possible for the money spent. Yes there are also in the works taping of shows, workshops, commecial advertising/promos ect...

I'd say that for starters I was on the right track by signing up on this board. Seems to be alot of great info here. Thanks again.
See ya at the Indies.
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Old May 24th, 2005, 10:16 PM   #772
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THE camera.

Questions, Questions.

I made a post not to long ago about purchasing the DVC-30. However, since that time I get constantly more aware of the overgrowth of digital camcorders, I wonder what camera is right for me. Something about the DVC-30 doesn't feel good but on the other hand it feels great.
I strongly dislike the fact of the Cannon cam's having bad tape mechanisms. However, I don't know any update or insight on that. I'm also aware of Panasonics problems, but they seem fewer and far apart.

So my question is what makes video quality good? the lighting? The camera? Or does it even matter? I see so much emphasis here about buying really high-end stuff. I myself am only turning 17 soon. I want to take that leap into digital movie making, and I constantly scramble about different cameras. So I'll tell you what I want to make, and maybe you can tell me what camera I should get.

WHAT I WANT
-Something that looks clean, and sharp.
-Good Sound
-Must be sturdy.
- I want it to look like FILM.
- Price range of $1000 to $2000.

WHAT I WANT (BUT MAY NOT NEED)
-Warranty
-Something bought from the manufacturer and not used (I don't like buying used, because I don't know the person who used it before me)
-Makes me look a little pro' because people don't believe you about your film unless your camera is the size of a frikin' panavision.
-Must be good in low light, for the reason that I'm weary about lighting outside night scenes.
- Something good for both shorts and feature (I don't know how much this has to do with the camera, since virtually anything can be shot on a camera)

I think I sound picky, but I want a bang for my buck, and the DVC30 seems to match up to all these things, but I'd like to exhaust my possibilities.
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Old May 25th, 2005, 05:13 AM   #773
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Steve: what you seem to have failed to mention is what your NEEDS are.
Technical stuff is all well and nice, but tells you and us nothing. The thread
is labeled "best, affordable, DV camcorder". Then it starts to talk about HDV
camcorders which are more expensive as well, still without talking about what
your basic needs are (besides best and affordable).

Do you really need HD? If not, then it may be better to look at the "normal"
DV options (which are still very good).

Who will watch the stuff you will record? On what kind of system will they
watch it? How will you distribute it?

The question should never be which camera to get, but which workflow to
adapt and what fits to your budget and wishes.

HD(V) is a completely different workflow. You'll probably need a new computer
as well, and it will take a lot longer to render files out and add effects for
example. Then there is the thing that no-one really has a way to get HD to
the people buying/using your product.

Yes, this will change in the feature and it may indeed be good to have HD
now to distribute it later in that format when it becomes available.

The question is, does this warrant buying an HD camera for more money now?
If you can't distribute for at least 3 years this might not be the case for
example.

Think about your complete workflow and realistically look at your wishes,
budget and possabilities for the future.

Good luck on your decision!
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Old May 26th, 2005, 01:28 AM   #774
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All cameras are equal in terms of their irrelevence to the look of your final product. If you are tight for cash, don't spend more than $400 on it, and then use the rest of your budget on a good microphone, light kit, and some books or videos on lighting and camerawork. If you do the job right, no one will know how cheap a camera you used.

PS, no camera looks like film in your price range, don't worry about it.
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Old May 26th, 2005, 08:43 AM   #775
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From DVC-30 to "Film-look"

Evan,

Most films (if not all) you've been watching have gone through extensive color correction in post production, and they were shot with thousands of watts of lighting from all sides to fill the unwanted shady areas. Also they were captured on a non-interlaced media, which translates into a certain rendering of motion. These are the 3 main factors you could work on.

If your scene is properly lit and your settings are correct at shooting, you can fine-tune your contrasts, gamma and colors in post to approach the ever wanted film-look.
Raw footage is often too heavy on contrast, for instance. The whole picture tends to emphasize heavy blacks and washed out whites. Mid-tones are lost.
Also, the sharpness control of video cameras only adds garbage to details in the picture. On a small cheap TV set, it may look sharper from a distance, but on a high-def large screen, you can see heavy outlines around every contrasted detail, which makes for a busy artificial image overall. Turn sharpness down to clean the picture.
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Old May 26th, 2005, 02:19 PM   #776
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There are some things $400 cameras don't do. In no particular order:
A- Audio: No XLRs, auto-gain control cannot be disabled, noisy input circuits. Some prosumer cameras have some of these limitations though... the DVC30 I don't think is one of them, but you have to buy the XLR adapter accessory or maybe a Beachtek or similar adapter.
B- Resolution.
C- Color accuracy. A 1CCD camera without RGB primary color filter tend to have less accurate colors.
D- Exposure latitude / contrast range - this tends to get better with price. Some cameras like the DVX100 have adjustable gamma curves to enable greater exposure latitude if desired. The DVC30 has a similar setting I believe.
More exposure latitude can contribute to the film look. 35mm film has like 11 to 13 stops... DVX100 on specific settings has 8 stops supposedly.
E- Manual controls- shutter, iris, gain, focus, etc. Some manual controls are difficult to operate even on prosumer cameras... enabling automatic features as necessary may work better on those cameras. For example, focus is difficult because the focus wheel can't do repeatable focus and the viewfinder is typically not sharp enough.
F- Artifacts: vertical smear and false colors plague some consumer cameras.
G- Optical stabilization is a feature not all consumer cameras have.
H- Low light.

2- There are different ways to approach buying a camera. If you just want to get your feet wet, get something along the lines of a Optura 20 or Panasonic GS70. The optura is slightly better and can still be found on eBay I believe. Ebay can be sketchy, and I wouldn't buy used off there; but an optura doesn't cost all that much.

The Optura 20 should be a decent camera for learning the basics. As well, it can also act as a deck (for capturing) to save wear and tear on a more expensive cameras. You may be able to find other people to help out on your shoots... and some people own a prosumer camera which means you don't have to pay for it.

3- Lighting makes a huge difference on how good your footage looks. More so than the camera. Check out the lighting forum for how to put together a cheap lighting kit.
The book Lighting for Digital Video and Television by John Jackman is a good book to get.

Next thing I'd look at is color grading. Magic Bullet Editors is the easiest thing out there. It makes things look a lot better. Vegas 6, Combustion + Color Finesse, Final Cut + Color Finesse, and Premiere + Color Finesse are all decent platforms for color grading work. You may also want a NTSC monitor to see things accurately. As well, you may also want to learn about maximizing your camera for color grading work: use the settings that give the most exposure latitude, expose for all important detail, and probably turn sharpness down.

Also look at getting a fluid head tripod, and possibly a steadicam-like device. I don't know all that much about that stuff, but check out the forum for camera support. Steadicam adds to production values.

Least important (IMO) is the frame rate you shoot at. In some cases, 24p/30p does look a lot less video than 60i. I'd probably shoot 30p because it has a nice look without the problems of 24p (i.e. jumpiness on panning shots).
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Old May 26th, 2005, 02:24 PM   #777
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Quote:
The Optura 20 should be a decent camera for learning the basics.
The Optura 20 was discontinued long ago and is no longer available new. Any current Optura model, such as the Op 50 or 60, would be a decent low-budget choice though.
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Old May 26th, 2005, 02:45 PM   #778
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Good point Chris. I'm looking on eBay and there are some factory refurbished ones there, but not new and it's still eBay.
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Old May 27th, 2005, 12:26 AM   #779
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Glenn Chan
There are some things $400 cameras don't do. In no particular order:
Hey Glenn, there is one thing a $400 camcorder can do that a $1000+ camera can't do on a $1000 budget... that is to leave Evan with $600+ leftover to buy (build) a light kit, microphone, tripod, boom, extra batteries, etc...
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Old May 28th, 2005, 02:11 AM   #780
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PVDV953 or TRV900/TRV950?

I have been looking at a couple pretty good Camcorders. I will be shooting a movie project, I will be editing a lot using Adobe Premiere Pro and will be shooting with some green screens and so forth. Anyway I was just wondering what camcorder you guys would recommend. I was looking at Sony's TRV900, TRV950, and Canons GL1. I don't have a big budget, $800-$900 and I doubt I can find a GL1 on Ebay for 900. Anyway, I have heard that the TRV950 was actually more of a downgrade from the TRV900 so I am leaning towards the 900. If you guys recommend another camera thats as good as these, by all means feel free to tell me. Thanks.

Last edited by Nathan Petersen; May 29th, 2005 at 04:56 PM.
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