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Old July 3rd, 2006, 06:00 AM   #1
Join Date: Jun 2006
Location: melbourne
Posts: 1
life or death choice

I have been looking at cameras for ever, and one thing it has shown me, I dont know anything. So, thats why i am here. I have been working on a firefly fan film for about 8 months called Bellflower. I want it to be the best I can.
I need to get a camera that will deliver a quality shot in low light, be excellent for chromakeying shots and will make an amateur sci-fi film the greatest yet created.

I hope I can draw on the wealth of knowledge from here. I will even put the web site in my credits.

So what i have narrowed it down to is either the sonyHDR FX1E, XL1 or XL2. I dont know if there is huge difference in image quality between these except the Xl1 doesnt have true 16:9. I dont know if this is an issue.

PLEASE please please lead me in the right direction. I would really appreciate it more than you guys would know.

Hope to hear from many wise people.
Martin Hayes is offline   Reply With Quote
Old July 3rd, 2006, 06:14 AM   #2
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Join Date: Jan 2005
Location: St. John's, NL, Canada
Posts: 416
Firstly welcome to DVinfo.

Secondly I don't have much experience with all the cameras listed and I'm not a film maker, more of an engineer, so I know more tech than real world.

Low light - The easiest way to get low light sensitivity is larger photosites, the easiest way to do this is with lower resolution imaging sensors because the photosites are larger because overall sensor area is the same with less pixels.

You listed one HDV camera, a current miniDV camera and an older miniDV camera. Any reason for these being your choices. Do you know someone selling an XL1 at a good price?

Mike Curtis has a link on his site to a critique of low budget productions based around a couple of new cameras

I'd look at your budget first and the very first thing I would decide is:

Do you want a camera and will make a movie and use the camera for other stuff


Do you want to make a specific movie and will have no further need of the camera until you have another project.

If you budget so much out for you short and part of that is a camera purchase then thats a huge chunk of money which means little else for some productions. If your in the second category that you want to make this specific movie look at rental of a camera. It would cost significantly less and leave money for lights, sets, actors, food, props, etc. This will usually lead to a better quality movie since you just saved 3K on a camera or more, but its only for that movie.

So what I'm really trying to say is sit down and not just look hard at the specs of the camera's but look at what you need to buy, what you need to rent, and ask around at what your overlooking for the movie. Lights, greenscreen rental, if your actors are volunteers then you need to cover food, make-up, etc.

Good Luck
Keith Wakeham is offline   Reply With Quote
Old July 3rd, 2006, 07:42 AM   #3
Join Date: Jan 2005
Location: Boulder, CO
Posts: 3,011
what is your delivery system? is this for a film festival, broadcast (public access TV or network?), web-distributed DVD, film-out, just a work of love, or what? what kind of editing system do you own? or how much can you afford to put into one?

"what camera?" at the level you may be considering, is not necessarily the most important question you should be asking. i have an FX-1 and an XL-2, and they are both fantastic cameras but they have different advantages and disadvantages. the FX-1 is decidedly *not* a great low-light camera, however....XL-2 can take more gain without adding noise. it's easy to get worked up about the camera choice, but at some point it's better to buy something, any of the choices you listed will do, and get to work...
Meryem Ersoz is offline   Reply With Quote
Old July 3rd, 2006, 08:38 AM   #4
Join Date: Nov 2005
Location: Sauk Rapids, MN, USA
Posts: 1,675
I would argue that you over-light and under-expose to get low light. Low light performance, although impressive in modern cameras is still giving yourself less information to record.

If you look at some BTS stuff from bigger movies, the B-Roll BTS footge is always painfully bright due to the fact that the set - even in dark room situations - is generally lit with 10k+ watts of lights. The BTS of "Dead Poet's Society" contains a breakdown of the dorm room scenes lighting...3 5k's providing the main light + couple of 1k's and some bright practicals...they threw 25k-30k of light on the scene they show this for...and it's pretty dark on screen.

I've seen the lights first hand that they use to emulate sunlight when it's turning to night time...they are bigger and brighter than the ones the road work crews use to work at night during the summer.

Control the light to the needs of the camera and you can get good looks from just about any camera you plunk down in front of a scene.

I've gotten footage from my $800 JVC mini-DV cam as good as from my XL1s! It's mostly what you put into what's in front of the lens that translates to the screen. Since what the camera does is capture light, wouldn't you want to give it light to capture? I've proven that lighting doesn't have to be expensive, just need a couple of $15 lights and plenty of time experimenting with them to see what your camera wants. Any camera will give you good footage if you learn its' strengths and weaknesses and adapt your shooting/lighting style to them.

If you're worried about location light, blast a bedsheet with a handheld sun gun (1M candle Power $20, 2M candle Power $40 - target). This will provide a big soft light for you. Some of them even run off your car lighter, so it can run for a whole shoot.
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Cole McDonald is offline   Reply With Quote
Old July 3rd, 2006, 08:45 AM   #5
Join Date: Nov 2005
Location: Sauk Rapids, MN, USA
Posts: 1,675
re-reading...especially if green screening, don't go low will be lighting your screen well and separating your subjects from the screen by a goodly chunk of space so you can backlight them with a yellow light to ehlp separate them from the screen.
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