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Old August 24th, 2006, 11:47 AM   #1
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Conflicting Projects - Need Equipment Help

I produce a weekly 30 minute public access TV program using S-VHS video professionally shot and edited by others. I now want to produce my own content and have conflicting needs.

One group wants me to videotape their weekly church meetings, about an hour long, editing it to 30 minutes for public access broadcast in 4X3 SD format. They also want the ability to purchase DVDs of these edited shows. Some members want HD content in 16X9, but they are very small in number.

The church has no stage, and videotaping from the rear of their 30X50 foot room with 16 foot celings, captures people's heads and chairs in the frame. They often have panel discussions of 3-5 people, seating on slightly elevated chairs, but they also include handicap access performers, using wheelchairs adding to the framing problem. Lighting is poor, side wall lights are halogen pointing upward, overhead lights are 60 watt bulbs that are attached to overhead fans. There are also 2 large skylights, and the passing clouds make for constant light changes.

They have a mixing board, XLR connections throughout, and I'd like to feed my camcorder from their board. If I shoot up front, running the XLR feed to the camera can be a problem, and I'm concerned that I'll need a wide angle lens to capture the panel talks.

My other need is documentary shooting - mostly interviews in both controlled and casual settings where lighting may not be ideal. I'll purchase separate mikes (Rode NPG1/2, Shure 57/8, Sennheiser 62/66 - help me choose), lighting (Bescor, others?), for these events, but this is a work in progress and subject to change.

I HATE cheap, plasticy feeling equipment and want to stay at prosumer level at least. Budget is an issue, I'd like to target $5K as an inital investment, and up to $10K in stages. I can use the church's audio equipment (Shure 57/8 mics).

I want to handle post on my iMac G5, 2 MHz processor, 512 MB RAM, 160 GB HDD. I'll upgrade if needed. I have Final Cut Express 3.5 HD (latest version).

My questions:

Mini DV or HDV? - Public acess takes S-VHS, mini-DV, DVPRO/CAM or DVD, but DVD isn't time code compliant, meaning that if I don't correctly manually enter the DVD it will run long or short, cutting off a portion of the program or running black at the end. If the black, or short edit, exceed 30 seconds public access may not accept it at all. I won't know the final time until it is ingested into their system.

4X3 or 16X9 - I'll reconvert using software in post if needed. I own a HD set (Sony 1080i) and love the picture. I'm not sure how practical it is. Have heard horror stories of the GOP format being difficult to edit and subject to half second dropouts.

Camera: Sony PD-170 (4X3, wide angle included, low light champ, $2.7K after rebates), Panasonic DVX100B (low light a bit weaker, lots of "bells and whistles", may use cinema effects in documentary work, but can use software to get same end result, $3.2K after rebate), Sony HVR-A1U - (HDV format, does all that PD-170 does, but with very small footprint. May be hard to adjust on fly with menu system - cheapest of bunch at $2K after rebates, allows me to sit up front with minimal impact on events).

My head tells me to go with the 170 (great ENG camera, high build quality), my documentary self wants the DVX for effects, but I've had bad luck with Panasonic quality over the years, and the A1 is a cheap way to try HDV with a "low impact" camera that can be easily transported and setup. For less than the price of the 170 it seems to cover a lot of ground. Some web reviews are over the top enthusiastic. I'm concerned with shooting with that camera if rapid adjustments need to be made. I expect virtually all of my shooting to be on a fluid head tripod or high quality monopod regardless of the camera I choose.

I don't understand the need for a separate DTR that costs $2K or more. Yes, I'll wear my heads a bit more, but for the $2K that a DTR costs I can buy an A1!! Yes, the DTR allows me to record, but if the public access station takes DVDs do I need to produce tape? I likely will buy a Blue Ray burner at some point, and that at least allows me to produce to a DVD type format that can be viewed by others. What am I missing?

Your thoughts are very welcome. Thanks for providing such a unique and helpful forum.
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Old August 25th, 2006, 06:34 PM   #2
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Since you seem to have so little real need for HD, I'd take a long hard look at the Canon XL2. It fits the price range, has XLR inputs, changeable lenses, native 16x9 and great quality image. The only reason I see to leave it off your list is if HD is a MUST HAVE.
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Old August 26th, 2006, 12:02 AM   #3
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XL2 would be a good option if not HD. You would at least benefit from a wide aspect with a native 16:9 chip. The XL2, like it's older cousins (I still have a use and XL1s) is robust and wins in the features and handling department. It should see well in dim lighting without having too much gain. You can ride the iris as needed for staged lighting, etc. You'll find alot more kit on ebay for cheap that will fit that unit, even old XL1 stuff. You'll benefit from line level XLR inputs. You situation, other than HD, descibes the XL series as the winner.

If I did not have a requirement for HDV, then the XL2 would have been my own logical replacement for the XL1s.

The benefit of HDV means that you can shoot and edit for all, and downgrade to those whom want SD. But you'll need a faster PC, etc to support that format. More than three times the cost of a DV system when all done.

Rent one a few times out and do some testing before you buy. See how it works in your situation.
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Old August 26th, 2006, 12:12 AM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Peter Ferling
You'll benefit from line level XLR inputs.
Not to rain on the XL2 parade (I own one myself and absolutely love it), but it does not have line-level inputs. The XLR's are mic-level, and they're not switchable.

That's not to say that there aren't inexpensive workarounds (an inline -40dB or -50dB pad would solve this problem, for example). I just thought I'd point this out. For my money, it's an absolutely amazing camera in every other respect.
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Old August 26th, 2006, 05:40 AM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jarrod Whaley
Not to rain on the XL2 parade (I own one myself and absolutely love it), but it does not have line-level inputs. The XLR's are mic-level, and they're not switchable.

...
Very true, but don't neglect the RCA line-level inputs.
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Old August 26th, 2006, 07:37 AM   #6
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Thanks - Keep the Ideas Coming

I appreciate the thoughts on the XL2, but since I have to take a feed from a mixer I need XLR line level inputs. Also, since I may be in "candid" mode for some of my shooting, is the XL2 a bit too large for those times?

If I set my tripod up in the front of the room, how "wide" will the footprint be? For example, if I set the camera at 60" height, how wide will the reach be between two tripod legs? Will that be an acceptable distance to allow me to still have enough space between me and the talent? I'm only 8 feet from them if I'm in the front row.

Thanks again
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Old August 26th, 2006, 08:00 AM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Len Capristo
I appreciate the thoughts on the XL2, but since I have to take a feed from a mixer I need XLR line level inputs. ..
Some mixers can send a mic level signal from their outputs. Also, you can insert an in-line pad at each XLR to drop a line-level signal down to mic level right as it enters the camera - in fact, that's not a bad way to do it even if the mixer has mic level out or the camera has the option of line level XLR inputs. With the signal on the cable from the mixer to the camera at line level then dropped to mic level by an attenuating pad right at the camera's XLR connector, any noise that does manage to find its way onto the cable alongside the desired signal will be padded down to inaudibiilty, giving even more noise immunity than balanced cables alone will provide.
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Old August 26th, 2006, 08:38 AM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jarrod Whaley
Not to rain on the XL2 parade (I own one myself and absolutely love it), but it does not have line-level inputs. The XLR's are mic-level, and they're not switchable.

That's not to say that there aren't inexpensive workarounds (an inline -40dB or -50dB pad would solve this problem, for example). I just thought I'd point this out. For my money, it's an absolutely amazing camera in every other respect.
Oops, you are correct. Good catch Jarrod.

As Steve said, in-line pads, switching levels at the house mixer output, or even having your own mixer (I have a small behringer attached to the tripod) are good solutions.
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