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Old July 27th, 2007, 12:34 PM   #1
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Officially confused - help required

Hi Folks:

I produce corporate videos for companies, and in the past have always hired production people with their abundant cameras and equipment to do my shoots. I edit in DV on a Mac G5 using Final cut Studio (not version 2 yet).

I have a whole series of interviews scheduled all over the country (just talking head interviews) and rather than hire a shooter in each location I'd rather do them myself (less expensive less hassle)

So I'm looking for a camera that is not too expensive, lightweight and with a suitable image quality for the purpose. I've been looking at the new breed of HD camcorders such as the Panasonic AG-HSC1U or the Sony DCR-SR-300 which look really nice, and I definitely would like to buy an HD camera.

So here's my confusion...these new HD cameras look great but record in a format that I apparently cannot edit in. Also, they use hard drives rather than type (which is nice)

If I buy the Panasonic for instance which uses a AVCHD format, how do I capture the footage using my existing set up, and then how do I convert to edit in DV? Is that in fact possible, and if so is there a downside?

Is there a better alternative? Would the SONY be better? What about Audio quality for interviews?

Any advice would be really helpful before I leap in....

Thanks

RES
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Old July 27th, 2007, 12:50 PM   #2
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Go MiniDV!

Generally all hard drive based camcorders encode in mpeg2 format at a fairly low bitrate. Editing is theoretically possible but practically is a pain - they are meant for consumers who shoot family events, then go home and burn a DVD using the supplied software, without any editing (or some basic cutting either inside the camera or on the computer).

So for about the same price I would go for a CMOS miniDV HD camcorder, think Sony HC7 or Canon HV20. But if you're not familiar with HDV and your final product is SD anyway, then spare yourself the headache and stick with standard definition. For $1500 you could buy a very decent used semi-pro camcorder now that so many people are unloading their SD stuff. There is no replacement for manual settings!
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Old July 27th, 2007, 01:16 PM   #3
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Ron -
Consider where you'd archive or store those interviews if you go with a HDD camcorder... to me that's the one head scratcher wih these AVCHD units. That aside, the software is catching up to the new format, so that shouldn't be a problem.

I'd go with the HC7 or HV20 (prefer Sony myself, but the HV20 is a bargain) so you get the HD - once you shoot that, the SD stuff really won't do it for you anymore... even if your ultimate delivery format is VHS tape... If your budget is a bit higher and you want a more serious camera, the FX7 is worth a look too, but don't bust the budget for it - the little HC7 does a mighty fine job.

Both of those little camcorders have quite a bit of control available, just buried behind tougher to use controls than a bigger cam. And the PQ is tough to beat.

Plan on some expenditures for a simple lighting set up, as HD cameras prefer a bit of light - may not have to be much, I've been playing with these stupid $10 chinese "48 LED UFO lights", and they are surprisingly decent if you WB (they are rather bluish, but outdoor WB preset seems to work OK)... A small portable light kit might be a good investment.

Both the small cams have 1/8" inputs for mics - not great, but workable - you might consider an inexpensive wireless and take a look at Giant Squid audio labs lav mics - consider distance from cam to subject in making your decision. Have a set of headphones to monior audio

If you've got the shooting experience, go out and get one of these cams, do some test shots, and I think you'll be quite pleased with the results, and any rig you put together should be very portable!

Also keep in mind that editing HDV takes a lot more horsepower, so consider that in your budgeting.
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Old July 27th, 2007, 02:51 PM   #4
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Thanks guys for the very useful and complete answers - much appreciated.

I think the FX7 looks like the sort of camera that would work for me.

Just one question which I can't quite seem to figure out - can it record in SD (NTSC-DV)? And having done that, will I be able to pop the tape in a SD decks and capture my footage and edit as per normal in SD?

There might be an obvious answer but this industry has become so muddled and complicated what with hard drives, high def and so on...I just want to be sure.

Thanks

Ron
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Old July 27th, 2007, 03:05 PM   #5
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Yes, all HDV camcorders also record DV, meaning the real DV standard, so you will be able to capture with a deck or any other DV camcorder.

You may want to do yourself a favor and read up a little before opening your wallet. Yes, this field has become very complicated lately, and things don't look too clear for the near future either as new formats emerge. So beware of the limitations of CMOS sensors and the cameras built around them - depending on your future plans, and budget permitting, you may want to throw in another $1500 and go for a truely professional Z1... just a thought.
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Old July 27th, 2007, 03:13 PM   #6
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Go for the FX7, You wont go wrong.

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Old July 28th, 2007, 02:35 AM   #7
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Forgive me if I'm misinterpreting this, but on first reading, I really think you're heading for trouble here.

I also produce corporate video for companies and after 20 years of doing so, here are my 2 cents.

The 'abundant cameras and equipment" aren't really what got you the quality video it sounds like you're accustomed to. That's the province of those "production people." The tools are the LEAST important part of the equasion. Just like the paintbrush isn't any where near as important as the skill of the painter.

IMO, quality videography is difficult - requiring serious concentration and skill.

To conducting an interview well ALSO takes great concentration and skill.

Doing both simultaneously - with quality - is pretty much impossible. (I say that because I've tried it and can attest that when I have, I've come back with the MOST mediocre results of my career)

The simple truth is that if you're shooting, you're not interviewing. And if you're interviewing, you're not shooting. One will suffer.

So are you OK with one or both of those being mediocre for this project?

Something to, perhaps, consider ahead of time.

Oh, BTW, you note "just talking head interviews" - but the truth, at least as I see it, is that this is precisely the MOST delicate work you can do. One person on camera for everyone to see, judge, evaluate, and critique. When they look and sound great the result is personal and corporate happiness and everyone wants to participate in the next video. When you DON'T get great stuff - if people look less than steller or sound choppy and disjointed because you didn't really connect during the interviews - the next time you visit that plant or city every "expert" in the company will call in sick or be on vacation.

FWIW
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Old July 28th, 2007, 11:05 AM   #8
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Thanks for the advice Bill. These are actually medical videos, and the interviewer will be an expert in the field to be discussed, not me. As it happens I have many years of professional photography (commercial) behind me, and have an in-depth knowledge of lighting and the concepts of photography and videography.

Previously, the shooters I have employed have only been required to bring their equipment along and "press the button". I have always been the on-site director.

So basically, because there are so many interviews, I'm just trying to cut out the hassle of employing a whole bunch of shooters across the country to do some work I can easily do myself. I just needed some help on the best camera to do the job right now.

Thanks

Ron
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Old July 28th, 2007, 11:58 AM   #9
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Dare I suggest the Canon xha1?

The best value for what you get camera in recent years.............
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Old August 1st, 2007, 05:00 PM   #10
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Good suggestion...

Great suggestion Ger...After extensive research I went with the Canon XH-A1 - it arrives tomorrow.

I was always concerned about the audio quality of the lower end cameras, and from what I can see, most folks seem to love the Canon (and they have a $250 rebate)

Thanks

Ron
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