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Panasonic DVX / DVC Assistant
The 4K DVX200 plus previous Panasonic Pro Line cams: DVX100A, DVC60, DVC30.


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Old August 28th, 2007, 06:41 AM   #1
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1st Camera

Hi!

I am buying my first camera and planning my first documentaries. I am an anthropology student and plan to travel with it and use it under a variety or reasonably challenging circumstances (I say this to differentiate it from filming where you control the environment all the time, such as indoors and well lit). At least initially, I will be doing my own editing just using computers. I don't have a big budget.

I am strongly considering getting a used DVX100. From the research I have done, it sounds like a good overall choice for someone like me in terms of ruggedness, quality of picture, and so on. It is a little bigger than most handhelds and would seem to offer more stability for shooting off the tripod.

I wanted to see if anyone had anything to say or suggest. For the money, I also considered the JVC Everio. It's size and high definition are bonuses, but I am concerned that it will be very difficult to do off tripod shooting without shake as it is so small. Also, I keep reading about the differences between video and the "film like" feel of the 24p shooting of the DVX. I can buy one of these new and have a little left over.

Finally, there is the Panasonic DVC-20 which is shoulder mounted (that seems to be a bonus for what want) but does not have the quality of picture that the Everio has, nor the 24p shooting ability of the DVX. I can buy one of these new.

As of right now, I am leaning toward the used DVX. Does anybody have any advice?

Thank you for your time,

Russ
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Old August 28th, 2007, 08:32 AM   #2
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For a versatile standard definition camera that looks great and offers many creature comforts for shooters as well as offering pro XLR audio inputs, the DVX100 is hard to beat. In terms of detailed discussions of this camera vs. that, you will find many threads on that issue. But from personal experience, I think the DVX100 is among the best prosumer standard definition camcorder ever.

Since you're shooting ethnographic documentary (I presume) your choice of AUDIO gear is just as important as the camera selection. It's especially important because you're often shooting conversations and one person is on camera and the other is off camera and you want good audio of both. Often putting wireless lavalier mics on several subjects is not an option.

If you're going to shoot on your own, without someone doing sound, you might consider an M-S stereo Mic to use mounted on the camera, for example, the Audio-Technica AT835ST. Why do I suggest this? The short of it is that an M-S mic on the camera will allow you in post to extract the audio as Stereo, or just Left, just Center, or just Right, so, for example, if someone is speaking to the right of the camera you can more easily isolate them in post production. If you had a standard shotgun on the camera, someone to the right of the camera would be muffled. With an M-S mic you can pull their dialog out more easily.

An M-S Mic is basically two mics in one unit, a shotgun (the M-Middle) and a figure-8 mic (the S-Side, capturing audio from the Left and Right). In post you can extract what you need: Just the Middle (like a normal shotgun) or just the Left or just the right from the sum or difference of the M and S signals. This makes the on-camera mounted mic much more versatile for cinema-verite ethnographic shooting. For some reason this "trick" for better audio in cinema-verite situations is not widely known, but I've used it in several situations with excellent results. When using an M-S microphone this way it's important to record the original M and S signals into the L and R channels of the camera and turn off any stereo encoding that might be done by the mic itself. You want to do your processing in post.

Also, in a pinch, if you want some of the benefits but don't have access to a true M-S stereo Microphone, I've sometimes faked it with a shotgun and omnidirectional lav taped to the top of the shotgun. Not as good as an M-S stereo mic, but it makes it easier to capture audio of people to the left or right of the camera.
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Old August 29th, 2007, 05:55 AM   #3
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Thanks

Thanks very much!

It is amazing to see people going out of their way to help others.

I know a little about cameras, but almost nothing about sound. I have a few books on the way but it sounds like I would not find that info in them.

I am going to try and track down an M-S stereo mic now.

All the best.

Russ
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Old August 29th, 2007, 11:38 AM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Russ Hazard View Post
[...] I am going to try and track down an M-S stereo mic now [...]
Your welcome, I have a special place in my heart for ethnographic filmmaking, I suggest experimenting and seeing if it works for you. As far as learning more about sound, check out the two books by Jay Rose: www.dplay.com/book/index.html
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