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Old February 6th, 2007, 01:50 PM   #1
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Pan or Can: Musings of a confused buyer

Like many people on this site I’m agonising over whether to get an HDV camcorder(Canon A1 actually) or take the P2 route with the HVX 200. My preference changes daily but some of the joys of P2 are beginning to look increasingly appealing to me, particularly with the advent of 2 8gig P2 cards being tossed into the ring.
Some thoughts:

(1) Most of my recent work consists of shooting loads of rubbish to get the odd pearl in the mud. What would it be like if I could throw out the shots I didn’t want and keep the choice ones. How much easier my life would be. Then there's the hours i've spent capturing tape. How many hours a year of trawling through tape would the p2 eliminate?
(2)
Another attraction is the ability to shoot 3 seconds backwards. I often find I have to hang on to a shot for 20, 30 seconds or more before I get what I want – A smile or something. When editing I see this all the time and what a waste of time it is too. The thought that I could hang on till the smile/movement/action or whatever, actually happens and press play and abracadabra I’ve got the shot, seems to me a huge step forward from any workflow I’ve ever dreamed of.
(3)
Much is made of the price of P2 cards but have you seen the price of HDV VTR decks?If I go the Canon route how much do I have to spend on a VTR deck? Sony do one for 2 grand but would that be compatible with the Canon? Either way it’s a lot of money to get my stuff onto my Final cut system. Some say buy a cheap camcorder and capture off that, but this strikes me as a wasteful and wrongheaded approach when you can buy a laptop to accompany an HVX for the same price. I’d like to think someone else will get a lot of enjoyment from the camera and would not want to use one in such a way. I’m suspicious of the Firestore option because people who sell them tell me an alarming number are returned – unsurprisingly, since hard drives are not designed to be carried around on the back of cameras, tripods or strapped onto peoples belts.
(4) I keep reading about motion issues with HDV and have begun to wonder whether the format has serious flaws. Alternatively, most people seem to agree the Panasonic is working in an acknowledged professional format. I plead ignorance on the debate, and these views may well be nonsense. Some of the A1 stuff posted on this site has hugely impressed me. I’d like to know more if anyone has an opinion about this?
(5) P2 cards are likely to double in size shortly and triple in the near(ish) future as the prices fall. Will suitable VTR decks be keeping up with them in terms of value for money? I haven’t noticed any evidence of the latter occurring to suggest this may be the case.
(6) A couple of years ago I had the pleasure of working for 2 DOP’s with film backgrounds. They pointed out the differences between their earlier workflows and how times had changed. “film focuses the mind” they said, and they had a good point. Will P2 cards focus my mind I wonder? I could do with fine tuning my approach to shooting and maybe, just maybe, The Panasonic HVX200 will be just the tool to set me in the right direction.
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Old February 6th, 2007, 03:24 PM   #2
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Dom,

I would suggest you do some extensive research in this Panasonic forum and others and base your decision on that. All of these basic questions have been asked and answered many times.

If you are shooting tons of stuff to find the pearl, what are you going to dump all of those P2 cards onto. Do you carry a laptop top with a large harddrive with you. If you are talking about just reshooting over the cards without dumping them, I don't know the procedure, but with only minutes of time on each card you could have problems if that pearl comes at the end. You can reuse tapes you know. I do it all of the time, just rewind and reshoot.

As far as a deck, all of the HDV cameras use a slightly different system, therefore there is no universal deck. That could be a problem for you, but with just one camera you need only one deck or way of capturing. For less than the price of a one P2 card, you can buy a second camera from Sony or Canon (HV10 for example) and use it as a deck and a B roll camera. That is pretty handy and what I intend to do.

You have to seriously look at the situations under which you shoot and the ergonomics of the type of camera you like.

In a studio type situation or with access to computers and the ability to dump your P2 cards quickly, a Panasonic camera would be a great choice! It has a great picture and many advantages over some other cameras and systems. More information to work with and a beautiful image.

If your out running and gunning or shooting wildlife in the field, then a Sony, JVC or a Canon maybe the better choice. Shoot a tape and stick it in your pocket. Then just stick in another tape!

The Panasonic and the Sony are not shoulder cameras, the JVC and the Canon are. Which do you prefer? Have you gone to a store and put each one of them in your hands to get a feel for them? That it really a must if there is anyway you can possibly do it!

Anyway, you posted in a Panasonic forum, and you will mainly get response from Panasonic people. But, from what you wrote, how you wrote it and how I interpret it, that is just what you wanted to do. A little stiring of the pot!

Read the forums for all of the cameras, if you really want to make an informed choice.
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Old February 6th, 2007, 04:59 PM   #3
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Thanks for the advice Mike. "A little stirring of the pot". Yeah, tha't about it.
One of the appealing things about P2 is that i want to wean myself off the habit of shooting loads and take a more considered view of what i'm trying to achieve. Its a habit i've picked up doing promo DVD's where turning off the camera increases the likelihood of missing something. As i pointed out at the end of my post i was interested by what a film camerman friend told me about how film "focusses the mind". Imagine if we all went back to editing with moviolas or whatever. There's something rather frivolous about 21st century technology is there not? I just noticed a link between these two ways of approaching film/video that i wanted to air in public.
You point out that i can reuse tapes. Of course i'm well aware of that but have never done it. With P2 it seems like an obvious thing to do, whereas at 3 quid a pop i wouldn't bother to reuse a tape.
I had a look at an article on these pages comparing the jvc camera with the HVX and couldn't see what people were telling me about the motion blurring of HDV. It's definitely made the Canon look a bit more attractive. The Iris ring is nice too.Shame about the mini LCD though.
By the way its the A1 not the HI i'm looking at which is slightly less of a shoulder cam being a bit shorter than its big bro. I have been to a store and held both cameras for about ten minutes each. the panny gave me wrist ache very quickly. It also seemed to have a lot of buttons on it which i'm not mad about either.
I'm considering doing some travelling in the summer with whichever camera i end up with, so tape will win out if that becomes a reality. In the meantime i'm enjoying the confusion.
By the way, anyone know how these cameras perform in standard DV mode? I'm involved with a couple of companies at the moment who seem disinterested in any kind of HD, though when i finally make a decision i will of course suggest upgrading.
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Old February 6th, 2007, 05:39 PM   #4
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You might go shopping at a local camera store/rental shop. Negotiate a deal on the HVX, then rent one with the understanding that the rental money gets applied to your purchase. Rent over a Sunday or weekend to maximize your play time. Print the manual from the web and study it. Pre-load your laptop with the P2 driver and don't leave the rental house, until you've done a quick runthrough of the workflow.

My son and I rented an HVX last summer. Some aspects were better than expected. (We had no problems getting crisp focus for our shots - we had time to get them right.) Some aspects were more clumsy than expected. (Why are the menu buttons sideways? How many menus do I need to visit to do time lapse?) And the P2 thing wasn't as smooth as we would have liked due to the transfer time and the Raylight conversion time. (I believe that Raylight has a more direct solution these days.)

Oh yeah, you'll need Raylight, Cineform or an editor that can handle the format. Maybe Edius has a 30-day trial?

After one intense weekend, you'll know exactly if the HVX is right for you.

I wonder what Red rentals will cost?...
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Old February 7th, 2007, 03:32 AM   #5
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Good idea John. I wonder if i could get the dealer to rent me both the A1 and HVX on consecutive weekends, and take the cost off the eventual purchase. Or would that be a tad cheeky?
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Old February 7th, 2007, 12:20 PM   #6
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Rule 1 for an indie director is to be willing to ask cheeky questions. Sometimes people say "yes"!
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