Shooting at sea + batteries at

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Sony ENG / EFP Shoulder Mounts
Sony PDW-F800, PDW-700, PDW-850, PXW-X500 (XDCAM HD) and PMW-400, PMW-320 (XDCAM EX).

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Old January 30th, 2007, 01:58 AM   #1
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Shooting at sea + batteries

I work for an environmental charity and I've been gradually sucked into organising their footage (my day job is actually IT Manager). I starting doing some interesting campaign-type edits, but quickly realised we don't have much footage that belongs to us. With no budget and a charity board skeptical about the value of new media, I resolved to get the footage myself.

Easier said than done :-)

I've been experimenting with a hired Z1 but I'm disappointed with the quality (the codec seems to compress the hell out of the picture) so I'm looking to move up to a pro level camera. Having haunted these threads for a few months (why does it take so long to get activated??) and reading what you guys have said - thanks to all of you for some really great posts - I've pretty much made up my mind to go with an F350 with the KH20 glass.

So to my questions... is this a practical camera to shoot at sea with, or am I just going to end up with a really expensive salt-corroded paperweight? Who does the the best rain covers, and is there an underwater housing for this camera yet?

Also, I can't find any useful info on v-lock batteries and chargers - has anybody had good/bad experiences with the different makes and models out there?

FYI most of the time will be shooting on a fairly high and stable platform, if it comes to the rowing boat I'll take the Z1 :-)
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Old January 30th, 2007, 03:01 AM   #2
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I apologize for what I'm about to say...I promise you I'm not trying to be harsh.

I think the 350 is a whole heck of a lot of camera for somebody who is just learning how to shoot.

If I'm assessing your experience level correctly, I'll bet you lunch that you're not getting everything out of your Z1 that you could be. You mention that the Z1 uses too much compression to your liking...what is it you're seeing that you don't like?

If you're having a hard time getting good looking images out of a Z1, then you're going to have an even harder time getting them out of a 350...the Z1 is capable of tremendous images if it's used correctly. One common mistake I see with the Z1 is that people will have manual shutter and iris working in conjunction with auto gain. If you're not constantly on top of the shutter and iris in even slightly low light conditions, then you get noise/compression mush. Also, people tend to make critical judgments of HDV quality using their computer screen, when sometimes the NLE is the last thing you should be using to make such decisions.

I say this all not to be grumpy, but to save you time and money. Reading these forums too much make it all too easy to think "If I only had x, it would all be better"...when the truth of the matter is that often our own skills that are lacking (I've been guilty of this too, btw).

So maybe I have you all wrong and you've been shooting video on the side for years with a number of cameras, and you really hate that smidgen of motion blur you get with HDV, etc etc etc. But if I'm right, please take my words as kind advisement, and carefully re-evaluate your needs.
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Old January 30th, 2007, 04:00 AM   #3
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The Z1's gain must be set in manual @ 0 db and viewable as such in the viewfinder or the gain will be set by the camera's auto exposure based on the F stop or shutter speed. Seems to be a bit backwards, but this will burn you if the gain is not manually set @ 0. The camera is designed to make a good exposure based on adjusting the gain and not the F stop if the gain is not set in manual @ 0 db!

Other wise the Z1 will serve your sea going adventures just fine, I would purchase a waterproof housing for the camera, to protect it from the elements. No matter how careful you are it will get wet unless you leave it behind.
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Old January 30th, 2007, 04:07 AM   #4
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No worries Nate, I appreciate what you're saying. I've been round the houses on the logic of this a few times, but I keep ending up in the same place.

I come from a primarily stills background. We do a number of cetacean surveys off the coast of the UK each year, and I've been documenting them first with my trusty Canon 30D SLR, and latterly with the Z1.

The Z1 is a really nice camera for the price, but for me it has two issues;
1. It just has a little too much compression artifacting when shooting 1080i for my liking. And I'm really not that fond of the interlaced image, the 720p picture looks better, but I'm concerned about the shelf life of 720 footage - I'd much rather have the 1080p capability. The F330/350 35Mbps data throughput is a big draw.
2. The lens just doesn't zoom far enough to capture good images from land (we also use the pictures for photo-ID), and it's not wide-angle enough for some of the cramped wheelhouses I've tried to shoot in (last trip the camera and I got soaked whilst trying to film through the wheelhouse porthole). So I need the interchangable capability too.

I spent months exploring the available cameras on the market, and to me the XDCAM series just nails it in terms of feature set and workflow. I guess you're right about the 350 being a heck of a lot of camera, but I'd rather spend the money (mine, not the charity's) getting the right body that is going to be up to the variety of shooting conditions I'm going to encounter. The glass is another big investment - but one at a time, thankfully.

In addition to the two major factors above, and the disk-based workflow, what really sold me on the F350 was the under/over cranking. I've got a trip planned for this summer shooting feeding humpbacks off Cape Cod - I can visualise that shot already :-)
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Old January 30th, 2007, 09:35 AM   #5
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Well, alright then. As long as you know what you're getting yourself into.

The original question, is it a practical camera to shoot at sea with? Well it is, for somebody that can stay on top of all the things one needs to be on top of with a camera like this (ND, iris, focus), plus the size and weight, plus the aspects of being on the water (cramped spaces, gotta be vigilant with the gear staying dry, or at least being taken care of, having good "sea legs" with your new 20lb friend).

I've been working with large cameras for 15 years now, and I wouldn't assume these responsibilities lightly myself, if it was just me shooting without help.
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Old January 30th, 2007, 09:43 AM   #6
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Originally Posted by Lindsay Bruce
Who does the the best rain covers, and is there an underwater housing for this camera yet?
"Underwater housing" can mean different things. Do you want a water resistant housing, suitable for sea spray and an unexpected dunk in the ocean? Or a housing that can resist the extra atmospheres of pressure when diving?

Using the latter for above-surface shots gets very tiring - housings tend to be quite heavy! Also, unless you get one with a built-in microphone, you won't pick up the above-surface audio.
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Old January 30th, 2007, 10:23 AM   #7
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Thanks guys, good advice.

I was thinking of a housing for diving, but now that you've mentioned the "unexpected dunk" maybe I'd best hold off on the underwater shots a while and get something a bit more protective than a rain cover. I guess Nate's also right about keeping on top of operating the camera - hard enough to do it above water, so best not think about underwater until I get comfy with it.

LOL! Sea legs are pretty much okay. My last trip we were on an old ice-breaker (no keel) that liked to roll. We had a very experienced shooter using a HVX200. He spent the first 3 days in his bunk green-faced and puking every 30 minutes. Meantime I got some interesting footage on the Z1 of green water shipping over the bows...

Back to the batteries - is there any substantial difference between IDX and Sony's own? Is it a personal preference thing?
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Old January 30th, 2007, 01:51 PM   #8
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We have two Z1's with proper underwater housings for diving. We use the Amphibico Phenom housings. You can get to every menu function from the outside of the housing. You can even throw the camera into VTR mode and screen your rushes while you decompress on the dive line. We just finished a series called Dreamwrecks using these cameras. Underwater the Z1 HDV footage looks brilliant. But these housing are WAY too heavy and cumbersome to use out of the water. I would suggest a camera bag type system.
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Old February 7th, 2007, 05:07 PM   #9
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If you just want a rain cover then Petrol makes a glove for the F330/F350 with a rain cover as well. I've used it in quite a heavy rain and it works quite well. I've also gone out on a little fishing boat once, but I can't say I'd make a habit of that. Sounds like you might want something more than just a raincoat if you're going to be out on the sea that much!

Good luck!

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Old February 8th, 2007, 08:16 AM   #10
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Lindsay and all,
I have to agree with Nate on the sea legs not from a point of view of video but I am a sea captain in the US Merchant Marine, and I discovered that in bad weather things have a mind of their own, so a 20 lbs camera on the move is a bear to stop, if not impossible.
I may ways you and I are in the same boat no pun intended!, and my reason to come back to the f330/350 is image quality, and my question is : In my spare time(when not at sea) I love to shoot a lot of sceneries a la Sunrise earth, and I seriously thinking to approach local stations at the onset of HD broadcast and sell them footage,now is it fair to assume that the XCcam is as close to HDcam image quality, or is there anything lighter which can match this image quality.
Sorry I do not intend to digress of the spirit of this thread but my question was so similar in the intend that I thought it might be added.
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Old February 8th, 2007, 10:17 AM   #11
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Just my 3 cents...... a person can select a lens and battery to lessen the weight of the XDcam.... It could weigh from 14 lbs with 3.4 lb lens, AB 90 battery to like Nate said 20 lbs with heavier Battery and lens. So if you are set on the XDcam you could keep weight in mind when you are selecting lens and battery.... alot of the weight of the camera will be based on those 2 items. I think the Body itself weighs only 8 - 9 lbs.
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Old February 12th, 2007, 08:59 AM   #12
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Guess I find the weight discussion amusing - I'm 6'4" and weigh close to 300 lbs. In rough weather, you don't need to worry about the camera - you need to worry about me flying across the bridge, smashing the glare-guard off the radar screen and squashing the 1st mate against a bulkhead. He was pretty good about it really, and didn't complain very much about the bruised ribs... :-)

Good pointers on the lens and battry setup. This is a heavy bit of kit to be carrying around in unstable conditions. I was thinking of getting an EasyRig or something similar to stop the camera going off on a "trip" of its own whilst its in use. Otherwise it will be safely stowed in a case below deck. I am 99% that the F350 is *my* camera, so now I just have to find ways to mitigate the weight at sea.

Patrick, I can't really speak to the issue of XDCAM vs. HDCAM quality as I don't have sufficient experience of HDCAM, but the Discovery HD's stamp of approval on the F330/350 strongly suggests the quality is close enough not to matter. But there are people better qualified on this board to talk more to that issue (perhaps they already have in another thread). Equally I think they will tell you that more than anything else your choice of lens will dictate the quality of what you capture. However, with all that said, from what I've been able to discern if you want to sell your HD footage to broadcasters then you'll definitely be looking at a pro camera which in turn probably means something quite heavy. The F330/350's appear to stack up quite well in this regard.

It's good to know though that somebody else has been through the same thought process as I have and arrived at the same conclusion!
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Old February 15th, 2007, 02:32 PM   #13
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Thanks Lindsay
That explains at 6'4" 300lbs you are more of a danger than a puny 20lbs cam.
Man I love to see you in the small pilothouse of a small vessel, I am sure it might be uncomfortable at times. One of my relief was a big chap like you and everytime he went down to the Engine room the boys below prepared band aids,I am 5'7" and I can vouch steel pipe vs forehead: you loose.
Well the F330 is a logical move for me. I could follow the progression of migrating through most of the cheaper HDV models to finally arrive to the same conclusion I am at now that as pure image quality is concerned, short of a HDcam or Varicam it is where it is.
So it makes sense to me even as an amateur to procure the best tool I want to spend money on.
I am not planning to take this one to sea but Lindsay, please let me know how it goes for you, and the F350 it might make me audacious
Cheers Mate
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Old February 16th, 2007, 05:08 PM   #14
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Nowadays some people are using lightweight HD rigs like the polecam at sea - partly because you can get a submersible head, partly to get those "over the side" shots, and also its quite lightweight, although needs a seperate recorder (can you get an XDcam portable recorder?) - you do get lots of fishing jokes though... I mention it because I've been looking at getting one and their site has some footage of men going out in small boats to film walruses and things...

edit: the walrus footage was on their stand at the Video Forum show, but I don't think it's on the showreel
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