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Sony HVR-A1 and HDR-HC Series
Sony's latest single-CMOS additions to their HDV camcorder line.


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Old April 27th, 2006, 06:24 PM   #1
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5000 Miles With An HC1? We need help!

Evening All,

A brief introduction first. My name is Dave, I have been poring over the various forums here for some time now and it really is a fantastic resource which beginners like myself are hugely grateful for. Now its decision time

I will try and keep this brief. In May a friend and myself are setting out to walk coast to coast across the US - www.walkingthestates.com. We will be carrying everything we need in backpacks. We want to document the trip on film in the best possible quality, given the obvious weight restrictions inherent in such an undertaking.

We have had some interest from programme makers here in Europe and some help in the form of a friend who currently works in editing for a Danish channel. Beyond the frantic reading that we have been doing on the subject, we are complete beginners, though I have a good grounding in stills photography. We are looking to come out of this with something that will merit broadcast. I appreciate that this is a big ask.

Because we will only have 1 camera to cover all the situations we need a bit of an all-rounder. We are looking to record the landscapes certainly and much of our shooting will be expansive - Utah, Colorado etc. However, the other side of what we are looking to record will be the people experiences. I am sure that we will get the chance to meet some fascinating people along the way and I am sure that a lot of these meetings will be in low-light (high alcohol?) situations. In these circumstances the audio track/ entertainment value will hopefully be sufficient to compensate for the poorer quality footage.

We are not specifically looking for HD footage (in the UK we are way behind the US in this regard) but we are looking for widescreen (strangely we are way ahead on this one) We will not complete the walk, and therefore begin editing, until Autumn 07. We have been advised to by a PAL camera, even though it would be cheaper for us to buy in the US, as the editing will take place back in Europe.

The reason that I am posting here is because I think that HC1 will be the best camera for our purposes. I have handled a GL2 and I think that this and the DVC30 are just a little too heavy for us. I realise that the A1 has benefits re. audio but, again due to weight, I do not think we are in a position to capitalise on these advantages on this trip. The price is obviously a big factor too. As far as I can see our only real options are the HC1, the HC3 or the GS400/500. Any thoughts on these or any other options I may have excluded will be much appreciated.

What I am leaning towards taking are the following:
HC1
Charger
Spare battery
Tapes
Sony wide-angle adaptor
Polarising filter (any recommendations?)
Rode Videomic + windsock (we will need an external bracket? anyone know how heavy these are?)
very poor lightweight tripod (no other choice here unfortunately)

Stupid/Sensible?

Is the Videomic a good option for recording the audio we will need indoors and out? Is it directional enough to pick up dialogue in a room with a lot of ambience noise. We have been advised to get lavellier mics for this purpose but I do not know if it is possible to attatch 2 into the HC1 (via a splitter?), also if we do this will we still pick up the ambient noise needed to set the scene?

Has anyone any experience of a similar project? Does anyone have any recommendations of good books/resources that will help us on our way? Any hot tips?

I apologise for the length (and breadth!) of this one, its a novel, but any advice that you may have would be a real help.

Thanks in advance,
Dave
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Old April 27th, 2006, 09:28 PM   #2
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Hi Dave

Great project, a real life-experience thing...

My initial thoughts:

1. You're in luck - Check out this thread kicked-off by Lee Kazimir who is doing a vey long walk in the Ukraine and has/had similar intentions to yourself. He bought an A1 (HC1 + audio features basically):
http://www.dvinfo.net/conf/showthread.php?t=59071

2. Widescreen = no problem and 100% YES. I absolutely advise to shoot HDV. No point shooting DV now, HDV is the future and if you shoot DV i think you will regret it. HC1 and A1 can both shoot DV anyway, but best is to shoot in HDV mode and then you cna downconvert to very good quality DV footage, AND you've still got the original HDV footage.
HDV footage is ONLY 16:9 widescreen. Do not shoot 4:3 (only possible in DV mode anyway).

3. PAL camera - yes definitely. HC1 if you didn't know is now discontinued model BUT they are still in stock at various places. It can be had in UK for GBP1049. For eg. a very reputable UK retailer is www.warehouseexpress.com
GBP1049 there. Jessops (jessops.com) will probably price-match that price.
A1 stays in production. Advice : get the camera ASAP (or even better ASAFP..). You will need to 'learn' the camera a bit and just gain a week or two's experience with it, find out it's idiosyncracies, and what it 'likes' and doesn't 'like'. You *can* get PAL model at places like B&h photo in NYC (www.bhphotovideo.com) but then you (may..) get clobbered for import duty back at Heathrow on the way back etc. It's USD1500 right now.
Plus you're forced to go via NYC plus you won't have hardly any time to get to know the camera.
Plus with exchange rates at about 1.77bucks=1GBP, you won't really be saving anything much. Get it in UK.

4. Definitely buy at least one spare battery, better to get two. The 71D is the minimum, maybe even the 91D (biggest you can get for that).
ALWAYS remember to recharge everynight, before you have too many beers (you will, you're a Brit..) and pass out and wake up next day with half-a-battery charged... I speak (maybe..) out of personal experience.

5. Tapes - you could use any MiniDV tape, but i'd recommend sticking to Sony tapes. Probably the Sony Premium is a good bet. Buy in multi-packs, much cheaper that way. It's a good compromise and i have good experiences of those tapes. Always have PLENTY of tapes and PLENTY of batteries on hand. Those are showstoppers. Also always have a Sony head-cleaning tape on hand. That is a potential show-stopper too.

6. Sony WA adaptor : get one of these two:
VCL-HG0737Y, bigger, black, 380gms, 0.7x, nice lens
VCL-HG0737X, bit smaller, silver, 320gms, 0.7x, also a nice lens.
Either one should be fine. Maybe the Y lens is a preference, but there's little in it.

7. Pol. filter: get a circular polariser, not a linear polariser. 37mm thread. Hoya or B&W is fine. Use on sunny days, no point on cloudy days. Also helps zap reflections off glass and water. Some people say with HC1 it introduces grain in the sky, i haven't any experience of that, so try it yourself. I advise getting a UV filter too mainly for lens protection. Better to clean a filter than the lens front element.

8. Videomic = excellent mic. lightweight, cheap (about 90quid). Get a DEadcat too ! Important ! you will need it in any wind greater than about 10mph. Rode Deadcat about 25quid. Try dolphinmusic.co.uk if you get stuck. good prices. Ideal for outdoors, quite directional, very sensitive. Not the most ideal mic indoors, due to it being a shotgun mic, but try it and see. Learn early and find what's acceptable to you. YOu HAVE to have an external bracket to mount Videomic. Screws into tripod socket.
External bracket: I have the Bescor VB-50 bracket. 10dollars in USA, (probably 15quid in UK! (ha!!)). Check it out on B&H :
http://www.bhphotovideo.com/bnh/cont...ughType=search
It may be called something else in UK. (not Bescor). Any flash bracket will do - you just need a cold-shoe mount. it's LIGHT. - don't worry.

9. Lavalier mics - yes i'd get one or two. Generally they're omni-directional (pick up sound more or less from all-directions). Get wired omnis, not wireless. Wireless is too heavy and expensive for what you're doing. Suggest getting Giant Squid lavaliers, dirt cheap, and really bl00dy good.
http://www.giant-squid-audio-lab.com/
Mail order only from U.S. But you can get wired lavs from almost anywhere.
Y-splitter?? not sure on that one. Someone else here will know (lot of clever sound chappies on this site for sure, mainly in 'Now Hear This' forum).

10. Get a GPS receiver. Brilliantly useful. REcommend Garmin etrex. Tells you all kinds of clever stuff. - distance to tonite's stop, current speed, distance walked, avg. speed, time travelled, altitude, how far from my fave local pub in The Lanes are we, what direction are we going in, total distance travelled now since we started, what time (exactly!) is sunset and sunrise... see my post in the other Ukraine thread on this.

that's it.

Oh yes, on shoes i recommed Nike Air or Asics Gel Kayano. Both tough, lightweight, breathable, v. comfortable. Wouldn't get anything else to be honest, but that's a personal thing.

Fire off any more Q's as you want.

rgds.
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Old April 27th, 2006, 11:02 PM   #3
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I took an HC1 on a long trip recently, here's some thoughts:

1) Get an A1, not an HC1. There are a lot of goodies that you will find helpful other than the sound. It has regular coldshoe, so if you leave the XLR module at home, your Videomic will mount straight on, no bracket necessary. Stuff that I have found useful on the A1 vs the HC1: full frame mode on the viewfinder, black stretch, cinetone color curve, center point marker (useful for zoom), much better shot transition mode, built-in lenscap in the hood, badass black finish. (The sound is *much* better with the XLR module on, however, bear in mind if you are aiming for broadcast.)

2) Get a standalone battery charger, so you can leave one battery charging while you go out and shoot. A boring charger + battery is a much less tempting target for theft than a snazzy camera plugged into the wall. Get the charge in the US, that way you'll get a really compact one that hangs on the wall, no messing around with bulky UK plugs.

3) Get a small light, even the cheap Sony one will do. Low light performance on the HC1/A1 is pretty weak. If you're meeting people and chatting some lighting will help.

4) Get a good bag, that lets you carry the camera with the wide lens mounted, and get it out quickly. Bonus points for not looking like a camera bag. I ended up getting a duffel bag and lining it with foam myself.

5) Maintenance supplies - lens cleaning cloths, cleaning tapes, etc. The wide lens attracts plenty of dust & dirt.

6) A big memory stick duo - I put in 1GB, found it very useful for timelapse photography, and general snapshots.

7) Maybe take one more battery. I took two of the 71s and the standard small one, and did manage to get through all of them some days.

8. Rain cover. I made one out of acetate sheets (the ones you use for overhead projectors)

Have nice walk!
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Old April 27th, 2006, 11:16 PM   #4
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get rain gear for your camera/ tripod

gretings
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Old April 27th, 2006, 11:17 PM   #5
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Dave -

If you're looking at the HC1, then I'd recommend you go ahead and get the A1 instead. The weight difference isn't going to be enought to matter...you're really only talking about the addition of the XLR breakout box (in comparison to the H1 and the Rode mic), which doesn't really weigh all that much.

One *HUGE* advantage of the XRL box on the A1 is the "Low Freq Cutoff" which you will need out in the wide open. Believe me, I just did a shoot in UTAH earlier this month (out near Arches national park in Moab), and even with my DEADCAT on the mic I was still overwhelmed by the amount of wind noise. But with the "Low Freq Cutoff" you just flip the switch and the wind noise is gone. Of course, so is the rest of the ultra low frequency sound range, but since you're just talking about conversational speaking, it probably shouldn't matter.

The biggest problem I can see with the HC1/HC3/A1 (or any similar sized cam) is the poor low-light performance. Unless you step up to a much bigger cam (which you won't want to carry) then you're not going to be able to shoot well in low light situations and natural light.

Also, I agree with Stu's battery recommendations, but I'll take it one step further: only buy SONY brand batteries, and go ahead and get TWO 91D batteries. I can shoot all day with them, and I still have the stock battery to fall back on if need be. You may not be shooting as much in one day as I do, but if you think it's gonna be a couple days between chargeup opportunities, then having the extra battery life will make or break your production.

Good luck; sounds like it'll be a fun undertaking!

- Duane
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Old April 28th, 2006, 12:07 AM   #6
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I've wondered why one would want to cut off low freq in camera? Why not do it in post, so if you decide you want to keep the low freq you have it, but you can get rid of it also if you want in post. What advantage is there to doing it with the audio module? And you'd lose the possibility of having the low freq included in the audio.
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Old April 28th, 2006, 02:13 AM   #7
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If you do go with the HC1 and need a bracket to mount the mic, Stu is right that the Bescor doesn't exist in the UK. You can import it, or here are a couple of options available in the UK:

http://www.keene.co.uk/cgi-bin/codesearch.pl?6811
http://www.keene.co.uk/cgi-bin/codesearch.pl?6831

Mark
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Old April 28th, 2006, 03:13 AM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Alex Thames
I've wondered why one would want to cut off low freq in camera? Why not do it in post, so if you decide you want to keep the low freq you have it, but you can get rid of it also if you want in post. What advantage is there to doing it with the audio module? And you'd lose the possibility of having the low freq included in the audio.
If you went with the HC1 and got a Rode Videomic, then that also has a "LF Cutoff" switch. Some people think the Rode VM is better than the stock A1 mic.

The biggest reason for any LF switch is so that you DO NOT have to do any thing (one hopes) in post production. If you know for certain that you are going to be redoing the audio in post and have the proper filters and such, then there is probably no specific reason to use the LF Cutoff.
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Old April 28th, 2006, 03:37 AM   #9
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But even if the only thing you wanted to get rid of was the LF, how hard is it to do that in post? The way I see it, I would prefer to leave the LF in while recording just so I would have the option to either keep it or ditch it later. I always like more options available to me, even when I'm basically sure I will only need or want one (just to be safe or if I change my mind).
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Old April 28th, 2006, 10:22 AM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Marc Ries
If you went with the HC1 and got a Rode Videomic, then that also has a "LF Cutoff" switch. Some people think the Rode VM is better than the stock A1 mic.

The biggest reason for any LF switch is so that you DO NOT have to do any thing (one hopes) in post production. If you know for certain that you are going to be redoing the audio in post and have the proper filters and such, then there is probably no specific reason to use the LF Cutoff.
Just a quick report on this - it's true the Videomic has a low-cut filter switch and it does work....
BUT....
I can confirm that even with the Rode Deadcat windshield and using the on-mic Rode Low-cut filter, you will still get *some* wind-noise when the wind reaches a certain level. I tend to have the LCF on the Videomic on all the time. Obviously the exact frequency point at which the low-cut filter kicks in, and the amount of attenuation that it gives at and below that frequency is a matter of the designer's 'taste', so it's probably (in my view) that the LCF on the XLR module of the A1 is more severe than the LCF on the Videomic and therefore is more successful at zapping wind-noise in the field. But of course, you will lose more of the actual low-frequency sounds that you may want. I'm sure it can be done nicely in post either in your NLE of choice or there's plenty of audio/sound packages out there that can do this sort of thing.
I agree with the above posters that ideally the A1 would be better. Not only much more audio options, but it will be more compact 'width-wise' as if you use the VB-50 bracket (or similar) it will give the camera quite a lot of width, whereas using the XLR module on the A1, it makes it taller but not wider.
- One may be a better choice than the other.

Duane - which mic were you using on your A1 in Utah? NTG2? NTG1? just curious on that.

regards
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Old April 28th, 2006, 10:24 AM   #11
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Marc Ries
If you went with the HC1 and got a Rode Videomic, then that also has a "LF Cutoff" switch. Some people think the Rode VM is better than the stock A1 mic.
I agree totally with this - if you do get the Sony A1 instead of the HC1, then buy a better mic for it (XLR balanced mic) than the stock included Sony external mic. Rode NTG1 or NTG2 are two good choices for outdoors. Sennheiser ME64 (with K6 power unit) better for indoors.
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Old April 28th, 2006, 02:28 PM   #12
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Stu - I use the crappy stock SONY mic....shocking, I know! LOL!


And I use the FG cutoff on camera because:

#1 - Losing those freqs really doesn't affect what I'm shooting;

#2 - The wind noise makes it absurdly difficult to hear anything else going on when listening through the headphone monitor! All you hear is "whooshhhh-wooo-<static>-whoooshh!" through the headphones. But by using the LF cutoff, I can actually hear everything else.
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