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Sony HVR-Z1 / HDR-FX1
Pro and consumer versions of this Sony 3-CCD HDV camcorder.


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Old April 4th, 2006, 12:24 PM   #1
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FX1 in cold / on world adventure?

Hey everyone just registered yesterday and I'm pretty new to all this, I'm a 19 year old student living in Victoria BC, I've filmed skateboarding and snowboarding for a couple years with a vx 2000 and I've decided to get a Sony HDR FX1.

Now my friends and I are going on a trip in the the Winter of 07 to Africa, the trip will include a 10 day climb of Mount Kilimanjaro, the decent, travel around Tanzania a bit, and then climb another smaller mountain before going to Egypt. In Egypt we will be exploring the pyramids and then taking a cruise down the Nile.

Now I'd like to film this whole trip and I have a few questions, can the FX1 handle the extreme cold at the top of the mountain, and more importantly should I purchase lots of HD tapes or bring my stock pile of dv tapes (Sony Premium) and use those?

Thanks everyone

Last edited by Jesse Christie; April 4th, 2006 at 12:32 PM. Reason: typo
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Old April 4th, 2006, 12:54 PM   #2
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Welcome to DVinfo Jesse, sounds like you've got quite an adventure planned :-)

Will leave the issue of cold temperatures to others. One thing to realize, if you haven't used one before, is that the FX1 is significantly larger than the VX2000 (I have both) so you'll need to carry a larger case.

I have used the Sony premium tapes for just about everything in my Z1 and can't remember having any dropouts at all (yet!). But for once-in-a-lifetime footage perhaps you should have all the "insurance" possible, so the additional cost of the Sony digital master tapes might be justifiable....
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Old April 4th, 2006, 01:58 PM   #3
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Great stuff Jesse... in regards to Egypt... are you using a package tour or doing it yourselves? You will be required to pay to film at any tourist site and in some cases you will not be allowed to film... Keep your equipment well gaurded and keep a low profile... you will get a lot of attention at the tourist sites. DUST/SAND is a big issue... particularly in the tombs and on the cruise ships at night, you can see the fine sand in the air when you look at the ships deck lights, and you can feel it in your lungs in the morning - think about using a cover for your camera. Egypt is a great place for a film maker Jesse... but do be careful, plan things as well as you can in advance- have fun.

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Old April 4th, 2006, 02:24 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Boyd Ostroff
I have used the Sony premium tapes for just about everything in my Z1 and can't remember having any dropouts at all (yet!). But for once-in-a-lifetime footage perhaps you should have all the "insurance" possible, so the additional cost of the Sony digital master tapes might be justifiable....
Thanks alot Boyd, would you happen to have any suggestions as to how many tapes I should bring and where I can get the HDV tapes cheap?

Quote:
Originally Posted by Stewart Menelaws
Great stuff Jesse... in regards to Egypt... are you using a package tour or doing it yourselves? You will be required to pay to film at any tourist site and in some cases you will not be allowed to film... Keep your equipment well gaurded and keep a low profile... you will get a lot of attention at the tourist sites. DUST/SAND is a big issue... particularly in the tombs and on the cruise ships at night, you can see the fine sand in the air when you look at the ships deck lights, and you can feel it in your lungs in the morning - think about using a cover for your camera. Egypt is a great place for a film maker Jesse... but do be careful, plan things as well as you can in advance- have fun.

Stu...]
This is very helpful as well, in my ignorance I completely forgot to factor in the fact that we'd have to pay to film certain places, it's third world so I can't imagine it costing much, and the sand issue I also had not taken into consideration. Where is a good place to buy a cover from? And also would the climate at Mt. Kilimanjaro have any effect?
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Old April 4th, 2006, 05:43 PM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jesse Christie
it's third world so I can't imagine it costing much
That brought a smile to my face young man... let's just say the folks over there are very experienced with dealing with the tourist. Before you know what's happening you will be loaded down with bits of old King Tut and no money left...:) Joking aside... Depending on how many sites you are planning to vist, charges for video are not that cheap... and it soon adds up. Take a stills camera along aswell (you will also be charged for stills but not as much) , we have done this when in difficult situations and then cut the shots into the video project.

Cold conditions will kill your batteries... so make sure you have enough.
Condensation can be a problem... silicon bags in your camera bag can help, let you camera get aclimatized before removing lenses or opening tape doors... there are a few folks on here who shoot in these kind of conditions... perhaps they will chip in soon...

Stu...
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Old April 4th, 2006, 08:52 PM   #6
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Mountain filming

Quote:
Originally Posted by Jesse Christie
Now my friends and I are going on a trip in the the Winter of 07 to Africa, the trip will include a 10 day climb of Mount Kilimanjaro, the decent, travel around Tanzania a bit, and then climb another smaller mountain before going to Egypt.
I have filmed several mountain climbs in bitter cold and blowing blizzards so I am familiar with that environment. First off, don't except any sort of reasonable battery performance. As soon as those batteries are exposed to conditions near or below freezing, their ability to provide the amps necessary to drive all the parts of a camera might vanish or just diminish horribly. Cold temperatures are the enemy of chemical reactions because that slows down molecules (a battery is just a chemical reaction inside a plastic case). I filmed using a Canon Powershot S1-is (it does 800x600x30fps). That is a small camera, but what you are using will be impossible to stuff in yoru jacket to keep it warm. You may need to make / get a case and stratigically place some of those hand warmer packets to keep the battery, tape drive motors , and focus elements warm enough to function.

Moisture will also be a problem on a climbing trip, more so if you expect any constant snow. Especially in a tent over night. The camera should be kept in a sealed case so the water vapor exhaled by the people in the tent does not condense on the internal parts of the camera. Any sealed case means more weight, so this is a trade off.

You have filmed snowboarding so that gives you a bit of practice for focusing on snowy environments. Was the snow footage stationary filming of moving objects, or holding the camera while snowboarding? I've done both and the latter is fun but tricky.

I would bring as many tapes as possible. You don't want to screw around with running out of storage and having to preview and delete using a laptop and exporting back out to tape. Just get plenty of tapes to start with.

Sounds like a killer vacation. Have fun and be sure to send back word once you have some footage. I do a lot of climbing and would love to see your mountain footage.

Jason
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Old April 5th, 2006, 04:45 AM   #7
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jesse Christie
Hey everyone just registered yesterday and I'm pretty new to all this, I'm a 19 year old student living in Victoria BC, I've filmed skateboarding and snowboarding for a couple years with a vx 2000 and I've decided to get a Sony HDR FX1.

Now my friends and I are going on a trip in the the Winter of 07 to Africa, the trip will include a 10 day climb of Mount Kilimanjaro, the decent, travel around Tanzania a bit, and then climb another smaller mountain before going to Egypt. In Egypt we will be exploring the pyramids and then taking a cruise down the Nile.

Now I'd like to film this whole trip and I have a few questions, can the FX1 handle the extreme cold at the top of the mountain, and more importantly should I purchase lots of HD tapes or bring my stock pile of dv tapes (Sony Premium) and use those?

Thanks everyone
Is your stockpile new & unused tapes or "previously viewed"? For this sort of an adventure I'd go with brand new tapes only.
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Old April 5th, 2006, 07:02 AM   #8
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And what about a cleaning kit, to get the dust and grit out of the cam? I would think that you should clean it frequently, due to the conditions you'll be exposed to.
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Old April 5th, 2006, 07:10 AM   #9
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Hi Jesse, sounds like the adventure of a lifetime.

I just spent 18 months shooting in southern Africa and have to agree with most of the above comments. My own two cents:

1. Take at least a couple head cleaners. They can be impossible to find unless you go to that one store in whatever city you happen to be in. Your heads will get dirty a lot faster than anything else.

2. Don't skimp on tape. Order from B&H or if in Vancouver get yourself to Lorne Lapham http://www.llsr.com and buy bulk, enough to shoot at least an hour of material every day. It's easy to shoot more, but after a while you start to edit your shooting to only capture the defining events of each day.

3. As a foreigner you will always stand out, especially wandering about Tanzania. It is in your interest to be aware of the image you project. Sometimes it works to have the smallest profile possible, like a tourist. Other times it works to act as if you have been sent by the BBC or CNN to do a lead story. Get your "crew" together and make a big show of making your show.

4. People get excited and often want to get in on the fun. One form of currency you have is that you come from a rich country, and people will want to connect with you in a honest and heartfelt way (also in dishonest ways). There's a balance here, but if you find it it adds to your experience. When possible, get connected with locals, they always know what you can get away with. Have extra cash on hand for police, to buy schoolbooks for their kids, of course. Always have someone trusted with you when you are shooting, at the very least to manage your space and your gear.

5. Speaking of space, I'm from Vancouver. I like my space. Most people I met in Africa have no concept of the kind of space I like. There is nothing more liberating than shooting a bunch of kids as they beat you to the ground in their enthusiasm to get on camera.

6. My final pedantic note: if you can afford a second camera, I promise you you will want to use a SMALLER camera more than the FX1 on the kind of trip you're describing.

Cheers,

TOM.

Last edited by Tom Vandas; April 5th, 2006 at 03:14 PM.
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Old April 11th, 2006, 06:47 AM   #10
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I will answer a few questions before continuing, 1st.. Steve: I have purchased through ebay a case of 100 Sony Premium Tapes I've used a little over a couple dozen now and there all brand new. Jason: I filmed snowboarding stationary and haven't had the guts to try it while riding yet.

I am going to do a little more research before i leave, such as what it's like there, what I can expect and what the price of filming and taking pictures will be.

As for a still camera I am looking at purchasing the Canon EOS 20D off of ebay and plan on using it on the trip.

I think it was Tom who suggested getting a smaller camera, and yes I would have the funds to do so, but I am curious as to why this would be a better idea?

Also one last question: Would it be a better Idea to bring my laptop with me so I can edit while I am there or should I just bring lots of tapes and worry about that when I get home?

Thanks alot guys

Last edited by Jesse Christie; April 11th, 2006 at 06:52 AM. Reason: forgot something
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Old April 12th, 2006, 03:28 AM   #11
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Hi Jesse,

I'm making assumptions about the kind of trip you're going on, and the level of commitment to shooting that your friends will have.

I suggested a second smaller camera because I often found people became self-conscious when I pointed something the size of an fx1 at them. Plus, it can be exhausting to be in shoot-mode all day, having to manage gear and to set up shots, nevermind that your friends begin to express their growing hatred of you. I found that a small camera which can be pulled out of a bag quickly lets you get all sorts of impromptu moments, and those moments are what end up giving heart to the final product. It's also nice to hand the smaller camera to a friend, let someone else grab some shots, get a different take on the moment, and not worry about them wrecking your primary camera.

Either way, you're going to have a great time. Re: the laptop, my vote would be to go without. By the end of the trip you'll wish you were as light as possible, so take it only if you need it.

TOM.

Last edited by Tom Vandas; April 12th, 2006 at 04:12 AM.
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Old April 12th, 2006, 05:33 AM   #12
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HI Jesse,

Just thought I would add my bit here - I have been using my Z1 and A1 in Antarctica - so I think that I can talk here about cold. Have also visited north Africa (not a far south as you are going).

Firstly I was amazed at the perfromance of my NP970's in the cold. Even at -30 degrees they still worked quite well. Had 5 with me and never needed more thatn 2 in a day! Often used my Z1 in a raincoat with a little polar fleece insulation - but it perfromed flawlessly with HDV tapes - which I highly recommend (never ever seen a dropout!). The FX1 and Z1's are great cameras, but I agree that sometimes a small camera like the A1 is very useful for candid work - and in Africa you sure will need this. Unfortunatley a big camera stands out and makes you a target.

I also agree with the idea of trying to keep the weight down if possible - but I would carry a tripod if possible (I can't live without one), even though I know this might break the weight budget.

I have been using an EOS 350D for my stills - fantastic little camera and weighs a lot less thatn the 20D. Personally I would invest in some better L series lenses using the money that you save on the 20D. That said the 20D is a slightly better camera in the long term, but it weighs a lot more!

Have a great trip. The other guys have given some great advice as usual!
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Old April 18th, 2006, 11:46 PM   #13
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Check out the news in the areas you are going first too. Even the night before and on the ride there. My friend Paul Taggart is a photo journalist and was kidnapped in Iraq for a few days. Mind you, it's Iraq, but you still want to know whats going on even minutes before landing. Hook up with a local, translations, directions. Be careful on that one so you get someone seemingly trustworthy. I don't want to scare you or anything, but you don't want to become a media blurb because you're kidnapped. Sometimes that stuff happens just as a media ploy or for money. As a CIA operative interview said, "You send people to Egypt if you want them to disappear." I agree with the smaller camera, just because I've been on climbing shoots, and yes lightweight = Godsend. That said, be careful, and have fun!
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Old April 19th, 2006, 12:27 AM   #14
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Harmless Cam

When travelling overseas, I always have a spare camera. Last summer in Turkey the primary was a Z1; backup an FX1. I am considering using an HC-1. The smaller cameras make you look non-threatening, and consequently, harmless. Very important sometimes to keep as low a profile as possible, especially when you are shooting around soldiers, police, etc.

I can tell you that almost without exception, anytime you are carrying a tripod, you will either be charged extra money, or need official government written permission when shooting at national monuments, restorations, ruins, or exhibits. It immediately marks you as a pro, wanting steady shots. Dead giveaway.

I used a unipod with an FX1 this week in Mexico, and it worked well keeping the camera steady, but obviously, not as well as real tripod with a ball level. The good news was outside of paying a basic video camera fee, I didn't get stopped. The tripod would have required official government OK.

I use HDV tapes, the piece of mind is worth it. I generally carry about 25 for a two-week trip. I have used the computer on one or two trips, but I am now going as light as I can am leaving it at home and will leave it there, unless a client asks for a quick turnaround on a piece and I need to rough cut on the road.
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Old April 19th, 2006, 12:33 AM   #15
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Fixer

One addendum: If you are going into an area that has any hazards or obstacles, get a local person who can interpret, and knows the lay of the land. In my network days we had local fixers, who took care of tariffs, transportation, clearing gear, making reservations, etc.

One version of that is hiring a good local driver, with a good car. Asking what his daily rate and pay him 10 to 15 per cent above that. The time you save, the trouble you avoid is more than worth the price of admission.
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