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Sony TRV950 / PDX10 Companion
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Old August 3rd, 2004, 01:24 PM   #1
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TRV-950 for making a short film

I own the TRV 950. I have never considered using it for my filmmaking endeavors, only as a home movie camera. But now I have a couple of short film projects that I would like to potentially use this camera for.

I know the limitations of the camera. Poor low light performance, smearing, etc. But I will be using controlled lighting.

I do think i will need some accessories for the camera and wanted to see what people would recommend. I would like to shoot 16x9, have a wider angle, be able to use some quality filters, and connect my ME66 shotgun mic. Here are some of the accessories I have been looking at. I'm curious to hear whether these can even be used together.

Century Optics 16x9 Adaptor
Century Optics .65 HR Wide Angle
Tiffen Pro Mist filters
BeachTek XLR adaptor box

The widescreen aspect ratio is important for some of the framing I want to do and that is why I am chosing to shoot that way instead of straight 4x3. I've thought about just upgrading to the PDX10 as well, as it has true 16x9, and XLR connectors. That's probably what I should do. But not sure how much I can get for the TRV-950.

Any suggestions are welcome.

Thanks,
Steve
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Old August 3rd, 2004, 02:56 PM   #2
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Well if you had to choose today the PDX-10 would be the way to go for $1850. Once you buy those lenses, the XLR and a mike you'll be sinking a bunch more into your 950 setup. You aren't planning to combine the anamorphic lens with the wide lens are you? I don't think it's going to work properly if you combine those lenses. First, I doubt that the anamorphic has front threads, and the front threads on the .65 will certainly be larger than the camera's 37mm, so if you want to put an anamorphic on it you'd need the big 58mm variety which is $$$. And anyway, you would surely have vignetting and a degraded image.

Have you shot any tests with the 950 in 16:9 mode? Maybe it will be acceptable that way? At least on paper it uses more pixels than cameras like the PD-170, although less than the PDX-10. Perhaps builtin widescreen mode plus the wide adaptor will do what you want? I use an inexpensive "digital optics" .45x wide adaptor on my PDX-10 which gives a really wide field of view that I like (you get barrell distorion such that horizons are curved, but I kinda like that effect).

I haven't tried the pro mist filters myself, and I suspect that if you want to use them then you should have a monitor with you since the LCD screen won't be high res enough to show any problems that might occur. The 950 with the wide adaptor or anamorphic lens is going to have a lot of depth of field so the pattern in the filter might come into focus. If you want to use the filters with the anamorphic you will need a matte box which is even more $$$. I really doubt the mist filters will work between the anamorphic and camera lenses. Consider creating this effect in post with an NLE plug-in. I frequently use "Joe's Diffuser" (part of the excellent "Joe's Filters" package for Final Cut). Of course rendering is required, but you have the flexibility to experiment at leisure on a good monitor after the fact instead of being stuck with something permanent on tape.

Maybe you want to also check out the HC-1000? It has some features that seem like a step in the wrong direction from the 950, but it does have the same chips and widescreen mode as the PDX-10 and will supposedly have a very competitive price.

But aside from getting hung up too much on any of these things, maybe you should just dive into one of your projects without spending a lot of money on anything and see how it goes. The camera itself is only a small part of the equation, don't you think?
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Old August 3rd, 2004, 03:27 PM   #3
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Thanks for the suggestions. You are right about the cost factors. It doesn't make sense to get the 16x9 adaptor because I could sell the camera and get the PDX10. I did do some tests with the 16x9 set on the 950 and on my Sony broadcast monitor, the results seemed okay. I thought it seemed close to as sharp as the DVX100 material I've shot recently with the anamorphic adaptor. The DVX had some other things going for it though, such as 24P, so again not a fair comparison. Have you done any side by side comparisons between the PDX and the 950 to compare widescreen modes? I know a lot of numbers have been thrown around on these forums but I'm just curious as to whether the results show up on the screen in a dramatic way.

If I was going to stay with the 950, I would probably opt for the Century Optics wide angle. It allows for full zoom through. I think I tend to agree with you about the Pro Mist filters and I didn't even think about the depth of field issue.

Could I send you a still shot in 16x9 mode on my TRV for your analysis? Could you bring that still into FCP and see how it looks exported out onto a monitor?

Thanks again

Steve
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Old August 3rd, 2004, 04:04 PM   #4
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I did a comparison of the VX-2000 and PDX-10 wide modes here: http://greenmist.com/dv/16x9 along with a link to the chart I printed. You could easily save the raw16:9 jpeg from the pdx http://greenmist.com/dv/16x9/05.JPG, then do your own test. If you do this then be sure to frame the chart so it exactly fills the screen vertically (leaving whitespace to the left and right). Also see if you can light to approximate my f2.8 0dB 1/60 settings, and use custom white balance. I had sharpness set to the default position in the center of the scale. Then in FCP use File > Export > Quicktime > Still Image > JPEG > max quality. If you'd like to e-mail me the results I'll add it to my site (with credit) since this is a question that comes up from time to time.
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Old August 3rd, 2004, 04:08 PM   #5
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Great. I'll try that. Thanks.

Steve
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Old August 3rd, 2004, 04:47 PM   #6
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One more thing, does the PDX-10 show you exposure values in F-stop numbers in the viewfinder? That seems to be a very usefull feature lacking in the 950.
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Old August 3rd, 2004, 05:03 PM   #7
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Nope the PDX-10 is the same in this regard. You can see exposure info using data code on playback BUT don't believe it. Both cameras have several internal ND filters that are dropped in and out whenever the camera likes. Sony has never documented this, but the objective is to force f-stop to stay close to the "sweet spot" around f4. Much of the time when you turn the wheel you're controlling the ND filters instead of the iris. Another strange quirk of these cameras, although I gather some other small chip cameras do something similar.

Read back through some of the discussions in this forum for more info on this.
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Old August 3rd, 2004, 05:22 PM   #8
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Ugh...That is very disappointing to hear. So manual control isn't fully manual at all then. I may have to just shoot on the DVX100 after all. I have access to one, but I don't own it. I was hoping to shoot with my own camera so I could experiment at will, and not have to worry about borrowing a camera. I will conduct the tests with the 950 and see if the list of issues will prevent me from shooting with it. Here's a list of the Pros and cons in case anyone else is looking to do the same thing.

Pros
- Great image quality when using controlled lighting.
- 3CCD at an affordable price
- Compact size compared to something like the DVX100
- With some tweaks, a softer more pleasing image can be attained.

Cons
- Vertical smearing with certain light sources
- Doesn't have 16x9 chip
- No XLR input
- No full control over F-stop
- Poor low light performance
- Too much depth of field
- Standard lens doesn't have even close to a respectable wide angle
- Focus ring is slow (on mine, it sometimes seems to take sevral turns to get it to focus. Not sure if this is standard or just my camera.
- 37mm ring size

So the question is, can you make a movie with it? Well, people made movies with those Fisher Price video cameras, so I would say the answer is yes. The question is, how cinematic can you be. That is what remains to be seen. My guess is, the camera will determine the style of the film to a certain extent, because things like complex moving shots will be hard to do with a focus system like the one the 950 has. I will gladly post some screen grabs for you guys, so you can see what this camera is capable of. I'm curious too, as I really have never put it to the test when it comes to filmmaking. It's primarily just been used as a home movie camera.
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Old August 3rd, 2004, 05:25 PM   #9
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I have little to add, except seconding the replacement of the 950 with a PDX10, thus getting the best out of the 16:9 and XLR worlds, with room to still mount that WA adaptor.
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Old August 3rd, 2004, 06:04 PM   #10
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<<<-- Originally posted by Steve Sherrick :

>> Cons
>> - Doesn't have 16x9 chip

However it does use enough pixels in 16:9 mode to sample all 480 vertical lines, unlike the VX-2100, GL-2, etc.

>> - Too much depth of field

Don't expect to see all that much difference here with a 1/3" chip camcorder...

>> - Focus ring is slow (on mine, it sometimes seems to take sevral turns

When turning the ring slowly the camera doesn't seem to realize anything is happening. You need to start out a little faster, both my PDX-10 and VX-2000 feel about the same in this regard. All the servo motor focus sytems on prosumer camcorders leave a lot to be desired. See the XL-2 discussion where Chris says the stock lens is not capable of focusing and zooming simultaneously!

>> - 37mm ring size

Personally I think this is an advantage, unless you enjoy paying a lot more for adaptor lenses and filters...

>> I will gladly post some screen grabs for you guys, so you can see what this camera is capable of.

Don't be too harsh on your equipment. Sure there are better cameras - can you afford one? Would the money be better spent on other production aspects (tripod, lights, audio, software, actors, crew?)

We projected about 30 minutes worth of video shot on the PDX-10 on a 44 foot wide screen using a 10,000 lumen DLP projector as part of an opera last fall. Your TRV-950 isn't going to be a whole lot different really. Everyone was very impressed with the quality, but it had as much to do with the editing, acting and concept as the camera itself. The Philadelphia Inquirer review even singled out the video as looking very polished and professional. Not just "tooting my own horn here" (yeah, right ;-) .... my point is that you shouldn't get too hung up on the equipment itself, especially if you don't have the budget to get up to the next level. Here are a few stills from that project (sorry, some of the JPEG quality is lacking in these, I should export again and be more careful) http://greenmist.com/trovatore/film (also note the very low light levels in some of these. Yes, there's noise in the image but it creates a certain "look" which isn't entirely bad)
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Old August 3rd, 2004, 07:26 PM   #11
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>>However it does use enough pixels in 16:9 mode to sample all 480 vertical lines, unlike the VX-2100, GL-2, etc.

Well, hopefully the test will reveal that there will be enough pixels to make it an acceptable image on 16x9 TVs. I don't expect these short projects to see too much theatrical exposure.


>> - Too much depth of field

>>Don't expect to see all that much difference here with a 1/3" chip camcorder...

The exposure issue that you mentioned where the internal ND mechanisms are activating keeping the f-stops at a sweet spot, won't this come into play with depth of field?

>> - 37mm ring size

One of the disadvantages is that the filters and lenses seem to be a lot more fragile.

>>Don't be too harsh on your equipment. Sure there are better cameras - can you afford one? Would the money be better spent on other production aspects (tripod, lights, audio, software, actors, crew?)

I try not to put all the emphasis on the camera, but when doing cinematic pieces it does come into play because the camera has to be capable of bringing your ideas to the screen and there are technical limitations that can interfere with those ideas. But having said that, I admit that I would like to keep my budget down on these films and perhaps I should work within these limitations and maybe I will get some surprising results. I think back to just a few years ago when Hi-8 was all the rage and I think my camera can certainly keep up with even the best hi-8.
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Old August 3rd, 2004, 08:52 PM   #12
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<<<-- Originally posted by Steve Sherrick : The exposure issue that you mentioned where the internal ND mechanisms are activating keeping the f-stops at a sweet spot, won't this come into play with depth of field? -->>>

Not any more than other cameras if you use manual mode and realize what's happening. In auto mode the camera will not choose too small an f-stop so it drops in filters and/or ups the shutter speed (and this worsens the vertical smear problem also).

But if you go into manual mode a 1/60 shutter you can open the iris all the way - but of course that will overexpose the image in bright light. So just like any other DV camera, add an external ND filter to allow you to shoot wide open if you want to minimize DOF. But in manual mode as you stop the iris down it won't go any further than something like f8 or so (can't remember, maybe Tom will chime in here cause he's done the tests). Instead, it secretly drops in successively darker internal filters as you turn the exposure wheel.

>> One of the disadvantages is that the filters and lenses seem to be a lot more fragile.

I must say that I haven't noticed this at all. I have a wide adaptor and several filters for my VX-2000 and don't find them any more durable. In fact the larger size makes them much heavier so they will fall harder, and offers larger surfaces to hit or get fingerprints on. But maybe someone else has had these problems? You can buy either good or bad optics in a variety of sizes.

Don't let me talk you out of using a DVX-100a, it's certainly got a lot more controls and you would hope so since it costs nearly $2,000 more! The XL-2 sounds really nice to me also. Can you afford these? People seem pretty excited about the new Panasonic GS-400, maybe that would be worth looking into also, it should cost less than a PDX-10.
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Old February 8th, 2005, 05:16 PM   #13
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The posts here are somewhat old, and full of valuable info, but a bit academic. I didn't know half this stuff when I bought my TRV950 in October, 2003. Since then I have shot 3 music videos and over a dozen short films with it.

The biggest issues I've found are learning the camera (a requirement of any major piece of equipment) and focusing on lighting. I've graduated from available light to DIY halogen lights to used stage spotlights. Now I use all three, based on the requirements of the shoot.

Will I upgrade my camera? At some point - though I'd prefer to jump right to true HD - I'm debating the HDV vs XL2 option. When a 24p1080 HDV camera shows up for under $5000, the debate will stop.

Most of my short films are on-line at www.geoffmark.com. Only "The Last Stand" was shot with a PD-150, everything else with the TRV950.

I welcome all comments! Thank you for a wonderful forum.
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