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Sony XDCAM EX Pro Handhelds
Sony PMW-300, PXW-X200, PXW-X180 (back to EX3 & EX1) recording to SxS flash memory.

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Old October 9th, 2008, 09:18 PM   #1
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Is the EX1 ok for Freelancing?

Hello everyone, I have been lurking here for a while and salivating at the thoughts of owning an EX1 or EX3 for a while :) Though I do not own the camera I have still been able to learn quite a bit from this group. Thanks. I am curious to hear from those of you who are freelancing where usually tape is the medium of choice and is generally handed over to your client for editing or cases in which it might be your project, but you are not the editor. Are you only using this camera for projects where you are editing the finished project as well? Have you found an easy way to get material to the editor? (Even editors who may have never worked with this type of footage before?) How have you overcome objections from clients? Perhaps most of you in this situation are just shooing on other cameras for these types of projects, but I am curious as to whether there may be some simple solutions? Thanks.
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Old October 9th, 2008, 09:29 PM   #2
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This was a major consideration for myself. My simple solution was to ask the producer or whomever would be on-site with me the day of the shoot if they had an external hard drive. If they did then I'd ask them to bring it to the gig.

If not I'd ask them to bring DVD recordable discs (dual layer, ideally) in lieu of tape. Or I bring my own and add it to the invoice. At the shoots I'll bring a laptop and either transfer data to their external drive or burn DVD-Rs throughout the day. Another option is for them to bring a laptop with ExpressCard but that can be trouble so I usually just bring my own.

It's a bit of a pain but in the end (i.e. the edit bay) it saves time and money (people have external drives anyway or DVDs are cheaper than tape, especially GOOD tape)...two things producers love ot hear. And editors will love you for not having to log/capture everything.

My biggest workflow concern is, "Do they have editing software that is new enough to handle EX-1 files?"

What I love about the EX1 is it may save my butt if I ever need to take an individual or company to court due to failure to pay. When you hand off a tape you have given up your collateral/proof. But since you always have a copy yourself it's hard to deny that you shot the footage. Also, all EX-1 files contain metadata that shows the serial number of the camera for every clip. It's viewable in Clip Browser and probably Transfer as well.
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Old October 10th, 2008, 12:22 AM   #3
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This has been a problem for me, though it's more of an issue of the rest of the world catching up. I was involved in a shoot for the cable channel (though I was in front of the camera.) My brother handled the Sony EX1 for the event. The cable channel team shot with three Canon XL1's in SD, and the project was to be edited and broadcast in SD. They were using AVID Media Composer 2.7.7 and couldn't open the HD MXF files I converted with Sony Clip Browser. So, I'm stuck with converting to SD files, probably with Sony Clip Browser to SD DV. The company would have handled either SD DV tape or HDV tape. When I shot for an ESPN show earlier this year, they wanted tape, not computer files. So, I would send them the whole tape of the shoot and additional footage on partial SD or HD tapes. They would then ship them off to have them converted to whatever format their AVID used. The same was the case a couple of years ago with MSNBC and ABC. One fellow at ABC said that computer files would gum up their machines. I had sold my Sony FX1 and had planned to sell my Z1. Since all of these companies want tape, I'm inclined to hold on to the Z1 as a print machine unless I can find another cheap Sony HDV device.
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Old October 10th, 2008, 06:05 AM   #4
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I am a freelance cameraman and producer based in the UK. I shoot many things from broadcast to corporate. If you primarily work for companies that specify how they want the material delivered then you may have a problem. This wouldn't however be any different to having a camera with the "wrong" tape format. In that case you would need to dub from one format to another.

What I try to do is to educate my clients to the advantages of file based workflows. I then sell each client with a low cost USB hard drive, during the shoot or at the end of the shoot I dub the footage to the drive using a laptop. I have a dedicated laptop with an express card slot that I take on every job. I can use it to copy the clips from SxS cards while I carry on shooting. It was a cheap laptop and I use shotput to handle the backup and verification. The laptop can also be used to check back material without tying up the camera. It only takes 2 or 3 shoots for the cost of the clients drive to become less than the cost of half a dozen pro grade tapes, so ultimatly the cost of shooting gets cheaper and cheaper for my clients. As the drive belongs to the client and is kept by the client they are responsible for the rushes, in just the same way as if I had handed over tapes, so I don't need to worry about backups etc. With the ability to use cheap SD cards with the latest firmware for some jobs I am simply handing the SD cards to my clients at the end of the shoot.

On each of the client USB drives I place the Mac and PC versions of the clip browser software. The client can then plug that drive into just about any computer and view and log the rushes, add tags and meta data and even select the shots he wants to use and trim them down putting them in a new folder ready for the edit.

If the client wants me to do the edit, they bring in the drive, I edit from the drive and at the end of the session I save the project and final cut back to that same drive. Again at the end of the job the client takes the drive away and is thus responsible for it. I do offer clients the added value service of keeping a backup for them and most of them take this up. I charge for this but my clients like the idea of having there projects stored at 2 different locations. If the client comes back in 2 years to re-visit the project or rushes he/she simple brings in the drive and everything including the project is in the same place.

ALL of my clients love the EX workflow. The fact that after a shooting 6 hours of material it only takes an hour to ingest it all and start editing is an eye opener! The fact that every take is a discreet file makes logging a breeze, being able to see an icon for the start of each clip makes finding shots fast, the fact that the client can sit at his desk or home and view and log the footage without the need to make timecoded VHS tapes or DVD's saves me time.

I never want to go back to tape, tape is just horrid. It's slow and clunky, you get drop-outs and glitches. Having to shuttle or wind from one end of a tape to another to find a shot is slow and something I find frustrating these days. It is a matter of educating your clients (where possible). You may need to sit down with them, at your expense and show them how it all works. Show them the advantages of shooting HD, even if the final production is SD. For example a simple talking head can be shot wide in HD. If you need to make a cut then you can apply a DVE zoom at the cut to get a mid shot.

The latest version of clip browser is a very powerful tool that can convert the XDCAM EX material to a wide range of industry standard formats, although down conversions and cross conversions can be time consuming. The EX1 and EX3 are very capable cameras and there are ways and means of handing over rushes that don't take hours at the end of the shoot.

Having said all of that. If your client still insists on you providing a specific tape format then perhaps the EX is not for you, perhaps you need a camera that shoots on the required format.
Alister Chapman, Film-Maker/Stormchaser My XDCAM site and blog.
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Old October 10th, 2008, 08:02 AM   #5
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with hard drive space being so cheap, just buy one to have at that shoot and include it in the price, then just hand it over.
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Old October 10th, 2008, 05:09 PM   #6
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workable for freelance

On projects that I am also editing (most), it's not a problem. Work flow with Avid Media Composer 3.0 is smooth. If they want to walk away with a tape, I double record in SP mode using a Sony GV-HD700 and firewire cable, so I don't have to worry about dumping cards. That way I have the files and they have a tape. So far I haven't had a shoot with the EX-1 that warranted an extra assistant just to "card wrangle," but it's definitely workable.

My main problem is that the camera's been in the shop so much (in-warranty repair and now firmware upgrade). I end up using the Z1U a lot - glad I didn't sell it. Sigh.
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