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Old May 5th, 2005, 06:37 PM   #1
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Equipment for wildlife film-making.

Hi all,
I am new to this forum and I hope to make a comeback to this fascinating area after too many years I was out...)-;
I have great hopes to produce wildlife films professionally. Many years ago I won the BBC newcomers award in Wildscreen '88 for a film I have made about Kingfishers.(birds) It was made with Super-8mm film...(-;
Obviously I need to start from scratch and need every good advice from pros.
What equipment do I need to get? - camera, tripod, tripod head - everything.
What should I consider if I hope to sell my films to TV channels? Any other idea, suggestion would be highly appreciated.
My budget is limited to around 10,000 $.
Thanks for your attention and help,
Cheers,
Ofer Levy
Sydney-Australia
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Old May 6th, 2005, 12:30 AM   #2
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I just went thru long purchase process, but I don't do wildlife. IMHO there are 3 brands to consider. Sony, Canon, & Panasonic. Panny DVX100a does 24p, which might be important. They have a rockin HD camera coming by year end. Canon has interchangeable lenses, which might be important depending on wildlife, and has not announced HD plans yet. Sony has HDV available today, which you may choose to use. But I don't know if the HD TV channels woudl accept it. OTOH, they may require HD quality for all new video they buy. Better find that out first.

Carbon Fiber tripods are lighter but more expensive. Are you hiking to shoots, taking a safari, or shooting from the front seat of your car?

You did not say if you need to edit as part of your $10k budget.

If you are like me, it will take a couple of months just to understand what the questions should be to ask yourself.
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Old May 6th, 2005, 02:58 AM   #3
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For the budget that you have, I'd go for the Canon XL2, or to save some money so that you can buy more extras, then go for the XL1s (that's what I did). Both are high enough quality for TV. If you buy mint-conditioned second-hand items on Ebay it will cut your costs by more than half.

Then add extras - and these could be very varied, depending on your tastes and requirements. First, I'd add a manual zoom Eng lens such as the black Canon XL 16X Manual lens (although you could stick to the 16X or 20X IS lens if budget remains tight).

Next, buy either a Canon or Nikon XL adapter to fit 35mm SLR lenses on to your XL DV camera body. You don’t need AF lenses (they will NOT function in AF mode anyway) so go for MF versions. I’d steer you towards a 300mm f/2.8 or fast big zoom. Second-hand Canon FD or Nikkor MF ED-IF fast-aperture lenses can be found at very good prices at the moment.

If you go for Nikkor lenses, then Les Bosher supplies them or will make one to fit other lens mounts:
http://www.lesbosher.co.uk/default.htm

Add one or two quality long shotgun (with narrow sound cone) mics such as Sennheiser or Audio Technica - I'd go for the AT range. Here is a link to their worldwide website:
http://www.audio-technica.com.sg/

And their shotguns:

http://www.audio-technica.com/cgi-bi...nes%3A+Shotgun

Add a few short and long 3-pin XLR to XLR cables and, if you go for the XL1s, then a XLR shoulder adapter.

For outdoor work you'll obviously need some wind mufflers on those long mics. There is a big price range difference, but I'd steer you towards low priced pro quality 'dead-cats' such as from Reinhardt Film & TV:

http://www.reinhardt-film.com/

That quality sound you’ll need to monitor with a set of headphones. Beyer AT100 is a good solid pair. I use the Philips SBC HP840.

You’ll want to keep all camera and tape transport sounds isolated from a mic for the times when you mount one or two on the actual camera. I’d go for the Sound Systems Isolator.

Then of course, you’ll need a very sturdy tripod. I’d steer you towards the Pro Manfrotto range. My choice is the Manfrotto 028 legs with the 116Mk2 or Mk3 Head or 501/510 tripod head and the Manfrotto 438 Levelling Head (for adjusting quickly for straight horizons). Manfrotto main site is here:

http://www.manfrotto.com/product/cat...id=1&manufid=1


You’ll need some sort of control on the Pan & tilt head arm. The Canon ZR-1000 is OK, but I prefer the Manfrotto 522C, shown here:

http://www.manfrotto.com/product/ite...&sectionid=305

The huge adjustable Quick Release Plate that comes with Manfrotto 116 head is easily strong enough for the longest of telephoto lenses, but you might also want to use something to stabilise the actual XL body as well, such as the Ronsrail:

http://www.ronsrail.com/

A good quality rain-cover is a very worthwhile option so that you can continue filming in all weather. I prefer the Kata Raincover.

If you’re ever in good ‘ol blighty, you might consider a wildlife filming course using the Canon XL, such as with Wildeye:

http://wildeye.co.uk/canonxl.html

You’ll want a good bag to carry that lot in. I use both the Kata XL bag, and the LowePro Nature Trekker.

Remember, the most important item of all, is your lens…so look after it, and even sleep with it if you have to:

http://www.raysoda.com/Com/Photo/Vie...p=154389&c=450


I hope some of these pointers help in your choices.
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Last edited by Tony Davies-Patrick; May 6th, 2005 at 03:27 AM.
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Old May 6th, 2005, 03:00 AM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ofer Levy
Hi all,
I am new to this forum and I hope to make a comeback to this fascinating area after too many years I was out...)-;
I have great hopes to produce wildlife films professionally.
Obviously I need to start from scratch and need every good advice from pros.
What equipment do I need to get?

Cheers,
Ofer Levy
Sydney-Australia
-----------------------------------

When I first started doing video, with mostly wildlife in mind, I bought every kind of accessory, spending like a drunken sailor. I rarely if ever used half of the stuff and much of it wasn't ideally suited for my main equipment or purposes. The best advice is to at first buy only a camcorder and a few filters and whatever basic editing system you need. Pick up the rest as you go along, piece by piece. Later, you'll know more about what is good and what isn't and your money can be spent more efficiently. Never buy anything until you really need it for a specific production.

I understand that in Oz, you get socked with much higher prices for most equipment, than we pay in equivalent U.S. dollars. So, this advice may be even more pertinent there.

If you want to sell wildlife videos to the big networks, such as the BBC and PBS, they'll probably have to be in high-definition. But, would an investment in HD production gear be wise, to use for your re-entry into the field? Probably not, so I'd suggest you start with a good, but relatively inexpensive SD camcorder and polish up your techniques with it. You could choose one of the Sony single-CCD models and use it to find out how well the whole proposition was going to work out for you. Later, this camcorder could be handy as a backup or for rough shooting where you wouldn't want to risk an expensive one. Also, there's some doubt whether the currently available HDV camcorders are going to be good enough in a year or two, to compete with the improved models that will appear then. Those on the market now, are decidedly weak in limited light and often wildlife videos have to be done in dark areas.

Your choice of an excellent microphone system will be essential for making wildlife productions. Wait until you have learned what the very best one is for your purposes, before you buy this accessory, which can be expensive.
Did you know that Jocko, the ABC Kookaburra, is a type of kingfisher?
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Old May 6th, 2005, 02:52 PM   #5
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Yes, i think Tonys advice is good,

I have the XL1s and i do wildlife filming and as far as iam concerned with the XL2 is the best you can get for this type of work, and of course is good enough for broadcast, You can get a bit paranoid about formats if its interesting and shot well broadcasters will be interested.

I have just watched a DVD that one of my proffesional filmmaker friends has just completed and it looked awesome, and it was shot useing an old XL1, and he makes is living from filming and he is quite happy with SD video and now as i speak is looking in to the XL2.

As far as we are concerned all this hype about HDV is companys ramming it down your throat and of course the extra cost it incur's is just not viable at this moment in time.
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Old December 19th, 2005, 02:06 PM   #6
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I use the XL1s, but the XL2 would be better. The larger LCD and flip lense will make a big difference, along with 16:9. I find the 1.6X extender invaluable to bring shots in a little closer. I haven't managed to afford and EOS lense and adapter, but that would certainly have some applications (you said under $10 k). Here's my other field gear:

- portabrace rainslicker
- light tripod (would also like a heavier one)
- monopod
- splash bag (you probably won't need this)
- Sennheiser ES-100 wireless microphone
- Audio Technica shotgun microphone
- couple of batteries and a car charger
- UV and polorized filters
- Pelican case
- weatherproof backpack

I think that's about it. Have fun!
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Old December 19th, 2005, 09:34 PM   #7
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I think Tony's advice says it all, I am using an XL2 with a Canon FD 300mm (with Optex universal mount) lens. Les Bosher (UK) made up the adaptor mount and support plate and rods, and did a great job.

Results I have been getting are remarkable BUT a study tripod is a must, I am using a Satchler studio 7+7, which is mainly used with large 35mm Arriflex cameras, this tripod allows smooth pans following birds.
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Old December 20th, 2005, 03:58 AM   #8
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I don't think you can generalise to much as to which is the correct type of equipment to have. It is dependent on your subject. In the past I have used an Xl1 with converters and adaptors. At this time I am able to fulfil all my requirements with a Z1+ 1.6 converter. It is all dependent on the type of animal, bird etc that you are recording, likewise how close you can get. In another thread I indicated that I now tend to use hides more and allow the the subject to come to me. Wildlife filming is so broad from macro-distance -underwater.
To get the correct kit you need to decide on you subjects and purchase accordingly.
Also you must bear in mind any legal restrictions govening your subject, as this could all dictate your eqipment reqirements.

Regards

Mick
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Old December 20th, 2005, 04:16 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ian Thomas
Yes, i think Tonys advice is good,

I have the XL1s and i do wildlife filming and as far as iam concerned with the XL2 is the best you can get for this type of work, and of course is good enough for broadcast, You can get a bit paranoid about formats if its interesting and shot well broadcasters will be interested.

I have just watched a DVD that one of my proffesional filmmaker friends has just completed and it looked awesome, and it was shot useing an old XL1, and he makes is living from filming and he is quite happy with SD video and now as i speak is looking in to the XL2.

As far as we are concerned all this hype about HDV is companys ramming it down your throat and of course the extra cost it incur's is just not viable at this moment in time.
Ian, I would have to disagree with you you about going HDV. I too have a friend who films a lot for the BBC,two have just been shown recently on the 10 minute slot on wednesdays 8.50pm - 9pm New Forest snakes and Red Deer.
He has been informed that for future video tape commissions ,at present he records in digi beta (he also films in 16mm) the reqirement will be for HD.
Therefore you will need to get your stock footage future proofed by moving to a minimum of HDV as soon as possible to sell to TV companies.

Regards

Mick.

PS Great looking wildlife section to your web site, I like it, well done.
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Old January 1st, 2006, 04:09 PM   #10
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Hi Mike

Must have been asleep for the last few days did not see your thread till today

Glad you liked my website, Yes HDV will come but i think it will take a few more years here in the UK, at this moment in time i think SD 16:9 will be more important and for price the Canon XL2 will do a fine job, interchangeable lens is a must and although i thought my FX1 to be a brilliant camera it just can't match the Canon in the Zoom department
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Old January 3rd, 2006, 08:40 AM   #11
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My understanding is (also) that the big boys will soon require nature docs
to be shot in HD. As much as I like the XL2, I would pony up for
the HD1 and a good tripod such as the Vinten Vision 3 if you
are truly serious about your work.

In the past, the combination of XL1 (or XL2) and EOS adapter with
the Canon 100-400 mm lens gave wonderful results. I am really
hoping that the 100-400/EOS proves to have enough resolution to
work well with the HD1 as it does with the XL2.

For a microphone, personally I like the Schoeps MK41 with Cut 1
filter. I also like the Sennheisers for shotguns.
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Old January 5th, 2006, 09:11 PM   #12
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What I have seen.

I am new to the booard and relitively new to the video world, so take this for what it is worth. I have currently been capturing outdoor footage the past 4 years. I started out with XL 1, and the "s" series both great camaras and I love to run them and I feel that the footage is incrediable that they laydown. But I was turned on the the sony PD 170, and I do not hear any ever really mention it here. So I was just wondering if there was something that i am missing out on.

Because I feel that it does a far supperior job in the low light conditions than the canon's do. The only down fall that I can see is that the lens is only a 12X and I know that can limit you. But, for me I am dealing with animals that are inside of 60yards.

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Old January 6th, 2006, 02:40 AM   #13
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As I said in an earlier thread its all dependent on what you film. In the past I have used an XL1 with various lens and extenders , but for the type of filming I do now I can get away with the Z1 with a 1.6 centuary extender. I have also in the past used a PD 150 with a 2x extender and achieved excellent footage. BUT and its a big BUT if you are after small animals birds etc or you can get permission to move in close to a subject, then you are best to arm yourself with a camera that can take a longer lens.
So to answer your question there is nothing wrong with PD 170 and its low light capabilities over the XL are good, for example I was unable to record leatherback turtles at night under the red torch light of the researchers (the only lighting you are allowed to use) but the PD 150 under the same conditions did produce some useable footage. So think of the long term when purchasing.

Regards

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Old January 6th, 2006, 03:05 AM   #14
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I would agree and say there is nothing wrong with the PD170, but for the shots i need in the field of roe deer and Foxes etc the XL series for the price are unbeatable.

Some of the footage Ive got over the last few years with the XL1, XL1s would not of been possible with the Sony, the interchangeable lens is invaluable, I tried the 170 and got some lovely shots of deer but they had to be close and remember that when you add a converter on to the lens there is a small drop in quality,

And as all you wildlife shooters know you can't always get close to your subject so I had no hesitation in up grading to the XL2

The170 is a fantastic camera make no mistake but for wildlife filming it just lacks in the optical zoom department for my likeing

Just my thoughts
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Old January 6th, 2006, 09:17 AM   #15
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hey, i would simply looooove to use the FX-1 for wildlife, but the measly zoom prevents it. so it's FX-1 for landscape work, XL2 for animals. the H1 would solve the riddle, but where is my BODY ONLY package?????

of course, as someone once pointed out, the VERY BEST camera is the one you have with you when the animal is actually around.....
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