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Shooting non-repeatable events: weddings, recitals, plays, performances...


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Old May 16th, 2011, 10:23 PM   #1
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Need a new camcorder for AirShows

Ok I am not a pro but all my friends and family think I am. Well this pass weekend I shot the Plans of Fame Air show in Chino California using my Sony HDR-CX550. Well I got some good shot but I quickly discover that I need a bigger camera. I also shoot things like Car Shows some wedding events mostly receptions and after parties Motorcycle races etc. And all the kids sporting events. Need a bigger camcorder and lens like a 20x zoom. I would rent but It seems I am doing more and more events. I would like any recommendation camcorders that is around 4k or below.
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Old May 16th, 2011, 11:47 PM   #2
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Re: Need a new camcorder for AirShows

Not sure why a bigger camera is the "fix", although if you need more zoom range, I suppose I can see that... What about some form of support gear so you can hold the camera more steady and track? I use the CX550 and have used similar cams for years, and something like the Sunpak compact monopod set up with the belt clip makes a world of difference in getting stable tracking shots, or perhaps a Bogen 560B...

I know that tradition has it that it's easier to steady a bigger camera, but the added weight also will wear you down a lot, which for me = shakier footage! SO, I prefer to go smaller, with appropriate "grip" gear to compensate for the smaller lighter cam.

Perhaps I misunderstood the question, but I've gotten some excellent footage "handheld" with a simple belt pod set up. There are also some shoulder rigs that would add mass and control to a small camera, but again, IMO travelling light argues against them, but perhaps that's something to consider?
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Old May 16th, 2011, 11:54 PM   #3
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Re: Need a new camcorder for AirShows

I've helped to shoot the Winston-Salem Airshow the last two years. We used Canon XL2s and Canon GL2s. You might go for the GL2, a pretty nifty little camera that'd fit your budget. It's especially handy if you get to go up with any of the planes.

Here's a link to the rough footage we showed at a party celebrating the successful airshow in 2009 to give you an idea of the camera's capabilities:

YouTube - videomachineprod Winston Salem Air Show 2009


Unfortuantely, youtube doesn't do the shots justice but can at least give you an idea of how they do. I shot mostly from the roof of the control tower using the XL2 with the 20x telephoto lens, maybe 150 yards ish from the runway. It worked really well. The footage shot as the backseat passenger in the T-40 was with the GL2 if I recall correctly. There is also footage we shot from a ride we got to take in a B-25 that was just an amazing experience.

The XL2 and the GL2 might be a bit outdated (though they are still making the GL2), but they work great for the airshow type work I think.
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Old May 17th, 2011, 12:28 AM   #4
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Re: Need a bigger camcorder

Why specifically do you need a bigger camera? Do you want a shoulder-mount form factor?

Or do you mean a better camera with more features? What particular features are you looking for?

There's a lot of cameras in the 'under 4K' range so to give you good recommendations we need to know a bit more about what your preferences are.
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Old May 17th, 2011, 01:20 AM   #5
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Re: Need a new camcorder for AirShows

I'm with Dave on using smaller form factor cameras, much easier to maneuver. I began with Panny GS500s, went to DVXs and am back down to a GH1 now. I have the 561B form Manfrotto and love it to death! With the DVXs though, was scared to death of dropping it. To feel secure that my DVXs weren't going to crash tot he ground, I went to tripod only, and lost the freedom of the 561B. Try the Manfrotto first, I haven't heard of anyone who regret owning it.
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Old May 17th, 2011, 03:04 AM   #6
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Re: Need a new camcorder for AirShows

Thanks Guys maybe should not have say I am not a pro I have been doing photography for years all the way back in Collage days video is another hobby. The reason I want a little bigger camcorder is to get better shot from distance. This will be mostly event stuff I will still use the 550 for birthday parties vacation things like that. The bigger camera for Air shows baseball and football games motorcycle and races etc. Shooting from distance.
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Old May 17th, 2011, 03:05 AM   #7
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Re: Need a new camcorder for AirShows

If this thread shows anything Kenneth it is that unless your objective is to simply get “good shots” (in which case I’d recommend a still camera) what’s needed more urgently is to learn how to tell stories. That’s the art and purpose of making anything but CCTV video programmes. Michael’s audience may feel his piece has some good shots but it doesn’t even start to tell a story. And it doesn't matter if you're a starter or an oldster, the lesson's the same.

This comment applies whether you’re shooting car shows, air shows or kiddies parties. You need to start by deciding what story you want to tell and shoot what supports that story. Of course something unexpected may happen which changes or adds to the story but unless you start out knowing what you want to achieve you’ll end up with a scrapbook and scraps rarely tell stories.

Of course you still need to know how to take good pictures - which is probably where your question comes from but I believe that’s a skill best learned by trial and error. It’s not to do with the size of your camera but what you do with it. (And it’s probably not the first time you’ve heard that analogy.) Your second air show story will be better than the first and so on.

Look at other people’s work too and make your own judgements. For example, from Michael’s piece you should learn that trying to shoot an interview or talking head to camera and cutaways at the same time simply doesn’t work. Having the talent slide in and out of the frame simply isn’t good enough. Shoot the talent, then shoot the cutaways and edit them together. Simple. Basic. But truly, most of what we do is simple and basic and it works.

The tricksy things in films may grab the attention and get shown by the promoters hoping to get us to buy seats in cinemas but even so most parts of most films are simple and basic.

Finally, may I add from experience that shooting the aerobatics of air shows on the day is all but impossible. You have to know which way the aircraft is going to fly otherwise your work will be full of camera move corrections. It’s vital to go to the rehearsal day and memorise as best you can the routine the aerobatics fly so you’re ready for the unexpected. And if you don’t have a good tripod with a proper fluid head don’t even bother with the telephoto end of the zoom.
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Old May 17th, 2011, 03:09 AM   #8
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Re: Need a bigger camcorder

Well I am looking for something with a bigger zoom maybe a 20x like the Sony HDR AX-2000. But I think it only shoots 1080i AVCHD. Will still shoot good video with fast moving object like jets? I shoot a lot of things from distances like football and baseball games Air Shows and motorcycle and auto races.
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Old May 17th, 2011, 04:53 AM   #9
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Re: Need a new camcorder for AirShows

Pretty much any pro camera will see you right. You may suffer if you go for something with a CMOS sensor. Especially for sporting events as this would cause rolling shutter. Although a pro camera with a CMOS will give better results than your current handycam with a CMOS.

A Sony HDR-Fx1000 will do nicely or cheaper yet is the NEX-VG10

On the canon side check out the XH-A1s or the XF-100 series.

although dont think most of them have 20x zoom.

One thing you dont want is a DSLR. Rolling shutter would be too crazy for those events (although fine for slower paced weddings).
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Old May 17th, 2011, 07:13 AM   #10
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Re: Need a bigger camcorder

The AX2000 does shoot 24p, (possibly in a 1080i60 container) but 1080i is actually better than 24p for the kind of subjects you are planning to shoot. You just need to be carfeul in post when resizing/scaling footage or you can end up with severe artefacting.
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Old May 17th, 2011, 07:46 AM   #11
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Re: Need a bigger camcorder

There is no "best" camera, only the best for you. A camera is only part of what you need...especially for distance shooting. Take your budget and put $1000-$1500 aside for a good tripod like a Sachtler, Vinten, Cartoni etc

Go to B&H or Adorama and search for ENG camcorders. Sort the list by price. Pick out the ones up to your new price point that have the features you want and search for discussions on that camera here at DVInfo. If you have specific questions, post them in that camera's discussion area.

Or, you could read this thread. All of it. :-)
The gigantic "which camera should I buy" thread!
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Old May 17th, 2011, 08:16 AM   #12
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Re: Need a bigger camcorder

I agree with what Les said, especially the tripod part. For shooting the sorts of things you're talking about, a good, solid tripod is a must. Once you have that, the options for camcorders are almost endless.
If it were me, I would give the whole high-power zoom thing a careful re-think. Reaching out that far you're really limiting your success tracking something fast moving like jet aircraft through the narrow field of view.
It can certainly be done, no question, but the potential for catching the shots with less zoom and wider field of view increase dramatically, and you can always crop down in post and if you do it carefully, get that 20X magnification there without the limitations of shooting it in a narrow FOV.
My thoughts only...you may be a far better cameraman that I. Tracking fastmovers at the long end of a zoom is often an exercise in frustration for me
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Old May 17th, 2011, 09:34 AM   #13
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Re: Need a new camcorder for AirShows

There are tradeoffs covering an airshow. I have both Canon XH-A1 and Canon HV-30s. The A1 has a 20X zoom, but if you're going to zoom that much you need to be using a good tripod.

The HV-30s only have a 10X zoom, but are smaller, lighter, and shoot great video outdoors. They work especially well on my heavy Manfroto monopod. That combo is very portable, and very stable. It gives great outdoor footage. There are shots from airshows on my site.

Personally, when shooting an airshow just for pleasure, I'm NOT going to lug around the XH-A1 with the big heavy tripod. If I'm hired to shoot at an airshow, then I'll use what I need to get the right shots for the client.
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Old May 17th, 2011, 03:08 PM   #14
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Re: Need a new camcorder for AirShows

OK, if the problem is that you are trying to zoom out onto distant "targets", you'll run into problems tracking, as already noted... it gets harder to "lock on" and stay locked on the deeper you go into the zoom range. That's where a belt pod or monopod gives you just a little more stability to work with (I've used the Bogen/Manfrotto 560 as a belt pod as well... I've picked up a 700RC2 head for it, and think that will make it even more useful!). If you try to go to high zoom handheld, you'll just frustrate yourself, IMO. With a belt pod it's possible to track fairly fast moving objects at a distance, at least SOME of the time. You tend to lose the vertical movement of the camera when supported, and most things you'll be wanting to track seem to go "horizontally", so now you only have to "pan" at the right speed to capture, and that comes more naturally.

Better to get closer in, if possible. You COULD use the digital zoom... in the lower end of the range, it's not going to really degrade the image as much of what will be going on is in camera interpolation. Just have to not dig too deep into that region.

I understand the desire for a "big camera" (really looking at the NX70U right now, and wouldn't mind picking up a VG10, though I feel it's limited for my intended uses), BUT it's a tradeoff between convenience and portability (esp. when not being paid for the footage), and whatever additional features are added in the larger form factor. IMO, you're not going to be fiddling with manual a whole lot when shooting high action footage - although minor tweaks like AE shift and such can be handy, with action shooting, you've got enough trouble just framing!
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Old May 17th, 2011, 08:21 PM   #15
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Re: Need a new camcorder for AirShows

Thanks everyone you all have good points and got me to re-think. Now I am looking at the new Canon XF- 100 that is compact but also shoot 4:2:2.
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