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


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Old June 20th, 2011, 09:37 AM   #31
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Re: Opinions Needed, Please

Rey, I'm always reluctant to say the way I go is the way to go, just pass on my experience, but as you can see I'm happy with them. But I use them as un-manned lock-offs as to use them as a main camera would not fit my way of working. I find it hard to frame shots quickly with a touch-screen zoom.

I still use a 'pro' camera for recording the master shot and audio. That has line-level XLR inputs and full control so I can monitor the sound live. The audio recorded on the CX550 is good and you can input an external mic, albeit only through the mini jack and not at line level. There are no manual controls or visual meters, though you can lower the record level in a menu setting. I've used it with a shotgun mic and also a radio mic receiver attached. I just monitor with headphones to make sure it's picking up and then leave it. There is a headphone socket as well as the mic input socket.
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Old June 20th, 2011, 09:55 AM   #32
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Re: Opinions Needed, Please

George,

Out of curiosity, what model do you use for your main camera? I'm sort of leaning in that direction - a slightly higher-end cam for "A" shooting and something along the lines of the CX560 as a wide lockdown cam. I know experience and opinions differ from person to person, but the more opinions I get from people that shoot in similar circumstances than I do, the better I feel about the decision.

Again, we're talking live stage events (plays, choral concerts, some music performances, recitals, etc) and possibly weddings again at some point - if I get the nerve back. :)

With that said, while three cameras would be nice, I could always add another CX560 equivalent sometime down the road if they do indeed fit my needs.
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Old June 20th, 2011, 10:22 AM   #33
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Re: Opinions Needed, Please

My main cameras are two JVC HM700. They are fine until it comes to low or wide latitude light,; very bright and very dark in the same scene, as are most stage presentations. That was where I started to despair after switching from Panasonic DV200. I now see that they were brilliant in low light. Unfortunately they are DV and 4:3 so I had to move from them.

I had narrowed my options down to Sony Ex1 or the JVC. On balance the JVC became my preferred option as it has the form profile I'm use to, uses the same batteries and remote lens controller as the DV200, and fit my existing travel cases and is more economical in use as it records to SD cards rather than SxS.

I had never even considered using a consumer level camcorder until I tried the CX550. I now use them for the full front wide shot for stage shows (replacing one of the JVCs) I can even clamp it to the tripod I have the JVC on eliminating the need to use a second tripod for the other JVC that I used to use for the wide shot. I use the more controllable JVC for my close and follow shots. I can place the other two Sonys just were I think I'll get good or interesting points of view, stage side, high on a lighting bar or flush at stage level for dancing feet. So many options with them. I'd like to try one sometime at 90 degrees above the stage for a Busby Berkeley type shot. They are still available here in UK for less than 800m so I may get a couple more before they become extinct.

Last edited by George Kilroy; June 20th, 2011 at 12:05 PM.
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Old June 20th, 2011, 01:13 PM   #34
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Re: Opinions Needed, Please

I also use my CX550 cams the way George mentioned.

I note that we have missed answering Rey's question about the CX560 being the successor to the CX550. Actually, there are two successors: the CX700 and CX560. The differences are: (a) the CX700 has both a viewfinder (EVF) and a fold-out viewscreen (like the CX 550) while the CX560 only has the fold-out viewscreen ; and (b) the CX700 has a 96gb ssd and the CX560 has a 64gb ssd (same as the CX550).

Not everybody feels they need a viewfinder, especially those who would use the camera only indoors as a locked down “b” cam. I like a viewfinder in at least two instances. One is that, when I have these very-wide angle little cams down front at either side of a stage, the viewfinder is much less likely to be a distracting light than the viewscreens. You turn the CS cams on by opening the viewscreen and, if you have a viewfinder, by pulling back on the viewfinder. Of course, you could drape a piece of cloth over the viewscreen once you have the cam running. The other use for a viewfinder, for me, is outdoors in bright light where the viewscreen is hard to see. (I find these little cams so good that I often haul one around with me. Much easier to carry than my much larger pro-style cams. But no viewscreen is easy to see in direct bright light.)

The extra memory in the 700 may or may not be useful to you. The ssd (flash drive) in the CX560/550 gives you about 6 hours of recording capacity with 24 Mbps 1080i AVCHD while the CX700 give you nine hours. The extra memory may mean you can leave your video on the camera longer. Do note that going tapeless requires a back-up strategy. It is not enough to just feed the video to the computer for editing because something can happen to your computer or your project. The CX and NX cams allow you to back up the camera files directly to a USB drive (no computer required), and it is a good idea to take advanatge of that. I believe Canons and Panasonics also have this capability.

With regard to your interest in line level feeds from your mixer at choral concerts, you would need either an an NX70(more on this in a moment) or you would need to an XLR adapter, with Beachtek, Juiced Link, Sign Video and Studio One being the brand names that come to my mind. The adapters will have two XLR and two 1/8'/3.5mm mini-jacks which can be individually switched between line and mike level. I’ve found no problems using them my CX cams except: (a) they will block access to the SD slot on the bottom which is a problem if you are somebody who hates to use the SSD and insists on recording only to SD cards (I'm not) and (b) one needs to be aware that the on screen audio meters are far from precise and that there is no manual audio volume control on the CX cams. There are some audio control functions on the CX cams but they are are rudimentary and very limited (as they are on all small cams.) An XLR adapter gives you more control by allowing you to hold down overall audio levels and also to vary levels between channels.

For feeding line level output from your mixer, you may want to think about the NX70 because it has the ability to record Linear PCM audio in additon to having the built in XLR and min plug jacks (and phantom power if you need that.) . I believe the NX70 can do this with 1080i as well as 1080/60p. (The problem with 1080/60p at the moment is that even Vegas 10, Sony's own NLE, does not seem to read the LPCM audio with 1080/60p video). I’ve been using LPCM with 1080i from my NX5 for a about a year. I’ve found LPCM is more robust than the standard AC3. I’m less likely to get clipping, it seems much less prone to noise issues in quiet passages of pieces with a lot of dynamics, and I’ve found that audio editing from LPCM (in Soundbooth and Sound Forge) is less likely to result in untoward artifacts than AC3 audio. If the NX70 is like the NX5, using LPCM also gives you an in-camera audio limiter (as opposed to automatic audio gain control). Haven't seen a manual yet so I don't know if the NX70 has the limiter function.
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Old June 20th, 2011, 01:52 PM   #35
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Re: Opinions Needed, Please

I do have a Beachtek adapter that I have used on occasion. My concern was being saddled with a mic-level only input. I'm not sure having never attempted it, but I'm afraid that even with the use of the Beachtek, the mic input may still be too "hot" to get a smooth signal from a line-level source. I was actually hoping that there was a switch or menu option that could change that input between mic/line like the VX2100. I can't find any information on that, though.
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Old June 20th, 2011, 02:19 PM   #36
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Re: Opinions Needed, Please

There is definitely not a line level input, remember that this is a consumer model aimed at a point and shoot market, with a little bit more. It's just that it gives so much but not everything. I'd only recommend them as a support camera for anything in the way of commercial work. I don't think I could produce 'A' grade work with these alone.

Just a though, if you are keeping your VX2100 could you not use that as a reference camera and capture audio to that. Lay it on your timeline and sync the others but only use the audio. I've done that before with a DVX100, used it for audio when a cable run was too far and radio was not an option.
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Old June 20th, 2011, 02:22 PM   #37
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Re: Opinions Needed, Please

No worries about using an XLR adapter. They'll drop line level to mic level.. The output from every adapter I have seen is always mic level to the mini-stereo plug that goes to the jack on the camera. The line level switch attenuates the input signal just fine. I did this most recently at a Dance Recital last month: line level RCA out from the "record out" plugs on the Dance School's pre-amp, put RCA-to-mini plugs on the end to the adapter, adapter to camera and had no problems at all. Used a 15 year-old Studio One adapter.
.
Again, if you want "line level" built into the camera, you've got to go up to something like an NX70.

One more thing. The preamps on my CX550 are cleaner and quieter than the ones on my VX2000.
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Old June 20th, 2011, 02:47 PM   #38
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Re: Opinions Needed, Please

Yeah. There doesn't appear to be anything within my price range that gives me the flexibility of a line-level input, aside from the Canon XA10. I tend to be brand loyal when I have had no issues, so moving away from Sony is unsettling.

Any recommendations in the Vixia line that will sit well alongside the XA10? B&H actually has the HF M32 on sale at $400 off list.
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Old June 20th, 2011, 03:57 PM   #39
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Re: Opinions Needed, Please

You might get better info on matching XA10 cams by posting a new thread in the XA10 forum and asking about cameras to match with it for multi cam shoots. It seems as though almost everybody in this thread is using Sony cams and (like me) do not have enough experience with the Canon equivalents to to give you much helpful info.

Again, though, you will not blow-out the a camera mic jack by feeding a line-level signal to an XLR adapter (at least one that has a line/mic level switch.) So, if you go for the XA10, you can still use your adapter to feed an audio source to a second or third camera for those times when having a mixer is not convenient.
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Old June 20th, 2011, 04:08 PM   #40
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Re: Opinions Needed, Please

As noted the CX550 is still available, and sub $1K, if you shop around. I was tempted to pick another one or two up until I started evaluating the latest Sony P&S cameras... aside from low light, they are producing a pretty darn good image. The CX550 will cover the "low light", all I'm interested in is enough angles to give good stuff to edit.

The 560 is more of a replacement for the CX500 (and it's a bit better than that model feature wise, but not quite as nice IMO as the CX550). The CX700 is more or less the replacement for the CX550 - you lose 1/2" on the LCD screen, gain more internal memory, get a lens hood, 60p (the only feature that tries to "grab" me), and a couple other things like zebras and focus assist if my memory serves. Because the CX700 is "new", you'll pay a premium for it.

In my case, I had larger cameras... but when I started using the small ones and getting used to what I COULD do with them, I sorta sold off the bigger ones, and didn't find a compelling replacement. The NX70 catches my eye, although it's tough to call it a "big" camera, it does have more controls...

In the spirit of another thread that just popped up (how much gear is too much?), I've stripped down to smaller and lighter at every possible point, and although I have a lot of "extras", I am re-evaluating going even smaller and lighter! The main question is whether you can get high quality images, and it's pretty tough to beat the 500 series Sonys and their kin when you do the bang/buck equation. I've got tripods, monopods, and a couple shoulder rigs to get the nice stable footage, even if the camera is small!



OH, the "consumer" version of the XA10 is the HF G10 - looks like it's $500 cheaper than the XA10. IMO doesn't matter that much which brand you choose, just figure out the total cost with any accessories you need to get, and try to get cameras as similar as possible to make life easy in post/edit - crossing brands is possible, but you do end up fiddling a lot trying to get the "looks" to match well.
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Old June 20th, 2011, 04:13 PM   #41
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Re: Opinions Needed, Please

Thanks, Jay.

Whatever camera I choose for my main ("A") cam is the one that will get the audio feed from my recording system and mixer. My lockdown B cam is never used for anything but ambient audio through the standard built-in mic. Even then, it's used at a VERY low level in post just for some added reverb. Of course, picking up a Rode mic in this transition will only enhance that sound since I only use that track for choral shows anyway.

I'm not sure if my model Beachtek adapter has that mic/line switch, but I'll have to pull it out and take a look.
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Old June 20th, 2011, 04:24 PM   #42
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Re: Opinions Needed, Please

Dave,

You re-evaluation of your equipment needs pretty much sums up what I am facing. I rarely shoot without tripods and if the smaller cams can do an equal job as the larger ones while still allowing some control, that's all I need in my situation. Aside from a good sound input, I've never had the need for interchangeable lenses, shoulder mounting or room for mounting a lot of gear on my cameras.

My audio system is a completely separate entity. I could even use the Zoom to capture that, were it not for the pain of synching in post.

Still, even after 6 years of doing this, I somehow feel that my growth will be limited without having those additions/features at my disposal. ::sigh::
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Old June 20th, 2011, 04:32 PM   #43
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Re: Opinions Needed, Please

Dave are you using only CX550s now?

What are the Sony P&S cameras you mentioned?

I'd like to work totally with such lightweight gear if only to save my legs and back, but I fear that I'm too set in my ways with using larger cameras that I'd be too nervous to give over to the little beauties for other than support footage. One of the positive aspects is that I can always carry a CX550 in my pocket and I find that the stabiliser is good enough to allow me to get in close and grab spontaneous shots I couldn't attempt with a bigger one.
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Old June 20th, 2011, 04:46 PM   #44
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Re: Opinions Needed, Please

Quote:
Originally Posted by Rey Lowe View Post
Thanks, Jay.

Whatever camera I choose for my main ("A") cam is the one that will get the audio feed from my recording system and mixer. My lockdown B cam is never used for anything but ambient audio through the standard built-in mic. Even then, it's used at a VERY low level in post just for some added reverb. Of course, picking up a Rode mic in this transition will only enhance that sound since I only use that track for choral shows anyway.

I'm not sure if my model Beachtek adapter has that mic/line switch, but I'll have to pull it out and take a look.
Since you have a whole separate audio recording rig and a mixer, and everything you want to use goes through that, I'm not sure what you gain by going for something with XLR inputs. The XA10 and NX70 do give you more manual control on the images, but mgith not give you much more on audio than what you would get with an XLR adapter. (Unless you like shooting surround sound with on-camera mikes.) What I see that the NX70 has that the XA10 does not is basically two things: ruggedness/waterproofing and LPCM audio. That may or may not be worth the $700 price difference between them.

To me, the difference between the specs of the Canon Vixia cams and the Sony CX cams mostly seems to be the amount of built in memory. The Sonys have more. (My experience is that on-board ssd flash drives are a bit quicker with footage transfer than SD cards. Some people find SD cards more convenient to work with, however.) The new Sony's do have 1080/60p, if that matters to you. I think I read that the Canon cams will do 24p and 30p but not 60p.

You mentioned a Rode Videomic as a shotgun to plug into one of the new cams. The Sony CX cams have a small, proprietary shoe on top and I'm not sure if the Rode's mount will fit in it. (There may be a Rode model specifically for the Sony small-cam shoes.) My recollection of the Vixia cams is that they have a normal sized shoe on top. If you get either the XA10 or NX70, I believe each comes with its own detachable shotgun mic.

I'm with Dave on buying cameras in the same line because it makes you editing life a lot easier.

Some months ago, Philip Howells started a provocative thread (in this forum, I believe) about using an array of inexpensive small HD cams in place of the big guns many of use for weddings. He called it a "security cam" approach, and noted that the high resolution would allow digitial zoom and reframing in editing. At some point, I started referring to this as a RAIC (redundant array of inexpensive cameras) and it reflects a part of my shooting style. I've found that I still need a "big gun" for some of what I do, but I often reach for the CX550 for a lot of things.
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Old June 20th, 2011, 09:10 PM   #45
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Re: Opinions Needed, Please

George - pair of 550's and a pair of 500's, which I may be selling... I finally upgraded my aging Alpha bodies to ones that shoot video so I can finally do some of those "glamour" SLR shots <wink>! The Alphas don't do long clip times (prone to overheat...), but they provide another image acquision source I'd have anyway.

P&S (point and shoot) refers to the latest little pocket rocket Sony still cameras - TX100V, HX9V and the HX100V - all do 1080 60p video, so you get some pretty nice footage, and they are cheap and small - if you're running dual audio (not too impressed with the audio quality, but what do you expect!?) or other cams, they provide 29 minute record times, and from my experimentation with a WX10 (same CMOS, but only 1080i), they will do almost as well as the CX550's before you turn on low lux (so not bad in bad light!), and overall the image might be a tad softer than the CX's, but seems to be pretty clean and looks good on my 24" monitors and larger screens... Considering prices of P&S cameras with this new sensor start at $220 RETAIL... it's definitley worth a think! Albeit the lower end ones just shoot 1080i, but they are definitely as good as dedicated "video" cameras I shot with just a few short years ago (easily better than the "7" series sony cams)



Rey - the amount of control required really depends a lot on how well the sensors and processors handle "difficult" scenes - that's where the greater lattitude and low light performance of the newer CMOS sensors kicks in - I find just using exposure shift solves about 90% of any "problems" that crop up. Focus can be a pain, but if there are a couple cams, one is likely to have a good lock (or set one to manual).

I've got clamp pods that I can lash to the tripod for secondary cams, and I tooled up a metal bar that allows me to put two ball heads alongside the main pan/tilt head... good for stage shows. It's funny how we evolve similar approaches to the problems of event shoots!

You have to evaluate the budget - the economy is still tight, so big $$ expenditures for nominal or incremental quality increases have to be balanced by whether your market expects it and will pay for it. I'm pretty tempted by the NX70, but in the end it's 3 CX550's, or 1 CX700 and 2 CX560's, or... well, you get the idea.

In my book a couple extra camera angles properly positioned can make the "one man band" look more like a full production crew, so if the cams are "cheap", you just have to work out the process and the edit. Adding a discrete audio souce and multiple video tracks is really easy once you've done it, and you quickly get used to the idea of being able to "cut away" in post to the "best angle"... no sweating how to cover that bad pan/zoom or other glitch!


I still say that the image acquisition device part of the equation is becoming almost inconsequential - you still want to get the best camera(s) you can, but the choices are many, and the prices are lesser! IMO it comes down to the "grip gear" that ensures you get STABLE footage, your instincts as a camera op in "getting the shot", and the skill in the edit bay in taking "good" and making it "genius" (with good gear choices you don't have to "salvage the horrid" nearly as often!)
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