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Movies and Video For people making movies and editing video with their Mac.

Are you looking to buy a camcorder? Read here first before posting!


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dj_hype

 
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I answered a post a few minutes ago with the following information and figured that some of it may be relevant to those looking to buy a new camcorder. I also threw in a little about how you can attempt to improve the look of your production from the level of screaming amateur to better amateur. And then at the very bottom, I threw in a little about myself so you can understand what my qualifications are.

Now first and foremost. Everyone has their preferences when it comes to manufacturers. My preference is Panasonic. But that's just me. In any case, I'll try to keep this as "brand-free" as I can.

The biggest item to contemplate when choosing a camera is what are you going to be shooting? General family outings? Your little tyke opening presents at their first birthday? Your kid at his championship football game? Wedding's for your friends whom which you will sell the edited version to? Each example can fall into a few different categories so we'll start with defining said categories.

1. Consumer - This will be most of you. You plan to take your camera with you to Disney World and capture the most expensive trip of your life. These will be the entry level cameras. Probably under $400. Every manufacturer makes these and they are available at most retail outlets that sell electronics. Some models would include the Panasonic PV-GS320, Sony DCR-HC38, Canon ZR-850, and JVC GR-D796.

2. Expensive Consumer - You fit into the category above as far as what you will be shooting but have a little more money to spend on your camera. Generally up to $1000. You may spring for one of those new fancy-pants HD camcorders. Such models include the Panasonic HDC-SD5, Sony HDR-HC7, Canon HV20, and JVC GZHD3US.

3. Prosumer - Ahh, the new category built specifically for those who have lots of money to spend but don't want to change career's (just a joke). You guys probably want the best there is (under $2000 that is) but you may plan to actually try and make money with your cam. Some models include Panasonic AG-HSC1U, Canon GL2, Sony VX2100 or PD-150.

4. Professional (under $5000) - Finally. The big boys. You may be looking to make a movie with your camera that you could show at film festivals and the such. You probably know all this but for those who don't, here's what you want. You definitely want something that can shoot in 24p (explained somewhere towards the bottom). You HAVE to have something 3-CCD. You also HAVE to be comfortable with setting and using MANUAL control's as these cam's perform much better that way as opposed to just "pointing and shooting" on auto mode. Some popular models include the Panasonic DVX100B and HVX200, Canon XL2 or XH-A1, Sony DSR-PD170 (non 24p) or HVR-V1U. Again, I'm only listing models here that provide the 24p filmlike ability (except the PD-170).

5. Professional (above $5000) - Well, at this point, you would be better off renting a camera. I'm not going to list any models as you already know what you're looking for. For those that are curious, go to http://www.bhphotovideo.com and go to their Pro Video section and then to Camcorders (ENG) and be amazed.

So those are the categories. Once you figure out where you belong, you then have MANY options to choose from. Here are some guidelines to follow:

1. Storage Media - MiniDV is still used by industry professionals to this day. It offers great quality and with tape, as long as you use a tape only once (possibly twice) you won't have to worry about it being corrupted. Hard Drive cams look appealing (because when you plug it in it shows up as an external hard drive and you just drag and drop your clips). But alot of these hard drive cams use a file format that iMovie/FCP won't recognize. If you use the cam companies conversion tool, it will probably encode in MPEG2 which won't go directly into iMovie/FCP. So that 20mins you saved by just dragging and dropping the movie file turns into 45mins of encoding and re-encoding. And every time you encode, you lose quality (unless you go uncompressed). Mini-DVD is absolute trash if you want to edit on ANY platform. Older mediums (Hi8, Digital8, SVHS, etc) are old and outdated. Stay away.

2. CCD's - CCD's are like memory, the more, the better. And like hard drives, the bigger the better. You're only really going to have two options when it comes to CCD amount; 1 or 3. If you can afford 3, get 3. If not, look for the single CCD cam that has the largest CCD size. Your usual options will be 1/3", 1/4", and 1/6". Price will vary among manufacturers.

3. Zoom - Here's where manufacturers will try to impress. They will offer a cam with 12x Optical Zoom and 38423847389x Digital Zoom. Digital Zoom is crap, ignore that number. Optical Zoom is where you're going to want to look. Going into zoom mode requires a steadier hand so for zoom, I'd recommend a tripod or a shoulder mount.

4. Additional Features - Yeah when you're in Best Buy and the clerk is showing you all the cool features like the sepia look and the negative filter, these may entice you (I used to work at Best Buy, I know how they work). But to be honest, you will NEVER use these features outside of the first 11 minutes you have the camera. They offer no real value in trying to make a decent video/movie. Using in-camera effects will cheapen the value. Additional features like these just clutter up the menu's. And as far as still picture abilities, forget it. Buy a cheap digital camera and it will produce better stills than any video camera ever would. Its called a video camera for a reason, it shoots video.

5. HD vs. SD - While the HD factor is very tempting, you have to keep in mind where your video is going. If it's for playback SOLELY on computer screens, then jump for it. Or if you plan to output to 35mm film (you would also want a camera with native 16:9 CCD's). But if you want to play it on your TV, it's still going to have to be SD. Unless of course, you hook up your computer to your fancy pants HDTV. But if you plan to burn these videos to DVD then they will have to be SD (unless of course you have a Blu-Ray burner or HD-DVD burner). Plus, most of the general population is still using SDTV's. When Blu-Ray/HD-DVD burners/players come down in price and most of the general population is using HDTV's, then make the switch.

6. LCD Size, accessories, etc... - Sure that 4" LCD screen looks great but you have to consider what it takes to run that LCD. More power needed = more batteries needed. You're not going to be watching the video on the camera, so who cares? A 2.7" screen is fine. Accessories to look out for are bags/cases, storage media (if you go Mini-DV), tripods, lens filters/protectors, batteries, etc... I would personally go with as much as you can afford. Don't skimp on the bag as this is your protection. A lens filter/protectors is a great investment because $40-$60<$300 (assuming you paid $300 for you cam). A tripod will set you free and allow for much better video than handheld.

General Tips for Camera's.
1. If you go MiniDV (and I recommend you do), only use a tape once (possibly twice). Once you pick a brand of tape, STAY WITH THAT BRAND! Every brand uses different lubes on their tapes and multiple lubes can cause cross contamination. You don't want that. Also, once you're done with a tape, put it back in its case and keep it in a cool, dry, protected place. Your tapes should last for years. And one other thing, be sure to run a head cleaner through your cam if you decide to change tape brands and run it once for about 10seconds every 50 hours or so.

2. Go for the biggest CCD you can afford. If you can afford a 3CCD cam, go with that.

3. If you can afford a cam with a manual focus ring, go for it. Manual focus rings will allow you to do rack focus shots (fore subject in perfect focus, back subject out of focus, you move the focus ring, fore subject out of focus, back subject in focus). Just like on the news! Of course, you will also need a cam that has some manual control of fstop. But this may not suite what you need.

4. Sony camera's use batteries that have AMAZING life. You can get 5-6 hours out of Sony batteries. Plus, Sony are very tough, durable cameras.

5. Stay away from Canon. (Lol, just a joke.)

6. Look for a cam that will allow you to turn off that stupid Date/Time stamp. Again, another "feature" that yells amateur.

7. 24p - Ahh, the Indie filmmaker's holy grail. For those that haven't heard, 24p is a shooting mode that was developed to allow video camera's to shoot at 24 frames per second (FPS). This is the frame rate that those big budget Hollywood movies are filmed on. The "p" stands for progressive. You can wikipedia "Progressive Scan" for a full explanation of progressive scan. All you need to remember is Progressive scan equals better picture quality. Normal video cameras shoot in 60i mode. That stands for 60 frames per second interlaced. The interlaced frames are combined together to make one full frame. It takes two interlaced "frames" to make one full frame. So, 60 divided by 2 equals 30. So, after all the math is done, you end up with 30 (full) frames per second. For a good comparison so you can see the difference, watch a portion of a big budget Hollywood feature. Notice how the characters move on screen. Now, watch a portion of a TV soap opera. Notice the difference in character movement? 24p is the Hollywood movie and 60i is the soap opera. But there are alot of things that impact the total look of the film. See below.

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dj_hype

 
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General Tips for Shooting.
1. Stay off the zoom. If you need to make your subject bigger, move in closer. Nothing screams AMATEUR like zooming in and out. A small zoom, maybe for 1/4 of a second, just to bring you a little bit closer to the subject is fine. But this wacky zoom in zoom out stuff is ridiculous. And no one wants to look at that. Sure this won't work all the time but, most of the time it will.

2. Mind the rule of thirds! You can split any composition into thirds. From top to bottom, and left to right. Google it for examples. But always, always, ALWAYS keep your talent's eyes in the upper thirds. Another thing that screams AMATEUR is a subject that is totally centered. Heck, even the News anchor's eyes are in the upper thirds.

3. Give headroom. If your baby is crawling or walking on the floor, don't zoom in so they fill the entire frame. Instead, pan the camera slightly ahead of where they are going. This is how the pro's do it. This will make people go "Wow! That was the best baby crawling on the ground sequence I've ever seen!"

4. Try a dolly shot. Dolly shot's are those shot's you see in the movies where the camera moves in/out very smoothly. No, thats not a zoom. Big budget movies will NEVER zoom while filming. They will set their zoom and focus, film, stop filming, then adjust as necessary for the next shot. There are multiple approaches to dolly shots. First, you can try walking closer to the subject. This is tough to keep steady by hand and should be your last resort. You could also try sitting in a rolling chair and have someone push THE CHAIR (not you) in closer to the subject. Concentrate on keeping the camera as steady as possible and see how it goes. Your next option is to build a dolly. They're not hard to build, and there are plans all over the internet on how to build one (many of the plans are free too). This is a great option if you plan to use dolly shots alot and will give you the best results.

5. Making it look like film. 24p is a great way to get that film look that all indie filmmakers are after. But there are alot of other things that can impact the look of your shots. You can make a 60i video camera shoot shots that look like film. Its all about composition and lighting. And instead of spend another hour explaining this, I'll refer you to a great article from DVXUser.com (it's not DVX specific so relax). Link: http://www.dvxuser.com/V6/showpost.p...85&postcount=3.

My personal (opinionated) recommendations:

1. Consumer - The GS320 or the HC38. I like the GS320 because it's 3CCD and has some extra manual controls. Sony's are tough and the battery life is amazing.

2. Expensive Consumer - The HV20. It's HD and uses MiniDV. I know alot of people who use these camera's and they work extremely well.

3. Prosumer - The GL2 or the PD-150. I've used both of these cam's and I must say the PD-150 is TOUGH! Plus, with the big battery, you can see 6hours with the LCD open. The GL2 is good as well and shouldn't be overlooked.

4. Professional (SD) - The DVX100B ($2600) or the XL2 ($3200). Both do 24p. Both are great cameras. In my opinion, the gamma curves on the DVX produce a better "filmlike" look than on the XL2. But, the XL2 uses an interchangeable lens system which offers amazing flexibility. Although, I've seen the DVX stand up to a bit more abuse than the XL2.

5. Professional (HD) - The HVX200 ($5200) or XL-H1 (not listed above, around $8000). The HVX200 is a great camera and one I have lots of experience with. I haven't had a chance to use the XL-H1 but it looks promising with it's interchangeable lenses (HD version of the XL2).

Here is what I recommend if you are using a Prosumer or Pro level camera for a specific application:

Action Sports (snowboarding, skateboarding, etc...): PD-150/PD-170 or GL2. 30fps works great here and these cam's are tough (which helps).

Indie Film: For SD, DVX or XL2. For HD, HVX or XL-H1. Can't beat 24p.

Weddings: Again, DVX or XL2. 24p for weddings is great. And if you can afford a 35mm lens adapter, you can get that AMAZING depth of field.

Sports from sidelines: PD-150/PD-170, GL2, or VX2100. You will want to look into a tripod/shoulder mount and a teleconvertor adapter.

If you would like any recommendations for something more specific, just ask. I'll be happy to chime is (as will many others).

A little about me:
I am currently a student at the Art Institute of Colorado. I have access to a lot of different equipment including a huge array of camcorders (prosumer and pro level). I've used the Panasonic DVX100 and HVX200, Canon GL2, XL1s, and XL2 (under the supervision of an instructor), Sony PD-150, PD-170, and HVR-V1U. I have also used JVC and Sony studio camera's. They are all great camera's. There are some who edge out the others in certain area's. My personal preference is the Panasonic DVX100B and I currently own one.

That's all I can think of at the moment. I may edit later or add more if it's desired. I hope this helps a little. If you have anymore questions, like the other guy said, feel free to ask. You can PM me if you like as well.

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So has this helped anyone? Any questions or things you would like to see added or get my opinion on?

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gvijaypurkar

 
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This is so good. I think I will follow this for my next purchase. My opinion about Sony (I have an old D8 Sony) was not great. More because of their proprietary format than anything else.

Do all the Mini DVs come with firewire now...I thought the JVCs don't. Fond of panasonics myself as well. I would love to have one that uses SDHC cards as well.
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familiatavera

 
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What dvd camcorder would you suggest for a "consumer"? I have sony dcr hc 21 mini dv that isn't very nice.

Stephanie
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gvijaypurkar: from my experience, all recent MiniDV cam's come with firewire. I don't have a huge amount of experience with JVC cam's but the one's I've used did have firewire on them. From what I understand about SDHC cards though, I'm not sure if the transfer rate would be fast enough to record uncompressed HD footage although I could be wrong. As far as the sony stuff goes well, any proprietary format sucks. That's why I choose to stay with MiniDV since it's a format that is used by many manufacturers and there are no differences between them. That leads me to the next question...

familiatavera: I honestly can't suggest any DVD camcorder for any level simply because of how difficult it is to edit the video that comes from them. You can also only play the DVD's in a tray-loaded DVD player. So, you won't be able to watch Mini-DVD's in your PowerBook/MacBook(Pro) or any computer that uses a slot-loading drive. As far as that DCR-HC21 goes, I've seen alot of negativity surrounding that camera so I wouldn't give up on MiniDV just yet.

Also, I can't really answer the question fully due to the fact that I don't know what you're going to be doing with it. If all you want to do is shoot some video, finalize the DVD in the camera, and play it back on your home DVD player well, I guess a DVD Cam would work for you.

But if you want to do any kind of editing or make the video available over the internet (either through YouTube or eMail or something of that nature), you will spend hours decoding the dvd, then encoding, then editing, then compressing. Same thing goes for Hard Drive (HDD) cams although you will skip the somewhat lengthy decoding process. But you will still have to encode into a format that iMovie/Final Cut/Premiere/yourNLEhere can understand.

Nevertheless, if you are stuck on getting a DVD camera, here are some suggestions (all come from the Best Buy website and my assumption is by consumer, you mean under $400):

Panasonic VDR-D230 ($351.99 but sold out online, check other websites)
http://www.bestbuy.com/site/olspage....=1166236105708

Canon DC220 ($399 also sold out online, check other websites)
http://www.bestbuy.com/site/olspage....=1166840116223

Sony DCR-DVD108 ($349 sold out as well)
http://www.bestbuy.com/site/olspage....=1166234894238

Samsung SC-DC575 ($399)
http://www.bestbuy.com/site/olspage....=1170290185520

I've never used a Samsung camera before but it does have a 1/5" CCD as opposed to all the others that have a 1/6" CCD. You may not notice the difference though. I'd suggest stopping by a local retail store and trying some of the cam's out. Pick them up, get a feel for their features, see how it would be to operate it, etc...

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familiatavera

 
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I looked at the minidv cameras you recommend and some of the reviews weren't too great. What do you think of this one? http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B00...pr_product_top
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Which camera's had bad reviews? When it comes to reviews of camcorders, you really have to consider your source. If its a website/magazine that caters to high-end professional cameras well, they're not going to like the lack of manual control that you find on most consumer level cameras.

Now, to the GS80. I've never personally used one but from the specs that I found, it looks on-par with cameras in the under $300 category. The manual focus ring is a nice touch though I doubt most consumer level users would ever touch it. The color viewfinder is also a nice touch if you want to save battery power by not using the LCD but still want to see the picture in color.

Personally, I'd say go for it. It will be easier to edit any video you record using MiniDV than DVD's. Again, I'm not sure what your budget is and what your intended use for the camera is. Assuming it's what would fall into the "consumer" category, I'd say the GS80 would work well for you.

Also, I found it on B&H Photo/Video's website for $219.95. B&H is a great company and if you want to check them out for yourself, head on over to www.resellerratings.com and search for B&H. Here's the link to the camera: http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/produc...t_Mini_DV.html

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Thanks for the nice posts!
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I just wanted something for home videos that I can put on the internet and also on dvd. With the minidv that I had I tried to upload the video I had to the pc I had at the time. I think I was using usb though. It took forever to load and then the audio was missing!
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Hmm thats odd. Well in any case, now that you're on a Mac and will be using firewire, there shouldn't be any issues. Although you will transfer at a 1-to-1 rate (meaning when you tell your editor to capture from the 2:30mark to the 6:30mark it will take 4minutes or so to transfer 4minutes of video plus cueing time).

But by far, MiniDV is the easiest to work with once you get your video transferred. The time you spend transferring at 1:1 is half the time you would spend encoding from a HDD cam file or decoding then encoding from a DVD cam.

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I liked reading your post, good job.

(just as a side note if you want to edit your post, leading the baby with a pan is nose room not head room, and keeping the talents eyes in the upper third is head room.. but everything else was perfect)

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Quote:
Originally Posted by dj hype
4. Professional (SD) - The DVX100B ($2600) or the XL2 ($3200). Both do 24p. Both are great cameras. In my opinion, the gamma curves on the DVX produce a better "filmlike" look than on the XL2. But, the XL2 uses an interchangeable lens system which offers amazing flexibility. Although, I've seen the DVX stand up to a bit more abuse than the XL2.
I used to be a DVX100 fan. Not so much any more. It is a nice camera, but the dynamic range in the video is really poor (it blows out the highs/brights way too easily) and it does not have a true 16:9 CCD. The XL2 has a bit better video dynamic range and it has a real 16:9 CCD. I pretty much love the XL2 except for the fact that I do not like DV compression. DV mangles the reds something fierce, and they always look blocky around the edges upon close inspection. But what can you do? Not much for now. I have used the Canon XL-H1 and I hate it. I severely dislike HDV. In fact I hate recording in any interframe method (which includes MPEG and all of its variations) because the source material should be as intact as possible and ALWAYS must be recompressed to edit. I guess as consumers we are stuck with bad compression formats, even in HD. Heck, even the HD camcorders don't record more than 1440x1080 max. They then upscale that to whatever resolution you want in the camera.
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Joe Redifer View Post
I used to be a DVX100 fan. Not so much any more. It is a nice camera, but the dynamic range in the video is really poor (it blows out the highs/brights way too easily) and it does not have a true 16:9 CCD. The XL2 has a bit better video dynamic range and it has a real 16:9 CCD. I pretty much love the XL2 except for the fact that I do not like DV compression. DV mangles the reds something fierce, and they always look blocky around the edges upon close inspection. But what can you do? Not much for now. I have used the Canon XL-H1 and I hate it. I severely dislike HDV. In fact I hate recording in any interframe method (which includes MPEG and all of its variations) because the source material should be as intact as possible and ALWAYS must be recompressed to edit. I guess as consumers we are stuck with bad compression formats, even in HD. Heck, even the HD camcorders don't record more than 1440x1080 max. They then upscale that to whatever resolution you want in the camera.
I will agree, partially, with your statement about the DVX blowing out the highs. On normal, auto modes yes, it can and will blow the highs right out a 5 story window. But with a different gamma curve (such as CINE-LIKE_D) you can get a bit better response and bring some of those highs back into a sharp, crisp range.

As far as the 16:9 CCD's go well, I agree with you there. 16:9 CCD's on the DVX would be great as far as marketing (even more than it is now) the camera towards the Indie community. But to be honest, some of the stuff I do with the camera, 16:9 wouldn't work for me. Mostly because the format already in place calls for 4:3. But, I think the 100B will be the last generation of DVX's (with the HVX out and such).

The XL2 is a great camera, don't get me wrong. I know plenty of people who use it and love it. My preference is with the Panasonic. I'll use an XL2 if the need calls for it but have no plans of changing any time soon.

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Quote:
Originally Posted by PowerBookG4 View Post
(just as a side note if you want to edit your post, leading the baby with a pan is nose room not head room, and keeping the talents eyes in the upper third is head room.. but everything else was perfect)

Rep to you!
You sir, are 100% correct! I must have spaced out there for a second. I tried to edit my post but my edit option went away. And thanks for the rep!

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