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I really need your advice on a purchase for a new project

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Matthew Abourezk
I really need your advice on a purchase for a new project
on Apr 11, 2012 at 1:11:15 pm

Hi all, I am in dire need of some great advice.

I realize that $6k is a paltry amount, but I have a new client that needs a product promotional video and the quality of the footage has to be incredible, especially in the jet-black shadow areas of the video (which is a major component of the creative direction of the piece). I have been researching the options for days (literally) and have yet to find the right solution. Every camera has strengths and shortcomings, and there are many tricks to tweak an image.

So my options (as I see it at this point) are....
1) I buy gear (external recorder) for my existing camera(s);
2) I need to do some whacky workflow (camera settings that work best for cleaning footage in post) that produces superb results;
3) I buy a piece of post gear or software,
4) or the answer could be that I buy a new camera. Or a combination of the above.

I need to be creative with the purchase to get a camera/recorder that gives me 1080P, shoots pristinely clean video in the shadow areas, has no problems with moire (since I am shooting a refrigerator sized product that has many horizontal and diagonal details).

The creative concept for the video is this...
(Note that a camera that is on a motorized slider and shooting close-ups of Pieces and parts of the product),
the video will reveal the product through a series of closeups that consist of a completely black setting, as the light passes over an area of the product, that area briefly reveals in the light then as the light continues flying by (the light itself is not in the frame), the frame goes to black. Repeat over and over again. So the Black Shadows and gradients of shadow) need to be incredibly clean, and the video of the product needs to be crisp and detailed to show the fine texture of the product surfaces.

I own a Panasonic HVX 200 and a Canon 5D Mk II, I also have a variety of Canon L series still lenses.

I have looked at the Panasonic AF100, the Sony FS 100, the Canon 5D Mark III, and from an overwhelming amount of positive reviews, the Panasonic GH2.
I discovered that the 5DMkII and MKIII doesn't have clean HDMI out (which is really disappointing), so those are probably out.
Do you have any suggestions as to what camera/external recorder I can buy on this small budget that will give me the most quality at a reasonable price?

Thanks so much, I look forward to hearing your opinions.
Matt

Talkingbox Digital Media Group, Inc.
http://www.talkingboxdmg.com
(203) 249-7718


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Steve Eisen
Re: I really need your advice on a purchase for a new project
on Apr 11, 2012 at 2:36:17 pm

Rent the equipment needed for this project. As much as I love Panasonic equipment, The Sony F3 could be a perfect match for this project. Look at the Canon C300. Another option is to use your 5D and record direct to a KiPro or KiPro Mini.

Steve Eisen
Eisen Video Productions
Vice President
Chicago Final Cut Pro Users Group


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Matthew Abourezk
Re: I really need your advice on a purchase for a new project
on Apr 11, 2012 at 2:47:50 pm

Hi Steve,

I appreciate the reply. Renting isn't a great option since I won't have the time to experiment or play with the gear in order to dial in what I need to do for the shoot.

Unfortunately, the 5D (both MKII and MKIII) don't have clean hdmi output. The viewfinder info is overlaid and there is no way (that I know of) to remove it. This is probably so Canon can keep their hierarchy (pro-sumer vs Pro) in place without cannibalizing the higher end sales. But it is a bummer.

Matt

Talkingbox Digital Media Group, Inc.
http://www.talkingboxdmg.com
(203) 249-7718


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Matthew Abourezk
Re: I really need your advice on a purchase for a new project
on Apr 11, 2012 at 2:49:32 pm

What I am really hoping for is that someone can tell me that the HVX 200, when recording to an external device, gives a quality level that has never been seen before in the video world. No camera at any price can match... is that too much to ask? :-)
Matt

Talkingbox Digital Media Group, Inc.
http://www.talkingboxdmg.com
(203) 249-7718


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Jack Guthrey
Re: I really need your advice on a purchase for a new project
on Apr 11, 2012 at 6:53:55 pm

What's your destination format? Broadcast? Web? That's going to make a big difference. What do you mean by "Quality"? Resolution? Sharpness? Latitude?

I'd just light it ridiculously low-key and crush down the blacks. The lift-gamma contrast is what tells people that blacks are 'inky'. Any of your cameras can do that just fine. The Panasonic has a more robust codec that will stand up in grading better though. If you use the Canon, I'd be looking to rent a great lens.


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Matthew Abourezk
Re: I really need your advice on a purchase for a new project
on Apr 11, 2012 at 7:31:57 pm

Hi Jack,
Thanks for the reply.

My client will be using these videos for computer playback in small presentations, their website, and for presentations on a large screen HD tv.

If you have any advice or can point me in a direction to learn more about how to crush the blacks or "lift-gamma contrast" in my cameras, I'd appreciate it. I usually play it safe in the camera and try to compensate with grading in post.

I have to say that as I have gone through this process of trying to find the best combo of settings, cameras, and external recorders, I have learned a lot, including how much I really don't know.

Talkingbox Digital Media Group, Inc.
http://www.talkingboxdmg.com
(203) 249-7718


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Jack Guthrey
Re: I really need your advice on a purchase for a new project
on Apr 11, 2012 at 8:12:49 pm

I didn't mean in camera - use whatever settings you're accustomed to though I'd recommend something "flat" - the crushing comes in the grade. [Lift/Shadows/Blacks] [Gamma/Midtones/Greys] same thing, different nomenclature. The actual application depends on the desired look.


If you are wanting to have a black that is "deep" then light low key with high ratios (Good info) and stop down enough to not clip any highlights.
In the grade, drop your shadows (lift) significantly and increase your highlights (gain) right on the verge of clipping. Set your midtones (gamma) where it looks best for you (most likely higher, towards highlights).
What you should end up with is very distinguished blacks and a compressed amount of greyscale leading up to your whites (depending on lighting).

Here are some images to get it across better.
This is what would be shot

And then corrected to this


What has happened is increasing the contrast between Shadow and midtone so that anything dark turns black. Shoot wise, this means great care in lighting, controlling exposure and using a format that has some latitude - DVCPRO HD is pretty good in that regard.

If the subject is dark then you're looking at needing a lot of highly controlled light in a fairly large space.


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Matthew Sonnenfeld
Re: I really need your advice on a purchase for a new project
on Apr 12, 2012 at 6:58:28 pm

[Matthew Abourezk] "What I am really hoping for is that someone can tell me that the HVX 200, when recording to an external device, gives a quality level that has never been seen before in the video world. No camera at any price can match... is that too much to ask? :-)"

Unfortunately, no one will tell you this. As the HVX200 only as FireWire 400 out or Component out, so there will be no quality increases over DVCProHD to P2 cards.

I saw in another post of yours above that you are looking for benefit from the component out. Unfortunately, you really won't find one. The recorders that will offer you advantages in the recording scheme will really require minimum HDMI out which can be a pain. To really take advantage of an external recording you ideally want HD-SDI out.

DVCProHD is good. 4:2:2 gives you the chroma resolution to do what you need in post for the grading so you're set there. The problem with the HVX200 is the sensor and luma resolution. Two things that can never be changed regardless of your recording scheme.

Just curious, why would buying and learning new equipment be okay but renting and learning is not?

I too am a huge Panasonic guy but agree that the Sony F3 would be great for this. The low light is CLEAN. The F3 and the AJA KiPro mini is a killer rig. Set that up to record ProRess 422 or DNxHD if you're on Avid and you will have what you need.

Panasonic HPX170 P
2011 Macbook Pro 17", 2.3 Ghz Quad Core, 8GB RAM
AJA IoXT
Adobe Premiere Pro CS5.5, Final Cut Pro Studio 3, Avid Media Composer 3.5.4
The College of William and Mary


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Matthew Abourezk
Re: I really need your advice on a purchase for a new project
on Apr 12, 2012 at 8:12:43 pm

Hi again guys, thanks for the replies, very thoughtful.

I want to buy equipment because I am in business and I want to improve my overall quality offerings for all projects. My current motivation (and time constrained panic) is that I have a good gig that pays really well, and I need to get equipped ASAP.

Jack, the links are great. Thanks a bunch.

Also, Matt, thanks for the info about the hdmi and component out on the hvx.

Matt

Talkingbox Digital Media Group, Inc.
http://www.talkingboxdmg.com
(203) 249-7718


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Steve Eisen
Re: I really need your advice on a purchase for a new project
on Apr 13, 2012 at 2:26:50 pm

Hop on a plane and get to the NAB show in Las Vegas to get your hands on the equipment then make your purchase if you are that determined. This is where you will get the best deals on equipment.

You heard it from me and Matt S. to rent the equipment. If it works for you, then buy it. Don't be an impulse buyer.

[Matthew Abourezk] "My client will be using these videos for computer playback in small presentations, their website, and for presentations on a large screen HD tv."
Your HVX200 is more than adequate to achieve what the client wants. That being said, an upgrade to the HPX250 is a good choice. The AVC-Intra is a great codec to record to.

Steve Eisen
Eisen Video Productions
Vice President
Chicago Final Cut Pro Users Group


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