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Suggestions for moving from DVX100b to a consumer hd cam?

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Ruby Gold
Suggestions for moving from DVX100b to a consumer hd cam?
on Jun 6, 2012 at 12:35:46 am

Hi again. As I move away from my beloved DVX100b because I need less camera, the simpler import of HDMI than tape capture, and less learning curve than a DSLR would represent, I'm wondering if you all have any suggestions for consumer HD cams?

I want something with enough control to get the best picture and sound quality possible within the limitations of a consumer camera, but without hassling with mini-dv tape. I heard Canon HF S200 had nice picture quality, but limited wide angle and also some other issues. Two biggest priorities for me would be best quality video and audio I can get in a consumer hd cam.

I'm also thinking of moving from PC platform and PPro editing to Mac. Seems that AVCHD (a format I'm unfamiliar with since I last worked with video six years ago) requires some conversion to get into the Mac.

All thoughts and suggestions appreciated.
thanks-
Ruby


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Dave Haynie
Re: Suggestions for moving from DVX100b to a consumer hd cam?
on Jun 6, 2012 at 9:17:52 am

[Ruby Gold] "Hi again. As I move away from my beloved DVX100b because I need less camera, the simpler import of HDMI than tape capture, and less learning curve than a DSLR would represent, I'm wondering if you all have any suggestions for consumer HD cams? "

Import via HDMI? I think you want direct file copy from a modern flash memory based camcorder.

I've been partial to Panasonic's consumer/prosumer models myself. They're the only cameras in that range that give you three-chip sensors. Not as good in low-light as your DVX100b, but nothing in the consumer market is. I use the HMC40 and the TM700, both a few years out of current. The latest in the TM700 or Canon HF S200 ballpark is the HC-X900. The main advantage of the recent Pannys is a 1080/60p mode, which I don't believe is supported on the Canons yet. I'm sure you'll find various trade-offs... Canon makes a fine camcorder, too (they use a larger 8Mpixel single chip sensor, but "pixel bucket" so you don't get the color fringing of older single-chip cameras).

Lens wise, all consumer cameras are limited on wide-angle. There are fairly functional wide-angle adapter lenses available for under $300 that really work (and a bunch, under $100, that stink). The S200 has a 35mm-equivalent lens at , the Panny has a Leica lens with 35mm equivalent of 29.8mm at f1.5 with 12x zoom; the Canon has a Canon lens with a 35mm equivalent of 43.5m at f1.8 with a 10x zoom. This is a pretty typical range.

As for audio, it's my opinion that all built-in audio stinks. You can be the judge. The Canon has built-in stereo mics, the Panasonic a built-in 5.1 channel mic. For the record, as an audio guy, I think surround sound as a built-in on a camcorder is a stupid feature. Both support the use of an external mic via 1/8" unpowered input; there are plenty of ad-on mics that'll give you dramatically better sound. Your choice, and an easy upgrade if you don't have the cash up front.

[Ruby Gold] "I'm also thinking of moving from PC platform and PPro editing to Mac. Seems that AVCHD (a format I'm unfamiliar with since I last worked with video six years ago) requires some conversion to get into the Mac.
"


That seems like an extremely bad idea. Why? Yeah, there was a time when Macs did better video than Windows PCs. There was also a time when Amigas did video and Macs only did word-processing. Times change.

There is exactly one application, er, app for video that's on the Mac but not on the PC: Apple's Final Cut Pro. The old version is ... really old... does not compare to anything from the other companies, but it's a full pro application from three years ago. The new version, FCP X, is a Mac "app". It might actually be good for what you're after.. but there are a dozen choices on Windows. Even a couple free ones on Linux.

My daughter has used a Mac for the last two years, in high school... she was in the local "Communications Academy", learning to produce and shoot video (and she's majoring in Broadcasting at Montclair University next year... a very selective program, and the only sign of my DNA in my kids' activities... ok, my son can down crazy amounts of beer). They were converting from HD to DV to get her camcorder shots onto the Mac. I did some experiments, and at least for her MacBook Pro, HD AVCHD pretty much crashed the system. I converted it to 1/4 rez AVC, and it still failed. Finally, I did a little research, and converted it to 1/4 rez AVC-Intra (what Apple calls iFrame) and it worked very nicely. That's slightly better than SD, but not HD.

Now, sure, she's got a dual-core MacBook Pro. Thing is, I can actually edit AVCHD on my 5-year-old dual core HP PC under Win7 and Vegas 10 or 11. Not a really rockin' edit experience, but it's workable.. I have used this on-the-road for same-day wedding cuts/render/upload. I really can't even explain why the Mac is so bad at AVC... Apple's main format for iOS video is AVC, albeit at 1.5-4Mb/s, not 21-28Mb/s. But still.

If you have the higher end version of FCP (Kira's using the intermediate version, from back in the FCP 7 days), you can convert to ProRes, which is an Apple proprietary intermediate format, similar to Avid's DNxHD (adopted as the SMPTE VC-3 standard) or Cineform. That makes edits faster, but also takes up many times the hard disc space.

AVCHD is a special system format, spun off Blu-ray. It's based on AC-3 (formerly Dolby Digital) audio, in 2-channel or 5.1-channel options, and AVC video at 24Mb/s or less. AVC stands for Advanced Video Coding... it's also known as H.264 or MPEG-4 Part 10. This is pretty much the industry's successor to MPEG-2.. it's largely the standard for online video, camcorder video, and digital television via satellite and cable (broadcast in the USA follows the MPEG-2 based ATSC standard, but AVC is used in the European/DVB HD standards. Well encoded AVC delivers the same quality as MPEG-2 at half the bitrate. But it's much harder to encode well. So while most camcorders and HSDLRs use AVC (some use the AVCHD standard, some use Quicktime's AVC standards, others just use basic MPEG-4 specs), many are conservative on the bitrate, given their need for realtime encoding and low power video DSPs.

-Dave


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Ruby Gold
Re: Suggestions for moving from DVX100b to a consumer hd cam?
on Jun 6, 2012 at 6:44:35 pm

To answer your question of "why?"... Part of the reason I was thinking of switching to Mac is that I haven't used PPro since it was at 1.5 and I thought the learning curve might be just as steep as learning the latest version of FCP; plus the cost of upgrading the PPro software, my OS (PC is in a plastic bag behind the couch and still has XP Pro on it), as well as the processor, video and sound cards and getting a monitor for the PC (don't have one currently) would be prohibitive. The appeal of the Mac was that I'd get something brand new that had all the upgrades I'd need for less money (I think) than it'd cost me to do all that stuff to my old machine. Granted, I'd still have to get an external HD, but it just seemed like maybe a better deal for me.


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Dave Haynie
Re: Suggestions for moving from DVX100b to a consumer hd cam?
on Jun 6, 2012 at 10:04:09 pm

[Ruby Gold] "To answer your question of "why?"... Part of the reason I was thinking of switching to Mac is that I haven't used PPro since it was at 1.5 and I thought the learning curve might be just as steep as learning the latest version of FCP; "

Probably not. Professional software is by its very nature evolutionary.. they can't change things too fast or users complain -- we don't have time for arbitrary changes. Thus the huge outcry among high-end users about Final Cut Pro X... well, that, and the lack of upward compatibility, and the loss of some high-end features. May not be an issue for mid-range users, of course -- which is where they're pushing the whole Mac platform. They like consumers, they are no long interested in the Pro markets. Their bank balance suggests this is not a wrong business decision, just don't get crushed by the shift.

[Ruby Gold] "my OS (PC is in a plastic bag behind the couch and still has XP Pro on it), as well as the processor, video and sound cards and getting a monitor for the PC (don't have one currently) would be prohibitive. The appeal of the Mac was that I'd get something brand new that had all the upgrades I'd need for less money (I think) than it'd cost me to do all that stuff to my old machine. "

Apple products are largely luxury priced -- that's one reason Apple makes so much money. They're making 5x the profit per PC as folks like HP and Dell. Bottom line -- Apple makes a very nice, very sexy desktop-laptop in the iMac. But it's never going to be a bargain. You're paying more for the integral monitor than you would for a stand-alone, and you can't reuse it, should you chose to upgrade. Like a laptop. My current dual 1200p MVA-LCD monitors have lasted over the course of three PC upgrades, as one datapoint.

Most PCs are just as "fully stocked" out of the box as a Mac, but there's room for expansion in the main box. Need a DVD or Blu-ray drive... that's an extra for the Mac, and it's going to cost much more, because it's an external add-on. Want a six-core CPU or a high-end GPU? Can't get one.. Apple only ships these on the two-year-old Mac Pro, and they don't offer a high-end consumer graphics card on any product, much less a pro-series GPU (if you do go Adobe, you'll get perhaps the best GPU acceleration in the industry with a good nVidia card.. and I say this as a Vegas user. Apple doesn't do GPU acceleration yet, one reason AVC editing is such a boondoggle on the Mac).

I'm sure Mac fans will give you reasons to buy a Mac. I do believe there are people who will be very happy with Macs (my sister Kathy, for example, drank the Apple Kool-Aid awhile back and is quite happy with her iMacs, iPhone, and iPad.. but I do all her video editing). But I do not have any scenario in mind that would push one to a Mac for video editing. A year ago, sure, because while FCP 7 was aging (a 32-bit app in the world of 64-bit video editing, with poor multi-core performance), it was a legit pro choice. Now many of the pros are leaving the app, and even the platform. Adobe and Avid have been aggressively pricing FCP crossgrades -- they saw their chance, and pounced. I'm also certainly not speaking for everyone, just trying to get all your facts in your head, so you can make the right choice for you.

-Dave


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Guy McLoughlin
Re: Suggestions for moving from DVX100b to a consumer hd cam?
on Jun 6, 2012 at 2:59:54 pm

If you are thinking of buying a consumer camera, then there are two models I would consider...

Canon G10
- Fully featured
- Excellent low-light ability ( especially when shooting indoors without lights )
- Not as good as Panasonic X900 for hand held work ( stabilization not as good )

Panasonic X900
- Fantastic image
- Fantastic image stabilization ( for hand held work )
- Not as good as Canon G10 in low light

My preference would be for the X900, unless you shoot a lot of indoor low light work.


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Ruby Gold
Re: Suggestions for moving from DVX100b to a consumer hd cam?
on Jun 6, 2012 at 6:02:17 pm

Thanks all for your responses - much appreciated - and much to think about!
Ruby


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Noah Kadner
Re: Suggestions for moving from DVX100b to a consumer hd cam?
on Jun 6, 2012 at 6:10:45 pm

I'd also consider DSLR cameras like the Panasonic GH2 and Canon T3i/60D which offer incredible visual bang for the buck and are fairly easy to learn and operate with post-friendly footage.

Noah

Call Box Training.
Featuring the Panasonic GH2 and Panasonic AC160/130.


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Ruby Gold
Re: Suggestions for moving from DVX100b to a consumer hd cam?
on Jun 6, 2012 at 6:37:21 pm

Hi Noah! I remember you from back in my former incarnation when I frequented this forum. In other posts - folks said that the GH2 had a high learning curve, which is part of why I was thinking of downgrading. What makes the output post-friendly?

thanks-
Ruby


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Noah Kadner
Re: Suggestions for moving from DVX100b to a consumer hd cam?
on Jun 7, 2012 at 8:05:08 pm

It's post friendly in the sense that once you shoot to the SDHC cards you have something already in a digital file format. So the next step is copy the clips to your hard drive and go right into editing. There's nothing to 'digitize' as you would coming from a tape-based DV camera like a DVX100b.

1 hour of footage could be ingested in a couple of minutes depending on your hard drive and reader speed. Plus the SDHC cards are dirt cheap. I'm a huge fan of the Panasonic GH2 and think it's one of the best deals to be had in terms of image quality- here's my workflow video on that one btw- http://www.callboxlive.com/products/panasonic-gh2-guidebook

In that course I go over the entire soup to nuts workflow- and it's geared at folks starting out from scratch on the GH2.
Noah

Call Box Training.
Featuring the Panasonic GH2 and Panasonic AC160/130.


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Ruby Gold
Re: Suggestions for moving from DVX100b to a consumer hd cam?
on Jun 7, 2012 at 8:21:13 pm

Cool Noah - thanks. If I go that route I'll be sure to buy your course. I'd need to learn how to run good sound from it and use the camera as well as the post workflow - most likely to PPro and a PC. thanks-
Ruby


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Dave Haynie
Re: Suggestions for moving from DVX100b to a consumer hd cam?
on Jun 6, 2012 at 10:14:02 pm

I'm gradually becoming a serious HDSLR convert... but the workflow isn't for everyone.

I bought a 60D last year as a still camera, just before taking a vacation in Alaska. Money well spent, even if I needed to upgrade my PC's RAM to 16GB for those 40-50 photos in a single panorama to be stitched.

But I do a fair amount of band and stage shooting, and the HDSLR is just so much better when it comes to low light.

I also bought a m43 camera, an Olympus E-PM1, for Christmas, as a replacement for a broken P&S camera... and thinking that m43 is being pushed into videography. That got me following the m43 market, and the Panasonic GH2 may well be the best overall video camera for "cheap".

When you shoot video with the 60D, you soon learn that you absolutely require the Magic Lantern firmware upgrade (some call it "HACK"...). This doesn't exactly get you more than 10-12min of continuous shooting, but it will quickly restart video, it gives you a passable zebra stripe display, audio meters, lots of cool stuff.

The firmware hacks for the GH2 give you 170+Mb/s AVC-Intra recording... something akin to the higher quality mode in the new Canon 5D mk III. Google this... there are video reviews selecting GH2 video over that shot with cameras 10x+ the price. And AVC-Intra (that's AVC with I-Frame only encoding) is a much faster edit on any computer.

But it's still an HDSLR workflow, not a real camcorder. My next video camera will be an HDSLR, but I also have two current real camcorders, as mentioned. The right tool for the job, but if I just had one tool as an option (and didn't factor in still photography), I'd have to go with the camcorder.

-Dave


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