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camcorder recommendations

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Rick Neely
camcorder recommendations
on Dec 16, 2011 at 4:45:38 pm

Hey Guys,

I'm a professional Editor/Graphics person for the past 15 years. But in the past year, with the advent of the one-man-band that businesses/producers are hiring, I think I have to dust off my 'camera hat' and get me a camcorder so I can be the shoot/edit package deal. Not too crazy about this, but the sign of the times.

So I wanted to get some ideas, recommendations, and thoughts about the route I should go.

Here is what I am looking for and what I am not too keen about. Feel free to offer you insight about my thoughts.

MY WANTS--
- a Good 3CCD camera, Canon preferably (would consider SOny though)
- HDD camera with removable SD Card
- ability to shoot quality 1080p, indoor & outdoor, Work great with greenscreen
- Good two channel unbalanced audio (would consider accessory adaptor if it works
- 4:3 & 16:9
- Decent camcorder body, small is slick but size implies more professionalism
- Ideal maximum price of $1000, but could go a tad higher if necessary
- Decent amount of manual controls

Not two hungup on the compression type, I like AVCHD, but H.264 files are OK too.

WHAT I DON"T NEED--
Tape camera
RED camera resolution
prefer not to use SLR camera (convince me why I should reconsider)

Obviously, I'm not trying to do high end camera work by any stretch, but a good camera for ENG type events, or can be used for greenscreen work (even work with prompter accessory). So I'd love some ideas that you can share and be practical. I KNOW the Canon XL1 HD rocks, but that's not in my budget.

I'd also like to know some of the economical Canon camcorders used in professional enovironments currently, whether they fit my bill or not. Thanks!

thanks in advance, Guys!

Rick


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Craig Alan
Re: camcorder recommendations
on Dec 19, 2011 at 5:41:11 am

All the manufacturers make cameras that would fit your technical needs -- SONY, PANASONIC, CANON, AND JVC. But your price point is way off. ENG events mean you need quality sound. Unless you plan to go double system, you need a prosumer level cam with xlr inputs. You won't get that at $1000. The vixia line of card based cameras look and act consumer level but they shoot a very nice image if you give them adequate light. Small lenses need more light. They do have headphone out and mic in (check the specs). But they are not pro cams and do not look like pro cams. You would need to spend anywhere from 3 to 6 times that amount to make yourself look low-end pro. And it's not all facade. You'll get xlr connections, much better optics. Better control over light and sound. Better interconnects. If you are serious about being a one-man band, it's well worth the investment. Not only are they technically better but the ergonomics are way better and that is often the difference between a successful shoot and a nightmare. Think twisting a lens ring to adjust f-stop on the fly instead of fooling around with a joystick and menus. Think a real optical adjustment vs. some digital simulation. When you do decide to buy a pro cam, remember the cost of a good bag, lens filter, media, a quality tripod (starts at $600), and audio gear. Before investing in a camera kit I would try to go on some shoots with pro videographers. You could trade some post work in exchange for some experience. For green screen the bigger lens will really help. You want good separation between camera and talent and between talent and screen. I would recommend DSLRs only if you will have full control over each and every shot. ENG style is where traditional camcorders shine. The up side to DSLRs is better image quality at a given price point. But double system for sounds almost a must. As an editor you must know that sound is often the weak link in what has been recorded. Can’t zoom a mic. Can’t fix over-modulation. That is why one-man-band shoots can be really tough. Most news teams will shoot with a camera operator and an audio tech.

OSX 10.5.8; MacBookPro4,1 Intel Core 2 Duo 2.5 GHz MacPro4,1 2.66GHz 8 core 12gigs of ram. GPU: Nvidia Geoforce GT120 with Vram 512. OS X 10.6.x; Camcorders: Sony Z7U, Canon HV30/40, Sony vx2000/PD170; FCP 6 certified; write professionally for a variety of media; teach video production in L.A.


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Al Bergstein
Re: camcorder recommendations
on Dec 21, 2011 at 8:05:26 am

I second Craig's thoughts. Your price point is far too low. Panasonic hmc150 or higher price is what u r looking for.$3k to $8k. Save your money for the right tool. Not the right price.

Al


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Rick Neely
Re: camcorder recommendations
on Dec 28, 2011 at 2:22:29 pm

Hey guys,

thanks for the info. I realize that I'm asking for a bit on audio with the price point I've set.

Let me therefore ask a followup question - Although about five years old, what are your thoughts on a decent conditioned Xh-A1. Reviews are solid, shoots HDV tape, has an SD card slot, looks professional, meets the zoom and manual audio (XLR) control. The concerns I have are:

- is HDV going away (being a tape?
- Can I shoot HD on SD card port they provide and what format does it compress?
- the 2.7 MP seems a bit low by today standards. What do you think?
- Is it too outdated a camera?

Your thoughts again are welcome, and other model suggestions. Thanks!

Rick



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Craig Alan
Re: camcorder recommendations
on Dec 28, 2011 at 6:44:55 pm

In general, I would not buy a 5-year-old tape based cam. There might be a way to check total hours of recording. Check with canon. The tape mechanism is the weak link on these cams. They need yearly professional cleaning and alignment. Plan to do this before you shoot anything. The cam model itself looks fine. Tape is getting old but is still a great way to archive. Nice feature if you can record to card and tape at the same time. Check manual.
Go to bhphoto's site and download manual.


It has uncompressed SDI out which means you could add a digital recorder and record direct to any flavor of ProRes -- This is giving many cams a second life -- It gives you instant access to your footage and bypasses the cam's weaker compression codec (HDV). Not cheap though. Look at KiPro as one excellent example. If you do shoot with HDV, you’ll need to capture in a better editing codec. You could edit in HDV but you don’t want to. And HDV is not a final output codec. Canon tapes/cams sometimes do not play well with other firewire devices. That can be a real pain. But again SDI out gives you a way to capture the HDV tape to any device that accepts SDI In.

Generally with Canon you get great lenses but not so great low light performance compared to say Sony or Panasonic. You didn’t give a price point but I would shop around. Cams keep evolving and it’s a very competitive market right now. Look for XLR inputs and SDI outputs and for a one-man band, I’d suggest card-based and look into the total workflow. There is more to it than a camera. Tripod, lens filter, bag, audio gear including good mikes and a mixer. Professional lights – at a least a key and a reflector for fill. For green screen you need a space where you can get your talent 10 feet from background and the camera ten feet from subject. Then you need to light your b.g. evenly and then your subject with at least a key and a backlight to help separate the subject from the screen. This all adds up – we are not talking $1500 but more like $15000 to get started. That said if you shoot outdoors you could get by with c-stands, reflectors and silks to control the sun, a good boom pole and shot gun mike, a good tripod and a good cam. Here’ a thought: even though you want a one-man band, you might consider a partner to split the expense of getting up and running. You can provide the editing and camera and let your partner be the audio tech and lighting pro. It’s hard to worry about sound levels even after you master your camera. Plus it cuts the investment in half.

OSX 10.5.8; MacBookPro4,1 Intel Core 2 Duo 2.5 GHz MacPro4,1 2.66GHz 8 core 12gigs of ram. GPU: Nvidia Geoforce GT120 with Vram 512. OS X 10.6.x; Camcorders: Sony Z7U, Canon HV30/40, Sony vx2000/PD170; FCP 6 certified; write professionally for a variety of media; teach video production in L.A.


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Paolo Castellano
Re: camcorder recommendations
on Dec 29, 2011 at 10:10:48 pm

...XHG1 has the SDI out, XHA1 and XHA1S have YUV and Firewire out only. Tape is not a problem, and even if 4 yo, it is still a good camera, both in SD and HDV (but don't use it in S 4:3!)If you like to add capture to a memory card, datavideo makes a nice and cheap Firewire CF recorder http://www.datavideo.info/it/products.php?prodID=261&catID=6
Recorded files will be the same on the tape (have 4:2:0 sampling), not the best for chroma keying.
The cheaper 4:2:2 camcorder is the Canon XF100, that could meet all of your requirements, but it is a new camcoder, and it is not easy to find a used one. It has a single CMOS, but this is not a problem, the quality is good, in my opinion the only lackpoint of this small jewel is 10x Zoom (XHA1 has a 20X one).

Best Regards,

Paolo.Castellano@ivs.it
http://www.ivsEdits.com
-----------------------
"Post Fata Resurgo"


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Craig Alan
Re: camcorder recommendations
on Dec 30, 2011 at 12:41:20 am

[Paolo Castellano] "XHG1 has the SDI out, XHA1 and XHA1S have YUV and Firewire out only"
too bad. looked at manual quickly and didn't realize it was for two different models. as far as 4 year old tape based cam -- it really depends on hours of use and condition.

OSX 10.5.8; MacBookPro4,1 Intel Core 2 Duo 2.5 GHz MacPro4,1 2.66GHz 8 core 12gigs of ram. GPU: Nvidia Geoforce GT120 with Vram 512. OS X 10.6.x; Camcorders: Sony Z7U, Canon HV30/40, Sony vx2000/PD170; FCP 6 certified; write professionally for a variety of media; teach video production in L.A.


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Rick Neely
Re: camcorder recommendations
on Jan 10, 2012 at 5:27:34 pm

This is all great info.

Thanks Guys. Quick follow up- have any of you worked with one of those XLR audio adaptors (plug into mini-jack). It may be a inexpensive workaround to spending the extra $$$ just for the XLR function on the camera.

Your thoughts are welcome.


Rick



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