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Have $15,000 for new HD set up. Suggestions?

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Lisa Laughbaum
Have $15,000 for new HD set up. Suggestions?
on Nov 25, 2012 at 9:14:27 pm

Hi everyone,

I own a small video company that specializes in capturing live theater events, especially children's theater and dance recitals. I am excited to finally be upgrading from a decent SD system (3 Canon GL2s and FCP on iMac) to a low-end yet professional HD setup and would love some input in regards to what works best for you.

I have $15,000 to spend and I'm looking at purchasing 2 Canon XF100s and 1 Canon XA-10 (for the static wide shot). I edit on FCP and think I should upgrade to the 12 core Mac Pro and relegate my 27" iMac to monitor status. Your thoughts and suggestions?

My other question concerns my final output. Since most of my clients/parents will still be purchasing regular DVDs instead of Blue-ray, will this expenditure increase my quality as much as I'm hoping? Will using HD cameras (having the final output go to dual layer disk as usual) be any more satisfying than the quality I currently get using SD equipment?

Any and all input will be greatly appreciated!

Lisa Laughbaum
Laughing Tree Productions

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Harry Pallenberg
Re: Have $15,000 for new HD set up. Suggestions?
on Nov 26, 2012 at 5:26:30 am

1st - congrats! You'll enjoy the HD world.

2nd - I love the Canon XF300 and hear only good things re: the 100. Are those the only cameras you are looking at? I hear the 300 just had a big price drop. Also Sony has a new 50mb camera with 1/2 inch chips... and a new GoPro hero3 could be good to hide on stage...

3rd - I edit at home on a 2.93 quad core i7 iMac and it does fairly well as far as rendering in FCP 7. Are you still using FCP 7? Which 27inch iMac do you have? Might be worth waiting to see if you really need the whole new mac or just a lot or firewire or thunderbolt storage (you will need LOTS more storage) and some more ram.

4th - hard to say if it will increase the quality as much as you are expecting... sadly probably not LOTS better... but if it is compelling... or if it is a video of your kid, most people will not notice. All they will see is their kid and love it.

Good luck.


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Roger Van Duyn
Re: Have $15,000 for new HD set up. Suggestions?
on Nov 26, 2012 at 1:19:58 pm

Something to consider. I worked with an out of state producer shooting a very large conference who was using Canon XF-305 and XF-105 with the SDI outputs connected to a switcher in the room he was working. I spent a lot of time "picking his brain."

He explained to me the tremendous time savings of using the switcher versus doing multicam editing in post later. (Of course, he had to do multicam editing in post on my footage from the other room).

Now, I'm pretty proficient with multicam editing, but in business, time is money. When I step up from my XH-A1 and XH-A1S, it will probably be to something that works well with a switcher.

I've seen the XF-105's being heavily promoted online. Might be some promotions on switchers too. Don't know. Out of my budget right now. Wish I had 15K to spend.

Good luck.


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Al Bergstein
Re: Have $15,000 for new HD set up. Suggestions?
on Nov 26, 2012 at 2:11:05 pm

I own both an xf105 and 305. Picture quality on 305 is better. Match is close in color balance. Both are very good cameras for theater. Your quality should improve dramatically on standard dvd.


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David Eaks
Re: Have $15,000 for new HD set up. Suggestions?
on Nov 26, 2012 at 6:49:20 pm

Hi Lisa,

I do much of the same type of work as you and I wholeheartedly agree with Roger about using a switcher for live stage events. I couldn't imagine working for the last 15 years without one. I record in-camera as well as the live switch in case I want to fix an ill-timed switch in post. I also send a feed of my mixed audio to the XLR input on one of the cameras as a back up of the "good" audio. FCPX is great for the post workflow, replacing a bad switch is pretty easy.

FWIW, here is a list of my gear for multicam live switch recording (and easy live streaming when required)-

4 Sony NX5u's
Panasonic AW-HS50 Switcher
AJA Ki Pro
Mackie 1402 VLZ3
Livestream Broadcaster
AJA Hi-5's (one to the Broadcaster and one to a 40" HDTV in the lobby by the refreshments displaying 1920x1080 live during the show and playback at intermission/afterward, Families LOVE this).

If you could squeeze two HD cameras, the AW-HS50 switcher and a Ki Pro into a $15,000 budget, I think you'd have a great base for live HD recording. AW-HS50 today at B&H $3449.00-
Before I bought the Ki Pro I had an Atomos Samurai, I didn't like it and if I kept it over last last year or so I would have been totally screwed in many situations during live productions when I needed features of the Ki Pro.

Before the Samurai, I was capturing in FCP 7 with a 17" MBP and a Matrox MXO2LE. Never a problem with that setup but it just wasn't a robust road-worthy setup. It was awesome for shooting training videos and editing after each scene right there with the client as we work. Most of my videos are like 90% cut when I leave the shoot, which allows for fast turnaround times.

Unfortunately, from looking at a few of the videos on your website, I don't think your DVDs will see much improvement from the quality you are doing now (lookin good!). DVD is SD whether it came from HD or not and SD is, well, SD. On the other hand, I can tell your online videos and Blu-rays will be absolutely beautiful once you move to HD. I really hope the quality (or lack thereof) of DVD does not discourage you from going HD. I am very happy since moving to HD and I attribute the sizable increase in business and income over the last couple years directly to HD (and the COW for helping me figure it all out). Bad economy bad shmeshmonomy, IME.

Some of my long-time clients have reported that they noticed an increase in the quality of our DVDs (was using Sony Betacam SP's, and DSR 250's in the SD days). One new client reported back that "the DVD is very fuzzy on my HDTV". They had been watching the same video which I uploaded to YouTube in 1080 before receiving their DVD. I can't blame them at all, by comparison the DVD IS fuzzy. Good thing I already gave them a complimentary Blu-ray with the DVD, they took it to their friends house and LOVED it. I think that my HD down converted for DVD looks great when viewing on an old sub 30" CRT SDTV (maybe the best DVD quality I've ever done), but its only so-so on a 65" HD TV (as is expected).

When I was still using FCP7, I would downscale HD to SD by playing out my finished HD timeline via Print to Video and recording the output from the Matrox MXO2LE as SD on my Ki Pro, then bring in that SD Prores file and compress for DVD. Now in FCPX I just drop my final HD edit into an SD timeline and export. The result is slightly softer, but seems "cleaner" to me.

IMO do not "upgrade" to a current Mac Pro, they are over priced and outdated. Your iMac will probably suffice until Apple announces "something great in 2013" as a replacement to the Mac Pro.

You'll need lots of hard drive storage, FW 800 7200 rpm is the absolute minimum. RAID-0 is good, backup is required. Today is a good day to buy hard drives online.

Get an SSD for your system drive. If you can get by with 128GB for just OS and apps, it's all of ~$90 get get a Crucial M4 at B&H.

The Panasonic switcher needs HD-SDI cameras, unless you want to buy and then have to setup HDMI/SDI converters on every shoot. A Geffen Convert DVI is great for getting analog signals into the switcher (especially power point presentations) through the DVI input.

I had a Canon G10, the little brother of the XA-10, for a short while. I was definitly impressed with the little guy. It was great for a static wide shot but the HDMI did not send a proper HD signal to the DVI (as is mentioned in the manual, as well as the XA-10 or I would have upgraded to that) input on my switcher, so I had to return it.

One thing that was a bit of a problem when I first moved to HD is that you cannot comfortably operate the rocker zoom on the lens from the normal standing position (left hand on lens zoom & right on pan handle) because the camera handle is in the way (at least on my NX5's). So I use LANC zoom handles, I found the ~$90 Libec to be just as good or better than the ~$300 Sony rm1bp).

That's everything I can think of at the moment. :)

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