Need a mid-range camera for digital filmmaking...

Discussion in 'Professional Video Production' started by drparker, Dec 15, 2004.

  1. drparker

    drparker Guest

    Hi -
    I apologize in advance if this appears too frequently, but... I want to
    get into digital filmmaking, and I'm looking for recommendations for a
    digital camcorder. Just to be clear, I don't want to capture my
    newborn's (or lack thereof, thank god - I'm only 25) first steps,
    family gatherings (perfectly forgettable as is) and whatnot. I want to
    produce short films that look as close to a decent low-budget indie
    film as possible, maybe even something worthy of submitting to a
    short-film festival or contest. For example, maybe like some of the
    Dogme 95 films? (Celebration (Festen), Italian for Beginners...etc).

    I have every resource needed (in terms of hardware and software) for
    post-production, so that shouldn't factor into my buying decision. As
    far as budget goes, if there exists a camera under $1000 that might
    suit my purposes, that would be great. But If I'm better off just
    saving up the cash and getting the XL1S or XL2, I might be willing to
    do it. So I suppose my first question is, does a mid-range camera
    exist capable of producing legitimate quality films? I'm don't
    need any of the gimmicky crap like in-camera special effects,
    analog-to-digital conversion, zoom, web-access, still-photos (I don't
    want anything to do with this, that's why I have a still digital
    camera) and whatever else used to target home-video consumers. I just
    want the best quality film by the time I bring it to the computer. So
    I suppose my interests lie in good quality film in all lighting
    situations, the ability to add external devices to better the filming,
    image stabilization, and whatever else. I want to be able to add
    lighting, microphones, and whatever else to make the film better.

    I've been doing a little research around the Web, and it seems to be
    the case that digital filmmaking uses the higher end XL1-type cameras
    while everything mid-range and down is dedicated for home video use.
    I've actually used an XL1S for a little while, but not all that
    extensively. Seems like a nice camera, but quite frankly, it's
    freaking expensive.
    So my next question is... does a mid-range camera exist under $1000
    that will suit my aforementioned purposes? Or is it either prosumer or
    consumer and nothing in between?

    Other questions...
    Can I get by without the 3 CCDs for what I want to do?
    Are the mid-range cameras that have 3 CCDs (for example, the Panasonic
    PV-G120) that much better for developing that feature?
    So far, it seems that Panasonic cameras might be the best choice for my
    interests... any truth to that?
    In my experience with still digital cameras, zooming should be avoided
    for the most part, as it jeopardizes the image stability, and you
    should be able to frame your image without it. Is this accurate for
    camcorders as well? And thus, is zooming, both optical and digital, in
    digital camcorders an unnecessary feature?
    Do I need anything besides a Firewire port? What's the point of
    having both a USB and Firewire?
    Some of these cameras are really freaking small! Are the smaller ones
    harder to control?
    Thanks, any help or direction would be greatly appreciated.

    drparker, Dec 15, 2004
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  2. I suggest the Panasonic PV-GS400. With carefull shopping, you'll meet
    your budget. This big brother to the GS120 you mentioned is quite a bit
    more capable for your indie production needs.

    Consult and
    for more information on using this camcorder for the purpose you have
    in mind.

    Crunchy Doodle, Dec 16, 2004
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  3. drparker

    Bill Van Dyk Guest

    Have you seen the movie "Primer"? It was shot for $7,000. I thought it
    was interesting that the director chose to use film even though we are
    starting to see films, like "Anniversary Party", shot on digital cameras.

    A big question is, do you plan to shoot wide screen, 16:9? Aside from
    the Canon XL2, and the new HD cameras, I believe most digital camcorders
    "cheat" to achieve the 16:9.
    Bill Van Dyk, Dec 16, 2004
  4. drparker

    nappy-iou Guest

    I hate to suggest this because even I was too chicken to do it but others
    around me have had success simply buying gray market stuff from online
    suppliers. My son bought a AGDVX100a for $1829 and another friend who owns a
    video company here bought and XL2 the same way. The cameras did arrive and
    they do work. You sacrifice the warranty but when you buy used as I did, for
    MORE, you do that anyway.

    The XL2 is HUGE. I had XL1<s> and they were wonderful cameras athough focus
    was always a problem. I like the AGDVX100 very much because it creates
    awesome imagery and it is fast and light.

    That said, there are a lot of XL1 packages for sale used now with filters,
    bags, lenses etc as people move up. YOu would enjoy using the XL1 also.
    nappy-iou, Dec 16, 2004
  5. "Mid-range" implies the middle of the cost range. The low end of mid-range
    would be a $20,000 Ikegami with an entry level Fujinon lens.

    Anything below $10,000 would be considered 'low end' and anything below
    $5,000 would be considered consumer-level. In the $1,000 range would be
    salvage/junk. If you plan to shoot anything that will appear on a theater
    screen, shoot at least 35mm film or get an HD cam for about $80,000. Film is
    cheaper. Chances are you can find a decent used Panavision camera for less
    than that.

    Take care,

    Mark & Mary Ann Weiss


    Business sites at:
    Mark & Mary Ann Weiss, Dec 16, 2004
  6. drparker

    Paul Rubin Guest

    Oh come on. Tons of films are being shot with VX2000-level equipment
    and shown in theaters. We're not talking about Hollywood
    blockbusters, but rather the type of filmmaking that would have used
    16mm in the old days, and that stuff was also shown in (small)
    theaters all the time. Blair Witch Project was shot on hi-8 if I
    remember right. For that matter, Fahrenheit 9/11 was one of the top
    10(?) grossing films this year and I believe it was also shot with
    (fancier) mini-DV gear.

    Sony now has a 1080i HDTV camera for under $4K, sort of an HD upgrade
    for the VX2000:

    It sounds a lot nicer than that JVC single-chip camera that made a big
    splash last year. I'm sure people are making movies with these things now.

    But always remember that the most important ingredient of quality
    filmmaking is imagination, not equipment.
    Paul Rubin, Dec 16, 2004
  7. Sure, you can shoot a film with just about anything, but it takes a rare
    audience to sit through two hours of blurry images.
    Granted, some of the new HD consumer cams are starting to generate images
    that rival the standard def pro cameras, but being mired in 4:1:1 colorspace
    makes a low-resolution image look even worse.
    To look good on a theater screen, you need at least 4K pixels per frame. I
    don't see that coming out of anything that Panny or Sony or anyone else is
    cooking up this year or last. The difference becomes even greater when
    shooting a scene that is lit by red or blue light. The real color resolution
    of the consumer stuff is about 1/4 of the stated specification, which is 1/4
    of 960x1080 for the Sony HD-FX1.
    Another point is that when you quantize a picture with almost infinite
    detail into a fixed grid of 'pixels', the process generates noise in form of
    beat patterns or moire and jaggies. These things don't occur with film.
    The reason Moore and others can shoot such poor quality productions and get
    away with it may be related to the mentality that MP3 is considered "CD
    quality". The public's standards are going downhill. No wonder HDTV isn't
    getting anywhere in the US.

    Best Regards,

    Mark A. Weiss, P.E.
    Mark & Mary Ann Weiss, Dec 17, 2004
  8. drparker

    Paul Rubin Guest

    Or a very good film.
    The only HD consumer cams I know of are the unimpressive JVC, and this
    more impressive Sony.
    Do you mean 4 megapixels? Star Wars Episode 2 had only 2 megapixels.
    Whether it looked good in theaters is a matter of opinion, but Lucasfilm
    clearly thought it was good enough.
    Why 1/4? The HD-FX1 is a 3-ccd camera, won't it get the full resolution?
    Oh come on, this is the same nonsense that's been beaten to death in
    the film-vs-digicam controversy in still photography. But still photoraphy
    with film is now practically dead at almost every level.
    Yeah, they said the same thing when CD's replaced LP's.
    Paul Rubin, Dec 17, 2004
  9. There's a wide range to choose-DV, mini DV micro DV, digital 8, DVD RAM
    etc.etc.all of them can be connected to a computer for editing and
    processing.My ex-dentist got one that has a memory stick (a sony one) and
    can act as a digital camera.
    Dimitrios Tzortzakakis, Dec 17, 2004
  10. Actually, I shot 2 concerts with my 8 mm camcorder and tripod (bought in
    sales for 12.5 euro) and results were excellent, even in the final VHS
    copy.Only when you look at the picture from 1 foot (in a 29" CRT sony tv)
    you can see some blurring.2 megapixels!!! you must be joking.It certain is 2
    Dimitrios Tzortzakakis, Dec 17, 2004
  11. drparker

    Doug Guest

    OK, thanks for everyone who has replied. Some of this technical
    discussion is a little bit over my head, but I'm getting some ideas.

    Just to clarify, By "mid-range," I was referring to consumer DV

    Thanks guys, I really appreciate it.
    Doug, Dec 17, 2004
  12. Or a brainwashed or apathetic audience (see the reference to
    M.Moore and declining public standards).
    This sounds doubtful. Reference?
    Sure, at the output of the color chips (RGB). However, when you
    encode it and compress it, you throw away a lot of that info. 4:1:1
    means that the R-Y and B-Y signals are sampled at only 1/4 the
    rate of the Y (luminance, black/white) channel.

    (4:2:0 sampling for PAL, which is the same amount of compromise,
    but apportioned slightly differently).
    If you can't see the difference, good for you (I guess?). But it is both
    theoreticaly and practically demonstrable and drives many of us crazy
    Note also that still photography (particularly pro-level) doesn't use
    anyting remotely resembling the kind of spatial and temporal compression
    that we take for granted in digital video.
    And they are still saying that. In a recent (this week) topic on See for yourself.
    Richard Crowley, Dec 17, 2004
  13. drparker

    Bill Van Dyk Guest

    I agree.

    Just saw the movie Primer, made for $7K. Maybe it's not quite as good
    a Terminator or Matrix, but it's much, much better than
    7000/150,000,000ths as good.

    Besides, it is good to hear other voices, other than establishment white
    middle-class Hollywood corporate voices.
    Bill Van Dyk, Dec 17, 2004
  14. drparker

    Bill Van Dyk Guest

    As opposed to, say, the standards of the audience that viewed "Earnest
    Saves Christmas" or "Return to Gilligan's Island"?

    Who knows what they'll settle for next! "Clerks"? "Anniversary Party"?
    "Celebration"? "Primer", "Blair Witch Project"?

    The advantages of having the technology available to people who have
    creative skills but not much money, and who don't have the connections
    needed to get access to Hollywood money, far outweight the technical
    disadvantages of the medium. If you have the money for a great camera,
    fine. But if you've got ideas and something worthwhile to say, don't
    let technology snobbery stop you.

    And yes, there is clearly a significant audience out there-- not nearly
    a majority, but a significant number-- who value content highly enough
    to find technical deficiencies tolerable.
    Bill Van Dyk, Dec 17, 2004
  15. I don't disagree that "DV" has opened a new range of opportunities for the
    'average' audience to experience 'indy' filmmaking, but that wasn't what my
    original reply was about. I replied for the purporse of setting straight the
    definition of "consumer", "mid-range" and "professional" cameras.

    Best Regards,

    Mark A. Weiss, P.E.
    Mark & Mary Ann Weiss, Dec 19, 2004

  16. Just by introducing the word "consumer DV", you've centered your search
    results on 'low end' --there is no 'mid-range' coming from 'consumer DV' in
    the grand landscape of cinematography.

    Now if you had asked about shooting home movies, or pictures of your kids on
    holidays, the category would be narrowed to 'consumer' formats and then we
    could talk about 'mid range' cameras IN THAT CONTEXT.

    Shooting movies for the big screen means shooting 16.7 megapixel images per
    frame, the resolution of which being defined over the whole range of color,
    not just monochrome images. The top consumer HDV camera manages just about 1
    megapixel and consumer DV cameras, about 1/6th of that!

    Best Regards,

    Mark A. Weiss, P.E.
    Mark & Mary Ann Weiss, Dec 19, 2004
  17. It would take very-well-done story content to get me to sit through two
    hours of blurred video on a big screen (and the resulting headaches that it
    would cause), and even then, I'd hesitate to do it.

    So far, but there will be more on the bandwagon soon.

    No. 4k x 4k, or 16.7 Mega pixels.

    Sure, directly off the CCDs, but DV and MPEG are downsampled to 1/4
    resolution to fit the signal on tape. Try reading a resolution chart in red
    or blue light. What? Only 120lph? Pshaw!

    But I can spot a digital photo every time. And even my analog film
    processing went digital and I complained to the film processor about the
    jaggies in my film to prints. They finally admitted that it wasn't optical
    enlargements they did anymore--all film was scanned digitally to print. I
    wasn't even looking for it and my eye spotted the tell-tale signs of digital
    on my 4x6 prints.

    Yup, because the quantizing is so coarse. Now with 24/96, it sounds a lot
    better. CDs don't fool me for a live performance, even without the surface
    noise, although I've done a few dbx type I recordings on open reel that,
    after hearing the performer live in the studio, mimicked it so well that
    none of us could tell with our eyes closed. I'm waiting to engage a local
    symphony orchestra for a 24/96 recording session this year, where I'll be
    able to tell of 24 bits is enough to convey the details and spacial timings
    accurately enough for me to point out each instrument in the sound field on
    playback. 16-bit CDs utterly destroy the subtle delays in time arrivals,
    causing a flattening of the sound stage, something my analog LPs didn't
    suffer from. And that was comparing the LP and CD versions of the same
    analog mastered recording.

    Best Regards,

    Mark A. Weiss, P.E.
    Mark & Mary Ann Weiss, Dec 19, 2004
  18. drparker

    Paul Rubin Guest

    Absolute nonsense. See Star Wars Episode 2, Attack of the Clones, for
    example. Was it not shot for the big screen? How many megapixels did
    it have?
    Paul Rubin, Dec 19, 2004
  19. drparker

    kay & wand Guest

    all very interesting.....

    but at the end of the day, if your story is worth telling, and people are
    interested, they'll even watch it on vhs....

    kay & wand, Dec 20, 2004

  20. George Lucas is experimenting with the then-current state-of-the-art
    technology. The film looks okay to an average audience, especially the teen
    couples petting in the back rows, so who cares, right? But it didn't look as
    good as film. And I didn't even mention EXPOSURE LATTITUDE. Film's 8+ stops
    of lattitude, vs. digitals 4-5 stops of lattitude. Notice the blown
    highlights on these DV films of late? Notice the muddy blacks with no real
    detail? Notice the ringing caused by edge enhancement circuits?
    To even approach good 35mm film, images are rendered in 4K resolution. Ever
    see Toy Story, or Shrek, or Lord of the Rings? All the CG sequences are
    rendered in 4K, ie., 16 megapixels/frame.
    Someday there will be 4K digital cinema cameras, perhaps in 2-3 years' time.
    There's a lot of room for improvement.

    Best Regards,

    Mark A. Weiss, P.E.
    Mark & Mary Ann Weiss, Dec 20, 2004
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