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Cameras

Posted: Mon, 9th Jun 2008, 1:12am

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The Duelist

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My birthday's coming up soon, and as I usually do I ask all my relatives to band together and get me one piece of filmmaking equipment that would not be affordable otherwise. And so this year it's cameras. What do you guys reccommend? Here are a few things that are important in helping me choose a camera:
1: At or under $3,000 USD.
2: FULLY COMPATIBLE with Final Cut Express & Visionlab.
3: Either HD or DV is fine, but I'm looking for quality and functionality above a Sony Handycam (my current piece, unfortunately)
4: For it to work smoothly, does it require specialized equipment to buy separately? (Like cords or additional programs for import, audio mikes and lenses and such).
5. Do or have you own(ed) this camera? What are its strengths and biggest problems you've run into with it?
6. Anything else I should know about it or choosing a camera in general?

I really appreciate any feedback you guys can give me, I know it can be quite annoying to have someone like me asking for stuff as specific as the above. Thanks again!
-The Duelist
Posted: Mon, 9th Jun 2008, 1:36am

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Atom

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If you don't mind DV, my one and only suggestion would be the Canon GL2 with a Wide-Angle Lens, a RODE NT-G2 shock-mounted microphone, and a camera/accessory case. That should equal around $2,700.

The GL2 is, in my opinion, the slickest DV camera you can come by as far as price-to-quality ratios go, and it's design and use of miniDV tape makes it easy-to-use and non-proprietary. Not to mention it's perhaps the single-most hailed 3CCD DV camera for the past 5 or so years.

Past that, the RODE NT-G2 is a great shotgun mike for around $300 and has great sound quality and pickup for the price; and is a great addition to the GL2.

Here comes the megapost! A commonly-used 'seller post' from me and Ben: Sha-bing!

Ben and Atom wrote:

Buy the Canon GL2.

Why? Mainly, because it is the best priced 3CCD camcorder in its range; meaning you won't find a better price:quality ratio for $2,000 and under.

The Canon GL2 has 3CCDs- meaning it picks up color better than lower-end cameras- and a fluorite lens, which is made to prevent chromatic abberation and digital artifacts- meaning the image is pretty damn good.

If you need examples, here are some below....

Links to video are in blue.


standard graded, Marathon, short film


extreme graded, Marathon, short film


standard graded, Redemption, short film


standard graded, Redemption, short film


standard graded, Rebirth Promo, corporate promotional video


ungraded, Thomas the Drum Major, documentary


ungraded, Pandarosa concert, event footage


lightly graded (desaturation, luminance), Cover's Story, short film


standard graded, Cover's Story, short film


standard graded, Cover's Story and Splinter Cell, short film


graded, Splinter Cell, short film

graded, test footage, short film


lightly graded (hue shift), SWEET myspace pic, personal use


Baaaaaaaasically, the GL2 rocks. There are naysayers out there who will tell you to buy the Sony VX2100 or the Panasonic GS400/500 (CRAP camera compared to the GL2), but don't listen.

I think the GL2 will suit you and your budget nicely.
Throw this all together and you've got a really nice setup for the price, especially. That's my SD suggestion. Second to that I'd suggest the Panasonic DVX100b, although I'm not a big fan of it.

HD-wise, I would seriously look into my current favorite, the Canon XH-A1. Hands down. It's a tad more expensive, but totally versatile and great in quality. About half of my movie, Marathon, was shot on it. Past that, I've heard good things about the Panasonic HVX200, but don't like it enough myself (or them P2 cards) to really suggest it. Plus it's way out of the price-range.

Might I also say, though, that this all, of course, requires proper lighting and cinematic know-how. This kinda stuff isn't achievable, on any level with any camera, if it isn't accompanied with many other things. Talent included.
Posted: Mon, 9th Jun 2008, 4:21am

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The Duelist

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Thanks Atom, this is really helpful. I'll look into the GL2, and the example pics were great. I'm pretty good with lighting and such, right now the problems's the camera. This looks like just the thing I need. Thanks again!
-The Duelist

EDIT: Can you give me a little more info on the wide-angle lens and the microphone? I rarely (with the thrice-damned handycam) use stuff like external mikes and extra lenses, so just a general overview would be great. Also, does the wide-angle lens give the image that circular "bubble" effect that I noticed with a friend's wide-angle?
Posted: Mon, 9th Jun 2008, 5:03am

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Atom

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Wide-Angle Lens- This really just simply takes the image and gives you a larger vantage point. A Fisheye Lens is what bubbles the image, a wide-angle doesn't. You primarily see fisheye lenses in skater videos and the like.

Lenses like these are expensive and largely underused by people that have them (including myself), but when you have the opportunity to get one it's worth it for many things. Namely I use mine in tight corridors and rooms to make the set appear bigger or get a greater, more dramatic-looking 'ultra wide shot' easier.

Rode NT-G2 Microphone- This is a shotgun mike, which means if you can picture the spread a shotgun shoots out; the sound is covered in a similar direction. I use this microphone myself, and for the size and price (about $300, a median price for just about any decent mike) the Rode NT-G2 is great. Some people swear by the Rode VideoMic, but I don't like it nearly as much as the NT-G2. If you watch any of my last 4 or 5 movies, they're all shot using the NT-G2 mic.
Posted: Mon, 9th Jun 2008, 5:36am

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Bryce007

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Hmmm...

I think it's pretty well understood that the DVX100B is the best SD MiniDV camera currently available. They can be had for $2,400 almost anywhere now...
Posted: Mon, 9th Jun 2008, 6:15am

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CX3

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Bryce007 wrote:

Hmmm...

I think it's pretty well understood that the DVX100B is the best SD MiniDV camera currently available. They can be had for $2,400 almost anywhere now...
True.
Posted: Mon, 9th Jun 2008, 6:42am

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ben3308

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Bryce007 wrote:

I think it's pretty well understood that the DVX100B is the best SD MiniDV camera currently available.
They stopped making the Canon XL2?
Posted: Mon, 9th Jun 2008, 6:58am

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CX3

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The focus ring on the XL2 is doo doo to me.
Posted: Mon, 9th Jun 2008, 7:10am

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ben3308

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Agreed. The 'focus tricks' and white flashes in Messages were only intentional half the time, haha. biggrin
Posted: Mon, 9th Jun 2008, 7:12am

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Bryce007

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The LCD, the focus ring, the 24 cadence, the expense of extra lenses, the weight, the lowlight performance, as well as the latitude of the XL2 definitely leaves the DVX100B the winner. Particularly due to the price difference.
Posted: Mon, 9th Jun 2008, 7:27am

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ben3308

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Add the pro lens and you're golden, though. As in, if you've got the money for it, the XL2 is the best. Color isn't as good as a Panasonic, but the glass is better, you must admit. Even on the stock 16x zoom lens.

The biggest issue for me with it- which is why I got the GL2 when I first started hardcore filmmaking, save the huge ass price difference- is the fuse issue, which renders the camera useless like it did for FCRabbath and my friend Brian.
Posted: Mon, 9th Jun 2008, 9:31am

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Simon K Jones

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In terms of HDV, I can happily recommend the Canon HV30. We've got one in the office for the behind-the-scenes stuff on the FXhome Film Project, and have beene extremely pleased so far.

It has all the pros and cons of the HDV format, of course, but if you're OK with those than it's a good little camera.
Posted: Mon, 9th Jun 2008, 2:03pm

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FreshMentos

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I highly, highly suggest reading The DV Rebel's Guide by Stu Maschwitz before you buy a camera. It can really help you with what you want to look for in a camera. I have a GL2, but if I had the money, I would have gotten the Panasonic DVX100B.
Posted: Mon, 9th Jun 2008, 3:10pm

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pdrg

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Your budget falls between two stools, you can get a good consumer camera and some extras, or save a bit more and get something like a used Z1e, the HDV workhorse. If your usage will be relatively light go for the consumer camera, maybe the HV20/HV30, and spend the extra on some decent lamps, reflectors, mic, etc. If heavy, maybe the Z1 would suit you more? Used start as <£2000, but you'd want to check the drum hours.
Posted: Tue, 10th Jun 2008, 7:06am

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Balketh

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Rating: +6

Being only a recent procurer of a camera, I have to throw in my say from a 'just got it' point of view, and from a 'sat here and picked apart movies based on their cameras' point of view.

A common thing people miss, that's been mentioned and brought to light several times in this thread, is this:

It's not what camera you have, it's how you use it.

Seriously.

Ask every person with a DVX100B, and every person with a GL2, and they'll most likely barrack for their camera. Obviously, because they've worked extensively with their camera and not the other. And for those that have worked extensively with both? Well, it comes down to personal preference after that.

I took the simple route, and purchased a HV20. Don't bother with the HV30 unless you want a black HV20 and 30p fps footage. That's MY opinion though, if you want a black HV20, with the ability to record 30p fps footage, get it!

But, with such a small camera, I was doubtful it could hold up against the bigger brutes, such as the aforementioned DVX100B, GL2, and even the HVX200 and Canon XH-A1. I was afraid I had gotten an inferior piece of equipment not suited to the level of footage I wanted to obtain.

What a load.

What MAKES your shot, what SELLS it, is NOT just the camera, let me tell you. I've seen HV20 footage that could trounce the DVX100B and the GL2 by a mile. How can you do that, you ask?

Correct lighting; high quality, well-timed sound; planned and well-thought-out shot angles; correct focus; good talent; good scripts; good storyboards; correct white balance and other camera settings... The list goes on and on. There are a multitude of factors that contribute to the end result of a film, and those listed are just pre and production things, that's not mentioning special effects, sound editing, or colour correction and grading.

The point I'm trying to labouriously get to is the camera. The quality of the CCDs, or in my case, the CMOS, is a small, small factor in the end result, but, I've a few tips on that as well.

There are key factors that should influence you in purchasing a camera.

PROOF OF QUALITY: Ask around! People will be GLAD to provide you with stunning shots of their camera, like those above, but, like those above, they'll say that YES, all the things I listed earlier played heavy factors in producing the output shown. But, it's still good to look.

AVAILABILITY: What's honestly available to you? Can you get a Canon GL2 where you are without having to pay $300 in shipping? Or is there a shop 'round the corner that'll sell you a DVX100B for 10% off? Brand new? The only reason I picked the HV20 was that it was cheap, small, HDV (NOTE: NOT HD. HDV. THERE'S A DIFFERENCE.), and because I could get the PAL version (25fps, because I'm Aussie, and changing from 25fps to 24fps is FAR easier than going from 24fps to 25fps.). So, what you want can limit or expand your options in cameras.

PRICE: An obvious one, only get what you can afford. If you can afford a RED ONE, don't be an idiot, GET IT. If not, get what you can afford. This doesn't help much since your budget is fairly high.

ADDITIVES: Don't just focus on the camera. Just because you've got a sweet camera doesn't mean you can film. I need to procure some good lighting before I can film anything worth editing! Consider lighting STRONGLY, it's a KEY part of film, and a lot of people seem to forget it occasionally. Sound is endorsed strongly, I don't need to reinforce that, as is talent.

Well, I hope my landslide of text and tips helps you on your way to pick a camera. To reiterate my main, main point: It's not WHAT camera you have, it's WHAT you do with it that matters. Do note though, have everything in moderation, even moderation. I'm not saying it's GOOD to not have a good camera, I'm just saying it doesn't matter as much as everyone's letting on. Having a good camera still matters as much as lighting, or sound, just don't forget the lighting and sound! And all those other things I listed!
Posted: Wed, 11th Jun 2008, 5:04am

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The Duelist

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Thanks Atom, that's good info. I went looking and I found a GL2 in a shop in Seattle for around $699, new. I think I'm going to go with the GL2 for a number of reasons, including the excellent reputation it's got. I'm choosing it over HD simply because I've never worked in HD before, and I've heard about a number of issues concerning HD and Final Cut Express not liking each other, to put it delicately. I appreciate everyone's input, but I feel obligated to tell Balketh that I wouldn't consider buying a $700 camera and it's accessories (that cost about as much as the camera itself) if I didn't think my cinematography, lighting and sound skills were up to scratch.
Thanks again, folks!
-The Duelist
Posted: Wed, 11th Jun 2008, 6:26am

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Atom

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Be wary of a GL2 for $700, Duelist. It's gone down in price (including the 'used market') but I would expect it to be more around $1,000-1,500 still for decent/good used condition.
Posted: Wed, 11th Jun 2008, 8:04am

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Simon K Jones

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The Duelist wrote:

I'm choosing it over HD simply because I've never worked in HD before, and I've heard about a number of issues concerning HD and Final Cut Express not liking each other, to put it delicately.
I've not used FCE, but FCP works with HDV stuff perfectly fine. It'd be surprising if Express doesn't have the same capability. Does anyone here have direct experience they can share?
Posted: Wed, 11th Jun 2008, 9:28am

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Balketh

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I'm just a little confused with your statement, The Duelist. I didn't actually mention a $700 camera, but if I did, it would have been the HV20, not the GL2. I don't think anyone would be silly enough to get a GL2 for $700, but that IS the price of the HV20.

If you're going to be wary of buying a retail price HV20 at $700 because you think your cinematography, lighting and sound skills aren't up to scratch, you might want to seriously consider the HV20 ($700) over, say, a GL2 ($1500+) Purely because the HV20 is a GREAT camera to start on.

That is, unless I misunderstood your post. If so, my apologies.

That, and in your original post, you listed your budget as, and I quote, "1: At or under $3,000 USD.". $700 sounds like a fair deal to me, leaving the other $2300 for lighting, sound, etc, and since you've said that it's JUST for a camera, it's a REALLY good deal.
Posted: Wed, 11th Jun 2008, 10:19am

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Mellifluous

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Balketh, what The Duelist seems to be saying is he thinks his skills ARE up to scratch, otherwise he wouldn't be considering spending up to $3,000 on camera/accessories.

I agree with your excellent post though... making a good film doesn't rely on a great camera and a great editing software - it's your application of these and other tools in your locker. But I wouldn't use that fact to suggest the OP doesn't get the best camera available to him. A great camera will benefit him more over a good camera in the longer term, with the added features it allows him to explore.

I have an HV20, and while I'm a very big fan of it I wouldn't say no to a more expensive camera with better all round features (e.g. the HV20 doesn't have a focus ring, only a tiny wheel that's rather crap).
Posted: Wed, 11th Jun 2008, 10:24am

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Balketh

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I did note, at the end of my post: Do note though, have everything in moderation, even moderation. I'm not saying it's GOOD to not have a good camera, I'm just saying it doesn't matter as much as everyone's letting on. Having a good camera still matters as much as lighting, or sound, just don't forget the lighting and sound! And all those other things I listed!

I definitely agree that if a better camera is available, it should be used, but, as I said at the start of my post, being new to owning a camera that I wish to produce quality with, having a 'cheaper' camera, like the HV20, lets me learn the ropes of using lighting and sound to enhance my production, so that when I move up to a better camera, I can make greater use of its features earlier, instead of having to learn it all from the start.

But, in this case, by all means, if you can get ahold of a DVX100B or a GL2, do. Just don't forget all those things I listed. biggrin

And, of course, I know that when a new camera is bought, you need to learn the little ins and outs and nuances of the camera, like it's gluttony for light, or its stubborn [insert feature here], etc.
Posted: Wed, 11th Jun 2008, 2:50pm

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pdrg

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now we've established you don't necessarily need the best camera you can find for $3k then I'm with whoever posted above to invest in a full kit - if you can get an ME66 (plus a beachtek box to adapt a balanced line to minijack) and a couple of redheads second hand on ebay, you'll keep them forever (far longer than your camera) and they'll serve you well right into retirement smile
Posted: Wed, 11th Jun 2008, 3:03pm

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Anne

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Thought I'd add that the HV20 is on http://www.woot.com/ for $550, although its refurbished.
Posted: Wed, 11th Jun 2008, 4:52pm

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EvilDonut

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Balketh wrote:

I did note, at the end of my post: Do note though, have everything in moderation, even moderation. I'm not saying it's GOOD to not have a good camera, I'm just saying it doesn't matter as much as everyone's letting on. Having a good camera still matters as much as lighting, or sound, just don't forget the lighting and sound! And all those other things I listed!

I definitely agree that if a better camera is available, it should be used, but, as I said at the start of my post, being new to owning a camera that I wish to produce quality with, having a 'cheaper' camera, like the HV20, lets me learn the ropes of using lighting and sound to enhance my production, so that when I move up to a better camera, I can make greater use of its features earlier, instead of having to learn it all from the start.

But, in this case, by all means, if you can get ahold of a DVX100B or a GL2, do. Just don't forget all those things I listed. biggrin

And, of course, I know that when a new camera is bought, you need to learn the little ins and outs and nuances of the camera, like it's gluttony for light, or its stubborn [insert feature here], etc.
word

d
Posted: Wed, 11th Jun 2008, 11:42pm

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The Duelist

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Here's the link to the $700 GL2: http://photodynasty.com/catalog/product_info.php?products_id=2292. And I made a gigantic mistake, I wasn't looking for a camera in the 3000 dollar range, that was my absolute maximum budget for film making in general, though I am prepared to spend the majority of it on a camera. And now that I see what you're saying, yes, Belkath, I do think people are overstating the role the camera alone plays.
Posted: Wed, 11th Jun 2008, 11:58pm

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FreshMentos

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Hmmm...
Posted: Thu, 12th Jun 2008, 2:06am

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The Duelist

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Wow. And they got good ratings on Amazon... Damn. If it's too good to be true, it probably is. Well, I'll have to do some more looking around... Now, a lot of people have been talking about the HV20. Could someone give me some more information on that camera, and especially how it works with Final cut express? I'm on an iMac G-5 desktop all-in-one, and info about stuff like cords would also be very much appreciated.
Posted: Thu, 12th Jun 2008, 3:24am

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Biblmac

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FreshMentos wrote:

Hmmm...
I think that says it all. Don't buy from them.
Posted: Thu, 12th Jun 2008, 3:35am

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FreshMentos

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This video was shot on an HV20. It's my favorite video that has been shot with the camera.
Posted: Thu, 12th Jun 2008, 3:51am

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ben3308

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FreshMentos, you kidding? I caught that video on a partner site a few weeks back and I thought it was nothing special. Cool music added to some good shots, but nothing worth going crazy about.

Anyone who thinks that(^^^) is the best HV20 movie has obviously never seen A Thousand Words(75mb, so incredibly worth the download!), which is, to say the least, one of the most superb short films I've yet to watch. And I've seen a LOT of short films. biggrin
Posted: Thu, 12th Jun 2008, 3:54am

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FreshMentos

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I haven't seen too many HV20 videos. I just liked that one for the reasons you listed. Downloading A Thousand Words now...

EDIT:

Just watched it... stun
Posted: Thu, 12th Jun 2008, 8:53am

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Simon K Jones

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Let's face it, when it comes to HV30 footage, it doesn't get much better than this:

http://fxhome.com/forums/viewtopic.php?t=35015
Posted: Thu, 12th Jun 2008, 10:36am

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Mellifluous

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ben3308 wrote:

FreshMentos, you kidding? I caught that video on a partner site a few weeks back and I thought it was nothing special. Cool music added to some good shots, but nothing worth going crazy about.

Anyone who thinks that(^^^) is the best HV20 movie has obviously never seen A Thousand Words(75mb, so incredibly worth the download!), which is, to say the least, one of the most superb short films I've yet to watch. And I've seen a LOT of short films. biggrin
Ooh, seen that before but didn't realise it was shot with an HV20. Awesome.
Posted: Thu, 12th Jun 2008, 10:54am

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Simon K Jones

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Great film, hadn't seen that before. However, it's worth noting that it was shot with a 35mm adapter stuck on the HV20 (I didn't even know you could do that!), so it's not exactly representative of what you get out of the base camera.
Posted: Fri, 13th Jun 2008, 12:06am

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The Duelist

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So the HV 30's pretty good too... Does Final Cut Express handle it properly? Also, what's the difference between the 24p and 30p shooting modes, cinematic and progressive, respectively. I'm not sure what the "24p" and "30p" mean.
Posted: Fri, 13th Jun 2008, 2:30am

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EvilDonut

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The Duelist wrote:

So the HV 30's pretty good too... Does Final Cut Express handle it properly? Also, what's the difference between the 24p and 30p shooting modes, cinematic and progressive, respectively. I'm not sure what the "24p" and "30p" mean.
videosyncrasies dvd.

or

hdhead.com

d
Posted: Fri, 13th Jun 2008, 11:27am

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Balketh

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Rating: +2

If you don't know what 24p and 30p are, I SERIOUSLY recommend A) Sollthar's Filmmaking Guide, B) Googling what they are, and everything in that topic, and C) Not even CONSIDERING a camera until you KNOW what they are, and KNOW what you're getting.

I've seen this issue before, and it's one I make OFTEN, FREQUENTLY myself. People often DON'T KNOW what they're buying.

If you think the HV30 is worth buying, find a FULL specs sheet, and please, PLEASE look up and learn what all of the features mean and do. Then you'll KNOW for yourself what the camera theoretically does and doesn't do.

You should do this for ANY expensive product you buy. Really, I can't recommend anything higher than RESEARCHING in this case.

The only reason I make this point is that 24p and 30p are terms thrown around a great deal, and knowing the FACTS on them is almost necessary.

A simple google search of 24p revealed this as the first link:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/24p

And an equally simple google search of 30p revealed this as the first link:

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/Frame_rate

I also recommend the entire Production section from Sollthar's Filmmaking Guide 2, available here on FXHome at the top of the forums:

http://fxhome.com/forums/viewtopic.php?p=260536#260536

And, understand the difference between HD and HDV if you're considering a HV20 or HV30 (Both are HDV):

http://en.wikipedia.org/wiki/HDV

Review them, think on what you've learned, and research your cameras carefully.

Lastly, just a note: I'm not angry, I'm not mad, I'm really trying to help you, because it was just alarming to me that someone going to buy such expensive equipment doesn't know what 24p or 30p is.
Posted: Fri, 13th Jun 2008, 9:33pm

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Atom

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Rating: -3

I'm GOING to use CAPITALIZATION and bold words to sound important!

Honestly, asking what 24p and 30p are on this thread is just as 'research savvy' as is searching Google, if not moreso. I understand what you're saying, Balketh, but I think you might be a little overwhelming in what you're asking of The Duelist; however simple it may actually be.

Last edited Sun, 15th Jun 2008, 10:12pm; edited 1 times in total.

Posted: Fri, 13th Jun 2008, 10:11pm

Post 39 of 41

The Duelist

Force: 1289 | Joined: 10th Aug 2006 | Posts: 100

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The reason I'm asking is because I'm more than likely familiar with them, but I wanted to make sure. And how better to find out than asking film makers who seem to know quite a bit about cameras- other places on the internet are subject to inaccurate information. I see now that the 24p and 30p are just what I thought they were- frame rates and interlace/progressive information. Balketh, you really need to tone it down here. My specialties are cinematography, choreography and screenplays. The frame rate, compression, and interlacing aspects of film making have given me trouble since I started making movies. I'm asking here because the information is more likely to be correct and comes from people that understand independent film making. I've never looked into new cameras before, and it's not like I'll be able to learn everything there is to know overnight.
Posted: Fri, 13th Jun 2008, 11:39pm

Post 40 of 41

pdrg

Force: 5405 | Joined: 4th Dec 2006 | Posts: 4143

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The Duelist wrote:

...it's not like I'll be able to learn everything there is to know overnight.
And then some! Seriously, a good DoP crosses between the worlds of the artist and physicist the whole time!

If you understand the physics of light (even just up to GCSE/age 16 level), it all comes into play every day. To that mix, add a good understanding of electronics - how different types of sensors work, and how they respond in different circumstances, a passing understanding of data compression (maths) and bitrates and why they're important, of IT and how your editing software works (does it proxy the sources, use them natively, etc) as well as TV and delivery formats, even workflows back to 35mm at a stretch - plus the art of lighting to look good !!!

Overnight would be a big ask, very few people understand it all, but if you're prepared to do a heap of brain work and book/internet research you can give yourself a good advantage.

So many people call themselves DoP's, but the really good ones could draw you a block diagram of what happens inside the camera and why - they're the ones who can innovate (like Joe Dunton who practically invented anamorphic lenses!)
Posted: Sun, 15th Jun 2008, 5:30am

Post 41 of 41

Balketh

Force: 344 | Joined: 2nd Apr 2006 | Posts: 224

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Sincere apologies if I seemed over the top in my last post, but Expensive Buyer's Remorse is one of the worser things to me, and I just wanted to help you avoid it.

Seriously, Buyer's Remorse sucks noodles.

But through all the capitalization and BOLD words I used, my point is still valid and clear, even if you already knew what 24p and 30p is.

Researching before buying an expensive product is very, very handy. You know what you're getting for your money, and if you're savvy, you can compare what you're getting to what you have and what you need, and what's available, to get what you want, for cheaper.