Aspiring documentarian looking to buy his first camcorder...help? - AVS Forum
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post #1 of 8 Old 07-01-2012, 01:32 PM - Thread Starter
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I'm looking to buy my own camcorder so I don't have to depend on rentals and borrowing other people's gear. I'm a Media Studies major at Hunter College graduating at the end of this year. It isn't the most renowned or in-depth film program by any means, but I like it nonetheless. I've already taken a couple of video production courses, as well as a course on writing documentary budgets and proposals. (Whee.) This is my best work so far which isn't saying much: https://vimeo.com/34346854

I shot it and other projects on the Sony PD-150 Mini-DV camcorders used by the college. While they were nice beginner tools, the digitizing process was laborious and cringe-inducing, and I hope not to have to use them again in the remaining production course I have to take.

In subsequent courses, my professors have made these suggestions to students looking to buy camcorders:

- HD video output (natch)
- Have inputs for external mics such as shotguns and lavalieres. Preferably XLR inputs.
- Output variable frame rates.

They also mentioned to look out for chip sizes (i.e. 3 CCD, CMOS) which I'm not too familiar with.

In putting together my (faux) documentary budget, I found that I may have to spend upwards of $800 on an entry-level camcorder for a jabroni like me. Does that sound about right? Regardless, could ya'll suggest me any good camcorders? Any help would be appreciated. Tanks. smile.gif
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post #2 of 8 Old 07-01-2012, 06:02 PM
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You are a student on a budget. That can make choices difficult.

But, I think there is an odd dilemma in video equipment now. If the goal is to get good video on screens 60" and smaller, including YouTube viewing on computers, there are options that don't look like camcorders. They may be called hybrids or bridge cameras. Some are pocket sized "point and shoot", some look like DSLRs that shrunk and some look pro models that are too small to appear serous. They come from the necessity get sales when even smart phones can do fairly well.

So, my suggestion is (if you set appearances aside) that a skilled shooter working on a project similar to yours could get equally good results with a $500 Panasonic FZ-150 as with more expensive, traditional cameras. Granted the audio jacks are not XLR, but there are good options and work-arounds for audio.

An even cheaper camera is an Sony HX9V (or this year's version, the HX20V) which does not have an audio jack. If you have doubts, watch The Harbour.

I'm curious. What do other students in a film school say about equipment?

Bill
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post #3 of 8 Old 07-01-2012, 07:07 PM - Thread Starter
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Quote:
Originally Posted by bsprague View Post

You are a student on a budget. That can make choices difficult.
But, I think there is an odd dilemma in video equipment now. If the goal is to get good video on screens 60" and smaller, including YouTube viewing on computers, there are options that don't look like camcorders. They may be called hybrids or bridge cameras. Some are pocket sized "point and shoot", some look like DSLRs that shrunk and some look pro models that are too small to appear serous. They come from the necessity get sales when even smart phones can do fairly well.
So, my suggestion is (if you set appearances aside) that a skilled shooter working on a project similar to yours could get equally good results with a $500 Panasonic FZ-150 as with more expensive, traditional cameras. Granted the audio jacks are not XLR, but there are good options and work-arounds for audio.
An even cheaper camera is an Sony HX9V (or this year's version, the HX20V) which does not have an audio jack. If you have doubts, watch The Harbour.
I'm curious. What do other students in a film school say about equipment?
Bill

Thanks for responding!

I looked up the FZ150 just now and it looks pretty appealing. I've heard of several other students using DSLR's for video projects, albeit with several add-ons attached. They, along with a previous professor, brought up the bulkiness of DSLR's+attachments, as well as the discomfort that comes with shooting with most for a long period of time (not as, er, ergonomic as camcorders I suppose). But yeah, the cheaper price point was what attracted them to DSLR's.

Good audio is what all of my professors have emphasized above anything else, and that good sound comes from external shotgun and lavaliere mics. The FZ150 looks like it could deliver on that front (I noticed there's a microphone add-on, and lavs could be used with an adapter), but I await more suggestions.

On a side note, I actually already own a camcorder, which was handed down to me by my father a while ago........its a Sony DCR-HC26 Mini-DV HandyCam from 2006. I used it for a brief video project and then shelved it due to its utter crapiness. biggrin.gif
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post #4 of 8 Old 07-01-2012, 10:09 PM
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I would put correct deinterlacing, which your video is lacking, above sensor size or HD output.
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post #5 of 8 Old 07-02-2012, 11:18 AM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ungermann View Post

I would put correct deinterlacing, which your video is lacking, above sensor size or HD output.
Ungermann,

Someday you will explain how to do that, or I will figure it out. What I think is happening in my case is that my software does it when I select a YouTube preset.

Bill
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post #6 of 8 Old 07-02-2012, 06:01 PM - Thread Starter
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Originally Posted by Ungermann View Post

I would put correct deinterlacing, which your video is lacking, above sensor size or HD output.

That had less to do with the camera (Sony PD-150) and more with me editing the footage on Sony Vegas. I couldn't find a way to output deinterlaced video on the program. Only by burning the project straight to DVD via Vegas did it come out deinterlaced.
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post #7 of 8 Old 07-02-2012, 10:17 PM
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Condor Joe View Post

Quote:
Originally Posted by Ungermann View Post

I would put correct deinterlacing, which your video is lacking, above sensor size or HD output.

That had less to do with the camera (Sony PD-150) and more with me editing the footage on Sony Vegas. I couldn't find a way to output deinterlaced video on the program. Only by burning the project straight to DVD via Vegas did it come out deinterlaced.
In Vegas choose "deinterlacing: interpolate" in project options and render either to 30p or 60p. This brings us to interlaced vs. progressive shooting format. I suggest choosing a camera that can record native 24p/30p (for cinematic feel) as well as 60p (for "live" look). Editing progressive is simpler (assuming it is recorded native) and you will not lose resolution when deinterlacing.
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post #8 of 8 Old 07-10-2012, 03:06 PM
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Also, a lot of people use conversion programs like Cineform Neoscene that will convert the harder to edit 8 bit, 4:2:0 MPEG-4 wrapped files from consumer camcorders and HDSLR's into lossless interpolated, 10 bit 4:2:2 .Avi or .MOV files.

They won't bog down the computer's CPU/GPU as much (not having to do real time MPEG-4 decompressing while editing) and the converted video will usually look superior (especially lessening the appearance of color banding) due to the chroma upscaling being done to the original compressed file.

Some converters can be adjusted to simulate a more "RAW" looking file, though most consumer grade cameras will not output RAW sensor data even from their HDMI outputs, to make it easier for color grading.

Though, nothing will truly compete with professional 10 or 12 bit, 4:4:4 RAW output cameras.

Listen up, studios! Just say "NO" to DNR and EE!!
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