Out of Hibernation

March 15, 2012 · Posted in A-Roll · Comments Off on Out of Hibernation 

Panasonic AF100 with AJA Ki Pro Mini

Its time to bring this blog out of hibernation. It’s been a tough year in newspaper land and I’ve been putting my efforts toward my career and limiting my social media to Twitter.

I’m going to try to balance high-end subjects appropriate for freelancers with mobile and small-footprint techniques suitable for MMJ’s.

I’m posting this from mobile and will see how it works.

(by the way, I’ve invested in broadcast-quality gear if anyone needs work done.)

Canon’s baby cam: the XF100

October 5, 2010 · Posted in B-Roll · Comments Off on Canon’s baby cam: the XF100 

Canon’s new XF100 and XF105 look like they’ll be great photojournalist’s cameras. Too bad about the 10x lens, though.

New Sony big-chip camera and new Vixia HF M32 announced

July 14, 2010 · Posted in B-Roll · Comments Off on New Sony big-chip camera and new Vixia HF M32 announced 

Two interesting new cameras:

1) Canon Vixia HF M32 is the next step in the tiny, AVCHD line of camcorders which keep improving with each new model. It will give 24 hours of recording to the built-in memory plus SDHC/SDXC memory cards. What makes this one interesting is that it has “Powered IS” image stabilizer, which is a hand-held miracle, and it has built-in downconversion to standard def while retaining the HD. Works with Eye-Fi cards. I am so getting one of these. $999 suggested retail. Read press release on PDN.

2) Sony says their new $2000 NEX VG-10 interchangeable-lens big-chip camera (shallow depth of field) camera will be available in September. Also does stills at 7fps. Looks awesome. New E-mount lenses dampen my enthusiasm for this one, but hopefully adapters will work with it.

UPDATE: I see E-Mount adapters on ebay for Nikkor, Canon, and Leica lenses! This Sony NEX VG10 is suddenly more interesting!

What video camera to buy?

June 10, 2010 · Posted in B-Roll · Comments Off on What video camera to buy? 

What video camera do you buy in 2010?

This is a really confusing time to pick a camera. There are so many out there, none of them perfect.

Choosing a camera is all about workflow. What programs are your guys going to be editing on and how new are the computers? You can’t pick equipment without looking at the whole picture. Some cameras work better with a Mac while others work better with PC’s.

What are your expectations for video? Finished pieces from the person shooting it or hand off to a video editor? Web-only or for TV partner? More deadline turn-around from sports and spot news or more enterprise/feature work?

Are the folks with the better cameras going to be shooting only video or do you expect them to shoot stills on the same assignments?

For still photographers who want to shoot some video, the video-capable DSLRs are the way to go. Forget the video cameras… it’s too much to carry. But you’ll need accessories I’ll get to in a minute.

But some of you need real video to support a TV partner. If you use Final Cut Pro and if you need a small camera, the JVC HM100 is a good camera for the size and price. It is around $2800 for the body, maybe $5k with all the trimmings (batteries, cards, mics, wireless, tripods, cases, etc.)

We sometimes partner with photogs from the Sun-Sentinel and they’re mostly using the JVC HM100’s now. They love it because they can just ingest from the card and hand off to their TV folks – they don’t have to edit anything. The editing workflow if you’re Mac-based is great. You can edit right off the cards with Final Cut Pro. But it’s high-def so you still have to deal with render times. The JVC camera doesn’t lend itself to easy manual control so everyone ends up shooting in auto. The zoom is pretty short – only 10x, I think, so it’s not very good for long-throw press conferences or distant spot news. Battery life is poor compared to the competition. The image stabilization is really poor so it doesn’t do well hand-held. But it’s tiny, reasonably well-built, gives a pretty good image, and is lower-priced compared to other video cameras.

However, if you have high-end video folks who are solely dedicated to doing video, get them a better camera. Sony EX1r or the new Canon XF300 if you have the budget, otherwise the tape cameras – either the Sony Z5U or the Canon XHA1S. Tapeless is not the be-all and end-all… if you’re working only for the web and don’t need to broadcast high-def, the ability to down-convert to SD when you capture tape will really reduce your overall work time. Render times are reduced to almost nothing and there is no time spent on archiving. If you’re Final Cut Pro based, get the Canon, which has the bonus of being able to take analog in, so you can record pool feeds right into the camera. If you’re PC based, get the Sony and the optional flash card memory recording unit, which will let you skip the capture part – but I’m told it doesn’t play so well with Final Cut.

I’m not a fan of AVCHD cameras… you’ve got conversion time on the front end and archive time on the back end. But the size and price might make up for the hassle. For low budgets, the $600 Vixia cameras can’t be beat at the price, if you can live with the AVCHD workflow.

For the still cameras, I recommend the Sennheiser MKE400 mini shotgun mic and a Sennheiser wireless mic. Using either one straight into the camera will work fine for nat sound. For more serious audio, skip the xlr adapter and get a Zoom H4N audio recorder (for interviews, music, and press conferences) and teach people to synch up the sound afterwards or to shoot video like it was a Soundslide, with an un-synched audio track. Get an Electro Voice RE50 interview mic for the Zoom, along with the shotgun and wireless lav. Everyone who shoots video should have an RE50 – it’s the most useful mic you can have.

For tripods, skip the Manfrottos, bite the bullet, and get Sachtlers. They’re pro and will last.

Get the reporters a Kodak Zi8 and a $30 wired Audio Technica lavalier mic and a tabletop tripod. Cheap and good enough.

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