Question by Brandon M: What cameras are recommended for an independent filmmaker?
I’m planning on getting in to college for film, so I’ve been looking for a great camera to help me out. Preferably, a professional camera but not anything that’s going to pull my arm off since I’ll be carrying it around places. It will be used for independent filmmaking so I want it to have a great picture. I don’t mind the cost, as long as it gets the job done well.
I was also wondering what video format is recommended for transferring videos onto my mac. I figured hard-drive cameras would obviously be the easiest but that’s more focused in the handycam area and I’m looking at professional cameras.
Answer by MotionPictureCentral.com
Most professional small format cameras are under 10lbs – including the HD models. The CMOS systems can be as light as 4lbs or less – like our Sony HVR-V1U. We can easily carry this camera around in our hands during events, but we had to get a sling. When people see you are a filmmaker, they want to shake your hand and talk. Carry business cards – if you want pick up some side work for a little cash to practice as you learn.
The format issues are already solved for you. Almost every small format professional camcorder uses DV tape in miniDV or HDV. An HDV tape is a miniDV tape in a different wrapper and label. DV tape saves in MPEG-2 (very similar to normal DVD) in less compression than miniDVD, HDD, and Flash Memory – resulting in a much better image. MiniDV is still the only format you can remove from a camera immediately after filming and store. This is extremely useful for historical, copyright, and documentary needs. Sony’s MasterDigital DV tapes are also serial numbered to assist in tracking.
The capture issues are also solved. Since the ’90’s, the preferred method of capturing video to computer is Firewire, i.Link, IEEE 1394 – regardless of your editing platform or program. Many people rave about how easy it it to copy files from HDD camcorders to the computer, but several editing programs don’t accept the format those consumer HDD camcorders save their video in (plus the quality is much more compressed than miniDV). The owners of HDD cameras often have to resort back to the slower method of Firewire, but they are much happier they can edit and distribute their video in much better quality.
The single most important piece of filming equipment is your camera; however, when starting out, it really does not matter if you purchase a CCD or a CMOS system, a 3 chip or a single chip model, or shoot in HD or SD. Most of our products are shot and stored on HDV and exported in SD. Most american households and businesses purchase and watch SD – even if they have an HD television. Purchase a camcorder for the conditions you wish to shoot in the most.
Since we shoot mostly in studios and daylight, we currently use the Sony HVR-V1U 3-CMOS 1080i Professional HDV Camcorder with 20x Optical Zoom http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B000IF8NNS?ie=UTF8&tag=supportyourlo-20&linkCode=as2&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=B000IF8NNS and use Panasonic AYDVM63PQ 63/42 Minute Professional Quality Mini-DV Digital Tape, 10 Pack http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B000ANCZ50?ie=UTF8&tag=supportyourlo-20&linkCode=as2&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=B000ANCZ50 (twice the quality and half the price of Wal-Marts consumer tapes) on a Macbook. The current equipment replaced our stolen equipment – including a Sony Professional HVR-A1U CMOS High Definition Camcorder with 10x Optical Zoom http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B000ENON1A?ie=UTF8&tag=supportyourlo-20&linkCode=as2&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=B000ENON1A and an Apple G5 Quad editing station.
We have also trained on the Panasonic Pro AG-DVX100B 3-CCD MiniDV Proline Camcorder w/10x Optical Zoom http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B000BYJFYW?ie=UTF8&tag=supportyourlo-20&linkCode=as2&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=B000BYJFYW and used the Panasonic AG-HVX200 Pro Camcorder with DVCPRO-HD http://www.amazon.com/gp/product/B000OVFGYK?ie=UTF8&tag=supportyourlo-20&linkCode=as2&camp=1789&creative=9325&creativeASIN=B000OVFGYK on a few productions and field tests. You can also find a few other equally good professional camcorders from Canon and JVC.
Both image sensor types have their advantages and disadvantages. We stick with CMOS due to its extremely good color accuracy, clarity, and lack of vertical smear. Our clients always claim they can reach out and touch the items in the videos, and some instinctively try to. CMOS also has the added advantage of requiring smaller chips, less image processing electronics, and half the power of a comparable CCD system. All this adds up to a smaller form factor (more compact housing) and a lot less weight. Plus, you will find that a CMOS camcorder can normally record twice as long on the same batteries as its CCD counterpart. You purchase less batteries, save money, and again, carry less weight. CCD handles much better than CMOS in low light and with dark subjects on dark backgrounds. CCD has also been used in professional video longer, so it is guaranteed to work in almost any situation.
Filmmaking is storytelling. There are a multitude of aspects that go with it, but this is the basic process: You start with a great story, and you decide how you wish it to be told. You find out how you will distribute your story (feature film, TV show, DVD, internet, mobile media device, cell phone, …), so you can plan appropriate way to film and what equipment, personnel, and locations you will need. Once the filming is completed and sent to editing, the actual story building process begins, and the editor asses how to assemble the footage into a story the way it is to be told. Once that is complete, the master is made for storage and the master copies are sent to copyrighting with the US Government and to the MPAA for ratings. Once you are satisfied, you send the approved master copies to distribution. You take a quick break and start the entire process all over.
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