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Andrew Reid

Pro camcorders? They're pointless creatively.

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Yeah... I'm gonna be offloading the Red cos it doesn't get enough use. If I need something like that I'll just hire in future.

It's too big heavy and clumsy to be fun.

I miss when I started out hacking the 550D :(

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4 hours ago, HockeyFan12 said:

 

There’s one missing piece, though, and it’s funny you mentioned it prominently and defensively in your article: audio. There’s yet to be a game changer in audio that equals the Red One or 5D Mark II or Movi in innovation. There are cheap mics that are okay now, but the 416 (40 years old) is the golden standard. Still. You can buy an iLav that sounds remarkably good enough compared with a real lav…. but ingesting, logging, syncing, hooking that thing up to an iPhone. It's the worst. Not that using timecode sync via slate is exactly reliable or fun, either. But while I don’t want to put my sound operator friends out of business, sound recording needs to be next. Sound Devices just released cheap mixers that can compete with the big boys. Just this year. For the first time ever. That’s HUGE. That’s the 5DII. What we're missing is the DPAF or the Ronin or low light equivalent for sound. Something that makes good easy. Good sound is still hard, no matter what camera, XLRs or not be damned. 

Not that I follow post as closely, but post seems to have changed as fast as video has, so sound is next. (Great direction and art design and acting will forever remain elite and exclusive because the mis is physical. This fact favors porn but also storytelling.) 

 

With regard to audio, I think the innovation has largely come from the music side of the fence rather than the broadcast/film side to be honest.

From that point of view, there have been numerous 5DMKii moments.

The Portastudio was one, the LinnDrum was another, the Akai S900 sampler, the Atari ST with Cubase, the ADAT digital multitrack, the Yamaha 02R mixing console and of course SoundTools as it was and ProTools as it became.

Arguably, these were all much bigger game changers than the 5DMKii, particularly the latter ones as they changed the entire industry at the high end as well as the low.

The 5DMKii let you make images that looked somewhat  like the movie studios could do, the audio products didn’t just allow you to produce audio that sounded like a real recording studio did but actually became the real recording studios.

The nature of broadcast and film is intrinsically more conservative.

I’ve been involved in product development for one company where it seemed inconceivable why the BBC, for example, would spend five times more for something that did less and then for another company where it seemed inconceivable to me why they would spend five times more on what we were proposing to them than they could on something similar they could get from a music store.

Some days you’re the statue, some days you’re the pigeon !

The problem with audio developments for music is that it plateaued and then became a race to the bottom price wise from which it will never return. It means that the innovation is now in the cost reduction and arguably why not because there really isn’t many more places for it to go in terms of functionality or quality. Which is good for us!

As all of this rapid development was going on in music technology, say between 1982-2000, it was like the wild west at times with companies coming from nowhere with bombshell products that either drove their competitors out of business or drove them on to greater heights.

And the vast majority of these companies were small ones (generally created by musicians who had to invent what it was the market didn’t have for them to buy), which made them lean and agile.

Over time though, the eating each other’s lunch routines often combined with little, no or reckless business practices (and ESPECIALLY poor cash flow from over ambitious product developments) left them vulnerable to being put out of business or, more usually, being bought out by the major manufacturers who were predominantly large Japanese companies. The likes of Oberheim (Yamaha), Linn (Akai), PPG (Korg) and Sequential Circuits (Yamaha again) all went that way and the innovation generally went no further for them once they were under the wing of those bigger manufacturers.  Eventually freed from their ‘consultancy’ deals, most have resurfaced as boutique operations serving an ever more niche market.

If I look at someone like Fairlight and my relationship with them as an example of what happened to an innovative company, its quite informative. I went from being an awestruck kid when they brought the CMI out, to then working for a manufacturer who basically drove them out of the sampler business they’d created, to eventually working on OEM development with them when they transitioned to broadcast. In the subsequent 20 years they’ve changed hands countless times and are now just a tab on a piece of free(ish) software. Its hard to grasp such a transition for me but for anyone who’s too young to know what the CMI was, its the equivalent of RED’s RAW pipeline ending up as a free download in the Sony PlayMemories store for your RX100.

Lexicon are exactly the same. From making jaw dropping almost other worldly products to being gobbled up by a company that was making most of its money off providing car stereos for GM etc and Lexicon was reduced over time to being included in every low end mixing console and software bundle that it could be licensed to. The company that bought them has done the same to every company its bought and I can’t even dignify them by mentioning their name even 20 years after them destroying the company I worked for !

So there’s just no incentive there for anyone to be innovative in music audio anymore as its littered with similar stories and the ones left standing wouldn’t see the amount of volume in broadcast/film that they need to press the button on the mass production runs they now need due to how cheap everything has to be now.

The company that COULD do it are the much maligned Behringer. 

If you look at something like the X Air XR12 digital mixing console and see what they can knock out for £239 retail (inc VAT!!) then it doesn’t take a genius to see what they could do against Sound Devices if they had the inclination but there just isn’t the market there. Because, believe me, they wouldn’t have blinked if there was.

So, unfortunately, I don’t think we’re going to get that 5DMarkii moment and the innovation such as it is will come from individuals themselves looking at products from the music side of the fence and modifying it themselves. Like getting that X Air XR12 and powering it from Sony NP batteries to make an extremely capable digital field mixer and recorder for £269 (including the £30 for the bits to do it) or being a smartarse and using cheap midi controllers to create remote focus and control systems for Panasonic cameras for under £75  (ahem!).

Because music audio had its numerous 5DMKii moments a few years ago there is a backlog of a ton of cheap stuff that flies under the radar for film makers that is waiting for them if they look for it. 

 

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1 hour ago, jgharding said:

Yeah... I'm gonna be offloading the Red cos it doesn't get enough use. If I need something like that I'll just hire in future.

It's too big heavy and clumsy to be fun.

I miss when I started out hacking the 550D :(

I'll swap my 550D for your RED!

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Andrew gets it, its never about the equipment and all about the way its used. 

What about Soviet cinema? Their cameras are never as great as their western counterparts, the Soviet 70mm beasts bleed a lot in corners even with great lenses, the SovColor film also produce a monstrous amount of noise even at low ISO format. Yet they shaped the modern cinema to what its today or at least majority of the techniques anyway.

They also did not have stupid amount of equipment on cameras, I mean just look a this crew, now compare that picture to what we got today, and they shot one of the
greatest science fiction flick on that. The west too, we just used to have simple camera setup, how backwards we gone today, we need all sorts of tools just to assist us
like histograms and 50 extra monitors just to see anything, its gone to the point of insanity, picture quality does not make a movie, in fact audio does and good
story telling.

 11.jpg.08ddfe8d1028c5e6eb2558ac8571618a.jpg

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@SMGJohn

Quote

What about Soviet cinema? Their cameras are never as great as their western counterparts, the Soviet 70mm beasts bleed a lot in corners even with great lenses, the SovColor film also produce a monstrous amount of noise even at low ISO format. Yet they shaped the modern cinema to what its today or at least majority of the techniques anyway

Full ACK...The sovjet directors were artists, completely focusing the core assets of their films to make. No lunatic pixel whores and gear heads out there...The sovjet film is all about content and expression and not about pampered "gadgetized" guys. The sovjet cameras were NOT half-baked, unfinished plastic garbage like contemporary Sony Axyz, they were made to hold up. Not filigree but rugged, to be beaten up some years (or even decades) to death. A kind of "filming russian tanks". Poverty and deficits are sometimes a real catalyst for putting ideas into art. Luxury plastic gadgets destroy fantasy and lead to consumism and GAS...

And never forget: At the great era of sovjet film, there were only a few famous and respected sovjet directors - even internationally. Nowadays every guy can call himself a director, but - despite social media and nowadays possibilities and low gear pricing - there are NO MORE famous & respected DOPs, compared to 30 years ago...

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Usually when people carry on about pro features, it's because they are working operators, who are renting their skills for commercials. They want a big sexy rig that their clients will find impressive, and a wide range of professional features so that they can offer their client lots of "looks".

I constantly need to remind myself, that not all advice I read online is directed for me. If you're a working director, with a set style you've developed over the years, you've probably figured out the combination of location, lights and post-production you need to achieve your images. Forums about a new LUTs, extra bit rates, slightly sharper lens are fun to nerd out about, but the reality is, none of the upgrades in specs would affect recognizable directors like Kubrick, Wes Anderson, Spike Jonze, Michel Gondry or David Fincher.  You could easily shoot the Godfather on an A7s II. 

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I just like a camera to get out of the way.  For me, the best one so far has been the C100 (Mark 1 or 2)  - Doesn't need a cage.  You can hand hold it easily without micro jitters.  Great image.  Super useful built in ND filters.  (I really dislike external ones, I do find them too time consuming for my liking, and it's an extra thing you need to deal with.  Heck, I don't even like changing lenses that much.)  A 17-55 with a 70 - 200 is a great combo.  I can handle run and gun and interviews without issue.  Only drawback for me was the codec.  It's fine for Web, but not for TV.  I shot 13 episodes with a ninja connected, which I also disliked.  The magic arm kept getting in the way or falling out of place.  I don't shoot it anymore because I like 4k, but don't have a great replacement at the moment.  Didn't like the C300 as much because it's bigger/heavier than I like.  Same with Mark 2. 
 

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11 hours ago, HockeyFan12 said:

 

There’s one missing piece, though, and it’s funny you mentioned it prominently and defensively in your article: audio. There’s yet to be a game changer in audio that equals the Red One or 5D Mark II or Movi in innovation. There are cheap mics that are okay now, but the 416 (40 years old) is the golden standard. Still. You can buy an iLav that sounds remarkably good enough compared with a real lav…. but ingesting, logging, syncing, hooking that thing up to an iPhone. It's the worst. Not that using timecode sync via slate is exactly reliable or fun, either. But while I don’t want to put my sound operator friends out of business, sound recording needs to be next. Sound Devices just released cheap mixers that can compete with the big boys. Just this year. For the first time ever. That’s HUGE. That’s the 5DII. What we're missing is the DPAF or the Ronin or low light equivalent for sound. Something that makes good easy. Good sound is still hard, no matter what camera, XLRs or not be damned. 

+100 for the other most important piece of the puzzle...arguably as important as the actual image itself!...

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Well part of all of this is true and part of it isn't.
In the beginning everyone should answer one simple question: What do I want to get?
Do I want to use the footage just the way it comes out of the camera and put it on youtube? No grading or colorcorrection. Well why buying a GH5? Save the money and get a cheap DSLM or maybe even your smartphone will do the job.
If my demand for quality is a little higher and  I want to grade my video a little bit, but I don't need my camera for paid jobs maybe a a6500 is a good choice. For paid jobs a GH5 is probably a better choice as it is a little more versatile. And that's it basically. For youtube or even television you really don't need better cameras.
But things start to change when it comes to high quality Hollywood class video, especially concerning the recent approach of HDR for video. I've been playing with the new possibilities that you have with this huge dynamic range for almost half a year now and the one thing I have learned really quickly is: NEVER USE 8 BIT!! Although for SDR video with roughly 6.5 stops dynamic range 8 bit quantization still creates pretty decent quality, for HDR it is a huge pain and limits your grading possibilities drastically, especially when combined with an end-user codec like avc or hevc. That's why recently I've been starting to use an external recorder for my NX1 which doesn't help me with the 8 bit problem, but recording Prores helps preventing lots of blocking artifacts. Actually the 10bit output is right now the one thing I envy all the Panasonic GH4/GH5 owners for.
So what kind of cameras are well suited for HDR video. Well first of course your sensor has to have a high dynamic range and this is where expensive cameras are still almost undefeated but also the cheaper cameras like A7s have a great sensor concerning dynamic range. GH5, NX1 and so on deliver quite decent dynamic range, but actually you can tell the difference to more expensive sensors in post.
The next important thing is quantization and this is where all the cheaper Sony cameras as well as NX1 and Canon cameras really suck. 8 bit is definitely not enough for HDR and you will get a whole lot of banding if you're not very careful. In post I very often use a grain overlay on my NX1 footage to dither the banding a little bit and it helps, but it's far from perfect. So when considering HDR 10bit recording is absolutly minimum. Better use 12bit or 14bit if possible.
The final really important thing is the way you store the data. Here the Blackmagic cameras clearly have a huge advantage because of their RAW capabilities and my BMMCC has served me very well during the last couple of months. Using RAW you can make the most out of the sensors dynamic range. Prores or DnxHR also do a quite good job but you will most of the time lose at least half a stop and this is something you definitely do not want for producing HDR content. So whenever you can afford the datasize SHOOT RAW and NEVER EVER use AVC or HEVC they will betray you.
Actually this leaves not many cheap cameras in the pool. The only cheaper cams for RAW are the Blackmagic ones and the next would be FS7 price tag and beyond ARRI/RED.
If I had to choose a camera for a professional grade HDR production never mind whether for youtube, TV or cinema, the cheapest A cam I would go with would be a Blackmagic 4.6K and maybe a BMPCC/BMMC or perhaps GH5 as B or action cam. Every other camera below has too many limitations in one way or another and obtaining good HDR footage will be very frustrating.
But the price is worth the effort. HDR with its huge dynamic range allows for a whole lot more creativity, when it comes to playing with lights, shadows and colours. In my opinion HDR is the one big thing during the next years, that will allow us to be even more creative in pictorial design than ever before and hopfully it won't follow 3D down the stream.

So, as mentioned before, the question always is: What do you want to get? For common youtube quality you don't need a camera for 1k+ bucks. But if video quality is substantial to you, especially when you're considering HDR video, the range of small affordable cameras becomes smaller and smaller. Thus if you don't want to buy a new camera every other year - choose wisely. And maybe Blackmagic has something new for us in their pipeline for the not so distant future. Kudos to them for democratizing video world like never before!

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Best article I've read here--and painfully honest (is there any other kind of honesty?).

How many times have I been captivated by content and only, after the fact, did I think to myself---"What was that shot on? Shrugged my shoulders and realized I didn't care."

Small cameras are freeing. They can go where no cinema camera can go, and free your imagination.

Thank you for writing this, Andrew.

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Very honest article, anyone can relate to it.

It's funny how people are still thinking about "pro" camcorders because for me it's pointless, how needs C100 like cameras? Are you guys doing TV shows?

Why the heck bother with these non-sense that needs 3 persons to be operative where your little pana can do the job?

I understand that most of us are enthusiasts ( and that's very profitable for our favorites brands ) but the future is creativity and not prettiness.

I'm still rocking a G6 as a little money maker, everything can work as long as it doesn't slow you down.

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In a slightly similar vein, are there any old standard definition camcorders/handy cam's with lots of spec and a decent (for the size) sensor that people would recommend for playing around with that are cheap now?

I was haunting a pawn shop looking at what they have in stock and they had a couple of old camcorders, some seemed a bit high in price (a couple of CD video cameras) but one old Canon is fairly cheap (though reviews were only fair when it was released - a later entry level model released when HD had started being a thing).

Anything worth looking at?

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15 minutes ago, noone said:

In a slightly similar vein, are there any old standard definition camcorders/handy cam's with lots of spec and a decent (for the size) sensor that people would recommend for playing around with that are cheap now?

I was haunting a pawn shop looking at what they have in stock and they had a couple of old camcorders, some seemed a bit high in price (a couple of CD video cameras) but one old Canon is fairly cheap (though reviews were only fair when it was released - a later entry level model released when HD had started being a thing).

Anything worth looking at?

The DVX100 is a classic. It's only a 1/3" sensor, but I could easily get shallow depth of field with it (NDs + Wide open aperture) just don't expect 5D SDOF since most (all) handycams/camcorders had tiny sensors. Here's a teaser to my feature film shot with the DVX (just showing this one because it has some shallow DOF shots):

 

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2 hours ago, Matt Kieley said:

The DVX100 is a classic. It's only a 1/3" sensor, but I could easily get shallow depth of field with it (NDs + Wide open aperture) just don't expect 5D SDOF since most (all) handycams/camcorders had tiny sensors. Here's a teaser to my feature film shot with the DVX (just showing this one because it has some shallow DOF shots):

 

Man, I have got to watch that film one of these days. It looks great and your shorts are probably the ones I look most forward to on this site. Of course, I think I liked the image you got out of that Nikon the best. You'd be dangerous with a 5D3 and ML Raw. 

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6 hours ago, mercer said:

Man, I have got to watch that film one of these days. It looks great and your shorts are probably the ones I look most forward to on this site. Of course, I think I liked the image you got out of that Nikon the best. You'd be dangerous with a 5D3 and ML Raw. 

Thanks! I'll send you the private vimeo link. I'd get a 5D3 if I could afford one. I might get the EOS M again just play with raw (since it's super cheap). ML raw has always gone over my head a bit in terms of settings/workflow.

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10 minutes ago, Matt Kieley said:

Thanks! I'll send you the private vimeo link. I'd get a 5D3 if I could afford one. I might get the EOS M again just play with raw (since it's super cheap). ML raw has always gone over my head a bit in terms of settings/workflow.

I didn't think I could afford one either, but after selling a few things plus a credit from BH, I asked myself... why do I keep testing all of these cameras? I didn't have a good answer but I knew I liked the image I saw from the 5D3 better than anything I have seen from any 4K camera on the market I could afford. I figured, if my movie is gonna suck, it may as well suck on Canon Raw. 

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On 6/28/2017 at 5:25 PM, SimsP said:

Blackmagic cameras clearly have a huge advantage because of their RAW capabilities and my BMMCC has served me very well during the last couple of months. Using RAW you can make the most out of the sensors dynamic range. Prores or DnxHR also do a quite good job but you will most of the time lose at least half a stop and this is something you definitely do not want for producing HDR content. So whenever you can afford the datasize SHOOT RAW and NEVER EVER use AVC or HEVC they will betray you.

Using RAW or ProRes acquisition works for feature films, short commercials and people experimenting with one camera. It does not work as well for larger documentaries or news gathering. The video marketplace is a lot bigger than scripted narratives. E.g, my doc team has has 12 GoPros, five drones, cable cams, crane cams, gimbal cams, 3-axis motion control cams, two separate two-camera interview teams, etc -- all 4k AVC/H264. We have Atomos recorders but prefer not using those in the field unless absolutely required because of complexity and HDMI fragility.  The Inspire 2 drone can shoot ProRes internally but this doesn't help if everything else is H264.

With all our crews & cameras operating we can easily shoot 1 terabyte of 4k H264 per day at a single site. If we used all ProRes acquisition that would be 8 terabytes per day, which must be offloaded, checksummed and duplicated on site -- each day. So the idea of "just use RAW or ProRes acquisition" may work on smaller productions with lower shooting ratios, but it doesn't work for us.

BTW it seems possible that 4k H264 8-bit 4:2:0 can be transcoded to 1080p 10-bit 4:4:4: https://www.provideocoalition.com/can-4k-4-2-0-8-bit-become-1080p-4-4-4-10-bit-does-it-matter/

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On 28/06/2017 at 3:42 PM, jgharding said:

10pts for this brilliant new insult :D

Well I've just made my own discovery regarding the FS5. 

Did a shoot this week with very aggressive lighting... captured in 4k CDNG, 4k ProRes 442 HQ and "bog standard" internal 50 Mbps HD. 

As expected the CDNG can be pushed around massively. But the data rate is heart wrenching. 

The interesting thing is that the 4k ProRes and internal HD seems almost like a draw. When pushed around, it's practically the same. When finally graded and exported, the quality seems almost exactly the same too. The 4k image is very, very, very slightly better. 

The only benefit I see of the FS5 + recorder is continuous 2k slow motion with more data to play with. This bit works for sure. 

Other than that, I'm thinking of selling up. 

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This is interesting time for this article.  I completely feel the same way.  I have access to canon c100s as a professor and never use them. I prefer to shoot with my DSLR.  Now however I picked up a mirror less little Sony a5000 and I feel a freedom I haven't felt in years.  I take that thing with me everywhere and shoot when inspired.  I made a video this week about my experience with it.  Check it out here: http://bit.ly/2sYmUOd

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