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Camcorder for Narrative Filmmaking

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18 hours ago, fuzzynormal said:

FWIW, the feature film that won the audience award at the film festival I help run was shot by a novice on a FX-1000.

It looked pretty lousy. 

Didn't matter to the audience though. 

The writing and acting carried the film. 

The only feature length narrative I've ever managed to shoot and edit was done on a Canon XH A1...no regrets.  

I like great IQ too and will pursue it, don't get me wrong, but just shoot your thing with whatever it takes. Nobody outside of other film people really care about the tools of the craft, just the results.

And that kinda sums up my point.

I love Raw Video and I will shoot a lot of it in the coming months and years... hell I am in the middle of a film that started as a short and may end up being a feature by the time I’m done. With that film, I’m using time to my benefit. I’m not rushed, I have no deadline so I can sculpt the film as I go.

But there are times, I just want to pick up a camera and go shoot a film. I have at least 1 movie idea a week... some are strictly for my screenwriting pursuits, but others are small, contained ideas that I could shoot. Some ideas I am obsessed with and would put the extra time to shoot on Raw, others are good ideas but would require a quicker turnaround to keep my interest. 

So for me, the old adage... the right tool for the right job isn’t just based on the technical or craft element of the job but also the creative side. 

For instance... I have a really good found footage idea. I enjoy the occasional found footage film but I don’t particularly love them. I don’t know if I could get obsessed with the film, but if I could shoot it on weekends, easily over the course of a month or two... then yeah... why not?

So, I don’t want to stifle my creative options based on technical limitations. 

Btw, I think I remember you posting the trailer to that feature of yours... I’d love to see it again if you still have it online?

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8 hours ago, kaylee said:

Yeah!

You might want to reread it, I did, and it is AMAZING how much i know about filmmaking now compared to the first time i read it years ago. i mean i still dont kno wtf im doing lol... but. its getting better

anyway, remember how RR cut Mariachi *on video*, and THAT got the film sold?!?!? All the screwy cuts that didnt work, which he THEN made part of the style of the film...? crazy stuff!!

anyway, MY first short that im finishing right now doesnt have dialogue because i was literally like Eff that Im not dealing with recording audio on the set, so I wrote something without dialogue 🤣 glad i did~! Easy! and then it also has that international no subtitles "transcending language" kind of flair

maybe write something w/o dialogue, something short, just for the ease of shooting it @mercer...? just a thought!!

Robert Rodriguez and Rebel Without a Crew should be a case study for any narrative filmmaker going the DIY/no budget route.

No to little dialogue is a great idea for a first film, that’s how my film is turning out now.

But this camcorder idea isn’t about being overwhelmed by a production, or even about the ease of production, per se, it’s about the freedom of production. It’s about filming ideas that can be shot quickly by just going out and doing it... Look at the French New Wave, Dogme 95, Mumblecore... 

8 hours ago, nigelbb said:

A 1" sensor is the new standard for camcorders from all the manufacturers. The Canon XF400 is worth a look 4K/60p DPAF C-log 2xSD card etc etc https://www.usa.canon.com/internet/portal/us/home/products/details/camcorders/professional/xf400

The XF400 would be the perfect tool. Compact with all the amenities for an all in one solution. 4K up to 60p. DPAF. But no Canon Log. Even without it, it’s still a contender because it is the only option with 4K 60p at $3000 or less. If I was buying today it would be between this and the Z90.

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8 hours ago, kye said:

@mercer yes, I remember your fondness for the XC10 :)

Reading your other comments, and talking in the context of getting the job done, I think there's a few approaches you could take, depending on how you shoot.

1) just use the 5D for everything. You already own it, no work in post matching cameras, and it's only one setup to carry around with one type of battery, media, etc.

2) get additional cameras. If you go this route then if at all possible I'd suggest matching brands so the colour science (which I remember is a priority for you) matches easily in post. You may even consider another ML camera as extra time on set may pay off in editing (or may not!). If you use multiple cameras on set it may even be worthwhile matching lenses and battery types in order to cut down on what you're carrying around.

It sounds to me like buying a camcorder may be tempting simply because a DSLR and ML is fiddly and annoying, which I totally understand.

I challenge you to think about the film you are making and ask yourself how many shots in the final edit will be able to be captured with a camcorder. Most films these days have relatively shallow DoF on almost all shots except wide and establishing shots, and although a camcorder would be great for those, will it really be more efficient to have an entire second setup instead of the camera you are already using for most other shots?

Thanks Kye, this is a very logical approach with great points.

But if you’ve read my last couple comments you may understand my point about using a camcorder for CERTAIN projects.

As a hobbyist/diy/no budget/one man band filmmaker that has A LOT of movie ideas but only limited time and budget per project, I am looking for ways to be more productive with more creative freedom. For me, a camcorder could be the perfect tool for certain projects. For those projects, it wouldn’t be a B-Cam, it would be THEE-Cam.

As far as shallow depth of field goes, yeah when the XC10 was my only camera, I definitely missed lenses and shallow DOF, but anyone who has ever shot with a camcorder knows ways around that through composition and focal length... and it’s not like a 1” sensor is an iPhone.

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19 minutes ago, mercer said:

Thanks Kye, this is a very logical approach with great points.

But if you’ve read my last couple comments you may understand my point about using a camcorder for CERTAIN projects.

As a hobbyist/diy/no budget/one man band filmmaker that has A LOT of movie ideas but only limited time and budget per project, I am looking for ways to be more productive with more creative freedom. For me, a camcorder could be the perfect tool for certain projects. For those projects, it wouldn’t be a B-Cam, it would be THEE-Cam.

As far as shallow depth of field goes, yeah when the XC10 was my only camera, I definitely missed lenses and shallow DOF, but anyone who has ever shot with a camcorder knows ways around that through composition and focal length... and it’s not like a 1” sensor is an iPhone.

Yes, I read your previous replies to others and understood where you are coming from. I was going to reply but saw you might be replying so I waited :)

Yeah, if it's for different projects then that's awesome and you should totally do it. In which case I'd suggest that you compromise on features pretty heavily in favour of ease of use and convenience and reliabily. Also consider the whole process from shooting to editing to grading and delivery. 

If you're like me and have lots of footage on drives waiting for editing then the bottleneck isn't the shooting and so you should focus on streamlining the edit instead. Even consider a camera with a hybrid profile that has decent DR but wouldn't need grading. Anything to get the ideas finished and shared, while still being of acceptable quality for your tastes and preferences.

If there's a large gap between your 5d and this camera then that might be a good thing because choosing which setup to shoot it on will help you to understand how much a project means to you, which is a great thing to know before you start shooting and have already made art-department type of decisions.

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6 hours ago, IronFilm said:


Or keep an eye out for pricing on the Venus Optic's new Laowa 25-100mm T2.9 cine zoom. 

 

It is really hard for a director to focus on story and the actor's performance for it, when he is being distracting by operating the camera (plus lighting!) and managing sound as well. 

Then it is very disheartening when a quarter of the way through you listen/watch back what you've got so far, and realize half of it is trash due to technical faults....

So saying "you don't care about all those other things" is only an even greater reason to try and get some crew on board. 

IronFilm, I appreciate your input here and definitely have learned a ton about audio from you, but we are not having the same discussion. In fact, we are on two totally different planets. I’ve worked (acted, boom operated, ran lights, built sets, etc...) on no budget, DIY films and the notion that they will be less than any other, low budget/no budget production just isn’t factual.

It’s different and you make sacrifices that need to be made but I am not talking about creating technical trash, I’m talking about making some secessions and using technology to make the process easier.

But for the sake of argument, have you really evaluated the state of micro budget and low budget filmmaking lately? I’m talking anywhere from a $1000-$50,000 budget. There is almost no money to be made and very little distribution options.

Short films are great, I’m working on one but the market is so saturated that it’s easy to get lost in the mix. Now I could save up for a year or two and have enough money to rent a Wet Alexa or a Red and shoot the slickest 5 minute short. Lots of people do it, and lots of people end up spending 20,000 bucks to have their expensive short die a slow death on YouTube.

So what good is that?

With the same money, I could make 2-3 run and gun features in 2 years, enter them in festivals, seek out distributors, use some of that money to get an aggregator, or release them on Amazon as a last chance option. It’s an odds game.

Did you know the last successful, no budget film was a found footage film called The Break In, shot on an iPhone, released on Amazon and the filmmaker has made millions of dollars with it.

I’m not delusional enough to think I’ll hit that jackpot... that’s why I’m a hobbyist with a day job. But as I get older, and going forward with this whacky hobby, I know which path I’d rather follow.

Just my opinion. 

26 minutes ago, kye said:

Yes, I read your previous replies to others and understood where you are coming from. I was going to reply but saw you might be replying so I waited :)

Yeah, if it's for different projects then that's awesome and you should totally do it. In which case I'd suggest that you compromise on features pretty heavily in favour of ease of use and convenience and reliabily. Also consider the whole process from shooting to editing to grading and delivery. 

If you're like me and have lots of footage on drives waiting for editing then the bottleneck isn't the shooting and so you should focus on streamlining the edit instead. Even consider a camera with a hybrid profile that has decent DR but wouldn't need grading. Anything to get the ideas finished and shared, while still being of acceptable quality for your tastes and preferences.

If there's a large gap between your 5d and this camera then that might be a good thing because choosing which setup to shoot it on will help you to understand how much a project means to you, which is a great thing to know before you start shooting and have already made art-department type of decisions.

Great points and thanks for replying.

I like EOSHD, there are some great and helpful people around here, some of which I would call friends, but it is a bubble...

Once DSLRs came around, I never even considered a camcorder... EWW... been there, done that. But I also haven’t really looked at what’s available either in the sub-$3000 camcorder market. And after checking out the specs yesterday while drinking my coffee... I thought to myself... hmm. After looking at some videos... I thought... wow that could be usable.

I could be the only human that sees the possibilities here, and I’d never recommend it to anyone if they asked me what camera should I get, but for the reasons I’ve previously stated... I find the possibilities exciting.

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19 hours ago, BTM_Pix said:

There is real risk that the other types of camera are actually becoming porn though.

Haha, in a way yeah. In my pursuit of making films as a hobby, I’ve gained a second hobby of testing cameras and lenses. They aren’t always mutually exclusive but one is a bigger waste of time than the other. Lol. 

20 hours ago, BTM_Pix said:

Or you could up the sensor size even further and go for this combo of LS300 and Angenieux 25-250 which will give you a 10x zoom camcorder/cinema camera hybrid (which we will brand as a Cinecorder ;) )with an aesthetic that I think you can get behind for around £3K used all in.

 Add in the Ninja V and you've got 4K60p as well for another £600.

I’ve mentioned many times in the past how intrigued I am by the LS300. We speak of hybrids all the time on this site, but the LS300 could be the only camcorder/cinema camera hybrid on the market.

I don’t know if it’s the right camera for this specific goal, but it’s definitely an option.

But I do love the idea of a cinecorder... which is exactly how I will treat any possible camcorder purchase.

In the past day I have narrowed down my options to two, then up to three and back to two. Tomorrow I’ll change my mind again. Thank god I don’t have the money right now to buy one, because I may have ended up with three. Lol. 

You seem fairly knowledgeable on the camcorder offerings so what are your thoughts of the Panasonic UX-90? It’s on the cheaper end but seems to have most of the features of the 180? If I go this whole camcorder route, I could pick up the FZ2500 on the cheap... give it a real go this time to see how I get along with it and then pick up the UX-90 as the A-Cam to the FZ2500 B-Cam. My only problem with the UX-90 is that it’s a little on the bigger side compared to the Z-90 and XF-400 which are very compact.

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11 hours ago, Yurolov said:

s16 was the standard for indie film productions for the simple fact that it was portable, cheap and you didn't have to fuss around with focus. You put a wide angle lens on and put it in f5.6 and you are golden. Camcorders offer much of the same conveniences. But I can't help but feel the newer variants do look dedicedly more video. s16 should be max 2k like the digital bolex. 

Having said that, I have seen xc10 footage which I would say is filmic:

That would be my first choice. My setup for the kind of intimate filmmaking you are talking about is to have a s16 digital camera, and have my talent wired with a tascam dl-10 and team lav mics. Gives u great freedom and mobility. 

Definitely. Great points! With the price of the XC10 right now, I very well may end up buying that camera again. I don’t think I can stress home much I enjoyed using that camera in 1080p. I just loved the image, the form factor and the semi-auto functioning. It just got out of the way. The only reason I sold it was because it was my first big purchase. I paid $2000 for it and within two months I saw the value of it drop on the used market... I got scared so I dumped it while it still had some meat on its bones.

However, one of the most appealing features of this S16 camcorder idea for me are the XLR inputs, and built in top handle... so I would probably choose the XF400 with its DPAF, 4K 60p, XLRs and top handle over the XC10. I can always shoot 1080p with the XF400 or downscale the 4K. If it had Canon Log, I’d stop looking and start saving right now but of course Canon has to be Canon about something. 

Of course, I believe the XF405 has 10bit 4:22 output through SDI... so add on a BMVA and the camera becomes a little bit more for certain projects that need that little extra.

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The 405 has been tested by the EBU folks, and the two profiles have 9.7 and 10.7 stops of DR. The XC10 tested at just over 11, so if DR is why you'd want C-log then you might still be satisfied.

The full report is here.

https://tech.ebu.ch/files/live/sites/tech/files/shared/tech/tech3335_s27.pdf

Edit: just realised you were talking about the XF400. Doh!

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12 minutes ago, kye said:

The 405 has been tested by the EBU folks, and the two profiles have 9.7 and 10.7 stops of DR. The XC10 tested at just over 11, so if DR is why you'd want C-log then you might still be satisfied.

The full report is here.

https://tech.ebu.ch/files/live/sites/tech/files/shared/tech/tech3335_s27.pdf

Edit: just realised you were talking about the XF400. Doh!

Thanks, Kye!!! That was a very interesting read... I don’t think I’ve read one of their reports before but I’ll definitely look into them more in the future!

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1 hour ago, mercer said:

I’ve mentioned many times in the past how intrigued I am by the LS300. We speak of hybrids all the time on this site, but the LS300 could be the only camcorder/cinema camera hybrid on the market.

I don’t know if it’s the right camera for this specific goal, but it’s definitely an option.

But I do love the idea of a cinecorder... which is exactly how I will treat any possible camcorder purchase.

In the past day I have narrowed down my options to two, then up to three and back to two. Tomorrow I’ll change my mind again. Thank god I don’t have the money right now to buy one, because I may have ended up with three. Lol. 

You seem fairly knowledgeable on the camcorder offerings so what are your thoughts of the Panasonic UX-90? It’s on the cheaper end but seems to have most of the features of the 180? If I go this whole camcorder route, I could pick up the FZ2500 on the cheap... give it a real go this time to see how I get along with it and then pick up the UX-90 as the A-Cam to the FZ2500 B-Cam. My only problem with the UX-90 is that it’s a little on the bigger side compared to the Z-90 and XF-400 which are very compact.

I haven't used the UX-90 but, yes, looking at the spec and some videos it does seem to share much of the muchness of the FZ2500 so your progression path is sound from that point of view.

But I think its the much of a muchness aspect that might tie you up in a few knots in terms of choosing which of these systems to go for.

I don't think you can go that far wrong with any of them for what you are talking about and for the FZ2500/UX-90 combo you could just as easily read RX10x/Z-90 if you wanted to.

Having said that.....

If you break this down to basics in terms of wanting a camcorder then by camcorder you are basically saying something as a single self contained item you can put in a bag, take out, switch on and start shooting.

No mode switching, no additional filters, no lens swapping, no adapters, no dual audio, no rigging....Nothing. 

The funny thing about the Swiss Army Knife LS300 and the gazillion mount adapters and speed booster options that we can use to get it to play with almost every lens under the sun is that we often overlook the fact that it can actually be used in exactly the same way as the camcorders that you are looking at.

Just because it has an almost infinite interchangeable mount capability due to it having the MFT mount as its base, it doesn't mean we have to use it.

If we put a native MFT lens like the Olympus 12-100mm lens on it and leave it there then it is exactly like those other camcorders, with a similar footprint, but with one crucial difference of course which is its much larger sensor.

And that will give you much more of a muchness than the muchness of the other ones ;) 

The flexibility of the LS300 that is afforded by the mount then becomes an expansion option that you can choose to exploit or not rather than just its raison d'être as its often viewed.

If you never take that option and just leave the Olympus 12-100mm (or something similar) on it then it will just be a camcorder like the ones above but with a bigger sensor.

Which makes it a 4K Super35 sensor camcorder with 10x zoom for about £3.5K that you can add 4K60p, significant monitoring and ProRes recording to for another £500.

These are two really interesting videos from a few years ago by Rick Young about using the LS300.

The first is about just using it with MFT lenses and how surprised he was about how well they performed against his expectation but the second one is probably of more interest in that it looks at using it in the real world as a camcorder. Obviously, the job he was using it on was what we would call "video video" rather than cinematic so disregard the aesthetic but it offers some good honest insights as to how it performs in the true sense of being a camcorder rather than adding a load of modified lenses to it.

I remember you thinking about using a C100 for event work so I think it might also be informative from that point of view if you wanted to use the LS300 in that role.

Anyway, short answer, pick up a used FZ2500 and get on with it.

Longer answer, pick up a used LS300 and 12-100mm and get on with it in exactly the same way with a bit more room to breathe.

 

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@BTM_Pix thanks for the reply, and the suggestions. And yes, that is exactly what I am looking for with this camera.

I am definitely considering the LS300, for all of the reasons you’ve suggested and more.

And I may end up getting the FZ2500 regardless of this camcorder fancy. I have a very specific project I have in mind for that camera and there are a few features that really fit the bill. If I decide I like it, I may go ahead and get a UX-90 as well. From the few samples I’ve seen, that camera seems to be the most cinematic with the CineLike profiles.

The Sony Z90 also looks like an excellent choice with some decent samples floating around. I think the best part about the Z90 is the internal 10bit 4:22 1080p... it really is a camcorder version of the FS5, for 2 grand cheaper, which I find very appealing as I am a big fan of that camera’s 1080p output.

Not to bore you, but I am really surprised by these camcorders. You really have to use your imagination when you look at samples online because not many folks are using them for cinematic filmmaking... but after scouring the web, I have found positive traits with the Panasonic, Canon and Sony’s offerings.

The LS300 samples are a lot more obvious in their quality... which is why it is still on the list as well... just on the higher end that I was looking to spend.

Anyway, thanks again.

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41 minutes ago, mercer said:

 

Not to bore you, but I am really surprised by these camcorders. You really have to use your imagination when you look at samples online because not many folks are using them for cinematic filmmaking... but after scouring the web, I have found positive traits with the Panasonic, Canon and Sony’s offerings.

Thats the problem with them really in that they've largely been overlooked since the 5Dmk2 but they've still been ticking along in the background getting better with each iteration.

As a consequence, the majority of stuff you see online is still of the event/ENG type so doesn't really spark with a lot of people looking to do cinematic enough for them to look under the hood.

There is now definitely the air of camcorders being "something your uncle uses".

Forgetting that Spielberg is still someone's uncle ;) 

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46 minutes ago, Jadesroom said:

I use an FZ2500 and a DVX200 on my shoots.  Once a Ninja V arrives, I think I'll be pretty well set 🙂 for all my narrative needs.

How do you like the combo? The DVX looks amazing, with the bigger sensor, but may be a touch more than I want to spend... do you shoot a lot of narratives with the combo and if so, what are your thoughts?

I’m pretty familiar with the FZ2500. After buying and selling two of them, I always wish I had kept it... just something unique about that camera... it’s probably the 1080p quality and the push button slow motion. Yup that’s it.

17 minutes ago, BTM_Pix said:

Thats the problem with them really in that they've largely been overlooked since the 5Dmk2 but they've still been ticking along in the background getting better with each iteration.

As a consequence, the majority of stuff you see online is still of the event/ENG type so doesn't really spark with a lot of people looking to do cinematic enough for them to look under the hood.

There is now definitely the air of camcorders being "something your uncle uses".

Forgetting that Spielberg is still someone's uncle ;) 

Also it seems that camcorders get the video features we all want in stills cameras before the stills cameras get them... case in point the DVX200 and the Canon XF400 with its h.264 4K up to 60p.

And I have little doubt if some of the master directors were starting out today, they very well may shoot with a camcorder.

Re: the LS300... I wonder if any of those Olympus 4/3 f/2 zooms and adapter would work with it?

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20 minutes ago, mercer said:

Re: the LS300... I wonder if any of those Olympus 4/3 f/2 zooms and adapter would work with it?

I don't know anyone that has done it but I don't see why not.

By the way, if you use one of the Panasonic PZ servo zoom MFT lenses like the 14-42 or 45-175 (I think Olympus did one as well but I can't recall it off the top of my head) then you can map the zoom rocker on the camera to drive them.

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6 hours ago, mercer said:

Thanks Kye, this is a very logical approach with great points.

But if you’ve read my last couple comments you may understand my point about using a camcorder for CERTAIN projects.

As a hobbyist/diy/no budget/one man band filmmaker that has A LOT of movie ideas but only limited time and budget per project, I am looking for ways to be more productive with more creative freedom. For me, a camcorder could be the perfect tool for certain projects. For those projects, it wouldn’t be a B-Cam, it would be THEE-Cam.

As far as shallow depth of field goes, yeah when the XC10 was my only camera, I definitely missed lenses and shallow DOF, but anyone who has ever shot with a camcorder knows ways around that through composition and focal length... and it’s not like a 1” sensor is an iPhone.

What about the XC15?

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1 hour ago, BTM_Pix said:

I don't know anyone that has done it but I don't see why not.

By the way, if you use one of the Panasonic PZ servo zoom MFT lenses like the 14-42 or 45-175 (I think Olympus did one as well but I can't recall it off the top of my head) then you can map the zoom rocker on the camera to drive them.

Cool feature. How much of the 12mm or 14mm micro4/3 zooms are vignetted in S35mm mode?

55 minutes ago, Mattias Burling said:

And on for example EF glass the zoom rocker can control the focus. Very nifty.

That’s pretty cool!

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12 hours ago, BTM_Pix said:

Yes, looking at the prices of their other lenses, it might well be a very interesting option.


What are our guesses for the price of the 25-100mm T2.9?

I'm guessing (hoping? Praying?) $2K

All of their lenses have been sub $1K (so to expect the 24-100mm to be double their most expensive one isn't too unreasonable??):

https://www.venuslens.net/shop/?product_orderby=price&product_order=desc

Until their new extreme 24mm f4 2x Macro Probe lens, which is US$1.5K

But looking at their competition, then even $5K could be seen as "cheap"! :-/ 

Unless you feel the Fujinon MK series is their closest competitor (which it kinda is... and isn't.... as yeah, they're also a low priced cine zoom! Very appealing. But not PL mount), then the Venus Optics zoom has to come in around US$3K or lower to be competitive against the Fujinon. 

 

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