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Author Topic: Choosing a Low Cost Production Camcorder In Early 2014  (Read 11725 times)
Peter McLennan
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« on: March 08, 2014, 01:06:45 PM »
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The camcorder market is heating up.  Sony will soon begin selling two new 4K camcorders retailing under $2K.  "4K for $2K", say the marketing boys.

The AX-100 for $2000
http://www.amazon.com/Sony-FDR-AX100-Video-Camera-3-5-Inch/dp/B00HNJWVIA/ref=sr_1_1?ie=UTF8&qid=1394304567&sr=8-1&keywords=sony+4k+camcorder+fdr-ax100


And the CX900 for $1500
http://www.amazon.com/Sony-HDRCX900-Video-Camera-3-5-Inch/dp/B00HNJWVNK/ref=sr_1_3?ie=UTF8&qid=1394304615&sr=8-3&keywords=sony+4k+camcorder

Although these camcorders are tempting, they come with bleeding-edge constraints - not the least of which is problem of editing the new Sony "consumer" XAVC-S long-GOP Codec on anything less than high-spec hardware.

Both these new camcorders use an Exmor 1" chip, which is both tempting for image quality reasons and scary for focus reasons.  Narrow DOF and unsharp consumer viewfinders are not good partners.


Last fall, LuLa introduced the Sony AX1, which uses a half-inch chip and currently sells for $4500.  While a more capable production camera in many ways than those listed above, the newer, cheaper cameras with their larger chips may actually produce better imagery.  The AX1 does offer dual XLR audio inputs - a significant advantage for those who consider sound important, too.

http://www.luminous-landscape.com/reviews/camcorders/sony_ax1_4k_camcorder.shtml

Michael stated that this would be the camera of choice for LuLa productions going forward, yet the camera wasn't used on the recent Antarctica adventure.  I'm left wondering if this was an availability issue or something else that forced this choice.

I'd be very interested to hear informed opinion on these topics before I engage the booth staff at NAB next month.

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Chris Sanderson
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« Reply #1 on: March 08, 2014, 01:15:22 PM »
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The IQ, price & lens choice of the GH3/GH4 systems from Panasonic trump all of those 'large' Sony cameras - for my use at least. I also prefer the 'look'

I looked very carefully at the GH4 with add-on XLR/SDI box at the WPPI show last week. Panasonic have made large strides toward making it a true broadcast production camera for global use.
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Christopher Sanderson
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« Reply #2 on: March 08, 2014, 09:32:43 PM »
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Thanks, Chris.  Very impressive work on your latest from Antarctica, as others have said. 

I've not considered a DSLR for motion work due to the viewfinder issues, but you seem to have sorted it out. Perhaps Panasonic has made this easier. My D800 is useless for most video work, IMHO.

I'll check 'em out in Vegas.   Thanks for your prompt reply.




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bcooter
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« Reply #3 on: March 10, 2014, 06:26:10 AM »
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The IQ, price & lens choice of the GH3/GH4 systems from Panasonic trump all of those 'large' Sony cameras - for my use at least. I also prefer the 'look'

I looked very carefully at the GH4 with add-on XLR/SDI box at the WPPI show last week. Panasonic have made large strides toward making it a true broadcast production camera for global use.

Plus 1.

Nothing for the buck will do why a gh3/4 will do.  Nothing, especially since the gh4 has xlr inputs.  The only downside is working to a recorder to get 10 bit 422 and an external power source like a v lock, but heck, adding the v lock, an aja and the black brick under the gh4 is still pretty small.

IMO

BC
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Sareesh Sudhakaran
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« Reply #4 on: March 10, 2014, 07:25:10 AM »
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I'm not sure the GH4 is a good enough camera:

4K codec is as bad as 28 Mbps AVCHD
Recording limit for 1080p is 29 minutes, 4K possibly lower
The XLR unit is $2K. I would prefer to have a Sound Devices MixPre-D for audio - signal can be fed back into whatever camera.
The entire kit is $3.5K

For better quality, codec, similar form factor (once you tack on that crappy module) and SDI, the Blackmagic Production Camera 4K can do both RAW and Prores (for now only Prores 444 though), with a global shutter. If you have a fast drive, it's smoother to edit 880 Mbps prores than it is 100 Mbps AVCHD. And of course, one gets the full version of Resolve. And, you can record on cheaper ($/GB) SSDs. And you get ultrascope. And it's $1,000 cheaper. In fact, the real competitor is the original BMCC - how many would know 2.5K Prores uprezzed to 4K over heavily compressed 4:2:0 4K?

If I'm locked in a head-to-head battle with my clone - I know which one will win. The GH4 is more unhacked GH2 than GH3...but we'll know for sure come May.
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« Reply #5 on: March 12, 2014, 06:45:32 AM »
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I'm not sure the GH4 is a good enough camera:

4K codec is as bad as 28 Mbps AVCHD
Recording limit for 1080p is 29 minutes, 4K possibly lower
The XLR unit is $2K. I would prefer to have a Sound Devices MixPre-D for audio - signal can be fed back into whatever camera.
The entire kit is $3.5K

For better quality, codec, similar form factor (once you tack on that crappy module) and SDI, the Blackmagic Production Camera 4K can do both RAW and Prores (for now only Prores 444 though), with a global shutter. If you have a fast drive, it's smoother to edit 880 Mbps prores than it is 100 Mbps AVCHD. And of course, one gets the full version of Resolve. And, you can record on cheaper ($/GB) SSDs. And you get ultrascope. And it's $1,000 cheaper. In fact, the real competitor is the original BMCC - how many would know 2.5K Prores uprezzed to 4K over heavily compressed 4:2:0 4K?

If I'm locked in a head-to-head battle with my clone - I know which one will win. The GH4 is more unhacked GH2 than GH3...but we'll know for sure come May.



Shooting 4k at full rez or shooting to a 10bit recorder, the panasonic could be the mouse in the room of elephants,just a 4,000 lb mouse.

It's hard to tell until any of us use it, as digital can fool all of us.

The gh3 at 4:2:0 was suppose to be behind the gh2 but I use mine this week, continue to use them and they shoot way above their fighting weight.

The gh4 could do the same and if it does it's a camera that Canon, RED and Arri won't be mentioning.

We'll see, I'll order one, if it is what I hope, I'll order two.

IMO

BC
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Jim Pascoe
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« Reply #6 on: March 16, 2014, 04:58:46 AM »
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Thanks, Chris.  Very impressive work on your latest from Antarctica, as others have said. 

I've not considered a DSLR for motion work due to the viewfinder issues, but you seem to have sorted it out. Perhaps Panasonic has made this easier. My D800 is useless for most video work, IMHO.

I'll check 'em out in Vegas.   Thanks for your prompt reply.


Peter - the D800 has an optical VF so it is not possible to use when shooting video.  The Panasonics of course have an EVF and are so are very easy to shoot either at eye level or using the rear LCD.  Personally as most of my shooting is hand-held the EVF is brilliant.

Jim
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Peter McLennan
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« Reply #7 on: March 16, 2014, 12:13:25 PM »
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Thanks for your comments, Jim.  My D800 is poor for video not only because I'm limited to the non-orientable LCD panel for viewfinding, but because the resulting video, however shot, is crap.  Whatever line-skipping process they use to generate HD video doesn't work well, at least to my eyes.  It's also far too large and heavy for any kind of hand-held use.

The D800 also has effectively zero audio capabilities.  Provision for an outboard mic is poor. Sound is just as important as picture.

The search continues.  Vegas awaits.
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Peter McLennan
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« Reply #8 on: March 19, 2014, 11:42:26 AM »
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Chris, your recent videos from WPPI in Vegas - were they shot with the GH3?  How do you manage two independent audio channels?  Did you take a mixer of some kind?

Very impressive performance by any measure.  The LVCC is a video hostile environment
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bcooter
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« Reply #9 on: March 19, 2014, 12:41:15 PM »
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I can only answer for myself, though we've used the gh3's on three continents without much issue.

The gh4's will be better in most ways, though I think the gh4 will be a much better 2k camera than 4k, but it's there if you need it.

When it comes to sound, people view it from a technical level, but nothing improves sound more than planning.  Things like sound blankets to stop echo and bounce, excellent lavs if you have a place to hide them and small pads to stop clothes noise or chaffing, but most importantly a good sound tech that can mix through his system and send the signal to your camera.    It might not be as pristine as what the sound tech has on his recorder, but it's so good it takes a trained ear to hear the difference.

Most people think a good sound tech or sound team is there for the technique (and the art) and that's true, but the main function for a sound tech is to listen for issues.     Real issues, not just the obvious like a car passing or someone tripping in the studio.

Also during a multicam shoot a good sound tech should at the very minimum have every camera wired to receive the sound from his mixer.   Even if you don't want to use it and replace it in post, it will save you hours of syncing and to me this is a deal breaker.  Any sound tech that won't wire to my cameras I pass on because whatever I save in his costs I'll lose in post.

But one thing to remember with video.  Good and cheap don't usually go together.   The gh4 will probably come the closest, but to really get the most out of the camera will require the module, an atomos or aja recorder for 10bit which requires a vlock or anton bauer battery for power which will make the system much larger than you'd excpect.   Not Arri large, or even RED epic large but still not dslr small.

The one thing I suggest is to buy some medium priced headphones.    I have 4 sets of expensive headphones and they do too good a job of filtering out small issues, like a hmi hum through the mains.  I use a Panasonic RT-ht67 in white so I can always grab it.   It doesn't filter well, but it hears everything good and bad.    We had an hmi pack up and start humming.   It was very slight, but I caught it in two seconds, the sound tech couldn't hear it because his headphones were too good.  (I know I'll get blowback from this too good quote).

Then 1/4 way into the shoot he finally heard it.  Luckily it was on a higher frequency and we could remove the hum, which is very rare.

But back to cameras.  I've owned most, used a lot of brands and it all depends on your budget, your post workflow and of course your budget.    If you want a film like look (and not just dof or frame rate() then arri and red do a film like look.  If you want a video look, Sony has that covered along with others.

If you want somewhere in between the panasonics get there with very fast lenses, professional supports  and with a little post work can be made filmic, but you have to use them as you would a larger camera for the full effect.

IMO

BC
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Chris Sanderson
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« Reply #10 on: March 19, 2014, 01:12:43 PM »
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Chris, your recent videos from WPPI in Vegas - were they shot with the GH3?  How do you manage two independent audio channels?  Did you take a mixer of some kind?

All shot with the GH3. I tried something new for sound since I did not want to use radio mics in such a high-traffic area. I purchased a couple of Rode Smart Lavs and plugged them into iPhones running the Rode Rec iapp*.

Worked quite well with an iPhone for each voice. The non-locking 1/4 audio jack is the main weakness along with an inability to monitor 'live'. But given the location, not bad.

A mixer is almost impossible in these run & gun situations. I rent a Sound Devices unit occasionally when doing multi-channel interviews but the Zoom H6 really now makes that unnecessary.

* ignore the poor reviews on the App Store - the app works really well if you know what you're doing
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Christopher Sanderson
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« Reply #11 on: March 19, 2014, 03:36:53 PM »
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Thanks, BC. In many ways, sound is harder than picture. 

Thanks for the link, Chris.  That looks like a good solution if you're prepared to do a little syncing of the rushes later.  A much better idea than packing a mixer and a lot of cables onto the showroom floor.

Maybe there'll be a bunch of GH3s on the market soon.
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Morgan_Moore
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« Reply #12 on: March 22, 2014, 04:48:12 PM »
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Dont know if this is relevant to this thread but just wanted to give a shout out to the SonyFS700 and Odysey 7Q recorder with the just released firmware.

-Light
-E lensmount takes everything
-S35
-XLR
-stabilised and AF lenses available
-up to 240FPS
-60FPS 4k RAW!
-1080 422 from 4k

Ive downloaded a couple of the 4kRaw files and put them in Capture One - really this is a proper file, like an 8mp from a DSLR

4k raw is super data heavy but that shows in the file.. another 4000lb mouse, well more cat or something

To record 10bit 4k on the GH4 one will of course need a recorder too, like the odysey.

$20k for these two cams seems, well almost like the wait is over!

S






« Last Edit: March 22, 2014, 04:49:49 PM by Morgan_Moore » Logged

Sam Morgan Moore Cornwall
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Peter McLennan
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« Reply #13 on: March 22, 2014, 08:22:33 PM »
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Wow.  Pretty impressive specs, even if it is about 10X out of my budget.  It'll be fun to check that out in Vegas.

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Peter McLennan
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« Reply #14 on: March 23, 2014, 06:47:42 PM »
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A video review of the Panasonic GH4.

These guys at The Camera Store in Calgary seem to know what they're talking about.  Their videos are quite well produced, too.

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=2XHBKNI8xBE&list=UUqpOf_Nl5F4tjwlxOVS6h8A

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bcooter
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« Reply #15 on: March 24, 2014, 05:24:52 AM »
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4k raw is super data heavy but that shows in the file.. another 4000lb mouse, well more cat or something


S



Morgan,

Are you editing in 4k?   Do you know anyone outside of Hollywood (that spends huge volumes of time and money on conforming), that is really editing and  working in 4k output without using proxy's?

I've tried and done a lot of semi research in this and working proxy's and then conforming to 4k works, but of course you then need a delivery vehicle.

Anyway sorry to get off topic, but right now I think 4k is a buzz word more than an actual benefit.     Don't misunderstand me, I have a thousand hours of RED footage in 4k, it holds up well at 2k, very well, but I've yet to have anyone ask for a 4k output.

The fs 700 may be a good camera, but if it has the color bounce of the fs100 I have then I'll pass.   Actually the fs100 really soured me on all things sony, as the camera could be there, but so many of the details like the viewer, the switches were just flimsy and not that useful.

For the price it equals that of a R1 RED and when I finally used a gh3 for my work it just blew away any smaller cam video.  

It may be 420 8 bit but it's hard to tell it unless in certain situations like backlit, or high very high contrast, where the RED really holds up.

One thing I noticed in debayering and downsampling RED footage to 2k was working in ancient fcp 7 I could do a slow zoom to 148% and never see any real degradation, or rasterizing in the image.   Any 2k camera I've used you can't crop in that tight.

Now with the gh4, if it has the color of the gh3 and especially the autofocus, I'll be in line to buy it immediately.   The panasonic is not film like looking of the RED's it's sharp but appears smoother, though with some work it can make a pretty file.

I guess I'm a little confused with the bit rate of the gh4 at 100 mbs, vs, 200 mbs all intra at 2k.   Either way it will be a camera that probably downsamples well, or either shoots great 2k if used with the module and a recorder, though for the average production, if it is 20% better than the gh3 it will be very good.

IMO

BC

P.S.   I'm not really against the fs700, (except for that cra__y snorkel focus thing that keeps falling down), but  when you compare costs of the camera, the 4k module and a atmos or aja recorder, an fs700 is 20 grand where in the same configuration the panasonic is less than 1/2.

I'm not talking to some custom people on how to configure a gh4 with the module and a recorder that resides underneath the camera so I can shoot it like a dslr.    I do like that forum factor and use it all the time.

PPS:  The only group I see really pushing 4k delivery is the TV makers.    3d went bust, few people buy new TV's every year and Pansonic, Samsung and especially Sony are just hoping beyond hope that the world adopts 4k delivery.

I think they're thinking in the past because of the metrics I've read, everyone, including myself watches a lot more content on a pad than they do on a traditional television set.

PPPS:    For the OP, I'd strongly suggest a gh4 for $1600 a handful of sd cards and stick with 2k.    The gh3 would be close but the gh4 gives you an opportunity to grow with the module and xlr sound inputs and sdi output for monitors or a recorder.


IMO

BC

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Morgan_Moore
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« Reply #16 on: March 24, 2014, 08:57:21 AM »
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Im not shooting 4k no, nor delivering, but I would like a 1080 file that after you crop out the mic from the top of the shot and grade it the file looks something like a still file from a D3 scaled down to 1080.

True 1080.

Ive also done some green stuff and feel that even a good 1080 10bit is not that good.

My feeling is the GH4 for example in 4k will deliver those things.

The fs700 in DNG the file really just looks like a 2006 still - 8mp of raw goodness- I saw no funny colours or Sony wonk.. and I never took the chimney out of the delivery box Smiley

Really I feel like the 700/O7q probably sort of makes the $50k cams redundant, it really does.

And yep IMO for the OP or anyone else I think the GH4/Brick is a great start, only missing ND filters,

Id wait till after NAB in case panny do a AF200 being the GH4 in the AF100 box, but that is just a dream really..

S






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Sam Morgan Moore Cornwall
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« Reply #17 on: March 24, 2014, 02:26:01 PM »
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Ive also done some green stuff and feel that even a good 1080 10bit is not that good.

My feeling is the GH4 for example in 4k will deliver those things.

S









Late last year we had a difficult green screen, (long story).   

I tried every stock key and nothing really worked without multiple passes and masking.  We had to produce 12 videos two to three cam shots from each video and I priced it out to my effects studio.  They wanted $5,000 to $18,000 per video which pushed us over the budget.

Somewhere in one of my computers i had an older plug in of Primatte.  Red Giant sells it I think in one of their suites.

Anyway, It worked on all the footage but it took a lot of fine tuning.

Though I had shot most of the footage on REDs debayered and transcoded to 422 2k, we did have some footage from the gh3, 4:2:0 8 bit, transcoded to 422 and I tested that and it keyed fine.

In fact since it was smoother it transcoded easier than the RED as the RED is built like kodak vision and has some visable noise in the midtones to shadows.   It's pretty when used by itself, but when keying I could see movement in the shadow areas (mostly because I was really studying the keying settings).

I thought it was the keyer, but went back to the source footage and it was there so as I said I just layered in the dark areas, slightly smoothed and crushed them and all was fine.

Primatte is a great keyer,

The beauty of fcp 7 (yes I tried this in fcp X) is 7 can really be used for composition.  With the primatte key some data was lost, so we keyed that data back in layered it in the time line and rendered.

Worked beautifully and the videos shipped.

IMO

BC
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« Reply #18 on: March 24, 2014, 04:31:54 PM »
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Mine was four people in a wide shot - seemed pretty thin at 1080, but then I guess I was peeping and failing to consider the final output which will doubtless be tiny.

Again I think 4k has a role more for you Mr Coots than average cinematographer. All those billboards, uprights, space for copy and the like..

S
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Sam Morgan Moore Cornwall
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Chris Sanderson
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« Reply #19 on: March 24, 2014, 11:55:01 PM »
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...Id wait till after NAB in case panny do a AF200 being the GH4 in the AF100 box, but that is just a dream really..
...
I asked a Panny person that question directly and was essentially told, "No, no AF200"

Would have been good - imo
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Christopher Sanderson
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