Wednesday, June 21, 2006

Elation Yields to Reality

I carried the new camera into the department, anxious to see what my recorded slow motion video would look like for the first time. I had shot video of dripping water after a storm and leaves blowing in the wind at 60 frames per second, twice the frame rate (hence, slowed down by half) as normal. After downloading a driver to the PowerBook, I opened the 4GB, transferrable P2 card. Inside the card were a number of folders. Inside the VIDEO folder were some files, all locked and in "MXF" format. I never recalled mxf files before.

The painful reality hit.

Forgetting that the HVX200 doesn't record in MPEG format (a widely-known video file that can be easily viewed in any video-capable computer), I learned that users will need Final Cut Pro, or perhaps, Final Cut Studio HD, to view and edit the files. Doh! I totally forgot. But I had told them that I needed the software back in January or so, after I had attended an Apple Final Cut conference in Washington. I had written all the information down. I had done research on what kind of upgrades that my G4 PowerBook needed. I recommended that we upgrade a G5 desktop with video and memory upgrades to make certain that editing and training could start immediately when the camera arrived. I left my PowerBook in May when I left for vacation, with information on software and hardware upgrades and recommendations by Apple. But nothing happened. My PowerBook is still the same and the G5 hasn't been touched. So we have a $6,000 paperweight, until this gets done.

Anyone considering the HVX200 as a purchase, make certain that you have TWICE the amount to purchase other gear! You need editing software and perhaps, hardware upgrades to view the high definition video. You'll need a high def monitor to view the files. And the camera needs extra batteries, a GOOD "fluid head" tripod and maybe a monopod, a wireless microphone system (get one with at least 2 different channels and transmitters, for at least 2 subjects to wear), and you will learn that the lens can only reach so far. Some consider the add-on wide angle and telephoto adapters to screw onto the front of the camera's lens, but if you have a battery of still camera lenses (as we do), consider purchasing a 35mm lens conversion kit. The kit can allow you to place your existing 35mm lenses onto a unit that mounts over the front of the video camera's lens, which will make your video have a more limited depth of field, like film. And you need mass storage for shooting and filing. A 100GB hard disk recorder will set you back well over a grand at current prices, and you must continue to expand storage as you fill disk drives with video, which can run a gig per minute. Other add-ons that I have considered are a stabilizing vest system and a Stickypod (to mount the camera on windows, vehicles and other places).

Don't buy this camera just to look good. If your sound and shooting balance aren't in order, your work will simply suck raw eggs. Sure, you can call it "raw footage," but that gimmick only goes so far. Like, for wars and breaking news. So feel free to take it to Iraq (or the latest country battling with civil war or violence), or just buy an emergency network scanner and chase ambulances every day. But really be true to yourself and add up all the costs to see what purchasing the camera will cost. You're really buying a system, not simply, a camera.

I had this thought out months ago, but now, I have a camera that I can't truly use (and learn from using), until software and hardware are purchased. Don't scrimp on your purchases, either. You may buy a cheap wireless mic system and hate the sound so much that you wind up buying a better one, which would cost you more by the end, than if you had simply done your homework and weed through the reviews to get one that can give you the most for your budget.

I chose the HVX200 because the files would be saved as files and wouldn't be recorded as a video stream. Video streams will take as long as the length of the video to copy to disk. Files are much easier to manage. And this is needed for time-sensitive events, which I shoot all the time. Do your homework and weed through the mass of video camera hardware for which camera SYSTEM truly fits your needs AND your budget. But don't sacrifice your accessories so much that you lose money by repurchasing gear because of shoddy workmanship.

In the meanwhile, I have placed the $6,000 paperweight and "moth balls" into a camera bag and stuffed it on the shelf, hoping that the day comes that we get the equipment needed so that I can make use of the gear we purchased.


Switcher said...

Seing that you are interested in video editing and music, I am taking on me to suggest you a web site you have to try. . You can do your own video by switching between 4 cameras of a live show. It is a lot of fun. It is free.

You will find a song by Jonas and next week, Roger Hodgson from Supertramp will be there with "Give a little bit". Try it, you will like it.

Light For All said...

Switcher, thanks for the suggestion! I did try the site just to see, but it's only for the PC environment, and I'm strictly Mac, which isn't allowed in that site. But I'm actually shooting digital film in the field for news-gathering.