Tom Ramcigam (magicmarmot) wrote,
Tom Ramcigam

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I've been considering options for filmmaking stuff. My current camera/video deck/capture system is pretty much obsolete, culled from the last century's attempt at a home-based business or two. The whole kit and caboodle still works fine, but it's cumbersome to use and with the avant of High-Def production, it's running into dinosaur territory.

I started a couple of years ago looking at whether I should upgrade or wait. At the time I chose to wait, because I was looking for a camera with features specific to filmmaking, and the cameras that were available at the time were in the $100k or higher category, completely unreachable on my meager income.

Shortly after that, Panasonic came out with the HVX-200, which was a mostly excellent choice. It was a true high-def camera, capable of some serious shooting, and with features specifically designed for filmmaking (Midnight was shot primarily with an HVX-200 if I'm not mistaken). The downsides that kept it from hitting the territory of perfect were the lack of interchangable lenses and the relatively small (1/3") CCDs, but both were features I could live with.

Price tag on this puppy runs just under $6000 for a pretty good system. B&H has a full production kit that's $13k and includes everything but a follow focus, which is available separately. That was pretty much the system that I was shooting for, which has sort of become the carrot on the end of the stick for me getting the house done.

Recently, the filmmaking bug has bit me yet again. I was considering picking up a small relatively inexpensive (like sub-$1000) camcorder that could serve yeoman duty for little non-intense shooting projects, so I started looking. I found some nifty new advancements in camcorder technology, where you can get tapeless high-def for the sub-$1000 range (AVCHD) that's pretty impressive.

But I hesitate. I want something that's going to create good images, and I tend to be pretty picky about the images. So I start thinking that a DVX-100B camera isn't that much more (just north of $2000), and it functions pretty well as a filmmaking camera, though it is limited to standard-def and tape-based recording only. And realistically, I could afford a DVX-100B sometime early next year.

But then I start thinking that maybe I should check and see what else is out there. I still like the HVX-200, and maybe I should just wait, finish the house, do the refi and get the big $13,000 package.

Today I discovered that at the last NAB show (like a week ago), Panasonic announced the "big brother" of the HVX-200, the HPX-500.

Where the HVX-200 is on the high end of the prosumer range, the HPX-500 is squarely in the professional realm. It offers not only detachable lenses with an industry-standard bayonet mount, it has 2/3" (full-size) CCDS, as well as a swath of other features. It's basically the full-featured filmmaker's camera, the electronic version. It also has a wider dynamic exposure range (easily two stops beyond the HVX-200) and handles low-light extremely well. (10 stops of exposure range, FWIW.)

Price tag on this puppy is $14,000 without the lens. Add another $10k for a lens (and that's one of the cheap ones, they go up to $60k for standard HD lenses and way beyond that for the high-end stuff), and the bundles run in the $24-25k range, give or take a couple thousand. Add on the accessories like a mattebox and high-def monitor, batteries, carrying case and the rest and you're pushing into the $30k range.

Considering that is a straight-up comparable camera to the high-def cameras that shot the last couple of Star Wars sequels, and it makes you sit up and take notice. Those cameras were in the $300k range undressed, and though they shot with prime lenses that cost significantly more than my yearly salary, we're still talking full-on digital replacement of film awesomeness.

At the time I was first looking, I was in serious consideration of doing production full-time. Since then I've scaled back my yearnings to gifted amateur status, but I still have a very close kinship with visual effects that require the best quality images to start with.

The downside of the big brother is that it's a full-size camera again. That's not a big deal for larger shoots where I'd be bringing things like a dolly, crane, the full lighting and grip rig, and a film crew, but that's also one of the reasons that I'm not shooting as much with my current stuff. The HVX-200 is small enough to carry out on a day shoot without requiring sherpas, and could go on a trip pretty easily.

So for now, as much as the HPX-500 is making me leak bodily fluids of pleasure, I'm still targeting the HVX-200 dream package.

Not gonna happen tonight.
Tags: filmmaking, money, toys

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