I was doing some research last semester for my Visual Anthropology course and came across some excellent online articles on low-budget lighting:
Video: March 2007 Archives
Following on the heels of the Zoom H4 (which apart from not having a time/date stamp would be perfect for me), Samson has announced the Zoom H2 at NAMM 2007. Now this looks perfect except for the lack of XLR inputs! But it does have a time/date stamp. The specs are from the Zoom website:
- One point stereo microphone design
- Realize Mid/Side (MS) Stereo technique by using 3 mic capsules configuration and digital signal processing
- Switchable pickup angle between left and right channel, choose 90° for single voice or instrument, or 120° for many voices and instruments, arranged across the stage
- Also Switchable cardioid pattern as front, rear and omni direction
- Finally record 360° sound as 2ch data or 4ch data simultaneously
- Built-in USB interface with audio interface function, usable as a USB mic
- WAV 96kHz/48kHz/44.1kHz and MP3 up to 320kbps VBR data format
- EXT MIC IN can connect general plug-in-power stereo mic (new to the H4)
- Time stamp function (new to the H4)
You can faintly see the SD logo on the prototype photo listed, so I'm assuming it's a SD-based device.
The best thing was the price: $199!!!!!!! It should come out in several months, not a moment too soon in my opinion.
My name is Loren and I'm a media grad student and documentary filmmaker in Buffalo, NY who stumbled across your blog some time ago and have been following it for a while now. I have some technical questions about the film you just finished since I know you're working in the HDV format and am currently working on a full length doc in HDV as well.
What I'm wondering, assuming your shooting ratio for the project was relatively high, is what kind of workflow you used to deal with all the material? Could you maybe do a post describing it for your blog?
Anything from whether you used native HDV or an intermediate codec for editing, software / hardware issues you ran into that were frustrating, and hd delivery format for festivals (if you're using one) to whether you captured / logged your tapes at night during the time you were shooting or left the capturing / logging process entirely until after you had completed filming.
Your blog gives a lot of insight into the tools that you use and I'd love to hear more details about both your experience shooting ethnographic documentary in HDV and your overall production process.
In the field, I usually operate as a one-person crew. If I'm lucky, my partner can help me with a second camera and do interviews, but usually I am by myself. Sound is important to me, so I try to use wireless lav mics or use dual-system sound with a digital audio recorder. I shoot everything to HDV and label each cassette with the date, sequence number, and topic, and camera name. For example: 20051221b-BETHEL – Canon is the second tape I shot on December 21st, 2005 at the Bethel Community using my Canon XL-H1.
I write daily fieldnotes and I note the tape numbers in my fieldnotes where possible. Otherwise, I just correlate them later by date and time. I don't otherwise have time to log and review tapes in the field. I also carry a very minimal fieldkit which doesn't include a preview monitor (except the one built-into the camera). This has led to some problems -- noticeably that I have fluorescent flickering in some sequences of Bethel because Hokkaido uses a different power frequency than western Japan. This was not noticed until I went into post.
After the first fieldwork period, I went through the tapes that I knew had core material and I made a rough cut with them in SD mode (standard def using the built-in downconverter on the XL-H1). I sequenced a few shots together in iMovie to get a sense of what the film could be about. This gave me a sense of what I was missing (hospital life, community activities, etc.). When I went back to the field again, I shot those additional sequences.
Back home, I organized and logged all of the tapes. I had about 40 hours of tape for the two shoots in Hokkaido. Since the film is about 60 minutes long, that's a 40:1 shooting ratio. Pretty high, but I'm not very skilled. I captured and logged everything into Final Cut Pro. With each hour of HDV about 8 gigabytes, the 40 hours fit fairly well onto a 500 gibabyte hard drive that I dedicated to this project. Since i was using Final Cut Pro HDV, I stayed with the HDV codec rather than converting to a HD or intermediate codec that would take up much more space on the hard drive. The trade-off was some additional processing time, but the Quad-Core Mac Pro made that less important than it could've been.
Logging all the tape was a major pain and a major project. My partner Hisako helped here too. :-)
From there, we went through the tape logs and highlighted what we thought were key sequences. I storyboarded some of them on the corkboard in my office. And then I made some rough sequences and patched them together.
Right now, I'm outputting and distributing the various rough cuts to standard-def DVDs. I am editing in HDV and only downconverting at the final moment in Compressor. The resolution of the standard def DVDs that I'm burning isn't quite as high as I'd like -- I understand that there is some magic involved in getting Compressor to downconvert HDV into SD properly. In any case, I'm excited that the latest version of Compressor handles burning HD formats to DVD-Rs for playback on HD-DVD drives, so as soon as the prices drop on those, I'll implement that into my output formats.
The long-awaited 6x wide-angle high-def lens arrived for my XL-H1. The new Canon HD Video Lens 6x XL 3.4-20.4mm L has a 35mm equivalent perspective of 24.5 to 147mm, making it ideal for indoor videography, especially in cramped Japanese houses! There's a manual iris control ring, although the focus and zoom are still servo controlled.
First impressions: HOLY SMOKE THIS IS A BIG SUCKER. It's considerably larger and heavier than the standard 20x lens. The lens hood itself is humongous, almost a matte box in itself. It also makes the XL-H1 even more front-heavy than it currently is, so you'll need some sort of brace unless you have forearms of steel. Also, I didn't notice until it arrived but the 6x zoom does not have Image Stabilization in it. You don't really need it for wide angle work, but it would've been nice on the longer end.
The XL-H1 needs to be flashed up to version 126.96.36.199 in order to support the new iris ring (I was very confused at first since I ignored the enclosed SD card in my haste to play with the lens). The flash card is provided and after you've flashed it, you have a nice 16mb card to store your presets. I haven't learned if there are any other new features in the 188.8.131.52 software except the iris support.
The price for the 6x wide is set at MSRP $3000 and most retailers have it at $2700, but I bought it through the Canon educational program at about $2300.
Once I have some test footage shot, I'll post them.