Sucked in to the world of video…

Posted by Rick Burnett on January 21st, 2009 filed in General News

My quest into video started with my D90, since I was trying to hit two birds with one stone; get a great DSLR and have great video as well. Score on the first part, epic fail on the second. Before going into more detail, there is the question of why…

I have no desire to be a camera operator, or even a director, as the discipline and technique required is just too much of a commitment. That said, I do enjoy concepting ideas and taking nice video of things I’d like to remember. My requirement was high definition because I like the freedom of higher resolution in that whatever shoots high-def, can be used as a B or C camera on projects. My Sony TRV which shoots SD is great for some things and absolutely not for most of what I want to do. For our 120 Mins work, it’s pretty good! Given it is single CCD it doesn’t do night work that well, however, you can shoot lighter and fix with some color correction in Final Cut which can come out looking much better.

The D90 looked to be an amazing buy. Even with a max of 5 minutes of 720p record time, I could have lived with that. Just the ability to use Nikkor lens’s had be giddy. The reality is that the technology is not there in the Nikon. There are four huge problems with this camera (and the Canon 5DMkIII also suffers from many of theses as well).

1. Jello or Rolling Shutter. The data transfer is just not fast enough with the encoding and so when quick pans or movements are captured on the sensor, it literally looks how jello responds to being moved. For static shots on a tripod I can still capture great quality, but for ANYTHING that has just a bit too much, the jello takes over.

2. The compression algorithm doesn’t do a great job of downrezing the image from the CMOS sensor. Post work is required to fix it, and that is a pain in the neck.

3. Fluorescent lights cause some crazy waves sometimes in the material, which again doesn’t look good and is very hard to fix (for me anyways).

4. No control of the exposure setting, or any of about four other settings I’d like to make on the fly. Because of this, you have to use the exposure lock and try and find a visual around you to get the exposure to what you want. This is the biggest pain in the neck.

Granted, three of these things could be fixed with a firmware update, I’ve not seen anything. The rolling shutter issues is the biggest one and really disappoints me to no end.

What I really want is a RED SCARLETT S35 to play with, but the camera is not out yet and the investment is $10k, which means that is not going to happen. If I had that kind of cash, I’d be paying off more of my car or something.

After talking with most of the people I work with that do film, I learned about an easy DIY 35mm adapter system that I can build and use on a standard ‘burrito’ camcorder. Before I introduce you to the camera or the DIY instructions, let me take you on a little visual journey of some material made with the camera I am looking at and with the DIY 35mm adapter (or the ones made by letus and a few other companies that all produce relatively similar results).

Sample 1

Sample 2

Sample 3

Sample 4

Now granted, color correction plays a strong part in visual perception, these clips illustrate great clarity, excellent depth of field, and detail capture that is just AMAZING for this level of a camera. So, you probably already saw in the videos the different cameras that I have referenced, mostly the HV20 and the HV30. I have gone with the HV30…

Which is also known as a ‘burrito’ cam.  Now, the one disadvantage to this camera is that it still uses tape.  That said, having done quite a bit of research, the newer Canon models like the HF100, HF10, HF11, HG10, HG20 and on which use either flash or an internal HD do not have as great of picture quality as the CMOS sensor in the HV20 and HV30.  While I have not personally done the tests to prove or disprove this, it seems pretty universal that the HV20 and HV30 are less susceptible to issues when fast panning and/or rapid movement.  I hope that over the next few years they really work out these issues with CMOS sensors because it seems like such a small hurdle to get over that would provide so much for people.

After a bunch of research on some of the commercial adapters, I decided to build my own.  The Letus mini is $700 without any lens.  For about $300 I could build my own WITH lens and have the option of installing different focusing screens if I wanted to experiment with them.  Daniel Schweinert has created an excellent website on DIY 35mm adapters for a variety of cameras, although the focus seems to be on the HV20/HV30 cameras in general.  You can get to his website here. An example of the HV20 with the final configured lens adapter would look like this:

 

It does make the camera quite a bit longer, so I have considered creating a rail system for it with some better handle attachments.  The user Delaney over at HV20.com has posted pictures of his final DIY project with this camera which is absolutely impressive.  Be sure to see the thread here for more details:

And yes, I drooled a bit when I saw this picture as well.  There are some things I want out of this setup, but I obviously do not require all of it.  I’m more interested in making a holding mount like the octagonal one Andy Coon uses with his HV20 all the time.  That with a good monitor mount and focus ring, it might open up some more possibilities for shooting with a smaller camera.

While I have ordered a bunch of the parts already for this, the gg holder and associated parts will have to wait as the person who makes them is away at training till the end of the month.

So all in all, this is an interesting project.  Both I an Andy Coon will be writing about our experiences with this setup as we explore what I refer to as the sub $1k market of film production.  Granted, there are limitations with a camera like the HV20/30, like having to use an exposure trick to get more control over it, and the light loss using the adapter, even further, having to deal with the flipped video of the 35mm lens, regardless, I think it will be worth it in the end.

Stay tuned as I’ll be posting progress and example footage as this starts to come together.


63 Responses to “Sucked in to the world of video…”

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