Best slr/camera/camcorder to use on long take "documentary" style filming

marblankomarblanko Website User Posts: 7
Probably this has been asked before, I did lurk a bit but could not find a specific answer.
On my spare time I help at my daughter's school filming some of their big events, like the xmas parites, end of year parties, etc. So I end up doing a lot of long-take filming (my own technical term there) where I move about with the camera around with the kids and just film non-stop. Mostly to get natural shots and also the fact that even with the teachers present, there isn't an abudance of order, time or patience where a large number of 4-6 year old kids are involved.
Enough of the details, this was to give an idea of the work I tend to do, for this I have been using my trusty old sony dcr-trv60e. It works great, but looking to move over to HD, and stop using dv tapes.
Been looking around a lot for an equivalent, but I can't find something as good, for the same or close budget (£600).
I am quite tempted by the black magic pocket camera, but again, all this hight end proffesional cameras seem to be made for short, very organized shooting. I am looking for a nice HD entry level SD camera, that could stand recording constantly for longer than 45 minutes straight, and does not need a perfectly lit environment to get decent results.
Also getting very confused also with the whole SLR/camera debate. I have a nikon d40, and have got some spare lenses including a  50mm prime that I love. Was thinking of getting a newer model that would also shoot HD film, but read that it does not record sound and also that it overheats quickly.
I know that this work doesn't really sound as exciting as some of the stuff everyone else here is doing with hitfilm, but is helping me learn some valuable practical lessons on "combat documentary" filming.

Comments

  • MichaelJamesMichaelJames Website User Posts: 2,038 Enthusiast
    After a couple basic features most DSLRS are all the same.  You are either talking about a Full Frame or a cropped.  A camera that can take 2 memory cards or just 1.  A Camera that has a long run time for filming or not.  Advanced live auto focusing features or not or features for audio streaming or not.  As someone whose only used Canons...
    Id Say the 5dMarkiii hands down.  Its a full frame camera that can take 2 memory cards and has a 29 minute record length.  That or the Canon 6d which is a step down from that.  Everything else after that is just swapping around minor features.  You get things on the lower cameras like " Oh great it can auto focus when recording but has a short record time...." or  "Sweet a swivel LCD but terrible low light capabilities"
  • Triem23Triem23 Moderator Moderator, Website User, Ambassador, Imerge Beta Tester, HitFilm Beta Tester Posts: 18,262 Ambassador
    edited February 2014
    Yeah, I am going to disagree with MichaelJames here, and say get a video camcorder, not a DSLR.
    Dslr's can give you fantastic looking footage, and are a great thing to shoot films and skits on, but no DSLR can shoot for longer than 29min 59sec.This is because of current EU tax regulations and is not a technical limit, but, if you're going to shoot 45 minute events, you just can't do that on a DSLR in a single take.
    Most DSLR'S don't have any kind of autofocus during video shoots, or white balance adjustments during shooting, and most DSLR's have substandard audio control.
    Sounds like you need to be able to "run and gun" and a DSLR form factor is not wonderful for handheld camera work... Especially since you must manually zoom and focus.
    Most of the above applys to the Blackmagic Pocket Cinema aa well. Great camera, but it's not optimized for the "run and gun" style of event video. Another issue with the Blackmagic is it's high crop-factor. You have to put a 18mm or wider lens on a BMPCC to get anything wider than a 50mm equivalent (full frame) zoom, and, with run and gun often being in enclosed areas, wide is often more important than telephoto.
    There are rigs to set up DSLR's or the Blackmagic to be more usable as run and gun, but these rigs alone can be hundreds of dollars.
    The Canon xa-10 is a decent camera in your price range. If you can stretch to the xa-20,that's better. These are smaller video cameras designed for run and gun. Both cameras shoot to two cards at the same time, so you start with backup footage, they do well in low-light, for that price range, and they have xlr audio inputs for shotguns and lav mics, or, if you can get audio feed from the sound board.
    I make my living as an event/wedding Videographer. For fun projects, I use DSLR's. For work, I use dedicated video camcorders.
    When working at Industry Hills Expo Center for Speedway gigs and rodeos, we shoot with canon xa25's, running to a Blackmagic ATEM switcher. This feeds the arena screens, the world wide webcast and goes to an SSD drive to become the Blu-ray master, and these are million dollar productions, so I recommend that camera line based on real-world production experience.
    Hope this is helpful.
    (final note. The canon xa25 is the xa20 with an SDI out. Unless you need to be connected to a switcher, don't even look at the 25.Check out the 20.)
  • NullUnitNullUnit Website User Posts: 791 Just Starting Out
    edited February 2014
    I agree with getting a "traditional" video camera. You are going to want good autofocus and a variety of good auto settings to do documantary style filming. This is going to help with rapidly changing conditions while you film. I have also used a Canon xa-10 and it is awesome.
    DSLRs are great for cinematic shooting, but you really need to set up controled shots in advance for them.
  • marblankomarblanko Website User Posts: 7
    Thank you all for the replies, tremendously helpful.
    Specially Triem 23, You got it spot on, "run and gun" is exactly the type of work involved. Things can happen fast so can't afford to even put the camera on standby between shots sometimes. Sound is very important, as there is often singing, so have to ensure minimum quality, lip synching, etc.
    Have had a look at the canon-xa range before, but thought they would be more geared towards the proper film end (set up environment, etc.) but after your replies I will give it another look.
    Does anyone have any opinions on the cannon legria range? That was closer to my budget, but saw some conflicting reviews for what seemed to be similar models.
    Hope no-one thinks I am rubbishing high end cameras, in my dream setup (like probably everyone here) I would have a number of them, to cater for all different environments, but we all have to start small.
  • Triem23Triem23 Moderator Moderator, Website User, Ambassador, Imerge Beta Tester, HitFilm Beta Tester Posts: 18,262 Ambassador
    No, high end cameras are awesome. For this year, I can actually put about $3000 into cameras, and I would have loved to do a 5D, mk 3 or BMCC. I did the xa-25 and the canon t3i. The XA25 means I can get about 15 more work days this year for $160 for four hours. That pays off the camera, plus a couple hundred--for bag and accessories. (new zoom control) The T3i just seems about the sweet spot below the 5D, since it has audio features the 6d lacks.
  • MichaelJamesMichaelJames Website User Posts: 2,038 Enthusiast
    @Triem23 DSLRs by themselves do not have the form factor for run and gun but its simple/cheap to rig.  From a $30 dollar shoulder mount from cowboy studios to a proper rig that would still be cheaper. 
    The black magic pocket camera may have a significant crop factor... but it also has a super wide amount of lenses it can use.  Here is a guide on how to use the pocket cinema camera and it goes into the strengths and flaws.
    http://wolfcrow.com/blog/the-blackmagic-pocket-camera-guide-part-two-lenses-filters-matteboxes-and-follow-focus-systems/
    Can even use lens adapters or speed boosters. 

    There are many different ways to skin a cat.  Triem23 comes from the point of a bigger budget professional. I am more of the indie/student filmmaker.  Both go about doing the same thing in a variety of ways which best accommodate what they need and can tolerate.  Professionals would never use Magic Lantern firmware(a hack for dslrs) or a variety of things that a student / indie filmmaker would.  It depends on your budget and the headaches you are willing to deal with.  So whats your budget, whats the general project outline and what are the headaches you are willing to deal with?
    If you have a question about rigging or using a DSLR here is a good guide
    http://wolfcrow.com/blog/comprehensive-guide-to-rigging-any-camera-main-menu/
  • marblankomarblanko Website User Posts: 7
    edited February 2014
    Michael, thanks for the link.
    Think I am very much in the indie/hobby filmmaker side. The budget is really my own, my work with the school is on a volunteer basis, I only charge for the consumables such as the DVDs to give to parents.
    Would love to learn to setup my own rig, lenses, etc., unfortunately having a day job means I lack the most important ingredient, time. 
    One thing that veers me towards the "traditional" video camera for this work is the auto element. Have a very short time (sometimes none at all) to set up shots, and there is almost no rehersal as such. So I need something that can give decent results with the least amount of time with setup. I have a nikon d40, and love it for my stills, but noticed that to get the best out of it, the shot needs a fair bit of preparation. I assume doing film with  dslr would follow the same way.
    Separately from the work I need to do at school I have been looking at the nikon d7100 and near as a film camera. The reason being I already have some extra nikon lenses I could use on it.
    Funny enough, when I bought my nikon d40 years ago, the only reason I went with nikon instead of cannon was the weight. I learned photography with an old pentax 35mm, so got a first love for heavy set dslr cameras. Of the two, i felt the nikon to be slightly heavier, that was the only reason I wnt with it.
    Talking budget again, is a difficult choice. Bottom line prices are very similar, a decent video camera and a decent slr that does film, end up costing the same. Guess the expense is on the "glass" side, are extra lenses for the canon-xa20 more expensive or harder to find than lenses for a nikon d7100? 
    What you guys think of the digital bolex? Been following them a while, it all seemd a great idea and love the look of it. But it now feels like is just a really expensive fancy camcorder. For the 3 to 4 K euros, I would just go for a full black magic cinema camera.
  • RossTrowbridgeRossTrowbridge Website User Posts: 423 Enthusiast
    I'm going to chime in here and mention an entry level alternative... The Panasonic Lumix FZ200. It's on Amazon (US) for $400 right now.
    I have it's older brother, the FZ150, but the cameras are very similar. The FZ200 is a superzoom camera, meaning it has the form factor of a DSLR, but does not have interchangeable lenses. It has a zoom lens with a  25–600mm range. One really nice feature of the lens is that the aperture stays at f2.8 through the entire zoom range. My FZ150 goes up to f5.6 at full zoom.
    The FZ200 has some nice features for video. It has optical image stabilization, continuous focus during video shoots, built in stereo mic, and a jack for an external mic. When you shoot in 1080p AVCHD mode, it will shoot continuously until you stop it. Longer videos will be broken into 4 GB chunks on your SD card, but it rarely drops a frame between files. My 32 GB SD card will hold about 2 hours of video. It also shoots in MP4 mode (30 minute maximum).
    The main drawback of the camera is the sensor size. It's small. It's not going to have the lowlight performance of a 5D or a T3i (which I also use). As you increase the ISO, you're going to see more noise in your video or photo. But it does handle lowlight situation pretty well, and staying at f2.8 through the whole zoom range  is nice. I've used my FZ150 to shoot video of my daughters' concerts and ballet performance, and even with the aperture kicking up to f4.5 in some cases, the video has looked great.
    If money wasn't an issue, I'd have a Nikon D600 in a heartbeat. But my little superzoom is a great little camera to have. It's light, has a great zoom, and shoots great video. It has been a great 'grab and  go' camera for me.
    A group of friends and I made a Star Trek fan film. It was shot almost entirely with my FZ150. Only one quick shot made from a boom was done with a different camera (Nikon D5100). It turned out well, and the lighting conditions weren't always ideal. Here's a link to its forum entry...
    http://community.hitfilm.com/index.php?/topic/4780-fan-film-completed/
    Search for Graham Houghton on YouTube. He has done a great series of videos on the FZ200 and how to get the most out of it.
    Anyway, I thought I would mention this as an option.
  • MatthiasClaflinMatthiasClaflin Website User Posts: 674 Just Starting Out
    edited February 2014
    In response to your question about extra glass for the XA20, there is no extra glass. You can get wide angle adapters, or telephoto adapters but it does not have interchangeable lenses.
    When it comes to the digital bolex, I think it had some major drawbacks. My biggest concern with it is that it has one "look". You can't really get anything more than just a "bolex" look from it. That to me, decreases its value. I can get that look in post if I spend the time on it from other cameras in that price range.
    As I have looked into the Blackmagic design cameras, I have decided that getting any of these was probably not in my personal best interest and here is why. They all have battery issues. The Cinema and Production cameras have very few options (and very expensive options at that) for removable batteries. The BMPCC eats batteries like crazy, or so I hear. Not to mention they all have very poor audio options. I don't understand at all why anyone would want a 1/4" input on a camera, but you will just end up wanting to convert it to XLR anyway, and then your converter will need to have phantom power, because if I'm not mistaken, there is no way to get phantom power from a 1/4" jack.... To me it just doesn't make sense for what I want to do.
    I did some work with the XA10 and found that after about 15 minutes of shooting with one, I was able to look, set-up and shoot any shot I needed within 2-3 seconds (on a monopod). There is just enough buttons on the outside to make it super easy to adjust things like aperture, shutter speed, and gain/exposure. I found that for me, the only thing that took any in menu adjustment was white balance. Once I had the little thing set up (which I could do at home), I just picked a white balance on scene and shot with it all day. No problems.
    Here is some footage I shot with this little cam.
    http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=WPUrAOhKD84
    At the end of the day, I would say sticking with a traditional camera is always best when it comes to run and gun shooting. The biggest thing, for me, is auto focus. I don't use it a lot, and typically hate it, but when it comes right down to it, the auto focus on traditional camcorders is more accurate and faster than DSLRs. It is easier to make adjustments to lighting as well. Not to mention the image stabilization of DSLRs (from what I have seen and used) is just down right bad. This is of course just my personal preference. Some people love DSLRs for run and gun. I just don't see it nearly as practical.
    For the price, I think the XA10 beats out every DSLR or DSLR rig you could buy for the same price, when it comes to run and gun. Of course if you don't need XLR, then get the HF G10/20/30 and it's just as good.
  • embracetheartembracetheart Website User Posts: 1
    Canon 5D Mark III, All the way!
  • Triem23Triem23 Moderator Moderator, Website User, Ambassador, Imerge Beta Tester, HitFilm Beta Tester Posts: 18,262 Ambassador
    But, again, we're talking a specific shoot style. The 5D mkIII is a fantastic camera, overall, but, really, it's NOT the right camera for event work or run and gun. Example--I did a shoot for a Third Eye Blind concert. Four of our cameras were broadcast video cameras tethered to a switcher for live screen feed and stream. We had two cam ops on 5D mk III's shooting extra footage for the Blu-Ray of the event. Since those 5D's got started and stopped at lot--because the entire event was two hours, and a 5D mk III shoot up to 29:59 with a start-stop--well. No 5D mk III footage ended up being used. There wasn't the time and money in the budget to take these clips, synch them, and edit them into the event video--especially since the onboard audio of a 5D mkIII is terrible compared to a dedicated camera.
    For film style shoots--where you're setting up your shot and angle, shooting a short take, then setting up the next shot--5D mk III all the way. For handheld run-and-gun event/documentary shooting, dedicated video camera.
  • MatthiasClaflinMatthiasClaflin Website User Posts: 674 Just Starting Out
    For film style shoots--where you're setting up your shot and angle, shooting a short take, then setting up the next shot--5D mk III all the way. For handheld run-and-gun event/documentary shooting, dedicated video camera.

    Couldn't agree more.

  • marblankomarblanko Website User Posts: 7
    Haven't been back for a while. Thanks for the extra replies. 
    rtrowbridge
    I did see the lumix, sounds great! but I am in the same positon as with the cannon. I have already invested a fair bit of money in nikkon products (lenses mostly), so if I was to shoot with DSLR I would prefer a nikkon so I could use the lenses.
  • NullUnitNullUnit Website User Posts: 791 Just Starting Out

    When it comes to the digital bolex, I think it had some major drawbacks. My biggest concern with it is that it has one "look". You can't really get anything more than just a "bolex" look from it. That to me, decreases its value. I can get that look in post if I spend the time on it from other cameras in that price range.

     


    I was looking at the new Bolex as I'm an old fan of the original Bolex, which I used in film school ages ago. Have you gotten to check it out? What do you mean that its limited by only getting a certain look? I thought they were just making a cinema camera that can use C mounted lenses?

  • MatthiasClaflinMatthiasClaflin Website User Posts: 674 Just Starting Out
    @Null Unit, I haven't gotten my hands on a Bolex but all the footage I have seen from it has shown the same style image. A very good duplication of a traditional bolex camera. The grain seems to be the same and no matter how well lit the image, it appears as though there is that "film" grain. Some people want that, but from what I've seen, it can't replicate the clean image of a DSLR. Of course, I may be wrong. I have only seen limited amounts of footage from it and most of what I've seen was color graded.
  • MichaelJamesMichaelJames Website User Posts: 2,038 Enthusiast
    To be fair they technically don't have battery issues.  The BMCC and production camera are designed to be rigged up.    I mean from the metal body to the multiple mounting points on the top and bottom.  I use it without a external battery because I am trying to maintain a thrifty approach.  Think of the internal battery as a safety net.  Ever filmed with a camera and the battery dies?  There are also other non expensive solutions because it takes a standard format plug and easily available methods to charge.  I've seen some very effective and inexpensive charges that people have used or made for the BMCC.  The big question for someone looking at the BMCC or BMPC4k is storage solutions.  If you are filming in Prores you can make SSDs last a long time. For a documentary you don't need raw because even 4:2:2 prores will give you a fair amount of latitude.
    While not designed for documentaries... it can be made to work easily if you are willing to over come the known issues.  if you are talking a documentary where its involving people... You typically film in controlled settings if its interview style documentary. Of course with external audio or something by juiced link or beach tek to put the best audio in the camera.  if you need outdoors clips the BMCC with no external power supply is great if you know the shots you are trying to get.  If I was going to do a documentary about Politics in San Diego... I could easily get all the outdoor shots of San Diego that I would use to cut between interviews and location shots on a single charge.
  • NullUnitNullUnit Website User Posts: 791 Just Starting Out
    @Null Unit, I haven't gotten my hands on a Bolex but all the footage I have seen from it has shown the same style image. A very good duplication of a traditional bolex camera. The grain seems to be the same and no matter how well lit the image, it appears as though there is that "film" grain. Some people want that, but from what I've seen, it can't replicate the clean image of a DSLR. Of course, I may be wrong. I have only seen limited amounts of footage from it and most of what I've seen was color graded.


    Ah, I see. I havent checked out much footage from it yet.

Sign In or Register to comment.