Frequently Asked Questions
What camera should I hire?
Generally there are 4 main factors which will determine which camera is best for your shoot.
1) Quality - What picture/sound quality do you need? If your production is to be broadcast what will the broadcaster accept? Do you need to shoot 16:9? What format will be best for your post production?
2) Ability of operator - It is pointless hiring a camera your operator cannot operate to its full potential. Will you get better images from a more basic model?
3) Budget - Most budgets are being cut so don’t forget you may need additional audio/lighting equipment.
4) Size - You may be shooting without permission or covertly. You may be taking a lot of equipment abroad and want to keep weight to a minimum.
DIFFERENCE BETWEEN ONE & THREE CHIP CAMERAS
Chips, apart from going well with fish, eggs, steak, etc. are image sensing devices. A single chip camera splits the three colours (red, green, blue) electronically whereas a three chip jobbie splits the light optically, via a prism, hence better resolution. Remember, the bigger the chip, the better the result.
DIGITAL FORMATS FOR SHOOTING.
As of mid-2000, there is a multitude of different, often incompatible digital formats from Digital 8, through DV, DVCAM, DVCPRO 25, DVCPRO 50, Digital S (D9), Betacam SX, to Digital Betacam. Also to confuse you even more there are other recording systems called D1, D2, D3, D5. And we haven’t got to the High Definition formats yet! Main transmission formats are DVCPRO, Digital Betacam, and DVCAM, although you can get a master tape, onto any of these, from source material edited together from any combination of analogue & digital footage.
SO WHAT IS ANALOGUE?
Pictures and sounds are laid to tape via a continuously varying voltage signal (or waves). When you edit down, generation to generation, this signal will inevitably degrade in quality.
But with a digital system, you use binary numbers (zero’s & one’s) as a signal path. This is like a series of ‘on & off’ switches. If it is ‘on’ the signal gets there if it is ‘off it doesn’t. So, in theory, you can’t go wrong with zero’s & ones. By the way, they pinched the concept from the name of our company at least it would be nice to think so!
WIDE SCREEN SHOOTING
Top end cameras produce a true wide screen picture known as 16:9 format. The lower end cameras will offer a wide screen effect but the process to achieve this can often detract from the technical resolution of the picture. Far better to use an anamorphic lens attachment (aspect ratio coverter) to get the wide screen effect with no loss of picture quality.
TAPE STOCK RECOMMENDED
Whenever possible try and match the tape supplier to the make of camera i.e. Sony stock with Sony cameras, Panasonic with Panasonic, etc. On mini tapes don’t confuse mini DV stock with mini DVCAM stock they may look the same physically but they’re not.
DV AND DVCAM
Sounds the same, even in some instances looks the same, but they’re not. DV is essentially the digital shooting format for consumer hand held camcorders. On mini tapes you can get 60 minutes recording. DVCAM is an enhanced format, with better pictures and sound, and includes cameras, up to full broadcast specification. In the case of Sony product, any model prefixed by DCR is DV format. If it has DSR it is a DVCAM format. Back to mini tapes. Maximum record time on DV is 60 minutes, but, on DVCAM it is 43 minutes. Confusing isn’t it? Upper range cameras can take up to 184 minute tapes (using large DVCAM cassettes).
POWERING THE CAMERAS BY BATTERY
Just like different sizes of tape stock, each model of camera has it’s own specific type of battery and there are dozens of them. But the main question asked is ‘How long do the batteries last?’ Obviously power is sucked by the more facilities you use, such as motors for zooming/focusing, flip out LCD screens etc. Rule of thumb is to order the highest capacity batteries (plus a charger) when you hire the equipment. Just like a car, the faster you go the more petrol you use or something like that!
RADIO MICS WITH HAND HELD CAMERAS
All radio mics worth their salt connect to the relevant camera via a professional 3 pin XLR plug. The trouble is that most lower end DV camcorders don’t have an XLR socket, so you must always order a Beachbox. This bolts under the camera and gives an appropriate connection box. But, and here’s progress for you, some of the smaller cameras now have incorporated XLR connectors into their design. These include the Canon XL1, the Sony DSR-PD100P, and best of all, the Sony DSR-PD150P. Note that ALL broadcast and top end cameras have XLR connectors by rote.
CAMERA STABILISER SYSTEMS
Pictures, steady & smooth, as you leap up hill and down dale at a brisk trot. Oh yeah? In principle, systems like Handyman and Steadicam will achieve this but only after much practice. Cameras must be fitted with 100% accuracy and instructions followed to the n’th degree. We will always suggest a short hire, prior to use in anger, and we will always offer a deal price. Bear in mind that full blown Steadicam operators have been on an Operational and Safety course. But don’t be put off once you get your head around it, a unit like the Handyman 1000 is a treat to use, and the end results are a dream.
EXTERNAL CAMERA MICS
All mini & hand held cameras will have on-board or built in microphones. Often these are fine for general audio, but useless for interviews. Then you will need a lapel or clip mic, a hand held interview mic, or a boom (fishpole) mic. As with radio mics, in most cases you will need to fit a jolly old Beachbox so don’t forget to book one. There are also top mounted directional mics (such as the Shan MC1) which will connect directly into the camera’s mini-jack socket for vox pops & single operator rigs, these will do the trick.
EXTRA OR INTERCHANGEABLE LENS
On top end broadcast cameras this is no problem. But most hand held units (apart from the Canon XL1) have a lens built into the camera body. However, lens adaptors are available for wide angle, telephoto etc. effects. Get the recommended adaptor, or a) you’ll get threading, & mounting problems; b) you’ll get picture distortion; c) you’ll get frustrated. Remember, most lens attachments will give some element of zooming restriction, but there are a couple that allow full zoom through.
Zero One is here to help in all aspects of your production. By talking to us about your project, and your budget, we’ll put together a package of kit, which will take into account advice on operator restrictions, and recommendations on a variety of economical short cuts. We’ve got a treasure trove of add on, and customized, gismo’s, which can achieve the results you want at a fraction of the cost. It’s not exactly ‘string & sealing wax’ but it works and that’s what matters!