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Sony V1U Tech Issues with ABC/NASCAR Documentary

TrigramPictures's picture
Last seen: 7 years 2 months ago
Joined: 07/02/2007 - 8:17am
For those of you interested in the V1U for your next or current project please take note. I've been part of a multi-camera documentary style shoot that has been blanking the NASCAR circuit since March for an ABC 5 part series that begins airing in August.

Each weekend a small army of producer/shooters, sound techs, and production assistants have followed particular drivers behind-the-scenes using the V1U camcorder and we have a list of critical issues. Issues that are not forthcoming from any Sony Technical Bulletin as of yet and you should be aware of.

I'll start with the good and then the very bad.

1. The lens is fantastic. Unlike a DVX100x camcorder - the V1U has a very respectable throw. You will, however, need Sonys wide angle zoom thru adapter.
2. The batteries last a very long time. I used a single NP-F970 "L" series lithium all day - shooting 3-4 hours of tape.
3. Incredible low light capability. Easy to adjust extreme changes in lighting while the picture remained impressive.
4. Light weight.
5. Functions are very similar to the PD150/170 series. Unfortunately.

Now for the troublesome parts. It took us a few weeks to figure out some of these issues because the problems were so odd and easily attributable to pilot error. However, when you have six or seven cameras running for weeks at a time, these problems became more acute and obvious.

1. The audio would drop out (in one channel or both - completely). We were using a battery powered shotgun mic and a battery powered wireless receiver or alternately plugging in a scanner for crew radio traffic. As we discovered, audio would completely drop out for no apparent reason. At first we began trouble shooting from the furthest point and back to the camcorder. This took time.

We discovered that the audio inputs are not hot swappable and the remedy for the audio drop out was to turn the camcorder OFF and then back ON. To avoid this from happening, we figured that we had to turn OFF the camera before changing audio inputs, etc.

You can clearly understand how this would drive you insane not knowing why you were listening to perfect audio (not talking noiseless) coming in one moment and then without cause nothing - silence! It was a big distraction and as we can always count on - this only happened during audio critical situations.

So, beware of audio dropping out. Just turn off the camera and turn it back on once you reconfigure your inputs.

2. Stabilizer would go haywire without cause. Shooting handheld - the stabilizer can come in handy, however, at times this feature would literally go out of whack and the picture would start jumping up and down. The only way to get it out of this jittery mode was to call up some color bars. Turning the camera off and then on didn't always work. Again, always happened in the most inopportune moment.

3. Macro moment whether you want it or not. At times, when I'd zoom in to do critical focus the lens would continue focusing and throw itself into a run away macro focus mode that I could not override. This happened to me after a few months, but was happening to every camera. My camera was the last affected. Once it happened, I was able to continue creating this odd run away focus problem. At one point, I was in a motor coach shooting an interview when I zoomed in to check focus, I was unable to bring the image back to any discernible image on tape. It was totally out of focus - way out and this self-override would last for minutes at a time. Nothing I did would take it out of this ultra macro mode.

I understand ABC engineers were able to recreate this problem by keying a two-way radio nearby. Seems the camera is sensitive to RF causing the macro focus to engage. Most sporting events have tons of RF so does this mean you should not use at any event where theres RF? Why did this problem affect some cameras sooner and others later?
4. The headphone jack fell apart a couple of weekends after we begun. Be extra sensitive each time you connect your headphones in.
5. The audio out of the headphone jack is too low.
6. Too many layers of menus to convince the camera that you really want to shoot in manual mode. Manual zoom, manual focus, manual iris, etc.

The cameras were all set up to not have any AUTO function at all and that took layers of settings to override the general design of the camera.

There are other nuances involving White Balance, Iris Control, etc but none as critical as the above.

As for Sony, they seemed interested but never interested enough to visit us in the field during the intense shoot schedule.

As for serial numbers, we had a mix of low and higher serial numbers.

Hope this helps.


BeckyMcMillen's picture
Last seen: 6 years 3 months ago
Joined: 05/06/2008 - 12:47pm

Does anyone have more info on this topic. I'm experiencing focus problems with my V1u. I thought it was me. I did read something else about macro focus on this camera. I'm disabling it. This is a real problem for me since most of my projects are run and gun. I'm not happy. Wish I had spent a little more and gone with the Canon H1 butI needed a smaller cam and went with Sony this time:(


anyhow's picture
Last seen: 5 years 2 days ago
Joined: 08/29/2009 - 1:16am

I've have a total of around 80 cameras in my department.
The audio problem is attributed to you leaving on the 48volts phantom power while you plug in, a wireless reciever. Most likely you have an adapter which converts xlr to mini plug. This adapter is shorting out the camera while the 48volts is on.
Turn off the 48v when you don't need it. Another way to reset the audio is to pull the battery out while the camera is turned on. It works better than switching the camera from camera mode to vcr mode which doesn't work all the time. Pushing the reset button also doesn't work. Some symtoms were no audio, very low audio or static noise in the audio.

For the headphone jack, i've had many v1u cameras where the headphone jack becomes loose and moving the mini plug around in the jack will cause static, or audio from one channel to appear on the other channel. There is a nut internally that holds the headphone jack on and it becomes loose. You have to disassemble the camera to get to this nut. The handle bar has to come off, then the right side by the hand strap has to come off, then the bottom plates have to come off, then finally the left side has to come apart. On the inside you have to remove the boards for the memory card/usb, then finally the hdmi/headphone jack boards come out. Tighten the nut and put some locktight on it.

I also had many cameras loose back focus. An alignment procedure has to be performed.
Only one camera have I had where the zoom went crazy on it's own if you slightly tap the side of the lens. I haven't experience the other problems.