Sony V1U Tech Issues during ABC/NASCAR Documentary

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      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.

      Jerry Gonzalez
      Trigram Pictures, Inc
      Miami, FL

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