Need a camera to shoot live music events

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    • #54942

      Howdy folks.  First post here.

       

      As my name implies, I am actually a sound guy.  My real gig is recording music on-location.  

       

      I have recently begun dipping my toe into the video waters, since it seems that this is the direction I will need to evolve over the next few years.  I started fooling around with a GoPro Hero3, and now I am hooked.

      I need a decent camera to get started – nothing too crazy, but something that could end up being a decent B camera if and when I finally get something totally pro.  I'm thinking one of the current "prosumer" camcorders might work for this – something in the $1-2k range, $3k max. 

      Here are my perceived camera needs:

      – something that will shoot well in low light, since I am recording concerts and will often have to deal with whatever the lighting situation is (often dark);
      – something that can go for 2 -3 hours at a clip, so a DSLR is out;
      – preferably something fairly small and lightweight;

      – something reliable enough for live situations;

      – I don't really care too much about the onboard sound capabilities; XLR inputs would be nice, but are not particularly a deal-breaker;
      – shoots HD and uses flash media – no tape cameras;
      – interchangeable lenses would be nice, but not necessarily a deal-breaker;
      – something fairly easy to use in a point-and-shoot situation, where I may not have a lot of setup time, or (more precisely) something that someone like myself can figure out fairly quickly; 

      I have scoped out a few cameras that seem to fit the bill:

      Sony NEX-VG30
      Sony NEX Interchangeable Lens HD Camcorder and Lens | NEX-VG30H | Sony USA

       

      JVC HM150U
      JVC Professional Features page

       

      Canon XA10
      Canon U.S.A. : Consumer & Home Office : XA10

      and on a lark (though it's beyond my budget when I factor in lenses and a HDD):
      Black Magic Cinema Camera
      Blackmagic Design: Blackmagic Cinema Camera

      Mostly, I see this as being for high-quality "YouTube" stuff, audition videos, broadcast-quality documentary footage.  But whatever I do, it has to be good enough to be result in professional-quality, "for-hire" results.

      Frankly, I am just beginning to learn about all this video stuff, so I realize I know virtually nothing. I could be so far off-base that I am not even looking in the right ballpark. Any tips, insights, or ideas that you all might be willing to share about cameras and specs, any advice on lenses, or any examples of footage that I should be checking out would be greatly appreciated.

      Thanks!

    • #206318
      AvatarCville
      Participant

      I use the Sony VG 20. I believe it uses the same sensor as the vg30.  I have been really pleased with the camera. 

       

      Here is a test shoot I did with the vg20. No color correction in post. Used various lenses and setting for this test although I did not log them.  

       

    • #206326
      Avatarbrunerww
      Member

      I have shot with the Sony VG20, and it is a great large sensor camcorder – but the VG cameras, like DSLRs, are susceptible to a phenomenon called moire, which is shimmering colors in patterned objects.  See the shingled roof at about 0:30 in this VG30 video:

       

       

      Conventional small sensor camcorders and Panasonic GH2 and Panasonic GH3 cameras are far less susceptible to moire – and, although it is not on your list, I would recommend the GH3 as the best price-for-performance video-capable camera on the market today.

       

      It has essentially unlimited continuous video recording, so 2-3 hour recording sessions are not a problem.

       

      And it will give you higher bitrate, higher quality 1080/60p recordings than any of the cameras on your list.

       

      Here is an indoor music example shot handheld at ISO1600 with the 12-35 f2.8 lens (please watch at 1080p) :

       

       

      Another concert shot with the GH2 and GH3 and anamorphic (widescreen) lenses (please watch at 1080p):

       

       

      The GH3 (body only) is $1298 at Amazon.

       

      Hope this is helpful,

       

      Bill

      Hybrid Camera Revolution

       

       

       

       

    • #206327
      AvatarSafeHarbor
      Participant

      Check out the new Panasonic AC-90. Has XLR inputs, very good 5-axis stabilization, dual cards for extended recording or record to both at once (backup), very clean gain for low-light situations.

       

      Jeff Pulera

      Safe Harbor

    • #206336

      Thanks for all the suggestions guys.

       

      @Bill – actually, that was very helpful.  Someone else suggested I look at the GH3 too, and looking at your footage, it seems like a very impressive piece.

       

      I have tried hard to like the footage I see shot with the Sony VG20's, but for some reason, it never seems to scream "pro" to me.  The only thing I seem to like better than the Panasonics are the Canon DSLR's, but I think they have a time limitation on how much continuous video they can shoot.

       

      Good to hear that the GH3's don't have this limitation – pehaps that might be the deal-breaker for me.

       

      I imagine a good lens has as much to do with your success shooting those video's as the camera itself (not to mention the skill of the operator).  I have to admit complete ignorance when it comes to lenses. 

       

      You mention the spec's on the lenses you used – may I ask what I should be looking for when I select a couple of lenses (I imagine I'd need a couple to cover different situations) to achieve that sort of success in such dark venues?

       

      Thanks so much.

    • #206356
      Avatarslewisma
      Participant

      If you're thinking XA-10 but also thinking this will be your B camera you might want to look at the Canon HF G20 that just came out. It does most of what the XA-10 does except the XLR inputs and handle, costs $1,000 less and is a little better in low light. I got one a few weeks ago and so far am very happy with it. I shot some documentary type short scenes for a non-profit in a restaurant with low lights the other day and it came out looking almost as good as my DSLR as far as exposure at least. For music you'll almost always want a feed from the board anyway so the onboard sound is just for a track to sync up with and doesn't have to be great but it does have external mic input (not XLR), manual level control (though buried a bit in the touchscreen menus) and on-screen meters (which you can enable and disable through touchscreen menus). Records to 32GB internal flash or 2 SDHC/SDXC slots. Has peaking, zebra stripes and even rudimentary scopes. 

       

      Runs about 90 minutes on standard battery but you can buy up to a 4 hour battery for it. I've shot some concerts (but not on the G20 yet) and even with a decent camera you will usually want a tripod. I've found I can usually power the camera with the AC adaptor if I'm not going to be running around with it. 

       

      Make sure whatever you buy at least has manual focus, white balance and exposure! Concert lighting makes automatic anything a recipe for disaster. You can usually use the automatic function to determine what setting will work but then you want to lock in on those settings so a minor change on stage doesn't cause everything to adjust in camera. I was recording a harpist (not your ordinary orchestral harpist — see http://www.hipharp.com) and when she'd rotate slightly the harp strings would come in and out of the light and make the auto-exposure adjust. Seeing it constantly changing is annoying in the video and not any fun to try to deal with in post. And if you're shooting from the back of the house, make sure your tripod is tall enough to shoot over heads and hands, even during a standing ovation. 

       

      My preferred method is two cameras, one covering the wide shot that runs through the whole show and the other on a monopod that I can run around with and get interesting angles, close-ups, audience shots, etc. Then I hook up a portable audio recorder to a feed from the house mix (pre any house specific EQ if possible). I record sound on both cameras too. Pull it all into FCP X, label your camera angles, create a multicam clip from it all letting FCP X do the syncing, select the house mix as the audio, set multicam switching to switch video only, turn on the angle viewer and hit play. Use the number keys to pick angles and FCP will automatically do the rough cuts for you. Then you can go back and fine tune the editing, change your mind and move edits around, etc. Sweeten the audio, grade the color and you've got a decent concert film. You can then pull out individual songs or whatever else you need from the master copy. 

    • #206364
      Avatarbrunerww
      Member

      ASR – the GH3 can pretty much see in the dark with a wide aperture ("fast") lens. Here is an example with a manual lens, a $1200 Nokton 25mm f0.95 (lower f number = faster):

       

       

      In general, I agree with slewisma, manual lenses are sometimes necessary to keep up with a moving subject in a low light concert setting, but as a beginner, you may want the option of autofocus, auto exposure and lens stabilization. For that reason, if budget allows, I recommend you start out with a slower, but fully automatic system lens. The $1144 12-35mm f2.8 and $1400 35-100mm f2.8 zooms are made for this camera. Here is what they can do:

       

       

      There are less expensive non-zoom fixed focal length "prime" lenses that are faster than f2.8, such as the $499 25mm f1.4. This lens was used with the GH3, along with the 12-35, the 35-100, an inexpensive manual lens and the slower f4.0 7-14) on this project. Note that the $1298 GH3 is listed as the A cam and the $2739 Sony NX70 pro camcorder is listed second:

       

       

      Here is another pro project where the GH3 is the A cam:

       

       

      The GH3 will be a good starter camera and will grow with you as your videography business moves to the next level. In my view, $1298 for this camera is a bargain.

       

      Hope this helpful.

       

      Bill

      Hybrid Camera Revolution

       

       

      P.S. For the record, I own the GH3, have shot with the 12-35 and can vouch for its capabilities in low light – but these are not my projects (I wish they were :))

    • #206368
      AvatarJoseph
      Participant

      As someone new to video production, do yourself a favor and keep it simple. You don't get your driver's permit and jump into a semi or race car, right?

       

      I'll admit it up front, I'm kind of a Canon guy. I would go with the XA10. It's got a larger chip than the JVC (although the JVC is a 3-chip.) This will gather a lot of light for this price range and perform better when you are trying to get a shallow depth of field. The Sony has some good things going for it, but it's definitely more expensive when you consider adding a lens.

       

      The one reason I would consider the JVC is because it has more buttons on the outside than the XA10. Fewer buttons outside means more items inside the on-screen menu.

       

      One option not listed is the Canon VIXIA HF G10. It's the SAME CAMERA as the XA10 minus the pro audio. Since audio isn't your concern, this camera will do a good job for many hundres less.  The G10 could keep you happy for years and also make a good backup to your next purchase – especially if it was a matching XA10.

       

      One thing I would definitely not do if you're not already a skilled photographer is avoid DSLRs. They make some great video, and usually outperform camcorders in low light – that's not in question. But they are not, as a rule, user friendly – especially during a live event. This would apply to the BlackMagic as well. You'll also need to spend hundreds, if not thousands, on lenses. Remember that a Panny lens cannot go on a Sony, cannot go on a Canon, cannot go on a Nikon, etc. Each mount is propriatary. (Although BlackMagic has the EF lens mount as a standard option.) I know, adaptors exist… but…

       

      So get your feet under you and see if you like video production before spending too much. It's easy to grab a camera and hit record. Making videos that look good takes work.

    • #206387
      Avatarbrunerww
      Member

      I generally agree with you dellwovideo, that DSLRs can be more challenging than camcorders for video, but there are a few points where I differ.

       

      First, the XA10 and other small sensor camcorders have a very hard time achieving the "shallow depth of field" look that viewers have come to expect, for better or worse.  

       

      Second, the Panasonic GH3 recommended above is not a DSLR and can accept Nikon, Canon, Pentax, Konica, etc. lenses with inexpensive $20 adapters.  Some of my best video has been shot with non-native lenses.  To be fair, Sony NEX cameras have the same ability.

       

      The Panasonic GH3 also has camcorder-like video autofocus (most DSLRs, especially Canon DSLRs, do not).

       

      Most Panasonic video-optimized lenses have camcorder-like silent autofocus motors (most DSLRs do not).

       

      The Panasonic GH3, along with Sony NEX and Sony Alpha cameras, has a camcorder-like viewfinder that continues to work when you're shooting video (DSLRs do not).

       

      The Panasonic GH3 is not a DSLR with an obsolete reflex mirror that get in the way of videomaking, it is a video-optimized mirrorless DSLM – much easier for beginners to use – and should be considered as a separate category when making decisions about which video camera to buy.

       

      Best,

       

      Bill

      Hybrid Camera Revolution 

       

       

       

       

       

    • #207639

      So I went ahead and bought the AC90 and the GH3 to put them head-to-head in a real-life situation, in a room that has fairly poor lighting (though I am often in worse situations).

       

      Actually both cameras performed really well.  Almost makes the decision harder.  The GH3 shot some really beautiful footage and seems like a very powerful tool for the money.  I'll confess to being a little intimidated by the wealth of options and settings, but I'm intrigued by the quality and power it has to offer.

       

      The AC90 seemed easier to get up and happening, but seemed to offer me less control – white balancing was a bit confusing, and I couldn't figure out how to get a histogram up.  It was beyond me to figure out how to get its wb to match up with the GH3.

       

      The lens on the AC90 definitely can cover a lot of scenarios, whereas the 12-35 lens I bought with the GH3 seems a bit too wide for some situations I'll find myself in, which means I'll need to drop more on lenses if I go with that camera.

       

      The GH3 definitely had more "gas in the tank" in the low light – the AC90 was pushing a little to keep up, but still did a stellar job. 

       

      I'll try to get permission to share some of the footage so you can see it.

       

      Thanks for the help, suggestions, and examples.

    • #207654

      So here's a link to one piece that was shot with the GH3:

       

      It's just a static shot for the whole piece, so probably not the most interesting video you'll ever watch, but I'm taking baby steps here.

       

      The composer interview was also shot with the GH3. 

       

      Audio was completely double system and sync'ed up in Pro Tools in post.

       

      I should mention again that the lighting in this place is far from ideal, so this was a good "real world" test for me, as far as the type of situation I usually encounter. 

    • #207655
      Avatarbrunerww
      Member

      Thanks for taking the time to provide feedback! It is good to see a real comparison between a pro camcorder and the GH3 from someone who actually has shot with both types of camera in a real production setting.  Look forward to seeing your AC90 sample – and hearing which camera you decide to go with!

       

      Best,

       

      Bill

    • #208088
      AvatarJoseph
      Participant

      I'm assuming, so correct me if I'm wrong, that you're going the live music recording route, as in shooting concerts as opposed to shooting music videos. So this answer is tailored to that idea.

       

      For a future B camera, you need one that you can fire and forget.

       

      Some people are pushing the GH3, but seriously, if you aren't a photographer who's used to dealing the complexities of a DSLR, don't punish yourself.

       

      As a sound guy, you'll appreciate the ability of a traditional video camera to easily shoot solid video. Will you get the artsy 1.5" depth of field or be able to shoot by candle light? No. But you will get a camera that doesn't make you want to pull your hair out as you mentally calculate how the ISO, shutter speed, aperature, correct lenses, etc. You'll also get a camera than can hit your 2-3 hour mark with the right sized SD cards. Also, in the wildly varying lighting conditions you may find at a concert, you would likely have to shoot with some automatic features to compensate – defeating the purpose of a DSLR.

       

      My first suggestion is the budget (for a prosumer camera) route – the Canon Vixia G30 (although the G10 and G20 are also good.) It's the same camera as the XA20 but without the handle with XLR inputs and an IR emitter for the nightvision. It even has the wi-fi functions. This is a very solid camera which should perform reasonably well in low light. Yes, the GH3 will beat most any camcorder in low light, but remember, it's going to be WAY easier to use. The biggest drawback to this camera is that most functions are in touch screen menus.

       

      The Panasonic AG-AC90 might be worth a look in the under $2k range. It's got a lot of buttons on the outside that makes using it more convenient than the G30. It also has XLR inputs and a 3-chip sensor although they're way smaller than the G30's sensor. (Larger sensor = better low light and shallower depth of field shots. Three sensors = better color – theoretically. YMMV. I haven't personally seen a comparison of the two.) B&H is offer Sony Vegas Pro 12 free with a purchase of this camera right now. I'm sadly an Adobe guy but I hear good things about Vegas.

       

      Both of these cameras have a great zoom range which you won't get in the GH3. (20x and 23x respectively.) You might be surprised how important a good zoom is, especially when you're stuck in the back of a musical venue. Video camera zooms are WAY better than DSLR zooms.

       

      I usually just scroll through the list of cameras at B&H and often prefer their listings for specs over the manufacturers site. You can compair a lot of cameras and see user reviews pretty quickly there.

       

      Good luck!

    • #208097
      Avatarbrunerww
      Member

      Sorry, dellwo – you're a little late.  He already bought the GH3 and an AC90 and tried them both.  Results were very interesting (see post above):

       

      " I went ahead and bought the AC90 and the GH3 to put them head-to-head in a real-life situation, in a room that has fairly poor lighting (though I am often in worse situations).

       

      Actually both cameras performed really well.  Almost makes the decision harder.  The GH3 shot some really beautiful footage and seems like a very powerful tool for the money.  I'll confess to being a little intimidated by the wealth of options and settings, but I'm intrigued by the quality and power it has to offer.

       

      The AC90 seemed easier to get up and happening, but seemed to offer me less control – white balancing was a bit confusing, and I couldn't figure out how to get a histogram up.  It was beyond me to figure out how to get its wb to match up with the GH3.

       

      The lens on the AC90 definitely can cover a lot of scenarios, whereas the 12-35 lens I bought with the GH3 seems a bit too wide for some situations I'll find myself in, which means I'll need to drop more on lenses if I go with that camera.

       

      The GH3 definitely had more "gas in the tank" in the low light – the AC90 was pushing a little to keep up, but still did a stellar job."

       

      So between the camcorder and the DSL, the DSL isn't always the hardest camera to figure out – and may have image quality advantages beyond shallow depth of field πŸ™‚

       

      Cheers,

       

      Bill

      Hybrid Camera Revolution

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