Camera Geeks Unite!

15 May

I choose to believe there are nerds and gear-heads like myself among our readers. I spent a fair bit of time reading product reviews and pursuing Craigslist to assemble our A/V equipment. Here are the fruit of my labours.

Camera. After attending a filmmaking course at Pull Focus, I decided I had to have a camera with manual controls for focus, white balance, aperture, and shutter speed. All professional cameras have this feature but they are big and heavy; when I sent Anya a link to a pro camera I thought she’d kill me except that she was still in Toronto at the time. (“How many kilos?”) So I found the Panasonic HDC TM700, which weighs 500g and has all the necessary features. Plus it was Camera of the Year way back when.

Camera Batteries. A wise man (a student at the filmmaking course, actually) advised me to have a second battery pack. The TM700 takes one of several batteries, and we considered taking the one with twice as much capacity. However, that also meant it would weigh twice as much and require twice the charge time. Since we are planning to charge our camera batteries at various cafes during lunch, we decided the extra capacity would remain unused — and went with the smaller one.

Helmet cam. Anya convinced me this was a good idea. She found that the GoPro Hero 2 was essentially in a category unto itself in terms of quality. So we got one of those as well.

Tripod. I know this will make me sound old, but when I studied photography (before things went digital.. ahem…) we judged a tripod’s quality by how much it weighed. Also by whether it had Manfrotto written on the side. But when I told Anya my good tripod weighed 4kg and my lame tripod was not worthy of being called a tripod, … well, I’ll leave it to your imagination. But I too am human and when I need to choose between 4kg of food and 4kg of tripod, the choice is clear. Luckily, Anya found the SLIK Compact II in the MEC catalog. Sure, it’s flimsy, and its maximum height is only 99cm, but it really is slick. It’s got a built-in level, a pan-tilt head, folds down really small,  weighs just 570g, and cost 40 dollars. Are you sold on this? I was.

Audio. Don’t know if you noticed, but we made our latest clip silent-film style because the audio using the built-in camera mic was unpalatable. A windscreen sticker (where do I get one??) would only get us so far. We decided against a shotgun mic that would plug into the camera and attach to a hotshoe, because we were concerned about it being too directional. Instead we purchased a handheld audio recorder (the Edirol R-09HR actually). A feature of this system is that the sound will be recorded separately and will have to be attached in post-production. Actually our musical friend Nikita tried to convince us to use a cord to attach it from the headphones output to the camera mic input, but there seemed to be a lot of noise when we did that. Actually, it will be good to have the audio separate because we’ll be able to put it closer to our conversations, and we can mix the sound from the camera and the external mic as we please during post-production.

Frills. Ah the little things. I insisted on a UV protector filter and a polarizing filter. I learned that linear polarizers are used for camcorders whereas circular ones are used for photography. Our camcorder has a rare lens diameter (46 mm) so after cursing all the specialty camera stores in town I purchased the filters (along with a windscreen for the sound recorder) at B&H.

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