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Author Topic: replace cameras?  (Read 4973 times)

Weogo Reed

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replace cameras?
« on: December 08, 2005, 09:01:27 am »

Hi Y’all,

I’m a live sound person, learning video.

I’m one of the few tech oriented members of the local local woodworker’s guild, and now on the A/V committee.
We are in a school auditorium with fair lighting, and more coming.

Currently our main focus is putting the presenters at meetings on a couple large CRT monitors and a rear-projection screen.
Down the road we are looking at making instructional DVDs.

We are using a Sony DCR-HC21 mini camcorder as a static camera, out in the hall, and a Canon ZR70-MC on-stage for close-ups.
These have single 1/6" sensors that appear to have marginal images in this situation.
These two cameras go to a video switcher and then VHS, with the signal out of the VHS unit going to the two CRTs and the projector.
We are sending composite images from the cameras down 75' of cable.

Sound isn’t much of an issue  -   presenters wear a Countryman E6 or use a Handheld Shure SM58, currently going directly to VHS, though we are looking at hard disk recording.

From what I have been reading, image quality will improve with better cameras.  We have had suggestions ranging from Canon G2, Sony DCR-VX2100, and Panasonic AG-DVC30.

First question:
Since we don't actually need recording capabilities or sound on-board the cameras, are there camera-only units we ought to be looking at?

Second:
Are we degrading image quality with 75' runs?

And last:
Looking at upgraded cameras, should we be considering a different transport format?

Thanks and good health,  Weogo Reed
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Rich Wirz

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Re: replace cameras?
« Reply #1 on: December 08, 2005, 11:18:21 am »

Weogo-

There are a lot of issues at play here.  Better cameras/camcorders with larger/more chips would definitely improve the video quality.  Here at school I have the JVC GY-DV500 camcorders with 3 1/2" CCD's and the video image is very sweet - but they are in the $6,000 range.  I also have and use a Canon GL-1 (the GL-2 predecessor) and like it very much.  It would definitely be an improvement over the Sony.  Those are in the $2,000 range now if I recall correctly.  So I guess budget is the first variable.  

I also debated the camera vs. camcorder question when I bought the DV500's as they are used mostly in 2 camera shoots through a video switcher.  But - having the ability to shoot higher quality video also to a mini DV tape is an added bonus that I have used many times to shoot footage that I edit on a NLE computer system.  So for my money that added bonus was worth it.

75'composite runs shouldn't be any problem.

What you might want to look at is upgrading the VHS recorder to a DVD recorder - I found that the image quality improved greatly when I went that route.  I have two separate units that I use depending on the situation - both Panasonic DMR models - one just a recorder and the other a combo hard drive/DVD burner unit when I know that the actual program is going to be longer than the two hours SP recording limit on the 4.7 GB blank DVD-R discs.  That unit then features a variable transfer rate from the drive to the burner - it chooses the bit rate transfer and does it so the highest quality is transferred to the two hour disc.

The other variable is the switcher.  Which model are you using?  An upgrade to higher quality mixer will make all the difference in the world also.  And of course, higher quality video cables to hook everything up is also a consideration.  Hope this helps...

Rich

 
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Weogo Reed

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Re: replace cameras?
« Reply #2 on: December 08, 2005, 12:39:05 pm »

Hi Rich,

Yep, I too have been considering the flexibility of camcorders for off-site shooting at somebody's shop, etc.

The switcher is a SIMA Video/Audio Switcher.   I'll find out what model.  
What switcher do you reccomend?  Including the laptop, we need at least three inputs.  It would be nice to output to all the output choices at once, rather than using splitter cables.

The VHS recorder is a JVC HR-S2902U.
What are the model #s on the HD/DVD recorders you have?

There's also an AVerMedia 300 Gold Converter for laptop computer input when somebody brings pictures and charts on a CD or DVD.

I'll take a look at better quality cables too.

Thanks and good health,  Weogo
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Mike Noth

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Re: replace cameras?
« Reply #3 on: December 10, 2005, 03:47:16 pm »

It looks to me like you will get a better image by upgrading from what you have to any of the cameras that you list.  Not necessarily a great image, but better.  

At the level you're looking at, I'd go ahead and get the camcorder, for the flexibility and that at that price range there aren't a ton of stand alone camera bodies, though they exist more in the surveillance world and probably wouldn't give the same control at that price.

As for the recording, I would get away from VHS.  I'd look to move up to a DV cam, or at least a Mini-DV.  I'm not a huge fan of recording to DVD in real-time, for if the disc or the burner hiccups you won't get a 2nd chance, and you may not realize it until you go to finalize the disc.  You could get the burner, if that's the route you want to go, just roll your existing VHS as backup.  Having been involved in a couple of coaster making sessions, I can't emphasize the backup enough.

One thing that I will mention, the level of cameras that you are playing in will be helped dramatically by well designed lighting.  Bright and even is what you are looking for.  You don't mention what the light situation is like, but I would make sure you are lighting well for the camera's comfort, rather than your presenter 's, and then set the iris and white balance of the camera manually, and leave it there.  Don't use the auto features.  The camera's not quite as smart as it thinks it is.

Your cable runs, within reason, aren't much of a factor, unless you are seeing a roll or some other degradation.  75' is well within its capabilities, just practice the same cable protocol that you would with audio signal cables.

Downstream of the switcher, are you using a distribution amp to split to the displays, using some kind of passive split, or looping out of the displays?  If you don't have a DA, get one, that will make a big difference.
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Weogo Reed

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Re: replace cameras?
« Reply #4 on: December 13, 2005, 04:11:44 pm »

Hi Mike,

"It looks to me like you will get a better image by upgrading from what you have to any of the cameras that you list. Not necessarily a great image, but better."

Good.
Is there another camera you would reccomend?
How much more money for a significant step up in image quality?


"At the level you're looking at, I'd go ahead and get the camcorder, for the flexibility and that at that price range there aren't a ton of stand alone camera bodies, though they exist more in the surveillance world and probably wouldn't give the same control at that price."

Makes sense.


"As for the recording, I would get away from VHS. I'd look to move up to a DV cam, or at least a Mini-DV. I'm not a huge fan of recording to DVD in real-time, for if the disc or the burner hiccups you won't get a 2nd chance, and you may not realize it until you go to finalize the disc. You could get the burner, if that's the route you want to go, just roll your existing VHS as backup. Having been involved in a couple of coaster making sessions, I can't emphasize the backup enough."

I agree on the backup!  I used to work on an remote audio recording truck.  We recorded to Hard Disk, CD burner, DAT and Cassette.  One time there was a glitch that left only the Cassette with a signal and that was the master for the resulting CD!


"One thing that I will mention, the level of cameras that you are playing in will be helped dramatically by well designed lighting. Bright and even is what you are looking for. You don't mention what the light situation is like, but I would make sure you are lighting well for the camera's comfort, rather than your presenter 's, and then set the iris and white balance of the camera manually, and leave it there. Don't use the auto features. The camera's not quite as smart as it thinks it is."

The stage is 40' wide x 30' deep.  We have tape marks on the floor for a 20' wide x 15' deep area we ask presenters to stay in.  There are about 20 lights, including some new ones that are directly overhead.  Mostly cans & floods.  
The guy I'm working with was a network broadcast cameraman years ago, and he's directing the lighting upgrades.
Where all this lighting won't help is at remote shoots in the Guild shop or other off-site shoots...


"Your cable runs, within reason, aren't much of a factor, unless you are seeing a roll or some other degradation. 75' is well within its capabilities, just practice the same cable protocol that you would with audio signal cables."

Sounds good.
The on-screen images are ok, but could be so much better.


"Downstream of the switcher, are you using a distribution amp to split to the displays, using some kind of passive split, or looping out of the displays? If you don't have a DA, get one, that will make a big difference."

The switcher outputs to both a composite out and an S-video out.  Currently the composite out has a 'Y' cable on it, which feeds the two CRTs.  The S-Video out feeds the VCR, and the VCR's S-Video out feeds the projector.

Maybe we should be going with something like the Panasonic MX-50 mixer?  Anything similar for a lot less $$?
Or just a DA?

Thanks and good health,  Weogo Reed
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Mike Noth

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Re: replace cameras?
« Reply #5 on: December 14, 2005, 02:11:50 am »

Is there another camera you would reccomend?
How much more money for a significant step up in image quality?


Well, for what its worth, no, I can't really recommend another camera.  In my world, gear purchases are outside of my influence, so I use what they buy.  That said, its pro gear.  I normally have Sony DXC 537, 637, or D30 on my events.  Those live in the 10s of thousands range without the lens.  I'm guessing those are above your budget.  At the risk of over generalizing, and I'm thinking you've been around long enough to know what I mean, get the most expensive camera you can afford.

The stage is 40' wide x 30' deep. We have tape marks on the floor for a 20' wide x 15' deep area we ask presenters to stay in. There are about 20 lights, including some new ones that are directly overhead. Mostly cans & floods.
The guy I'm working with was a network broadcast cameraman years ago, and he's directing the lighting upgrades.
Where all this lighting won't help is at remote shoots in the Guild shop or other off-site shoots...


That's a fair amount of stage.  Kudos for limiting it to work better for you.  How's that going?  I find that trying to give presenters direction is like herding cats...

Good to hear that you've got someone working on the lights, when I began playing in video I didn't appreciate how important it is.  As for the remote shoots, a low cost solution is some of those Home Depot style Halogen work lights on stands and a good amount of diffusion.  Not great, but on a budget, 3 of them will do you right.  Did I mention diffusion? And maybe a home built dimmer, just so you have some more control, but watch out for the amber shift.

The on-screen images are ok, but could be so much better.

That statement doesn't sound like you've got a cable issue.  As I mentioned before, video cable issues exhibit themselves the same as audio, just visually.

The switcher outputs to both a composite out and an S-video out. Currently the composite out has a 'Y' cable on it, which feeds the two CRTs. The S-Video out feeds the VCR, and the VCR's S-Video out feeds the projector.

I would definitely get at a composite DA.  S-Video's limitation is that it doesn't handle long cable runs well.  If you are at 75' on S, I'd run it composite, without question.  If you are under 25' with S, you should be OK, though I like to keep S under 15'.  Video is far more finicky about Y-cables than audio is.  Avoid them at all costs.  Feel free to continue to run you records S, but DA all your displays.

Maybe we should be going with something like the Panasonic MX-50 mixer? Anything similar for a lot less $$?

I have used the 50 and like it, very solid with bare bones simplicity.  I can't really comment on other options, refer to my above statements about how I get the gear I use.  It does sound to me like the priority in your system would be, in order, DA, Cameras, Lighting.  If your switcher works and you have all the inputs and outputs you need, spend you money somewhere else.  To go back to our common audio background, upgrading your switcher will not necessarily yield the same results as upgrading your mixer.  Especially if you are just switching.

Hope this helps.





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Weogo Reed

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Re: replace cameras?
« Reply #6 on: December 14, 2005, 05:09:33 pm »

Hi Mike,
         
"I'm thinking you've been around long enough to know what I mean, get the most expensive camera you can afford."

Yep, I hear ya.


"Kudos for limiting it to work better for you. How's that going? I find that trying to give presenters direction is like herding cats..."

We do have a few wandering cats, but a surprising number of these folks have been in front of a camera before and will hold items up, and still, in front of the camera!


Thanks for the lighting ideas for location shooting!


"That statement doesn't sound like you've got a cable issue. As I mentioned before, video cable issues exhibit themselves the same as audio, just visually."

Good!


"S-Video's limitation is that it doesn't handle long cable runs well. If you are at 75' on S, I'd run it composite, without question. If you are under 25' with S, you should be OK, though I like to keep S under 15'."

The one S-video cable to the projector is about 25' or 30', I'll measure,  and also try a composite cable and see if there is an improvement.


"Video is far more finicky about Y-cables than audio is. Avoid them at all costs. Feel free to continue to run you records S, but DA all your displays."

Ok, will start looking for a DA.
Any suggestions on DAs?  Looking online I see them from $40 to $400 for a 1x4.  I'm guessing the passive isolated output units are not the way to go.


"I have used the 50 and like it, very solid with bare bones simplicity. I can't really comment on other options, refer to my above statements about how I get the gear I use. It does sound to me like the priority in your system would be, in order, DA, Cameras, Lighting. If your switcher works and you have all the inputs and outputs you need, spend you money somewhere else. To go back to our common audio background, upgrading your switcher will not necessarily yield the same results as upgrading your mixer. Especially if you are just switching."

This all makes sense.


"Hope this helps."

Yes, very much, thanks!  

Good health,  Weogo
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Mike Noth

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Re: replace cameras?
« Reply #7 on: December 15, 2005, 02:01:31 am »

Weogo,

I've had good experiences with Markertek. www.markertek.com

Surf through to "Product Categories/Routers, Switchers, and DAs/Video Distribution"

From what I saw you should be able to get something perfect for easily under $200.  I saw the Kramer 105VB 1 x 5 for $109.  I think that would do you right.  Though there are a number of options there for you.  In all honesty, I would avoid bells and whistles here, the more things at this point of the chain to tweak, the more you are going to need scopes to put things back into spec after someone starts tweaking.  Utilitarian would want to be your mantra on this.

I'm interested to hear the results of an A/B test of the compostite vs. S-video run to the projector.  Let me know how it goes, of you get a chance.

Mikeindex.php/fa/3469/0/
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Mike Butler (media)

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Re: replace cameras?
« Reply #8 on: December 18, 2005, 09:22:17 pm »

Hey Weogo, fancy running into you here.  Very Happy

Lots of good ideas here, here's a few more. As previously mentioned, camera-only cameras are in a totally higher price range, so you'll wind up looking at some camcorders in the prosumer/entry-level-pro range. I have successfully used cams like the Canon XL1 for live projection, and the image has been excellent. Bottom line, stick with a 3-chip cam. Many of the ones in this range are impressive with low light.

Now, what to do with the present cams that are being retired from this duty: use them as recording decks and ditch the VHS. Despite the fact that they have inferior (1-chip) imaging systems, this portion of them will not be used, and their tape transports must conform to Mini-DV recording standards, which has twice the lines of resolution of VHS, to say nothing of significantly better color reproduction. I have been very satisfied using this as a low-budget solution, and it should work well for you until you have the funds for a DSR-11 or similar standalone DV deck.

Markertek is good, so is Full Compass. So is B&H.

I have run S-Video at lengths exceeding 50', but maybe I have gotten lucky. Smile

For long runs of composite video, I like to use RG-6/U coaxial cable to minimize line loss.

Here's a low-cost alternative for the D/A although I do like the BNCs on that Kramer. Definitely use a D/A whatever brand instead of daisy-chaining or Y-splitting.


index.php/fa/3514/0/

Like Mike said, utilitarian is the mantra.
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Mike Noth

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Re: replace cameras?
« Reply #9 on: December 18, 2005, 09:59:51 pm »

Good friggin' point Mike.  I didn't even think that he's got a fine deck right there in his cameras.  That at least would be better until the money comes around for a stand-alone.

It may be worth relating an experience that I have had the last 2 years.  Fairly large event for a church in Waco, 2500 in the main hall w/ overflow to other rooms, 3 screens, 2- 12 x 16 and 1 9 x 12, all front with Barco G-5s flown.  We provided 2 Sony DXC 637s with 33 x long lenses and M-5 CCUs, and the Client provided a Sony PD-170 that we used handheld onstage, with a 200' composite run to the video village.  For what its worth, that little camcorder held its own far better than I ever dreamed it would.  We had really good control of the light, as well as the processing and projection, but you can get really good results from these prosumer units.

My $.02 after taxes.
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