“Open House” cinematographer Yasu Tanida shoots rigged to a moving car with the Panasonic AG-DVX100.
When Gregory Burnett had a freelance assignment for ABC’s “24/7” documentary series that required him to shoot video footage at a funeral service, it was the perfect opportunity to try out the latest tool in his filmmaker’s utility belt: the Panasonic AG-DVX100 camera.
“Obviously we needed something very discreet,” says Burnett, of Chicago-based Topaz Productions.
“I’m a broadcast camera guy,” Burnett says. “I love my Betacam, but for every challenge to use a small camera, the DVX100 has come through singing, with beautiful pictures and great audio quality.”
The DVX100 brings a host of higher-end features to mini-DV, but the most distinctive feature is the camera’s capacity to shoot at 24 frames per second, replicating the frame rate of film, a feature previously available only in much larger and far more expensive high-definition cameras.
Weighing in at 4.2 pounds and retailing at $3,549, the DVX100 is an economical and inconspicuous alternative.
The camera can also function in standard NTSC 30 frames per second, interlace or progressive scan, making it attractive for straight video work like Burnett’s news footage.
Because of the DVX100’s high-density 1/3 inch progressive chips, “even using standard video mode, you get reduced jagged edges, even though it converts to interlace for the monitor, is still looks cleaner,” says Ned Johnston, Chicago field rep for Panasonic. “And if you can de-interlace it in editing it looks even better,” Johnston says.
The DVX100 includes automatic and manual settings for focus, zoom, and iris, giving shooters a high degree of flexibility in operating the camera. “It offers the feature sets of a much more professional camera, in a much smaller package,” says Johnston.
Burnett raves about the DVX100’s strengths in overcoming traditional obstacles of video shoots. “At low light levels, it makes wonderful pictures,” he says. “It’s got a great range. Shooting in cars, the windows weren’t blown out at all.”
The DVX100 offers a 4.5mm to 45mm wide-angle zoom lens, a 72mm series 9 filter, a 3.5 flip-out LCD panel with advanced display options, 500 lines of resolution, and dual XLR audio inputs with independent level adjustment.
At least one feature film has been shot on the DVX100. Slamdance co-founder Dan Mirvish directed “Open House,” a “real estate musical,” in Los Angeles late last year.
“Given the combination of the frame rate and progressive, the image quality is film-like in that it doesn’t have the unnatural blurriness of NTSC video,” Mirvish told Panasonic. “And there seems to be an intrinsic grain, also like film,” he says.
Twenty-four frames per second (24P), circumvents the problems normally associated with blowing up footage from video to film. Blowing up NTSC, the American standard, must typically requires dropping every sixth frame to match the 30 frames of the video footage to the 24 frames of film.
Filmmakers shooting on video intended for film blowup have increasingly worked in PAL, the European standard of 25-frames per second. PAL footage is typically slowed down by 4% to match the frame rate of film, avoiding the loss of image involved in dropping a frame. But even after the audio pitch is corrected for the change in speed, the 4% difference can sometimes make footage feel perceptibly slower.
Local vendors carrying the DVX100 include Roscor, SMS, Columbia Audio/Video, Swiderski Electronics and United Visual Aids.
Johnston will present a demo with the DVX100 at the Wedding and Event Videographers Association’s Town Meeting, Feb. 25. The Town Meeting is being held at the Sheraton Chicago Northwest, 3400 W. Euclid, Arlington Heights. For details see www.weva.org or call 941.923.5334.