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SDX 900 : Additional Tips & Tricks

Published : 7th July 2004


Anyone have any tips and tricks for this camera? There seem to be a couple available locally now.

Art Adams, DP
Mountain View, California - "Silicon Valley"
http://www.artadams.net/



To date I've only had a few hours of playtime on a Panasonic demo unit. I'm considering purchasing a package this year and have been playing with the numbers for 6 months. I've got enough SDX900 specific work lined up to cover half of year one's loan payments. Based on a 3-year simple interest loan purchase of a SDX900, broadcast ENG lens, mattebox, head and batteries ($55k). The pros and cons of owning a camera have me trapped in the endless quandary.

I don't want to get locked into shooting a single format, or taking on gruelling ENG jobs just to cover loan payments. However, I'd love to get into a break-even upgrade cycle the someday puts me into an Arricam package with a nice set of primes.

Mitch, thanks for the reply on the v mount.

Dave Winters
L.A.



Dave Winters ponders :

>"The pros and cons of owning a camera have me trapped in the >endless quandary."

Take it from someone who has owned 6 broadcast cameras in the last 20 or so years, there ain't no easy answer, particularly when it comes to formats.

I have always been able to buy a package and know that a network was going to pay for it. Nowadays it's different. While the networks talk a big technical game, network ENG world is still Beta-world with a sprinkling of DV.

You really gotta ask yourself "Do you feel lucky?" Are you lucky enough to have enough clients to keep the payment book shrinking and can you drum up new business.

I think the bigger issue is not whether you get your own package but how much money are you paying out to rental houses for a package now. On the one hand they take the risk and they have to make the upgrades. You just pass on the rental fee to the client...until they start using some young buck who wasn't afraid to invest in a package and doesn't mind balancing his rate to keep him competitive.

It's tough out there and getting tougher every day, especially with HD looming on the horizon.

I'm old but I'm still working and I'm working my Betacams till they fall apart. No new gear(save a mini DV now and then) until I'm convinced I'm unemployable unless I own an HD package... and then I'll probably buy used because quite frankly, nobody's banging down my door begging me to shoot High Definition.

Personally I'd hold out as long as possible and move into the HD market because that's where the future is. In the meantime shop around for a good use Betacam and make some money!

Allen S. Face mire
DP/Director
SaltRun Productions,inc.
Atlanta
www.saltrunproductions.com



Allen S. Facemire writes:

>because that's where the future is. In the meantime shop around for a >good use Betacam and make some money!

I got back into film & video about 4 years ago after a long hiatus, during which several generations of video gear whizzed by under my radar -- so I'm a bit spoiled by the latest tech. Recently worked with a guy who shoots Betacam and Mini-DV (DVX100)...and curses the Beta for its low sensitivity, which requires significantly higher lighting levels...which translates into a much clumsier field package. Has that been your experience?

Dan Drasin
Producer/DP
Marin County, CA



>and curses the Beta for its low sensitivity, which requires significantly >higher lighting levels...which translates into a much clumsier field >package. Has that been your experience?

Sure, if you put a brand new DVX100 next to a 12-year-old BVW-400, the Beta may not be as sensitive...But if you put it next to a modern camera - whether it's Digibeta, IMX, DVCPRO, whatever - then the result may well be reversed.

I've done a lot of low-light documentary work with my MSW-900 and have been thrilled with its performance... The producer on one doc had a PD-150 with her and shot some footage simultaneously - it was completely unusable. I believe the DXC-D50 camera head has the same generation of CCD, and is dockable to the tape format of your choice. And I'm sure that the SDX-900 has similar sensitivity.

That said, the cameras that are still working the most are my BVW-D600s. Even though they're at least 1, maybe 2 stops less sensitive than the MSW-900, I could easily shoot many jobs using only 150 - 400 W lights...Last week I found myself doing a news job and I had to pull out the dreaded on-camera light. A 20W Sachtler...And I had to put diffusion on it because it was too much. How much more sensitivity can you ask from an older camera?

George Hupka
Director/DP
Downstream Pictures
Saskatoon, Canada



>Recently worked with a guy who shoots Betacam and Mini-DV >(DVX100)...and curses the Beta for its low sensitivity, which requires >significantly higher lighting levels...which translates into a much >clumsier field package.

I like clumsy field packages. It means I have the tools I need to make pretty images.

Sony D30's/D35's are pretty darn fast.

Art Adams, DP
Mountain View, California - "Silicon Valley"



Dan Drasin writes :

>"...and curses the Beta for its low sensitivity, which requires significantly >higher lighting levels... which translates into a much clumsier field >package. Has that been your experience?"

While I agree the Beta's are a beast, I will take issue as to whether they perform well under low light.

My BVW600 shoots rings around my DVX100, although the little Panny makes really great pictures that I intercut everyday with my 600.

The Panny however, will not work well in a wet environment. I've shoot well over 25 hurricanes during my career and have never had one camera go down. I shoot in a light rain with my DVX100 (trash bagged) and 4 drops cost me over $1,500!

Granted the Panny is $4,000 and the 600 (in its day) was $60,000 but the point is the Betacams were built to take lots of abuse and adverse conditions. I would never dream of shooting a hurricane with a DVX100 unless I had some kind of PVC underwater housing...which I just ordered by the way!

Believe me when I say I grunt and groan whenever I pick up the beast but I love the feel of a real lens, real F-stops, and real exposure control.

And every time I look at the pictures from the DVX100 I marvel at how good they look and how you can hardly tell the difference from Beta, but you can!

I'm sure I can step up to Panasonics new 900 and be very happy, but why change when my clients still like Beta.

They will soon want HD and that my friends is the real problem!

Allen S. Face mire
DP/Director
SaltRun Productions,inc.
Atlanta



Art Adams writes :

>I like clumsy field packages. It means I have the tools I need to make >pretty images.

Sure, but...

If you and one other person had, as I did recently, to carry every bit of gear, plus personal luggage, on the London Underground, buses, trains, planes, etc., throughout the UK for three weeks (sometimes having to circumvent the various fires and derailments caused by the UK's scandalously brain dead, privatised track-maintenance system), you might be as willing to compromise and improvise as I was.

But then you'd probably have had a bigger budget than I did.... but probably a less-interesting shoot!

Dan Drasin
Producer/DP
Marin County, CA



Dan Drasin makes one of those points that's hard to defend against, and that's size...both gear and crew.

That's the one thing the little DV have on the Beta beasts is size. You can literally carry a days worth of batteries and tapes in your pockets. Not so with my Beta packages.

And as Dan points out, it is a compromise to rely solely on Mini DV but that's where professional decisions have to be made.

By definition compromise means giving up something and in Dan's case picture quality had to take a back seat to being able actually execute the job.

Sounds like he made a choice based on need and circumstances and that's the mark of a professional!

Allen S. Face mire
DP/Director
SaltRun Productions,inc.
Atlanta



>If you and one other person had, as I did recently, to carry every bit of >gear, plus personal luggage, on the London Underground, buses, >trains, planes, etc.

Well, two of us did have to schlep a Beta package over there a few years ago, with lights and audio, but we had a van moving us around from place to place.

I remember getting into the van during one location move and asking the driver, "How far to the next location?"

"About a mile."

"How long will that take?"

"About 45 minutes."

>But then you'd probably have had a bigger budget than I did ...but >probably a less-interesting shoot!

It was deadly dull... but it sure did look pretty.

I don't do much documentary work, so having a strip a package that small isn't something I'm used to. But I can see the need in certain situations.

I just don't encounter those very often. I always bring too much.

Art Adams, DP
Mountain View, California - "Silicon Valley"



Hi Art (and others),

I've only used the SDX-900 on a number of shoot but I've been very impressed with the results. In productions where I have choice of shooting formats, then its my camera of choice. I can still finish to DigiBeta from the NLE if they need a DB finish. It produces wonderfully soft results for a video camera.

In terms of tricks and tips...the most important one I've discovered with the progressive scan is the vertical motion detail. As the manual suggests, you get much better results decreasing the VMD when using the 'frame progressive' (not the blend) - otherwise the motion looks very stroby. I wouldn't use the blend, personally, as that's easily done in post. if you're going into the NLE via firewire, then shooting frame progressive makes the most sense.

The other issue I discovered was when using Cinegamma 2. I had a weird instance where the edges around a silhouette against a bright white sky turned a deep blue. It wasn't reproducible and I only noticed it on play back - relatively easy to grade out too.

Stuart Willis
h'biki media
Sydney, Australia



Hi

I purchased the SDX 900 (PAL) about 4 months ago, and with 60 hrs of recorded footage (rushes) I surprise myself every time I look at the footage. I do environmental docos so its a bit difficult to drag a monitor along on shoots.

Tricks and tips...

The SDX is extremely sensitive f13 @ 2000 lux, unfortunately you loose an f-stop when you switch from interlace to progressive. If you don't know the camera to well and want to play it save, go to the FILE page in the main menu, select SCENE and then scroll down to the title 4 :FILMLIKE. This option gives you easy access to a beautiful rich setting in progressive. You can change the file to your liking. I did take my detail levels down, focussing is a bit more difficult even with the VF-peaking all the way up but the resulting pictures looks great. Sometimes I cant stop smiling when I look at the colour saturation.

The exposure latitude is superb for a standard definition camera, but I tend to underexpose with a 1/2 stop to keep my blues and greens rich.

Otherwise its pretty straight forward.

Jacques Nortier - wildlife cameraman
(South Africa)