SDX-900 vs Varicam
Published : 24th April 2005
Out of interest, which would you chose for a mid-budget TVC campaign:
1) An SDX-900 with the P+S Adaptor and a set of SuperSpeeds Mk2 (or a nice zoom lens); or
2) A Varicam with a Canon Cinestyle lens (a HJ21).
Assume that slow-mo isn't necessary, but may be used.
The costs are roughly the same, so I'm providing an allowance so the DoP can choose... but I'm curious as to what you would choose.
Seems to me the SDX900 with the P + S adapter would give more bang for the buck, providing the subject matter would benefit from the shallow depth of field.
The Varicam downconverts wonderfully but the SDX900 does a fine job as well.
If it was all night exteriors or low light situations I might opt out of the adapter and just go with a Varicam.
Only an engineer's perspective, but . . .
The strength of the SDX-900 in my (very small) market is that it can be used in so many different types of productions and can integrate with so much existing equipment (scopes, monitors, lenses, personal edit bays). If the ONLY thing you will be doing with this package is spots, you may never really find use for the options that make the SDX-900 popular (like easily switching from 60i 4:3 for one client to 30P 16:9 for the next).
If this package is for spots only, I'd probably go with the Varicam package. More resolution for the money you're talking about spending.
And when you say that "the costs are roughly the same", are you including the differences between those two packages concerning on-set monitors, wfm/vectorscope, and the big question: do you do your own post, and if so, are you already set up for HD (and not just SD video)? The price difference between the decks involved here is worth keeping in mind.
Video Engineer/SF Bay Area
Jay Farrington wrote:
>Only an engineer's perspective, but . . .
Only? Don't sell yourself short :)
>If this package is for spots only, I'd probably go with the Varicam >package. More resolution for the money you're talking about spending.
Oh, I probably should have pointed out that this is for a rental on a TVC campaign (5 day shoot) not for purchase. I can understand what you're saying about the SDX-900 -- and is our preferred camera for most things because of its flexibility and quality. Its amazing how many clients love the look of the camera. Its a good sign when the audience, and not just the tweak heads, can notice the difference.
>And when you say that "the costs are roughly the same", are you >including the differences between those two packages concerning on->set monitors, wfm/vectorscope...
The Varicam package comes with a small wfm/vector, but you do need to rent a larger HD monitor so that does add a bit to the $ value, but its a curious thing about budgeting, the bigger the budget the more those kinds of cost dwindle as a proportion of the overall dollar value. Still, it comes down to what the final approved budget is...
>do you do your own post, and if so, are you already set up for HD (and >not just SD video)? The price difference between the decks involved >here is worth keeping in mind.
I do my own post (mostly). The AJ-1200s are arriving within the next month or so. They should be at a fairly competitive rate to current pro50 decks, as the competition starts heating up between various rental houses. Thus, I'd bring the Varicam in via firewire, rather than HD-SDI or via a down converted HD signal. But yes, we are an uncompressed SD house and we have currently no intention of moving to uncompressed HD (unlike the mid level corporate market in the US, most mid-level corporates here have to be 'encouraged' into DigiBeta, so I don't see HD being a serious player in this market for some time IMNSHO).
Director + Editor
>Also, out of interest, do youse [heh] who use the Varicam for smaller >spots take full HD monitors, waveforms, and DITs?
I just shot some spec spots with the Varicam using a combination LCD monitor/waveform/vectorscope, because that's all the rental house had available. It was just me, a director and a gaffer shooting very simple stuff. I was flying blind colourwise, but it all turned out fine based on my experience shooting video without a monitor. We added a little red in Smoke to warm it up slightly, but other than that all the footage looked pretty good without major tweaking.
Having said that, though... that is NOT my preferred way to work. It can work if you need it to (emphasis on "need" because I'd never choose to work that way on a real project), and if you have a fair amount of experience and a small amount of luck, but I'd prefer to have a DIT working on the footage as we shoot. That ensures the best results, especially when it comes to reigning in highlights. I've got a regular DIT/video controller (Jay Farrington) who I've been working with regularly for about eight years. With him watching the waveform/vectorscope and painting as needed I know I'm in good hands and I can worry about other things. It speeds me up considerably.
If you're shooting a spot, and it HAS to look good, definitely bring a DIT, waveform/vectorscope/paintbox, and at least a 14" monitor. Then make sure the client notices and understands that you care enough about their footage to have someone monitoring it consistently for quality control and perfection.
As for the Varicam...I think of it as the SDX900's big brother. The SDX900 looks just as good, it's just that the resolution is a bit lower.
Art Adams, DP [film|hdtv|sdtv]
San Francisco Bay Area - "Silicon Valley"
Thanks Art, the flexibility of the SDX and P+S adaptor is what I suspected would be the better choice (and what the proposed DP suggested). However, its your praise of the Varicam which has lead me to be very interested in the camera. I'm just hoping I can get the right project with the right budget to see what it can do.
Also, out of interest, do youse [heh] who use the Varicam for smaller spots take full HD monitors, waveforms, and DITs?