Here is what I want to do:
1. Film myself and one other person talking indoors.
2. I can turn on camera and enter frame; don't want someone running camera, and don't need remote control.
3. Would like to have professional caliber audio using lapel mics.
4. Possibly use two, simultaneous cameras or "shots". One could be of lesser quality than the other, such as using a point-and-shoot for the occasional shot of me, the interviewer, asking questions.
5. Interview duration (raw original footage) will probably be six hours or more initially, before editing down.
6. Have compression algorithm of video file format be something that is relatively high quality but not so huge that it consumes multiple terabytes when transferred to my PC for editing.
7. Love to not spend >$500 on the main video camera.
I realize that's a lot of specifics, but any gear recommendations would be great. Keep in mind that I have no aspirations of "going pro". I have much audio equipment myself (as a part-time musician) such as condensor mics and mixers, and would like to acquire a good video camera, but I don't need to invest in a huge setup to do this deal all of the time. This is a one-shot deal.
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Assuming you "already have good audio gear" (which might include lapel mikes?), I would:
Shoot "double-system" audio, going to a separate audio-only recorder (which could take a feed from your mixer). Zoom, Tascam, Roland and others make good external field recorders, which you could then use later on for your music sideline. As this is an interview, Audio is of major importance, and most cameras neither have the on-cam microphones worthy of the job, nor do they have good, clean external input connections. Should you still have need for lavs, I can comment on that later...
Your choice of cams for such a simple setup actually allows for great leeway - even bargain basement consumer cams could do a passable job given a stable mounting (no cam movement) and sufficient lighting. For the job and what level you seem to be implying, I'd say a Canon Vixia or Panny HDC-500 type cam is in your range. I would strongly suggest, however, that you get cams that match, otherwise there will be a noticeable (and possibly bothersome) difference when intercutting. Cams in that range are OK quality, and should retain most of their value, should you choose to resell on ebay or something.
You could choose to do an OTS (over-the-shoulder) shot of your interviewee, and then later, after they have left, do a "pickup" of the reverse angle (for your questions or reactions). This could save you having to use 2 simultaneous cameras (and the later multi-cam editing involved). You could, though, also do a 2-shot (of You AND the Interviewee) AND an OTS, with a later "stand-in" pickup (for a faux-3cam look). News crews & docs do this all the time.
Running time is a bitch on many cams, but if you are using LARGE storage sizes (assuming SD cards or similar) of say 16 or 32 or more GB, and you are using the AC adapter instead of shooting on battery, you can go quite a lengthy bit of time. There is still the possibility of the cam overheating (major problem with DSLRs), but your "camcorders" are meant to be better at handling that, plus you should be taking a bathroom/water break every now and then anyway.
Most good prosumer and consumer cams these days are some form of AVC/h.264 in MOV, or MP4, or AVCHD (TS) container format. They seem to hover in the 12-50Mbps range (mostly around 17-25Mbps), when using the highest quality setting. 6 Hours of 24Mbps footage is going to be ~64GB (probably 2x 32GB cards). Make sure you have cards that are fast enough class for your write speed (minimally Class 6 or better, but usually Class 10 or better is recommended). That is PER CAMERA.
You will also need 2 decent tripods. Luckily, they won't need to be the best, strongest, fluid-head, etc, because these are basic "locked-down" shots. Set it and leave it. So, as long as they can handle the weight (fairly easy) and don't wobble on their own (also fairly easy), you could pick up a couple of photo camera tripods, probably for less than $100 for 2. Biggest issue might be height requirement and full pan/tilt plus leveling.
As mentioned, what makes this all work well with consumer cams is GOOD LIGHTING. And I'm not talking about regular indoor household lighting, even with extra lamps on & overheads. Nor am I talking about outdoor light/sunlight (much too contrasty for good interview recording with those kinds of cams). No, I'm talking about a 3- or 4-point lighting pro light kit, preferably with a chimera or soft-box. That can give you SUFFICIENT as well as SMOOTH and Natural-looking lit images. You could easily spend over $500, on the most basic of pro light kits, and I know you don't want to do that, so my suggestion here is to rent one. You can probably get a kit for somewhere between $50-$200 for a day's use (though you will usually need credit collateral when renting).
DO NOT SKIMP ON THIS PART! It makes a huge difference in the outcome, especially if using consumer cams. Do your homework on this one.
I know this all sounds like I'm trying to get you to do a "pro" shoot, but that really ought to be the way you are approaching this, if you want it to come out as nice as you'd like. Even if you don't have the equipment, the methodology and preparation of doing things thoroughly and correctly (the pro way) will get you a better end result.
Here's an additional tip: set up your shots and then put down tape on the floor JUST OUTSIDE of the view from the camera, so you know where your framing "boundaries" are. This allows you (or your interviewee) to have leeway to move/maneuver while being recorded, and still not get out of the shot (or possibly worse, be cut off midway).
Also, do some practice shoots in the same environment and review it to make sure everything is how you'd hoped.
Also also, give a thought as to plain/smooth but interesting background/environment.
Hope that gets you started,
Last edited by Cornucopia; 17th May 2014 at 18:28.
Good stuff Cornucopia. Might I add a bit about a controlled environment, as controlled as you are able to get. Things like slamming doors, air conditioners, other people talking who are not a part of the actual interview, and other non-essential sounds should be minimized or eliminated. Of course if you use a mixer and good mics then this may not be an issue.
And also leeway. If the camera will be turned off and on then you can hit the record button then internally count to 3 to 5 before you or your talent start to speak.
Yes, yes and more yes. Environment is ALWAYS an issue, even for excellent mikes & mixers, just a matter of degrees. Plus, slating (clapperboard) is a good idea (particularly if doing separate audio). This will also give you some of that leeway that can be necessary.
Oh yeah! I forgot about the clapperboard. One can be had for a tidy sum. I purchased a dry erase one online (though I have yet to use it) for far less than $100 USD. The poor man's version: Stand in front of the camera(s) and clap your hands together. This will be seen as a spike in your audio waveforms. Helps tremendously with syncing.
I once did a shoot that had a very noisy air conditioner. I had to do some post editing on the sound, but the end result could have been better had I addressed the air conditioner before I starting shooting. Live and learn.
Also consider shooting at a time when people traffic is at a minimum.
Thanks for the input. Great minds think alike: I had spent an hour surfing Amazon and picked out the Canon Vixia HF-R500 as a prime candidate before seeing your post.
I already have a Zoom 8-track I can use to capture audio separately. I was thinking of using two lavs (love to hear your thoughts on these) + perhaps a condensor mic for the room to give me some ambient options.
What software do you recommend for editing the two shots and the audio all together? Love the "clapping" suggestion for synching audio.
For lighting, I will confess a desire to skimp there: I am planning to have the interviewee sit on a couch that is in front of two floor-to-ceiling windows. I know that the angle of the shot will be important, so that he's not just a silhouette against a bright window.
To provide a bit more context, this is going to be an interview with my father, who is in his 70s. He has had an interesting life, and yet there are plenty of details that I don't know. I've got a list of probably 50 questions. So, while I do want to have good quality for posterity's sake, it's fine (in my mind) if the look/feel of it is more casual than professional.
Use the windows as a front light source. Have him sit facing about 3/4 view to them.
I have an Azden wireless mic system (2 lav mics and 2 handheld mics). I am very pleased with it; each mic records onto a separate channel. The plug is 1/8 inch, so I purchased a few 1/8 inch to XLR adapters and they work fine.
I have the Zoom H4N audio recorder and like it also.
As far as multicam editing software, I use Adobe Premiere Pro CS6. Vegas Pro can also do multicam editing. Some of the less expensive editing software may also allow multicam editing. I know for sure that PowerDirector 12 does.
I strongly recommend that you not take proper lighting too casually, especially if the camera you purchase does not allow for a lot of manual control. Few things are more irritating than grain and dark video. The lighting from the windows may be a problem for you. Consider doing some test shots in the room you plan to use for shooting and then edit and view those shots to check the final results. Play around with the camera settings.
Last edited by Brainiac; 19th May 2014 at 20:40. Reason: smrpix beat me to it
Sorry, Brainiac, I'm not a fan of Azden anything. Always thought they generated too much bkgd noise & distortion. For lavs, since this is (likely) a sit-down interview, you can get MUCH more bang-for-your-buck by using WIRED lavs. My faves have been Sony ECM-77B, but those are a bit expensive for such limited-time expected use (~$350USD/each). Shure, AudioTechnica, Sennheiser, Sanken, Countryman all make decent ones (probably a few more mftr's, that's all that come to mind).
Also have the handly H4n (though now looking into an H6 or better, as I am doing more indie double-system stuff now and need the versatility). The H4n is a little weak on the gain, but otherwise quite usable.
@defurr, if you aren't planning on doing too much other stuff and are only going to be doing some A/B, Shot-ReverseShot ping-pong editing for this project, you won't necessarily need Multicam capability. And in that case, you could go with something like Sony Vegas Movie Studio. To make full use of Multicam puts you into the Pro range, so (for example) for the Sony line, you'd need Vegas Pro: a much more costly (but powerful) editor.
For lighting, I'd suggest you do some studying, including Google searches on "3 point lighting interview setup" - both articles and pictures would be informative. Also, this Lowell site http://lowel.com/edu/components_interview.html gives good interactive examples of the types of lights/angles necessary to fill out the subject nicely.
Don't discount the utility of Bounce Cards, either. Even the overpowering light from a big window can be tamed by judicious use of BC's, which can be gotten by purchasing 20" x 30" white foamcore boards. You could even do what I do and apply bluish or yellowish, or even metallic gold & silver spraypaint on them to give you a wide variety of diffuse vs. specular surface types & colors.
Last edited by Cornucopia; 20th May 2014 at 02:00.
Cornucopia, one of the things I like most about this site is the multitude of knowledgeable people who are willing to lend their expertise. Even if we have different opinions, we can still be respectful of one another. Admittedly, I learn quite a lot from reading posts here, and my preconceived ideas are often challenged.
??Was I not respectful? I meant to be. Would gladly love to be proved wrong and be able to add to my list of potential tools (though that would only happen now if I were hired for a project where that equipment was already provided).
If I read that last post wrong, just ignore this. This site can be enriching to all, novice or veteran, if they are willing to let themselves be enriched. Myself included.
Cornucopia, I was actually complimenting you and many others here on this site; no admonishment was intended. I did not want to ignore your reply because I did not want you or others to think I was being rude. It's all good.