Yesterday, Thurs Aug 28 was my first day at Fan Expo. It was the opening day, a half day really, from 4 pm to 8 pm
It's always big but this year it's even bigger, taking up both halls of the Metro Convention Centre. I have two purposes for attending the Expo, making my documentary and attending panels and networking to promote my graphic novel concept, The Howl. There were no panels in which I was interested yesterday so I went with film making in mind
I had to put some thought into what gear I would taking. I'm a one man band as it were (and we are glad that that is only a euphemism, me in any kind of band would be beyond nightmare) so I have to bring gear that will get me what I want but that will also allow me to travel light.
There was not doubt that I was going to bring my Soney NX cam. It is tiny, it is tough and I love the image quality. It allows me to shoot in a variety of HD formats, from 20 fps (frames per second) to 14 to 60. I knew I wasn't going to shoot in 24 fps, the oh so beloved "film look". The quality of that speed on the Sony is pretty good but it is most suited to exterior shots, particularly night or fall type lighting. Inside, in artificial lighting I actually prefer to shoot at 60 fps 1080p.
It does not look like a film. Well I am not shooting a film, I am shooting a video. The images are bright, clean, sharp and vibrant. The film look has its place but I like shooting video. And I think for this project, this clear sharp video is exactly what I want.
The NX is a remarkably stable little cam. It has a floating lens and very good image stabilization but nothing replaces a tripod for steadiness, especially if you plan to do interviews and "streeters" which I certainly wanted to do. There are many stabilization options out there. I have several of them.
Fan Expo attracts a lot of video crews, both official and unofficial. The trend these days is to use a DSLR just so you can get that film look. I like the image quality of these cameras but for me, they are not EFP (electronic field production) cameras, that is cameras that you can use on the fly, on the run, in fluid situations
DSLRs are, after all, still cameras. And although most of them have image stabilization is a common feature it is stabilization for still photography. The rigs that these DSLR shooters use make me giggle, not only is the cam in a big cage (with a video return monitor, mics) it seems the operator is as well
For yesterday's shoot I decided to bring my trusty Monfrotto monopod. This thing is old. At least twenty five years. It's a bit bit up but it's a beast, you may be able to kill it but you can't wound it. It is made from high quality aluminum, it is light but tough as hell, I have put some very heavy cameras on it without hesitation. It has three sections with quick release tabs so I can extend it and retract it very quickly. It does not have a quick release head, which sometimes is a problem, but generally I screw it on to the cam and leave it there; fully retracted it's a little under two feet long and makes a nice handle.
The one thing the Monfrotto lacks that I would love to have is a pan and tilt head but I'm working on that.
My next concern was audio. Like all camcorders the Sony has a built in cam and it's not bad. Far better than any built in cam of any DSLR. But I wanted to do interviews and in a big noisy environment of the Expo, the little condensor mic would not cut it. My old Sony handycam was a consumer cam and id not have mic inputs. The NX, for all it's diminutive size, is a pro cam. It comes with an audio deck with XLR (big boy audio) inputs and a shotgun mic. It's a good shotgun mic but I have a Rode mic that really is full on pro and and I can clamp that to the Sony.
I shot a couple of interviews last night in very noisy areas were I could barely hear the person but the mic did a remarkable job, overall very clear and with a bit of filtering in post, I will be very happy with the results.
One of the days of the Expo I will probably bring my new stabilizer, a wierd looking thing with counterbalances that allows graceful, smooth tracking shots. It's a bit cumbersome to pack but the monopod works well in its retracted position, giving me extra stability.
I'm off to the Expo today. I will take my gear of course and shoot as much as I can (the Sony has a 90 gig HD that allows for, at highest quality, about 9 straight hrs of shooting which should do very well) but today will be more about panels and networking and trying to sell the graphic novel script.
But yeh, I will definitely still be in my annoying-old-guy-with-a-cam mode. Beware, nerds, beware