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Thread: Absolute beginner

  1. #1
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    Default Absolute beginner

    Hi all, firstly please forgive my ignorance as I an utter novice in this field. I recently acquired (for free!) a Sony HVR A1E which had lain unused in a cupboard for about 3 years in a collection of boxes. The previous owner told me that he thought it was broken but when I got it home, put it together and plugged it in, it started charging and 'appears' to work okay but please bear in mind I haven't fully tested it.

    My first question is about the camera. I was told that it was a reasonable bit of kit despite being quite old. Is that the case or is it way out of date? It seems to use tapes which strikes me as a bit out of date but it also has a sort of memory card too. I'm a bit confused because recording onto tape seems to run counter to my understanding of digital technology? Opinions of the camera and clarification would be welcome

    My second question relates to actually making films. Is there a decent guide book that is not camera specific that covers the 'process' of film making? My interest lies in possibly making short local history and documentary pieces as opposed to drama.

    My IT setup is fairly basic - I have an iMac 27 with 16GB of RAM. I have no special software but I gather the built in iMovie is okay as a starting point?

    Many thanks in advance for your assistance.

    Peter

  2. #2

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    The Sony HVR A1E was a reasonable camera in it's day, though never top of the line or anywhere near it.

    As I recall this was switchable between DV & HDV. DV is standard definition and HDV is sort of HD in so far as it's 1440x1080 with non square pixels (don't sweat it - it's fine). It was used a lot a few years ago because the bandwidth could fit on an old DV tape.

    The memory stick was only used for stills captures, probably only up to 1920x1080 but I could be wrong.

    In terms of how useable it is.... it's as good today as the day it was launched, so yes, it's pretty usable. In good light I'd have no problem being able to shoot good video with it. If you don't have good light, add some!

    iMovie is a good starting point but I don't know if the latest versions still include tape capture. You'll also need a firewire port on your mac, so if it's a later model you may need to buy a thunderbolt to firewire adapter before you can capture. You can't capture HDV over USB.

  3. #3
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    Just to add a bit to David's comments.
    1. It uses tape but it IS digital. It is recording a digital signal to tape. Like any digital media the data is either there or it is not, it doesn't deteriorate in the way that analogue media does (eg VHS). To put it another way, the media (cf card, SD card, SxS or tape) has no bearing on the quality of the image.
    2. This may "only" be standard definition and HDV (High Definition Video) but bear in mind that DVDs are "only" standard definition - and sales of those outstrip BluRay by several factors. There are good reasons to film in High Definition, even if you are only going to deliver in Standard Definition, but if you are not cropping when you edit (and assuming you have shot properly- exposure, focus, shutter etc) you should be able to get perfectly good DVD quality.
    3. Tape has a few advantages over cards. (a) Assuming you never re-use tapes, you have a permanent archive. (b) If a file on a card goes corrupt, you've probably lost the whole file - or at least are in for a hell of a job getting it recovered (this is one reason many cameras offer the ability to record to two cards at once). If a tape goes corrupt, you just lose a few frames, if it breaks, you rethread it and again, just lose a few frames. (c) DV and HDV are easily editable straight from the camera. HD formats are more highly compressed and you need a powerful computer to deal with it (or transcode to something more editor friendly)

    On the other hand, you can only "capture" tape to your computer in real time, so a 1 hour recording will take an hour to transfer to your computer. On the other hand you can make use of that hour reviewing the footage, making note as you go. An hour that you'd probably need to spend anyway.

    If I sound a bit of a tape fanboy, it's true, I do mourn its demise, mainly for the archive reasons (a drawer full of tapes seems so much more "real" to me than a hard drive full of files). Whilst I have moved to HD, I am currently filming a school production on tape - because I have access to two identical cameras - and I'm rediscovering the joy of working this way.
    Tim

  4. #4

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    Quote Originally Posted by TimStannard View Post
    If I sound a bit of a tape fanboy, it's true, I do mourn its demise, mainly for the archive reasons (a drawer full of tapes seems so much more "real" to me than a hard drive full of files).
    I was right there with you, 'till one day I realised I had a drawer full of tapes and nothing left to play them on!

    One more tip for the tape if I may suggest it. When you buy a brand new tape, put it in the camera and let it record the entire tape (also known as striping the tape) with the lens cap on. That way you'll have good timecode throughout the tape. When you start & stop recordings (effectively over writing the tape) the bits in between your new recordings would normally be a blank write splice which can often cause problems when capturing to the computer, but by striping the tape beforehand the camera will generally sync up the start and stop to the timecode boundaries and you'll be good to go.

  5. #5
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    Quote Originally Posted by David Partington View Post
    I was right there with you, 'till one day I realised I had a drawer full of tapes and nothing left to play them on!
    (Laughs) Indeed, the only reason i still have my tape camera is in case i want to re-capture anything - and when other people ask me to do favours.
    Tim

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