One: I'm following the director around in a mad rush. We've
broken down the equipment from a hasty interview with the head of
a car dealership, and we're late for another one across town. Suddenly
he says, "Oh, by the way, get a close-up of that Cadillac insignia,
will you?" We're talking a 1-1/2 diameter insignia on the hood
of a showroom car...
Two: I've had lots of time to set up this shoot of a professional
speaker. Lighting is perfect, audio is clean. I start with my establishing
wide shot and I have to zoom in tight...then I realize, I forgot
to pre-focus--I may be able to end up focused without hunting too
much, and I may not...
Three: I'm shooting for a documentary on Civil War re-enacters.
They're very particular about realism--I have to dress the part,
move along with them, and hide my VX-1000 in a cotton satchel when
I'm not shooting. There's no way they would have allowed a betacam.
Four: Shooting on this same documentary, I get a shot of
an officer on horseback. The director says wistfully, "I wonder
what that will look like in slow motion?"
DCR-VX1000 can handle these and other difficult situations with
ease. In this article, I'll fork over some of the juicy tidbits
I've discovered using this camera for the past couple years, plus
tips I've picked up from other owners.
with the scenarios listed above. The VX-1000 has a still-capture
mode that will either capture and hold a still image indefinitely
(this is a sort of "preview mode", but it can be used
to lay any length of a still image onto another tape deck); or it
will capture seven seconds onto its own mini-dv tape. Basically,
this means you will never need a tripod again when capturing a still
image, unless you want to use one for old-times' sake! I was able
to capture a crisp rendition of the 1-inch diameter logo mentioned
above, hand-held, in a few seconds.
VX-1000 has automatic focus--I don't trust it. Automatic focus belongs
on still cameras where it started, because by definition, video
cameras "hunt" on-line. However, this camera also has
a miniscule button on the lower-left of the lens barrel. This button
(if you can find it while you're shooting!) will give you a one-at
a-time autofocus that's very accurate. The trick I've learned is
to keep your finger poised over this button as you're zooming in,
and press it *periodically*. You'll get almost perfect focus throughout
your zoom range even if you were out of focus drastically when you
began the zoom.
The VX-1000 captures
a perfect still frame at any point in the video, and it also
provides slo-mo playback. The slow-motion effect on this video
clip of the horseman came straight out of the camera. In fast-moving
scenes, increasing the shutter-speed keeps the playback smoother.
and fellow-producer who lives in my neighborhood took his family
to Europe. He traded me his beta-sp UVW-100 for my VX-1000 for
the week. When he got back, he was thrilled--he'd been allowed
into all *sorts* of official places with that camera, since
he looked like "Joe Tourist"--but he had three-chip,
and features I've run across.
Audio Control: The VX-1000 has an excellent on-camera stereo microphone.
I have heard people complain about it picking up camera noise, but
haven't noticed a problem with it myself. It records in 12-bit audio--to
my ear, it's one of the best-sounding mics I have, and at close
range, I'd be hard-pressed to beat it. It's not directional, however.
The audio-in jack is stereo mini. With a stereo Y-adapter from Radio
Shack (model# 274-375), you can record onto separate audio tracks.
There is a digital, single-channel level display on the back of
the camera, with a peak indicator. I have not always been pleased
with the audio-limiter on this camera, although it's a drastic improvement
from my old Panasonic AG-450, in that it doesn't "search"
or gain-up in quiet intervals.
The VX-1000 features zebra stripes in the viewfinder. The
LCD color monitor, while wonderful to remind you if you've forgotten
to white balance, isn't as sharp as a traditional black and white
monitor, nor is it as representative of the actual exposure. It
takes some trial-and-error.
Balance: I'm not satisfied with the automatic white balance
in my camera, so I go exclusively manual, even if I have to get
someone to stand with his back to me so I can get a reading off
his T-shirt! The manual white balance, however, is very reliable
Light Capability: The low light capability is reasonably
good but nothing to rave about. Set the gain manually, and you'll
get a clean, non-grainy image up to 6db.
Zoom: The VX-1000 has a 10x zoom factor, and then it goes
into digital zoom mode which extends it to 20x. The image quality,
which is after all a big part of the camera's appeal, deteriorates
rapidly as you enter the digital zoom "domain". I find
that I can "pooch" into it just a bit, and then I have
Clog: There's a tendency for these cameras to develop head
clog, and create what people are calling "drop-outs"--I
think that's much too wimpy a term for the huge blocky distortions
or total blackouts that occur when the heads clog up. The consensus
seems to be that this is caused by switching brands of tape, from
Sony to any other brand and back again. I have no evidence to back
this up, other than if I stick with Panasonic or JVC brands, avoid
Sony tapes, I'm okay. I believe I could get the same results by
using exclusively Sony tapes, but, they're more expensive. Just
to be safe, I've been cleaning the heads every few shoots.
While the image from these cameras is very crisp for such
a little box, there is some artifacting--hopefully this will be
solved in future generations.
Code: There's a tendency for the time code to break and
start over from zero when you stop and then start recording again,
especially if you review previous footage often. This makes makes
logging tapes a nuisance.
Setting: The VX-1000's black level is set to the Japanese
standard of zero ire, instead of the 7.5 ire we are accustomed to
seeing. This creates a somewhat contrastier look, and I think contributes
to unfavorable comparisons with beta-sp despite its 500 lines of
resolution. This can be adjusted in post-production.
Bars: While it's nowhere in the manual, the camera can
be "tricked" into producing color bars. Most users have
learned the trick by now, but when the news first came out, I found
myself demonstrating it to a Sony representative who hadn't heard
of it! Briefly, the procedure is as follows: In "camera"
mode and in "lock" position, hold down the *top* record
button and the photo button simultaneously. While holding them,
move the lever from "lock" to "standby", pause
briefly, and then let off of both buttons. These bars can be recorded.
Moving back to lock position will cancel them.
The 4-hour lithium batteries (which don't really last four
hours, but then, what batteries live up to their time specs?) are
light as a feather and have no "memory" when recharging.
I carry four spares and hardly feel it.
The one-hour tapes are tiny and can be reused without fear of dropouts,
in my experience (head clog, mentioned above, is a separate problem).
The "Steady Shot" stabilization feature in this
camera allows you shoot amazingly steady hand-held, and because
it's an optical and not a digital system, it doesn't degrade the
Density Filter: This filter gives you a greater range of
general setting: Although the VX-1000 has several shooting
modes, I use the all-manual configuration exclusively:
Hold/Automatic lever set in mid-position for manual shooting.
2) Toggling the AE-Program button on the left-back
of the camera until neither shutter speed, night-shooting (a moon
icon), nor AE symbols appear, I then press the "Exposure"
button on the left side of the camera. This displays in the viewfinder
a vertical thermometer bar, the exposure setting, and the gain setting.
As I roll the wheel just behind the Exposure button, the aperture
decreases or increases. When it increases to the point that the
iris is "open", it then goes into gain by increments of
3db and displays this in the viewfinder accordingly. In this mode
you have total aperture and gain control.
3) Manual white balance. Just below the white balance mode
button on the back of the camera, is the tiny button that you hold
to actually *set* the white balance. A symbol with a block above
two adjacent triangles represents white-balance, and you will see
this blink in the viewfinder as the camera is white-balancing. If
you don't see this symbol in the viewfinder, toggle the white balance
mode button until it appears.
4) Manual audio control. While in the configuration described
above, press the "Rec Level" button on the back of the
camera. The audio record level is now manually adjustable with the
wheel marked "control" on the left side of the camera
all the way towards the rear. You shouldn't lose any other controls
when in manual audio record, in this configuration.
If you shoot in reasonably good light, are careful to zoom in and
focus critically, white balance carefully in every new light situation,
and use the all-manual settings described above, you can approach
beta-sp quality with this tiny, portable, light-weight, unobtrusive
the way, did I mention it's cool-looking?
Gold Thread Video Productions
more Information? Here are some links to check out:
University (Hal Landen)