Wednesday, August 30, 2006

Mine is Bigger than Yours

We've all heard the joke that size doesn't matter but I'm here to tell you it does.

Penis Envy

Over at Lenslinger's blog he took up the subject that he so accurately says,

"In the daily camera scrum, no one issue sparks a firefight quicker than the VJ debate.....shrinky-dink lenses are threatening to take the ‘crew’ out of news crew"

I was going to put a simple little comment about it on his blog and ended up writing this long winded diatribe so I figured I'd share it here too.

The main purpose of my comment was directed toward the people who don't understand why we wouldn't want a lighter workload.

As the master of my own personal $300 handycam I have to say that, other than the occasional instance that I want or need to be less conspicous, I don't want to be fumbling around with the minute controls of consumer gear even if it does weigh a fraction of what a Pro Camera like our XD cameras.

XD Cam Chris

If I was made of money I might be the only dad shooting home videos with a $30k XD Cam.

And even though camera makers like Sony do make cameras with pictures that rival their big brothers there are plenty of reasons why professional video cameras are a little bigger, weigh a bit more and have easy to manipulate buttons.

vj Heidi 4

Ease of use by a professional, the weight to help hold it steady and size to allow the manual controls to be spread out allow better video to be gathered and manual changes to be made quickly on the fly.

AirCare (4)

With tiny, menu heavy consumer camcorders there's no way to keep shooting while manually adjusting for continuously changing shooting conditions.

Simply put, a bigger camera helps us do our job better, a mini-camera is just a cop-out. I think the 16-18 pounds of the XD Cam is probably ideal.

Look Up

The Betacams we had before the XDs were roughly 25 pounds.

The typical VJ Handycam is about 8.

To quote Lenslinger again, " I don’t wanna take a toy into battle."

Of course we did shoot all of the NAB Video for with two little Handy Cams...NO, not the one on the Miller Tripod...the itty bitty one's in our hands!


Anonymous said...

The sad thing is that the decision is a BUDGET decision instead of a News / Public Service decision. When asked why, the answer is often stated that we examine the breaking news from Katrina or the Middle East - shot in low-rez, crappy light and hand-held.

It's all Dan Rather's fault, because when Walter retired, all the news money went to the faces of the news - not the content. Now the Money Changers see where they can save money on both ends.

Don Moore

Widescreen said...


If you don’t mind I am going to copy/paste the same response I gave lenslinger. I can see your points but it’s only at the glass end that I believe there is a real difference. Sure there are good reasons for both but you can’t make that comparrison with your $300.00 home job. The home viewer or the news director could care less about the picture quality as long as it’s usable and there. Citizen Journalism is a huge player in this market, a resource that more and more networks a pooling from. As for Heidi, there is probably more at fault with her technique than her camera. As for budget, perhaps but it may be more driven by a greater need to have more cameras and efficient/multi skilled operators who can work with speed and simplicity. Can you honestly say you can shoot better video off the shoulder out of a chopper than with a smaller camera that you can cradle and has an inbuilt image stabalizer?

Why do you and lenslinger have wrist bands on your viewfinder? In the second last photo, it would be an interesting top light if it was not for the fact you are under a street lamp!

I am going to play devils advocate here. I think your argument about camera size/quality is a valid one but I feel it is a separate one from the VJ debate.

The argument over VJ’s should be about quality but not the quality of the camera. A Sony XD or a new P2 does not make a good cameraman. The camera is only as ever good as the operator behind it. Experience and natural talent does, but it does not make for someone who can write either.

I have seen some amazing pictures shot on handycam, mostly by overseas VJ’s. It was also the content and composition that supplemented it. Having a bigger camera will not make for better pictures. You could argue the quality may be better, after all, your talking about a proper lens and pick up devise, but don’t forget, all the features of a Sony XD have already been tried and tested in the domestic market.

The issue here is that people who are not camera operators are being turned into one, but then neither were either of us before we started. If I went to the library and pulled out some of my early stuff, I would be embarrassed to think it had my name on it.

We are now going down the VJ path in our regional areas. Because we have radio affiliates, they are taking those reporters and giving them a camera and laptop. It’s not ideal, but I can’t stop it either. In fact two networks here, ABC & SBS both use VJ’s on shows that predominately source stories from overseas.

Fumbling with small and unfamiliar buttons is all about reassurance. Familiarity with your own camera is what generates the comfort zone you feel when you pick it up. If you had to use a smaller camera for a period of time, I guarantee you would soon become comfortable with it. It may not change your personal preference, but it will alter your level of comfort.

I’m not sure how Colonel can say VJ’s cannot survive in the HD world. Why not? How does HD affect it? It does not. A bad shot is a bad shot, regardless of whether it’s shot on VHS or HD. The HD debate is about image quality which is different again.

Personally, I prefer a bigger camera. Part of that is my comfort zone. But if I was given a quality camera that was smaller and had all the right features and components to do the job, why not. Why bust my ass lugging heavy gear when smaller lighter gear can do the same job. Sony is about to put out a small HD handycam that does everything your XD does. I played with it in Sydney a couple of weeks ago and it crapped over anything out there on the market. Why are they doing it? Because of VJ’s!