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No downconverter with Varicam


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#1 Brad Grimmett

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Posted 05 August 2004 - 07:10 PM

I'm booked on a music video next week and after a discussion with the producer I discovered that they may not have a downconverter on the camera. After further discussion he told me that he is planning on getting an astro monitor with the package. Of course I told him that I need a downconverter, but he still seemed a bit hesitant. Weird, I know, but what else can I do but tell him what I need? It's up to him to actually do it. So, I started thinking about what I could do if I show up and there is no downconverter. The first thing that comes to mind is that I could velcro or tape the astro on top of my monitor. But then I have to run cables down to the monitor which is a pain, and the cables may not be long enough, which would completely screw me.
Does anyone have any ideas or suggestions about the best way to deal with this? I'm planning on calling the producer next week a couple days before the shoot to encourage him to get a down converter if he hasn't already, but beyond that I don't have any way to ensure that there is a down converter on the job.

Thanks.
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#2 mattmarek

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Posted 05 August 2004 - 08:31 PM

hmmm. i'm assuming this is a budget music vid and they don't have the $ to rent the downconverter?

if not, and you're getting full rate, why not just find a rental company on your own and rent it personally, then
include it with your invoice.

or...if it's a smaller budget shoot that just doesn't have the money and the cable going down the post is an
issue, attach the monitor onto the camera and look off it there.

or you can shoot blind. i've had to do this once on an arri 3 gig with fried video tap. we we're wide the entire night,
and the footage turned out great.
good luck
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#3 Michael Stumpf

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Posted 05 August 2004 - 09:25 PM

Brad,

Call the producer tomorrow.
Tell them a downconverter is a NECESSARY piece of equipment in order to get the job done right.
If it's a cost factor, just tell them it will cost them less for the down converter then they spend on Starbucks coffee for the office staff every morning. Ask them to just skip a day on the Starbucks so you can have the equipment necessary to give the director and band what they want. Then say "sorry to inconvenience you." No just kidding leave that part out. :)

Even if this is an ultra low budget video, if they want the proper shots, they need to get the proper equipment.
I wouldn't do any doohickey rigging of a monitor to your sled or such. That'll just set a bad example and they'll want to do that on all their shoots.

Obviously be professional about it, but be firm. If it's a case of a down converter isn't available, tell them they need to call around and subrent it from another video dealer.

Otherwise, if they are THAT cheap, I'm sure the job will be a nightmare anyway and not worth your time. Once they call around and find out that EVERY operator will tell them the same thing, they'll get the downconverter.

Good luck
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#4 Alec Jarnagin SOC

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Posted 06 August 2004 - 12:12 AM

Brad,

Michael hit it on the head. Call the Producer (in this case he may not deserve the capital "P") and tell him one more time. If you show up and there is no down converter politely remind him of the conversation, ask for your fee and then leave!

I just spent some time as an "A" camera Op with the Varicam. We had no extension eye-piece (I'm not sure they even make one for the Panasonic) so I used an Astro to operate with when on wheels. At times I found it liberating to not have my face buried into and eye-piece, but at other times it drove me nuts. I had a dolly move with a drastic pan in direct sun light and for complicated reasons, I could not move my body too much (I would have hit a tree - hard to explain the geography on this one). Very hard to see the image on an LCD. Obviously it worked or I would have found another way, but it made me think of all the Steadicam guys who swear by LCDs. Once again, I thought they were all crazy (sorry folks). Brad, stick to your guns - get the tools you need to do the job.

Take care.
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#5 Nikk Hearn-Sutton SOC

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Posted 06 August 2004 - 01:03 AM

I Just flew a Varicam a couple weeks ago and I'm tellin ya YOU REALLY NEED THAT. I know w/o it you can't get a feed off it. I used an AJA is that a good DC on reasonable on $ the only thin is you need a anothe pwr source for it. what I did was take the D plug and put in to my Anton gold mount and fastened the cables so it was out of my way when I flew it. Just an idea.
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#6 Brad Grimmett

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Posted 06 August 2004 - 01:04 AM

Yes, it's a low budget video, which is why I won't just go out and rent one myself. I'd have no problem doing that if the rate were better and the producer was refusing to rent it. He hasn't refused to get it, it just seems like he wasn't planning on getting one and therefore didn't have it budgeted, and the budget is very tight. I think he's going to get it for me, especially after I call him again and give him a little more encouragement, but I just wanted to have a plan in case the worst possible scenario occurred. If he tells me he's getting it and then doesn't, I can at least have some kind of plan.
Thanks for the responses guys
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#7 Brad Grimmett

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Posted 06 August 2004 - 01:15 AM

Brad,

Michael hit it on the head.  Call the Producer (in this case he may not deserve the capital "P") and tell him one more time.  If you show up and there is no down converter politelyfor the re remind him of the conversation, ask for your fee and then leave! 

That's probably very good advice in most situations Alec, but it's not something I want to do on this one, and the reason is simple. This is a director I used to work with regularly until he stopped directing for a while. Obviously, that was a bummer for me because I got less work because of it. But now he's signed with a new company and it looks like he's going to be working a lot, and to be quite honest, I want and NEED the work. He's a great guy and a good director, and just basically someone I'd like to continue to work with. Also, the producer has been nothing but friendly, so I don't really want to alienate myself to someone who I may have the opportunity to work with a lot. I'm just trying to give myself an easy fix if a problem should arrive. As you know, part of being a good operator is being able to anticipate things before they happen, and that includes problems. This isn't actually a problem yet, and I don't think it will be in the end. Just trying to cover all the bases, you know....

Thanks
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#8 Steven Acton

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Posted 06 August 2004 - 03:16 AM

isn't there a way you could mount a small camera/camcorder to the handle of the varicam and approximate the image you see on your rig with that camera to the one the varicam "sees" it will look odd but should work just line up horizon and centre of image and your away,just my 2p. hope it goes well


steve
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#9 paul magee

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Posted 06 August 2004 - 10:31 AM

You could use an eyepiece tap. I still carry one with me on HD jobs in the event of downconverter failure. It looks ratty but it will get you throught the day.




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#10 RobVanGelder

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Posted 06 August 2004 - 10:59 AM

Just some remarks:

I have used the Astro monitors on my rig, in full Cambodian sunlight, yes, it´s not ideal but you can work with it.
Angle it is such a way that it does not reflect the sky and turn the brighness on max.

The cable issue: in my opinion manageble. Many operators are rather anal about this but it is something you can really work with. Not 100% happy of course, but I would not make this a big issue.

Demanding a downconverter: in the feature I worked on the DIT (digital image technician) was shading constantly so we always had direct SDI output. You cannot shade properly via a downconverter. Maybe not nessecary in your case. So we had to use the stiff HD-SDI cables.

Another operator had a little black and white camera attached to the viewfinder. Not elegant but it worked.

Convertors have problems too, like delay and they sometimes behave very strange with fast moving subjects or cameramoves. (sawtooth scanning, jagged edges)


Rob van Gelder, Bangkok, Thailand
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#11 Alec Jarnagin SOC

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Posted 06 August 2004 - 11:18 AM

Brad,

Yes, you have the right attitude. I don't think I'd rent an item on my own though if it were something that I felt Production should provide as part of the camera package. It sets a bad precedence - what is next, we have to rent the 100% video top?

Yes, an eyepiece tap can work in a pinch. I used one on my first HD job because it was before onboard down-converters were available. Held it on with tape and rubber bands. Ugly as sin, but it worked.

Don't forget to have them get an NTSC monitor too! Easy to overlook, but you need a composite NTSC monitor to receive a signal from your tuner. Of course they will want you to be umbilicaled via BNC for them to get an HD image, which is no big deal on the Panasonic as it has SDI built in. Rob, you can uses any 75ohm BNC cable for this. I have done it repeatedly with a very thin Mogami jumper cable from the camera to my vest then barreled into a standard BNC. As for shading, we disconnect that before we go, so I only have the one cable (but the look for the shot is already set). Engineer is happy; I am happy. The thin cable will not hurt your operating, but it will drive you nuts having to remember to release it after you dock! I'd still make sure they have the NTSC field monitor though incase it becomes very problematic to be tethered for a shot (if they want to see it in HD, they can check playback).

Lastly, Brad, you mentioned that it was a music video so this won't apply, but while on the subject of HD. Don't forget that the audio is now on the camera. Hopefully they have a DAT as well, but often they want sound on the camera too. Make sure they have wireless mics.

Enjoy.
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#12 David Allen Grove

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Posted 06 August 2004 - 11:52 AM

I've created a camera package checklist for production. This will "help them" when ordering a camera package.

http://www.geocities...campackage.html

I can add more to this list as well, like... a posh trailer for you, so you can go somewhere comfortable to nap or whatever, company car and wine and cheese if you like. :lol:

Seriously though, if there is anything I'm missing let me know.. I'll be happy to put it on there..
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#13 Brad Grimmett

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Posted 06 August 2004 - 07:48 PM

Thanks for all the great advice guys. Very helpful as always. But, as expected, the producer is getting a downconverter. Hey! A producer that actually listened to me!!! A rare occurence for sure! I spoke to him today and as I started explaining that it really was a necessary piece of equipment he cut me off and said, "Don't worry, I decided to get a downconverter after we talked the other day." So now I'm happy. If I could just get the rate a little higher.....
Lately I feel like I'd rather be strung up on a rack than talk to a producer about money or equipment. I've been hearing this statement too much lately...."Well, I talked to (insert another operators name here) and he/she said they'd do it for less."
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#14 thomas-english

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Posted 07 August 2004 - 05:04 AM

rob what does it mean
\
in the feature I worked on the DIT (digital image technician) was shading constantly so we always had direct SDI output. u cannot shade properly with a downconverter
\

what does shading mean........ sorry for maybe being a bit stupid

thanx
thomas
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#15 JobScholtze

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Posted 07 August 2004 - 05:22 AM

It means your diafragma. ( Is this an English word? ) In other words opening your lens for more light, ore closing for less. Typical video word :D

Job "Trying to help out" Scholtze
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