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Director of Photography Michael Caporale Speaks on Brannen's Boom Baby Boom

Caporale shoots music video with two distinct Panasonic HD cameras By John Virata

Director/Director of Photography Michael Caporale finished shooting country artist John Brannen's Boom Baby Boom music video using both the Panasonic AG-HVX200, a $5000 HD P2 camcorder, as well as the AJ-HDC27 VariCam HD Cinema camera, a camera that can cost as much as a Porsche Cayenne.  He has an interesting story to tell on using two distinct cameras on the same project. This is what he had to say to DMN.

DMN: How long have you been shooting and working with HD?
Michael Caporale: I began shooting HD in September 2001. I had just purchased a VariCam and went directly into production of the feature film, Tattered Angel. Prior to that I had shot two digital features. One was upconverted from 480P to 720P and subsequently cut in HD, the other remained SD at the producer's decision.

On the set of Boom Baby Boom, Caporale using the Panasonic AG-HVX200.

DMN: The "preliminary" version of Boom Baby Boom was shot on Panasonic's AG-HVX200. Why did you go with that camera as opposed to your other camera, the AJ-HDC27 VariCam?
MC:  To be very clear, the first version of Boom Baby Boom was shot in two days using only the HVX.  I had been assigned to produce the DV Expo tradeshow demo for the HVX200 by the product manager who requested a music video. Nothing else was specified. I elected to shoot the video on greenscreen to delineate the HVX from other cameras in that price range, all HDV. Since HDV uses groups of pictures and much resolution can be lost on the B frames, HDV is unsuitable for good greenscreen mattes. It was simply a way to help distinguish the HVX200 from the pack of existing cameras at the time.

DMN: Was the final version shot with the VariCam?
MC: The final version included almost all the scenes from the original that were shot on the HVX, but shortened in length to allow insertion of new scenes. Additionally the backgrounds behind the matted HVX scenes were changed. For the marketing demo it was necessary for the sense to stay up longer so that viewers could study the mattes.  Also, since delivery schedules were very short, the content of the backgrounds was not critical to the storytelling component of the video and only had to function to show that they were clearly not part of the original image, so the audience would know with certainty that they were mattes. The VariCam was used for the new scenes only, which were the ones taken in the high winds preceding a thunderstorm.

DMN: You used the AG-HVX200 for the studio composites and the VariCam for its high gain capacity. Have you used the two cameras in tandem for such results on other projects or was this the first?
MC: This was the first, but the VariCam was selected for several reasons. Yes, the high gain was needed to get a grainy, distressed look, but detail was added to enhance the grain and then color and tonality was highly manipulated in a way that only the VariCam could do to produce a pleasing rich image.

DMN: What percentage of the video was shot with the AG-HVX200 and what percentage was shot with the AJ-HDC27 VariCam?
MC: It's still a little more HVX, but I suppose its close to 50/50.

DMN:  Do you often shoot with two different cameras to achieve certain looks or effects for a project?
MC:  Not so much for looks but for other reasons such as size, weight, handling and features.

DMN: How many projects have you worked on using the AG-HVX200? and the AJ-HDC27 VariCam?
MC: Used together I have done two music videos, although the other project was not about looks and was all about handholding a light camera in tight spaces.

DMN: Did you work with any special filters to achieve certain looks for the video or was it all achieved in camera?
MC: No filters were used in camera, although color correction in Final Cut was done on some HVX scenes and matted backgrounds, but by-and-large this was very minor. The VariCam scenes ran as shot, untouched.

DMN: How many minutes/hours of footage did you shoot in total for Boom Baby Boom?
MC: Probably about 70 minutes, which is not very much for a project like this.

DMN: What is it that draws you to the Panasonic cameras versus some of the others out there?
MC: I began using Panasonic cameras long before they began serious exploration of all the features that contribute to a film look, because I felt they had the best digital signal processing and were capable of the most accurate color and tonality which definitely made for a more "filmic" image.  With VariCam they set the standard for dynamic range and added many other film-style features to complete the feature set that produced a satisfying filmic image without having to do a film out.  Every image looks like film at every step of the process, including most importantly, viewing in the field.  All the children and step-children of the VariCam-the SDX900, SPX800 and the DVX100 and HVX200 and the HDX900-all maintain the same concern for dynamic range and the many features that contribute to a filmic look. Yes, Panasonic must also market to a range of tastes that include many forms of video-style production and these cameras have thoughtfully included many ways to accomplish those looks, but none of that is of interest to me. Resolution is not the film look. Film has 8mm, 16mm, 35mm and 70mm all of which have different resolutions. 24P is not the film look. Film can be shot at all framerates. Progressive imaging is definitely a part of the answer because interlace is definitely not the film look. The real issues are dynamic range and both the richness and subtlety of colors and nobody does that better than Panasonic.

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John Virata is senior editor of Digital Media Online. You can email him at
Related Keywords:Michael Caporale , Panasonic AG-HVX200, AJ-HDC27 VariCam HD , John Brannen

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