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Featurette ?Samaritan Shot With Panasonics AG-HVX200 Solid-State HD Camcorder

2-day shoot with 81 set-ups is slated for in-theater HD streaming, festival circuit viewing (March 01, 2006)

DP Robert Pitman on location with HVX200

DP Robert Pitman on location with HVX200

Star Circle Pictures (Virginia Beach, VA) recently completed production on a ?micro feature called Samaritan, among the worlds first projects shot with Panasonics affordable, full bandwidth AG-HVX200 hand-held camcorder. The HVX200 uniquely combines multiple high definition and standard definition formats, multiple recording modes and variable frames rates, and the vast benefits of P2 solid state memory recording in a rugged, compact design.

Reminiscent of classic ?Twilight Zone episodes, Samaritan tells the story of an armed robbery thwarted by a mysterious stranger. As a veteran detective investigates the case, he is left with more questions than answers, including the origins of the enigmatic, supernatural Samaritan known only as Victor. The Samaritan production team includes producers Richard and Ethan Marten, Joshua Levy, Jonathan Guion, producer/director/screenwriter/editor Kimball Carr and Director of Photography Robert Pitman.

The DVCPRO HD P2 camcorder offers full bandwidth, contribution quality HD with independent intra-frame encoding, 4:2:2 color sampling, and less compression, making HD content easier and faster to edit and more able to stand up to image compositing versus long GOP MPEG-2 systems.

Currently in post-production, the feature entailed 81 set-ups over the course of only two evenings of location shooting. Star Circle has plans to exhibit the approximately 30-minute short via high definition streaming media stations in theaters, as well as to take it on the festival circuit. Beyond artistic goals, the company undertook the project to demonstrate its belief in ?cost efficiency, faster production flow and high quality. Star Circle rented the HVX200 from Zacuto Rentals (Chicago, IL).

According to producer Ethan Marten, ?Originally, when we decided on HD for the project we had settled on HDV. When we heard that the new Panasonic HVX200 was nearing its debut, we shifted gears and altered the entire production flow overnight. We were determined to use this groundbreaking camera. With the camera secured for our use in the middle of January, the rental house told us we were the first crew in the world to use this camera for a motion picture.

Director Carr added, ?We specifically sought a camera package that would demonstrate the capabilities of high definition as a film replacement for dramatic feature work. In addition to the cost benefits of this camera compared to more expensive HD cameras previously available, its hand-held form factor, solid-state storage and variable frame rate capabilities made this camera the center of our production flow.

?Our roster of upcoming projects is deep and we plan to rely on HD as our principal capture format. We conceived Samaritan as a test of these technologies, which we now know can handle full-fledged feature production.

DP Pitman, a veteran storyboard and visual effects artist as well as camera operator, said, ?Compressing the complexity of 81 setups across two locations in only two nights created the need for a camera package that would yield high quality, professional results and be easy to work with. We were pleased with the overall performance of the camera in terms of look and quality of footage. The dynamic range and color handling were superb and certainly superior to what weve experienced in our years of DV shooting.

Pitman said that the HVX200 package was equipped with a rail system/matte box and barn doors as well as a mounting arm for a separate HD display. ?The LCD was useful in that we were able to monitor zebra/exposure/iris info while watching the footage feed from a separate HD monitor, the DP noted. ?The P2 drives and the capture/reformat/recording process are excellent. Zoom control is smooth--the weight of the zoom ring feels comfortable with just enough feedback.

Carr noted, ?I was pleased after tests prior to shooting that with utilization of manual iris controls and tweaking of the exposure levels of the camera, the DP and I were able to make fine adjustments in exposure and monitor the zebra patterns for overexposure on the flip-out LCD. I am quite satisfied with the footages depths and colorfastness, and the crispness of the image. In terms of the physical camera--its shape, size and ruggedness?the HVX200 was user-friendly and felt solid. It was equally comfortable on sticks, in hand, and over the shoulder.

The director explained, ?We shot in 720NP24 mode in addition to utilizing the variable frame rate of the camera and shooting select scenes in 60 frame/sec rate to facilitate 'over-cranking' in post and getting a slow motion for final speed. Other than the 4 gigabyte P2 cards provided with the camera, we used an Apple PowerBook for straight capture from P2 to a notebook computer.

Producer Richard Marten added, ?During the shoot, the team was able to view full-resolution views of shots from the PowerBook--not reconstituted video tape feeds of native footage. For Samaritan, we were viewing full-screen 720p 24 HD footage within two minutes of shooting. The ability to confirm the quality of the actual footage and even perform quick assembly edits to examine shot flow was crucial. Whats more, we walked away from the set with a rough, rough cut of the film, with scenes in chronological order, which was amazing and put us a full month ahead of schedule in post.

Editing is taking place utilizing an Apple Mac G5 Quad Processor workstation using Final Cut Pro HD Studio. The production team will edit in native 720p24 resolution and deliver in several formats including streamed and compressed formats for web delivery, standard and High Definition DVD, as well as HD exhibition into screening rooms and theaters direct from a workstation via final HD media source.

Carr concluded, ?I have dreamed of creating a lean and mean production flow like this for a long time. I have done a lot of DV shooting over the years and looked forward to moving to HD but I wanted more than just pretty pictures. I wanted the other advantages that come with this new camera."

About the HVX200
The ultra-versatile HVX200 records in 1080i and 720p in production-proven 100 Mbps DVCPRO HD quality, with the ability to capture images in 21 video formats. The DVCPRO HD format offers users cost-effective, intra-frame compression, where each frame stands on its own for editing, and its full 4:2:2 color sampling allows the image to hold up under color correction. The camera records video on a P2 card as IT-friendly MXF files in 1080/60i, 30p and 24p; in 720/60p, 30p and 24p; in 50Mbps DVCPRO50 and in 25Mbps DVCPRO or DV. The HVX200 can capture fast or slow action in 720p at various frame rates--the first time this function is available in a hand-held camera. The shooting frame rate in 720p native mode can be set for any of 11 steps between 12fps and 60fps including 24fps and 30fps.

For more information on the AG-HVX200, visit

For more about Samaritan, visit

About Panasonic Broadcast
Panasonic Broadcast & Television Systems Co. is a leading supplier of broadcast and professional video products and systems. Panasonic Broadcast is a unit company of Panasonic Corporation of North America. The company is the North American headquarters of Matsushita Electric Industrial Co., Ltd. (NYSE: MC) of Japan, and the hub of its U.S. marketing, sales, service and R&D operations.

For more information on Panasonic Broadcast products, access the companys web site at



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