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Panasonic AG-HVX200 Solid-State HD Camcorder Reveals The Truth About Elvis In Stirring New Documentary
An upcoming independent film, The Truth About Elvis, takes on one of the worlds biggest entertainment legends and favorite pop culture obsession is Elvis ?The King Presley alive? Shot in high definition with Panasonics AG-HVX200 DVCPRO HD P2 camcorder, the documentary features interviews with leading Elvis insiders, conspiracy theorists, authors, experts and even Elvis Presleys closest friends, to find the truth behind the legends life and death.
Currently in postproduction, The Truth About Elvis began production early last year and has made a buzz with a $3 million reward offered to anyone with legitimate proof of Elvis Presleys current existence. Filmmaker Adam Muskiewicz developed the film with L.A. based producer/director Dan Bliss and Warren Zide, the producer of the American Pie and Final Destination franchises, and David C. Smith who serves as director of photography. The interview-style documentary will be released in later in 2007.
?Most people have a knee jerk reaction to the topic and assume we are creating a tabloid spectacle piece, which couldnt be further from the truth, said DP David C. Smith. ?We wanted the style of imagery in the documentary to help us combat this assumption. I associate the look of 24 frames per second with drama - the lower frame rate forces the viewer to fill in the blanks a bit. For this and other reasons, I was initially interested in shooting on Super 16 film, but the volume of footage made this option fiscally impossible. When the HVX200 was announced, I realized we could actually afford to capture the quality level that I had hoped for with Super 16.
?I regularly shoot with the SDX900 and VariCam® and have always liked the way Panasonic cameras handle and the images they create, said Smith. ?I find the color rendition from Panasonic to be softer and more subtle than the other cameras out there. Other cameras seem overly sensitive to strong primary colors, rendering a scene with a garish bias that produces highly saturated reds and blues. The Panasonic cameras rein these colors in, which results in a more pastel image. If you want to push the chroma again in post, you still can while maintaining a more accurate representation of the scene.
To date, the production duo have captured over 150 interviews approximately two terabytes of footage - in 12 different states for the film. The compact, unobtrusive size and durability of the HVX200 proved to be valuable features for the team.
?The two biggest challenges for the Truth About Elvis project are the amount of travel required and the amount of data recorded, said Smith. ?We are constantly flying from LA to cities all over the country (and shortly, London), so we need to travel fast and light. Since, most of the time, it is just the two of us traveling, we have reduced our gear to the bare minimum. We are a complete production unit that travels as two carry-ons and a checked golf bag. Only the HVX200 allows this combination of mobility and quality.
After traveling over 200,000 miles, Smith comments that the cameras have been very reliable and durable and ?still feel like they are brand new.
?The fact that, aside from the lens, there are no moving parts really drives home the idea of just how rugged this little workhorse is, said Smith. ?It is built with the professional quality I have grown to expect from the cameras I use.
During the interviews, which oftentimes last up to four hours or more (seven hours for one instance), Smith and Bliss shoot in 720 at 24pN mode. ?The reduction in quality from the 1080i mode is very slight and the 2.5x increase in recording time per gigabyte made the trade off worthwhile, said Smith.
Smith carries three 4GB cards and rotates them using a P2 Store drive during the interview, allowing the camera to record continuously and capture all of the footage. Smith commented, ?I havent seen any other technique that works as well or as consistently as the P2 Store. The copy process is a 4-button operation that doesnt take my attention away from the interview for more than a few well-timed seconds.
?We loved using the HVX200 and its P2 solid-state system, said director Dan Bliss. ?Unlike a dramatic feature where you can shoot and cut, shoot again and then cut, we had to run for quite some time to capture everything. Although you can use tape and run it for probably up to an hour, rotating the P2 cards every 10 minutes was not hard at all. And we could keep the camera rolling as we switch cards.
Smith uses a Power Book laptop to offload footage to an external firewire drive using the P2 Genie software tool and to burn DVD-R backups of each card. ?The 4 gig cards are an excellent fit on a standard DVD-R and the speed of 16x burning makes the smaller card the most efficient workflow for this type of production, said Smith.
?Once back in the studio, I transfer the contents of our external FireWire drive to an inexpensive 3.5 raw drive that serves as long-term storage; these drives are stored off-site in static-proof boxes, said Smith. ?The FireWire drive is then reformatted and ready for the next trip. At every stage of the process, we look to ensure redundancy both of physical media (DVD and hard drive) as well as redundancy of process.
The Truth About Elvis is being edited natively as a DVCPRO HD 720 24P project in Final Cut Pro 5.1.2 running on a Dual Duo G5.
?The HVX200 is the first camera in my 17 years behind the lens that truly got me excited. It is so powerful and versatile that it truly makes shooting fun - and the results are spectacular, said Smith. ?Being able to capture time lapse and slow mo and play the results back instantly has opened up a whole host of creative opportunities. The instant feedback encourages experimentation that has resulted in my becoming a better shooter. The HVX200 is a significant step towards a tapeless future.
Smith added, ?The fact that I am currently shooting a narrative feature with two others on its heels, all shooting on the HVX200, proves that this little camera stands to shake up the industry for some time.
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 record modes. 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 www.panasonic.com/hvx200.
Note: The SDX900 is the AJ-SDX900 DVCPRO Cinema cameras that offers 50Mbps DVCPRO50 or 25Mpbs DVCPRO recording, and VariCam is the AJ-HDC27 VariCam HD Cinema camera that replicates many of the key features of film-based image acquisition and produces a wide range of variable frame rates (4-fps to 60-fps in single-frame increments) for ?overcranked and ?undercranked off-speed in-camera effects.
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 www.panasonic.com/broadcast.
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