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Vintage Adventure Shoots Series with Panasonic Cameras

Series Shot with Panasonic AG-DVX100A Mini-DV, AJ-SDX900 DVCPRO50 24P Cameras

Vintage Adventure, LLC (Denver, CO) is shooting episodes of an exhilarating new historical adventure series, Vintage Adventure, with Panasonic AG-DVX100A Mini-DV 3-CCD and AJ-SDX900 DVCPRO Cinema 24p camcorders.  

Vintage Adventure used Panasonic AG-DVX100A Mini-DV, AJ-SDX900 DVCPRO50 24P Cameras to shoot series.
Billed as presenting the real-life exploits worthy of an Indiana Jones, the series revisits past explorers, archaeologists, and adventurers from the first half of the twentieth century, lesser-known figures such as Byron de Prorok, Marc A. Stein, A. Hyatt Verrill, Howard Wilkins, Leonard Clark, Philippe Taillez, Art McKee, and Louis Bleriot. Four hour-long pilot episodes include flights in antique airplanes, journeys to lost cities in South America, ancient and mysterious Etruscan sites in the highlands of Italy, and underwater dives with a professional marine research company in a quest for sunken Spanish galleons off the coast of Florida. These episodes are wrapping up post-production and will be available for licensing early this year. Six episodes are currently in pre-production, including a quest for El Dorado, voyages to the Sahara desert to study ancient cultures and lost cities, and other searches for lost treasures, forgotten cities and ancient artifacts on land and under the sea.

 Director/Writer/ Executive Producer Mike Olafson said he chose the Panasonic 24p/30p/60i cameras for their ability to produce filmic images. “I first saw the DVX100 at an expo in LA in 2003.  A filmmaker friend of mine and I experimented with it all weekend, and we were completely obsessed with the 24p look, which clearly delivered a beautiful, film-like picture. At the time, I had developed and registered the concept for Vintage Adventure, had mapped out my episodes, and was to the point where I needed to decide upon the type of cameras to use. I always knew that I wanted a cinematic look for the series, but felt my ability to work with a 16mm or 35mm camera setup and professionally develop and edit the film would be quite an endeavor. So, when Panasonic introduced the DVX100, and subsequent NLE systems were tailored for 24p editing, I knew it was perfect for me--I bought a DVX100.” 

Olafson continued, “We used the SDX900 only for the aviation episode (Wings of Adventure: The Skies of Old Rhinebeck) among the pilots, but will certainly rent it again for the next round of production. I used the DVCPRO50 camera in combination with the DVX100 during this shoot on aviation history at Cole Palen’s Old Rhinebeck Aerodrome in Rhinebeck, NY (where visitors can see an original 1909 Bleriot XI actually fly). I decided to use the SDX900 because it offered 24p acquisition, but with native 16:9, 4:2:2 sampling, interchangeable lenses, and the ability to record in DVCPRO50.  What’s more, I found it very affordable to rent (from Abel Cine Tech, NY, NY).   

“I knew it was a great camera, but during the shooting of the episode both of the cameramen I hired had never seen the SDX900 before.  When they viewed the monitor, they couldn’t believe the picture they were seeing.  The colors were amazing: images of red, blue, yellow and white planes, set against a backdrop of green grass, and red and orange leaves--it looked really phenomenal.  We only used a polarizing filter on occasion and the colors the SDX900 captured were tremendous.  Later, we invited some of the pilots and staff to watch dailies and they were all wowed by the images.”   

He added, “I used both cameras interchangeably throughout the production.  I shot with the DVX100, since I was more familiar with it, and had a 16:9 anamorphic adapter lens on it.  My cameraman ran the SDX900.  The nature of the series is a run-and-gun, small crew style documentary, so there are moments when I cannot always use a sound person. But I carefully monitor the sound with headphones and the audio level displays.  

“I used the DVX100 for close-up shots for behind-the-scenes coverage of the pilots and staff prepping and starting the planes.  We also used the DVX100 in the bi-plane to capture some mid-air flying shots of other vintage planes flying next to us, and I took the mini-DV camera with me in the back of a Piper Cub used by a stunt pilot.  I rigged the DVX100, with a custom-built tripod the pilot had, and shot from the back seat while he did spins and loops—I got some great footage.   The SDX900 served as our ‘anchor’ camera during my first visit to the Aerodrome.  DP Joel Modelo got some great shots including some close-ups of the planes and pilots.  On the second visit, the SDX900 became even more mobile and was toted around the whole facility.  DP Michael Parmelee had an uncanny knack of getting so close you would think he was climbing in the cockpit of each plane he was shooting.  He also shot with the SDX900 from a helicopter, which gave the program some excellent aerial footage.    

For the remaining three pilot episodes, Olafson used either his DVX100 or successor model DVX100A exclusively. He explained, “A big factor involved my desire to keep the crew to a minimum- namely, me and another person.  That meant I would work the camera and I would hire a local person to help with gear, sound, lighting, etc. as necessary.  I knew I’d be walking through the jungle and over mountains, toting my camera and gear along with me. I needed a camera that was lightweight, had good low-light capabilities, had 24p, and had to be durable and rugged.  

“Probably the most challenging environments I encountered with the DVX100 were during the production in South America and underwater off the coast of Florida. In South America, I was shooting explorer Stan Grist panning for gold on the Pano River. The conditions were very humid on the western edge of the Amazon jungle.  I was worried about condensation on the inside of the lens, but that never happened.  I was standing in the Pano River being eaten by black biting flies shooting for two+ hours in about 85 degrees and very humid conditions, and the camera worked fine.   

“A mishap in Florida waters was the one I thought would finish the camera, but it emerged unscathed.  I had the DVX100 in the underwater housing made by Equinox, and I was in the water at the rear of the boat, positioning myself to capture images of the crew of the research vessel lowering the blower, a heavy, elbow-shaped tube used to clear sand and debris on the sea floor below. The blower slipped, fell and landed on the external lens of the housing (missing my head by inches), causing it to unhinge two of its four hinges.  Water came in, but fortunately I was on the surface and close to the boat, so I handed the housing up to a crewmen, but still saw at least an inch of water on the bottom.  After I drained the housing and checked the camera, I was relieved to find it working fine. Not only did it survive the water, but it survived the impact of the blower crashing down upon its housing.” 

Olafson commented, “The DVX100 really held its own against its bigger brother, the SDX900-- the images were also very clear and the colors still dazzling.  I set it to 24p, with a shutter speed of 1/48.3.  I used image stabilization, which I thought worked great especially when you are running to get a shot and don’t have time to set a stand or tripod. The built-in neutral density filters also helped adjust the light levels quickly as the day progressed. I used the anamorphic adapter from Panasonic with the camera, occasionally employing a French flag attachment manufactured by Cinetactics. I really like the way the anamorphic adapter stretches out the picture, producing a wide, panoramic shot, which is important for this program because the geography and scenery are such important elements.”  

Olafson is editing the series in-house using a Hewlett Packard Pavillon 7955 workstation with a Sony Vegas 4 editing package.  For the Rhinebeck episode (the SDX900 shoot), he is using Final Cut Pro 4 on a Mac, as Final Cut Pro supports native 50Mbps DVCPRO50 editing.  

The filmmaker concluded, “I’m hoping this series ignites interest in archaeology and the history of some less remembered explorers.  I hope it also creates an awareness of how important it is to understand and preserve artifacts, archaeological sites, and treasures from our past and to appreciate the efforts of the early explorers who were willing to journey to places where few would dare venture.” 

He said, “Both the DVX100A and the SDX900 are excellent cameras that provide professional results, flexibility of use, and accommodate a smaller budget.  With the new ‘stretch mode’ on the DVX100A and other advancements over the DVX100, it really seems to be the premier camera for documentary production crews who need to stay lightweight and mobile.  The SDX900 is, of course, even more preferred and is still affordable to rent or purchase. Saving money in both the purchase and rental of both these cameras allowed me to direct funds to other portions of production that I might not have been able to do otherwise.  Over time, this allowed me to save thousands of dollars, which helps provide money for future episodes. As we decide upon a distributor, having these additional funds to pay for future production provides us with a bit of leverage and extra appeal to some executives.”  

For more information about the Vintage Adventure series, visit

 The AG-DVX100A is a unique Mini-DV 3-CCD camcorder with exclusive CineSwitch™ technology that supports 480i/60 (NTSC), cinema-style 480p/24fps and 480p/30fps image capture. Panasonic's AG-DVX100A is the standard for affordable 24p acquisition and a proven performer with hundreds of independent movies, TV programs, commercials, and documentaries to its credit. It offers unmatched audio performance, extensive auto and manual controls, and a CineGamma curve that truly emulates the rich look of film.

 Panasonic’s AJ-SDX900 offers filmmakers the ultimate in acquisition flexibility, expressed in the operator-controllable selection of EFP-quality 4:2:2 sampled DVCPRO50 or classic 4:1:1 sampled DVCPRO recording, with support for native 16:9 wide-screen. The AJ-SDX900 combines in one camera the “look” and “feel” of electronic film, high-performance 525-line field production, and low-cost NTSC compatible news. It is also the first 50Mbps 4:2:2 sampled standard definition camcorder to offer 24 frames-per-second progressive scan (480/24p) acquisition, in addition to 30 frames-per-second progressive (480/30p) and 60-fields-per-second interlace scan (480/60i) capture.

 About Panasonic Broadcast    

 Panasonic Broadcast & Television Systems Co. is a leading supplier of broadcast, professional video andpresentation 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 company’s web site at

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Related Keywords:Vintage Adventure LLC , Panasonic AG-DVX100A Mini-DV 3-CCD and AJ-SDX900 DVCPRO Cinema 24p camcorders

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