We look at two cameras in Sony’s NXCAM range which would be useful to have along on any location shoot.
Shooting footage in the field is a balancing act. You have to balance your desire for the best video and audio quality with the constraints of what is practical when filmmaking on the move.
Running and gunning over difficult terrain and in remote and potentially hazardous locations requires a camera which is both small and light, and can stand up to a bit of rough treatment.
One camera which ticks all these boxes is the HXR-NX70E. Lightweight, compact and robust, the NXCAM camcorder – which is certified both rain and dust proof – is designed for operation in remote locations, but is also a strong performer as a second unit camera or back up, recording in full HD at 50p, 50i and 25p frame rates.
Another feature to look for in a camera that you can travel with is good performance in low light. The chances are that you will be doing a lot of shooting with available light, and the better a camera’s performance in low light the less lighting you have to carry and the easier it will be to operate.
Good low light performance is one of the key characteristics of the NX70E. Its Exmor R CMOS sensor technology produces a light sensitivity roughly double that of conventional CMOS sensors with the same photosite size.
Weighing in at just 1.3kg when fully loaded with battery, mic and XLR unit* the NX70E has a wide angle G lens for different shooting options and a shot gun mic capable of getting the same kind of audio recording performance as a larger ENG-style camera.
File-based cameras are popular with crews shooting on the road because of a wide range of compact, high capacity media they can be used with. Plus solid state recording is a sensible option in wet or humid conditions because there are fewer moving parts to go wrong.
A choice of recording options is always useful when shooting in the field. Shooting onto SD card or MemoryStick PRO Duo™ is an easy, cost effective and convenient means of storing video but having on board memory gives extra options.
The NX70E, for instance, has 96GB of embedded Flash memory which can record up to 30 hours of high definition video footage in HD LP mode with Dolby Digital audio. Handy as a backup should you lose your media or, as some filmmakers shooting covertly have found, a failsafe if your memory cards are confiscated.
Another compact camcorder which can be used instead of or in combination with the NX70E on location is its lighter sister model the HXR-NX30E, which weighs just 1.1kg.
This all-in-one camera shoots at 50p, 50i and 25p frame rates and offers high resolution still image recording – as well as professional XLR audio inputs.
The NX30E covers a lot of ground, with a built-in light source for still image or video capture and a built-in projector for viewing rushes, which is a useful feature when checking through material at the end of a day’s shoot. The footage can be projected on to the wall in a hotel room for example.
Another useful extra feature on the NX30E is the Balanced Optical SteadyShot™ image stabilisation system which eliminates vibration by enclosing the camera’s optical block in a floating space. This gives the most effective stabilisation available on the market and results in smoother, steadier shots on the move.
The two cameras also have the advantage of low power consumption – both can record continuously for over three hours without battery changes. Plus the NX30E has a USB cable connection which can be used both as a means of recharging the battery and as a route to back up footage direct to an external drive.
As a general rule power hungry cameras are best avoided in the field, as filmmakers will have to carry extra batteries and chargers with them to keep the cameras running, and recharging may not always be convenient.
In addition to considering and planning for the power requirements of the camera, media management is another important issue which needs to be thought about in advance.
File-based productions need a strategy for managing the data. Rushes will need to be stored safely and backed up. Think through how you will manage media during your travels. For instance, are rushes going to be downloaded onto drives for back up and where will the drives be kept?
When shooting on location there is only so much planning you can do. Unforeseen and unplanned events are impossible to predict and the success of a shoot is to some extent down to how well you cope with them.
That’s why it’s always a good idea to take compact but powerful camcorders with a wide range of functionality such as the NX70E and NX30E along with you on any trip, either as a backup or - given their high quality video capability - as your main acquisition device.
*The detachable mic and XLR unit is not rain / dust proof.