View Full Version : Cayman Islands TV, DVX100a & 83-min tapes

Mike Parker
05-19-2005, 01:32 PM
I just returned from a five-week project on Grand Cayman --- yeah, I know...

This was my third trip there and, as on the previous trips, I worked with Cayman 27, the local TV and cable operation. They're still recovering from Ivan --- the building is being heavily remodeled --- and asked me to come down to help them with their election coverage.

It's a small but solid operation: two reporters and three news photographers. When I was last there in March 2004, they were using Panasonic S-VHS and DVCPRO cameras. I suggested that they could improve their workflow and save money if they switched to shooting with DVX100a cameras. They ended up buying five of them and they are in use by the news operation and the commercial production department.

Editing is done on four Mac G5's running Final Cut Pro. Part of my mission last year was to train the staff on FCP. The commercial producers work with FCP and Adobe After Effects and they do an excellent job producing, shooting and editing the spots.

I got to use one of the DVX100a cameras for the five weeks I was there and came away sufficently impressed to buy one for my own use. I ordered mine from Rush Hamden at EVS and took delivery on Tuesday. Confirming the many kudos on this site concerning EVS, my experience shows they're well-deserved.

Part of my business is shooting legal video: lots of depositions. It's a nice refuge from 30+ years of shooting news and documentaries as you pretty much never have to work nights or weekends, you're not out in the hot sun or pouring rain doing one live shot after another, and the money's pretty good.

One thing you do need for shooting depos --- as they're called --- is a 2-hour tape run. Attorneys hate to be interrupted when they're doing direct or cross examinations to change tape. Believe it or not, many legal video specialists are still mastering on VHS with a Panasonic camera --- AG-456 --- that hasn't been manufactured since 1998 because of the two-hour tape run. Also, the legal system is pretty much VHS-centric since everyone has a VHS deck for viewing.

There is a shift to using DVDs for viewing and courtroom playback, but here in South Florida, VHS still rules. Nonetheless, because of the really crappy quality of VHS mastering with a 1-chip camera, I decided to switch to the DVX100a and record on both digital and VHS, since one of the standards is to always have a backup recording of any depo. Bottom line: despite the fact that Panasonic doesn't support using the 83-minute tapes in the DVX100a, I did so yesterday --- at the LP speed, even ---
with no problems. The camera didn't explode, the tape didn't break and all was right with the world. And I got a 2-hour tape run to match the 2-hour VHS tape.

Now, I wouldn't want to do a lot of shuttling back and forth with the 83-min tape, but for depos you just do a straight dub to VHS or dump it to a hard drive to make a DVD from it.

Based upon this experiment, I'm going to continue to shoot depos with the 83-min tapes at LP. If I run into problems in the future, I'll let you know. If anyone else has any experience with the 83-min tapes, feel free to chime in.

Mike Parker

06-10-2005, 05:24 PM
Hi, there

If your depo's get a little on the lengthy side (as I'm sure some of them do), you may want to invest in a portable DTE recorder like the Focus Enhancements Firestore FS-4 Pro (http://www.focusinfo.com/products/firestore/fs-4.htm) .

I haven't really explored it's full capabilities as yet, but with external power plugged in it can record up to 6 Hours on its 80GB drive. Once done, you can dump the contents onto an Iomega REV disk (90 GB compressed) via Firewire for safe archiving of the entire shoot.

Hope that helps you along - nice to hear that democracy is alive and well in one caribbean nation thanks to the help of a light weight camcorder!


Tony Lightfoot

06-10-2005, 06:32 PM
Also, one of the cool features about the DVX is that you can overflow onto another camera or deck from firewire. So if you have a cheap 1-chip consumer camera, you can connect it to the DVX via firewire, and it will pick up where the tape on the DVX ends (iif the camera is set to do this). That way you won't have to flirt with using the 80 min. tapes.