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    low light b-cam

    Hey all. I wasn't sure where to put this, but since it relates to my HVX200, I thought this made sense: Okay...

    I'm looking for a tiny, High-Def cam that's as good in low light as possible to use as a b-cam for the HVX.

    I DO NOT need to match them up. (Thank God!)

    I've been looking at the HV30 (or 20) and the SD9. I've read both terrible and great things in regards to low light. I saw some footage from the HV20 in low light and was very impressed. It was a close-up of a match being lit over a candle with a dark background. It was exactly the kind of shot I was looking for. However, the SD9 is appealing.

    So if the wizards and geniuses here could weigh in. You'd have one thankful indie.

    - Alex

    I own the HV20 and it's abysmal in low light. The issue is that your b-cam is supposed to be cheaper than your a-cam, but in order to get any real gains in sensitivity, you need a bigger sensor or a lower resolution.
    There is no HD camera that is significantly cheaper and significantly better in lower light.
    I often shoot the HV20 in HD, then do a noise reduction pass and output to SD or to a web video, and then it looks pretty good.
    Cinematographer | Director of Photography |FB | Twitter | LinkedIn
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      Okay, thanks for the info. I had a feeling that was such. It's just that the specs don't always match the footage.

      I saw some amazing low light footage from the HV20 online, and thought to myself, "man, I'd love to get that with my HVX200." Then I saw the ISO80 rating of the HV20, which just made more confusion.

      I think I'm just going to stick it out with one cam.... until scarlet comes out. Then I'm having a formal marriage to it, I've already contacted my Rabbi and caterer.


        The HV20 goes to a startlingly high 27dB of gain, making incredibly grainy/noisy pictures. Grain disappears when you crunch something down for the web. People see web videos of 27dB footage and think "why, that looks like it's great for low light." In reality it's awful.
        The AU-EVA1 Book - The DVX200 Book - The UX180 & UX90 Book - Lighting For Film & TV - Sound For Film & TV


          Thank you Barry, always the voice of reason. I do have a good question for you (if you don't have the time or inclination to answer I totally understand)...

          I read your review of the 200a. I'm more interested in the HPX170, but I really don't do ANY videography. Almost everything I do 95% is digital cinema (AND low light), which is why I got into the DVX/HVX crowd in the first place.

          I know I'm going to go for scarlet when it comes out. Yes, I know it's silly to commit when it's only a block of wood, but RED's tools are designed exactly for the type of work I do, so I don't think it's totally irrational, and I just don't use the broadcast features of the Panny cams. (But I also don't have the cash for a RED one. In addition, the RED one is too large for most of the on location photography I do. I need run and gun for very small spaces, and I need DOF as wide as possible.)

          So here's the question: If you were me. Would you trade in the HVX200 for the HPX170 come Winter, in case Scarlet takes longer to gestate, and to satisfy my low light needs; or save the cash, sell the HVX200 later, and buy a Scarlet (or two)?


            The 170 is a half-stop more sensitive, and lower noise, than the 200. That'll make some difference, but not necessarily night-and-day difference. I believe we could easily crank the 170 up to 3dB, if not 6dB, and still be equivalent noise to the 200, which would mean a real-world gain of 1 to 1.5 stops. That's pretty big, but is it worth upgrading over? Only you can answer that. If you're doing digital cinema, you might get better results from just buying a 500w light and bouncing it into the ceiling.

            As for Scarlet -- it seems perfect on paper. But it's a year, maybe a year and a half away. Anything and everything is subject to change, can change, and will change between now and then. Speculation on Scarlet is largely pointless because so many things may change, how much mental effort do you want to put into chasing a moving target? I say ignore Scarlet for a year, then let's take a VERY close look at it when it's close to shipping. I definitely plan on getting at least one, but I'm not gonna stress the wild ride of speculation between now and then.
            The AU-EVA1 Book - The DVX200 Book - The UX180 & UX90 Book - Lighting For Film & TV - Sound For Film & TV


              even 1.5 stops would not be enough for me to upgrade, but a .5 stop upgrade with less noise may be worth it.

              However, I watched your video of the 200A to 200 noise comparison, and noticed that in the darker shades, the noise was not THAT much better on the 200A. And those darker shades comprise a lot of the photography I need to do.

              To me the histogram, and other features on the HPX150, on top of the improved ccd block may make me press the button...

              However, and I think talking this through kind of answers my question: it will depend on what scarlet is doing.

              In 8 months, if I have a lot of work going, and scarlet is moving slow, maybe I'll do the HPX. But, if the buzz is that it is soon to be released and the prototypes look good, then I'll wait.

              I'm not going to chase the moving target now, but I think in 8-9 months we'll have a much better idea of what scarlet will be, and a little better idea of how much the release will be delayed. (Because you know there's going to be at least one delay, lol.)

              In other words, I wouldn't want the HPX-170 as a 6 month stop-gap. But if it's a year, and the 200 is limiting me, that will be the deciding factor.

              I think this is a good plan for me. And once again Barry, thanks for your wisdom. I never like to sound like a brown-noser but I'm deeply appreciative of the work you've done for helping synopsize and explain the deeply technical aspects of digi-cinema for filmmakers. I've always been a big believer that knowing your tools does in fact improve your craft. The balance is the key. I think of you as the Stephen Hawking of digital indie cams! I think that is an apt analogy.

              If you're ever in Seattle and need help with anything at all (literally). PM me; it would be an honor.

              Take care! - Alex

              P.S. as for lights, I've been doing well with those 125 - 200watt compact floros. Cheap, easy, light, and very soft. I'm sure I'm not the first to use them, but I find that the indoor grow lights do a better job than the cheaper uncorrected industrial variety.
              Last edited by arrestthisman; 04-26-2008, 08:58 PM. Reason: added ps.