Gear list

This page lists a bunch of gear that I have used since I started doing this stuff. I will keep adding items as I get time, so keep checking back.
I am not necessarily trying to recommend any of this, just to give some feedback in case you are looking to source something similar.

Here we go…

Cameras

Sony TRV900 miniDV Camcorder

This was our first camcorder and it was a GREAT camera. Nice big LCD screen, great quality images and worked well in low light. It was succeeded by the TRV950 and then Sony dropped their ‘prosumer’ DV line to focus on HDV. Sadly this unit met an untimely death when it was dropped while mounting it on a tripod. The lens hood and focus ring broke off and it was deemed ‘unrepairable’ by the insurance company, giving way for ….

Sony HDR-HC1E HDV Camcorder

This is our latest (and now sadly discontinued) camcorder and while we had no great rush to get into HD video, now that we are there, it’s very nice thank you. The HC1 is VERY compact, and is very unobtrusive and non-threatening. In good light the images look GREAT, though it struggles in really low light, and really needs some help from additional lighting. Also watch out for the non-standard AIS accessory shoe (Thanks Sony!) though if you are adding an external mic (I have the Rode Videomic) you probably want to put in on a separate bracket anyway.

Consider the A1U pro version if you are needing XLR mic inputs.

For IMAG use, there are some gotchas that make it less than ideal:

  • no ‘push auto’ button, for a quick autofocus in manual mode
  • LCD is too small and resolution too low for really accurate focus (viewfinder is better)
  • expanded focus and peaking ONLY work when in standby

We have used this cam for IMAG but it wouldn’t be my first choice.

JVC KY27C/D Pro Studio Camera with Studio back.

JVC studio camera We have two of these older 2/3rd inch 3-CCD pro studio cameras that we use for most IMAG work we do. We picked them up cheap on ebay and one has the full EFP kit – 5inch viewfinder and remote servo zoom and focus.

Both have lenses with 2x extenders. We usually use one as the FOH (front of house) camera and the other at the side of the stage somewhere.

They are very nice cameras which produce great images.

Some nice features of this particular model:

  • They have a very effective ‘auto-everything’ mode which is very rare for pro cameras and works well.
  • They also totally ‘look the part’ which helps folk take you seriously, especially if they are out front somewhere.
  • They have an S-Video out (albeit on a special JVC 7pin connector) which is very rare on pro cameras
  • 2x extenders on lens give you that extra ‘reach’ at the cost of brightness.
  • peaking on viewfinder helps with finding focus

Some points to note:

  • These are BIG cameras, and need a big solid tripod
  • both our lenses were knacked when we bought them and needed expensive servicing to get them working again. This was OK as the overall cost was still low, but buying old pro gear has it’s dangers.
  • These cams are 4:3 only, and with the world moving to 16:9 their lifespan is going to be limited.
  • Unless you buy a CCU (camera control unit) or bodge your own cable, you can’t use the main 26 pin camera connection.

Video Playback

Sony GV-D900 miniDV VCR with LCD monitor.

For some reason when we bought our first miniDV camcorder we managed to have enough money left to buy this totally cute little VCR that has done us proud ever since. It just had a camcorder mechanism in it (unlike it’s bigger brother the DSR-25) but it sits at our NLE and handles all tape ingest and output, thereby at least halfing the wear on the heads in our camcorder in the process. As a result we have had approx 5 years solid use out of both with no problems. (well… until we dropped the camcorder off the tripod!! but that’s another story.)

 

 

Video mixing

Panasonic MX50 video mixer

The Panasonic MX50 is the grand-daddy of all ‘prosumer’ video mixers. At one stage a few years back it was pretty much the ONLY show in town for affordable video mixers that had built-in synchronisation and they often fetched prices second hand that were way above what they should be worth.

In their favour they had:

  • four S-Video inputs
  • button for every function (no menus)
  • big chunky T-bar fade control
  • audio mixing with ‘audio follows video’ function
  • downstream key (see later)

Having said this they couldn’t fully escape their original purpose which was linear editing from tape to tape. This led to a number of serious failings:

  • preview output is just about useless for live video
  • only four inputs
  • effects are REALLY cheesy and embarassing
  • no colour correction controls on each input (only per bus)
  • It is very large for what it does (especially if you aren’t using the audio mixing section)

Having said all this they were pretty reliable and did the job, and do have one feature that many modern mixers miss out – a true downstream key function. This lets you fade up a monochrome graphic (typically a title or song words) and overlay it over your video WITHOUT tieing up one of your mix busses. Now, before you get too excited, it was only mono and was a bit crinkly at the edges, but it’s a feat that many of today’s boxes would do well to copy.
Now they have been pretty much superceded by the new generation of mixers from Edirol and Datavideo and there’s no real reason to pay over the odds for one of these any more.

Edirol V4

This mixer was the first of the new generation of low cost video mixers to supercede the ‘old school’ Panasonic models. I have specified this unit and it works fine, with some nice features for such a low-cost unit. It is limited to only two S-Video inputs, which can be an issue, and the connectors are all on cheap Phono and miniDIN sockets which may not stand up well to live use. Also note that the V4 does NOT mix audio.

The final trick of this unit it that it has MIDI control, so you can wire up multiple mixers and control them from SW on a computer to achive very complex multi-screen results…albeit with a lot of spagetti wiring!!

Datavideo SE-500

This is a relatively new entry to the low cost video mixer market and while I haven’t used one, it has a lot of very good spec points. See this post for more details.

 

Video switching

 

Distribution

 

PC Software

Microsoft Powerpoint

What is there to say about Powerpoint – it has been used to death and has a horrible tendency to make your presentation MORE boring as you end up reading bullet points off the screen instead of actually communicating.

Having said that it IS possible to do interesting things in powerpoint – you just have to try harder.

Step one is to dump the templates – start with a blank page and roll your ow style, with your own non-default fonts etc. Step two is to NEVER use bullet points….ever!!

 

Songshow Plus

Quick disclosure up front – SSP is what we use in my church for song projection, and I bought it so you can factor that in to my comments here.

SSP is one of the ‘big five’ song projection packages, that try to do pretty much everything needed for media projection in churches. You can get simpler packages that only focus on doing the song words bit, but SSP ties to do it all – song words, bible texts, presentation slides, video clips, audio clips, timers, countdowns, live video etc. etc.

Some of the nicer features include:

  • Abstract motion background generators

  • countdown timers to indicate when service is starting etc.

  • very friendly licencing scheme – you can have as many non-projection copies as you like for team, staff etc.

  • clear, functional user interface, which divides up ‘preparation’ and ‘operation’ tasks very well.

  • good backup and restore utilities

  • Can share files over a network (haven’t tried this)

  • good control over screen layout, styles etc. (per song if you like)

Overall, especially with the new v7 it pretty much succeeds. It’s pretty stable, song words are handled well, and most of the other features work as advertised. Here’s some things to watch out for, however:

  • DVD playback (ability to play clips from DVD inserted in DVD drive) only works for NTSC DVDs not PAL DVDs. This is a real bummer for us, but they are working to fix this so check up on this point.

  • Current audio playback handling is not very smart – e.g. you can’t play an audio track under a slideshow presentation, and audio for video clips cuts off dead instead of being able to fade in or out.

  • Import from the CCLI songselect service ONLY works in US, not other countries

  • The built-in slideshow generator just feels a bit clunky compared to Powerpoint or Keynote, and isn’t true WYSIWYG when editing.

  • video clip playback is windows media player based, so no direct playback for Quicktime files. You will need to convert Quicktime to wmv using the Flip4Mac tools.

  • no easy way to handle call-and-response songs or liturgy in song database.

 

MediaShout v3

I don’t own mediashout, but I have used it at a friend’s church and I have to say up front. I hate it. Don’t get me wrong – I’m sure it’s a very capable program and it does seem to have some nice tricks, but the problem is that I really really can’t stand the user interface – it’s everything that’s horrible about windows UI design, plus some bonus nasties thrown in.

Add to this the attempt to make it ‘fun and playful’ by calling the different modules stupid names that only a 12 year old would find endearing. Sorry, but I will never recommend this app while it keeps the current user interface.

 

Mac Software

Keynote

It would be easy to describe Keynote as “Apple’s version of Powerpoint” but that would be very unfair. it IS just a presentation program, and yes you CAN just do bullet point slides using templates, but the templates are SO much nicer and the bullet points will just look better, and if you bother to learn it’s rather quirky interface you will be rewarded with smoother, better looking visuals and I can guarantee people will ask you afterwards “did you do THAT in Powerpoint??”.

It also feels more….creative! If I have to prepare presentation slides from scratch I would far rather sit down with keynote and do it than have to start in Powerpoint.

Yes it can read and write PPT files, and yes it does get them wrong sometimes.

 

Misc.

One Response to Gear list

  1. Hi Dave,
    Great little web-site.
    To cut out the software route and quickly grab a GE flyover have you tried producing any sort of video by directly filming your P.C screen with a camcorder ? I guess one should really vid an LCD type monitor. Very interested to hear your opinion.

    Bill Veall.

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