New HDV camcorders continue to stretch (both vertically and horizontally) the production options available to professional videographers. It's not just about the Sony FX1 anymore; Sony has four HDV models on the market now—two 3CCD cameras and two single-chippers, ranging in price from $2,000-$4,000. JVC, which got the HDV ball rolling (albeit very slowly) in 2003 with its HD1 and HD10, has countered with the "ProHD" HD100, and Canon is scheduled to get into the game shortly after this issue hits with the XL-H1, an HDV successor to its popular XL2. (For more information on the diversifying HDV camera marketplace, see Anthony Burokas' HD & HDV at IBC.)
As the range of camera options has grown, so too has the number of new accessories designed to support HDV acquisition and camcorder operation.
n this first installment of a two-part report, we'll reach into a mixed bag of DV gadgets and accessories that have been updated for the latest HDV models as well. In Part Two, we will look through the new lenses and filters available specifically for HDV camcorders.
We'll begin Part One with the i-cuff. Its viewfinder eyecup adds comfort and protection, especially for shooters with glasses.
The high-definition version is new to the existing line, created by award-winning DoP/cameraman Ira Raider. The i-cuff is made from waterproof, washable, lightweight fabric and has an adjustable Velcro strap. The i-cuff PRO ($49.95) works with the new HDV camcorders from Sony, Canon, JVC, etc. The i-cuff DV ($29.95) is for smaller cameras, and there is a larger i-cuff HD for the big cameras (Panasonic SDX900, Sony HDW F900, Panavision, etc.).
Sometimes, it's not your eye that needs protection, but your whole head. We're not talking hard hats here, but Lenzcaps. It's a water-resistant baseball cap and camcorder lens protector-in-one for about $30.
As a hat, it has a special hanging cape that shields your neck, and there's a webbed pocket in the cape that holds a special lens-cleaning cloth. As a lens protector, its drawstring and hoop-and-lock fastening material closes and secures itself around a camera lens.
On the opposite end are accessories for your feet. Do you walk around in noisy shoes when videotaping? Garfield's Hush Heels are neat little neoprene foam stickies that adhere to the bottom of men's or women's shoes to quiet clicking heels.
But Hush Heels can be attached to almost anything on a video shoot—production equipment, props, talent, and so on—both to minimize sound and protect objects. They're about 1/8" thick, and come in 10 pre-cut sheets for about $25.
Protection for your new camera is also available thanks to skid plates. Designed specifically for the bottom of HDV camcorders such as Sony's Z1U and FX1, these lightweight aluminum plates from Delvcam (by TecNec) protect the bottom of the camera from scratches, dirt, and general wear and tear. The plates are made to not interfere with tripod mounting or camera operations. Prices are between $30 and $35.
Delvcam also offers a handle bracket for Sony HDV/MiniDV camcorders, with a cable-strain relief system and four threaded mounts for adding mics, lights, or other accessories. Priced around $100, the bracket supports up to 75 pounds.
Of course, there are lots of accessories out there for mounting accessories; among my favorite are those developed by Jery Winters, husband of EventDV contributing editor Luisa Winters, and an award-winning videographer in his own right. His JeryJig ($34.95) fits into a camcorder's accessory shoe. It's lined with Velcro, so external devices can be attached (and removed) easily. The JeryClip ($24.95 for a set of two) is a spring-loaded clip with Velcro on its handles and also is a handy way to attach and release camcorder accessories, this time on a light or mic stand. The JeryClamp ($29.95) has a heavy-duty industrial arm with thumbscrew and Velcro, so slightly larger, heavier accessories can be mounted easily and quickly to tripods, mic stands, podium mic bases, and so on. Imagination is the only limit to the manner in which these handy devices can be used.
Sometimes just carrying around all these devices and accessories is real challenge! Luckily, EventDV columnist Jenny Lehman took a look at production bags, and she describes several in August's Lehman's Terms.
She cites a PortaBrace carrying bag with wheels as her favorite, but advises to consider features like wheels, secure carrying straps, adjustable and customizable dividers, inside and outside pockets, padding, and weather-proofing when choosing what's best for you.
Prices for production bags can range from the entry-level ($30 for the Madison Video Backpack from Targus) to nearly $500 (for the PortaBrace WPC-3OR) and beyond.
One of the new offerings from CineBags is in the middle price range ($189). Called the Cinematographer, it's one that filmmakers and videographers alike will appreciate. It boasts numerous padded compartments, each with a label holder so you know what's inside without rustling through it all. The bag has heavy-duty buckles, a large padded strap, and protective feet on the bottom (sorry, no wheels) so it will stand up even when open, unlike some other bags I've seen.
Many of the same companies that make production bags also make protective camcorder covers, sized and designed specifically for individual cameras and camcorders now on the market.
They come in black, blue, gray, and even camouflage colors, but am I the only one who thinks a nice white camera cover would be great for wedding videographers?
There was a time when the next item on our list was considered a necessity, not an accessory. But whether you're a hardcore old-timer, or a fast-shooting young gun, consider the Accu-Chart High Definition test chart if you believe high-definition video is qualitatively and quantitatively important to your work.
Supporting a variety of camera performance measurements, the chart contains test objects for NTSC, PAL, SECAM, and HDTV, such as Registration, Grey Level Response, Frequency Response, Linearity, Resolution, Color Rendition, Focus, and Shading.
The dimensions of the chart conform to the 16:9 aspect ratio, but it can be used for standard system measurement of Registration, Grey Level Response, and Frequency Response in a 4:3 environment.
Ties That Bind
Next time we'll look at specific lenses and filters for HDV shooting, but before we go, here's another neat little accessory that's good for video production, no matter what the aspect ratio.
BongoTies are a simple yet elegant solution for the spaghetti jungle of wires, cables, and cords used in studio or on location.
A heavy-gauge rubber band is attached to a patented wooden closure pin, which has a distinctive, flared end and an indented middle. They're quick and easy to fasten and remove, and provide a reliable button-type closure. At about $5 for a pack of ten, they are plenty cheap, but very tough and robust—and no more twist ties!