Celebrated event cinematographer Mark Von Lanken, who runs Tulsa, OK-based wedding video studio Von Wedding Films with his wife, Trisha, has embraced shooting with Panasonic's new AG-HMC150 professional handheld AVCCAM camcorder.
Having recently shot two weddings and a Life Story treatment with the HMC150, Von Lanken will soon take delivery of three of the professional AVCHD handhelds. For the full story on the Von Lankens' experience with the HMC150 (including the first 2 of 5 video clips produced exclusively to EventDV-TV), click here.
"There isn't another camera on the market that offers the affordability of solid-state recording to SDHC cards, light weight, excellent low light performance and features like XLR audio at this price point," said Von Lanken. "I've fallen in love with how the HMC150 feels and how it helps me do my job."
Three-time EventDV 25 honorees and WEVA Hall of Famers, the Von Lankens are regular speakers at WEVA Expo and winners of numerous WEVA Creative Excellence Awards (CEA). Several times each year, the Von Lankens offer intensive two-day workshops at their Tulsa studio and train fellow videographers from across the country.
Earlier this winter, Von Lanken used the HMC150 on wedding shoots in Gainesville, GA and Oklahoma City, OK and a Life Story production in Shreveport, LA, an eight-minute video capturing a moment in time in the life of a young family. One of the weddings was a one-camera shoot, and the second was a four-camera production, with the HMC150 as primary camera.
"Previously, I've been loyal to other manufacturers' cameras and had no experience shooting with Panasonic DV or HD models," said Von Lanken. "To be sure, I'd read all about the ‘Panasonic mojo' on the user forums, but was a skeptic about how good the image quality could really be. No more: I'm a convert. The colors truly are different, and you have the ability with the scene files to achieve a much more organic look, less like video and more like film. It's very pleasing."
"In terms of operation, the HMC150 is very user-intuitive," Von Lanken continued. "I adapted to the camera quickly, and especially appreciate its light weight (3.7 pounds) and perfect balance, which translates to shooting long events with no fatigue. It is so well suited to continuous Glidecam shots: whereas I could typically shoot for about a minute with my previous camera of choice (a Sony Z1) on a Glidecam, I was able to shoot reception dancing for four - six minutes with the HMC150 mounted to the Glidecam.
"The HMC150 comes equipped with an extremely wide-angle lens (its 13X Leica Dicomar zoom lens system offers a 28mm angle setting), so I don't have to add (or purchase) another lens. That saves money, and when using the camera on a stabilizer device, it saves weight as well."
"The HMC150 excels at low-light shooting, and I'm rarely in the position where I can control all my illumination," Von Lanken noted. "For instance, on the one-camera wedding shoot, the ceremony location was dimly lit, but to make matters worse, the bride's and groom's faces faces were in dark shadows. I shot in 1080/30p, limiting the gain to 9dB and slowing the shutter down to 30 because it was so dark. The image in the LCD was much brighter than what my eyes could see. The second wedding ceremony was well-lit, but the reception was dark, with the lights down. Overall, the HMC150 performs much better in low light than the Z1."
"I always use manual focus, so ease of use of that function is very important to me," he added. "I really liked the feel of the HMC150 focus ring. It flows freely, which makes rolling focus a pleasure. The location of the Focus Assist (expanded focus) button, just behind the zoom ring, is perfect, easy to access no matter how you are holding the camera or how dark it is. Unlike competitive models, the expanded focus works while the camera is recording. Finally, there is an option to have a Frequency Distribution Graph, which tells you that you've maximized the focus.
"In terms of exposure, I've been so impressed with the Dynamic Range Stretch (DRS) feature, which expands the dynamic range, both in bright areas and dark areas. At one of the weddings, the exterior of the church was partially in shade, but DRS brightened the dark areas while preventing clipping of the bright areas. It emulates the dynamic range of film."
"When asked to compare AVCHD recording to HDV, I look at the numbers," Von Lanken added. "One AVCHD manufacturer will tell you that AVCHD at 9Mbps is equal to HDV. AVCCAM's PH mode records even higher than that at 21Mbps with the maximum variable rate at 24Mbps. What's more, the quality of video achieved with different codecs is not a simple bitrate comparison; MPEG-4 compression is far more efficient than MPEG-2. This is a big advantage."
Von Lanken owns an assortment of SDHC cards; he can record up to 90 minutes in the highest quality PH mode on one 16GB SDHC card. He is editing his HMC150 footage on a Grass Valley Edius PRO system.
For more information about Von Lanken and Von Wedding Films, visit www.vonweddingfilms.com.