Panasonic DVCPRO HD Goes to Iraq

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New HD formats continue to be put through the paces in Iraq with Panasonic’s AG-HVX200 DVCPRO HD solid-state camcorder currently being used by filmmaker Marc Singer to shoot a documentary on the Marine Corps Force Reconnaissance Platoon.

Last fall Sony’s HDV HVR-Z1U was used to shoot Baghdad ER, a documentary that aired on HBO. The current project will be a feature-length documentary.

 Singer won’t be deployed with the platoon until next week but he’s already been living and training with the unit. That’s helped him get used to the camera’s form factor, which is much smaller and lighter than the typical film camera he has worked with.

“Due to the environment I would be working in and the fact that I would work alone, attempting to shoot on film would be very problematic,” Singer says. “Not only would there be weeks at a time where it would be impossible to get a re-supply of film stock, but space is extremely limited. I needed to find a camera that was lightweight and easy to sustain.”

The HVX200 not only obviates the need to use film but also tape. The camera records video on P2 solid-state memory cards. Singer will have 13‑ two 8GB cards and 11 4 GB cards. He expects to shoot in both 1080i and 720p, with 720p used for getting slow-motion material.

Because P2 cards are designed to be reused Singer is also bring two P2 Store devices into the field. P2 Store will let him offload video and use the card again.

For extended missions he’ll bring an Apple laptop computer and mini G-Raid drives for offloading video.“The material will be edited on a Macintosh, using Final Cut Pro,” says Singer. “I’ll log all of my footage and, if time permits, begin a basic selection and assembly. I’ll finish the edit when I return home in about eight months, and from there complete the remainder of the post production process.”

The advantage of solid-state recording is that it can speed up the editing process by removing the need to dub tape-based material to a server. But Singer has found another advantage. “One day the team was doing a raid on a building and they were breaching [blowing up] the entrance to gain entry,” he recalls. “When shooting tape and standing close to the action you tend to lose the picture as the blast goes through the camera. It completely breaks up, the screen goes full of noise and becomes unusable. I could feel the wave going through the HVX200, but the picture was not affected in the slightest.

Singer’s documentary is being produced by Picture Farm Productions in New York City.

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