Never Stop Learning....Or Spending


Peter Heaven TV-Bay Magazine
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I’m over 75, and have been a member of the Bristol Film and Video Society (www.bristolvideo.org.uk) for several decades. Like the great majority of members, I am not and never have been a video professional but have video interests beyond the club and its productions. For some time I have been recording lectures (for other clubs) using a Panasonic HDC-HS100, a lovely little hand-held camera recording Full-HD 1920x1080i which has given very good service. But it has a 3.5mm jack for an external mic and this proved limiting, so I looked for a small mic mixer.

I spoke to Pinknoise at the Bristol Kitplus roadshow. They offered a Sound Devices MixPre-D. I took a deep breath and paid the price, but I’m not sorry I did; it’s one of the nicest things I’ve ever bought and works a treat. But that very professional little mixer gave me a taste for a more expensive camera. I looked around and the Panasonic HC-X1 looked really good. I watched reviews on the web and downloaded the UK user manual. I’ve been retired for 10 years so it was now or never to treat myself! Not being a professional user, I didn’t need to come up with a business case; I just wanted one. The nice people at H Preston were happy to oblige, along with supplying a suitable camera bag and additional battery. Any questions I had were answered fully and promptly by the very helpful tech team at Panasonic Customer Service.

The very comprehensive user guide tells you what every feature can do; but, sadly, not how to use it! My first hiccup was when the viewfinder suddenly came up with ‘ND ¼’ during filming; I wasn’t prepared for that and didn’t realise that it was just a recommendation, but continued shooting. The sky came out a bit bright but that was all, except that I obviously needed to put in some serious reading. Other club members, some of whom also have ‘grown-up’ cameras, are always happy to give advice.

The small camera screen prompted me to buy a Lilliput A7s 7” 4K monitor; the camera has several useful threaded mounting holes in the top handle, and I bought a quantity of Ruili P50 QR mounts so all my kit can be mounted quickly in any configuration I need. I bought the necessary stainless steel countersunk Allen key screws from Kayfast, who offer a great service with no minimum order.

But having some professional kit doesn’t mean it results in professional films! Apart from the old adage that ‘You can’t beat a good script’, you do need to know how to use your camera to get the best from it. I’m fortunate in being amongst others with similar interests in filming. Any problems I experience have probably been solved by someone else, and using the club’s email group almost always provides timely help and advice.

Working with others is a good and enjoyable way to gain experience; the cameraman will ask the lighting guy to check exposure and framing, everyone listens for aircraft and ambulances, and so on. And of course we can pool resources such as cameras, sound kit, lights, etc. I was a member of the Avon Association of Drama for several years, and suggested the club joined. We now have a pool of experienced amateur actors to call on, who always come up trumps and enhance our many productions. As amateurs we aren’t limited by budget constraints (budget? What budget?!) and seldom by time constraints (other than competition closing dates!); we just keep going until it’s finished, and have no shareholders to keep happy. That’s a freedom most pros would absolutely love to have. But the club has a simple question when considering a new production: ‘Who’s going to watch it?’ Not a lot of point making a film that has no prospective audience.

To sum up, my new toy is keeping me occupied trying to understand the various functions that are available, and how to use them. It will take some time. Don’t write us oldies off – we’re keeping ourselves busy!

So, equipment manufacturers and dealers, please note that us pensioners are still in the market. We don’t have to satisfy any business case, any shareholders, any auditors... we just dip into the kids’ inheritance and spend it. I don’t have any kids. I also need new carpets and curtains, but a new camera is much more fun... and I’m sure there are many people out there recording social history while we still can, capturing it for future research and interest.

I’m looking forward to next year’s Kitplus roadshow. I’ll be interested to see Miller tripods again, they always come along. Well, I have to spend it on SOMETHING!


Tags: iss140 | bristol film and viudeo society | pinknoise | hc-x1 | h preston | lilliput a7 | Peter Heaven
Contributing Author Peter Heaven

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