Brad Spurgeon's Blog

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First Round of Existential Camera Question Goes to Zoom

August 4, 2012

I have been hanging around home for the last three days as I edit my documentary film about open mics, and prepare my memoir and my novel for adolescents for submission to publishers/agents. What this has meant is wonderful experiences using the new Final Cut X, which got so hugely criticized when it first came out last year. It has also meant thinking a LOT about cameras, films and editing; and meeting an existential question to do with cameras, which was started off by a recent experience.

First, a note on Final Cut X. I had a week’s worth of training – 35 to 40 hours – on Final Cut Pro 7 in 2007. I then bought Premiere Pro for my home use, as I was only using a PC at home. Then after I started assembling all the rushes on my documentary about traveling around the world to open mics last year, I realized that my PC was antiquated and could not deal with the 100 hours or more of sound and footage that I had accumulated for the film, from interviews in 20 countries last year.

So I decided to buy a heavy duty Mac Pro – one of those PC-looking Macs that sits on the floor – and to buy Final Cut X. I had heard all sorts of crappy things about it, since filmmakers were as unhappy as I was, no doubt, at having learned how to use Final Cut Pro 7 and then discovering that Final Cut X had re-written the paradigm, and it looked like iMovie.

I needed one thing in particular that it had just come out with, and that was the new multicam aspect that came out after the first version. I had often done interviews with three cameras operating at once, as well as a sound recording device. I needed to sink all of that, and the Premiere Pro system – even using PluralEyes’ synching software – was not great…in fact it was a pain.

Now that I have started editing in ernest, I can say this is better than like driving a limousine. This is like sitting in a television studio and snapping your fingers during a live feed to mix and mash all the camera angles as the show goes on. It is FUN as hell, and works incredibly. I never thought editing the film would be so much fun. Additionally, Final Cut X does all the rendering in the background without you having to ask it to do so. It is sooooo simple, so beautiful, so cool.

Now to get down to figuring out what to discard from my film, making the storyline work. But I think I have that approach worked out now! In any case, it’s as fun doing it as it was interviewing people and putting the footage together.

zoom q3hd

zoom q3hd

So, that other thing I mentioned? That was to do with hardware and recording. I continue going to open mics for fun and for this blog, and I carry around a little portable Zoom Q3HD recording device, which is mainly made to record great sound, with a camera recording device added almost as an afterthought.

But it is so simple to use and to carry – on my belt – that I have always thought it was the ideal device for this blog. Unfortunately, sometimes when the lighting is really bad, the image quality is trash. Having said that, it can see in the dark to a degree, and has three basic settings for the lighting, so it is easy to use brainlessly.

But when last week I saw a video that Patrick Lamoine did of me playing at the Coolin open mic two weeks ago I was struck by the extraordinary quality of the image, and I asked him what he filmed it with. It turns out it was done with a Canon DSLR camera. That is, a camera for taking photographs that also does video. This has become a very common way to make videos, and some people are even making full length films with DSLRs.

I had noticed Patrick using the camera with a large microphone attached to it, as he attends all the Coolin open mic sessions and takes the official photos and videos – it is a great concept. I seriously wondered if I should change over to a DSLR for my blog. But Patrick had also used for a separate sound device at Zoom H4, placed above the bar – and that is apparently what he used on the video of me.

(If the video does not work correctly, click the link above it:)

Brad Spurgeon par Coolin_Open_Mic

Check out the video – even if it is not my most vital performance – in fact, I was a spaced out on this first song, “Year of the Cat” by Al Stewart, and I did a better job on the next song, my own, “Except Her Heart.” (And you may notice people behind me leaving as soon as I start, and another looking at his cell phone – but you can’t win them all!) But the quality of the image when compared to most of what I deliver on my blog is just fabulous.

My interest piqued, I then started looking at more of the videos Patrick has taken in recent weeks. I was able to find one of the same performance that we both made a video of. It was the delightful trio of starring the deadly Alix on guitar and the fun Ansaya on vocals. The video done by Patrick was not done in the same light as the one he did of me, but it was with the same camera.

This is the video I took of the trio with my Zoom Q3HD:

So if you actually compare the two videos, my portable – and half-the-price – Zoom Q3HD really stands up to it, and the sound is far better. So I don’t think, all things considered, that I will run out immediately and buy a DSLR. But I think I will keep looking around to see if there is anything irresistibly cool on the market, now that I have had my attention turned that way….

This is the video Patrick Lamoine took of the trio with his DSLR at the same time as I took mine with my Zoom Q3HD (if the video does not work correctly, click the link above it.):

Alix Thierry, Anzaya Khan & Mohamed Azzouz par Coolin_Open_Mic

Still, I’m so busy with the film that I should probably calm my buying ardor and just get on with it.

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