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Building a portable multi-cam 16-track audio/video live recording rig Part 2

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Continuing right along with my portable A/V recording rig quest, I have gotten over my imported mini-cam fetish and just bit the financial bullet and am going with much higher quality DSLRs for the whole rig. Also I’m thinking about some redesigns for the box. I’m planning on investing in a CNC machine for another venture but I don’t think the time is there for me to order it, build it, learn it, and produce any quality work in time to cut up the box with it before the Las Vegas Deathfest so no fancy routing for the moment. Decisions, decisions… budgets, budgets… going way over budget… you get the idea. Come on, let’s go have fun and figure it out. 

Ahh, new acquisitions

Things and stuff be arriving! Been wanting to grab one of these for a while.
Things and stuff be arriving! Been wanting to grab one of these for a while.

First off, I stopped procrastinating and actually purchased quite a bit of gear. Here’s a short list of some things that have arrived already and the deals I got on them:

Very happy to add another GH2 to the family. This one is the one I won on eBay for $3
Very happy to add another GH2 to the family. This one is the one I won on eBay for $361.57

As you can see I got some pretty good deals considering regular prices right now. I watched Amazon closely and jumped when things went down and waited for a 20% off coupon from Musician’s Friend another great place I buy gear from. Make sure to watch Musician’s Friend’s Stupid Deal of the Day. I’ve scored big with that. I got a $200 mxl 910 mic for $49.99 a $399 B.C. Rich Villain Escape 8 for $260 and a bunch of other little deals here and there. Onward…

Stuff I still need to pick up that I’m either on the fence about or I’m waiting on a good deal:

  • Another GH2 ~$350 (that will make 3 I own for the stationary ‘box’ cams to cover left, right, and center)
  • Panasonic DMC-FZ300k 4k Camera ~$499 (really great run and gun cam with a killer F2.8 full-range Leica 25-600mm zoom lens, perfect camera for close up photo pit shooting of the bands. It’s the perfect hybrid between video camera and DSLR. It’s 4k, low light, 2 speed mechanical zoom, fast face detection focusing, 100mbit 24p 4k mode, and the video it produces speaks for itself… not to mention it’s the max I can spend for my budget 😉 )
  • One of the cheaper action cams anyway like $50-75 to cover the crowd from the stage POV (maybe)
  • 3 small ball head mounts for the GH2 cameras @ the box
  • More batteries, GH2 power supplies, SD cards as far as I can see
  • Various wood, handles, etc. (waiting on final design type)

So as you can see there’s some things still to decide and acquire. I promise I’ll stay motivated and actually get this project to where I want it. Hey I bet you didn’t think I’d get this far. I bet you thought I’d just forget about it like all the other hare brained schemes I have. Hey… all those ideas are simply on hold for one reason or another. I never fully abandon a project. Wait… what’s happening here? Onward…

The minicam break up

Looks like the Git2 Gitup and went. Yeah I'm not above a cheap joke like that.
Looks like the Git2 Gitup and went. Yeah I’m not above a cheap joke like that.

I have to mention why I’m ditching the minicam idea after talking so highly about them in the last part of the series. I found out a couple things about the cams I was looking at that swayed me in the direction of just going with an all DSLR setup. First problem was the frame rate. Those cams do 30 frames per second… exactly 30 FPS. This is not correct for editing, it should be 29.97 FPS, there would be sync issues. I know I said that because they’d be short shots it would be easier to deal with that stuff but I changed my mind and I think I’m going to shoot all 24p anyway to get the cinema quality I prefer. Second, the overall quality of the image would not be good enough for anything but quick shots. I saw some video in a club setting with a band and was disappointed in the quality. There were a few other things like the gap between 4GB files (they don’t span files smoothly like GoPros, you loose a few seconds or more) and a couple other problems that just made the call for me. I could go for GoPros and use the Narrow mode but this is not a desirable setup as the cost is just around the price of a used DSLR which has a much better output.

So, as much as I wanted to get something together that would be really slick and tiny I do not think it will be feasible with the current tech. “I’m sorry minicams, you’re gone and that’s that and there was nuthin’ we could-do-about-it”. Onward to DSLRs

The almighty GH2

almightygh2I think if you know me, you know I’m a fan of the Panasonic GH2. It’s probably the best-bang-for-your-buck m43 DSLR camera that you can hack and produces just a real special image. Something about the combo they got with that chip that’s in there and the firmware in the community… it’s great. Looks like real film. Coppala actually said he loved the camera and was impressed by it. They weren’t using the Sony chips that the new cams all seem to have now. I’ve already snagged (at the last 20 seconds) from eBay another GH2 with the kit lens for $361.57 shipped! A stellar deal (mine was over $800 new). Fingers crossed it’s in good shape. Was advertised as in great working condition and that it was hacked already with a long spanning hack. I will prob put in the driftwood hack like mine. I love that hack. It’s the best look you can get out of the camera and has that 35mm film feel. I know there are much better DSLR cams out there on paper and if I had thousands to spend I would for sure buy something a little better but for me and my needs and budget it works. If I spend anything extra it will be on lenses.

Another great reason for me to invest in more GH2’s and DSLRs in general as opposed to action cams is that this will be more useful and bring me closer to my film making goals as it’s great to have a B cam… a C cam, and looks like I’ll have a D cam as well, a 4k cam so I can maybe shoot some effects shots. Nothing crazy but I’d like to see what I can pull off down the road. Wait… off track here.

Burn in baby… burn in!!!

Getting back to the A/V rig. I have put the laptop through memory stress tests for RAM and video memory after changing out the screen and all looks good. Next up will be the hard drive swap of the 750GB stock 7200 rpm drive for the 240GB Kingston SSD on the way. I actually have a second drive tray coming from eBay for the 750GB so I can put that in the secondary slot. I can mount it without that using some duct tape rolled in a little log to keep it in the SATA port but much nicer to have the tray and it’s only $10 shipped.

My Asus G73sw Laptop with it's newly replaced HD matte screen.
My Asus G73sw Laptop with it’s newly replaced HD matte screen. This thing is a beast. It’s 16.75×13.5×1.75

The laptop for this project is an Asus G73sw with an I7 2nd gen, 12GB of RAM, 17″ 1920×1080 matte screen, nVidia card, etc. Should be more than suitable for our needs. She’s a big laptop so I might have to change a bit on the box design to accommodate the width when power and USBs are plugged in on both sides. Maybe I can modify/buy some cables that are 90º but Cubase needs to have a USB dongle in. Time to take more measurements maybe do a redesign…

Short post this time. I’ll be back real soon with another post and some redesigns after some more measurements. Hmmm… I wonder exactly how fast that CNC machine I’m looking at can get here… hmmm indeed… this would accelerate the next secret project… hmmm double indeed… 

*** UPDATE May 26, 2016 ***

Just grabbed another GH2 body, so mission complete on the GH2’s. It is also hacked for 150mbit recording. $289 shipped with two batteries and another Panasonic charger. Nice. I’ll use the Opteka 85mm lens on this for a center camera possibly.

to be continued…

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