At the rate new equipment is being released by camera manufacturers these days it can often be very hard to keep up. Quite often a camera operator is asked to use a lot of different cameras and cannot possibly learn all of their foibles on a couple of jobs. Further more, due to the complexity of todays camera systems it is often quite difficult to use all of their featuresets to the best of their ability without a good working knowledge of them. Many times even a camera operator who has owned a camcorder for a number of years may not be aware of many useful functions that they did not know the camera was capable of.
For these reasons it is a good idea to research and train yourself how to use your camcorder efficiently, and to know its limitations. With specific regard to Sony's line of cameras there are a number of DVD's on the market. However some of them are clearly being made to sugar up Sony and do not make the operator aware of any drawbacks. On top of this some of them are not particularly well shot or put together.
Doug Jensen from Vortex Media is a camera operator of almost 30 years experience shooting for major television networks such as NBC ABC, NHK, the BBC among many, many others. Being somebody who has been out in the field under all sorts of pressures and deadlines while still having to produce footage of exceptional quality means that he knows intimately what a camera operator is looking for. The Vortex Media series of instructional videos has been fast gaining a reputation for in-depth tuition and production quality. "How to Setup, Light, & Shoot Great Looking Interviews" is one in particular that i would recommend for anyone wishing to improve their facial lighting techniques.
"Mastering the Sony PMW-EX3" is one of Vortex Medias latest DVD's that covers Sony's new semi-shoulder mount SxS tapeless camera. The EX3 is a big step up for people who have been using cameras such as the Panasonic HVX200 or the Sony Z1, while at the opposite end of the scale many broadcast camcorder vets will also need some tuition about the various ins and outs of this unit. The fact that the camera records to solid state cards is also a huge leap for many people who have been used to tape and requires a small learning curve.
The chapters included on the DVD include:
In all the DVD covers 3hrs of training and comes on two DVDs.
The DVD is presented by Doug himself, which means that instead of a faceless narrator or hired in presenter you are being given the information by a seasoned professional. Doug has a very laid back presenting style and unlike many in the profession he appears totally at ease in front of the camera. His voice is very clear and he presents all information in an easy to understand way. If additional references are needed they are displayed in the lower thirds of the screen, so if you are confused by the jargon you will have suggestions on how to further your knowledge.
One of the aspects that I like about the Vortex DVDs is that they will not kid you that the equipment that they are covering is the best thing since sliced bread. If there are any limitations, or functions on the camera do not perform as well as they should they make you aware of it, as well as demonstrating directly the reasons why. Unlike other DVD producers Doug has not been loaned a camera by Sony. All equipment that he makes DVDs about he owns. So not only is the information coming from somebody who is a seasoned professional camera operator, but he has also used the equipment that he is covering in anger in the field.
The important thing to take into consideration when watching "Mastering the Sony PMW-EX3" is that it is not an instructional video about picture composition and how to expose etc as many people are prone to thinking. Nor will it tell you in depth how to set up the colour matrix profiles for instance. Instead the DVD is a primer on the ins and outs of the EX3 and its various intricacies. Setting up detailed picture profiles is a personal thing, and setting up colour matrix settings would be better covered in a camera engineering setup DVD, so Doug has rightly kept the programmes focus on the EX3 itself and its specific functions and workflow. That said he does give a basic picture profile that he uses to shoot with that improves saturation and gives the picture a little more punch, but as he points out it is a personal choice as to whether you like the look yourself.
Throughout the DVD there are some stunning examples of footage that Doug has taken throughout the US using the EX3. The whole presentation is put together in a very slick manner and is divided up into easily navigable chapters so that you can always jump to the area that is of interest to you.
To conclude I would say that this DVD is an excellent primer on how to find your way around the EX3, and also how you can deal with the post production workflow compared to tape. Highly recommended.
"Mastering the Sony PMW-EX3" can be purchased from the Vortex Media website.