Sony HXR NX30 Image Stabilisation in Perspective

Overall I’m pleased that so many have found the review I’ve done on the Sony HXR NX30 helpful and informative.

I wanted to address a valid issue brought up by several people by giving a little more perspective to the image stabilization (“stabilisation” for you Brits).

When I first started watching video reviews of this camera I was somewhat disappointed in the short shrift given to it’s performance. A lot of talk, a lot of description, but very few actual shots, and some poorly done at that. Not really enough to get a feel for what the camera could do. So I decided to give it a go myself.

My shots were, on the other hand, perhaps somewhat exaggerated in that they were overly long.  But I did that for a reason:  It’s easy to put up a 3-5 second shot of the best bits which really doesn’t give you much time or opportunity to evaluate what you’re looking at. What I would want to see as a cameraman would be lots of footage under varying lighting conditions, varying focal lengths, and, in the case of stabilization, lots of examples of a long enough duration that I could get a feel for the camera’s potential.

So that’s what I did. And I didn’t edit out the bad bits. I showed you the whole thing, warts and all.  And because the FCPX stabilization feature is so fast and easy (unlike FCP7), in many cases I plugged that in too.

That, of course, showed up some of the combined faults of both camerawork and the bad side-effects of trying to stabilize footage that’s a bit too shakey to begin with.

I had to assume most people interested in this camera were already familiar with the stabilization characteristics (or lack of) of their own cameras past or present.

So here was an “orders of magnitude” comparison–meaning, “here’s what I could knock off with little to no effort under the same conditions you might have tried doing the same thing with your current camera”.

In reality, NONE of those shots would ever be used as-is.  Take the flat-out running shot behind the young girl. Such a shot would be part of an ACTION SEQUENCE and action sequences are generally fast cut with few shots on screen for any duration. Actions scenes are intercut from several cameras whether real-time or from subsequent re-takes of the same scene.

Consider those long walking shots. BORING. You’d never use any of those in their entirety in any production. You might use 2-5 seconds bits of any of them, but that’s about it.

So in APPLICATION (in the case of these hand held tracking, dolly or boom shots) one would hardly ever bother using any of the bad bits.  It’s easy to say that one could get it perfect with a Steadicam, but the truth is, even Steadicam or Glidecam shots get blown and have to be re-taken. For that matter I’ve had my share of dolly and crane shots I wasn’t happy with and had to re-take.

It’s not easy to walk a camera hand-held in the first place. It takes some practice to minimize the natural tendency to bob up and down as you walk.

This camera doesn’t eliminate that. It minimizes it.  So if you practice good technique in minimizing it and add to that a camera that minimizes it further toward something approaching the fluidity of a good steadicam shot, then you should start getting interested.

And if the result of your technique and the camera’s technology give you a result that is pretty steady and without any bobbles, then you have to option to stabilize it even more with your editing program–and with all these things at near optimum, you probably won’t get any bad side-effects such as jello.  –That comes when the editing program stabilization (or indeed the camera’s built-in stabilization) are trying to handle too much at once.  On the other hand, you could do it so well that you don’t even need to further stabilize it–realizing that in application you’re only going to see a few seconds of that shot in juxtaposition with many others. SURELY you can get it good enough that you don’t jolt the audience’s attention out of the arena with bad technique.

So remember there’s an editorial aspect to everything you shoot in terms of what will be actually used and how. Don’t expect perfection from the camera. Don’t expect perfection from your own technique. Just get them, through practice, to the highest standard you can achieve.

I, for one, prefer less equipment, not more.

The spirit of this review was that this camera allows you that freedom like few other camera’s or systems I have ever used. And at a truly inexpensive price.

The one thing that doesn’t come in the box with the camera, I assure you, is technique and judgment.

To be honest, I’ve used this camera in paid productions and made some embarrassing mistakes in each one. But that was my own fault, not the camera’s.

Live and learn.

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