animation using an analog broadcast camera
Ok, perfect might be stretching it... but as far as I'm concerned it comes pretty darn close. At SMA.com
a lot of the discussion is aimed at trying to find a good camera for digital animation. There are a lot of variable factors to consider... you can use a good old webcam (like my trusty Unibrain
) but as well as it integrates with the digital video environment, the optics just aren't good enough for professional work. Best to use one in your early practice stages to develop your animation skills while you're setting up your high-end system, cause folks, it's gonna take some time! Another way is to mess around with a digital still camera, which have great optics and extremely high resolution, allowing high-def quality images, but they have their own inherent problems and people are constantly trying to find ways to control or reduce the flicker problem and it's difficult (if not impossible) to get one to work with a framegrabber system, meaning that you lose the incredible flexibility and power the framgrabber has brought to us. A good solution is the digital camcorder, but in order to get complete user control over the various image settings and functions (like focus... it doesn't do to let the camera auto-focus whenever it wants!), you have to pay mega-bucks for a pro-sumer level camcorder... starting in the $2000 range! Then there are the microscopy/machine vision cameras, which are actually perfect for our purposes... they're essentially high-end webcams that accept pro quality c-mount lenses, but they cost in the mega-bucks range again.
Here is the solution I'm working on now... originally suggested on the SMA boards by Moviestuff.
These cameras are the analog cousins of the high-priced machine vision cameras, and in their day they went for around $3000 or so, but because they're analog the studios are discarding them and 'upgrading' to digital. They're small, slightly larger than a can of soup, and they're not mobile... they require a direct connection to the computer (or tape deck, in their studio days), so they tended to be used mainly as stand cameras to shoot copy, or in medical applications to send critical image data to specialists in remote locations. So generally speaking, they weren't subjected to the wear and tear that a fully mobile camcorder would, which was carried in the field. They won't give the same super-high resolution you can get with the machine vision cameras, but it's better than NTSC broadcast quality at 700 lines of resolution, so if you're working on video they will more than suffice. And you can find them on ebay for usually under $500! Mine came in at $350 without a lens or power supply.
Here are a few ebay tips
Once you've done a search, you can hit a link in the corner and set it up as a permanent ongoing search (called a 'favorite' search), and you can click a box to have them email you whenever anything matching your search parameters comes up. That's definitely the way to go... these things come up fairly regularly, but you can go for months without seeing one, and suddenly there will be 3 or 4 of them for auction. You want to make sure the seller has tested it... a lot of times people get ahold of these in big lots through an auction and they don't have lenses or power feeds for them, so you're taking a gamble on whether it even works. Also, email the seller and ask if there are any dead pixels. If there are, it's more expensive to get it fixed than to just get another used one.
The only models I'm familiar with are the Hitachi HV-C10 and HV-C20. I'm sure there are others that are perfectly appropriate, but I couldn't tell you anything about them. All the research I've done, and all the facts I've been able to glean from my mind-numbing marathon websurfing sessions relates to these babies. And let me tell you, there was a LOT of research... mostly to find out what kind of power supply they take and what lenses are compatible. The manual lists 3 or 4 lenses, and then says to look for other lenses "with the same optical characteristics". Well, I know next to nothing about photography or optics, so it took me a long time to figure out what that meant. First, here are the important factors you need to know about lenses.
They are designed to take "C-mount" lenses, which is a good standard style made for quality film cameras, so you have a good range to select from. But with the HV-C20 cameras there is a limiting factor. The "rear thread protrusion" can't be more than 4.2mm. Here's a diagram:
This shows a side view of the back end of the lens. The threads that screw into the camera body, as the diagram shows, can't extend more than 4.2mm into it, otherwise you'll end up damaging the lens and the camera itself. So make SURE before attaching a lens, and screw it in slowly, feeling as you go. If you feel any resistance, stop and back it out immediately! Get out your ruler and measure that puppy! If it's too big, out it goes!
Here is a PDF file you can download showing compatible lenses: HV-C20 Lens Compatibility
I haven't found one for the C-10, because I have specialized my search for the one I've got. If you try Googling "Hitachi HV-C10 lens compatibility" and variations of those terms, you can probably turn one up.
Here is another, absolutely incredible resource I found, that finally made it possible for me to determine the exact properties of just about any C-mount lens (including the rear protrusion, a factor most ebay sellers aren't aware of, much less list in their auction): High-Tech Digital LENS REF GUIDE!!!
I found this file online recently, and can't find it anymore, so I uploaded the whole file to my server. It's almost 2 megs, so it'll take a while to download. Go get a snack or something.
Finally, after many more headache-inducing nights fruitlessly websurfing, I finally emerged with this essential piece of data... the model # for the C-20's elusive power supply is 45601-C7. It's just a 12 volt power feed, but requires a special plug to fit into the camera (and I don't know if there are any other special factors), so you can't just use a regular transformer. You need to find a specialty supplier that carries these, like ccd-direct.com
If you click on that link, it takes you directly to a page featuring the power supply, which they carry at a reduced cost of $73, compared to the regular price of $80.
One more thing I should mention. Since these are analog cameras, and don't deliver a digital signal readable to a computer, you'll need to use it in conjunction with an analog/digital converter, like the Canopus ADVC-100
. This is a stand-alone box unit, you can get one for the PC or Mac. The camera attaches to the converter unit with an S-video cable, and to the computer with firewire.
Well, that's about it. This page represents a whole lot of deep research, and the information is hard to come by. If you're interested in a camera that won't give you the hassles of a digital SLR, and doesn't come with the hefty price tag of a prosumer Digital camcorder, and that gives a really sweet image suitable for bradcast quality video on tape or DVD, this is the way to go. I don't know of any other system that will give the image quality at anywhere near the price.Ψ