Canon XH-A1 Camera
At the moment I am looking at getting a new camera, the Canon XH-A1. I like this camera because it has a 20x lens, a great optical stabilizer and despite its small size, has the same imaging sensor as the more expensive XL-H1.
For my style of filming, I like a camera that doesn’t look expensive and allows me to get candid street shots without detection. I’ve looked at reviews of various HDV 1/3 chip cameras, and all are fairly similar in picture quality. For me, the Canon wins out mainly on the strength of its class winning huge zoom lens.
I also use a hoodman for the LCD monitor, and my custom made shoulderlander, so I can rest the camera on my shoulder and get nice steady shots.
High Definition requires quite a bit of computer grunt – at least 2 GB, preferably 4 GB of RAM. I’ve been a Mac man since 1998, when Apple revolutionized video editing by bringing out the iMac, the first computer built from the ground up to handle Firewire loading of video footage.
I have an Apple Mac Book Pro and edit with Final Cut Pro Studio.
My style of backpack filmmaking requires minimum gear which I must carry when I travel. On the ‘El Camino’ in Spain, I walked 750km with 17 kilograms of gear. On my last trip overseas, I was lugging close to 30 Kilograms including a laptop.
Microphone and Tripod
My travel kit includes one microphone (Sennheiser ME 66) and one lightweight tripod (Velbon CX-586)
This influences my filming style. I don’t have a proper fluid head tripod so I tend to avoid panoramic shots or having to take them from my shoulder.
I’m actually thinking of reducing my sound equipment even more and just getting a hardwired XLR lapel microphone, or a smaller Rode shotgun.
The Sennheiser is a great microphone but is difficult to disguise. Not something you always want to be carrying when filming in the rough end of town.
To the untrained eye, 1/3 chip mini DV or HDV cameras capture footage that looks the same as their more expensive 1/2 chip big brothers. But where they do fall down is in scenes of high contrast.
To avoid this problem, I travel with a small light kit – the Paglight C6.
Finally, one of my most important piece of kit I travel with is my old Akubra Cowboy Hat.
Seriously, sometimes I believe wearing my Hat has saved me from being mugged, people don’t know how to take a guy traveling round the world in a huge hat!
It gives me a crocodile hunter-like mystique.