Archive for March, 2010

PostHeaderIcon Jump starting tape-based cameras in Egypt

As many of you might be aware I’ve been in Egypt this month working with local filmmakers and conducting a cinematography workshop at night. The matter of adopting a tapeless workflow is a virtual imperative here since the old tape-based systems currently in use here are decaying and failing with age. The tape-based cameras I’ve encountered including a range of vintage Betacam and newer Z1 HDV models haven’t been cleaned or otherwise maintained in years. It’s simply too expensive to do so given the modest Egyptian market that can ill-afford even the most basic maintenance tools of cleaning tapes. For the many HDV tape cameras here the use of cheap consumer tape only exacerbates the maintenance issue, as the shedding and poor slitting of this bottom quality tape leads to frequent head clogs and tape drop-outs. On many HDV and DV cameras I’ve seen including some on substantial television productions, the on-board battery connectors are broken or missing leaving the power unit to fall off, one or more XLR audio inputs do not work, and most distressingly perhaps, the tape transports need a light tap on the side of the camera to get rolling. Jump starting cars in the streets here seems to be a common means of getting things rolling , and so it would seem the same logic applies to jump-starting ailing tape-based cameras.

Of course there is a considerable price also for investing in tapeless equipment in the first place, but so is continuing down the current tape-based path with all the issues of poor reliability and inconvenience. For many filmmakers here the capture of tape-based material into the NLE requires the rental of a deck or camera from across town, which in Cairo is easily an all-day affair given the dense choking traffic. The advantages of foregoing tape in favor or recording to flash memory is obvious to me, and it is especially apparent in more cash-starved markets that can benefit handsomely from the workflow advantages and cost benefits of foregoing video tape – if they can afford, that is, the initial cost of investment.