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Mastering the Sony PMW-EX1

Mastering the Sony PMW-EX1
A Creative COW Product Review

Mastering the Sony PMW-EX1 from Vortex Media

Jim Harvey

Jim Harvey
JHV Digital
New York, USA

©Copyright 2008 Jim Harvey and All Rights Reserved

Article Focus:
In this review, CreativeCOW's Jim Harvey takes a hard look at Mastering the Sony PMW-EX1 from Vortex Media. See why he says: ...''if you are planning on purchasing a SONY PVM-EX1, or want to learn more about tapeless workflow and acquisition, this Workshop course will be an invaluable addition to your knowledge base.''

Ok let's face it, Tape is Dead...I know, I know, there is a great gnashing of teeth and wailing about it, but the fact remains, our days of shooting our pictures on strips of oxide coated tape is fast coming to an end. Manufacturers are getting bolder introducing models that mix tape and solid state (The HVX-200 for example) and Sony, who is really the leader in this arena with the introduction of their XDCAM PMW-EX1 which is 100% tapeless and within the reach of virtually anyone wanting to test the waters.

The advantages of tapeless are pretty obvious, no drop outs, instant replay, the ability to mark or delete shots with ease, no expensive cleaning, no complex mechanisms to go out of adjustment and of course, no tape costs. The drawbacks at this point are storage and cost, and we know where that’s headed. Even a fairly expensive storage card (let’s say $1500.00) is going to amortize itself in relatively short order compared to the cost of continually purchasing tape. Assuming a 100,000 cycle lifespan on a Card capable of holding 1 hour of footage, we would need to spend nearly half a MILLION dollars to equal that with tape. Now most of us won’t shoot 100,000 hours of tape in our lifetimes, but the cost savings is there no matter which way you slice the pie. So for our argument, tape is dead.

As with any new or revolutionary technology, the learning curve is of interest to those looking to be jumping out of that frying pan. We are all fortunate that Doug Jensen and his VORTEX MEDIA are the "Go to Guys" when it comes to learning about any of SONY'S camera offerings. The release of their workshop set "Mastering the SONY PMW-EX1" is another necessary addition to your learning library and an absolute necessity if you are contemplating purchasing or working with this camera.

A little background about Doug Jensen here;
Doug is a cameraman, producer and director with over 25 years experience in the field of video production and post production. He has worked for virtually ALL the three letter big guns in the broadcast industry as well as most of the heavy hitters in the Cable world. His ability to explain and break down the intricacies of camera operation is well known. Having Doug at your side is about as good as it gets.

What VORTEX has done, is put just about everything that you will ever need to know about this camera into a two disc set that covers the camera and workflow from "soup to nuts" as my uncle Izzy used to say. I have never had a dinner that consisted of soup to nuts, but I understand that the statement is a big positive...

Disc 1 takes the viewer through the basics of the camera. Broken up into 8 chapters, Jensen covers a basic overview of the EX-1 on to navigating the menus, video formats, focusing and exposure control as well as Audio and Time Code. This portion of the program is the foundation that you will use to build your knowledge of the camera and its operation as the workshop course progresses. I called it a "course" because for all intents and purposes, that is exactly what it is. The information on the two disc set is equivalent of what you would learn in a classroom. The advantage is that you can progress at your own pace and naturally, rewind to review portions that are of more interest to you or just to refresh your memory.

I always found it a good idea to keep a notebook nearby when watching any instructional material. Jotting down a quick note about this function or that setting seems to set the idea firmly in my noggin so I can remember it when the time comes (and if I can't I can always refer to the notebook rather than have to search through an entire DVD for the information.

Disc 2 gets to the meat of the matter and breaks down each function of the camera into its own chapter. Here we have 12 chapters and a final summary that will explain most any question you might have concerning the operation of the camera as well as custom settings, working with variable rates (slow motion / fast motion), the obligatory White Balance information (including how to chance the pre-set white balance in the camera).
Jensen also covers some interesting points about how to work with clips and what NOT to do to insure that you don't brick things up.

For those of us who work with Vegas, a chapter is devoted to working with Vegas 8.0 and explains how to work with the clips and export them the MXF format that Vegas will recognize. Vegas requires us to change our clips to a format that it understands and this chapter covers the things you need to know to make the process painless.
For those who are FCP gurus, the workflow for that program is explained and we are show where FCP has some advantages over VEGAS in terms of importing sub clips and how to work more effectively with the footage.

With three hours of content, this two disc set will provide you with more than enough information and guidance to get the most out of your PMW-EX1. Back in the bad old days, we had to buy the camera, and spend days if not weeks tweaking our settings to get the look that we wanted. Months after buying a camera we would "stumble" on a feature than wasn't documented and we'd feel oh so smart. Workshop courses like those in the VORTEX MEDIA series takes some of the "treasure hunt" out of owning a new camera but get us up and running much faster and far smarter.

For more information, visit VORTEX MEDIA'S Website at

Finally, if you are planning on purchasing a SONY PVM-EX1, or want to learn more about tapeless workflow and acquisition, this Workshop course will be an invaluable addition to your knowledge base.

The production values are top notch as always and the information is presented in a logical and interesting manner that won't have you fast forwarding. I predict some serious rewinding though, especially if you have the camera in hand.

With information this good, and presented so well, I have to give it the full 5 cows. VORTEX MEDIA titles have always been top quality. You won't regret your purchase.


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