JVC GY-HM100U at Sundance

The Sundance Film Festival runs from Jan 21-31 in the high altitude (6900 ft) and high attitude air of Park City, Utah. Today, I was asked what camera I’d recommend for a filmmaker or film student with aspirations of shooting documentaries, news, dramatic short subjects, the occasional full-length independent feature, and of course, amazing skiing and snowboarding shots at nearby Deer Valley, Snowbird or Alta.

Camera Left Side with Handle, Microphone and Audio Module attached

I’d immediately head over to the New York Lounge at 545 Main Street in Park City to check out the JVC GY-HM100U camcorder. (You can also get coffee and NY bagels, and visit reps from Postworks, NYPA, and other NY companies.)

JVC’s HM100 has a lot going for it: One of the smallest packages to deliver full 1920×1080 24p HD, with the choice of recording to SDHC Memory Cards in .mov (Quicktime) or .mp4 (MPEG-2 Long GOP).

Unscrew the handle, and the camera is half the size. This is the configuration I like best

We’ll get to the advantages of drag-and-drop single file Quicktime editing later. But first the ergonomics. You can shoot in all kinds of places where larger cameras would be impractical—with images that are stellar. The attached (it’s not interchangeable) Fujinon 10:1 zoom lens (F1.8, 3.7-37 mm) has manual and auto focus, iris and zoom, and built-in Optical Image Stabilization to smooth out the wobbles as you handhold down Main Street or ski the bumps.

Pack some extra batteries

You can crank up the rate at which bits get recorded onto one of the two internal SDHC cards — up to 35 megabits per second. This is higher than the data rates used in most other hand held camcorders.

The camera is quite comfortable in temperatures of 32 – 100 degrees F.  At Sundance and other cold places, some skiers’ handwarmers taped to the batteries and around the lens barrel can help keep things running smoothly in frigid temperatures. This is true of most cameras–not just this one. Your hands will appreciate it as well–bare skin sticking to frozen metal is not fun.

As we’ve written before, you can carry the HM100, a Gitzo tripod and fluid head, spare batteries, Memory Cards, lunch, handwarmers, extra gloves, socks and your PIEPS Avalanche Rescue Transceiver in a single backpack. Remember, this is a camera for extreme filmmaking or extremely portable filmmaking.

HM100 Base with 1/4 x 20 threaded socket

JVC GY-HM100U base with 1/4 x 20 threaded mounting socket

The onboard mike, audio controls and handle are very good and useful. But chances are that if you’re shooting on Regulator Johnson or Great Scott, the adrenaline action footage is going to be cut to music, not sync-sound.

DSLR and HDSLR camera manufacturers of the world–take note. Look at the tripod/baseplate mount on this compact camcorder: it is not much larger than your 5D, 7D, 1D, D300S, D3S, D3000, etc. That guide hole forward of the 1/4 x 20 threaded socket helps keep camera and baseplates from twisting. We love that. Please add a similar guide hole to your cameras.

Oh yes, the editing. After shooting in .mov format, you can begin editing almost immediately by simply dragging and dropping the files into Final Cut Studio. Anyone who has wrangled or archived the baffling array of AVCHD and other hierarchical file formats love having just one file per scene.

For more info, read our previous review or check out the details on JVC’s website.

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