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Skate Video Quality: The VX1000 vs. Every Other Camera

vx1000

The Sony VX1000 has been the staple of skateboard videography for years. Revered by so many, it has often been referred to as "The only was to view skateboarding" by skaters and filmers alike. But why has this camera been put on such high of a pedestal? In this article, I aim to discuss the rise of the VX1000 and compare them to cameras that have since emerged in the skateboarding scene. Possibly then, we can understand more about what we stare at and love for years on end.

"The Sony DCR-VX1000 was a DV tape camcorder released by Sony in 1995, replaced by the DCR-VX2000 in 2000 and the DCR-VX2100 in 2004. The camera's MSRP was USD $3500 when it came out." cited from our beloved and all-knowing Wikipedia. Right out of the gate, This very web posting surprised me in my research of the camcorder. I felt it was incredibly possible that this entry was created or edited by a skateboarder. Whether it was the verbiage or more simply the reference of skateboarding and other cameras popular to the skateboarding community, I couldn't help but feel directed to appreciate the entry for the sheer fact that it was stating information relevant to skateboarding history. Its a fact, the VX1000 was and has been one of, or itself being, the most commonly used camcorder to capture skateboarding.

vxwiki

My personal story in filming started with a Japanese VX1000(shown top of page) that I found on eBay for about $650, which was a steal with how many accessories it came with. The previous owner was gracious enough to put small english labels near most buttons, which was my saving grace throughout my education of the device. I started with a bayonet-mount wide angle lens for the first year of filming before purchasing a thread-mount Century Optics MK2 Fisheye Lens. I even went as far to build a overly-protective custom case with hand-cut foam incapsulating the camera and lens seperately.

Quickly drenched in the ocean that is film videography, I found myself researching day in and day out what was the best way to film subjects, how to import footage more efficient, different editing techniques and not to mention countless hours making my desktop computer capable enough to handle these tasks. Some may call it "fun" where others may refer to it as "a never-ending nightmare" but capturing single tricks from a 60-minute DV tape is no easy task. Even with the cleanest setup and the most functioning capture camera, the process is still time-consuming to say the least. Especially when your friends aren't landing every trick first try, or 20th try, for that matter.

With this job falling under the "love of skateboarding" umbrella, it takes a special breed of character to put yourself under the finacial burden that is capturing skateboarding. For those of us that do it, there is no reward greater than finishing an edit that stokes your friends for the next round of shredding. Gnarkansas was a direct effect of that umbrella, by showing our skateboarding through the eyes of a VX1000 for many years.

With the current trend of skateboard media, the internet has increased the rate at which these forms of media are exposed to the public. Through various forms of social media and websites, Users are incredibly used to swiping their thumb for the next skateboard trick to appear before them. I was very fortunate enough to have been raised in an era when skate VHS tapes were still in a thriving market and skaters would aimlessly gather to watch the newest video cassette purchased at a local skate shop or even then, Mail order services such as 411 Video Magazine were at their prime. The VX1000 was the backbone of most of these videos, creating memories for ages. On top of that, distributing mass media to a starving market via VHS video cassatte is slightly more difficult that uploading a clip to YouTube.

411vm

Calculating all of these variables, One who has a goal to show skateboarding media to the masses would move towards making the process easier with the help of technology, as most industries commonly do. This translates into the introduction of different cameras filming skateboarding. You can imagine that since 1995, other capable cameras would have shown themselves by then, and they have. Panasonic created camcorders such as the HPX or HVX series or Sony has the PD series, all that capture video very well. The evolution of pro-sumer camcorders have produced many devices capable of this task. Also, Century Optics Fisheye lenses are available in many different mounting styles and sizes, yet all react slightly different when used with different models of cameras or camcorders. GoPro has obviously made their mark but will never be truly taken seriously in the mind of a core skate filmer. On the extreme far side of this you have DSLR filming, which has the most negative stigma in skater-to-camera respect.

These ideas are all menial compared to the real component that few skaters fully understand, nor appreciate enough: the filmer and the editor, most times, one in the same. These people shape what it is that we truly lay our eyes on, the finished product of a skate edit. Further more, the style in which these people approach their duties define skate videos and have defined them since day one.

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Photo by Quentin Daniel

Filming for Gnarkansas since its inception, I was always posed with the question: What do I want to film with? I made the choice to purchase a Panasonic GH2, a compact DSLR which I pair with various lenses and attachments to get the kind of filming experience that I wanted to see. It took a while to get to where I am now with my rig but all things considered, I love my camera and really dont see myself getting anything else for some time. It may not be the prefered camera setup for some people but its also not thier camera, its my camera and my choice.

We spoke with Gnarkansas Alumni and skateboard photographer Coburn Huff, who has been published in many skateboard industry media outlets of today. Doing so, we got to get a different perspective on the subject, here is what he had to say...


Gnarkansas: What cameras do you currently use to capture skateboarding video?

Coburn Huff: I use a Nikon D750 and a Nikon D600 to capture video and photos. 

Gnar: What is your personal opinion of the Sony VX1000?

Huff: The VX1000 is a mainstay in skateboarding history. I believe it will be around as long as there are still tapes available. It has nice warm color rendition if used properly and amazing sound quality. Not to mention affordability. The VX has evolved with skateboarding and helps maintain its gritty raw appearance.  

Gnar: Because you do not own and/or use a VX1000 to capture your video, do you feel your footage is less credible?

Huff: I don't feel that any equipment will give you any more credibility than another. I could own a brand new 6k Red camera but, it would not matter if I don't know how to use it.  Sure people would see me as a big time filmmaker but that doesn't matter if the final product is crap. Its all in how you use what you have to your advantage. I could have purchased a legit video camera instead of my second DSLR but, I already had all the tools and knowledge of the DSLR system.

Gnar: What are some advantages and disadvantages to filming video with a DSLR?

Huff: Being small and lightweight is a great advantage. I skate with my gear a lot so I don't want it to hold me back. Also the ability to capture high quality photos as well as video is a big advantage. After all that is what these cameras are made for. Some disadvantages would be the ergonomics for video use. Meaning your going to need a handle in order to film lines and a fluid head tripod for long lens. No built in XLR jacks or ND filters. There are ways around this but it will cost more money. Basically the down fall to a DSLR for video is that it is not designed for video. You are gonna have to invest in more gear in order to achieve that. The only reason I choose them is because I am more of a photographer than a videographer.

Gnar: Do you think that another camera or camcorder is capable of achieving the same level of prestige that the VX1000 had/has in skateboarding?

Huff: Cameras and technology are always evolving. Every 2 years or so cameras trump the older models. There are just too many good cameras out there. For one to become a household name in skateboarding would be far fetched.  The VX was the best camera in 1995 and nothing took its place until the Panasonic hvx200 in 2005. The technology just wasn't evolving as quickly then. People were still shooting 35mm film till about 2003. If not later. The world is growing much faster now,  more then it ever has before. Lets not count out 16mm and 8mm film though. Those will always be some of my favorite formats. They have always sat alongside SD and HD footage through all these years.


Filmed & Edited by Coburn Huff

Mark Twain once said, "Actions speak louder than words but not nearly as often." Most skateboarders will continuously argue that the VX1000 is the best camera for skateboarding without actually going through the struggle of filming skateboarding. The ones who engage in filming have the most valid opinion and stance on the subject. I pose this hypothetical question to you: If the camcorder is viewed as a paintbrush and the filmmaker as an artist, and the artist prefers a different brush to create his art than all of the art that you are most familiar with: Do you discredit the paintbrush just because you know he used a certain paintbrush to achieve his artwork?

-Brandon Herbert

 

 


 

 

 

 

 

 

 


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