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VHS camera synchronism

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I'm doing a film soon where the director wants to shoot some of the material with a vhs camera (he didn't specified yet what model they will be using).  I assume that vhs cameras don't have any crystal system for keeping sync, right? Supposing we do short segments of dialog only, do you have any idea if we could get away with it or single-system is the only way to go   (not a very good one also, and this supposing I could send some audio to the camera, which I don't know yet)?

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This is simply put, a bad idea.  Use a pro camera, use paper tape on the monitor and eyepiece to mask aspect ratio, and alter the look in post. 

Last year I worked on a batch of VOD projects for a VH1 TV series where we used vintage betacams, which I could at least Daisy chain timecode. (they didn't want to pay for genlock capable TC Lockits).

We discovered that the ingest and transfer costs (and failure rate on the camera bodies) was so high, that they would have done better to use an Arri, Sony, or Red camera and apply a lockit.

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Panasonic had some S-VHS ENG cameras that included genlock (IIRC). Such a camera might give you a better shot at recording better-quality single-system audio. Geez...VHS...that sounds like a fistful of problems.

I agree with Christopher. It's not your job, but perhaps at least encourage the director to look into how the (actually pretty good) 2013 film Computer Chess was shot on three ancient Sony AVC 3260 cameras, but recorded onto AJA KiPro recorders. But still, like Rick says, achieving the VHS look sounds like a job for post.

Here's a fairly detailed blog article by the DP:


Here's the film's website:


And here's the trailer:



Good luck!

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Oh.. if they insist on vhs, I expect it to be either NTSC 29.97 or PAL 25 fps   fwiw on your record settings. The ingest path is likely to be imprecise and non frame accurate, though.

I like the idea of recording the feed from the camera to a Kipro or better a PIX, with a TC lockit on that device .

An SVHS camera is more likely to have a video out than a VHS one... and will look enough like VHS to preserve the look.


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There are only some segments that will be done this way. Mostly we will be working with a sony fs 7. The idea of an external video recorder like a pix is a very good one that I'll shall pass to production. I don't expect long takes, Phill, but I still know very little.  I'll warn them about all the fudging required in post if they wanna go that way.

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