The Animatress Pipeline

Filmmaking Adventures

Choosing a VFX Camcorder

A 3-CCD digital camera is the preferred choice for green- or blue-screen work. Extracting a good matte from a colored backing requires a high-value and a high-saturation digital color signature, especially at the edges of your subject. A 1-CCD camera will deliver edge contrast artifacts due to its single filter and lowered sampling rates.
A camcorder equipped with three CCDs (each responsible for sampling each of the primary colors: red, green, and blue) provides higher color resolution due to the fact that each channel is filtered separately.

Color Sampling Rate
This number reflects a camera’s ability to sample image luminance and chrominance values. For example, the color-sampling ratios of Digital Betacam and DVCPro 50 are 4:2:2. The first number refers to the camera’s ability to sample luminance, the second and third numbers reflect the camera’s ability to sample chrominance, or color. Therefore, Digital Betacam loses 50 percent of the incoming color information compared to its recorded luminance signal. MiniDV samples color at 4:1:1, a 75-percent signal loss!

Try to shoot your footage with cameras that carry a higher sampling ratio, at least 4:2:2.


A 3-CCD digital camcorder with a color sampling rate of at least 4:2:2, an acceptable camera for digital green-screen work, would cost about $25,000.

Sony Price: $24,400.00
DNW-7 Professional 2/3″ Betacam SX Camcorder with BVF-V10 Viewfinder and Hard Carry Case
Mfr # DNW7PAC2
For your project, it’s more likely that you’ll have access to a MiniDV camera. You can get a decent key with proper lighting and spill-reduction techniques. A new 3-CCD MiniDV Canon XL2 will run about $4,000.

Canon Price: $3,999.00
XL-2 1/3-Inch 3-CCD Widescreen MiniDV Camcorder with 24P Recording, 20x Optical Zoom Lens and Advanced Optical Image Stabilizer
Mfr # 9549A001
Its MiniDV counterpart from Sony, a VX-2100 camcorder, can be purchased for around $3,000.

Though there is no significant difference in image quality between the two cameras (in fact, Sony products are renowned for their performance in low-light situations), the extra thousand dollars on Canon’s price tag is for its variable lens mount, which allows you to add additional lenses to your camera as the need arises. (The price of a new lens is not trivial, sometimes costing as much as the camera itself. For someone starting out in the video market, this fact makes the availability of a multiple-lens mount a moot point.)

You can buy MiniDV camcorders online. You’re encouraged to shop around, picking a camcorder that may not be the newest in the product line. For example, a Sony VX-2100 is about $2,400, while the prototype, discontinued from consumer sales, runs about $1,000, and boasts three CCDs.

Sony Price : $2,399.95
DCR-VX2100 3-CCD Mini DV Camcorder, 12x Optical/48x Digital Zoom, Color Viewfinder, 2.5″ LCD Screen
Mfr # DCRVX2100


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