Director/DP Jerry Simpson Shoots Music Doc With AJ-HPX3700


Last Updated: October 19, 2009 4:55 pm GMT
(Secaucus, New Jersey--October 19, 2009) Veteran Director/Cinematographer Jerry Simpson, principal of production company Simpson Films (Long Island City, NY), has recently shot a pilot for a documentary profiling drummer Steve Gadd with the VariCam 3700, Panasonic’s premier solid-state P2 HD VariCam camcorder.

Offering the ultimate in image quality, the VariCam 3700 (model AJ-HPX3700) advances the art of high-end cinematography by teaming VariCam’s renowned filmic-look, variable frame rates, and subtle tone control with master-quality, 10-bit 4:2:2 AVC-Intra recording as well as Dual link RGB 4:4:4 output.

Gadd is an American session and studio drummer, notable for his work with popular musicians from a wide range of genres. While hardly a household name, Gadd is a favorite of discriminating musical artists; a short list of musicians with whom he has worked includes Paul McCartney, Paul Simon, Steely Dan, Joe Cocker, Chick Corea, Eric Clapton, James Taylor, Jon Bon Jovi and the Bee Gees. "Every drummer wants to play like Gadd because he plays perfect,” jazz great Corea once commented. The untitled documentary is being co-directed by Simpson and Bill Zules, themselves both drummers.

Simpson is well-known as an advocate of digital production in the advertising industry, and through his outreach to camera manufacturers became familiar with earlier generations of P2 HD camcorders. He was eager to work with the HPX3700, and decided to take two of the P2 HD VariCams to the Tanglewood Music Festival, where he shot five days of rehearsals, master classes and concerts featuring Gadd. The drummer was performing with Tanglewood favorite James Taylor, who gave a series of four sold-out concerts in late August.

Simpson has also used the HPX3700 to shoot sit-down interviews with Taylor, Sheryl Crow, and Lou Marini, among others, with the performers discussing their work with Gadd. He has interviewed Gadd as well.

“We got last minute approval to shoot at Tanglewood,” Simpson said. “I needed an ENG style, run-and-gun style camcorder—it couldn’t be too heavy and we needed to be able to set-up fast. I was experienced with the P2 workflow, and was confident that we could get what we needed with P2 media. I also thought the HPX3700 would be well suited to the interview work.”

“I usually insist on painstaking camera testing before taking a new model in the field, but there was no time to test the HPX3700 before leaving for Tanglewood,” Simpson continued. “We essentially took the two camcorders out of the box and set them up on fluid heads in the balcony of Ozawa Hall, where we changed out three 32GB cards between the two cameras to shoot a percussion master class.” (More cards arrived shortly thereafter.)

All the material was shot in 1080p-24pN in AVC-Intra 100. The HPX3700s were equipped with Fujinon XA17x7.6BERM HD zoom lenses.

“We could go through the HPX3700’s basic settings and know we’d get a superior image,” said Digital Supervisor Sean Donnelly, a lontime Simpson collaborator. “The AVC-Intra codec looks a lot better than DVCPRO HD. We were thrilled with the camera’s latitude. At this type of event, we had no control of the lighting. For instance, James Taylor would be in the foreground of the stage and two or three stops higher than the band. But the HPX3700 really held detail in the highlights and shadows.”

“We did engage the Dynamic Range Stretch (DRS) function, which reduces blocked shadows and blown highlights,” Donnelly added. “While we didn’t shoot off-speed, we did a time lapse interval record at one frame per ½-second to give the effect of the Tanglewood performance space filling up.”

“It’s easy being out in the field with P2 equipment, and we loved being able to see the material right away,” he said. At Tanglewood, Donnelly used the AJ-PCD20 five-slot P2 drive to offload footage to a MacBook Pro; material was then output via FireWire 800 to mirrored RAID1 drives.

While the official edit of Gadd documentary has yet to begin, Donnelly has done rough cuts of the material in Final Cut Studio 3, which he said he finds twice as fast as Studio 2 when importing AVC-Intra material. “I’ve applied some color grading, and it’s amazing how much range you have for adjustment with the HPX3700 source material,” he said.

Simpson plans to use the HPX3700 to shoot a food show intended for broadcast, as well as for possible pick-up segments for the Gadd project. “At the moment there’s nothing better than the HPX3700 for documentary and lifestyle, magazine-style shooting,” Simpson said. “It’s not a big camera, and consequently the crew gets smaller. It has that 4:2:2, 10-bit depth of color: it’s where we want to be with acquisition.”

For more information about Simpson Films, visit

About the VariCam 3700
Combining uncompromising cinematic quality, film-style operability and the exceptional reliability of solid-state, file-based recording, the VariCam 3700 provides premium-quality performance for narrative feature films, episodic television and commercial production. The 2/3” 2.2 megapixel 3-CCD camera features full native 1920x1080-pixel acquisition and independent-frame recording with 10-bit, 4:2:2 color sub sampling. It records in full-raster 1920x1080 resolution in AVC-Intra 100 for the highest quality, in lower-bit-rate AVC-Intra 50 for extended recording and in DVCPRO HD for added flexibility. The HPX3700 outputs a 4:4:4 RGB dual-link live signal (via HD-SDI) to deliver pristine images for uncompressed workflows and composition of visual effects, while simultaneously recording 4:2:2 HD video in camera. The HPX3700 offers variable frame rates from 1fps to 30fps in single frame increments for overcranking and undercranking. For more information, visit

About Panasonic Broadcast
Panasonic Broadcast & Television Systems Co. is a leading supplier of broadcast and professional video products and systems. Panasonic Broadcast is a Unit of Panasonic Corporation of North America. The company is the principal North American subsidiary of Panasonic Corporation (NYSE: PC) and the hub of Panasonic’s U.S. branding, marketing, sales, service and R&D operations. For more information on Panasonic Broadcast products, visit


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