- 4K hand-held connected cam 1-inch camcorder
- Shoot 4K ultra-HD with HDR and record to SSD or SDHC/SDXC media
- High performance 1080 60p/50p live streaming
As a lecturer and book author focused on HD technology, I have observed the evolution of video equipment and production workflows over several decades. My study of the technology led me to open my production company, Studio 37, Inc. As a longtime user of JVC equipment, I recently jumped at the chance to evaluate JVC’s handheld GY-HC500U Connected Cam from the perspective of a cinematographer.
When it comes time to look at a camera for film applications, for me, it’s always about understanding how the technology works and how it can be applied on different projects, and the GY-HC500U fits many different videography applications. I could spend the morning doing something for a house of worship or filming a wedding, and the afternoon recording a commercial. That kind of flexibility is far beyond where most of the other manufacturers with connected-type cameras fail.
Form & function
I was absolutely fascinated at the connectivity capabilities of the GY-HC500U because it solved a lot of problems. I was also impressed by the camera’s simplicity of use and ability to make faster changeovers in my configurations. For someone coming from a larger-style camera, or somebody who’s been doing this for a while and is looking to get into the streaming side, the JVC GY-HC500U makes the transition easy.
For example, for mainstream-style news events, broadcasting and location photography, which all typically require a large shoulder camera, the GY-HC500U offers the same capabilities in a much smaller, more compact system. It provides something that’s a little lighter and easier to use. Having the JVC GY-HC500U allows me to be completely self-contained and gives me a lot of power for many different types of filmmaking tasks ― from use at events and corporate environments, to commercial shoots and television production.
From small-budget productions to network TV
From my experience, JVC cameras are predominantly used in newsgathering, but the JVC GY-HC500U fulfills a specific niche for filmmaking applications that gives more creative abilities than a low-cost DSLR without the size, weight and cost considerations of a full size film camera. Many use a DSLR for its large sensor and limited depth of field, but the reality of it is, you have to do a lot with one of those cameras to get it to be a functioning video camera. This is especially the case if you’re filming people speaking and talking, like at church events. A DSLR rig is not necessarily configured for that kind of use in the same way as a true video camera, like JVC’s GY-HC500U.
The JVC GY-HC500U is configured as a traditional video camera, yet it has a small, unified form-factor, where all the functions are found in one place. It’s much easier to use in situations where people gather and need video that has to be streamed, but also where you want to capture the events without being seen. Additionally, with demand increasing for content to simultaneously be delivered in several different ways, such as recording and streaming, the GY-HC500U makes it possible to do both with one camera.
Stream directly from the camera
While other cameras are designed to work only inside facilities, streaming through external equipment, the GY-HC550U can stream directly from the camera to the web on popular platforms like Facebook Live and YouTube Live. As far as the picture quality, it is spectacular. Being able to simultaneously stream and capture footage is an extreme benefit, as you can now deliver your video in multiple ways.
Recording, recording, recording
Though there are likely many instances when streaming is the primary objective, the GY-HC500U offers a simultaneous record function directly on-board the camera. This feature not only gives event photographers the ability to offer multiple services, but provides an added level of redundancy for general filming applications, wherein the operator records to an external device. This on-board function allows videographers to record in up to 4K, depending on their needs, and ensures there is always backup for their work should any issues arise. The simultaneous streaming/recording functionality is also great for archival purposes, enabling companies to repurpose the content from a live-streamed event for later re-broadcast or documentary-style applications.
There are also plenty of media options to record to, such as SDHC, SDXC and SDD, as well as SSD media, which offers 10-bit ProRes 422HD ProRes or 422/422HQ/422LT at 4K resolution and 50/60p frame rates with the optional KA-MC100G SSD Media Adapter. Inserting a 2TB M.2 SSD drive into the adapter provides ample space for long recording times, and is great for documentary-style work, as it allows for mobility in on-the-go settings. Not only is there a long record time, you’re also not weighed down by heavy, external recorders. In most cases, you have the ability to record for an entire day without breaking up the session. Of course, like most standard film cameras, there’s always the option to connect a solid-state drive. This is useful for long, multi-day filming situations where you might not be able to clear out the drive each day.
What about the audio?
Another thing I was impressed with is that the JVC GY-HC500U has XLR ports to connect external microphones, along with on-board microphones that capture impressive audio. This comes in handy during a remote, live interview, as you can have a wireless mic going directly into the stream rather than having to deal with it separately.
As for the design of the camera, the fact that you don't have to take the back off to get to the SD cards is fantastic. Instead, the SD card slots are available and active, and they’re not covered up by something, which is a simple line of thoughtfulness that a lot of people wouldn’t have considered. Additionally, you can access those cards while still streaming live, which adds a whole new level of redundancy. It’s little things like that that make life simpler.
Further, you might not think of it, but the tangible buttons on a camera play an important role to filmmaking. Sometimes, people look at the side of a camera and assume that every button needs to work every second. Of course, focus and zoom controls are always active on the JVC GY-HC500U cameras, but JVC gives you the control to lock or highlight other buttons and do specific things at certain times.
Speaking of zoom, the 20X optical zoom in the GY-HC500U is just stunning. I used it a lot for longer range when I was testing it, to see how far I could zoom-in while still getting quality video. The camera gave me a very cinematic feel, even with the smaller size sensor, because of the quality of the lens.
Though JVC designed the GY-HC500 camera for broadcast and streaming applications, I think it’s one that filmmakers should consider adding to their arsenal. This is especially true for those working in the lower-budget marketplace, who are looking for something affordable and high impact. The cost and weight ratio of the GY-HC500U makes it something that the independent industrial corporate video industry should consider.
Gary Adcock is a ‘digerati’ and owner of Studio 37, Inc. (www.studio37.com), in Chicago.