A1 Doubts

13 replies [Last post]
shona
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Joined: Mar 19 2004

I have a few questions about this camera.
I’m thinking about getting it and shooting for now in SD. However….

Archiving HD footage:
… when I begin to dabble in HD, how are you supposed to archive HD footage?
I mean, it seems there is firewire out, but not in. Is this right? Because if you can’t burn HD to an HD disk, and you can’t play back to a HD tape through your camera, where do you put it?!

Shooting HD and downconverting to SD:
It seems that the purpose of shooting HD and downconverting to SD, is not to attain a better quality picture, as some people have suggested, but rather because it gives you the option to archive your footage in HD, so you have the option later, to produce an HD product. I can’t see this happening very often, but its nice to know you have the option.

I’ve read that you can downconvert through some of the Sony HDV camcorders, whilst playing into your PC, can the A1 do this? If not, how do you downconvert HD to SD when you’re working with this camera?

A1 and the HC1
Finally, I gather the HC1 and the A1 are identical, apart from, as Richard Payne posted recently:

“The A1E looks is more configurable in just about every respect, for instance you can turn off the image stabiliser and gain some more resolution and a wider shot. Also there is a black stretch, and a number of extra tweaks like the auto tracing white balance.”

These options seem pretty advanced… perhaps stuff that I dont really need. I do want to be able to manually control exposure/iris, focus, white balancing, shutter speed, and being able to set different audio levels on 2 tracks. I don’t know how to use all these options with confidence, but I would like to learn.

Can both models do these things?

I know the A1 comes with an XLR attachment, but maybe you can get this separately for the HC1 anyway, or is it not as simple as that?

I think the electronic companies and retailers should be clearer about the specs their products do and do not have. I mean, if its true about the A1 not having HD firewire in (and maybe not SD in?) that isn’t really mentioned anywhere and is surely important.

Thanks in advance!

Shona

colin rowe
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Joined: Dec 16 2000

Hi Shona
The firewire is in and out.
You can downconvert from HD to SD to your computer

Colin Rowe

Alan Roberts
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Joined: May 3 1999

From my recent set of measurements on my A1, I wouldn't recommend using it as an SD camera, it performs far better in HDV.

It has a downconverter and can record DV or DVCAM, or play out an HDV recording in SD, but the downconversion isn't very good. I reckon far better to do it in an NLE.

The XLR pod on the A1 plugs into a little multipin connector that occupies the space taken by the flash on the HC1. There's no way you could use the XLR pod on the HC1. It will record via firewire, and has VTR controls to do that, as well as using it as a firewire sink for monitoring during editing.

Get my test cards document, and cards for 625, 525, 720 and 1080. Thanks to Gavin Gration for hosting them.
Camera settings documents are held by Daniel Browning and at the EBU
My book, 'Circles of Confusion' is available here.
Also EBU Tech.3335 tells how to test cameras, and R.118 tells how to use the results.

shona
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Joined: Mar 19 2004

Thanks for replies REALLY helpful. (Hi Colin)

Im really glad to hear it is firwire in /out and that it downconverts in the camera.

So I gather: better to film and capture HDV, convert in NLE. (Avid Liquid?)

I wont be able to for the moment as dont have the right software/ hardware, so I guess I will have to film SD, or downconvert in camera for now, whether I like it or not.

Hasta la vista :)

Alan Roberts
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Joined: May 3 1999

Can't comment on what I haven't measured, only that I don't like the A1's downconversion.

Get my test cards document, and cards for 625, 525, 720 and 1080. Thanks to Gavin Gration for hosting them.
Camera settings documents are held by Daniel Browning and at the EBU
My book, 'Circles of Confusion' is available here.
Also EBU Tech.3335 tells how to test cameras, and R.118 tells how to use the results.

Claire
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Joined: Apr 28 2001

Alan,

You have made me curious regarding firewire preview to the A1 while editing. Is this in HDV?

The only way I have been able to do a firewire preview from an HDV project is from Vegas 6 which can output a SDV preview from the HDV timeline.

I must say this is a blessing since it allows me to continue using my existing SD external monitor.

Claire

Alan Roberts
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Joined: May 3 1999

No, only in SD. For real-time previewing you need something like Edius NX. But it'll record HDV via firewire, according to the book.

Get my test cards document, and cards for 625, 525, 720 and 1080. Thanks to Gavin Gration for hosting them.
Camera settings documents are held by Daniel Browning and at the EBU
My book, 'Circles of Confusion' is available here.
Also EBU Tech.3335 tells how to test cameras, and R.118 tells how to use the results.

tom hardwick
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Joined: Apr 8 1999

Shona, you say.."I do want to be able to manually control exposure/iris, focus, white balancing, shutter speed, and being able to set different audio levels on 2 tracks. I don’t know how to use all these options with confidence, but I would like to learn."

You should know that the A1 goes about its exposure control in rather a secretive way, introducing internal ND filtration automatically and not informing you
1) when this happens
2) what shutter speed you're using
3) what aperture you're using
4) what - if any - gain up is being applied.

For many people this doesn't matter a hoot as the camera generally knows best, and left to it's own devices it'll generally opt for the best visual quality under the prevailing lighting circumstances. The audio, focus and w'bal are under complete manual control though.

tom.

Alan Roberts
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Joined: May 3 1999

Tom, while all that's true, it seems to be consistent in what it does. I'll be reporting on that in my settings document

Get my test cards document, and cards for 625, 525, 720 and 1080. Thanks to Gavin Gration for hosting them.
Camera settings documents are held by Daniel Browning and at the EBU
My book, 'Circles of Confusion' is available here.
Also EBU Tech.3335 tells how to test cameras, and R.118 tells how to use the results.

shona
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Joined: Mar 19 2004

Hi Tom,

just wanted to say thanks for your input on the manual exposure issue for the A1.
Good to know, perhaps it is best to let the camera get on with it.

I guess the main concern is if you want to create specific or unsual effects, I mean can you mannipulate exposure and shutter speed if you want to?

Thanks,
Shona

tom hardwick
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Joined: Apr 8 1999

You ask if you can 'manipulate exposure' and the answer is yes, the shift function is probably the best way. You can make the pictures look darker or lighter and play with the black stretch. There's a super night shot which works in zero (visible) light. There's a clever histogram indicator, you can play with the gamma curve.

But if you've come from something like a PD170, say, that allows you pin-point accuracy in choosing and using the shutter speed, aperture and ND values, then the A1 might seem somewhat restrictive.

tom.

Alan Roberts
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Joined: May 3 1999

Yes, it works in combinations, you can't have full individual control over gain, exposure, shutter at the same time. The combinations seem to work though. I ran a test with shutter locked at 1/50 in bright sunlight, it needed to stop right down (F/8) and the chromatic effect of lens diffraction was loud and clear. Same happens in the HC1.

That said, if you set the shutter and leave it in Auto, it tweaks the iris, gain and neutral filter seamlessly. And you can take full control over that. The Exposure lever runs from +18dB to 0 in 3dB steps, then from F/1.8 to F/4 in half stop steps, then 3 stops of neutral filter, then 2 stops more of iris. Odd, but it works. The assumption that the lens is good to F/4 seems right, diffraction effects are visible only with smaller apertures.

Get my test cards document, and cards for 625, 525, 720 and 1080. Thanks to Gavin Gration for hosting them.
Camera settings documents are held by Daniel Browning and at the EBU
My book, 'Circles of Confusion' is available here.
Also EBU Tech.3335 tells how to test cameras, and R.118 tells how to use the results.

tom hardwick
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Joined: Apr 8 1999

I just think it's a shame that in the manual exposure mode you can't make small and invisible incremnental changes. So important in everyday life.

Alan Roberts
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Joined: May 3 1999

Agreed, continuous xsetting would be so much nicer. On the other hand, having effectively "click stops" made it far easier to measure what it does.

Get my test cards document, and cards for 625, 525, 720 and 1080. Thanks to Gavin Gration for hosting them.
Camera settings documents are held by Daniel Browning and at the EBU
My book, 'Circles of Confusion' is available here.
Also EBU Tech.3335 tells how to test cameras, and R.118 tells how to use the results.