Choosing an HD camcorder...

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Bania
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I can't say that 'money is no object' - but most of the decent HDV products seem to come from Sony, and their price spread seems to be £950 to £2500

However, I am at a loss to pick the difference in image quality between the 4 (apparent) choices

Initially, I assumed that because the cheapest product (HC1) was CMOS based, that this technology would automatically be 'worse'...

...however, the significantly more expensive A1E also uses (the same ?) CMOS

Then you have the Z1E, which (on paper) seems to have a remarkably similar spec to the FX1

Bear in mind that I am NOT talking about 'cool buttons' and 'pro level funky features' on the side of the product - I am only looking at the raw quality of the image capture

Is there a lot more to it - or is it fair to say that the image quality of all 4 of these products is actually significantly better than any of the non-HD products on the market... and that you could shoot 'broadcast quality' HD on any of them ?

Bottom line... is it possible to justify the jump from £950 to £2,500 based on image quality alone for 'regular' work ?

Any help/info appreciated !

infocus
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Bania wrote:
I can't say that 'money is no object' - but most of the decent HDV products seem to come from Sony, and their price spread seems to be £950 to £2500?

I think JVC, Panasonic and Canon may have something to say there! :) But maybe their offerings are a bit dearer than the prices you quote.

Quote:
Is there a lot more to it - or is it fair to say that the image quality of all 4 of these products is actually significantly better than any of the non-HD products on the market... and that you could shoot 'broadcast quality' HD on any of them ?

To the first part - yes, assuming you have the means to edit them HD and watch on a suitable display. To the latter part, more difficult. In challenging conditions the (far) more expensive cameras really show their worth, but a lot of the money for "broadcast" cameras really goes on usability, connectivity, that sort of thing.

Quote:
Bottom line... is it possible to justify the jump from £950 to £2,500 based on image quality alone for 'regular' work ?

Image quality - maybe not. Usability - much more likely. XLR connectors are the most obvious example.

A quick two pennyworth.

Alan Roberts
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Just to clear this up, Sony have two models, with two variants of each.

The FX1 was the first, the Z1 is the same unit with some more menu refinements and better sound interfaces, but the pictures are the same. FX1 is aimed at consumer, Z1 at mid-range pro. Both have 3 1"/3 972x1080 sensors (true 16:9 with non-square pixels), so deliver approximately 1440 pixels-worth of horizontal resolution, but they are scanned interlaced even when in "proscan/film" mode.

The HC1 is an out-and-out consumer camera, and the A1 is the semi-pro version of it with better controls and sound, but the pictures are the same. The sensor is a single 1"/3 1920x1440 cmos (square pixels with Bayer pattern filters) which can deliver 1440 pixels-worth of horizontal resolution, 1080 vertical (the outer 180 rows top/bottom are used only for taking stills) which delivers resolution that easily matches the FX1/Z1 because it's read proscan even when making interlaced pictures.

In my tests, the HC1/A1 makes sharper pictures even though smaller/cheaper/lighter.

The alternatives at present are out of your price range (mind you, so is the Z1). JVC HD100 superfically looks like lower resolution but actually delivers far above what you'd expect for lots of reasons that I can go into in detail (but it's already been thrashed here in other threads), but is well out of you price range. Canon's offering is a bit unknown as yet, Pansonic's HVX200 is exciting but uses P2 cards for recording HD and isn't in the HDV circus.

Of these I expect the high-end battle to be between HD100 and HVX200, with Canin being a bit side-lined. As yet, only HC1 is really for the consumer, FX1 is too big.

My 2 pen'orth.

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Bania
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Thanks :)

OK - so if I have understood this correctly - buying the £950 camera is a 'no brainer' for anyone with aspirations lower than 'on going contract work from major broadcasters'

(sounds like me !)

infocus
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I assume you're referring to the HC1 - may be worth at least considering the A1, if only for the XLR sound inputs if you're likely to connect external mics.

Alan Roberts
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I think that's right, yes. The HC1 is a palmcorder and a very nice one. The A1's the same camera with professional bells and whistles, but the extra cost is significant. That said, the pictures from HC1/A1 are remarkably good, the lens is splendid.

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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No mention here as to whether low light performance is important to you Bania. If it is then the FX1 may be worth another look. The FX1 has a f/1.6 lens as against the A1's f/1.8, but being a 12x zoom (as against a 10x) means it has a much better wide-angle coverage straight out of the box (4.5 mm as against 5.1 mm, both feeding 1/3" chips).

tom.

Richard Payne
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I think ive already said that side by side my HC1 (with a wide angle lens adaptor) proved to be better than my FX1 (doing the closeups). Some of this can be put down to the WA but the result was significant.

Unicorn
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Quote:
The FX1 was the first, the Z1 is the same unit with some more menu refinements and better sound interfaces, but the pictures are the same.

Except that the Z1 has black stretch, NTSC recording and a few other bells and whistles which affect the picture. The PAL/NTSC switching was one of the biggest reasons why I bought a Z1 over an FX1 (I'm probably moving to Canada next year).

P4-3.06/2GB RAM/2500GB IDE/SATA. Avid Media Composer, Liquid Edition, Premiere 6, Lightwave, Vue 6, eyeon Fusion 5. DV and HDV editing/compositing.

Alan Roberts
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Indeed, and that's what makes it more expensive and a contender for the higher-level markets. But image resolution stays the same. You get the same sort of differences between HC1 and A1.

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.

Chrome
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Bania wrote:
is it possible to justify the jump from £950 to £2,500 based on image quality alone for 'regular' work ?

Not on image quality alone, but certainly on the rest of the capabilities of the equipment.

Bania wrote:
'on going contract work from major broadcasters'

Surely anyone doing this will presumably charging their work at 'industry rates' (as I do myself when doing broadcast work, almost daily now)? I don't fully understand why you would be considering mid-range consumer models. Most freelance cameramen working in broadcast who have their own equipment have often invested ten times that amount (or more) in their cameras and lenses.

Sure with HDV the image quality is generally very good with the lower end equipment, but the lack of features on this level of camera (apart from the obligatory and over-used 'zoom' of course) and ability to switch things in and out quickly or do white balance etc. without having to fiddle about with multiple menus or take your eye from the viewfinder would justify the investment (or at least 'hire-in' or 'lease' of) better spec. kit?

Of course it all depends on the type of job, but I could not undertake some of the gigs I do with anything less than a shoulder mounted camera with a broadcast lens... Ice Hockey Matches, Conferences, Theatre Shows, Talking Heads etc.

If it's regular work it will require pro quality kit in the long run, why bother with equipment that will not last the rigours of broadcast production work if this is the sort of work you are indeed doing?

Or is this perhaps another case of someone attempting to get into the business on a budget? Apologies in advance if that is not the case and you are indeed an experienced cameraman.

Bania
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Here's another one for you :)

Once you have captured your 'gold' and pulled it into the fastest PC you can buy (which is still unfathomably slow!!!) to be edited with Premirer Pro 1.5 (with the HD patch applied)...

...do you output it back to the same camera using the i-Link connector ?

What I am wondering is...

...if shooting at 'HD' is a good thing - but most broadcasters will only run 'SD' - then what do they prefer to 'ingest' ?

(hope this question makes sense !)

Oh, and just in case you wuz wondering... I actually do PR & Marketing for a graphics company but have become quite facinated recently by the way that video processing brings grown men and massively powerful PCs to their knees :p

Alan Roberts
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Most, by far, of the HD shot for TV is produced and delivered as HD. OIt's downconverted for transmission as SD. So the HD sits on the shelves as an asset awaiting HD transmission, which is not far away now even in Europe.

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.

Bania
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Another one for you Alan...

Do you know if the Beeb + assorted cable companies are all ready to ingest Blu-Ray and HDDVD ?

Or are these guys all locked into tape ?

StevenBagley
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Bania wrote:
Another one for you Alan...

Do you know if the Beeb + assorted cable companies are all ready to ingest Blu-Ray and HDDVD ?

Or are these guys all locked into tape ?

The BBC's delivery formats are on their website. Basically, last time I looked it boiled down to D3, Digibeta or HDCam as delivery formats for 4:3 SD, 16:9 SD and HD respectively. I think the D3 requirement may have been relaxed now. But since 4:3 is only really used for archive material now, I wouldn't worry about it.

I think it is safe to say that the BBC will never accept Bluray or HDDVD as transmission formats for the same reason they don't accept DVD as one now -- the picture quality just isn't up to it. The same goes for delivery on HDV.

You should also be aware that while the use of HDV cameras is accepted to produce SD pictures, most broadcasters do not accept it as usable for producing HD programmes. HDV use in HD programmes is generally restricted to short inserts where the material can't be obtained in any other manner. For example, Discovery (USA) will only accept 25% of a programme being on HDV as I understand it,

I suggest you look at http://www.bbc.co.uk/guidelines/delivering_quality/pdf/tv/HDBookv01_00.pdf and the other documetns at http://www.bbc.co.uk/guidelines/delivering_quality/tv.shtml

Steven

Alan Roberts
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Steven's absolutely right, optical's not a delivery format for broadcast. But not because of the quality (which can be considerably higher than D3 in good hands) but because of it's editability. The broadcasters have tape decks that last for a decade or more, DVD players might only last a few weeks given the bashing they get.

And that's right about HDV as well, fine for use as SD, but not considered as HD for HD output (Discovery HD treat it as upconversion, for which the programme-length limit is 25%, and in chunks of not more than 60 seconds). And having been involved with/seen the results, they're right.

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.

infocus
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Bania wrote:
Do you know if the Beeb + assorted cable companies are all ready to ingest Blu-Ray and HDDVD ?

Or are these guys all locked into tape ?

The reasoning is that high levels of compression should be as avoided as much as possible throughout the production chain, because undesirable effects can accumulate, even if they may be OK for a single compression stage. Transmission will likely involve it's own quite high compression , so they're likely to want the original to be as previously little compressed as possible. At the moment that probably does mean tape, though I'm sure the organisations you mention are only too well aware that alternatives may be looming on the horizon - solid state and optical disc. Though for what you refer to that's more likely to mean XDCAM than HD DVD or Blu-Ray.

Talking of compression problems, did anyone happen to watch BBC News via Freeview yesterday evening? I happened to see it via a Freeview card on my home PC monitor, with an ordinary TV (analogue) also on nearby. The main news was Charles Kennedys resignation, and at the press conference there were various shots of the photographers with flashguns going off continuously. The picture via analogue was pretty good, via Freeview it just couldn't cope at all with the scene brightness right up and down every couple of frames - the picture just completely pixelated all the time the flashes were going off.

Alan Roberts
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That's long-GoP MPEG for you ;)

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.

StevenBagley
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infocus wrote:
At the moment that probably does mean tape, though I'm sure the organisations you mention are only too well aware that alternatives may be looming on the horizon - solid state and optical disc. Though for what you refer to that's more likely to mean XDCAM than HD DVD or Blu-Ray.

Actually, I doubt XDCam or any optical media will replace tape as the delivery format although it may become the archive format of choice. It is far far more likely that programmes will just be uploaded directly to the broadcast server from the edit suite. In fact, the BBC have already done it. See http://www.bbcresources.com/about/archive/050610_tapeless.html for details.

As computers and network links get faster it'll soon be as quick to compress the files directly from the online edit and upload them rather than dump them out to Digibeta and deliver the tapes. It should also help reduce the amount of Digibeta splats that get broadcast :P Actually the network speed is already available, I can already get 2-3MB/s transfers across the internet at Uni -- which could get an hour-long HD program (assuming say 100mbit/s MPEG2 compression) from my Mac there to TVC in less than five hours.

Steven

infocus
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StevenBagley wrote:
..............which could get an hour-long HD program (assuming say 100mbit/s MPEG2 compression) from my Mac there to TVC in less than five hours.

That may even be pessimistic. I believe I saw in the DVB magazine an article about televising the Football World Cup, and referring to the satellite distribution to broadcasters being at 60Mb MPEG2, as that was regarded as fairly "transparent". It will obviously be a lot lower for transmission (and H264 in Europe) to the home.

(http://www.dvb.org/documents/newsletters/DVB-SCENE%20Issue%2016%20Final.pdf - PAGE 7)

Alan Roberts
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The Beeb's aim has been for tapeless working for some years now. The idea is that servers hold all content, available anywhere, so a source uploads to the server, the editor works to it, the network transmits from it. the programme never exists anywhere except on the server (and a thumpin' great big one with lots of redundancy at that).

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.

Robin Davies-Ro...
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Yes, Unity is all well and good - until it goes down like it did in Cardiff last year and I lost a lot of editiing time; but I guess there'll always be glitches in any system...

Robin.

infocus
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Alan Roberts wrote:
............. a source uploads to the server, the editor works to it, the network transmits from it. the programme never exists anywhere except on the server

My first instinct is to find the idea very worrying in principle - eggs in baskets and all that. Then again I believe most seafarers laughed their heads off when the first use of steam power was proposed for maritime use............

Carrying on the analogy though, I seem to recall that in the early days the most success was had by ships with sails and an additional engine, rather than going straight to all steam power from day one. Maybe there's a useful lesson to be learnt here.........?

tom hardwick
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Not with cars there isn't Alan. They now want us to buy a car with two engines, with all the manufacturing pollution and weight penalty this causes. A little hobby horse of mine.

Alan Roberts
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IIRC, the Great Eastern was the first ship to "sail" on steam alone, and was considerably faster because of not having all the drag from the rigging.

I take the point about eggs and baskets, in the classic film "Rollerball" and entire century's history is lost in a computer crash. But the plans, as far as I know them, are for a massively redundant system. The principle is that the server is used for production/transmission, and archiving happens from it at regular intervals (possibly every few hours). I've been away from the planning of this for some time so can't be more informative. The great boon would be that programmes can be edited from the same source material in different parts of the world at the same time, with results continually being available to others.

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.