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Old September 16th, 2007, 01:41 AM   #1
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working betacam sp for the first time

I have an ENG gig coming up in a few days, which would be fairly straight-forward for me except that I was told an old Betacam SP camera would be used.

I don't really know anything about this broadcast format, beyon I believe I've actually used one a few years ago as a camera operator when asked to do so on the fly, no sound was used from the camera though...was told I did a "f-ng awesome job" afterward though so I guess that's a good thing, but the problem is that I've been hired to do sound only for this project and I'm supposed to be recording direct onto the camera tape.

I use a Sound Devices 302 mixer which I've only used with digital cameras before, and am wondering if someone could fill me in about any procedural differences/guidelines, in particular with regards to recording levels and calibration, I should be aware of or might encounter in recording direct to an analog format camera such as this.

I'm assuming that I should calibrate the 302s tone on the Betacam SP somewhere to the range of -4 to 0 vu? Any input into this? And also what might be a good range to set the 302s limiters to?

In any case, sorry for not being up to date on this stuff. Any idea as to the general quality level of Betacam SP cameras relative to your typical 16 bit, 48KHz spiel for the DV world?

Thanks for any info and insight into this older format.
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Old September 16th, 2007, 04:20 AM   #2
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To give you a bit of history, Betacam SP was the successor to Sony's Betacam, and used to the be most successful general purpose professional video format around. The SP stands for "Superior Performance", referring to the fact that it used a metal-formulated tape, instead of oxide. The horizontal resolution was increased to 340 lines, although the tape sizes matched Betacam. It was pretty much the standard format for ENG work, and was good enough to be used for edit mastering. Pretty much every studio in the world had a Betacam SP deck somewhere in their racks. It is still used by many today, however, a lot of studios have thrown out their old SP units...

For a complete history, you can check out good old Wikipedia!

The cameras themselves are pretty much the same as a Digibeta, DVCPro50, and every other ENG camera. The controls are pretty much stock standard and in the usual places.

In terms of connecting up your 302 on the SP, you do it pretty much the same as you would a digital camera. Not exactly sure what level you should set it to, but once your in front of the camera you'll easily be able to determine what level to send. I think last time I used one, the camera was set to -10.

Picture wise, DV and Beta SP are comparable. They both record very usable pictures. There are pros and cons for both. The lenses are generally better on a SP camera than compared to a smaller DV handycam. In terms of audio - one is analogue, one is digital. Both can record usable audio. It was used in ENG situations for years - so you should be fine!

I'd just treat it like any other ENG camera.

I hope this is of some help!

Chris

Useful Link: DV vs Beta SP
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Old September 16th, 2007, 05:00 AM   #3
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From memory,for - 8 db Zero Level on a peak meter, - 6 db was commonly set on Betacam SP cameras.
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Old September 16th, 2007, 05:28 AM   #4
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This link to the Sound devices tech support pages has info on settings and test results for using SD mixers with Sony pro cameras. Note that they suggest setting 0VU tone from the mixer to -15 on the the D600's meter.

http://www.sounddevices.com/tech/sony_chart.htm
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Old September 16th, 2007, 06:58 AM   #5
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Originally Posted by Brian Drysdale View Post
From memory,for - 8 db Zero Level on a peak meter, - 6 db was commonly set on Betacam SP cameras.
Brian,

Sorry, I don't understand.

Does the SP camera have peak meters?

If I send tone from my mixer, where should that level be set on the Beta SP camera?

The camera meters only go to +3, right?

Regrads,

Ty Ford
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Old September 16th, 2007, 07:29 AM   #6
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Originally Posted by Ty Ford View Post
Brian,

Sorry, I don't understand.

Does the SP camera have peak meters?

If I send tone from my mixer, where should that level be set on the Beta SP camera?

The camera meters only go to +3, right?

Regrads,

Ty Ford

Yes. I'm only going by what the practise in the UK was when recordists did their ref level tones.

They used the UK standard -8db ref level tone below peak (on a peak meter) from their mixer (4 on a PPM). However, they didn't use this on setting on the camera's meter, most recordists seem to favour lining this up to - 6db while the odd recordist used -4 db.

These figures seemed to come originally from the BBC. The Beta SP meters were never treated as peak meters when being used for line ups and I've always taken them to be VU meters.

Now, everyone uses -20 db to line up on the digital cameras.
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Old September 16th, 2007, 08:24 AM   #7
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Eugene, do you know what type of camera you'll be using? The link Steve posted has all the settings you'll need for a BVW-D600. Maybe you'll get lucky, and all you'll need to do is print that page! If you can understand it all - to be honest, I'm having trouble...

This is slightly off topic, but I've just had a good read of the "Quantitative Measurements of Sony Video Camera Audio" link Steve posted. I was wondering if someone could clear up some things for me?

1. What's the difference between active-balanced and impedance-balanced when referring to line level?

2. Input Clip Level - what is this referring to?

3. How did they get these results? If I wanted to do a similar test with say a Sony Z1P, how would I do it?

4. I did learn today that THD+N stands for "Total Harmonic Distortion", and that the "+N" refers to the noise power level. Still unsure of what "EIN" means though...
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Old September 16th, 2007, 09:41 AM   #8
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... I was wondering if someone could clear up some things for me?

1. What's the difference between active-balanced and impedance-balanced when referring to line level?
Active Balanced is typically balanced with a centre-tapped transformer with its tap grounded so the "hot" side of the line is driven by the positive phase signal between one end of the transformer winding and the centre tap while the "cold" side of the line driven by an equal but phase inverted signal appearing between the opposite of end of the winding and the centre tap. Impedance Balanced has both the hot and cold sides at equal impedance with respect to ground but the actual signal appears only between the "hot" side of the line and ground.

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2. Input Clip Level - what is this referring to?
The maximum signal that can be applied before clipping occurs right at the input circuit.

Quote:
3. How did they get these results? If I wanted to do a similar test with say a Sony Z1P, how would I do it?
Their test methodolgy is on the page linked at the top of the chart. Lot's of luck doing it yourself unless you have quite a few kilobucks worth of lab quality test equipment.

Quote:
4. I did learn today that THD+N stands for "Total Harmonic Distortion", and that the "+N" refers to the noise power level. Still unsure of what "EIN" means though...
EIN="Equivalent Input Noise" - a measure of the random noise generated within the amplifier itself. The usable S/N ratio of an amplifier is the noise level observed when running at rated output minus the EIN. See ... http://www.rane.com/note145.html
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Old September 16th, 2007, 11:54 AM   #9
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Wow these threads wander around.

Betacam SP is a relic of the Analog days. We are talking about an analog recorder with stripes on the tape dedicated to 2 channels of audio and timecode, alongside a much wider stripe for the helical scan video head. For audio, this is just like a reel-to-reel tape recorder. Forget mixer references and put yourself back in those days for a moment.

Conservative audio engineers ran peaks up to 0.

Daring engineers would run peaks over 0 if it seemed appropriate, based on the dynamic range of the sound. If a wide range, we'd always be concerned that quiet sounds might disappear into the tape noise-floor. Sometimes, daring engineers would be criticized by editors for running peaks over 0, such is life.

The point here is that analog overmodulation of tape sounds much different than digital overflow. In the analog world... never mind the technical explanation, nobody cares. Analog can be mildly overmodulated with good result.

How much is "mildly"? Of course it all depends on knowing how your recording medium sounds - you gotta' listen to it to get experience.

Were it me, I'd set 0 to 0, record tone at 0, and peak to 0 or a little bit more, depending. Oh, and I'd probably bounce this off the editor! YMMV.
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Old September 16th, 2007, 12:13 PM   #10
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Funny how you guys talk about BetaSP in past tenses. It's STILL the most widely used ENG format TODAY in the US. Okay, there is BetaSX also, but those two are the workhorses of the news industry.

HD transition will change all that of course.

-gb-
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Old September 16th, 2007, 01:24 PM   #11
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Betacam SP is very much alive and used a lot for broadcast delivery.

As far as the HD transition goes, there will still be (many, many) channels that are broadcast SD. So Betacam SP will likely stick around for a while longer unless something significantly better comes along. e.g. Digital delivery will eventually get there.

2- Hmm people still use beta SX? I suppose so anyways. I didn't hear very good things about that format (can't insert edit well).
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Old September 16th, 2007, 11:16 PM   #12
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Hmm people still use beta SX? I suppose so anyways. I didn't hear very good things about that format (can't insert edit well).
Our local ABC affiliate is doing HD local news. But until they get their XDCAM HD field cameras, they're using their existing SX cameras with 16:9 turned on.

-gb-
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Old September 16th, 2007, 11:35 PM   #13
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Glenn, I'm presuming it's bad at INSERT edits due to the MPEG-2 compression (IBIBIB....)? Down under I must say, I've seen a heap of Beta SP units in use, but I don't think I've ever come across anyone still recording to Beta SX.
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Old September 17th, 2007, 04:17 AM   #14
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Glenn, I'm presuming it's bad at INSERT edits due to the MPEG-2 compression (IBIBIB....)? Down under I must say, I've seen a heap of Beta SP units in use, but I don't think I've ever come across anyone still recording to Beta SX.
You really need to in areas which are still shooting 4:3 to see much Beta SP. Apart from playing the part in a short film a couple of years ago as a cameraman with a BVW300 I haven't shot Beta SP for about four years. Even then it was unusual, the previous time was about 2 years before that job.

The BBC has Beta SX for news and I know one production company that bought Beta SX.
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