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AVCHD Format Discussion
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Old October 7th, 2007, 06:16 PM   #16
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Originally Posted by Luc Fender View Post
Wolfgang has some comparison clips of CX6 (which I think is the same as CX7?) and HV20 here: http://www.fxsupport.de/24.html

Different concept of camcorders but still interesting to compare.
the cx6 and cx7 are the same. except that the cx7 supports usb IN and the cx6 not. but if you put your memorystick in a cardreader you have the same feature.
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Old December 3rd, 2007, 12:48 AM   #17
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I learned a lot from reading the posts about ACVHD on this forum and just want to add my experience of the CX7 which I have been using in the field for about a month now for cable TV shooting. Apologies in advance for the length of this post but I hope some of my observations will help others who are wondering what camera to buy, what the format can be used for, etc.

Unlike some others, I found the camera quite passable in low light (night time) though oddly enough in a moderately well lit hotel lobby with little contrast, an interview I did showed signs of noise. But shooting in a night time market, the image quality was great.

Although I don't particularly like Sony's insistence on touch screen menu driven controls (on my HVR A1U for example), I could live with it in the CX7. What helped was the grouping of the camera controls into three main tabs so it's easy to jump from white balance to exposure etc without having to scroll through endless menus.

The real advantage of the CX7 is its small form factor (it fits in the palm of my hand and I don't have big hands!) and its black body color which really helps me get the shot in candid situations - more than any technology, that's what it's all about. People just do not seem to notice it, and if they do, they think I'm just a tourist and ignore me.

The big disadvantage is a lack of headphone jack as I have no way of monitoring the sound (but see below), and the lack of a viewfinder. As I continue to use the camera, the latter becomes more of a noticeable problem that I hope will be fixed in a future version.

To partially overcome the headphone jack problem, I use a Sony bluetooth microphone. Its receiver box (that fits into the AIS shoe) actually has a headphone jack. The mic is not that great (it could be more directional for a lav type mic) but I also back it up when needed (usually interview situations) with a Zoom H2 and sync it up in post. I also carry a wired lav which I can connect to the CX7 through the Sony mini plug adapter that fits into the AIS shoe (alas it does not have a headphone jack on it like the bluetooth otherwise it would be almost perfect!). I read on another thread that it may be possible to adapt one of the CX7 outputs to fit a headphone jack and if so that could be a workable solution.

I read somewhere (probably not on this forum) a negative review of the Century optics wide angle adapter. I have a couple of these and I use the small 0.55 on the CX7 with great results. You can't zoom with this (it loses focus) but it is as slim as a filter and helps keep the discreet form factor of the camera.

I read some discussion about memory stick cards and how many you need etc. If you're going to use this camera for serious shooting, then it's sensible to invest in the media. I have five 4GB mem sticks which is good enough for a day or two shoot. I transfer them to a WD portable hard drive (USB 2) through my ASUS EEEPC when I am on the road - the complete file structure. I can then re-name the files according to my shoot schedule. This is a great way of digital labelling (no more scribbling on mini DV tape labels!) and helps in the editing process. I have thought about the 8gb memsticks but for the time being I find the 4 gb sticks with shoot times of around 40 to 50 minutes pretty adequate.

I spent a lot of time working out what type of support (tripod etc) I would need for this small camera in order to reduce handheld shake and to maintain portability. I finally settled on the Manfrotto modo series - I use the small monopod with the tilt head addition, a great set up as I can also attach a flat bracket to hold the camera and a Rode mic (plugged in through the Sony AIS adapter) when needed. And more recently I have been using the Manfrotto modo steady, their version of the smaller steadicams. The advantage of the modo steady is that unlike the monopod, it folds up (to about 7 inches) and fits into the small bag I keep the CX7 in when shooting. It can also be converted into a shoulder brace, and also as a table top tripod (not that useful but you never know).

I use a Mac and Final Cut Pro 5.1.4 (not the latest FCS 2 which has FCP 6 that can transcode ACVHD files) and grappled a lot with post/editing issues. I read a lot about it on various forums. I first tried Votaic which converts the mts files to Quick Time movies. But it was painfully slow both on my Power PC G4, and my intel Macs. So I looked into 1:1 HDMI transfer but when the Black Intensity card I ordered failed to arrive I went out and bought iMovie 08 for my Intel Macs. Having read some posts about its difficulties in recognizing cameras and files etc, I did not have high expectations but I was pleasantly surprised. iMovie 08 recognized the CX 7 and files straightaway and converted the files to QT painlessly. I did not time it but it was less than 1;1 in my experience. What I am now working on is how to get iMovie to recognize my portable hard drive (with all its mem stick file copies) as a camera and to batch process them all into QT movies that I can then import into FCP for editing.

This is a great camera for shooting and despite some sound issues, I'd recommend it highly. The post/editing issues now seem improved over a few months ago and are manageable. All in all, anyone who has logged many miles lugging various sizes of camera and sound equipment over the years and who is looking for a much more portable set up should consider this camera as a possible option.

Thanks for reading!
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Old December 3rd, 2007, 01:13 AM   #18
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Thank you very much Roger.
Very informative
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Old December 9th, 2007, 12:44 PM   #19
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Having just acquired the CX7 just about 6 weeks ago, I'd first like to thank Roger for his excellent post on this amazing (yet seemingly underrated) camera.

I agree with everything Roger says and have a few things to add...

1. I copy my end of the day shooting to an external portable WD hd - on my mac book pro via usb 2.0 - from the camera, thru the computer, to the drive and it's an excellent way to back up the files for future editing. I takes about 1 minute per gig to back up - so a 4 gig memory stick takes less than 5 minutes.

2. I use FCS 6.01 to log and transfer the video files from the WD hd to an external firewire 800 portable 7200 rpm, 200 gig, hd. FCS transcodes the AVCHD hd files to whatever video file type I like. Lately I've been using Apple's Prores and I can see no loss in image quality and it edits beautifully. It is a bit of a space hog (about 1 gig per min) but I tend to work with shorter projects so it's not too big of a deal. You can also batch process these files - so I chose the ones I want to use, push a button and walk away. FCS 6.01 takes care of the rest.

3. I was recently on a fan type speed boat in the bayous near New Orleans and shot with the camera (hand held - using the highest quality compression) as we sped through these amazing areas. Upon returning home I popped the memory sticks into my PS3, which I can monitor in hd on my JVC home theater projection system - with a 10 foot wide screen (no lie!). I just about fell off my couch - the quality was AMAZING with no obvious blocking or artifacting. And on the boat we were MOVING at high speeds with many twists and turns. If I had doubts about the quality of AVCHD images - they were put to rest. No it's not a varicam or cinealta - but I think it rivals an HV20 (a camera I highly respect).

4. The size of the camera, lack of motor noise (no moving parts except for the zoom - which I can't hear on the tracks) and the ease of use IMHO more than make up for the agreed upon limitations of the camera (limited manual controls, sound monitoring, etc.) as very fairly reviewed in Roger's previous post.

5. I have left tape behind!!! I do not miss it. My next camera will be one of the new high end Sony's that use the new type of higher end memory sticks. Someday I want to own a RED camera. It is a new age of film communication!!!

6. Yes I wish the CX7 had a 24 frame choice - but at the end of the day I can use FCS 2.0 with a few other plug ins and through the magic of post production - make it look very close!

7. The build quality of the CX7 far exceeds the HV 20 - FWIW.

My thoughts so far.

Cheers!
Chuck
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Old December 11th, 2007, 11:07 AM   #20
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Thanks Chuck. I have now installed FCS2 on my Mac Pro and I tried to log and transfer the CX7 files from my WD USB portable drive (that I use for downloading on the road). I could not get this to work and I wonder if you could advise me how you do it! Thanks.
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Old December 11th, 2007, 09:44 PM   #21
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First a comment about what I have learned - after much testing with the camera - that video files you intend to back up must come from the camera (in it's dock) via the usb connection. You cannot successfully use a memory stick reader to transfer the video files and get FCS2 to recognize them. You must also be using FCS2 ver. 6.01 or higher for it to read AVCHD files.

That said - I place the cx7 in it's dock, connect the dock/camera to my mac book pro via usb cable, put the camera in "computer mode", then connect my WD portable hard drive to my mac via another usb cable.

On the desk top I open the WD hard drive and in the top window create a new folder and give that folder a name that relates to the video files I'm about to copy over.

Back on the desk top again you will see the memory stick icon (from the camera). I double click this open, then select everything in this open window, and drag all of these files over to the newly created folder on the hd.

When the computer has finished copying the files over, I close the memory stick window and drag the memory stick icon into the trash to safely eject the camera/memory stick from my desk top.

If I have more than one memory stick to back up, I power down the camera, swap out stick, put the camera back in it's dock, power up the camera and repeat the above process - creating a new folder on the hd for each memory stick I want to copy. It is much faster and easier than it may sound.

To import into FCS2 - I open the program with an external firewire drive attached to the mac as the media drive. The WD usb drive is also attached to the mac. Make sure your FCS2 media capture drive is the external firewire drive and set your project presets for the file type you want to transcode to (such as prores, etc.)

I then chose "Log and Transfer" from the "file" menu and navigate my way over the WD usb drive (using the file icon button in the upper left hand corner of this window) and drag the files I want to transfer into the bottom window. (You can also look at any video clip at this point just by clicking on it.) FCS2 will transcode the AVCHD files into any format you have the pre-set set up for. Works great for me. Let me know how it goes!

Another note:
Also you can successfully back up camera files - in the same manner as described earlier) to DVD's (I don't even bother with toast - I just let the mac finder do the burning) and then later in FCS2 import these files from the burned DVD. The DVD replaces the WD hd in this situation. Remember the video files must come from the camera and NOT a memory stick reader (though I don't know why - but it will not work).

Cheers,
Chuck
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Old December 11th, 2007, 11:01 PM   #22
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Chuck -
I use a PC with Windows XP, and have found similar things, at least with longer clips (short ones smaller tan approx 2G in file size seem to transfer from a MS OK). The dock and the software are pretty integral to this camera... not exactly a "universal format" like MiniDV just yet...

One possible workaround if you need to archive the contents of a memory stick - image the WHOLE stick file/directory structure, not just the .mts files, then you can re-image the whole file structure back to the MS and the result should be that the video files should be intact - apparently the files in the other folders are used in the cam to identify the .mts clips.

Don't know if the Sony software works on Macs for importing, but it's interesting that the PMB software "reassembles" long clips (exceeding 2g file size) as it imports - without it, the first 2g .mts file can't be read by anything... so you lose the first 15-17 minutes... there's some sort of 2G file size limit apparently in AVCHD (another thread is reporting this with the Canon HG10...), and so there are some interesting issues!

Still need the dock though if you're using a 8G stick, unless you've found a reader that reads them (I haven't... and I've tried...). Sony can't figure this out either... guess it's up to us to figure it out in the field!
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Old December 12th, 2007, 12:26 PM   #23
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With regards to the mac question, I recorded a single 65 minute clip the other day filling my 8Gb card. I duplicated the entire memory stick to my desktop and Final cut imported the footage just fine as a single clip from the folder structure on the desktop.

I don't think this issue is happening on the mac, at least not with Final cut.

regards

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Old December 13th, 2007, 12:27 AM   #24
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Another option for backing up for the HDR-CX7:

The Sony vrd-mc5.

http://b2b.sony.com/Solutions/product/VRD-MC5

Apparently you can archive full 1080i AVCHD to regular inexpensive DVD's (4.7GB DVD+R/+RW and 8.5GB DVD+R Double Layer Discs). Since they are H.264 format, the disk can then be played back on most all Blu-Ray players.

Seems like a nice mindless use system: just burn two disk easily; use one to view on your HD TV via a PS or other Blu-Ray player or even put into your computer to edit, then place the other disk in a safe place for archive.

Plus, it's only $199 from B&H Photo.
http://www.bhphotovideo.com/c/produc...ction_DVD.html

Has anyone tried this combo or used this thing? Any problems with this kind of setup or system that I'm missing?

Thanks,

Mark
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Old December 13th, 2007, 10:14 AM   #25
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Mark,

I own the Sony vrd-mc5 and it does work well and is very easy to use. One odd limitation is that you can only back up AVCHD files to single layer DVD's. These DVD's do play well on my PS3.

Unfortunately you can only use dual layer DVD's for the analog inputs (s video, etc.) It is a very easy way to back up older VHS, hi8 and mini DV tapes onto dvd.

So at the end of the day, if you only want to back up your AVCHD files and you use a lot of 8 gig memory sticks, you may be better off just to use your computer to burn dual layer dvd which can hold the full contents of the larger memory sticks.

I have not yet tried to play a dual layer DVD AVCHD disk on my ps3, but will give this a shot shortly and will report back.

Cheers,
Chuck
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Old December 13th, 2007, 03:19 PM   #26
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Originally Posted by Chuck Martinez View Post
Mark,

I own the Sony vrd-mc5 and it does work well and is very easy to use. One odd limitation is that you can only back up AVCHD files to single layer DVD's. These DVD's do play well on my PS3.


Cheers,
Chuck
Are these files in the same format as on the memory sticks?

So you could suck them into Pinnacle Studio 11+ with no problem?
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Old December 13th, 2007, 04:47 PM   #27
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[QUOTE=Chuck Martinez;791002]First a comment about what I have learned - after much testing with the camera - that video files you intend to back up must come from the camera (in it's dock) via the usb connection. You cannot successfully use a memory stick reader to transfer the video files and get FCS2 to recognize them. You must also be using FCS2 ver. 6.01 or higher for it to read AVCHD files.

Thanks Chuck, I'm going to try your method. Your comment above explains a lot to me - I copied the entire mem stick file structure to the WD portable HDD using a mem card reader NOT the camera so it was not recognized by FCS2. However copying the file structure back to a mem stick and then running it through the camera again worked but was kind of time intensive! I will need to experiment too. This thing seems a little temperamental : )
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Old December 13th, 2007, 06:46 PM   #28
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Chuck,

Thanks for the great information. It seems really curious that DL isn't supported for the AVCHD files, but it is supported for SD DV, VHS, 8 mm, etc. The DL disk at 8.5 GB would seem a really ideal solution for this little camera using 8 GB memory sticks.

I've broken the LCD on my HC3 (it and my D200, a bunch of lens, and flash were packed inside a LowePro Nova 4 and fell from inside our SUV). Although there is no external sign of damage, the screen is severely shattered and doesn't come on. Fortunately the rest of the gear faired better with only the flash hinge of the D200 otherwise broken. Anyway, the HC3 is pretty useless as I can't adjust anything (although it will still record and I can play back via a remote) .

So I'm looking at the CX7 as a possible replacement and was curious about this recorder for a possible workflow/ archive solution in going tapeless. It is such a tiny little cam that I could take it most everwhere. I hope the video is as good as the HC3.

Please do let us know if you can use DL disk after you test with the PS3.

Thanks again,

Mark
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Old December 14th, 2007, 01:40 AM   #29
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Much better image quality than the HC3...

Very light and portable. Almost too light without a monopod or brackets to help stabilize when handheld, although when moving this seems to be an advantage, almost no mass to bounce around!

On the PC, I've had no problem whatsoever just pulling smaller files (less than 2G) right off the 4G memory stick onto a hard drive, and onto Vegas timeline... Longer files and 8G sticks have proven more challenging, needing the dock and software to import correctly.

I'm intrigued by the MC5... will have to check one out, as it sure would provide a convenient archive method, at least for smaller files... that single layer limitation is disapointing...
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Old December 14th, 2007, 12:29 PM   #30
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Originally Posted by Roger Garcia View Post
Your comment above explains a lot to me - I copied the entire mem stick file structure to the WD portable HDD using a mem card reader NOT the camera so it was not recognized by FCS2.
I seems to work fine for me. I put my 8Gb card into the card reader on the side of my dell monitor and the drive mounts as 'untitled 1'. I right click it (yes we do have right buttons on macs now!) and choose 'duplicate'. Once the copy is complete the 'log and transfer' utility in final cut can be pointed at that folder and it see's the clips inside just fine.

regards

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