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Old June 24th, 2008, 08:17 PM   #1
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HV20 for Feature Film

Hi. It's been long since I last posted something (a short that's gone down together with Stage6, R.I.P...). Today, something that I never thought would be a problem now requires some careful addressing...

Things are like this: in a month, we're starting shooting a feature film that's part of my career's educational program, on ISCAA (Higher Institute of Film and Audiovisual Arts, from Santa Fe, Argentina). Our school owns a PD170 as part of its equipment. But since two of our classmates own an HV20 (the DP and the screenwriter), and considering the pros and cons of both cameras (I've shot and edited with both of them), we decided to go the HV20 way.

The institute's authorities were kind of reticent to that decision, but had no real complains... Until today.

They were a bit skeptical about the final result we'll get (talking about filmmaking...). Nevertheless, they tossed the possibility that we could make a decent film worthy of film festivals, and it might be a good introducing card abroad for our institute... [cough] They even considered the possibility of us getting a 35mm blow up through our National Film Institute... So, they said "Well, what if they make a good movie, and then we can't blow it up because it was shot on the HV20", and are actually discussing wether or not they'll allow us to do so or force us to use the PD170!!!

Now, perhaps I'm too bedazzled by the camera and whatnot, but is it not a better option (considering it's HDV, progressive, READY TO BLOW UP in 24p -we're using the NTSC version of the camera-, and that almost the whole shoot we'll be controlled, so low light will not be a problem... neither focus...)?

They actually said the HV20 couldn't be blown up... BS if you ask me, from what I've learnt in this dear forum of mine. We should pay attention to some things, but I doubt the PD170 is better in this respect, and I personally prefer the HV20's final result so much more.

What do you say? What would be better? Should I just get a pitch ready to show them what's good???
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Old June 25th, 2008, 02:36 AM   #2
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I would suggest asking them to list the technical reasons that they feel the PD170's footage will blow up better to 35mm than the HV20.

A well-shot presentation would probably go a long way towards proving your point, yes. Shoot the same controlled scene with both cameras, and make sure to screen it to them on HD (and in a perfect world, get a filmout test of the footage).

In this instance, pictures will indeed be worth a thousand words.
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Old June 25th, 2008, 04:15 AM   #3
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Charles Papert View Post
In this instance, pictures will indeed be worth a thousand words.
speaking of 'a thousand words'. This short film (which was mentioned in another topic on this forum) was shot on a hv20 and got him pretty far I believe. (Berlinale Talent Campus)

http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=i9Z8gW8NBks&fmt=18

http://www.pangeaday.org/filmDetail.php?id=74

http://www.cinevate.com/forum/viewtopic.php?t=1723
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Old June 25th, 2008, 01:14 PM   #4
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Obviously the hv20 has much, much better image quality. Really, there's no comparison. But I think there are some valid concerns here.

First of all, more places do 35mm blow up from DV than from HDV, so that could be an issue depending on your budget/location.
Secondly, the hv20 adds pulldown (unlike the hd xl series...), which you would have to remove manually. This is a huge pain; if you're using FCP you'll have to manually convert each clip to prores and then remove pulldown clip by clip. For a feature, this could take weeks. If you don't do this, your fields won't be sequenced correctly and you won't be able to get a 35mm blow up. Also, prores requires more hardware/rendering time/hd space, etc.
The sound is quite bad on the hv20. Even though the hv20 does have an input and adjustable levels, hdv records compressed sound.
The hv20 is about ISO80 (although it looks fine even with a little gain) whereas the pd170 is about ISO1280. This means you would need 16 times more light to use the hv20. This isn't a big problem if you have a big light kit and aren't shooting any big spaces, night exteriors, etc. but it's still pretty significant.

In your situation, I would rent an hvx200 or XLH1 or something. The cost of a rental for a month would be a couple thousand maybe (you could always buy one, too) and the cost of a 35mm blow up is $20,000+ so it's really nothing in the long run. Plus, you would save a lot of money on light rentals compared with an hv20.

That said, I've used a pd170 and it's great for what it is and I own an hv30 and love it. But I would not shoot a feature with either.
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Old June 25th, 2008, 02:04 PM   #5
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There seems to be no real reason as to why your instructors are claiming the HV20 footage can't be blown up. I would stand firm on your position until they do.

It's really simple math 1440x 1080 vs. 720x480. Progressive 24p vs. Interlaced 60i. Film is a large resolution format at 24 frames per second... Hmmm, what would work better?

Expose properly and get good sound. I see no other problems. This really just sounds like a bias over a consumer camera vs. one that is more pro. If you know how to use the HV20 properly that argument becomes a bit irrelevant. Your teachers don't understand the technological differences of the cameras. It's hard for them to wrap their heads around a consumer cam can (at least on a visual level) outdo the tried and true PD170

Quote:
Originally Posted by Matthew Wauhkonen View Post
Obviously the hv20 has much, much better image quality. Really, there's no comparison. But I think there are some valid concerns here.

First of all, more places do 35mm blow up from DV than from HDV, so that could be an issue depending on your budget/location.
Many films have been blown up from Non-DV based digital sources (Zodiac, Collateral, The Signal, etc...). Take a look at DVfilm.com's requirements for example: http://www.dvfilm.com/services.htm

Not really a strictly DV tape operation. Films sent in on a hard drive seem to be the preferred format. I guess it would save the trouble of having to ingest the tape in real time. I'd bet money that they are even starting to accept ProRes formatted files.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Matthew Wauhkonen View Post
Secondly, the hv20 adds pulldown (unlike the hd xl series...), which you would have to remove manually. This is a huge pain; if you're using FCP you'll have to manually convert each clip to prores and then remove pulldown clip by clip. For a feature, this could take weeks. If you don't do this, your fields won't be sequenced correctly and you won't be able to get a 35mm blow up. Also, prores requires more hardware/rendering time/hd space, etc..
Yes, this is true... partially. You don't have to process them clip by clip. I can batch process an hour of 24p HV20 footage through compressor (using the reverse telecine) in 2-3 hours on my iMac. If you have somebody dedicated to processing and archiving your dailies as you go it wont be that big of a deal.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Matthew Wauhkonen View Post
The sound is quite bad on the hv20. Even though the hv20 does have an input and adjustable levels, hdv records compressed sound..
Certainly the input on the HV20 is limited. I would definitely use an uncompressed backup recording device for a feature. That being said, I've gotten perfectly good audio out of an HV20 using only a sennheiser boom and a simple XLR to mini plug cable. I didn't even use a beachtek style box... just a cable. As for the compression. Well, I have yet to meet anybody who can audibly tell the difference. I was present during audio mixing and mastering for a short film I was editing (shot on the XH-A1) and the engineer commented on how good the dialogue sounded.

Quote:
Originally Posted by Matthew Wauhkonen View Post
The hv20 is about ISO80 (although it looks fine even with a little gain) whereas the pd170 is about ISO1280. This means you would need 16 times more light to use the hv20. This isn't a big problem if you have a big light kit and aren't shooting any big spaces, night exteriors, etc. but it's still pretty significant.
Okay, the PD170 has got the HV20 beat there, but really... you are shooting a feature. I assume your school has a large selection of lighting gear. Use it! Is it really going to look more polished by lighting less and letting the PD170 do the rest of the work? No. Matthew is right, you will have some problems if shooting at night. Plan accordingly and you should be alright. I just shot a music video (using an HV20 as a B-Cam) in a fairly large auditorium using an Arri DV lighting kit and a few back up lights (1k and 500w). It does need light... but not as much as one might think.

I may be a bit biased myself, but not ignorantly so. I know the HV20 fairly well ( I've also had years of experience with PD150's, VX2000' and VX1000's). I plan on actually shooting a feature with an HV30 in the future just to prove that it can be done. I believe it's a very capable camera for just such an endeavor. I'm positive it CAN be done.

I'd be just as happy if somebody beat me to it. Fortune favors the bold.
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Old June 25th, 2008, 02:17 PM   #6
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These are instructors ? It doesn't sound like they have investigated this. They are simply judging a book by its cover, under old standards that don't apply these days. I am sure they are relying on the old 3 chip versus 1 chip standards, that have been shot down by this camera, as well as many others. I have a VX2000, and an HV20. VX2000 is prosumer sister of the 170. Imager is identical on with those two cameras, and in comparison to the HV20, they don't hold up. While the PD was great in its day, the HV20 shoots rings around it.

First, from the "filmic" standpoint, HV20 shoots 24p, which is amazing to workwith, if you establish the proper pull down process in post. The Cine mode setting provides a nice flat image with wide latitude to permit maximum color correction capability. Cameras like RED shoot their raw stuff in similar flat look.

And of course, even HDV is a much higer resolution than and so much sharper than SD, and will stand up to blow up much better than the lower resolution. And, if you have convert to SD, my experience is that editing in HDV (I actually use Cineform intermediate to edit) and then converting to SD creates a much nicer edit.

Edit: I note one of the posts above say, don't do a feature with either. Question I answered was regarding HV20 v. PD. Obviously, HVX200 ( which has its own problems) or other $4- $30 K cameras would be bettter to shoot with......
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Old June 25th, 2008, 04:39 PM   #7
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If this is because of the 1 chip vs 3 chip thing be sure to point out that the Red camera uses a single chip. We have a Red camera at work and a F900 HDCAM Cinealta and Red puts that camera to shame big time. Our company did a shoot in London with both cameras and the Red camera killed the Cinelata camera.

I have also side by side compared a SONY DSR-500 2/3" chip DVCAM camera and a SONY HC1 single chip HDV camera and the HC1 totally killed the DSR-500. Of course in terms of camera build and optics and workflow the DSR-500 is a far superior camera but for staged shooting environments where you can plan your shot and lighting any HDV camera will perform very well. The biggest hinderance of HDV is motion prediction and low light. Add lights to your scene and use a tripod and you just fixed almost every single issue HDV has.

Audio compression is not that bad with HDV either. Sure it is compressed but it is much less compressed then Dolby audio on DVD's. Unless you plan on pumping music with a high range of tones directly into your camera during shooting I doubt you will have a problem. Considering the fact that most people listen to music mp3's and Ipod's with much higher audio compression then HDV I think even music will be ok for the most part. If you can however try recording the audio on another device as uncompressed for that extra 3% audio clarity.

While removing the 3:2 pulldown from the HV20 can be a challenge it is better then dealing with converting 60i to 24p. I know some film transfer places will do that for you but it will never take the place of having 24p to begin with. Not to mention it costs a lot for this service.

Like was suggested take a few still samples and maybe print them out on photo paper to show how detailed the images really are.
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Old June 25th, 2008, 10:06 PM   #8
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I used the HV20 for a documentary and it won the National Paddling Film Festival for best accomplished doc. It's just been selected at two other festivals.

Then again, I didn't volunteer what it was shot on. I have struggled with this issue, the camera is so small and plastic it looks extremely unprofessional. I hate dragging it out to interview the average schmoo because it looks you just ran to Walmart to buy your camera. The PD170, on the other hand, well, it LOOKS like a movie camera.

So maybe your instructors are concerned you'll look unprofessional and thus you'll reflect poorly on the school?

But it's better to look unprofessional than be unprofessional.

I think if you forced the average AC to choose between these cameras they'd take the HV20. Especially if they felt more comfortable with it. Look at what Charles Papert just wrote. Right out of a Hollywood SOC's keyboard. That alone should lend enough academic credibilty sway them to your point of view.

Last edited by Matt Buys; June 25th, 2008 at 10:09 PM. Reason: spelling
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Old June 25th, 2008, 11:25 PM   #9
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Thanks for the input, guys. Now, things look worse right now. I'm gonna fight it though, because it would be a shame if we made our film with less than the best we can get, since so much effort is being put on this. I'll go step by step.

@Matthew Wauhkonen: we have absolutely NO BUDGET. The school is public (meaning it's not private; nobody pays a fee to study; it's free for anybody to study there), and this project (which goes through it's second year, so the second film is ours) was implemented mainly by proffessors (Atilio Perín among them) and there is no official instrumentation on the program. Although this is about to change. So, there's no way we can rent a camera or a light equipment. So, in HD the HV20 is our only option. Or the PD170, that belongs to the school. And then the lights are from the school and some very cool equipmente lent by Atilio and brought from Buenos Aires. So, we have very few resources. This is made solely out of our strength and the good will of a lot of people.
Anyways, commenting on the sensitivity comparison of the two, the PD170 wins, but like I said, in this movie we luckily have some good lights, so we're not worried about low light, really.

Addressing some other comments (among Matthew's), pulldown is no problem, since we plan on using Cineform. Although the trial wouldn't be enough (I barely managed to edit my only HD short film in 15 days... :S). I was actually wondering how to do to get a license, but we'll figure something out (I have 2 kidneys after all... :P). But I know Cineform just ROCKS and means beautiful HD for almost anyone. Firsthand. So, again, pulldown isn't a problem, as isn't postproduction, and neither 35mm blowup, at all (I could deliver every single frame in whatever format they wanted in just 3 clicks through this workflow). Also, hardware isn't a problem using Cineform. Known firsthand too. So that's another issue solved.

Now, sound was a concern for us, mainly because of control (but also because of quality... I think that for dialogue HDV sound is OK, but just in this case, considering controls and comfortability for both Photography and Sound departments, it's better to use an external recording unit), we are looking for other options to record sound.


Going back to the beginning of this post, things are worse because today I heard that the Secretary in charge gave the order that our Photography Professor closed the HV20 option. They want just the PD170. But, I wanted to make tests so that deniers would believe! Just like Charles Papert suggested. And, our professor listened. He IS quite sensible. And also, has used the HV20 and likes it better than many other cameras (final image-wise, he says in his opinion it blows the Z1 easily... my saying for a long time... :P). But, he does encounter one problem (that I thought is a valid concern): he said that the controls aren't comparable, and that the final result of the film doesn't come only out of what you put in front of the camera and how this camera takes it... It also depends on how good was the work. And if you're struggling uncomfortably against your camera's controls of aperture and focus and so, for 25-30 days, things might not turn out as beautiful... He has a point.
Still, we ARE doing the tests. Because, nevertheless, there are pros and cons, and thus what we (as a team) want to see is whether or not the HV20 advantages are worth the hassle. I personally still choose the HV20, but only the tests will tell. Tomorrow a professional movie is being shot (shooting ends this week): "Andrés no quiere dormir la siesta", with Norma Aleandro. Our Camera Operator and our DP are going to make some test shooting filming the same scenes that are lit and shot for the feature so we can see how each camera responds (in exterior-day, interior-day, exterior and interior night, etc...). Afterwards we'll do specific tests of certain aspects of each camera (such as smearing and rolling shutter, among others), and we'll put together a reel to watch the results. We'll watch it on a theater. But, sadly, it'll be out of a MiniDV tape. No HD projection, because the theatre doesn't have that capability. So, we won't see the whole splendor (and advantages) of the HV20. But, I hope it'll still be enough.

Anyways, thanks again for the input. I'd appreciate if you made more comments on what I've updated you with.
I'll just keep working and update you with whatever advances we have (and hopefully post the final tests for you to enjoy and discuss!! ^_^)

I'll be writing soon. Regards.
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Old June 26th, 2008, 10:40 AM   #10
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There is one thing to keep in mind here. You already are comfortable shooting with the HV20. Your instructor's point might make sense if you have never used the camera before but once you get to know how to use it you can pull off some great shots.

It all comes down to how you shoot your movie and what type of movie it is. Shooting a movie isn't like shooting a wedding or the news where you need quick easy to use controls. Many movies do tend to have a setup period where you can get the shot just right. For all the bad talk the HV20 gets for controlling the camera you will be able to setup shots with focus and exposure in a fraction of the time it takes Hollywood to do so with a film camera. Focusing and exposure should only be an issue if you plan on shooting in difficult situations where things may change suddenly. Again it all depends on the type of movie this is. If the movie will have lots of locked down shots such as talking heads and so forth then how could focus and exposure be an issue? Thats about as easy as you can get for setting up a camera. Sure doing it with the PD170 may be faster but we are only talking seconds to a few minutes of extra time. I would hope you guys wouldn't be forced to setup new shots that fast or else you are just asking for problems.


I cannot remember 100% but I am pretty sure there is a Cineform decoder for free. The trial is more so to capture and get the extra editing features in Premiere. Once the trial is done you should still be able to read the Cineform files in Premiere, you just will not be able to capture any more clips. Just make sure you capture everything within those 15 days. I don't think the codec works as well in terms of performance however after the trial so if you can buying a copy would be a great solution. You could also capture as Cineform to remove the pulldown and then convert to another format to edit with. So put the trial of Cineform on another computer for 15 days and do your capturing and then move the files back to your edit system.
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Old June 26th, 2008, 01:49 PM   #11
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Originally Posted by Ernesto Mantaras View Post
So, they said "Well, what if they make a good movie, and then we can't blow it up because it was shot on the HV20", and are actually discussing wether or not they'll allow us to do so or force us to use the PD170!!!
Incredible... what a naive stance. There are many video clips online from the HV20, have you a chance to present these examples, including your DP's work with the HV20? There are many reviews online, I'd suggest looking through them, taking quotes and citing your sources.

Not a good fit for 35mm? Unlike it's elder, the HV20 is a true progressive camera, at true 23.976 FPS - same rate as film. Couple that with six times the resolution, hands down the HV20 will offer a superior image for 35mm transfer.

There must be a reason that the film industry will shoot movie like Superman Returns with 1080P HD cameras (which the HV20 technically shoots) rather than with SD cameras!
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Old June 26th, 2008, 01:55 PM   #12
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I pretty much agree with most of the posters here in favor of HDV and the HV20. Also...tell the comitee that there is another Hollywood movie currently being shot on the A1 and a bunch of HF10s. The movie is "Crank 2" by the way.
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Old June 28th, 2008, 10:17 PM   #13
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de argentina!

Hola Ernesto Mantaras, no puedo creer de encontrar un argentino por aca, encima con una HV20... respecto del tema, yo soy de Cordoba y tambien estoy en una Universidad Nacional, donde tenemos una PD170 y mis amigos tienen una HV20... segun probe la sensibilidad es la misma en ambos casos, la HV20 esta alrededor de 80-100 ISO y la PD170 entre 100-120 ISO... lo unico que si veo objetable es la robustez de HV20, su dificil control manual (especialmente de la ganancia como ya sabras) y, referido al blow-up, no se como es el estado de equipos en nuestro pais para la ampliacion de HD a celuloide, que en el caso de un HDV bien trabajado iria casi directo por su cercania al 2K... pero no se si hay impresoras laser en Bs. As. que se banquen eso, o a que precio... en fin, cualquier cosa contactame asi seguimos charlando, un gusto haberte cruzado.
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Old July 8th, 2008, 12:41 AM   #14
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Hola Ulises!! Encantado de encontrarte acá también! Perdón por el cuelgue, pero la producción es UN QUILOMBO todavía... En cuanto tenga minutos disponibles me pongo bien en contacto... Por ahora escribo acá como para avisar que más adelante posteo material, y para avisar que necesito ayuda en otro tema....

-

Hey! Sorry for the inactivity. I've been very busy on this preproduction work... Things haven't been solved yet, but I'll have the simple test we made up soon (along with other notes). By now, I please kindly ask you to help on this other thread, to build a sort of follow focus (http://dvinfo.net/conf/showthread.php?t=125517). Thanks in advance to everyone!
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Old July 13th, 2008, 11:56 AM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Christopher Ruffell View Post
There must be a reason that the film industry will shoot movie like Superman Returns with 1080P HD cameras (which the HV20 technically shoots) rather than with SD cameras!
I'm just going to throw a counterpoint to that and say that SD was (is?) not uncommon. Outside of countless indie films, 28 Days Later was shot on an XL-1 and many, many TV shows were (and quite possibly still are) shot on DVXs.

That being said, I have to say that I can see your school's stance on wanting PD170s given that their superior manual controls are still closer to what you'd find on a 'real' camera than the rather steep learning curve the HVs have when applied to 'professional' shooting. Hell, a part of me still wants a DVX for the simple fact of gain controls whereas one has to dance with the HV a bit for similar results.

More to the point, the HV30 is a fantastic tool and I love it to death; but when talking to shooting actual movies, I would recommend giving someone something a little easier to manually control so that they can learn basics before giving them a beefed-up consumer cam.
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