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Canon VIXIA Series AVCHD and HDV Camcorders
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Old March 6th, 2013, 02:19 PM   #1
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Vixia HF200 -- guidance on format

I recently picked up one of these cameras, after using prosumer SD for a for a number of years, and expect to complement it with an HF S200 soon. The manual for the former gives little information about the formats other than listing them and indicating file size in a table. The designations SP, XP+, FXP, and MXP are only given generic names and Mbps rates.

I'm having some challenges wading into HD and Vegas 12 Studio,so I'd like to ask for some preliminary guidance respecting what these settings mean, in practice, for image quality. I realize this is a domain of personal expectations and usage, but perhaps someone with experience can at least point me in the right direction.

My primary concern presently is an ongoing series of interviews I am recording. These are for history, and I'm just a one-man band as far as crew. They may be used for DVDs or broadcast at some point; I hardly expect big screen use, though 20 or 50 years from now, who knows? Interviews are typically one hour, one or two subjects miked with lavs, location interiors (I'm off-camera). I know how to light. When I have both cameras, I'll lock down a wide shot with the HF and frame head shots with the HF-S, doubling footage per hour. With respect to both recording and final storage (presently waiting for blu-ray M-discs), I would like to reach a reasonable compromise between quality and file size.

On the one side, I see no reason for full 1920x1080. SP is is given as 1440x1080, already considerably finer than SD's 720x480, and I'm not sure why there is not a 1080x720, the "lesser" HD format I see referenced most frequently. In any case, the SP's 9 hours on a 32G card is very appealing. I wonder if the quality difference is even worth considering. On a tempering note, we can hear plenty from 1940s recordings of great singers, and anyone complaining of grainy films in the great 1960s photojournalism would be missing the point.

Any thoughts?
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Old March 7th, 2013, 09:05 AM   #2
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Re: Vixia HF200 -- guidance on format

I have shot several hundred hours of footage with my HF11 since 2009, all of it in XP+ mode 1440x1080 with PF30 progressive frame rate (recorded in a 60i stream as these cameras do) and all edited progressive with Vegas going out to a wide variety of final formats and uses.

I have never had any complaint with the image quality. The only issue is with needing a very powerful computer to edit smoothly using this AVCHD format these cameras record in.

I don't think you can go wrong with XP+ as it is a noticeable step up in quality from SP and you've stated you don't really need 1920x1080.

Good memory cards from trusted sources are important, and they have become so affordable and available, I can't really see benefit in shooting at a quality level below XP+.
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Old March 8th, 2013, 06:53 AM   #3
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Re: Vixia HF200 -- guidance on format

The file size reflects a combination of the pixel resolution, pixel aspect ratio, and degree of compression. What may look good out of the camera in a home environment may not fare as well after editing and subject to evaluation for professional broadcast purposes.

In general, capture in the highest quality format you can reasonably edit. You can always downres the final deliverable, but the resolution of the original capture is fixed at capture time and can not be improved later.

Whether or not anyone will be interested 50 years from now is a separate question, but stop an consider how good the VHS recordings from 20-30 years ago look when viewed today on current HD gear. Also be sure to save copies to formats and media that will be playable 50 years from now. (Think 8-track tapes.)
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Old March 8th, 2013, 06:00 PM   #4
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Re: Vixia HF200 -- guidance on format

Thank you for your responses and technical information contained therein. The XP+ looks like a good starting, and possibly resting, place. Certainly the resolution of recording and display will increase, but so will enhancement technologies that can improve old imagery. For long-term storage, format is anyone's guess, of course, but at least the M-Disc has a very, very long life and excellent resistance to the usual environmental gremlins.
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Old March 11th, 2013, 12:22 AM   #5
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Re: Vixia HF200 -- guidance on format

Seriously consider Don's advice on shooting at the highest resolution you can edit.

When the HF 100 first came out I ordered a Q6600 CPU based computer knowing my dual core machine probably wouldn't cut it. The 2.4Ghz clock speed was not fast enough to handle 1920x1080 17Mb/s in my NLE so to be able to edit I had to set the camera to 1440x1080 12Mb/s recording (close to what you've decided to do).

Now I use 2nd gen Core i7 processor based machine and can compare the 1440x1080 footage shot with 1920x1080 and I can see a definite difference.

Like Don I advise you go with the highest your setup can handle.
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Old March 11th, 2013, 08:10 AM   #6
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Re: Vixia HF200 -- guidance on format

Quote:
...They may be used for DVDs or broadcast at some point;..
Find out what format the broadcaster you are considering is currently using and wants used for deliverables. That could influence your decision.

Also, some NLEs are much better at editing AVCHD source material than others. AVCHD is processor intensive.

The 720 line version of HD is a halfway step to "full HD" that some broadcasters and camcorder makers used. Better than SD, but still a halfway setp. (Note that this resoluton was OK for TVs up to around 42 inches.)

The 1440x1080 format is perhaps best suited for intermixing with HDV footage.

Storage is cheap. However, set, cast, and live event time is not.
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Old March 22nd, 2013, 01:37 PM   #7
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Re: Vixia HF200 -- guidance on format

Will you be keeping the original footage? Or will you be disposing of it once you have your produced output?
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Old March 26th, 2013, 06:49 PM   #8
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Re: Vixia HF200 -- guidance on format

Thanks again for responding. In reply:
I have no broadcaster in mind. These are interviews that will be of broader interest 25 or 50 years from now, like those with participants in the 1960s civil rights movement. At some point sooner, excerpts might find their way onto a web site, but I expect no more extensive use for quite some time. It could change; who knows?
Once the files are rendered and archived on multiple M-discs to be stored in various different places, I do not intend on keeping the original footage. Yes, flash cards are cheap, but I am doing all this on the proverbial zero budget and spending even several hundred dollars on cards periodically is a problem for me. Web storage is technically an option, but uploading/download time would make it rather prohibitive. Again, it will be the historical content that matters, not the ultimate visual quality.
I don't have an i7 computer for the same reason, nor one dedicated to video editing. As for editing software, I am now teaching myself Vegas Studio (12 Platinum).
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Old March 27th, 2013, 07:05 AM   #9
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Re: Vixia HF200 -- guidance on format

Store in avariety of formats, especially in formats and media known to have a long life, and have someone lined up to do media conversion if needed at some mid point from whatever is going out of use to what ever is the new dominant format. Interviews - transcribe to archival quality paper with some archival quality photos as well. We know they will wotk in 50 years.

(Learn from the lessons of the past - being able to play a laser disk, Beta tape. or 8 track cassette from 20 to 30 years ago is problematic at best. And how much longer will VHS-C players be around?)
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