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Old March 10th, 2009, 05:03 PM   #1
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What defines a 'professional' camera?

I have been increasingly puzzled by terms often thrown about when it comes to video cameras: 'professional' and 'broadcast (quality)' - what defines these terms?

For example, I have seen the Canon XH range as professional and semi-professional and I seen reference to both broadcast and near broadcast, presumably because it is not full HDV resolution as 1440x1080.

I've been looking at the Panasonic HMC151, Panasonic's brochure refers to it as 'professional', the resolution is full HDV 1920 x 1080p - as that is he current maximum resolution of our TV screens, does that male it broadcast quality?

Put another way, if someone was to shoot, say a documentary or short film on these cameras would a TV company such as the BBC accept the footage - it's OK, I don't have ambitions above my station! :-) - I'm just slightly confused by all this.
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Old March 10th, 2009, 06:01 PM   #2
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Hi Phillip
There are some posts somewhere on DV Info about what broadcasters will accept.
Big league broadcasters such as the BBC and National Geographic won't accept films that are orginated in HDV unless there is a compelling reason to do so eg a self-filmed adventure expedition.
I think that officially the BBC will accept up to 20% HDV in a film. If you look at HDV you have to agree with them. It's amazing what it squeezes onto a tiny tape but the downside is artifacts when there is a lot of movement.
I believe that different rules apply to acquisition of programming. And once it has been transferred to digibeta the situation may become even greyer.
Some of the smaller channels however will accept HDV or DV material.
I suspect that broadcast quality refers to what the BBC or National Geographic will accept ie that is the gold standard.
What's the definition of professional? To my mind anyone who makes a living from using a camera has a professional camera. Generally speaking I suspect that it is professional if it has the controls for picture and sound that most professionals would deem necessary for their craft.
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Old March 10th, 2009, 09:16 PM   #3
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It's a question that's been asked once or twice before and can yield a million answers. Networks do have technical specs for acquisition and many eschew HDV, but at the same time the fact is, more content shot on "prosumer" sub-$10K cameras is making it onto broadcast TV than ever before. If you are shopping for a camera, or deciding what workflow to use for a certain project, I think a more useful question to ask might be "what are my priorities?"
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Old March 10th, 2009, 10:26 PM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Philip Younger View Post
For example, I have seen the Canon XH range as professional and semi-professional and I seen reference to both broadcast and near broadcast, presumably because it is not full HDV resolution as 1440x1080.

I've been looking at the Panasonic HMC151, Panasonic's brochure refers to it as 'professional', the resolution is full HDV 1920 x 1080p -
Philip,

As a point of information, there is no such thing as "not full HDV" or "full HDV". HDV is a standard that was designed to allow the recording of HD material to DV tape. Under that standard, HDV has two specifications: 720p (1280X720 progressive scan) or 1080i (1440X1080 interlace). By definition, anything 720p or higher is considered HD.

HDV is a special version of HD, again designed to record HD to DV tape. when played back correctly, 1440X1080 will fill a 1920X1080 screen because in the 1080i specification, rectangular pixels are used as opposed to square pixels in 720p or 1080p specifications.

The term "full HD" (not HDV) is tyically used to describe the 1080p (1920X1080 progressive scan HD [not HDV] specification). This is more a marketing term than anything else as, again, 720p and higher is considred HD. For example, If 1080p is "full HD", then is a 2K or 4K camera ultra HD? It's all still HD.

A camera like the HMC151 doesn't use the HDV standard since it doesn't record to DV tape. it uses AVCHD standard, another HD format that is recorded, in this case, to SD and SDHC memory cards. This format typically records 1080p, although it may be at a lower bit rate than HDV, depending on the camera.

There was recently a documentary on Showtime that ran for one season that was shot completely on the XH-A1. The movie Crank2, I understand, was shot on A1's and HV30's. So, shooting footage in HDV is perhaps becoming more acceptable for TV and movies.

Oh, and as for "broadcast quality"... Guess what, when it comes to HD, the highest definition that can be broadcast over the airwaves currently is 1080i. Which is exactly what the A1 and other HDV cameras record. Currently, 1080p content is reserved for blu-ray disks and broadband broadcasts.

One last point, I have taken HDV from the A1 and dropped it into a 1080p timeline and saved the output as 1080p HD and then recorded it to blu-ray. Works just fine. Is the quality as good as a 2K or 4K camera? Of course not, but I have shot and seen some beautiful HDV footage. Remember, if you shoot something with great production value that is compelling and holds your audience's attention, they won't be saying... oh, that's only 1080i... that's not "ful HD".
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Old March 10th, 2009, 10:50 PM   #5
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Further to Marcel's point, this whole 1440 anamorphic thing is such a complete non-issue.

HDV at 1440x1080 is the *exact* same res. as HDCAM, which is the *single* most common HD delivery format in the world. So don't sweat the 1440 anamorphic. And "broadcast quality" is whatever is whatever is deemed worthy of broadcasting and makes it to broadcast, including choppy QVGA cel-phone video at 5fps.

The Canon XH series chips are native 1440, plus H-axis pixel offset which provides a further boost in resolution. At the CCD level it's practically producing 1920 (although it's recording 1440 anamorphic to tape as HDV, same as HDCAM).

Quote:
Originally Posted by Richard Gooderick View Post
Big league broadcasters such as the BBC and National Geographic won't accept films that are orginated in HDV unless there is a compelling reason to do so...
One of Discovery's most popular series, The Deadliest Catch, is originated almost completely on HDV.
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Old March 11th, 2009, 12:37 AM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Philip Younger View Post
I've been looking at the Panasonic HMC151, Panasonic's brochure refers to it as 'professional', the resolution is full HDV 1920 x 1080p - as that is he current maximum resolution of our TV screens, does that male it broadcast quality?
"Broascast quality" has more to do with colours than resolution. Don't blow your whites, don't crush your blacks and keen an eye on that vectorscope.


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Old March 11th, 2009, 03:33 AM   #7
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Originally Posted by Chris Hurd View Post
One of Discovery's most popular series, The Deadliest Catch, is originated almost completely on HDV.
I don't know why you preceded this with a quote from my post Chris. I was referring to the BBC and National Geographic, not Discovery.
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Old March 11th, 2009, 04:25 AM   #8
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I've always maintained that there are no professional camcorders Philip, only professional people. If the tools you use to accomplish your job are up to the task and the happy client pays you, then those camcorders - whatever they may be - have been used in a professional capacity and are worthy of the term.

A camcorder is just an inanimate lump of magnesium, plastic and glass. It may well have a CPU that is capable of multi-tasking at speeds better than any woman, but if it's not being cradled in professional hands then it's just so much mantle-piece junk. I've said it before: it's an accurate, fast, responsive idiot.

But back to your original question. All the tests on the 151 have shown that it performs at its best in the 720p mode, and that pushing it to its top 1920 x 1080p mode degrades the image as artefacts rear their ugly heads. So reading the specification would have you believe the camera performs better than it actually does - but Panasonic aren't alone in making claims like this.

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Old March 11th, 2009, 05:33 AM   #9
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Philip Younger View Post
I have been increasingly puzzled by terms often thrown about when it comes to video cameras: 'professional' and 'broadcast (quality)' - what defines these terms?

For example, I have seen the Canon XH range as professional and semi-professional and I seen reference to both broadcast and near broadcast, presumably because it is not full HDV resolution as 1440x1080.

I've been looking at the Panasonic HMC151, Panasonic's brochure refers to it as 'professional', the resolution is full HDV 1920 x 1080p - as that is he current maximum resolution of our TV screens, does that male it broadcast quality?

Put another way, if someone was to shoot, say a documentary or short film on these cameras would a TV company such as the BBC accept the footage - it's OK, I don't have ambitions above my station! :-) - I'm just slightly confused by all this.
The BBC will accept HDV for their SD channels - they also accept Mini DV for SD, yes they still shoot on it.

Currently, the amount of HDV material in each of their HD commissioned programmes is restricted, unless there is a justiciable reason for using it. An example would be the much quoted "The Deadliest Catch", which was shot using Z1s. However, companies like Discovery who commissioned that series, do want to know the post workflow to avoid a build up of compression/codec issues during the whole post/transmission chain.

As for what is a professional camera, I suspect most of the current generation of !/3" cameras has been used on a professional production in some manner or other. Perhaps from a professional point of view, the camera for day to day use should have a means of interfacing with other professional equipment eg have XLR connectors etc. It should be capable of withstanding say working 5 day weeks for a couple of years, so that it can earn an income for its owner.
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Old March 11th, 2009, 06:13 AM   #10
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Originally Posted by Brian Drysdale View Post
Perhaps from a professional point of view, the camera for day to day use should have a means of interfacing with other professional equipment eg have XLR connectors etc.
Pro-audio connectors can be considered as the one foolproof way of separating 'professional' from 'prosumer' & 'consumer' camcorders. Which is ironic given that audio is the not the strongest point of the HDV format.
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Old March 11th, 2009, 06:18 AM   #11
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Thanks to all for the explanation. I have no pretensions about getting any of my footage on any TV channel right now - maybe 'You've been framed' :-) I've just been confused by all the patter that comes with video sales.

I guess this is all very similar to my stills photography days and the comparisons between roll film and 35mm and now, more recently 35mm and digital
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Old March 11th, 2009, 08:14 AM   #12
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Originally Posted by Richard Gooderick View Post
I don't know why you preceded this with a quote from my post Chris. I was referring to the BBC and National Geographic, not Discovery.
Actually Richard you said "Big league broadcasters such as the BBC and National Geographic." I submit that the Discovery Channel network falls into the same category.
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Old March 11th, 2009, 09:36 AM   #13
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Topic already discussed at length in this thread:
http://www.dvinfo.net/conf/general-h...ity-guide.html, and others...

My 2 cents: the engineers are back, the same guys who years ago declared DV unfit for broadcasting, making it "illegal" (at the TV channel I used to work for) to air DV stuff, no matter what the content was (making some of us "outlaws", since we sometimes just went ahead with our "low-quality" stuff, 'cause we couldn't accept that engineers should determine what goes on air and what not...)
The engineers had decided that way not by watching what was on their TV screen, but by staring at their wonderful measuring equipments and running a few numbers, I guess
(which is not exactly how your average couch-potato watches his favorite show).

Then BBC changed their internal documents... equipped a number of crews with PD150s... then smaller TV channels copied what BBC was doing (guess why?) and DV became acceptable, no, wait: "GOOD"... (not to mention the fact that it was also cheaper and more agile & flexible: a one-man-band goes where heavily equipped four-guy crews don't get to go, in "physical" terms as well as in "journalistic-psychological" terms).

My forecast? This thing will last a couple of years, maybe... Then the engineers will be relocated to where they belong - and THEN, while actually watching their actual TV screens, they'll see that HDV is excellent.

Artifacts? I've shot my last four short docs. in HDV (downconverted to SD for editing, since my guys are not heavily involved in HD yet) and haven't seen one really noticeable MPEG artifact. The one and only thing about HDV that keeps me worried is the long GOP: when your tape fails you, you lose one full second of video & audio. And that's bad!
But please, don't tell me that the artifacts are the real problem. I have only one functioning eye, but I do see what's on the screen.

And speaking of artifacts: I love PBS, I love their wonderful documentaries, I especially love their wonderful documentaries shot in HD and aired on their HD channel, but there's a major problem: the on-air compression. Artifacts? TONS of them. So, what's the point?

Ranting and venting again... I'm getting old

Best

Vasco
PS: I love my A1. Period.
I just lack the $$$ for the A1s...
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Old March 11th, 2009, 10:03 AM   #14
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If you shoot something compelling people will watch,
whether is Super 8 or DV or HDV or whatever.
I understand the delivery spec's for different companies, but
if you have the best equipment in the world and you're shooting
mediocre footage, it doesn't matter much.

This is not directed at anyone in this thread btw,
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Old March 11th, 2009, 10:11 AM   #15
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I suggest that professional or broadcast "camera" is more applicable to analog video than the current world.

There was a huge difference between broadcast formats that would stand up to editing as compared to what was available to the home video user, remembering my RCA VHS camera. There was also a huge difference in price to get the professional format tape.

In the same comparison, I would suggest that any camera that can put out a better picture than a 3/4" professional "U-Matic" recorder can be considered "broadcast quality." That would include just about any DV or HDV camera sold.

As mentioned above, it was the PD150 that officially rewrote the rules. The two "professional features" that differentiated this camera from its consumer counterpart were (1) the XLR inputs, (2) DVCAM format, albeit on a small tape, that gave locked audio not available on regular DV.

The PD150 was ubiquitous around the world for news gathering in difficult situations. It was also used on a number of feature films.

With digital, once an image is acquired and transcoded into an intraframe and higher-bit 4-2-2 codec for editing, the camera that was used to produce the video is virtually irrelevant if the picture looks good.

In acquisition terms, I would suggest the shooting scenario dictates what would be considered a professional camera. Solo wildnerness docs means one camera, and studio bound game shows means something different. Background plates would suggest one choice, principal photography on a crane another, and action POV another.

New cameras like the JVC HM100, with a tiny form factor, XLR audio, PCM audio, 35mps codecs, progressive and interlaced HD capture will blur the line even more.

Last edited by Jack Walker; March 11th, 2009 at 11:44 AM.
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