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Canon XL H Series HDV Camcorders
Canon XL H1S (with SDI), Canon XL H1A (without SDI). Also XL H1.


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Old November 28th, 2005, 11:27 PM   #1
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HDV on XL-H1?

Pardon my ignorance, but I've been seeing so many SDI topics on here that I haven't been able to figure out the real stats of this camera other than the 4:2:2 over SDI.

So basically I'm a student. I'd like to own an HD or HDV camera so my work looks better, but I obviously am not going to have 30k for capture over SDI. My question is, what recording options are there in HD that do not require SDI? Does it do HDV as well or purely SD? Are there, or will there be, methods to record HD or HDV that are much more cost-effective?

It's just that for me, the 9k price might be too much as it is... and it's a definite no if I need to spend significantly more than that on extra equipment.

On another note, if anyone feels like answering this question... For my needs, and given my low budget, which camera do you think is best for me? I was looking at the JVC ProHD, but the quality didn't seem to be as good as expected... is the XL-H1 even the cam I should be using anyway?

Or perhaps do you think SD is still plenty acceptable for entries to be taken seriously at the big festivals? (Currently using DVX... considering upgrading to XL-2 if I don't go for an HD camera because of the lenses.)
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Old November 28th, 2005, 11:44 PM   #2
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Daniel: the XL-H1 can record HDV 1080i to miniDV tapes, or output via HD-SDI to a variety of other recording options. $9K is a lot to spend if you're just going to record in HDV, which you can do pretty well on a Sony FX1 costing a little over $3K. Whether any HDV option makes more sense than getting an XL2 is something you have to determine for yourself, preferably by renting each camera you're considering and testing the results directly. Personally I like HDV, but it may not be the right answer for you.
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Old November 28th, 2005, 11:53 PM   #3
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Yes it records HDV onto mini dv tapes so you do not need to purchase anything else to capture HD video.

The advantage of the SDI output is the better colour space, as you have probably read. The difference there being HDV = 4:2:0 vs SDI HD = 4:2:2 (I think NTSC is 4:2:1).

So in comparison to all the other HDV cameras, think of the SDI output as a bonus extra feature that you can possibly use if you're using the camera in a studio to shoot green screen or something.
Otherwise you can forget that it's there, and shoot HDV onto mini dv tapes and be a happy peach, just like all of the Sony owners - probably happier as you'll have progressive modes to make your indi film just that bit more special.

Make sense?

Over priced? Possibly, but you are certainly getting a lot of camera that will take a long time to outdate I'm sure.

-edit- yes, it's a hell of a lot more than the sonys but they don't do progressive
SD is good enough at the moment and I can't see that changing for a while yet - HDV is good, but you certainly don't need it to compete in festivals - the money may be better spent in other areas.
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Old November 29th, 2005, 12:26 AM   #4
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Hi Daniel,

The XL H1 will record HDV2 onto a miniDV cassette. That'll give you 1440x1080 (pixel aspect ratio = 1.33) with 4:2:0 chroma sampling,. All you'd need in addition is HDV-capable editing software.

You can also output 1920x1080 (upsampled in the camera head) uncompressed, 4:2:2 via HD-SDI. As you've indicated, though, there's significant additional cost to do this -- a VERY FAST computer with RAID, HD-SDI card, and software capable of handling it. This'll undoubtedly change in the future, but to my limited knowledge, the most "economical" HD-SDI solution is Cineform's Prospect Ingest with the AJA Xena-HS card at $5299, plus the cost of a screaming x2 Opteron with a RAID setup (another $3G+ unless you just happened to have bought such a monster computer):

http://www.cineform.com/index.asp?Pa...PROD&ProdID=56

Pre-release reports on the XL H1's image quality have been tantalizing, but way too limited and controlled to take to the bank. The initial shipments of the XL H1 should find their way into early adopter's hands (including mine) very soon -- perhaps within the next week. Within days of that there should be plenty of clips from the H1 and reports about it, including comparisons with the XL2. The hope is that the HDV is sweet enough to make HD-SDI unnecessary for most of us, most of the time...perhaps limited to serious pro studio and/or advanced keying/compositing work. That all remains to be seen -- soon, I hope! Myself, I'm going to start with HDV using Aspect HD on PPro and see how it goes. In the meantime, we'll probably get a better idea about the HD-SDI situation.

So if you don't need to decide immediately, I'd highly recommend waiting at least a couple weeks to see how things shake out.

Additional thoughts that may or may not apply to you:

If you don't already have good microphones, lights, carrying cases, etc. you'll need to reserve budget for those. Poor lighting and sound will matter more than the pixel count of your camera. I haven't yet submitted to a film festival so can't really be sure, but I'm under the impression that lots of miniDV movies have done very well at fests -- again, the production quality is what really matters. The XL2 is simply the best 1/3" SD camera around. If I was starting from scratch with a $9000 budget, I'd rather spend it on an XL2 with long lens (either 20x or 16x manual) plus the 3x wide, a good set of lights, a couple of good mics, stands, etc rather than just having the XL H1 and nothing else except an empty wallet.

Then again, if you have lights and mics already, and can stretch the budget a bit, I'm pretty confident that the H1's 24F is going to blow away anything SD. More to follow as soon as I get my H1!
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Old November 29th, 2005, 07:27 PM   #5
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Thanks.

I do have some good lighting kits, nice mics, dollies, tripod, etc. I am not new to the production model or DV. Just having been a student and shooting movies in my own time with my own money, I have never had the opportunity to check out HD-SDI and thus know virtually nothing about its implentation. I am well aware that the quality of your movie is much more than resolution, but I also know that the resolution doesn't hurt. ;) Subliminally, I don't know anyone who wouldn't prefer a razor-sharp image. Plus I would imagine, at least, that if it ever came down to distribution, HD might be more attractive.

Of course, please correct me if I'm wrong about any of this. Anyway, I'm not buying not at all. Probably won't until more like February. I'll keep following the XL-H1.
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Old December 1st, 2005, 04:36 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Pete Bauer
Hi Daniel,

The XL H1 will record HDV2 onto a miniDV cassette. That'll give you 1440x1080 (pixel aspect ratio = 1.33) with 4:2:0 chroma sampling,. All you'd need in addition is HDV-capable editing software.

You can also output 1920x1080 (upsampled in the camera head) uncompressed, 4:2:2 via HD-SDI. As you've indicated, though, there's significant additional cost to do this -- a VERY FAST computer with RAID, HD-SDI card, and software capable of handling it. This'll undoubtedly change in the future, but to my limited knowledge, the most "economical" HD-SDI solution is Cineform's Prospect Ingest with the AJA Xena-HS card at $5299, plus the cost of a screaming x2 Opteron with a RAID setup (another $3G+ unless you just happened to have bought such a monster computer):
This information regarding the costs of using HD-SDI is incorrect.

Both AJA and Blackmagic sell SDI capture cards that are MUCH more economical.

From Black Magic Designs you can get a Decklink HD card for $595.

That supports both SD and HD SDI input and output. It will downconvert HD clips on the timeline to SD in realtime with the latest drivers for either Mac or Windows.

It works like a dream with Final Cut Pro.

As far as disks go- both HDV or DVCPRO HD can be handled readily by standard 7200RPM hard disks- no need for any sort of array.

You do need an array of disks if you plan on using several (3 or more) simultaneous streams of DVCPRO HD or if you intend to use uncompressed HD.

Finally as far as your computer goes- you don't need a "beast" of a machine even for HD. It helps, but isn't necessary. Any powerbook 1.25GHz or faster and any Pentium 2.0GHz or faster will work well with HD- be it HDV, DVCPRO HD or Uncompressed.

In fact requirements are opposite of recording/playback. Uncompressed HD uses the least CPU power by far, DVCPRO HD is in the middle using about as much CPU power as DV and HDV uses the most CPU. That said, even machines that are fairly "old" now can handle HD readily.

Just make sure the disks are up to it.

Oh, and memory never hurts. I recommend 2+ GB of RAM.

Still all of that is far from needing a "beast" of a machine. You don't need a Quad G5 or anything.

You may WANT one, but you don't need it.

The rest of the advice Pete gave is sound. Spend some money on lighting and sound. Those investments last longer than the videocamera/computer investments and add a LOT of polish to your productions.
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Old December 1st, 2005, 05:29 PM   #7
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Alexander,

As are many who are making their first foray into Hi Def upon buying the H1, I've not previously paid notice to HD-SDI, but am now in the process of learning about it, so a clarification would be much appreciated.

Are you saying that you can plug a $595 BM card into a typical editing box, whether PC or Mac, and do online editing in real time at full HD resolution? My understanding is otherwise, and actually seems to be supported by your post: that the Black Magic card will either downconvert to SD upon ingest (in which case, who cares) or does uncompressed input (which would require a couple thousand dollars worth of RAID card and around 8 fast drives).

Maybe that would cost a bit less than the Cineform solution I mentioned, but then you'd still need a place to store your uncompressed output...an expensive HD deck or compression into a smaller file format on the computer. If there's a missing link in here, please let us know the details. Otherwise, it might be a bit misleading to advise someone who is contemplating an upgrade from miniDV and a "regular" computer that it is a simple $595 jump to full-up HD.

Again, any further details on the workings of the process and real-world limitations would be much appreciated.
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Old December 1st, 2005, 08:52 PM   #8
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I've seen (here on DVInfo) that a new external storage device is rumored to be in the works that can take the full-quality analog component out signal from any HD camera (FX1, HD100, etc) and convert it to a digital HD format of much greater quality than HDV on MiniDV tapes.

True that the analog outs won't give a better picture than HD-SDI, but if an affordable device was to hit the markets that could use the analog HD outputs to create a higher quality HD format (DVCProHD or HDCAM maybe?), wouldn't that make having the H1's HD-SDI overkill for most applications?

Assuming that this 'device' is indeed on the way and it is affordable (under $5k or so), wouldn't the FX1, Z1 etc be better choices for freelancers/independents investing HD equipment for eventual future use?
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Old December 1st, 2005, 09:20 PM   #9
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Hi Dan R,

It may be difficult to say since the H1's are still winging their way to us -- thus no real world experience with a production H1 is published yet.

But my guess is that with horizontal pixel shift and DIGIC processing applied to a 1440x1080 sensor with images passed through new Canon HD glass, the uncompressed 1920x1080, 4:2:2 images coming out the HD-SDI are going to have a higher detail level than HDV, redigitized analog component out, or probably native DVCProHD (which is compressed 1280x1080 pixel images).

Again, that's just a guess...the proof will be in the pictures. But in this case it may be as much a matter of "overkill, like beauty, is in the eye of the beholder." If the analog out from a $5k camera satisfies the beholder, it's beautiful. If complex professional compositing work in HD is the order of the day, recaptured analog may look like dog chow to the beholder. Folks shooting 35mm film probably will think that uncompressed HD looks like rodent chow.

What I hope is that in the not too distant future, we can have reasonably fair, side-by-side testing of output from the new "affordable" HD cameras and their various modes of putting out HD. I'll bet Dan H who starting the thread won't be the only one interested in such a "shoot out." At first, though, I personally will be playing with the H1 entirely in HDV mode -- later, when I've learned enough about HD-SDI and the products to make it useful to me, I'll probably give it a go. My suspicion is that I'll be happy with HDV for general shooting, but the extra rez and color sampling of HD-SDI will make a real difference for compositing. Can't wait to find out!
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Old December 1st, 2005, 10:06 PM   #10
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Pete Bauer
Alexander,

As are many who are making their first foray into Hi Def upon buying the H1, I've not previously paid notice to HD-SDI, but am now in the process of learning about it, so a clarification would be much appreciated.

Are you saying that you can plug a $595 BM card into a typical editing box, whether PC or Mac, and do online editing in real time at full HD resolution?
Yes, that is exactly what I am saying. I just did it today.

Quote:
My understanding is otherwise, and actually seems to be supported by your post: that the Black Magic card will either downconvert to SD upon ingest (in which case, who cares) or does uncompressed input (which would require a couple thousand dollars worth of RAID card and around 8 fast drives).
Well maybe I wasn't clear.

The Black Magic DecklinkHD *can* convert to SD for you in realtime.

How do I use that ? I edit in HD, and I monitor in HD- but I also monitor in SD because I often have to deliver SD as well. It has to look good in both formats. The DecklinkHD can output both SD and HD over SDI simultaneously.

On the ingest side the DecklinkHD can do uncompressed HD, but I don't often use it that way. Mostly I use DVCPRO HD, which is a 100Mbit/s codec. Chances are you can handle that on your current edit box. You need ~50GBytes/hour storage for your project.

For a Mac the appropriate specs for Final Cut Pro 4.5 HD were a 1+GHz processor and 1GB RAM, plus adequate disk space. That's pretty low end.

A lot of machines can do this with a RAM upgrade and an external firewire drive. I figure just about any machine (PC or Mac) less than a year old can be upgraded to meet the needed specs. I'd be surprised if any machine set up for editing in the last 3 years couldn't do the job without upgrades.

If your machine is older than that (3 years), then its time to upgrade anyway.
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Old December 1st, 2005, 10:22 PM   #11
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Alexander, you mustn't forget the large drive array necessary to edit uncompressed HD, which is what going out SDI will give you. So, you can't REALLY just plug it into a DeckLinkHD into a Mac and have it work...not without a pretty expensive storage setup.

Now, you can convert that signal to DVC Pro HD which will play back on standard, un-arrayed drives, firewire or other.

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Old December 1st, 2005, 10:30 PM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Dan Robinson
I've seen (here on DVInfo) that a new external storage device is rumored to be in the works that can take the full-quality analog component out signal from any HD camera (FX1, HD100, etc) and convert it to a digital HD format of much greater quality than HDV on MiniDV tapes.

True that the analog outs won't give a better picture than HD-SDI, but if an affordable device was to hit the markets that could use the analog HD outputs to create a higher quality HD format (DVCProHD or HDCAM maybe?), wouldn't that make having the H1's HD-SDI overkill for most applications?

Assuming that this 'device' is indeed on the way and it is affordable (under $5k or so), wouldn't the FX1, Z1 etc be better choices for freelancers/independents investing HD equipment for eventual future use?
Well, I just talked to the Panasonic people today.

I can say with confidence that they aren't interested in letting anyone use DVCPRO HD on a camera that Panasonic didn't make.

Focus Communications is making a DVCPRO HD version of their FS-4 Pro, but it will only work with DVCPRO cameras. In our price range that means the HVX200 only. The Focus guy told me that this was because they depended on the hardware codec in the cameras, but its pretty easy to put the appropriate ASIC in the Firestore- so licensing issues are likely central.

Another company, Specialized Communications is making a DTE device (CinePorter CP-2), but it uses a P2 card interface. Still a hard drive, but it actually plugs in to the P2 slot of P2 enabled cameras.

I can assure you that Sony won't even allow this level of interoperability. (Insular profiteering jerks with good technology that they are. I am so conflicted.) When I asked someone in the Sony booth about the idea- he laughed.

If we get a HDCAM DTE device I can assure you Sony will make it and it will only work on Sony cameras. Probably just the ones that already record HDCAM to tape.

So, to actually answer your question: The Panasonic AG-HVX200 seems like the best choice if your production needs will be satisfied by DVCPRO HD.

DVCPRO HD is a great middle ground. It edits better than HDV, has good color information and composites well under most circumstances.

There are good reasons to consider the H1, mostly because the images it produces are very very nice. For field use though, since I HATE HDV (I know hate is such a strong word, I don't really mean it. Sorry HDV.) the H1 requires another deck or computer to be attached.

Unless the DVX200 delivers strongly on raw image quality you'll be looking for a better camera anyways, and the XL-H1 is it.
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Old December 1st, 2005, 10:33 PM   #13
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Kevin Wild
Alexander, you mustn't forget the large drive array necessary to edit uncompressed HD, which is what going out SDI will give you. So, you can't REALLY just plug it into a DeckLinkHD into a Mac and have it work...not without a pretty expensive storage setup.

Now, you can convert that signal to DVC Pro HD which will play back on standard, un-arrayed drives, firewire or other.

KW
Uh...

I didn't forget.

Like I said in my first post on the matter...

*****
As far as disks go- both HDV or DVCPRO HD can be handled readily by standard 7200RPM hard disks- no need for any sort of array.

You do need an array of disks if you plan on using several (3 or more) simultaneous streams of DVCPRO HD or if you intend to use uncompressed HD.
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Old December 1st, 2005, 10:43 PM   #14
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Don't forget about this product:

http://cineform.com/press/rel-WafianHR1.htm

Okay, $10k IF you're a beta tester. But hopefully it will come down quickly in price, though I'm not holding my breath.

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Old December 1st, 2005, 11:17 PM   #15
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Kevin Wild
Don't forget about this product:

http://cineform.com/press/rel-WafianHR1.htm

Okay, $10k IF you're a beta tester. But hopefully it will come down quickly in price, though I'm not holding my breath.

KW
Its rack mountable VTR sized.

I could just tote my Xserve G5 dual 2.3 GHz along! (If I had one) Its "only" $6500 configured with 2GB RAM and 1.5 terabytes in an array, plus $600 for a SDI input card. Oh, and $30 for Quicktime Pro (freaking Apple nickel and dime-ing me over here.) $7130 all told.

Call it a 50% discount over MSRP.<grin>

Also, having read a bit of the site I wonder why they don't support Mac.

They claim its because Apple doesn't have an API for them to plug in to.

Much like on Windows, you do not need to plug into the application's API to have your codec work on the timeline.

You just have to plug into the media player, Quicktime. Then it will work.

Also... AJA and Black Magic seem to have access to the Final Cut API.

So... what is the real deal ?
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