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General HD (720 / 1080) Acquisition
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Old August 23rd, 2010, 10:33 AM   #1
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HD cams that shoot SD

Hello !

We are a small church that records our church services for our shut-ins and for archive. We are currently using a failing GL2 and a almost un-usable XL1. I was asked yesterday what we would need to get us back on track with our videos.

We can't go fully HD just because of money but I don't want to purchase SD cameras either. So my question is:

Do any of the HD cams shoot native SD. We mix real-time and burn to a DVD Duplicator so the DVDs are ready within a few minutes of the end of the service. Currently looking at the Sony HDR-FX7 as an option but I'm not 100% sure it does SD and if it does, will it work with our current workflow.

Thanks,
Dennis
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Old August 23rd, 2010, 11:46 AM   #2
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It'll work fine. Pretty much all HDV cams, at least the Sonys, also shoot SD or can covert to SD on capture/playback. No worries.
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Old August 23rd, 2010, 12:12 PM   #3
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Thanks Adam.

Is there another cam in the 2000 dollar range that we could research and is better than the Sony HDR-FX7?
I've been looking but there are so many possibilities and versions that it's kind of a daunting task for the un-informed. I know SD and have shot/edited quite a bit of tape but HD is new to me.

Thanks again,
Dennis
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Old August 23rd, 2010, 12:25 PM   #4
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In my opinion the FX7 is the best bang for the buck in terms of manual features. But it isn't great in low light and still uses tape, which may be a consideration if you're tape-phobic. But overall I think it's the best deal out there.
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Old August 23rd, 2010, 01:30 PM   #5
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Dennis: I agree with Adam.

To be more specific, the FX-7 will shoot native DV (in 4:3 or 16:9) as well as HDV. It can shoot in LP mode which gives 1 hours on a tape, which is long enough uninterrupted recording of most services. You will have to fiddle with settings to get it to match the color balance of your GL2.

While I have not done any live mixes recently, I did spend a couple of years shooting DV with HDV cams (Canon HV20 and XHA1) for multi-cam editing with DV footage from Sony VX2000s (which were similar to your GL2). I had pretty good luck with setting white balance with large white posterboard but, because I could, I still fiddled some with the XHA1 settings and did a bit of color correction/adjustment in post. This was for weddings and concerts. I doubt most of your shut-in viewers would care about or even notice slight differences in color balance in the regular weekly DVD.

When you say "native SD," I assume you mean native DV format. (Some of the newer cams, such as the NX5, shoot SD in a 5 or 9 Mbps Mpeg2 format rather than DV). I'm guessing that you also mean you want to stick with 4:3 output for the time being. My experience was that I generally got a better mix by shooting widescreen on the VX2000s than shooting 4:3 with the HDV cams.

But, since you are doing live mixes, do you even care about tape? Of course, you might need a "belt and suspenders" or tape and the live mix recording in case something glitches in the mix recording. But if you don't need to double up for live mixes, you could switch off the cameras' "auto-shut-off" function and run tapeless feeds. (This is a menu selection in the HDV cams; with older Sony cams like the VX2000, you simply left the tape cage open.)

Depending on your mixing setup, you have a wide array of camera choices including choices that may be as suitable but far less expensive.

If you are feeding firewire signals to a mixer (say, to one of the Videonics firewire units) from which you feed the mixed signal via analog or firewire to a DVD recorder, then you need HDV tape-based cams because they have firewire ports. Ones from Sony include the FX-1, FX-7, and FX1000. Canon HDV cams include the HV20-40 series, the XH-A1 and XH-A1s. There are others from Panasonic and JVC, as well.

If you plan on continuing to use your GL2, you might find Canon HDV cams easier to match up.

If you are feeding analog signals to a mixer with output to a DVD recorder, then you won't need cameras with firewire ports. Your camera choices widen to include cameras with file-based recording systems --- e.g. NX5/AX2000, CX550v. Note that if you need S-Video connectors for your mixer, you will have to buy the optional S-Video cables for them. The camera's stock cables are component and composite ones. That would be a minor additional expense.

Given the budget you have, I'm wondering if you have considered maybe replacing the failing cams with a pair of smaller HD cams such as the Sony CX550v or Canon HV40? You can get a pair of these for about the price of a single FX7. In HD shooting modes inside a church, these cams will produce cleaner, sharper, clearer images than your GL2. The HD capabilities of today's smaller "consumer" cams make them a lot more capable than the small consumer cams were when your GL2 was new.

If lower light is important, you would find that the CX550v do amazingly well in low light (better than the FX7), and they will record for hours and hours. High Def is always widescreen, though, and letter boxing might or might not be an issue for you. Shooting and editing other things could be problematic for you if you or your church has a DV-based editing computer editing system. The CX550v shoots HD in AVCHD/MPEG 4 which requires a robust and new system. The SD video is shot in Mpeg2 which could be difficult for older computers and NLE software that was set up for editing DV.

If you need firewire out and want tape, another option for you might be the Canon HV40. It shoots tape and would match pretty well with your GL2. The HV40 runs about $750, less than 40% of the price of a single FX7.

You asked about other HDV cams as capable as the FX7 for about $2k. I assume that means having readily accessible non-menu manual adjustments. The answer is that it depends on what you want to do with the cam and what you are trying to match it with. You might want to look at the Panasonic forums on DVinfo. If you were willing to consider a used camera, you could consider a Canon XHA1 which goes for about the price of an FX7. There have been a number of not-heavily used ones for sale in the DVinfo classifieds. (I might have suggested you look at the upcoming $1999 Sony NEX VG10 but it does not seem like a camera you could use for live mixing since it does not have a firewire or analog ports. It only seems to have hdmi out.)

This is all guessing by me about your needs based on some work I've done with my church. Your church's needs may be very different. The smaller cams might not work for your situation. Maybe your church's services are in a room that is large enough to need a 20x zoom? Maybe the room and lighting and shooting style require a lot of manual control? Maybe the cameras will be used elsewhere for other things? Do you still need to edit tape? All things to think about as you doubtless already are.
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Old August 23rd, 2010, 03:04 PM   #6
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Addendum: In case I did not make it clear, you can do live mixes to SD formats using HD analogue feeds to the mixer. Also, most HDV cameras (including the FX7) mentioned will allow you to shoot in HD while transmiting an SD signal over the firewire.
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Old August 28th, 2010, 11:36 PM   #7
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Try JVC - they are as good as if not better than sony.
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Old August 29th, 2010, 04:12 PM   #8
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Thanks a ton Jay. Really great information.

Dennis
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