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Old January 24th, 2006, 06:20 PM   #1
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HDV for student filmmaker

Hi, my name is Matthew Jones. I'm a student filmmaker in Alaska, and am currently considering upgrading to HDV for my next production. The project is a feature length modern fantasy, some of which will have to be shot in low light (not sure how many lux yet). My editing setup is the Adobe Production Suite based around Premier Pro 1.5 and After Effects 6.5, all running on a 3.2 GHz Pentium IV computer with a 128MB Radeon 9700 graphics card. I also have access to 4 other computers ranging from 2.0 to 2.8 GHz for a render farm.

I was wondering if this setup would be able to handle the output of a consumer HDV camcorder like the Sony HDR-FX1 with 1080i resolution (this seems like the best camcorder for my price range, about $2-3k). Since the film will involve intense digital editing, I want to make sure my computer will run at a decent speed if I edit video at this resolution.

Thanks in advance to whoever answers.
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Old January 24th, 2006, 07:03 PM   #2
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Hey Matthew,
You may want to consider shooting in SD, thereby saving about a thousand dollars (at least), and spending that saved money on sound and lighting equipment (All depending on what you're "Upgrading" from though...).

Although HDV is super-cool, if you're on a student budget its likely unnecessary considering going SD would provide you with better lighting, better sound & faster editing, likely resulting in an all around better movie (this, of course, is assuming you don't already have access to sound and lighting equipment). If you're looking to sell your movie when your done, shooting in HD won't positively or negatively affect your ability to sell it to a DVD distributor, although it may make it more attractive to some TV stations (Don't know about this - someone else chime in.

Regarding your question specifically, if you find rendering is too slow you can always just do an offline edit and then just export to your renderfarm for higher resolution redering. The best thing for you to do would be to download some raw HDV footage or have someone send you some on DVD and try editing it and see for yourself how fast it runs on your machine.
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Old January 24th, 2006, 07:11 PM   #3
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Matthew..... your setup sounds excellent...except for ONE thing. Go ahead and get the Premier 2.0 update. You'll be extremely happy that you did with your new FX1 camera.

You have chosen a wonderful camera for your production and with Premier Pro 2.0 you'll be able to utilize the powerful CINEFORM ASPECT HD plugin (www.cineform.com) that will blast your post production process into hyper speed.

Now Mat, one thig you may wish to consider is the future. The FX1 is a wonderful piece of equipment, and I have no doubt you will make a wonderful movie with it, but you mighht want to consider the JVC HD100 as well. It's is an awesome camera and will give your project a more cinematic feel right in the camera itself. No post production conversions neccessary. If you're buying brand new cameras, it's only going to cost you about $1500 more, but what you get back in terms of functionality and versatility is worth MUCH more then that. So just be sure before you give that money away. *smile*

So Matthew, your computer is fine, I just suggest you upgrade to PP 2.0....and be sure to grab a 250gig dedicated external firewire Hard Drive on eBay while you're at it. (and think about that JVC HD100 as well).

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Old January 24th, 2006, 07:34 PM   #4
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Thanks for the quick responses. It's likely that the university will upgrade its editing system to Premier Pro 2.0, but I doubt I'll upgrade my own computer. I forgot to mention that the RAM on my system is 1 GB, I've heard that that's kind of low for editing HDV.

I already have some lighting equipment, but it's not very good and not very portable. I think I'll be able to borrow better lighting equipment from my school, for indoor scenes at least.

In regards to my current camera, well ... it's probably laughable to most people on this forum. My last movie was shot on a JVC GR-D200U, which was in the $600-700 range in May 2004. It worked well enough for my first picture, which was just a half-hour gag film that parodied every movie I love. I was able to get a decent look out of the video with the ColorFinesse plug-in for After Effects, but there were too many flaws in the original footage to cover up with simple color-grading. The FX1 footage I've seen so far looks great, and I think camera quality was the biggest detriment to the last film.

I don't know if I'll be able to sell it. Getting a premier at the local cinema is about the greatest thing I can hope for, and it actually doesn't seem like too remote of a possibility, but I would definitely not be able to recoup production costs.

Anyway, thanks for the input. I've got to render a project now so I won't be online until late tonight.
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Old January 24th, 2006, 08:04 PM   #5
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Hi Mathew!!

I second what Shanon says about the JVC HD-100. Progressive 720p is
much easier to work with than 1080i. If you are going to work with
effects this will save hours of renedering. 720p uncompressed is half the data of 1080i or 1080p. On the other hand the Sony HDV cameras down convert
to SD with footage equal to the quality of digi-beta or dvcpro50. You could
do chroma keying on real budget and burn a very high quality 4:2:0 DVD.
You might consider a Sony HVR-A1U. The cmos imager is better than anything
ever available for motion recording. Its less than the price of a FX1....
and has free run sync which is compatible with the HVR-Z1U which you could
rent if you needed a two cameras.

Reid
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Old January 25th, 2006, 12:30 AM   #6
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What aspects of the image would be better with 3 CCDs than with a single CMOS, and vice versa? The A1U does look capable of some pretty astounding images, but I've only seen frames from it, and the actual moving video I've seen from the FX1 is really impressive.

Also, I found some people offering FX1s on ebay for $1000, but something seems fishy about that. I'm definitely not going to make a purchase until I find out more about the cameras at any rate.

Right now, the FX1 is still my first choice. I just don't feel that the extra $1500 for the HD100 is justified at this point. To me it looked like there's a reasonable chance that I could compensate for any difference in the picture with a little bit of color grading.

The suggestion with the A1U also got my attention, but I've heard a lot of bad things about single-chip cameras, even the CMOS ones. I'm also worried about audio quality, as that was a serious shortcoming in my last production. The reviews I've read indicate that the A1U might have a better audio setup than the FX1. If so, that might balance out the issue with the single-CMOS image.

Anyway, it looks like no matter which of these I choose I'll be getting a serious boost in production quality over my last film.
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Old January 25th, 2006, 12:39 AM   #7
 
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Mathew, don't believe everything you read, ESPECIALLY on the web, and on the subject of HDV.

1. Single chip CMOS *used* to be a concern. Today, because more of the chip size is dedicated to sensor rather than processing, CMOS is a viable candidate for great imagery. Expect to see more and more CMOS cams in the very near future, all making great images.

2. Audio on the FX1 and A1U is exactly the same. The tools are different, but the audio quality is identical. The difference is that you have phantom power and XLR inputs on the A1U. This makes the cam easier to use, and lets it fall into the "pro" category, but neither phantom or XLR gives you better audio, just better tools to record with.

Rent, borrow, or beg an A1 or FX1, or for that matter, a Z1. All three are good cams, and for bang for buck, you can't beat the Z1 or FX1.
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Old January 25th, 2006, 02:37 AM   #8
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Not sold on the A1U yet? go check my sig on the stuff I shot with my HC1. yea yea yea, i know i used a Letus35, but hell, its the same cam right?

if you're like me and figure that you can just capture really clean video and do alot of post production work anyways, jumping for an FX1 might not be as great of a choice compared to getting the A1U then using the extra cash to upgrade your computer. keep in mind, when you deliver your films, they'll most likely be downressed for dvd. so, your mediocre hdv image will become stunning dv.

p.s. the time is just right to get an A1U with that $500 rebate going around.
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Old January 25th, 2006, 04:07 AM   #9
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His PC is fine. He also has access to a few more for a render farm. Cam and cam equipment is more of a concern then his PC. If it can be fit into the budget I would suggest getting AspectHD. It will have a greater impact on editing than a hardware upgrade.

Matthew-"feature length modern fantasy, some of which will have to be shot in low light"

The FX1 has better low light capability then the A1U.
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Old January 25th, 2006, 10:32 AM   #10
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Matthew - something to consider, if you're a student filmmaker , and you have the price of an fx1 to spend , is buy a cheaper camera with a commercial 35mm adapter like the redrock and a few , off ebay still lenses . If it's narrative filmmaking your're learning then dof is more important than resolution. You could spend $1500 on a redrock adapter with followfocus and $1500 on a camera like the HC1 and $500 on used ebay still lenses. Or , instead of an fx1 , you could consider the dvx . You don't have to dive off the highest point the first dive . Can't tell you anything about your pc though. Kurth
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Old January 25th, 2006, 11:29 PM   #11
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I'm really impressed with that HC1 footage with the Letus35 Flip (where can I find more information on that, by the way?). I still think that when I get my next camera, it will probably be an FX1.

By the way, when I played that footage from the HC1, it seemed like there were missing frames, or some sort of scan going down the image. Is that just a result of playing it in Quicktime format, or is it something with the camera?
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Old January 26th, 2006, 12:24 AM   #12
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matt, email me or hit up the alternative imaging forum. btw, thats the first time ive heard that from someone about the footage. i know the audio isnt quite on par, but dropped frames (not audio samples)? make sure you're running the latest and greatest quicktime. hd h.264 decoding is a bit tougher on the computer.
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Old January 26th, 2006, 12:31 AM   #13
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I don't have the latest version of Quicktime, so that might be the problem. I'll download that and try the video again.
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Old January 26th, 2006, 01:06 PM   #14
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You should open up any HDV file using either the latest Divx or Real-Player. The picture quality with these players is amazing. You will not see any problems with the video what so ever when using these players.
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Old January 26th, 2006, 02:42 PM   #15
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I would also highly recommend the VLC player. The first fully compatible HDV player. It is a free multi-platform player that is very stable with amazing feature list. It has no crap spywear/adwear unlike the free versions of some other players.
One fantastic benefit is it is able to stream capture HDV streams so you can have live capture from your firewire port, which makes a laptop an amazing field monitor/recording deck. No more tape capture! Not all the features of HDVrack which I now use, but amazing for free.
Do a search here "vlc" for more info. Mostly in the JVC HD1/10 forum.
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