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Old November 13th, 2003, 07:58 PM   #1
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Jon Fordham's HD10 Review Part 1, First Impressions of HD10's 720 next to 27F's 720

Unfortunately, it appears that my review is a bit too lengthy for one post. So, I'm going to break it up into a few posts in order to fit it all on here. So, when you reach the end, move on to the next post to contiue the review!

OK, here's the deal...

My name is Jon Fordham. I am professional Director of Photography
specializing in High Definition and Digitally Acquired imagery for Cinema or
artistic purposes, as well as a Digital Image Technician. I have been
working full time (as in my primary income or my only income has been soley
derived from) as a filmmaker for the past 3 years. I have worked or been
involed with production for even longer. My work in those last three years
had been primarily in the camera department until about a year ago when I
choose to be exclusively camera department. So, while I have plenty of post
experience and knowledge in other areas of production, my experience and
strength is strictly in photographic and camera related technical issues.
Prior to my full time work in production as a freelancer, I have worked for
a variety of production companies in a variety of capacities. Everything
from camera and post to video duplication, video engineering and even custom
tape loading in blank shells for mass sales of custom tape lengths. If you
think you know boring, I dare you to spend 10 hour work days in a vacuum
sealed "clean room" wearing surgical dress while clamping 2 and 1/2 foot
diameter VHS reels onto giant refrigerator sized machines and programming
them to load, open, splice, spool, splice, and spit out 2,000 15 minute VHS
tapes. Over and over and over and over again. If you've ever been the PA
whose been asked to firewatch the G&E truck then you have an idea of the
boredom, but not the monotany... Anyway, in addition to my pratical video
production experience, I also studied still photography at a Central Florida
community college. I say studied, but it was more like, "this is how the
mechanics work, this is how the photochemical process works, go shoot". So,
some good simple training and a little classroom stuff, but no in depth
theory or what-have-you. I have worked with many formats and standards. From
analogue to digital, PAL to NTSC, and 720 to 1080 High Definition. And I
have worked in many places. From Central and South Florida to New York City
(where I currently reside). That should give those of you unfamiliar with
who I am a basic idea.


First let me ask that the wonderful and enthusiastic members of this board
refrain from burying me under an avalanche of questions. I anticipate
writing a series of posts that will encompass the many "tests", opinions,
evaluations, and "discoveries" of mine in the next few weeks. I understand
that many are excited to hear my thoughts and opinions on my experience with
this camera and its performance in the side by side comparisons that I
performed with the Panasonic HDC-27F Varicam 720 High Definition DVCPROHD
camcorder. However, please refrain from asking a ton questions until my
series of post is completed. Or at least, until after I post my final
thoughts on the particular "test", opinion, evaluation, and "discovery". At
the moment, I have completed the first round of principle photography in
which I put the JVC HD10 next to the Panasonic HDC-27F. We have not yet
completed the donconversion of all of the 720/24P DVCPROHD in camera
originals to NTSC. Nor have I completed the donwconversion of the 720/30P
HDV in camera originals to NTSC. Also still on the list of tests and
comparisons for the HD10, is a side by side comparison to the Panasonic
AG-DVX100P in 480/30P mode, and some one on one time with just the JVC to
wrap everything up and see what I can pull out of the camera to really make
it shine. Like I said, I'm still just getting started. Nothing has been
fully evaluated. Nor am I ready to make any final statements of opinion...

So, without further disclaimer or ado...

Review Part 1, First Impressions of the JVC HD10's 720 HDV next to
Panasonic's HDC-27F's 720 DVCPROHD

The setup:

I was hired by Illusions Entertainment to shoot the short film "3 Days"
(working title). My acquisition format of choice was 1080/24P HDCAM. However
the budget reached the point, as it often does, that it couldn't support
1080 HDCAM. We even were concerned that 720 DVCPROHD would be a little
beyond the budget and we investigated the Panasonic SDX900. After some
working of the numbers on the part of our wonderful producer, and the
generosity of a friend who gave me a very, very good deal on his Varicam
package, we were able make 720 DVCPROHD happen.

This would be the fourth time I had worked with the Panasonic HDC-27F. My
first two outings with the Panasonic HDC-27F were as the D.I.T. and the 1st
Assistant Camera. My third was as the DP. Prior to my first experience with
the HDC27F, I had plenty of knowledge and experience with the Sony HDW-F900
and 1080 HDCAM. Both as a D.I.T. and a DP. But jumping into the HDC-27F and
doing 720 DVCPROHD was a whole new thing. In pre-production for my first job
with the HDC-27F (the job as the D.I.T.), I had the good fortune of
receiving a one on one training session with Panasonic's Anthony Sangiovanni
(my apolgies Anthony if you're out there and I misspelled your name).
Anthony took me through the menu system, the VTR's recording system and some
tips and tricks of the rig. Aside from the ingenius varible frame rate
recording method of the VTR, and some unique handling of the gamma and knee
functions in the camera head, the features, controls, systems and functions
aren't any different from any other profesional video camera of its kind.
However, the menu setup is a different story. For those of you who have
worked with some of Panasonics more recent high end model camcorders, the
menu's shouldn't be too foriegn. But they're still not very user friendly.
And the unique functions that I did mention regarding the gamma and knee
options are still going to be confusing to those of you who are familiar
with the other Standard Definition Panasonic camcorders. Just when you
thought you understand gamma and knee and its effects on electronic imaging,
Panasonic throws you the uniques features of FILM REC mode that no longer
use knee and gamma the same way. You're now dealing with Dynamic Range
Percentages and proprietary gamma numbers that don't always seem to add the
same way gamma does in normal video cameras. Not to mention coordinating
Black Pedestal and Black Stretch/Compress with Black Stretch Percentage...
By the same token, the menu structure on the Sony HDW-F900 isn't something
that any video novice could easily handle or understand. But for me, and
many others I have worked with, the Sony menu structure and access to
features seem to make more sense. And the same guideline applies. If you're
familiar with the menu system on a Sony DVW-790 DigitalBetaCAM, then aside
from a few options, you won't be completely lost on the F900.

I programmed the HDC-27F to modify the gamma, knee, detail, shading, and a
many other minor tweaks. I did not have the time or resources to properly
calibrate the color to a DSC CamAlign chart for accurate "true color". So,
the color was set to one of the default color options. I believe SMPTE-274,
but I don't have notes in front of me.

As many of you already know, the HDC-27F offers variable frame rate options
to facilitate the type of frame rate options available in many of todays
film cameras. This function is possible due to the unique 60P recording of
the VTR. In other words, regardless of the frame rate you choose to shoot,
the VTR always records the frames in a 60P sequence. Similiar to the DVX100,
but without the segmented frame recording or funky pulldown cadences. For
our purposes, I ran the camera in 24P to facilitate the motion signature of
most motion pictures.

Our HDC-27F package was configured with a 21X T2.1 rated Canon EC Zoom Lens.
This was the second time I've used this lens, and I must admit, it's quite
nice.

We were scheduled to do a 6 day shoot. But due to scheduling issues, we
ended running into a 7 day. Not fun to do 7 days straight. If it were not
for the fact that most crew knew each other and were friends who were
forgiving and understanding, there's no way that we would've been able to
get away with 7 days straight. And even though most of the crew agreed to do
a seventh straight day, we all still felt the strain and grumbled a bit. I
mention the schedule for two reasons. One, we were pressed for time from the
start. So please forgive me if the utmost care and attention was not paid to
the setup and operation of the JVC HD10. Remember, my primary function here
was to shoot the film I was paid to shoot with the Panasonic HDC-27F. So if
I didn't roll every single take, every single time, at every single
location, please forgive me. There were many times when setting up the HD10
was not possible due to time constraints. And when the AD is doing his job
(in other words, riding my ass about the time) and production who is paying
me good money to shoot for them is staring at me, sometimes I just had to
let the HD10 sit in the case. Two, due to shipping and pick up delays, I
didn't actually get the HD10 in my hands and on set until the fourth day!
So, I did get a full four days with it on set.
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Old November 13th, 2003, 08:01 PM   #2
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Jon Fordham's HD10 review Part 1, continued...

After we wrapped, I had a few minutes while discussing the day with the
director at his residence. The director has a Samsung 1080i High Definition
Television set with component inputs. So I asked if I could test the 720 to
1080 output option and take a peek at the HD10's footage on a true High
Definition set. I connected the adapter cable to the HD10, the components
into the set and pressed play. Just as promised, the image came up on the
screen in 1080i, correct aspect ratio and all! I was impressed. Not to
mention that I was relieved to see what the image really looked like. I let
out a sigh of relief as i realized that the LCD was a horrible
representation of actuall quality of the image. Fortunately, my instincts on
the exposure were as spot on as they could be for the expected limited
lattidue range of the CCD. The lack of full manual control of all aspects of
the camera, coupled with the "low end" specs of the camera itself produced
the image that one would expect. However, the image was by no means lacking
in image quality. The image had a very narrow range of contrast producing a
very contrasty image. The highlights were very bright and almost washed out
and the shadows were very dark to the point of almost going ink black.
However, the highlights did still hold plenty of detail and the shadows were
by no means murky or indescernible. The color was noticably desaturated as
expected from a single CCD. And I believe that the single CCD's lack of
color definition is what made the highlights look more washed out and almost
overexposed than they really were. I don't think the color looked bad, or
overly washed out. But, I was surprised by a close up shot on a cigar being
lit by one of the lawyers. The flame from the lighter as it ignited the
cigar was green! Weird UFO green. The brighter levels in the flame were
almost white. But the blue and orange areas of the flame were somehow green.
The 30P motion signature produced nice movement, but still had that smoother
more "video liike" look to it. Certainly better looking movement than 60i,
but not as nice as 24P. The image was very clean and clear. No obvious
noise. And as with all HD images, it was razor sharp. Too sharp, in my
opinion. Sharpness is the major complaint among many who work in HD. And
when it comes to filmmakers and Cinematographers, sharpness is usually the
first thing they notice and dislike. In my opinion, the whole point of High
Definition imaging is increased resolution. The ability to capture and
resolve the many subtle nuances of an image. Unfortunately, that increased
resolution and ability to resolve those subtle nuances often translates into
a very very sharp picture. For lack of a better way of putting it,
unnaturally sharp. But even though the sharpness of the HD10 was a bit
noticebly edge enhanced, it wasn't overly edge enhanced to the point of
being a major hinderence. After a few minutes of checking it out, I
disconnected the HD10 from the 1080i set and headed home to try and get 4
hours sleep in the unnacceptable 8 hour turnaround time... Non union and
indpendent. Need I say more...

The following evening I had the fortune of a proper 10 hour turnaraound
time. So, I foolishly spent my valuable time letting my curiousty get the
best of me! I connected the HD10 via Component to a Sony DSR-80 DVCAM studio
VTR. I connected the DSR-80 to my home television set (a 27" Sony Trinitron)
via the Y/C (S-Video) output, and set the HD10 to output the 720/30P signal
as a standard 480/60i NTSC siganl. Again the image came up no problem and
everything worked as it should. And again, I was impressed. Upon
downconversion, the image maintained the same qualities as it had on the
1080i television. Of course, with the obvious lower res reproduction syptoms
that any consumer Standard Definition television set has.

Then to see what we've all been waiting for, I connected the Panasonic
HD-130 DVCPROHD deck to the Sony DSR-80 DVCAM via SDI. The HD-130
downconverted the 720/24P DVCPROHD signal flawlessly. No fuss, no issues, no
problems at all. Man it's nice when things work the way they should! I
popped in the Varicam's DVCPROHD in camera original tape from the bar and
spent a few minutes scanning through it. The difference in image quality
between the HD10 and the 27F was immeadiately noticeble. The image from the
27F contained beautiful and accurate color with just the perfect level of
saturation for my taste. The contrast ratio was a nice and even level of
highlight and shadow. Easily reproducing the highlights at a level that
maintained the color and detail accurately as well as clearly reproducing
the fine details in the shadows. The contrast provided plenty of range of
deep blacks and bright whites while still producing a natural and even tone.
Of course, the 24P motion signature produced the expected "cinematic"
movement. And in true High Definition fashion, the image was razor sharp.
The difference though, between the "sharpness" of the HD10's image and the
27F's image, is in the way the image looks sharp. The HD10 doesn't show the
subtle nuances of detail and has an "electronic" edge enhanced quality to
it. The 27F's sharpness has a quality of extreme resolution. Capturing those
subtleys and resolving detail without having an unnatural electronic feel.
Skipping ahead to check out the Close Up of the cigar being lit that the
HD10 showed such unusaul color on, I find that the color on the 27F is
absolutely perfect. The levels aren't at all over expossed, the oranges are
beautiful and deep in color, and the blues are solid, and the flame of the
cigar buring comes across clearly and accurately. Even the tiny bits of ash
as the tabacco burns away is beatifully detailed.

After eating up my small amount of personal time with a few minutes of quick
pass comparison, I crash and prepare for the next day...

So, there's my quick first impressions. I hadn't planned on approaching this
"review" as a multi-part posting. I had antipated a shorter, more summary
type of posting of the whole experience after having the opportunity to
evaluate all the comparison shots. But due to post production delays on the
27F's downconverts, this is the way I'm doing it. Not to mention that Heath
informed me that the board was itching for info. And I didn't want to make
everybody wait for word on where things stand. Besides, this seems to be
just as informative, if not more anyway. And when it comes to the later
coparisons in the few weeks, the members of this board can follow my
thoughts, impressions and discoveries along with me.

My apolgies if this isn't quite what everybody was expecting. And please
forgive my spelling and occasional rambling off topic. I hope many of you
found this post informative or at least entertaining. And like I said,
please refrain from burying me under an avalanche of questions before I
finish the entire review. There will definitely be at least two or three
more parts to it. And I promise I will do my best to address every aspect of
the comparisons.

Thanks,
Jon Fordham
Open Source Creations
24P > HD > SD > DV
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Old November 13th, 2003, 08:34 PM   #3
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Excellent write-up, Jon -- many thanks!
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Old November 14th, 2003, 01:32 AM   #4
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Jon,

Glad you could use the HD10! I can't wait for the footage and the rest of your reviews!

heath
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Old November 14th, 2003, 06:37 AM   #5
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I've been that PA! --But they would never let me just sit there, I always had to clean the truck too.

Thanks for the great write up.

-Steven Galvano
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Old November 14th, 2003, 06:46 AM   #6
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Aaahhh... This is sooo interresting. I am happy to see that you took the time to really test it the way it should be. I think we have the chance to have a very professional individual do a head-to-head comparison with his mind opened to the HD10. Thanks Jon... really.

Another thing, as some of you may remember, I was testing the HD10 for a feature film (witch is right now shot using the varicam). I'll have to be on set for the last days of shoot next week to prepare the post production material. I will ask the production if it is possible for me to put the HD10 head to head with the varicam in some cases to further my own tests since the production company is interrested in pushing further the tests with the camera for future purposes. If I can, I will of course post HD images of both cameras. Let's hope they will let me do it... :)
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Old November 14th, 2003, 10:16 AM   #7
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Eric,

In light of Jon's comment on the HD being "too sharp", this indicates to me that this footage might be ideal afterall for conversion to 35mm film using the re-photograph technique (High end HD CRT, black and white footage, absolutely perfect conditions, throw in the right contrast filter), as a low cost film transfer method which would elliminate the 24 FPS issue.

Brian
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Old November 14th, 2003, 12:34 PM   #8
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I will be testing the HD10 output to 35mm film soon. I will transfer the 30fps HD to film images without FSP conversion, I just want to see how it looks.
It will be output on an Arri Laser film recorder. I will do some image processing for upres.
It should be interesting, at the least!
-Les
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Old November 14th, 2003, 12:38 PM   #9
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Looking forward to it. If one shoots for film on the HD10, it may just work out (with Magic Bullet, etc. going to 24P).

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Old November 14th, 2003, 02:25 PM   #10
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Excellent! Thank you and I look forward to the follow-ups.

Chris Murphy
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Old November 14th, 2003, 03:35 PM   #11
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Woooaaaa... This is getting very very interresting after all... Can't wait to see your results.
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Old November 14th, 2003, 04:41 PM   #12
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Heath wrote: Looking forward to it. If one shoots for film on the HD10, it may just work out (with Magic Bullet, etc. going to 24P)___________________________


It seems to me that Magic Bullet, Twixtor and other software solutions are unnecessarily going to introduce image degradation. I say unnecessarily as there may be no need to create a 24P digital version of a production simply to end up with an acceptable 24fps film reel.

Maybe I am missing something here, but it seems that although many film transfer service providers employ either a frame-by-frame transfer protocol, or a proprietary algorithm to combine interlace fields to end up with 24 FPS, these are not the only methods, especially when you begin with a “too sharp” progressive image.

If a Real Time method were instead employed, then theoretically the original file could be 30P and accurately copied to 24 FPS film retaining greater image resolution than if a software conversion to 24P was first performed prior to a frame-by-frame video to film transfer.

For what its worth, the idea of performing a real time transfer should not only offer a tremendous cost savings over other methods, but should especially appeal to users of the JVC HDV. Afterall, if cost were not an issue, the Cinealta 24P would have been selected in the first place.
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Old November 14th, 2003, 04:43 PM   #13
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For Jon Fordham, would you have any pics of the cams set up side by side? I'd love to host them as an addenum to your review. Thanks in advance,
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Old November 14th, 2003, 05:55 PM   #14
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By "real time" transfer, do you mean just dropping a frame here and there to get to 24 fps?
That would be super easy, but the motion would look a bit odd on pans, etc.
-Les



<<<-- Originally posted by Brian Mitchell Warshawsky : Heath wrote: Looking forward to it. If one shoots for film on the HD10, it may just work out (with Magic Bullet, etc. going to 24P)___________________________


It seems to me that Magic Bullet, Twixtor and other software solutions are unnecessarily going to introduce image degradation. I say unnecessarily as there may be no need to create a 24P digital version of a production simply to end up with an acceptable 24fps film reel.

Maybe I am missing something here, but it seems that although many film transfer service providers employ either a frame-by-frame transfer protocol, or a proprietary algorithm to combine interlace fields to end up with 24 FPS, these are not the only methods, especially when you begin with a “too sharp” progressive image.

If a Real Time method were instead employed, then theoretically the original file could be 30P and accurately copied to 24 FPS film retaining greater image resolution than if a software conversion to 24P was first performed prior to a frame-by-frame video to film transfer.

For what its worth, the idea of performing a real time transfer should not only offer a tremendous cost savings over other methods, but should especially appeal to users of the JVC HDV. Afterall, if cost were not an issue, the Cinealta 24P would have been selected in the first place. -->>>
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Old November 14th, 2003, 08:55 PM   #15
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Chris,

Rolling two cameras was enough for me!

There were a couple guys around that were rolling some behind the scenes stuff. But I honestly don't recall what days they were there and what days they weren't. I'll see if I can hunt down some BTS footage or stills or whatever for you.

OH, somehow the middle section of my review has dissappeared. There is a section between the two that are in this thread that seems to have vanished. I emailed the middle section to Heath to see if maybe he could insert it in there between the two.

I guess my technical knowledge of HD doesn't do a damn bit of good for me on the internet...

Jon
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