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Old December 31st, 2003, 02:48 PM   #1
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Digital Betacam vs MiniDV

I've observed footage from various MiniDV camera from US$400-$3500 on a LCD NTSC monitor. The quality is poor compared to what I see on TV. It appears that high quality TV shows like Young and Restless (see below) are recorded on Digital Beta. Cameras start at around US$25,000. Compression is much lower than MiniDV. How much better quaility is Digital Beta than MiniDV?

Article below: Young and Restless is recorded in Digital Beta. The light levels used are actualy quite low, around 100-150 LUX. OK, I admit to watching this show. It's my lunch time enjoyment. The quality of the picture is amazing even on my US$120 TV.

http://www.highdef.org/magazine/arch...-Dec_2001H.pdf
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Old December 31st, 2003, 03:39 PM   #2
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http://www.adamwilt.com/DV-FAQ-tech.html#FormatTable
The format itself is better than mini-DV if you are viewing the footage on high end monitors with a very clean signal chain. In real world scenarios where you are sitting at a distance from your TV, there is very little difference between the formats. Blue screen work is an exception, but there isn't a lot of that in soaps.

Thw two major differences between digibeta and mini-DV are production values and difference in the cameras. Digibeta productions usually have a lot of money put into them and are usually in nice, controlled conditions. Digitbeta cameras usually have ~$15k Fujinon lenses and 2/3" CCDs. They have more depth of field, no "optical" defects (vertical smear for example), superior low light, superior color accuracy, and better manual controls.
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Old December 31st, 2003, 06:00 PM   #3
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High End MiniDV

Thanks Glenn for pointing me to this article. I'd seen it before but forgot about it.

So is it true then that the camera makes a far greater difference on final video quality than the video format.

Using Adam Wilts numbers from 1-10, he rates VHS at 3.5. If I compare VHS movies I rent or broadcast TV saved to VHS this would be a maximum of 3.5 according to him. If I compare this VHS image to video produced on an under US$3,500 video camera, I would have to give prosumer MiniDV about 1.0 and cheaper camcorders about 0.5. But Adam Wilt gives MiniDV a number of 9.0. Does MiniDV quality vary that much, from 0.5 all the way to 9.0? What type of MiniDV camera even come close to 9.0?

Yeah, I bought a MiniDV camcorder because I saw numbers like this, but when I got the camcorder, I realized that common MiniDV cameras aren't anywhere near this quality.
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Old December 31st, 2003, 06:43 PM   #4
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Adam's ratings are actually very fair, but he's comparing video formats NOT cameras.

Say for instance, you have a most excellent video camera, but it's just a camera - it produces a video signal you're going to record onto tape. You have a choice of tape formats you can plug your camera into. Adam is rating the tape format for their picture quality in recording a source.

In most situations, there is very little quality difference between miniDV and DigiBeta - but only if they are recording the same source video or are connected to the same brilliant camera.

All miniDV cameras record with equal quality in terms of tape format, but it's the lenses, CCDs and other circuitry, and the skill of the cameraman which determines the finished quality which you are comparing, and as you can see, there are way too many variables to compare easily.

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Old December 31st, 2003, 06:44 PM   #5
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The numbers only apply to the format. If you feed the format a perfect picture, then the results should stack up close to his ratings. However, the format the pictures were shot is just one factor in the overall quality of the image. Things like color "correction" can make dramatic improvements to image quality. Lighting is also very important.

Decent mini-DV cameras would be the VX2000/PD150 and DVX100. That gives you a high quality image for a few thousand. Cameras like the Sony DSR500 ($10k or $20kish, not sure) have interchangeable lenses so you can put a nice $15k lens on, 2/3" chips, and other features that make it a high end camera.

mini-DV is the best consumer format right now if buying new. If you're ok with converting hi8 to DV then you can pick up a 3CCD hi8 camera, but the hi8 format is not as good as mini-DV for getting footage. You might be able to pick up a nice hi8 camera though with things like real manual controls, lenses that can rack focus, 3CCDs, etc.
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Old December 31st, 2003, 06:57 PM   #6
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If this helps any:

As a cinematographer, I would request copies of projects I have worked on in DigiBeta (they usually originated on 35mm or 16mm). The process of building demo reels from this footage was previously cumbersome and costly, since I would have to beg, borrow or steal my way into a Digitbeta online suite. I was preparing to sink 20K+ into a Media 100 edit system a few years back when (thankfully) Final Cut 1.0 came out and I got a chance to see what it could do with Digibeta footage transferred to MiniDv. I bought a system with a DSR-11 DVCam deck, and starting cutting my reels at home.

With pristine film footage dubbed to DV, the image is lovely. Yes, if placed side by side I can see the difference between that and Digibeta, but viewed by itself it's impressive, and I considered the price effectiveness to be worth it. Nobody has ever noticed the compression to be a problem when viewing my reels. Ironically, DVD is just starting to become a viable format to distribute demo reels, but believe it or not 3/4" is still the predominant format out there!

So to echo what has been said before: it's all about the source material (camera or original format of footage). DV is surprisingly good for the price point.
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Old January 1st, 2004, 06:57 PM   #7
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http://www.matternvideo.com/formats.htm

I am surprised 3/4 inch is listed as the same S/N ratio as Hi8. I always thought Hi8 was noisy, but I guess it was just the cameras matched to it? In any case, Hi8 is dropout city.
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Old January 1st, 2004, 07:15 PM   #8
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Nice link, but I can't believe they have all their facts straight - they list a different resolution for DV as for DVCAM - they're in fact identical.

Also, they have D-1 as a lower resolution than DV, which again, I can hardly believe - they are both going to record to the same 601 format digital video, just with compression on the DV (and those 6 extra lines missing, but they don't effect horizontal resolution)
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Old January 1st, 2004, 09:15 PM   #9
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If you're going to compare formats, you have to do it with equivalent cameras. Comparing DVCAM shot with a $4,000 camera to DigiBeta shot with a $50,000 package is not very meaningful. If you take a camera like the DSR500/570 (about $18,000 plus lens...you can get a fairly nice setup for around $25K or so) and recored something to DVCAM and at the same time record to a Digibeta deck via the 26 pin output, then play the tapes back, the Digibeta will look somewhat better, but not overwhelmingly so under many conditions. Still, the less compressed the format, the better the look. A DV50 format recorded with the same camera will look better than DV25. But, if you took a low end DV camera, say a VX2000, and recorded to Digibeta with it and recorded the same object to DVCAM with a DSR500, I would guess that most people would like the look of the DVCAM over the Digibeta. It's the camera more than it is the format these days. Unfortunately a lot of people who knock DV as poor quality usually have only seen stuff shot with the lower end cameras.
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Old January 1st, 2004, 09:47 PM   #10
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Oh certainly yes, mini DV with a high end camera would easily without question crush DigiBeta from a VX2000.

DigiBeta not only has less compression but also has more color bandwidth.

Think of miniDV as being like audio MP3 at 128kbps and think of DigiBeta as a real CD. You can perceive a difference if you look for it, but the difference is not obvious to most people nor annoying or detrimental to the experience.

But a VX2000 to DigitBeta would be like making a CD from a recording from a SoundBlaster microphone, while a high end camera to miniDV would be like listening to an MP3 file of a recording with all high end microphones and preamps.
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Old January 2nd, 2004, 02:35 PM   #11
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MiniDV compression

Thanks for all the feedback. This is a big revelation that Digital Beta is "really" just a hair above MiniDV in quality if shot with the same camera. So it's the camera quality that counts most. I wish there was a list that showed how different cameras compared to each other in quality all the way from low end comsumer to highest end commercial. I thought a US$3,500 camera such as the Sony VX2000 was already nearing top quality MiniDV. I guess not.

I read Adam Wilts comments about DV artifacts such as mosquito noise, quilting, and motion blocking. I sounds like he thinks that these artifacts are mostly caused by the compresssion of the MiniDV format. What does compression have to do with camcorder quality? So here is my big question. Do high end MiniDV cameras compress the DV image better than lower end cameras?

http://www.adamwilt.com/DV-FAQ-tech.html#FormatTable
http://www.adamwilt.com/pix-artifacts.html
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Old January 2nd, 2004, 02:39 PM   #12
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Well, no and yes. All MiniDV camera's use the exact same DV
format and algorithm. BUT, if a camera has better optics, better
electronics and better software algorithms this will yield a far
better picture (usually less noise etc.) that actually might change
how it is compressed as well etc. Basically there is a DV codec
inside each camera and we know for a fact (when looking at the
difference in DV codecs on computers!) that how well a codec is
written will have a huge impact on how well it compresses
footage (not in the amount of compression, but in quality).
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Old January 2nd, 2004, 02:53 PM   #13
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DV Codec

Thanks Rob for this information on DV codec. Could it be that many prosumer camcorders have reasonable lenses and CCDs, but that the manufacturers are just dumping cheap software into these cameras? To push people on an endless upgrade path maybe? I tell you my Panasonic PV-DV852 camcorder has about the same glass quality and same area of each photosite as my Nikon CP5400 digital still camera, but the Panasonic has vastly worse video and still pictures than the Nikon. It looks to me like the Panasonic has done a horrible job of compression, exactly the same defects as I've seen on images taken with early digital still cameras.
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Old January 2nd, 2004, 03:06 PM   #14
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Quote:
I read Adam Wilts comments about DV artifacts such as mosquito noise, quilting, and motion blocking. I sounds like he thinks that these artifacts are mostly caused by the compresssion of the MiniDV format. What does compression have to do with camcorder quality? So here is my big question. Do high end MiniDV cameras compress the DV image better than lower end cameras?
I don't think there is a difference in DV compression between the high end or low end. If there is, it seems like no one has noticed and that Sony isn't advertising it.

Images from high end cameras should be slightly easier to compress. They don't have image sharpening turned up a lot, which would reduce mosquito noise slightly. Less noise overall makes the images easier to compress. I don't think the difference in compression makes too much of a difference though. I never notice any of these artifacts in real life footage.
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Old January 2nd, 2004, 03:50 PM   #15
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Ben, your Nikon still camera is a 5.1MP camera and the Nikon optics are superior to what is on your Panasonic. You really can't compare them. Digital files are resolution limited, meaning poor resolution will show first. Noise is important, but most digital files, given proper exposure, will show little noise. The low resolution CCD and optics have the greatest effect on your image quality.
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