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Old November 1st, 2009, 07:26 PM   #1
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HDV vs. Full Frame Codecs

I'm an amateur videographer, with limited experience mostly related to one man documentary shooting and multiple camera shoots of panel/individual speakers. I have modest experience with editing using FCP, and limited experience with audio, relying upon Rode and Shure equipment. I use my equipment for various non-profit organizations that I am a member of, and to date much of this has been in SD 4x3 format. Recently several of these groups have decided to migrate to 16x9 format, although SD is still the primary acquisition tool.

My dilemma is that I'd like to acquire higher quality equipment, but I'm unsure of formats. I've had experience with Canon XL2 and XH-A1 camcorders, but no experience with non tape cameras or formats. My final delivery will likely be DVD format, although a HD solution may be used at some point.

My knowledge of Codecs is limited, primarily learned from forums like this and internet
sites specializing in video (many are known to this group). What I have read/heard is that long GOP formats have many compromises, both in color and potential drop out loss. More sophisticated formats (P2, SxS, and non-tape solutions in general) are still evolving with new formats coming out frequently. The cost of solid state acquisition is an issue, but my bigger issue is the limited storage time on P2 and SxS media, especially compared to inexpensive MiniDV tape, and the problems imposed when shooting documentary footage with unknown shooting schedules.

I am torn between a XH-A1, HVX200/HPX170, Sony EX1/3, and others, but I'm concerned about acquisition and storage. I prefer the HVX/HPX solution, but the issue of P2 cards using is concerning.

I've tried to search this forum for posts addressing this topic, but there seems to be no single area where they are listed, leaving me searching many posts without success.

Any help is appreciated. Thanks in advance for pointing me to threads where this has been covered, or providing direct responses to this topic.
Len Capristo is offline   Reply With Quote
Old November 1st, 2009, 07:55 PM   #2
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I think you're a bit on the back foot with rather a distance to go before your questions are answered.

There are several key components that will make up the "right decision" for you. You might break them down differently, but here's how I'd do it.
1. Budget: That will limit your choices and make things a bit easier.

2. Edit suite computer and software: Some are better with certain codecs than others and very few like AVCHD. You'll need a fast i7 to edit natively or you'll need to transcode to an intermediate. This will effect item #3 below too. In comparing the two major "open" codecs, AVCHD is more efficient at compressing (at the expense of the processor power needed to do so) than HDV. Plus it can be full raster (1920x1080) and can deal with higher data rates than HDV. In theory, it's higher quality. I'm not familiar with the proprietary codecs but if they use intraframe or very short GOP interframe compression, that is a better thing.

3. Workflow: Tape or tapeless? Many, myself included, have said in their own ways that there is no magic bullet answer to this question. You need to research the workflow options that work for you. Tape is simple but time consuming to ingest footage. Tapeless is more complex and has more workflow options but archiving is more cumbersome since you have to write the files out to something. BD seems to be the conventional best option at the moment.

There are many other considerations, but working on these should get you started. Search around here and check with anyone with experience. You'll find your way. It just might take a while and a false start or two is OK. Just make sure that you get item #1 right.
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Old November 2nd, 2009, 07:51 PM   #3
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Hi Len, It would be very helpful for you to spend a lot of time on this forum reading the discussions in the threads that relate to the various cameras and shooting applications that you have an interest in. There are a lot of knowledgeable and helpful people here. Most are very objective as well. There aren't many fanboys with closed minds.

You will probably find that as you absorb what others have to say your own thinking will become clearer with respect to the equipment that best fits your needs and budget.
Jim Snow is offline   Reply With Quote
Old November 2nd, 2009, 09:32 PM   #4
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I'll give you my view.

1. Tape vs. Tapeless. No contest. Tapeless will save you EONS of time and money. I look at buying tape like tossing money into a fire. Someone would have to pay me real money to deal with tape again.

2. Codecs. AVCHD as a last resort. P2 and SxS make little sense. If you can afford it, buy an EX1 or HPX170 and a Convergent Design XDR. Then you'll be buying CompactFlash media, recording to a codec that is WORLDS better than SxS or P2, and for way less money. You can even sell the recorder when you're done with your project are recoup a large part of your expense. The XDR gives you redundant recording at bitrates suitable for NatGeo, BBC, etc. Back up nightly to two hard drives, and keep those drives separated by miles each day in case the worst happens.

In short, buy a camera with a HDSDI or HDMI out. That releases you from whatever codec the camera records. Worry about how good the glass is, and how good the sensors are. If you are going to be traveling, put 30 hours worth of tapes in your hands. Then put 30 hours worth of compact flash in your hands. Figure out which you'd rather deal with. If you absolutely, positively have to do it on the cheap, you can use the SDHC option in the Sony EX1. I record an hour's worth of footage onto $35 worth of card. And unlike tape, I can use it again tomorrow.
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Old November 4th, 2009, 09:31 PM   #5
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Thank you for the responses. They are very helpful and have pointed me in the right direction.
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