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Old November 30th, 2009, 07:27 PM   #1
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Location: Raleigh NC
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Looking for detailed codec camera sources

Before I begin, I've used the search function extensively, but I'm not very experienced in this field and most of the posts I've discovered are very long, but not specifically focused on fundamental information and sources. I've spent hours looking, but not knowing what questions to ask, I'm becoming frustrated reading very interesting threads, but unfortunately they are not directed at the knowledge I'm trying to learn. I'm looking for the equivalent of textbook, or professional articles, addressing codecs and cameras.

I have some limited experience on Canon XL2 and XH-A1 cameras, and editing on an older MacBook Pro using FCP 5. I am a hobbyist, not a professional, and I don't ever expect to have a movie made or sell my video to the Discovery Channel. BUT, I do appreciate high quality products and technique and I want to learn the right way to do things. I've taken some classes at Duke University's Center for Documentary studies (a very fine program), but the majority of the classes are dedicated (correctly) to learning the art of documentary story telling. I am lacking in technical skills and knowledge.

I have a strong interest in shooting high performance automobile driver training. Involved is both in car and on track video capture, often at less than ideal circumstances (things move fast at 150 MPH and in changing light). As I gather information I've come across new tools that would seem to allow even modest cameras to act like much bigger machines. I'm speaking of tools like Convergent Design Nano Flash technology and various Matrox products (MXO2 family) that appear to take compressed and long GOP formats and convert them to higher resolution formats in real time. Am I understanding the technology correctly; is what I just wrote possible?

If so, it's been suggested to me that I acquire a EX1R, taking advantage of the full resolution video chip and SDI output to fully use the power of the Nano Flash technology. If I follow the AES manual addressing frame rates and jutter, I should be able to avoid skew. Others tell me that shooting anything moving at high speed will result in skew at some point, and why not use the Panasonic P2 cameras, especially the HPX170. Even though the resolution isn't as sharp as the Sony chip, it is still very sharp and the flexibility in the camera will allow me to capture a lot more action because of the easier to handle size and ergonomics of the camera.

Almost everyone tells me that using a high quality tripod/head (Sachtler gets recommended a lot) is mandatory for getting solid, fast moving video from a distance. Others tell me that having a small form factor camera in the car, regardless of the capture codec is more important.

Not knowing very much about what I'm trying to learn, I don't know which information is best for my intended use and which is less useful. And that is why I'm here.

I have a MacBook Pro laptop (first Core Duo Intel chip, 256MB video RAM, upgraded HDD to 320GB, with an express slot) with FCP Studio 5 loaded on it. I also have (don't laugh) a Kodak Zi8 camera and appropriate SDHC cards for it. I was thinking of adding a Sennheiser Evolution G2 wireless mic to it for capturing in car video, but I think at the speeds I'd be traveling, the video camera would have to be shock mounted somewhere in the car.

So, do I go with a lower end camera/codec (Panasonic HMC50/150, various others) and upgrade the video through an external source (Convergent/Matrox), or go the higher end route of the EX1R or the HPX170? More importantly, to me, where do I go to learn how to answer that question for myself? Where is the source material about codecs, camera design/capture, transcoding and NLE suites, etc.?

Thanks in advance
Len Capristo is offline   Reply With Quote
Old November 30th, 2009, 10:25 PM   #2
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To first answer your question, I must ask another couple of questions -

What is your budget, and what are you trying to achieve?

I have talked to guys who shoot race stuff for a living, they know the ins and outs of what works and what doesn't work very well. I am currently doing post daily on a show that does a LOT of aerial photography, both onboard and shooting the planes in action, and I can tell you about what they producer/camera man on that show would recommend as well...

Most of your findings so far are pretty much correct - what you lack is the experience to be able to turn those findings into an absolute answer.

The only way to get an absolute answer in this case is to either learn by doing (and thus gaining experience) or ask someone who has done it before - but for someone who has done it before is going to need to know what your budget is, and what you are trying to achieve, because otherwise they'll spend a lot of time prattling on about stuff you can't use or afford, and wasting both their time and yours.

What are your priorities? Is it to get in car stuff to show what's happening in the car (for training purposes) or to get out of car stuff to show what's happening on the track.

If they are both equally important, then what is it in both instances that you are looking at showing specifically - because that will dictate the best tool for the job.

E.g - if you are wanting to show what's happening on the pedals inside the car, then a low bitrate small form factor camera will probably suffice, because the scenery isn't changing much. If you want to show what's coming up on the track, then a low bitrate small formfactor camera with a crappy codec is going to fall to bits completely as the scenery changes and will be a complete waste of money.

It sounds like to get what you want you are going to need more than one tool. Each tool will do one job, and not the other. So you need to work out a total budget, then work out what tools you would like out of that budget, and then other people can probably take a shot at what your primary purchases should be and whether the budget will suffice or you'll need to grow your kit over time to eventually achieve what you want.
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