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Old July 20th, 2010, 01:03 PM   #1
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Need Advice on Upgrading from HDV

Hi

I produce and direct amateur fiction films but am hoping, someday, to be able to get something on the telly or even show films in a cinema.

I've shot a film in DV and 2 films in HDV. But now I've reached the point where I really want to upgrade from HDV to a better format. By better I mean full 1080 HD (not 1440 x 1080 upscaled) or higher resolution, 4:2:2 color sampling or better, progressive capture and intraframe compression.

I currently own a Canon XH A1. And I could really use a camera with better features now, especially a better viewfinder to make focusing easier, more switches (you can never have too many switches) and interchangeable lenses. The problem is, what do I upgrade to?

I'm thinking of spending up to $9000 (£6000) at most, including a lens or lenses and rails and stuff if needed. But if there's a far better camera for a little more I'll just have to save up for longer...

I've considered the Panasonic HPX300 or the RED Scarlet so far (when it comes out - still need to save up so no rush). Does anyone have any other suggestions?

Another option I considered was a DVC Pro HD , HD CAM, HD CAM SR type tape format, but the big ENG type cameras that run these tapes might be out of my price range, unless I can get a second hand one. I'm not sure which of these formats are intraframe compression though and intraframe is a must.

I do own some very good Canon EF-S lenses (10-22mm and 17-55mm) that I use with my digital SLR, but I'm guessing these are not going to be compatible with any upgrade camera I get?

I guess another thing to consider is using a 35mm adaptor, since I am looking for a more cinematic feel to my productions. But the price would have to be included in the total listed above so it might be out of my range.

I'm a bit overwhelmed and out of my depth so any help would be much appreciated

Thanks for listening

Stuart
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Old July 20th, 2010, 01:18 PM   #2
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Um... to jump up to HDCam/HDCamSR you would need to increase your budget by more than a factor of ten.

At that budget figure, you may want to stick to dSLR shooting with a ton of support gear (and good glass) IF you are looking to do mostly dramatics. For more verité stuff, the EX1r with support gear might serve you well.
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Old July 20th, 2010, 01:57 PM   #3
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Hi Stuart if you need to check out a HPX301 you are welcome to come and see mine I am in Durham about 60 miles away.
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Old July 20th, 2010, 02:28 PM   #4
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Originally Posted by Stuart Graham View Post
I'm thinking of spending up to $9000 (£6000) at most, including a lens or lenses and rails and stuff if needed. But if there's a far better camera for a little more I'll just have to save up for longer...
Surely at that price point, the EX3 must be the obvious choice? Don't forget all the extras you may need to get with more expensive cameras apart from matte boxes etc - I'm thinking of pro batteries and memory if it's a solid state camera. (An HPX371 is about £7,250 plus VAT in the UK - batteries, charger, and enough memory for 2 hours recording will easily push that up to well over £9,000 plus VAT.)

It also gives you the chance to start using it now within your price range, whilst still saving for a nanoFlash to give a fully approved broadcast codec.
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I'm not sure which of these formats are intraframe compression though and intraframe is a must.
Can I ask why? You may get motion artifacting with lower bitrate interframe codecs (such as HDV) but above a certain bitrate level that effectively goes away. For editing, it's obviously possible to transcode anyway.

Both HDCAM and DVCProHD (not HDCAM-SR) are sub-sampled, and rely on older technology - personally I'd prefer XDCAM-HD over them, in spite of it's being interframe.
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Old July 20th, 2010, 03:15 PM   #5
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David: Thanks for the camera recommendation. I wanted to avoid intraframe codecs because of the unpleasant tearing artefacts we've seen when panning (even slow panning) to follow the action or do reveals in my films. What do you think is the minimum bit rate to go for to avoid these artefacts with long GOP compression? The EX3 looks good, I'll add it to my list. Do you have an EX3?

Shaun: Good thinking. I've thought about going down the dSLR route (I have a 550d), but for the ambitious pull focus shots, dolly shots and stuff I tryto do I'm not sure it'll work (I really need someone to control focus remotely with a Lanc controller or suchlike, like we do with my XH A1).. Plus I'd have to invest in an audio recorder as well as there's no XLR in on an SLR. And I think I'd miss zebra stripes and easy white balancing and so on. I think the compression on these SLR cameras is going to give artefacts where there's too much movement as well? I'm shooting complete fiction, no Cinema Verite or documentary stuff.

Gary: Thanks very much, I'll send you an E-mail and pop over on the train one weekend...

Does anyone think the RED Scarlet might be the camera I'm looking for?
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Old July 20th, 2010, 03:22 PM   #6
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XF series

Hey Stuart.....
If you're on a budget, but want those specs, i would suggest looking into the Canon XF series camcorders.
It shoots 1920x1080 square pixel and 4:2:2 at CBR 50mbps.

Although it won't give you the same look as film, 35mm adapters are being sold at a fever's pace nowadays. I'm not sure what's needed to screw onto the larger thread of the XF lens.

If this is over your budget, i'd suggest sticking with HDV, and using a Redrock Micro...

Good luck!!!
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Old July 20th, 2010, 03:59 PM   #7
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The Canon XF range look like really nice cameras Peter! Good recommendation, thank you!

50 Mbps is pretty good, isn't that double the HDV bitrate?

Do you think at this bitrate I'll completely avoid the compression artefacts that have plagued my productions in the past?

And the XF cameras takes standard CF memory cards which will save quite a bit of dough.

I notice these cameras have HD-SDI out. I guess that could be potentially useful in the long term if I decide to go even higher quality in the future and record to an expensive disk system.

Do the XF series cameras have a fixed lens? I'm assuming so but it doesn't seem tell you on the Canon website.

I think the key features for my next camera are:

* Avoiding compression artefacts with camera movement and fast action.
* Having 4:2:2 color sampling or better.
* Full HD resolution.
* A better viewfinder and better focus controls than on my XH A1... I could always invest in a 35mm adaptor in the future, I can do without one for now.

Any other suggestions anyone?
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Last edited by Stuart Graham; July 20th, 2010 at 04:12 PM. Reason: Missed bits out
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Old July 20th, 2010, 04:38 PM   #8
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I wanted to avoid intraframe codecs because of the unpleasant tearing artefacts we've seen when panning (even slow panning) to follow the action or do reveals in my films.
I assume a misprint and you mean interframe....? There's interframe and interframe - and a lot is down to bitrate. Reduce the bitrate too much and it's true you'll get artifacts, above a certain level they'll be small enough to neglect. Also bear in mind that intraframe will show a different type of artifacting, it may handle motion better but can show problems on detail - and even on static shots.
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What do you think is the minimum bit rate to go for to avoid these artefacts with long GOP compression? The EX3 looks good, I'll add it to my list. Do you have an EX3?
The EBU did a series of codec trials a year or two back, and their recommendation with MPEG2 is 50Mbs - they give that unqualified approval for broadcast acquisition. For intra-frame the recommendation is AVC-Intra at 100Mbs. They describe either of those as effectively "transparent" in normal usage.

Personally, most people will struggle to see much difference between XDCAM at 35Mbs and 50Mbs in normal viewing. Raw numbers don't really mean very much, a lot may depend on the standard of individual equipment, and overall quality may depend far more on the quality of the camera front end than codec.

You can add a nanoFlash to an EX to get the 50Mbs rate (and many people do), but the point of the previous post was that a basic EX is easily within your price rating now - you can always add a nanoFlash as and when you can afford it.
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Does anyone think the RED Scarlet might be the camera I'm looking for?
I would suggest you price it up, I think it may be out of your price range. I believe the post workflow is more complicated than most.

The Canon XF300/305 seems to be comparable to the EX. In it's favour are the 50Mbs codec natively, and there are good reports about the lens performing better than expected for a 1/3" chip camera, on the other hand, it's a fixed lens and the chips are 1/3" v 1/2" of the EX. It's the only 1/3" camera to get BBC approval for HD use, which must give it an edge over the HPX300. (The EX1/3 gets approval only if used with a nanoFlash.)
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Old July 20th, 2010, 05:39 PM   #9
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Oops, well spotted David, I did mean interframe.

Thanks for all the info David, that's clarified a lot of issues for me :)

The Nanoflash is certainly expensive but looks amazing. I guess in the long run the XF300/305 would be a bit cheaper for me as it's already 50Mbps. Then again if I wanted to go even higher quality then the nanoflash would allow that. Or there's the HD-SDI out on the XF300/305 which I could feed into a nanoflash too I suppose?

I notice the EX3 can have remote controllers plugged into it which would be really useful for the dolly shots and stuff we tend to do.

I've got plenty of options to mull over. I'll have to look at the heated XF300/305 versus EX1/3 debates now...

Just out of curiosity, would you go for an EX or an XF David?

Then, given the extra expense is it worth getting an XF305 rather than an XF 300; or an EX3 rather than an EX1 do you reckon?
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Old July 20th, 2010, 07:22 PM   #10
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The EX3 has interchangeable lenses. The EX1R and XF300/305 do not.

I'm looking to upgrade same as you but I think it's flawed to buy based on a spec that doesn't consider sensor size. But you can read up on the discussions and make your own conclusion.

I've concluded the EX line (at 4:2:0/35MB) has image advantages due to the larger chip size. My sense is that the EX 1/2" sensor/4:2:0/35MB may solve the HDV artifact problem for you. And as you noted, it has an SDI out for later when you want to shoot 4:2:2/50 or 4:2:2/100.

On the EX series, you'll be getting your 4:2:2 off of 1/2" chips vs 1/3" chips from the XF305 (the XF300 does not have SDI out). BTW, the EX1R is a fixed lens like the XF but also has the 1/2" chips like the EX3 and it also has SDI out. It's cheaper than the XF as well.

In the should you save up and wait, I think people expect Canon to rev it's XL line in sept (I am only repeating others) and that line has interchangeable lenses so..... nonetheless, consider the sensor size.

Sony showed a 35mm-ish sized sensor camera with interchangeable lenses designed for documentary filmmakers at NAB:
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Old July 21st, 2010, 03:03 AM   #11
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Thanks for the insights and other camera options Les.

I'm really glad I asked in the forum after getting all this help. What did we do before the internet and forums? I'd have bought something totally inappropriate I guess!

The EX3 might be more future proof for me with its interchangable lenses, but with nanoflash it's going to make it a bit too expensive. These are the prices I've come up with on Google Products:

EX1R = £4500
EX3 = £5600

Nanoflash upgrade = £2600

XF300 = £4900
XF305 = £5600

I guess I'd have to factor in accessories as well, especially the memory cards. It looks like the SxS cards the Sony EX cameras use are very expensive. So perhaps the XF300/305 are better value as they use lower cost CF cards and come with 50MBs bit rate as standard.

I'll keep an eye out for the new Canon XL, the upcoming Sony 35mmish and the RED Scarlet while I'm saving up...
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Old July 21st, 2010, 04:15 AM   #12
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Just out of curiosity, would you go for an EX or an XF David?
Probably still the EX, but whereas up until now it's been a one horse race around that price point, now it's far more difficult. To me, the main draw of the Canon is the fully approved 50Mbs codec, against that the EX is 1/2" chips and you can always add an external recorder later. I don't think there's a simple answer.
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Then, given the extra expense is it worth getting an XF305 rather than an XF 300; or an EX3 rather than an EX1 do you reckon?
I'd probably go for the EX3, mainly for better connectivity and being able to genlock and slave timecodes if desired. It also has interchangeable lenses, and is better ergonomically than either the EX1 or the Canons when handheld. (Though it's far from perfect.) It's also more suited to having "extras" bolted to it, and with an adaptor you can make use of pro type batteries, which also help with weight and balance.

Maybe out of your price range (about £9,400 plus VAT), but take a look also at the PMW320 which is similar to an EX, but in a full pro style shoulder mount.

And what sort of timescale are you working to? If not in a desperate hurry it may be worth waiting to see what happens at IBC, and Les also brings up the subject of the camera Sony announced at NAB, though that's likely to be a little way off.
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I guess I'd have to factor in accessories as well, especially the memory cards. It looks like the SxS cards the Sony EX cameras use are very expensive.
Ah, a pleasant surprise for you! Do a search on the EX forum and you'll find a lot said about using SDHC cards in the EX with an adaptor. At first, it was a bit hit and miss - not all adaptors and not all cards worked - but now it's much less of a worry. Tested adaptors are sold exactly for the purpose, and Sony have now given the idea seal of approval to the extent that they market their own adaptor to allow both SDHC and Memory Stick to be used.

You do have to follow a few golden rules. ONLY use approved adaptors and memory cards - and the approval list can change. ALWAYS test the SDHC cards before proper use - occasionally you may find a card which is below spec, good enough for still camera use, but not for sustained video. DON'T rely on them for overcranking. (You can always record overcrank to a true SxS card, then copy the clip to SDHC in camera.)
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Old July 21st, 2010, 04:52 AM   #13
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Thanks again David, I'm becoming more enlightened by the hour :)

And you're selling me on the EX3! Even though I've always been a Canon man up to now.

I didn't realise SDHC cards can be used in the EX1/EX3 with an adaptor, that's fanastic news! And really useful to know for pricing things up.

What do you mean by overcranking David?

There's no rush to buy, I won't be able to afford a new camera until next year, so I'll definitely wait and see what comes up at the IBC in September... and see if the new Sony 35mmish thingy is revealed... and maybe, just maybe, the RED Scarlet might come on the market...
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Old July 21st, 2010, 05:44 AM   #14
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Look, you probably want 100MB for a feature film anyway. The Canon XF305 is the same price as the EX 3 yet doesn't have interchangeable lenses which I thought was a requirement for what you want to do.

Do apples to apples. If you compromise on the lens mount, then price the SDI enabled XF305 against a fixed lens EX1R which has the SDI output. For interchangeable lenses, compare the upcoming SDI enabled XL model (probably 1/3" like the XF) against the 1/2" EX3.

Also, isn't image quality as important as specs? Depending who you believe, the XF image at 50MB isn't better than the EX at 35MB and the EX also has a minimum 1 stop or more (depending on who you listen to) lowlight capability. It follows that 100MB off the 1/2" EX will be better than 100mb of the 1/3" XF.
You may have seen this comparison: XDCAM-USER.com Canon XF305 Review with Sample XF/EX clips

A colleague of mine just sold his EX1 and bought 3 EX3s. He uses the Hoodman Raw SxS adapter and their SDHC cards. A 16GB is $1340 and 32GB is $240. He says he's had zero failures with them:
RAW SxSxSDHC Memory Adapter-Hoodman Corporation

I empathize with you on Canon but things have changed and their products, ergonomics and market strategy may not serve your needs. They don't mine.

Not to stir the pot but you should double check there's an adapter for whatever camera you choose that will let you use the lenses you have. And, there's also this Panny coming out soon targeted at your space:
Panasonic Introduces AG-AF100 4/3-Inch Professional High-Definition Camcorder | Studio Daily

But for all of these APS-C based cameras, you are buying into the 1.0 versions (bleeding edge). Also, you may find they've moved onto a new CODEC like AVC which is also new.

Then there's the DSLR route....YMMV
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Old July 21st, 2010, 05:50 AM   #15
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I didn't realise SDHC cards can be used in the EX1/EX3 with an adaptor, that's fanastic news!
The official Sony adaptor is listed at Sony : MEAD-SD01 (MEADSD01) : Features : United Kingdom and as for what Sony have to say about it:

The MEAD-SD01 has been specifically developed by Sony to operate with XDCAM EX hardware and, as long as users follow the usage guidelines with recommended Class 10 SDHC products, they can be confident of the correct operation of their XDCAM EX hardware.

Note the caveats - equivalent to my "golden rules"!

Also be aware there are other, cheaper, third party adaptors on sale.
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What do you mean by overcranking David?
Filming at a higher frame rate than the film will eventually be shown. The origin of the term goes back to hand cranked cameras - it meant turning the handle on the side faster than normal! It means that a slow motion efect will be seen on playback.

As far as the EX goes, then in a 50Hz country, you may wish final playback to be at 720p/25 standard. With the EX, that will be natively recorded with a 35Mbs data rate. It is possible to shoot at 50fps, at double the data rate, so that normal 25fps will still be a 35Mbs standard XDCAM-EX file.

Now whilst the adaptor/SDHC card may be reliable for normal data rate recording, there is no guarantee that it will record higher bitrates, and indeed, Sony recommend against it. But seeing how far you can push it can give a very good idea of how much safety margin there exists, Certainly people are reporting being able to overcrank far more than ever used to be the case.
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