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Old August 17th, 2008, 11:58 PM   #1
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First Impressions of HMC-150 AVCCAM hands on at WEVA

Alright guys, I may not get any brownie points for this, but I was working at WEVA and went to the Panasonic party and I got to get my hands on this AVCCAM for a few minutes and check the settings and low light performance, as well as watch the demo reel that Panasonic played from the TV they had there.

Alright, so I was working at WEVA and Panasonic was throwing a party with free food and drink ( I don't drink alcohol, but free food pretty much guarantee's my attendance :P ).

I was also interested to see how this AVCHD DVX style cam would do, so I looked at it, it had basically the same design as the DVX100 that I enjoy shooting my DV stuff on. I was however disappointed to hear that it has the same front end as the HVX ( IE color stretching is being employed by it which gives me concerns for chroma keying as I've tried working with HVX Green screen footage, and I can't seem to get a very clean key from it like I can with other cameras that I won't mention ). It records at 21mpbs avg. on its highest quality, but does hit 24 if its encoder deems it necessary so it sounds like an AVCHD VBR codec that's 21Mbps as an average. I had people coming by the booth telling me how wonderful it was, how it was doing very well in low light ( don't know how they knew that because it wasn't very low light in the convention room :) ). never the less when I got to the party I was looking at the camera and got to get my hands on it ( very light btw ), and I looked, and they were running the shutter down at 30 and the gain up at 6db ( not much noticeably added noise which is always a good thing in case you have to have it ), and the guy at the table was bragging about this wonderful camera and was spouting off about how well it does in low light and how this is just how they have it set up in the booth, it came off as a little shady to me since it was set to a shutter of 30 and I've never found that to be a good look really ( a little blurry in the hand motion for interviews etc...) .

The one thing I was surprised to see ( and let me preface this with saying that I don't have a lot of experience with AVCHD ), and I don't know if it was the tv or what, but there was a demo reel and it seemed like there was blocking on all the edges of everything in the demoreel, and a lot of what I'll deem "digital noise" in the skys etc... where there was blocking jumping around all the time in the gradients. Perhaps this is just AVCHD, or maybe it's just the TV, but it seems to me that that the overall image quality was very underwhelming. There were a lot of good things to say about this cam too, like the fact that it's SDHC card recording format ( like you can't find those just about anywhere ), and it was very light, and it had a nice feel overall. Though I didn't like the cover they put over the volume adjustments as it made it hard for me to turn the knobs, but it did have screws which made it removeable ( thank you for giving me a choice panasonic ). Overall, I'm guessing a 3.5K street price and it's going to be a fine addition to the low price range market and will do very well I think in the sub 4 K market, especially since there is basically nothing that is tapeless HD in this market that runs at any kind of professional level.

I am, overall, underwhelmed. Again, it could just be the TV, but thus far, I'd save the extra $2K and get an EX-1 unless you can't, even if it does use expensive Express card tech. ( at least in comparison to the SDHC cards this HMC camera uses )

Thought you all might be interested in my opinion since there might be folks out there interested in this cam and not able to get their hands on it yet.

Dave
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Old August 18th, 2008, 01:49 AM   #2
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Thanks for the report Dave...

I can say that AVCHD doesn't necessarily have "blocking" issues. Using the SR11, and gradients in things like sky are very smooth - one reason I think a lot of people (myself included) really like that cam...

You would think that Panasonic would have "stacked the deck" to get the best possible quality at every stage, so this is a bit disappointing to hear, but time will tell. I guess I'll be hanging onto the ol' FX7 for a while longer... really wanted to see Panasonic give Sony a bit of competition in the midrange, competition is good!
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Old August 18th, 2008, 11:17 AM   #3
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I don't know if it was the tv or what, but ... it seemed like there was blocking on all the edges of everything in the demoreel, and a lot of what I'll deem "digital noise" in the skys etc... where there was blocking jumping around all the time in the gradients. Perhaps this is just AVCHD, or maybe it's just the TV, but it seems to me that that the overall image quality was very underwhelming.
Sorry but this report runs counter to my own (admittedly somewhat limited) experiences with AVCHD. I'd want to know specifically what is the make and model of the HDTV in question here.

I've seen AVCHD from Panasonic's AVCCAM line on their 850-series 50"+ HDTV's, and it's looked nothing short of amazing to me. But maybe I'm just easy to please.
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Old August 18th, 2008, 12:06 PM   #4
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I have to say it may well have been the TV, but I looked and I clearly saw blocking on all edges and that "digital noise" in the sky, etc... which disappointed me as well. I may well be uneasy to please, and be getting very critical on this cam, but I still think it brings competition to the market in that it is VERY cheap to buy recording media for and it's 2.5K+ less than an EX-1 which would be its biggest competitor I'd guess.

There's no question that it'll be getting tapeless into a whole new market with this one, but I think that if you can swing it, you would be better off going towards the EX-1, though I've not actually seen the footage on my own monitors ( which would give me some sort of grounds by which I could base my observations.

Don't just discount this camera based on a less than glittering review from one guy seeing it for a few minutes at a hotel room full of drunk people :). I think it will definitely have its place in the lower price ranges ( I've heard that AVCHD will likely be like the miniDV of the HD world, and while I agree with that, i think it's got a bit more potential than that, not that DV isn't a stand up format ).
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Old August 19th, 2008, 11:09 AM   #5
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Originally Posted by David Hadden View Post
Alright, so I was working at WEVA and Panasonic was throwing a party with free food and drink ( I don't drink alcohol, but free food pretty much guarantee's my attendance :P ).

...Don't just discount this camera based on a less than glittering review from one guy seeing it for a few minutes at a hotel room full of drunk people :).
Sounds to me like the camera was drunk too. ;)

Or maybe one of the attendees had set it to HE (6Mbps) mode instead of PH (21Mbps)... Definitely possible. Or did you confirm the quality setting yourself?
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Old August 20th, 2008, 11:49 AM   #6
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Hey Darren,

This would have definitely not been shot at 6mbps because it was the demo reel from Panasonic for this camera that I was watching that had all this "digital noise" for lack of a better word.

I see this other post from someone who actually shot with it seems to like it quite a bit, so it was likely the Panasonic TV that they were showing it on unless the other guy is just a patsy, but I don't know him, and so I would assume not.

Dave
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Old August 20th, 2008, 12:42 PM   #7
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I see this other post from someone who actually shot with it seems to like it quite a bit... unless the other guy is just a patsy, but I don't know him, and so I would assume not.
Well, I *do* know him: my good friend Adam Brooks and his buddy, Paul Izbicki.

Just so you're aware, on this site as a matter of very firm policy we *never* assume the worst of any of our fellow members. This isn't your typical internet message board, and the mechanisms are in place to prevent shills, trolls, or patsies, etc. from seeding the forum. So that's never an issue around here. What *is* important, though, is that we take each other at face value, and if any assumptions are to be made, we always assume that our fellows are acting in good faith.

Thanks very much in advance for understanding how things work at DV Info Net,
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Old August 20th, 2008, 04:53 PM   #8
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What *is* important, though, is that we take each other at face value, and if any assumptions are to be made, we always assume that our fellows are acting in good faith.
It sounds then like I did what I should, if I came across as sounding like "this guy's a patsy etc..." I apologize, I simply didn't know him, and said that unless he's one, it's very likely the TV and not the camera.

Please again, accept my apologies as I did not intend to invoke a rebuke of any kind with my post. I'd also like to say that I'm glad that I can be a part of a forum that I can trust what others post at face value because moderators are taking the time to sort out the BS posts from patsies and smoke blowers, that's certainly not a task I would enjoy having on my shoulders, so let me again voice my appreciation.

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Old August 21st, 2008, 01:06 PM   #9
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I've been looking at the VideoMaker videos and Barry's videos and have come to the following conclusions:

1080/60i: (VideoMaker: Park shots ...) If you sit back around 3.5 to 5 feet from your computer monitor, this mode looks OK. For those who sit 2 feet from the monitor, you can see the compression noise as the video is playing. Part of the problem is that the interlaced video is burning up critical bandwidth that would have been used to give us a better image. There are better modes to shoot the video; this mode can look poor.

1080/24p: (Barry: 00002.MTS, 00004.MTS) There's a major reduction in the image noise by going to progressive and a lower frame rate. If you look closely at medium solid colored objects you will catch a hint of the compression noise. (If you're not looking for it, you won't see it.) Pause the video of the harbor shot and look at the side of the boat to see some of the compression noise. Also, moving slowly frame by frame will help show it. From this mode to all other modes that follow, I'm having to work to see the noise. On an HDTV at normal viewing distances, no one is going to see any compression noise.

720/60p: (Barry: 00013.MTS, 00015.MTS, 00019.MTS, 00087.MTS, 00095.MTS) I can't be sure if this mode has more of less image noise than the 1080/24p mode. If I have the same shot of the same thing, I could tell, but I'm looking at different shots. So, if you look close, yes there is a slight amount of compression noise, BUT for normal viewing on an HDTV, you'll never see it.

720/24p: (Barry: 00025.MTS, 00032.MTS, 00074.MTS) WOW!!! It's getting VERY hard to see any noise and I have to do weird things to see it; like set the image size to 2x normal, pause the video and move frame by frame. Any video compression will have some compression noise, but there is so little compression noise here, that it's hard to find.

While I don't have any 720/30p footage to look at, I'm willing to bet that it should be about as good as the 720/24p footage.

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Old August 22nd, 2008, 08:55 AM   #10
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It's interesting. I can see a big difference between the 1080i (Videomaker)and 1080/720p (Barry) clips in clarity and color repro. I was about to write the camera off after viewing the Videomaker clips. but Barry's clips has given a little better feel about the quality. I plan on cutting against some HDV shots over the weekend.

The workflow is still a little haphazard. For whatever reason I had no problem converting the Videomaker clips via the Panasonic AVCHD to DVCPROHD converter, but Barry's clips the converter said they were the wrong MPEG format. I'm wondering if the 1080i clips were shot at a lower bitrate, thus working with the converter and the newer and higher bit rate hasn't been updated to work with the conversion software. That would also possibly explain the big difference in quality.

I don't use Edius much but I must say, it works with AVCHD much better than anything else.

Cheers.
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Old August 22nd, 2008, 09:27 AM   #11
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Edius has a very long track record of working with just about anything you throw at it. Too bad Grass Valley doesn't properly market this amazing NLE. But then, Canopus never properly marketed it either. I'd have to point out that anybody looking to edit AVCCAM / AVCHD on the PC side should take a serious look at Edius.
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Old August 22nd, 2008, 11:09 AM   #12
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How stripped down is Edius Neo?
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Old August 22nd, 2008, 11:13 AM   #13
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Most of that footage looks kinda crappy to my eye, but then again it's never a good idea to judge new cameras by the first few clips that trickle out anyway. I'm still holding out hope that this camera kicks some serious arse once people figure it out and how to best shoot with it.

Time will tell.

**EDIT**
Maybe I should clarify where I'm coming from. I own a couple FX7's and what I've seen out of these first few clips looks on par with those. Granted the FX7's can't do 24p, 30p, 60p what have you. The 24p clips do appear to have less noise than I can ever get from the FX7's, but the image quality is otherwise very close. I was hoping that these cameras would be somewhere between the EX1 and XHA1 in terms of image quality. I base this hope on the fact that Panasonic markets this camera as their DVX successor, and the DVX100 was one of the best looking prosumer DV cams on the market.
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Old August 22nd, 2008, 11:32 AM   #14
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How stripped down is Edius Neo?
Edius Neo is fairly well stripped down, but at least it supports AVCHD editing:

Edius NLE Software Comparison
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Old August 22nd, 2008, 05:45 PM   #15
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Ethan,

Barry Green seems to be pretty excited abouth this camera.

So far, it looks like 720p is the best setting for this camera.
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