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Old March 12th, 2013, 08:27 PM   #1
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AC160 to HPX250: I'm Tempted

Tempted to get me some of that 10-bit AVC-Intra 100 goodness.

I like using my AC130/160 cameras. I really do. What I don't like is how the codec behaves when I try to grade it or how lots of motion breaks it apart. Just for fun, I was looking on B&H at the HPX250 and saw that the prices have really come down. Can anyone point me to a comparison of the AC vs the HPX, or offer any experiences? I like the idea of shooting higher quality 10-bit footage, especially when I'm being hired on as a shooter for other productions and I don't have as much control over the final product. Then there's the problem of matching up what would be the remaining AC130 with the HPX. Possible? Can they get close enough at least for the occasional live event? Or do I sell both and do HPX250 + AC90 to offset the cost?

Is that image quality all that it's cracked up to be compared to AVCHD, or am I seeing the greener grass on the other side? Still, I supposed its smartest to wait until after NAB...
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Old March 13th, 2013, 03:40 PM   #2
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Re: AC160 to HPX250: I'm Tempted

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Originally Posted by Nate Haustein View Post
I like the idea of shooting higher quality 10-bit footage, ...........

Is that image quality all that it's cracked up to be compared to AVCHD, or am I seeing the greener grass on the other side?
Two separate issues - 10 bit and AVC Intra 100.

AVC Intra 100 will give better quality (certainly in post manipulation) than AVC-HD, but that's far more likely to be down to the inherently lower compression of AVC Intra 100 than the 10 bit nature. Main reason is that for the HPX250 (and probably most other 1/3" cameras) the noise level is likely to be substantially worse than the range that an 8 bit system can deal with. Move to 10 bit, and all you're really doing is more accurately defining the noise!

That said, then even with 8 bit acquisition, there may be advantages to doing a transcode to a 10 bit codec before doing editing and effects etc. (And a codec less compressed than AVCHd in other ways.)

In other areas, then have you looked at such as the XF305? It's a little more expensive than the HPX250 for basic camera, but media costs per hour are far less so a basic camera plus media package may not work out any dearer - depends on the recording time you want. In many respects the cameras are comparable, but IMO the big advantage of the XF305 is regarding manual mode - the control of aperture and focus are true manual - not via servos as with the HPX250.
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Old March 14th, 2013, 01:35 AM   #3
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Re: AC160 to HPX250: I'm Tempted

Thank you for the clarification, David. I do believe my understanding of 10-bit and its relationship to data rate was somewhat incomplete. From reading a few other posts of yours on the matter, it seems that 10-bit may not be the magic bullet for capturing footage that behaves like silly putty in the edit suite. My original take was that the 10-bit would "see" more into the highlights and shadows, but apparently the real advantage is the reduction of banding? I was quite impressed (still) by some HVX200 footage I shot the other day with a friends camera. The color grading seemed to work so well and I assumed it was the 10-bit recording format. Shooting conditions were not ideal, but I was amazed at his much I could get back in highlights and push the color. However, I believe that DVCPRO HD is only 8-bit itself! Now, is it my imagination or is it simply the data rate of the footage giving me better quality?

The part about the inherent limitations of a 1/3" camera is also very important and I can definitely see the issues there. I think I want the images out of a 2/3" camera but am only half way there with the class of cameras I'm using. AVCHD hides a good amount of noise compared to uncompressed out, which can be a blessing and a curse.

I think in the end, I'll just need to try a little harder with my current AC160. With the SDI out and Hyperdeck recorder going to ProRes, I see no reason why I can't get great results. Perhaps this weekend will need to be devoted to finding a scene file and workflow that meets my expectations. Thanks again for your post.
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Old March 14th, 2013, 01:24 PM   #4
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Re: AC160 to HPX250: I'm Tempted

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Originally Posted by Nate Haustein View Post
My original take was that the 10-bit would "see" more into the highlights and shadows, but .....
That would only be true if the front end of the camera (and especially the intrinsic noise level) was good enough for the extra in highlights/shadows to be there in the first place. With a 1/3" camera that's not likely to be the case.
Quote:
.........apparently the real advantage is the reduction of banding? I was quite impressed (still) by some HVX200 footage I shot the other day ........ I was amazed at his much I could get back in highlights and push the color. However, I believe that DVCPRO HD is only 8-bit itself!
Bit depth issues *MAY* give rise to banding, but banding is far more likely to be down to general compression issues - and I think that's exactly what you've found when you talk about your experiences with DVCProHD. (Which, as you say, is also 8 bit.)

I think most people can intuitively see why bitdepth may give rise to banding, but why compression should do it is probably not as obvious. If anyone wants proof, (and doesn't like theory! :-) ) then there's a very quick test you can do in Photoshop in less than 5 minutes. Make a new (blank) canvas, then select a narrow vertical strip on the left hand side and fill it with black. Select the gradient tool, and draw a line from the black area to the (white) right hand side of the canvas - the image should be a nice smooth black-white gradient left to right. Now try saving it as a JPEG - firstly with low compression, then with the highest level (quality=0).

Anybody still unconvinced that banding may be caused by over compression alone!? :-) If you want the (very basic) reason why, read on, if you don't like theory, skip the next paragraph!

(In basic form, compression such as JPEG will initially take the image and divide it up into blocks, typically 8x8 pixels. First step is to find the average value for the block - that is then stored, together with difference values for how much each of the 64 pixels differ from that average. The higher the compression level, the less accurate the difference values can be, until in the extreme all that can be stored is the average block value, which will apply to the entire 8x8 block. So instead of the smooth gradient transition, you get step changes between the blocks - exactly what is happening with the Photoshop exercise above. That's pretty simplistic, and one thing it's not taking account is is the way colour gets handled in practical video systems. Sub sample the chroma, and an 8x8 chroma block in a 4:2:0 system will be twice the size in the picture of a 8x8 luminance block. In many implementations, the chroma is subjected to higher compression than luminance, so put those factors together and you may start to get an idea why banding is even more likely to be visible on saturated colour gradients?)

Practically, using 10 bit recording in a 1/3" camera like the HPX250 won't bring much improvement over a 8 bit system with the same overall compression level. Practically, the merit of P2/AVC-Intra in the HPX250 is to make it compatible as a B camera to use with other P2 cameras. It will be an improvement over AVC-HD recording (assuming the same camera front end) - but that will be primarily down to lower compression generally - not the 10 bit nature.
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Old March 14th, 2013, 03:33 PM   #5
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Re: AC160 to HPX250: I'm Tempted

I've been looking into getting a cam lately and wanted to go Pana 'cause I remember how incredible the old DVX looked in even the most mundane situations.

I've been reading that there are issues with the 160(a), the ones you mentioned, which made me sad 'cause that was the one I was banking on getting.

I read somewhere the 160 and 250, though they same basically like the same thing codec/recording media aside, were actually developed by totally different groups and that the HPX250 is much more close related to the DVX feel/look 'cause of who worked on it.

I did the math though and an HPX with batteries and 2 hours of media is still about $7k. Thinking about the somewhat dated HPX170.
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Old March 14th, 2013, 05:56 PM   #6
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Re: AC160 to HPX250: I'm Tempted

This close to NAB I would wait. The XF series is great and they might have an upgrade. The Panasonic cameras have a very nice image but I shyed away after reading a lot from owners. The 160's lens seems like a drawback as to what David mentioned. It is not a normal video lens. The auto focus has some odd behavior reports as well.

True, the AC-130/60 were made by the same group that made the AF-100 and the HPX-250 was from the broadcast division. I have also read reports of the HPX-250's lens going soft on the wide end at large aperatures.

For me, the price of P2, the lack of AVCHD on the HPX-250 as a choice (do not want to record everything at 100mbps & don't care for the intra 50mbps), the so-so lens servo motors of the Pansonic cameras and the negative lens reports led me to stay with the Canon XF300.

Maybe Panasonic will have an update as well.
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Old March 14th, 2013, 06:03 PM   #7
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Re: AC160 to HPX250: I'm Tempted

Are the lens complaints the ones you just outlined? I'm not real concerned about autofocus, hardly ever use it so don't care how it performs.

Everyone says the AVCHD has its limits (grading, pixellates with motion), so I'd rather be safe than sorry. My client base runs the gamut from those who wouldn't know a lens from a doughnut, to those who have specific spec requirements, so having the high end format would be a plus. True, P2 is moronically expensive.

I am not anti-canon, however, considering what I've seen on sets around town working in professional video production, Canon seldom to never makes an appearance (same for JVC), at least in the small sensor world, the C100/300 are gaining traction, it looks like. With small sensors, it's always Sony or Panasonic. That's also been my experience with the out of towners I've dealt with. The safe bet would be, then, to integrate with these folks and appeal to them, to have a Sony or Pana (not interested in a large chip cam right now). And I've wanted to try a Pana for some time, since the DVX.

Guess we'll see what NAB has to offer.
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Old March 15th, 2013, 01:26 PM   #8
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Re: AC160 to HPX250: I'm Tempted

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I am not anti-canon, however, considering what I've seen on sets around town working in professional video production, Canon seldom to never makes an appearance (same for JVC), at least in the small sensor world, ......... With small sensors, it's always Sony or Panasonic. That's also been my experience with the out of towners I've dealt with.
Giving an opinion of the battlefield from one shell hole can always be risky, but certainly in the UK "always Sony or Panasonic, never Canon or JVC" is just not the case.

If you want evidence, the BBC bought a very large number of Canon XF305s a year or so ago, and have just announced a big order for JVC HM650s (500 units!) for self-shoot journalists cameras. ( BBC orders JVC cameras ) In the wake of the first order, there's been a lot of interest in the XF305 from many others and you may be interested in a survey that was recently published for the most rented cameras from hire shops in the UK - The top rented video cameras in the UK The glaring absence of manufacturer there is not Canon but Panasonic.

(Also see http://www.televisual.com/news-detai..._nid-2525.html , and especially the end - "Planned Camera Investments for 2013". Looks like next year it's the Sony F5/55 that's really going to hit the headlines.)

OK, at the time the BBC bought all the XF305s, the main competition to the XF305 in the broadcast world was the Sony EX1/3, and the 35Mbs codec wasn't seen as fully acceptable for unrestricted broadcast. But with the PMW200, and it's fully approved XDCAM422, it's highly likely the BBC would have chosen that over the XF305 if they'd been making the purchase now.

Josh - earlier you said "'cause I remember how incredible the old DVX looked in even the most mundane situations." At that time, the "look" of a camera was largely determined by how it was set up at manufacture - and Panasonic had a "look" that tended to be liked for those in the film camp, the Sony "look" tended to be liked by those who preferred a "real" look, typically for news, sport, events etc. No right or wrong - personal preference, but I know what you're getting at.

But it's very different now. Pretty well all the cameras in the class today give a degree of control that was restricted to only the most expensive pro cameras in the DVXs day. Nowadays, the "look" of a camera can be whatever you want it to be, dependent on menu adjustments. True, there may still be a Sony or Panasonic "look" out of the box with default settings, but it wouldn't be difficult to adjust them so you'd swear the Panasonic camera had the "Sony look" and vice versa!

What I'm trying to say is don't buy a camera model because of a "look" - certainly not that of a model from over a decade ago! Buy one according to features, basic performance criteria etc - and tweak it to get the "look" that you prefer.

Personally, I'd say the PMW200 must be top dog in this market sector at the moment, largely due to the 1/2" chips and the "true" manual lens. And with the 50 and 35Mbs options (you can use SD cards with the latter), they are well suited to the media options, and the 50Mbs mode is as broadcast acceptable as AVC-Intra 100.
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Old March 15th, 2013, 05:13 PM   #9
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Re: AC160 to HPX250: I'm Tempted

Those are good points. I think I'm still drawn to Panasonic for some reason. . .menu options, functionality, etc. One thing about the EX1 that really bugs me is it's the only cam I can think of that has audio knobs that work the opposite of everyone else (with any potentiometer I can think of, clockwise is "more/up" and counterclockwise is "less/down"--applies to volume knobs, dimmers, anything you can think of. Not that cam! Those knobs go the opposite way.). Can really throw you off when making on-the-fly adjustments. May seem petty and stupid but there it is.

Though to be fair I still hear the stuff I've stated above from other videographers/DPs. Sony's higher-priced large sensor stuff? Not gonna argue there. Their smaller chipped cams (EX line, etc.)? I've had colleagues bring their respective cams to sets just to a/b the looks and heard the same comments as I made above. Is that just how they look out of the box, and an EX can be tweaked to look "Panasonish" (TM- Josh Bass)? Maybe, but on the other hand I could never get the Pana look out of my XL2. One was just inherently different in some ways than the other. Handling of 24p even seemed different, aside from basic treatment of color and gamma/contrast. My instinct is, therefore, to get something that looks "right" either out of the box or with not too much tweaking (obviously in different shooting environments you'll have different setups - lowlight, flourescent, etc., that's not what I mean here, I mean the "root" look of the cam) vs having to pull your hair out to try get the look you want out of something that is not naturally going to look that way.

If we were talking about music/instruments here, it'd be like saying "you could possibly make a
Strat sound like a Les Paul, through a combination of FX pedals and amps, but why not just get the Les Paul?"
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Old March 15th, 2013, 06:13 PM   #10
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Re: AC160 to HPX250: I'm Tempted

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One thing about the EX1 that really bugs me is it's the only cam I can think of that has audio knobs that work the opposite of everyone else (with any potentiometer I can think of, clockwise is "more/up" and counterclockwise is "less/down"--applies to volume knobs, dimmers, anything you can think of. Not that cam! Those knobs go the opposite way.). Can really throw you off when making on-the-fly adjustments. May seem petty and stupid but there it is.
No, not petty and stupid - if something bugs you, it bugs you. But it's worth saying a bit more about it - the (very valid) reason is because the knobs are on the side, but are really intended to be operated from the back of the camera via a cutout. The idea is that you think about their operation from the rear of the camera - so "up" does mean "more" - very logical. But when looked at from the side, then yes, "more" does mean "counterclockwise" as you say.

But that's the EX1 - it's the PMW200 that I was talking about, and you'll be pleased to know that the audio knobs on that are purely on the side, and follow the normal convention for such - clockwise is "more/up" and counterclockwise is "less/down". So don't be put off!
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.......on the other hand I could never get the Pana look out of my XL2. One was just inherently different in some ways than the other. Handling of 24p even seemed different, aside from basic treatment of color and gamma/contrast.
No, but the XL2 is likewise quite an old camera. Move to models currently on sale and it's a different story, a far greater range of control. Try to match something like a PMW200 and an XF305 and it's a very different story to a DVX100 and an XL2. You may find a simple menu control for something that on the XL2 or DVX100 was maybe only alterable with a screwdriver deep into the cameras electronics, if at all.
Quote:
If we were talking about music/instruments here, it'd be like saying "you could possibly make a
Strat sound like a Les Paul, through a combination of FX pedals and amps, but why not just get the Les Paul?"
Not sure that's a fair comparison. In the case of musical instruments, isn't the sound largely a function of the physical hardware, intrinsic to the model? With cameras, so much of what makes up the "look" is how certain fundamental adjustments are made. Sony used to have a more saturated look, and a higher level of detail enhancement - Panasonic far less so. And those settings were effectively built in. Now it's just not the case. Load in one profile for one look, another profile for a different one.

OK, if the cameras were identical in other respects then you may well say that if the Panasonic gives me the look out of the box, why waste time buying a different make of camera and altering it? Firstly, it's likely that any of these will give you a choice of "look" anyway, so you're going to have some time on it. Secondly, they are largely NOT identical in other respects. Compare the PMW200 with an HPX250 and the 1/2" chips and true manual lens will give the former a huge advantage IMO, certainly more than enough to not make me worry about spending a little time in the PMW200s menus!
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Old March 15th, 2013, 06:21 PM   #11
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Re: AC160 to HPX250: I'm Tempted

Fair enough, then.

I'm still gonna wait til at least NAB (if not much, much longer) to make a decision.

Price point is also something to consider, those higher end cams are nice, but practically I can't justify more than $4-5K including media (often a huge money-sucker depending on the type of card), batteries, bag, etc. (not much etc. 'cause I already have pretty much everything else I'd need), but still need something is as fully "professional" (eye roll, groan) feature-wise as it can be. That limits my choices right now.
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Old March 17th, 2013, 03:40 PM   #12
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Re: AC160 to HPX250: I'm Tempted

You forgot to factor an increase in storage capacity and P2 offload time in the field. Without any proxy recorded on the HPX-250, it can roughly record 72 mins. With proxy added (HPX3100), you can get only about 68 mins. Of course you can shoot AVC-50 with reduced resolution. It's better to get AVCHD if file size needs to smaller and longer recording time on less expensive SDHC media. These file adds up big time in post if you have a month or more worth of content shot. Start getting 4 Tb SATA hdds and LTO-6 tape archival solution. You'll need all you can get your hands on. LTO-6 tape drive is roughly $2k. Each tape is roughly $100. Archiving on hdd is not recommended if it's sitting on the shelf w/ no powering to the hdd for over 2 years. Total cost for P2/AVC-I 100 is roughly 2-2.5x over regular AVCHD cam.

If you think AVC-I 100 is huge, try the new AVC Class 200.
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Old March 17th, 2013, 04:03 PM   #13
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Re: AC160 to HPX250: I'm Tempted

I am sensitive to the different makers' "looks" and I think the guitar analogy is correct. We all have preferences. After using Varicams for a while and having a lot of control over the color settings, the 1/3" Panasonics without a color matrix just seem too limiting.

I have used the Canon XF300 along side the Varicam and they compare quite well in 720p60 mode. I much prefer the XF300 to the EX-1 that it replaced. (outside of sensitivity) At this stage in the game, color accuracy is very important to me. I want to be able to dial out the issues in-camera instead of post. I spent years dialing out red/megenta skin tones from the prosumer Panasonic cameras. Disappointing that the latest crop of Panasonic cameras still do not have a matrix.

I would contact a local rental shop and setup a time to pit all of these cameras against each other. Then you will know which one you like the best.
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Old March 17th, 2013, 04:46 PM   #14
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Re: AC160 to HPX250: I'm Tempted

Vindicated!

Anyway, what's the word on these mini-P2 cards I hear are coming out? Recording time is important, but I'm more likely to shoot 2 hours of footage a day than 10. But I do every once in a while have one of those 8 hour lectern/presentation shoots.
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Old March 17th, 2013, 06:35 PM   #15
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Re: AC160 to HPX250: I'm Tempted

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Vindicated!
Well...... Tim does say "After using Varicams for a while and having a lot of control over the color settings, the 1/3" Panasonics without a color matrix just seem too limiting." So I could ask just what the "Panasonic look" is? Is it what a Varicam gives you, an HPX250 gives you, or what you originally referred to from a DVX100?

From the original posts, I took you to be referring to cameras in the DVX100/HPX250 class - and how they compared alongside other makes in the same class and from the same era. The real point is that when a DVX100 and such as a PD150 were compared all those years ago, the difference between the "Panasonic look" and the "Sony look" was night and day - no question, I'm in full agreement with you there. And the differences were not anything a user could do anything about. But I maintain that inevitable night and day difference is no longer the case, not with the degree of adjustment now available in this class of camera.

If you want to make a Panasonic camera look "real" (hence more suitable for news, sport etc) - you can do it. If you want to make a Sony look more "filmic", same thing - you can do it. (Reducing the default detail level is a good start.)

The absolute controllability of cameras in this class will not be equivalent to such as a Varicam or a PMW500 - but that's a different issue. We're talking about comparing 4,000 cameras with ones costing many times more, regardless of make.
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