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Old February 20th, 2006, 12:24 AM   #1
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My First Day Out With The Hvx200

I tested my camera today. I've had it for about a week. I purchased a 4 GB P2 card a few days ago so that I could start testing and recording in HD (I ordered 2 8GB cards and a P2 store on the same day I ordered the camera, but I'm still waiting for those items to arrive). Here are my observations (my opinions):

THINGS I LIKED:

1. The camera is well built. It's very solid and seems rugged. The lens is very nice. This camera is sort of a hybrid between a full sized pro camera and a pro-sumer dv camera. I say that because although it has a focus control and manual zoom control for instance, it does not have an iris wheel on the lens. This is no big deal as all of the controls are in the right places and accomplish all of the tasks a pro camera can perform (this is not a complaint).

2. When I first got the camera, it seemed a little overwhelming because of all of the menu options and settings. After a few days of playing with the camera and looking over the manual, I found that the camera is actually pretty simple and logical to use -- Good job Panasonic (and that's from someone who has never used a DVX before)!

3. The batteries last a long time. I spent hours setting up shots while leaving the camera on so that I could monitor the frame. I didn't need to change batteries very often. I'm guessing I could get through a day of shooting with just three batteries.

4. The first thing I shot was outdoor footage in a graveyard (I'm a little crazy). It was late afternoon and the sun was low in the sky. I shot in 720 24PN. I used the following settings (based on things Barry has said for lower noise and what I thought I would like -- I basically added a little more chroma and brought the blacks down a tiny bit): Detail Level -3, Detail Coring +7, Chroma Level +2, Master Ped -1, and Gamma Cinelike D. The graveyard footage looks amazing. It really has the look and feel of film. I was (am) very impressed.

5. While shooting, I used all manual controls for iris and focus, but I would occasionally switch to manual iris to see what the camera thought the exposure should be at. The auto iris control did a very nice job picking the proper exposure. Rarely did I have to sway from what the camera thought the iris should be set at.

6. The camera would also tell me to switch ND filters from time to time (this was/is very helpful).

7. I did some variable frame rate shots. The results were amazing. I've never seen a video camera in this price range pull off such clean and beautiful slow motion. This is a very cool feature.

8. The P2 card worked great. It worked flawlessly with Final Cut Pro HD. It's nice not having to use tape(s). P2 will be even quicker if Final Cut Pro figures out how to use the files in their native form. I hope this is coming soon.

9. I loved editing in DVCPRO HD. It really allows me to manipulate the video using color correction. I've edited HDV before and it was a slow and painful experience (lots of rendering effects and a big render before output). DVCPRO HD is great!

THINGS I DID NOT LIKE:

1. The LCD screen is not very sharp. It's hard to tell if things are in focus. You have to use the focus assist feature every time (which is not always the most accurate way to focus). It helps big time, but it is a little soft, too. It was difficult to focus some shots.

2. Although the P2 card worked well, I hated the 4GB cards capacity for HD shooting. It is not able to handle very much HD footage. I filled it up quickly. The 2 8GB cards I have on order will surely help, but they are very pricey. Give us a break Panasonic! Also, 16GB cards would make 1080 shooting more reasonable with this camera. If P2 cards do not have the ability to grow in size, I'm guessing P2 will be a failure. I don't want this to happen.

3. I don't like that the XLR inputs are on the front of the camera. This is an awkward place to put them.

4. The resolution of the camera is good, but you sure notice how lacking it is when you switch to an HD channel using the big dollar HD cameras. Honestly, although the HVX200 is much better than my Sony HC1 ($1000 HDV camera), it's resolution seems very similar. I've never tested the Canon XLH1, but I'm sure the higher resolution helps the image pop off the screen. I wonder if Panasonic didn't want to up the resolution on the camera in fear that it would be too similar to their big dollar varicams or if they just used much cheaper parts that just can't give the higher resolution. Because all of the other HDV cameras in this price range have higher resolution, I'm guessing Panasonic just didn't want to compete with its higher end 720p cameras.

NOTE:
I've heard a lot of people make excuses for this camera saying it's only $6000, but who are you trying to kid? By the time you buy P2 cards, this camera is much closer to $10,000.

4b: Also, the camera disappoints me in the resolution department in the 1080 mode. The resolution when switching to this mode is the same as when it is in the 720p mode. Sure, some of you have looked over the footage and say it's cleaner, but when you heard that Panasonic was including a 1080 24p mode, didn't you think that the resolution would go up a little when switching to this mode? I sure did. Good advertising Panasonic, you hooked me! Sorry if I sound angry, I am a little.

5. I also shot interior shots using my light kits. I really wanted to see how this camera would handle dramatic lighting. I shot a typical interview type setup (using 4 lights: A key, a fill, a backlight and a background light). This was a bit trickier to shoot than the graveyard. This camera does weird things in the darker areas of the frames. The noise can be very heavy in gradient areas (where the light goes from light to dark). This is a huge problem as I like to light very dramatic scenes (I sometimes even like to light with 1 light). You can't blame the noise on compression. You can see it before it goes to P2. I'm not sure how to handle this. I spent a long time trying to light in a way that hides the noise. I did get decent results, but it was painful. You can light the center of a white wall and bring the iris control up and down and watch the noise dance all around in the areas where the light starts to fall off. I would love to know how to get around this noise issue (Please help)! The camera also seems to add noise when the white balance is off (this is not good as sometimes I like to white balance with orange or blue in front of the lens to warm up or cool down a scene when you take the gel away). What's up with that?

6. On a few occasions I shot scenes that had big red objects in them. The camera did not handle these objects very well. They were very over saturated and caused some weird noise in one of the shots. I hope this only happened because I had my chroma at plus 2. I will have to turn it down to zero and do more testing.

7. Although I like the look of 24pn, it's very hard to do camera moves in that mode. Very slow moves in wide angle were OK, but if I sped up, it looked very strobe like. I don't notice that in action films. Am I doing something wrong? Do I need to add pull down in Final Cut Pro or just get used to slowing down my camera moves?

That's the good, the bad and the ugly. This camera has the potential to be very good. I just have to learn how to work within its limits.

I look forward to hearing from HVX200 owners who have some advice. This was my first time out with the camera, so don't take my finding as the last word. I own this little baby now, so we are all in the same boat.

NOTE: I have video that shows everything I mentioned above. If you guys want, I will post it (just tell me how to do it). If video files are too much, I could provide still frames.

THANKS!!!
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Old February 20th, 2006, 01:29 AM   #2
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Great report! Thanks a lot, Jay -- much appreciated,
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Old February 20th, 2006, 02:42 AM   #3
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Jay -

I would love to see some of the clips you shot. My preference would be 720p files encoded at 6-8mbps with WMV (VBR) or DivX (to get at least somewhat reasonably close to the quality of the original without being off-the-wall on bandwidth - it's hard to get an idea of what an HD camera can really do, from samples clips, when the files are recompressed much more than that). I don't mind letting big files download for awhile in the background while I do other things. Thank gawd for broadband!
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Old February 20th, 2006, 03:05 AM   #4
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IMHO, Panasonic really should drop the price of the 8gig P2 cards now that they are shipping this camera, even if they have to sell them at a loss for a while (and make sure they can supply them!). If they don't, we will probably be seeing many, many posts, complaining about the cost of them. The type of people that don't think things out carefully before make purchasing decisions (and there are many of them in this world), could wind up moaning endlessly about how much the camera wound up costing them. That sure won't be good for the camera's image (pardon the pun). It would be a pitty if the DVX200 goes down in flames from a marketing blunder. I would really like to see tapeless aquisition come of age sooner rather than later, and the success or failure of this camera is going to have a big impact on that.
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Old February 20th, 2006, 08:25 AM   #5
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Very nice review. I will say that the color red is always difficult for any camera to capture at higher saturation levels. I just shot an opera with the Canon H1 and after seeing rehearsal footage, turned down my saturation levels closeer to factory default levels. When they turned on red lighting, there was a good deal of bleed when I had the saturation levels turned up. I guess that's just red...it's never been good for tv, broadcast, video, etc.

Oops...that's no comment on Jim J's new camera. :-)

Kevin
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Old February 20th, 2006, 11:37 AM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Jay Morris
NOTE: I have video that shows everything I mentioned above. If you guys want, I will post it (just tell me how to do it). If video files are too much, I could provide still frames.
Great report, Jay. And by all means, still frames would be really good. Frequently, people only post video clips but they put such a big load on the server hosting them that they frequently go away after a few days.
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Old February 20th, 2006, 02:11 PM   #7
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I'm not sure, but I believe you can put HD clips on Google's server free now (video.google.com). I haven't seen anything that says there is a limit on res or file size, and I have seen plenty of large files there (lots of hour long or more SD stuff, at varying bitrates).
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Old February 20th, 2006, 03:36 PM   #8
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To get rid of the strobing in 720/24pn, you should use a slower shutter. You want the blurring of the action.
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Old February 20th, 2006, 07:17 PM   #9
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Not sure, but the "strobe" you mention might be the film look that every is after! :-) I just shot an opera this weekend and even panning across stage (shooting Canon H1, 24F mode) was very strobey unless I had someone in the frame that was moving that direction...where the eye could focus.

However, the action on-stage looked incredible with people moving around and proper stage lighting. VERY, very filmic.

Kevin
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Old February 20th, 2006, 08:01 PM   #10
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The strobe effect you are seeing may not entirely be the camera or the progressive framerate you are shooting at. I noticed something seemingly similar to what you briefly described, while looking at some footage I shot with my HD10U at 720/30p a few days ago. It happened very noticeably where the panning was faster than you would normally pan for almost any sort of serious production (I was just shooting some random stuff basically to test trying to work on ways to overcome the difficulties of not being able to lock down iris and shutter speed at the same time - a real weak point of the HD10 - a number of times, I just plain panned at fairly ridiculous speeds, and that's where the effect jumped out like crazy on playback, yet well beyond what I would have expected). Anyways, I haven't completely pinned down what is going on, but I am now pretty sure that much of the problem I experienced is on the display end (it appears that on the computer, frames were/are being dropped on playback, for reasons not yet entirely known). I am all but certain that some of the problem is on the display end, because I converted some of the footage to formats that ease up on the processing power needed to display, which dramatically reduced the effect, but did not entirely eliminate it. I am not done troubleshooting the problem, so I cannot be certain exactly what is going on yet (I can't completely rule out yet, the potential possibility that this is a synergistic problem that I am encountering, with roots both in acquisition and display). To anyone still reading (and suffering through) this rather quickly written, long-winded, rambling post, you can now rub your eyes and resume normal activities ...LOL.
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Old February 20th, 2006, 08:17 PM   #11
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Yawn...did you say something, Robert? :-) Just kidding...

Let us know what you find out. I do know that a lot of people switching to a 24p shooting style are not used to the "strobe" that accompanies it. This motion characteristic is only one of the tendencies of film, but it is also quite different than shooting 60i.

Again, my advice to shooters would be to practice a bunch with 24p to see what pan speeds work and what ones look strobey. Also, use the old film technique of putting something moving in the foreground and in focus and follow it across the screen. This way, the background might be strobey but the foreground action is not...

KW
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Old February 20th, 2006, 08:42 PM   #12
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Wow, somebody actually read that entire post! (I don't know whether to thank you or offer condolences for your suffering!)

One of the clues that something was clearly off kilter, is that the effect was noticable while traking people walking even (both background and foreground strobe/jutter like effect).
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Old February 21st, 2006, 03:30 AM   #13
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Not sure if this is any help, but the American Cinematographer Manual lists recommended panning speeds for static shots. It breaks the panning speeds by angle of pan, f.p.s., focal length and seconds of movement.
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Old February 21st, 2006, 06:36 PM   #14
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A very interesting summary Jay, but I'm a little curious about some of the things you say in one section........
Quote:
Originally Posted by Jay Morris
This camera does weird things in the darker areas of the frames. The noise can be very heavy in gradient areas (where the light goes from light to dark). ..........I did get decent results, but it was painful. You can light the center of a white wall and bring the iris control up and down and watch the noise dance all around in the areas where the light starts to fall off.
I've always understood video noise (almost by definition) to be random, sort of comparable to film grain. It may be more visible in darker areas of the image, or areas of uniform shading, but essentially random throughout the image and therefore less objectionable than something that is not random - such as a scratch on film. And whilst grain may sometimes even give an artistic benefit, I doubt a scratch ever can.

But this randomness doesn't sound to be what you are describing, which makes me wonder if it really is 'noise' in the true sense of the term. Can you elaborate any further?
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Old February 21st, 2006, 08:45 PM   #15
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Thanks for all of the replies guys.

The noise is in the mid-dark areas. It's hard to explain. Looking at it closely, things that fall off in the dark blacks are clean and things that are properly exposed look good, but somewhere in the low middle is extra noise. I've shown the footage to friends in the industry and they are very impressed with this camera. Most of the time they don't see the noise until I point it out. Once I do point it out, they easily see it.

It's hard to correct this noise in post. You can't crush your blacks down enough to do any good (in fact, I've found that making the image more contrasty in post makes the noise stronger). I guess I will just have to live with the noise if I want an image that has a lot of underexposed areas in it (and that may be fine for a lot of people). To get a very clean image, you have to use somewhat even lighting.

I really am very impressed with this camera. This was also my first day out with the camera. Someone told me that shooting in 1080 is the way to go. The image is not higher resolution, but it is cleaner (so I've heard, but not tested). I will have to test that when I get more P2 cards (my single 4GB is not enough).

I would love to post some stills or video files. Anyone know where I can go to do so?

PS
I started color correcting in post. I like to bring the blacks down so they kiss zero and bring the whites up to 90. I then like to bring the chroma up. After doing this to a few clips, I quickly realized that I liked what the camera did with the image to begin with. Adding contrast made the image look less film-like. I got rid of all of the color correction on every clip but one. The one time I used correction was to fix a shot I underexposed. Wow, Panasonic did a great job with the gamma curves. You can't easily duplicate that in post.
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