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Old August 4th, 2006, 12:36 AM   #1
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More HVX truth

Part of me can't believe I'm posting this, but one thing I'm always happy to do is take my real-world equipment testing experiences and share it with the forum.

Before I go any further, let me say this upfront: THIS IS NOT a post that I want to de-evolve into a "which is better" measurbating debate. If it does, I'll hound Chris until he deletes it. That's not what this post is about.

Up to this point, most of my HVX time has been either in the studio or, on location with human subjects that fill at least half the frame or, with naturally contrasting subjects such as aircraft or motorcycles. Yesterday I did a test for an upcoming shoot, the kind of which I've never done before on video - wide-view landscapes - and guess what, I found the HVX's Achilles Heel.

Some background:

Last fall I did extensive testing with all the HDV cameras; HD100, H1 and Z1. Since most of my work involves either a lot of skin tones or studio controlled situations I wanted the best color and most film-like output possible. And, I really wanted a tapeless workflow that didn't involve the Firestore. I was relatively happy with the Z1's color the most but didn't like the "sorta-kinda progressive" mode. The JVC was ugly with color response so I immediately tossed it as a contender. The H1 was better with some things but it too was originally just OK in the studio - with default settings.

Then came the HVX: true progressive, 4:2:2 color and a native tapeless workflow - and a little slice of Varicam heaven. But, in testing it fell short on both color contrast/gamma and overall sharpness. In fact, with regard to sharpness alone on a scale of 1 to 10 in just those above cameras, the H1 was a "10", followed by a hotly contested "9" by the Z1, the JVC was an "8" or "7.5" and the HVX was a solid 7. The H1 was cleanest, the HVX was noisiest.

But none of the those minute details really mattered too much because in studio controlled situations or even the semi-controlled locatons that I shoot these "lesser" characteristics of the HVX were a non-issue. I wanted the 4:2:2 color more than sharpness. That is, until now.

Which brings me back to yesterday's landscape test. I put the camera into it's various modes: VIDEO/FILM CAM, HD NORM, CINELIKE D etc, etc. The subject was a desert mountain peak with nice rock detail coming from sunlight shadowing and crevices, and bright blue sky with wispy cirrus clouds - almost too perfect to be real. The results were less than exciting.

There was a distinct lack of detail on the mountain, in fact I questioned whether the lens and UV filter needed cleaning! So, I cleaned them to sparkle perfection just like I would with my Nikon ED or Canon "L" glass. Same result. Not only that, but the overall color response was flat and even... muddy! What? Huh??? This wasn't making any sense at all, not after having such near-perfect results from studio work. I poured over the footage with another editor - we both came to the same conclusion: In any camera setting the clips were soft and lacked color detail. In certain areas it almost looked as if the lens was going out of focus, but it couldn't have because it was manually focused with my super-cool FOXI follow focus. I double checked that too - it and the camera focus mechanism work just fine.

By this point I'm not only very disappointed but also a little pissed; how could my "baby" be so great in the studio but be so out of whack on landscape work?? Then I remembered the shootout that Chris, Barry and others did of all the HD/HDV bodies against the F350 and Varicam. Once I looked at the location examples between the cameras I had my answer: Small details - such as blades of grass or other things that don't fill the frame really show just how soft the HVX really is. Not only that, but unlike studio conditions where you have balanced light, direct sunlight without any fill also shows that HVX color is actually quite flat! That's not something easily discerned with a model holding up a GMB color checker in a studio.

So, after gaining this knowledge from the landscape test and re-reviewing the Texas Shootout samples, I'm moving from the HVX to the H1. Yep, I've been one of the biggest pro-HVX voices on this forum - and I still like the "mini Varicam" a lot, but there's no way I can trust the HVX softness and muddy location color to shooting the Grand Canyon of all things!!

So, do I think the H1 is "better" than the HVX? For certain things, yes. I'd still probably prefer the HVX where there's a lot of skin tone or controlled studio lighting - the inherent softness adds to it's film-like output. And the 4:2:2 color space has less artifacts than HDV, period. But for distant or small detail and more color contrast the H1 is king - within the sub-$10k cameras that is.

But, with input/output options of the H1 I can use the KONA to remove the HDV artifacting and with it's better color contrast and overall sharpness and actually get a better looking image than the HVX. It will take a bit more work on input and, I'll have to use the new Nnovia QC drive to get a tapeless workflow, but isn't everything in life a compromise?

The other major benefit to the H1? I can add either the M2 or Mini-35 adapter with greater ease and have a much cleaner film-like output than shooting a lens through another lens as I'd be forced to do on the HVX.

I'll keep tabs on this forum from time to time to help the other HVX'ers out as much as I can, but mine is being replaced by the H1.
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Old August 4th, 2006, 12:46 AM   #2
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I own an HVX and have used one for a while now. I will probably buy the XLH1s if/when it comes out but I do a LOT of DVCproHD work and the HVX just made more sense. I have noticed this very same thing. On super detailed wide scenes, the HVX is not a lot more detailed than an XL2. I will be posting in the next 6 weeks a video shot in 720P mode on the HVX and 480P on the XL2 and edited in FCP in a 720P timeline. The 480P footage was run thru InstantHD and guess what? The ONLY real difference (on a 42" HDTV) is that the HVX is noisier, not sharper...

I love the HVX but for me it is not THE camera, it is a crutch to limp thru the low cost HD world for now...




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Old August 4th, 2006, 12:53 AM   #3
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Okay. What about tapeless? Is that all it is made out to be ? It seems to me from what I have seen in discussion that backing up the captured footage is more of a problem than expected. Tape provides an archive copy right of the bat, where with tapeless, well, what do do for archive ? What's the verdict ?
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Old August 4th, 2006, 01:02 AM   #4
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Robert,

Wait 'til you see the HD-SDI live output. Here and there I capture the signal with a Kona LH card to the Sheer lossless codec via FCP, and let me just say that the full-raster image is just insane.

When more portable and practical solutions emerge for SDI capture it will open up a whole new world of quality that will supercede the already quite nice Canon HDV codec.

There are a couple of frames from uncompressed SDI I posted on this thread: http://www.dvinfo.net/conf/showthrea...t=72870&page=2
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Old August 4th, 2006, 01:41 AM   #5
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Robert,
Well this is kind of sad news.
You've been a great asset to these boards.
Out of curiosity, where did you set your detail levels on the HVX?
Also what do you mean by the color is "flat"?

If you haven't already try the detail @ +7
Barry noticed that the HVX was just set-up with less enhancement than the other cameras and looked fine @ +7.
Did you shoot 720 or 1080. 1080 should be about 30% sharper.
Last for color, try dropping that pedastel down to -4 or -5 on CiniLike D where it belongs.

Maybe those won't make any difference or you've already tried them but it is a thought.
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Old August 4th, 2006, 09:24 AM   #6
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Chris Barcellos
Okay. What about tapeless? Is that all it is made out to be ? It seems to me from what I have seen in discussion that backing up the captured footage is more of a problem than expected. Tape provides an archive copy right of the bat, where with tapeless, well, what do do for archive ? What's the verdict ?
Chris,

The tapeless archive method has been hotly debated and has become the biggest non-issue I've seen about the tapeless workflow.

I've been shooting digital stills on medium format backs for over 10 years now. There's no tape to archive with when shooting a D-SLR either, there's only one option: hard drives. Technically you could output your final EPS/TIFF/PSD to film, but that's un-godly expensive and on a per image basis well... you'd go broke in a few days after one professional shoot.

The answer is: Hard drives. They're cheap, extremely stable/reliable despite what legacy rumorings say and when in a powered-off state and used strictly for archiving purposes will last indefinitely - or until the technology advances so far ahead that you can't use them anymore - which looks to be about another 10-15 years at a minimum.

Tape is what we're all used to but like it or not, tapeless is the future whether it's P2, XDCAM (Blu-Ray) or something else. Sony, Panasonic, Nnovia and others wouldn't have invested hundreds of millions in R&D and marketing it they weren't already convinced it is the future.
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Old August 4th, 2006, 09:30 AM   #7
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Leonard,

During the landscape test I literally shot every possible combination, especially after the first test run and saw such softness.

You can boost contrast in several ways which can give more detail to dark areas, but it's a simple matter of the chipset. For me, it's like comparing a 5mp DSLR to a 12mp DSLR - you just can't make up for the lower resolution.

If the subject fills the frame and or, is balanced with studio lighting then the HVX really shines. In fact, I'd consider it an almost perfect studio camera. But with any small details, and certainly landscape detail it falls short, painfully short.

Believe me, if the HVX had H1 sharpness and color contrast I'd be keeping it - I absolutely LOVE the P2 workflow and convenience, but unfortunately it's destined for eBay later today.
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Old August 4th, 2006, 09:35 AM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Ash Greyson
...I will be posting in the next 6 weeks a video shot in 720P mode on the HVX and 480P on the XL2 and edited in FCP in a 720P timeline. The 480P footage was run thru InstantHD and guess what? The ONLY real difference (on a 42" HDTV) is that the HVX is noisier, not sharper...
Wow, that puts a nail in the coffin! (laughs)
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Old August 4th, 2006, 09:44 AM   #9
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This is sad news indeed. You've been an invaluable contributor.

I hadn't physically tested the other cameras before settling on the HVX, and never considered using any of them without the built-in HDV tape mechanism. As I'm sure we all know by now, all those tiny details you're looking for would get uber-mushy on HDV the moment you started to pan or zoom the camera.

Like you, I'm completely un-thrilled with the 3-lens Redrock setup (built-in lens, achromat lens, Nikkor prime)...it's a real kludge, and loses 2.5 stops of sensitivity. It needs so much light, it's almost unusable indoors.

My initial HVX tests on fine detail (timelapse dusk highrise architecture) were quite unimpressive...the smaller, double-shifted imager isn't quite up to snuff. Compared to a colleague's Varicam, it was tragically poor.

That said, there are enough reasons (tiny form factor, no sensitivity to vibration, variable frame rate, ability to use an under-$10,000 Steadicam) for me to keep the camera. But I'm definitely looking at adding the upcoming P2 2000 or a Grass Infinity or some other 2/3" camera when I can cough up the money. As nice as the HVX is, there's absolutely no comparison to the cameras with larger imagers.
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Old August 4th, 2006, 09:52 AM   #10
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Hey Robert, it's only a matter of time before you realize that only this will do: http://www.gearpreview.com/index.php...=707&Itemid=56

LOL!!!

These prosumer cams and 16mm all suffer from the "softies" when used under those conditions.
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Old August 4th, 2006, 10:10 AM   #11
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Hey Tim,

I've actually been the DP for a few film projects (commercial TV spots) where we used Arri-flex cameras. 11-minute film loads, tons of stuff hanging off the camera just so you can monitor it...yeah, it' a beast. But, nothing and I mean nothing beats film. That's why I still shoot 35mm film; nothing can touch Ektachrome 100 or Velvia for color, nothing.
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Old August 4th, 2006, 10:19 AM   #12
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Scott Auerbach
...That said, there are enough reasons (tiny form factor, no sensitivity to vibration, variable frame rate, ability to use an under-$10,000 Steadicam) for me to keep the camera.
Actually, that's one of the reasons I'm going with the H1 instead of a bigger 2/3" inch chipset body - for now. The 2-gyro rig I'm purchasing for more heli work is designed for the mini-DV cameras like what we're using. If I bought a bigger camera I'd have to get a much bigger and more expensive gyro rig - I don't want the added expense just yet.
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Old August 4th, 2006, 06:17 PM   #13
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Bummer

I just got here and already I am going to miss this guy.

Though I have worked in newsrooms and with video, buying this camera was my first foray into video acquisition -I come from a Still Photo background.

I have owned many different formats and systems, everything from a Yashica T4 to a Deardorff. Found the perfect format (Medium) but I never really found the perfect tool. Every camera had a sweet spot. I thought I had found that mythological beast in the Mamiya 7II - it was light, quiet, and super sharp, but quick focusing was a pain and I ended up using it for strictly for landscapes (thats some glass I hate to see gathering dust..).

I made the move from film to digital and ended up going w/Canon myself. Absolutely love it. I was really going to take a good look at the H1, and if I had more glass invested maybe I would have waited. It has to be superior signal processing and not the glass though. Canon really tweaks the math coming off those chips.

Anyhow, just wanted to thank Robert for bringing his film experience to bear on the cameras. It really helped me relate to the new format!
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Old August 4th, 2006, 07:15 PM   #14
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Robert Lane
Leonard,

During the landscape test I literally shot every possible combination, especially after the first test run and saw such softness.
can you post some screen grabs? i am (was) planning on purchasing the HVX in Jan, and I do a lot of landscape shots.
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Old August 4th, 2006, 10:14 PM   #15
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I would like to see those as well.

Its not exactly heartwarming info but I respect your thoughts.

Thanks for all the valuable testing and information you've shared with this community Robert

We will all be sad to see you go.

Stop in now & then and tell us what you've discovered new.

BTW- where are you located, I sometimes need to suggest people in other towns or need to pick up gear when I visit myself.
I'd love your contact info.
If you don't want to share online email me at

<lenny@leonardlevy.net>

- Lenny Levy
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