Using HC3 with a laptop - go tapeless at DVinfo.net

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Sony HVR-A1 and HDR-HC Series
Sony's latest single-CMOS additions to their HDV camcorder line.


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Old November 16th, 2006, 10:03 AM   #1
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Using HC3 with a laptop - go tapeless

I purchased an HC3 to shoot ~2 hour long sporting events in HD. I want to set up a system to "film" direct to a laptop's hard drive, rather than use tape and constantly rewind and playback for capture. I would then network the laptop with my main video processing machine, and transfer the captured file(s) to a 300GB drive I use just for video editing and storage.

I have the camera, now I need the laptop. Anyone out there doing this? Can anyone give me an idea how I will need to equip the laptop, and how this process will work with this camera ? (ie..min processor speed needed, RAM, etc., and how would the HC3 "film" to the HD - via the Ilink?)
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Old November 18th, 2006, 10:22 AM   #2
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I do this all the time using Serious Magic HDV Rack software. Not only does it record direct to disc but it turns on and off with your camera and provides a color accurate field monitor and scopes (Waveform monitor, Vectorscope, etc.) I highly recommend it if you are going to use a laptop with your camera. You will soon wonder how you ever shot without it.

Just plug the HC3 into the firewire port on you laptop and you're good to go. That means get a laptop that has a firewire port, of course. More memory is always better. I use an IBM ThinkPad Z60M which has a 2.0Ghz Intel Centrino processor with 2GB of memory. You might want to get a new Core 2 Duo laptop for even better performance (actually I think it's Lenovo now not IBM anymore but it's still a ThinkPad and the new Z61M's come with Core 2 Duo's). If you are not going to edit on the laptop then you can get away with a 1.6GHz proc. The hard drive is the real bottleneck. Make sure it has a 5400RPM hard drive (7200RPM is even better) but stay away from the 4200RPM hard drives. They may not be fast enough especially as the drive gets full.

~jr
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Old November 21st, 2006, 02:33 PM   #3
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John, when capturing this way, does a tape still have to be in the transport ? If so, does it record ?
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Old November 21st, 2006, 11:02 PM   #4
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Yes, you can use tape too as a backup. It will record on both and actually, this is the only way to get the PC to start and stop with the camera. Otherwise you can leave the tape out and just use the laptop to start and stop recording.

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Old November 22nd, 2006, 06:51 AM   #5
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Quote:
Originally Posted by John Rofrano
Yes, you can use tape too as a backup. It will record on both and actually, this is the only way to get the PC to start and stop with the camera. Otherwise you can leave the tape out and just use the laptop to start and stop recording.

~jr
THATS what I was after. Leaving the tape out and start/stopping with the PC would eliminate the rapid head wear issues I have experienced from the long pauses between plays. How reliable have you found the software to be John? In your experience with this setup, using the software to start/stop the capture and no tape, how would you rate the risk of lost footage on a scale of 1-5 ?

This would be important to me, because losing a play or two wouldn't necessarily be a big deal, but if the opportunity exists for me to THINK I am capturing but actually not be, then the tape still has to be in for backup and the whole advantage of the tapeless route is negated for me.
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Old November 22nd, 2006, 07:37 AM   #6
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I would say there is next to zero chance of failure (barring hardware failure of course) because when you are recording there is a big red RECORDING icon at the start of your track. You can also see the time counter advancing and watch the audio waveform being displayed as you record. I don't think anyone could mistaken the idle mode for being record mode. Also if you want to split scenes, just press the record button while its recording and it starts a new file. So you could mark the quarters of the event if you wanted by pressing record while its recording and start a new capture file for each quarter or even each play. This has the added advantage that if a file were to become corrupt due to a problem, only part of the footage is affected.

By far the biggest advantage is that HDV Rack turns your laptop into a field monitor. You can calibrate the colors (it has a blue gun mode), it has zebra stripes, underscan, etc. and you can switch it into full screen mode. My laptop has a 15" 16:9 screen so that gives me a 15" field monitor for recording. You can't beat that!

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Old November 22nd, 2006, 08:02 AM   #7
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That sounds encouraging, and pretty much a perfect fit solution for me. I shoot a lot of football for highlight films as well as game film footage for the coaches. There is a lot of "dead" time in a football game, so to reduce post time work and be economical with tape, you start/stop a lot. Often the standby time is equil to, or even greater than, the shoot time. Because I do not do this professionally, I had been using consumer level cameras and had been using the camera to rewind and playback the tapes for capture as well. Of course, all of these things together led to a very high rate of head and transport system wear.

For others who might read this, Purchasing a $30 rewinder aleviated some of the issue, but the primary culprit of the head wear is the method of filming with all the standby time. Since the head is still in contact with the tape during standby, the head wear is greatly accelerated. Letting the tape run and editing in post production would solve this issue, but would double the tape usage and add hours and hours to the post production editing time. I was going through a camera every 2 seasons, as the cost to repair was almost equil to the cost of a new camera. With a $300 camcorder thats fine, but with a $1600 one I think I'd like to avoid that situation this time around. This is why I am going to the HDV Rack/Laptop PC system we have been discussing in this thread.

John, thank you very much for all the help and insight. This sounds like the way to go for my situation.
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