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Sony HVR-Z7 / HVR-S270
Handheld and shoulder mount versions of this Sony 3-CMOS HDV camcorder.


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Old November 8th, 2009, 04:26 AM   #1
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Shooting to card only? And converting m2t files

Hi all,

I'm starting to shoot to CF card only with my Z7 (look mum, no tapes!) to get the instant recording response that's essential for our documentary-style wedding videography. I also love the (comparatively) super-fast file transfer - a whole wedding onto the hard drive in a bit over an hour. Great!

First of all - is anyone else doing this? (tapeless shooting) - And has anyone had any problems that made them go back to shooting tape (either with or without the CF)? I've shot 2 full weddings to CF card only (HDV files) and all went well so far...

And next... importing all the m2t files into Premier slows the whole system right down - yes we could spend a lot more on better computers, but is there a simple and cost-effective way of batch converting the m2t files to standard-def .avi files? Not DivX files obviously (hopeless for editing) but 'dvsd' codec avi files, like the ones that PP makes when it captures from tape. (I found out the name of this codec using the mini-app "GSpot")

Surely someone else has looked at this? Or am I barking up the wrong tree here?

(We only produce DVDs at this point so only need to edit in SD... we'll be adding BluRay output over the next 6 months, but even then the workflow would be quicker using an 'offline edit' of SD files, wouldn't it?)

Thanks for any ideas/experience/wisdom.

Langdon
Melbourne, Australia
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Old November 8th, 2009, 06:22 AM   #2
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Have you considered shooting in DV instead of HDV? In the DV mode it records in AVI format. That way you would not have to deal with the M2T files. Set the camera for DV wide mode if you want to maintain 16:9. I haven't tried this as I just recently got my Z7 and am waiting for an ordered CF card, but I assume that you would be able to simply copy the AVI files from the card to your drive.
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Old November 8th, 2009, 06:42 AM   #3
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Just a question on Lee's comment. Why would you want to shoot in DV when you have HDV available? My thoughts are to shoot in HDV and then down res to DV when needed. I only edit FCP and almost all effects work better in HDV. When I down res to DV from HDV I get the best DV quality ever and I have broadcast that footage with great success. I would be interested in hearing your reasoning. I am always open to be educated.
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Old November 8th, 2009, 07:50 AM   #4
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I agree with Lee, if your computer cant handle HDV well and you dont need the HD footage then why not shoot SD. It will save time as you dont need to convert it, plus its less compressed which can be handy.

I do also agree with you Harry that down converted HDV often produces better results but if you have a computer that cant handle HDV very well and you only need SD footage then why not save time and effort and shoot DV from the start.

If your going to blu ray in the near future then I suggest you upgrade your computer for it as you really dont want to have to struggle editing HDV footage. Also PC's that can edit HDV well aren't very expensive anymore. I bought a Dell XPS i7 PC a few months ago. Its absolutely brilliant and edits HDV, AVCHD and H.234 easily without any trouble even with effects. It also only cost around 600 and that included a screen so I think its worth the cost, especially for the amount of time you save for renders and stuff.
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Old November 8th, 2009, 08:15 AM   #5
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I agree, shoot HDV and down convert when ever you can. That way your footage has archival value past the SD project.

Since I don't use Premiere I don't know what tools are available for software down conversion. Can you shoot HDV using the flash card and then use the Z7's conversion to transfer the footage in DV for editing? That would require realtime capture instead of file transfer.

Shooting DV seemed a reasonable alternative considering Langdon's SD final output, avoiding the time required to transcode the M2T files. Since Langdon is shooting weddings, I assumed there's no archival value in the footage once the product has been delivered. Once he gets to Blue-Ray output of course he should always shoot HDV.
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Old November 8th, 2009, 11:02 AM   #6
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Honestly, the most stressful thing about a wedding is the thought that the tape might break! Having two options is better than one, and with the price of tape stock a no brainer. i shoot EVERYTHING with tape and card
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Old November 8th, 2009, 11:46 AM   #7
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A little off topic, but still relevant are HDV limitations in certain situations. Recently I shot a Bikini contest in a dimly lit bar using my V1U. There were some LED stage lighting down the runway that helped. The final output is Flash for a website. For one of the sets I decided to go hand held and really play to the contestants. This turned out to be the most exciting and was chosen by the client for the final product. The combination of high gain (+12), hand held movement, and flashing stage lights really taxed the HDV codec. Some of the footage is noticably pixelated , made worse in the final encode to Flash. It's alright for the intended use, but I wished I had shot wide DV instead. The DV codec's intra-frame encoding would have handled this much better. By the way, this particular shoot motivated me to go ahead and spring for my V7 which is much better in low light (among other things).
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Old November 8th, 2009, 09:21 PM   #8
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Thanks everyone for sharing your thoughts. As our contracts with the couples say we shoot in HD (and as Lee said, for archival purposes) we need to stick to HDV files. Guess we just need to spend more on upgrading our computers (or 'polluters' as my 3-year old calls them).

I just discovered there's a whole forum on this site dedicated to shooting with the MRC1: Sony HVR-MRC1K CF Card Recorder - The Digital Video Information Network so perhaps I should have asked the question there. A read through the posts seems to indicate most people are doing fine shooting just to card.

Derek - I spend over $2,000 a year on tapes, so if there's no good reason why I shouldn't be putting that money into my mortgage instead, then that's what I'd rather do!

For converting the m2t files from the CF card, some more internet searching led me to discover a good free app from Squared 5 - Squared 5 - MPEG Streamclip video converter for Mac and Windows ...it converts mt2 into a whole range of formats. Still fiddling to try to get the settings right for my purposes, but you can't beat the price!

Langdon
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Old November 10th, 2009, 08:28 AM   #9
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2000 a year on Tapes! thats a great business you have. congrats. i mention it because the cf cards have not been %100. i use the transcend 32gb at our station, and have seen many fail. Often its the user, but still........
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Old November 10th, 2009, 03:20 PM   #10
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I have been using 8GB cards in my Z7 with no problems, but as you expect the time limit is its own problem. I have used the cards as a backup at this point but I would like to reverse that trend. We (the station I work at) have just bought five Panasonic 170s. My experience with P2 cards (at school) is what prompted me to buy the Z7 for my personal shooting. I wonder how this is going to work out with an inexperienced reporter (as shooters) doing their own shooting and editing. At school almost every project had lost video through bad work flow and improper backup. Our company uses Panasonic cameras company wide so they are stuck with that work flow. The compact flash cards used by the Z7 are lower cost and simpler to get into the computer. We use the Harris Velocity system at work, and I am not impressed. High price and low performance and since it is Windows based... lots of issues. I use FCP in my personal studio. I would be very interested in hearing about the reliability and workflow issues with 32GB compact flash cards. My Z7 seems to be happiest with the Sony ($$$) cards. 8GB gives me about 34 minutes. I plan to update to 16GB to match up with the one hour time of tape. I shoot mainly outdoor and nature subjects so long shooting runs are typical. Reshoots are non existent or very rare so reliability is important. I have had tape drop outs and my CP cards have saved the bacon. What a concept. That is why the Z7 is my choice. I have used mine for over a year and still I am impressed with it. Sorry I got so long winded... I just woke up from my daily nap.
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Old November 10th, 2009, 09:15 PM   #11
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I always shoot tape and card, considering the tape as a backup. Twice I've had a recordig fail on the CF (corrupt file or something) and once I accidently erased my card in Final Cut Pro before capturing it. In each case I would have been in serious trouble without the tape backup.

So I'll never shoot anything of value on CF only.
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Old November 11th, 2009, 05:09 AM   #12
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Backups when shooting is so great. I have been saved many times and that is good. Failures do happen and anything to save us is so nice. Tape is tape and it is reliable, most of the time. Cards do fail and I do make mistakes in ingesting the data.
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Old November 19th, 2009, 04:52 PM   #13
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card size

Thanks all for your thoughts... I'm shooting with Sandisk cards:

32GB Extreme IV (new purchase)
32GB Extreme III
16GB Extreme III

...which all up give me easily enough for each wedding (I usually shoot between 4 and 5 hours each time).

I'm learning to always always check that I'm actually recording. Sometimes I think I've pressed record - probably I did - but the camera hasn't responded, maybe because I'd restarted recording too soon after pressing stop. This has only happened at the reception though, when there's a lot of distractions/noise and it's dark and the shots aren't crucial (eg people dancing).

I'm hyper-careful whenever transferring data - nothing is ever wiped from the cards until I have copies on two physically-separate hard drives. I have nightmares about wiping the data accidentally!

So I'm going to continue shooting just to card to save that $2,000 - the problems people have identified have mostly been user-based, and in the case of problems with the cards.. that's a hard one but mine have been solid so far and every photographer I work with is shooting just to card (no tape back-up)...

Langdon
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Old November 20th, 2009, 01:48 AM   #14
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My cards were totally solid.

Until they weren't.

I do hope you never have problems, but the two times my cards failed it didn't show the error until after shooting. During shooting everything appeared fine. So if a card does fail it might not be at a time where you can correct it, it could be too late.

In your case if tape costs are so high I might just reuse the same tapes over and over for backup. Sure they might get pretty dirty and have dropouts but that'd still be better to me than losing it all.
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Old November 20th, 2009, 05:19 AM   #15
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My experience with data failures (P2 only) had to do with poor workflow and not getting backups. Langdon's policy of not erasing until files are in two separate drives is great. As to the card reliability on the Z7... I have not had any problems, but I hope we all keep each other informed so we can learn from the shared information. This is such a great place...
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