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Sony VX2100 / PD170 / PDX10 Companion
Topics also include Sony's TRV950, VX2000, PD150 & DSR250 family.


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Old April 29th, 2006, 04:42 PM   #1
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Are you a widescreen or standard user?

Just wondering, what kind of user are you? When you know your work will ultimately be displayed on a common 4:3 set, do you shoot in 4:3 to suit that or 16:9 (Or do 16:9 simulation in post) to give your client that cinematic illusion when watching video on their 4:3 set?
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Old April 29th, 2006, 06:54 PM   #2
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frankly i wouldn't shoot commercial 16:9 on any 4:3 chipped camera. the end result is noticable...

that said, i shoot doco's, shorts, and commercials on my 170. as yet i haven't been asked for 16:9 by any client, apart from the national broadcaster (who i string for) - when i told them i could do it on my 170 they said shoot 4:3....

i reckon another two to three years will see more 16:9 tv's around, but the vast majority of pc screens will still be 4:3 for years to come.... so it depends on your market.

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Old April 30th, 2006, 07:36 AM   #3
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Maybe a rephrase, do you like shooting in 4:3 and letterboxing to give that more cinematic appearence, or are you a straight up 4:3er?

Shooting in widemode on the VX doesn't really fit more into the picture, so it's not like you see more when letterboxed than you do in 4:3...Letterboxing is post would give that cinematic effect, though, even though it has no real benefit besides merely superficially cosmetic, even though doing that will result in the top and bottom of your frame being cut out which is ironic as a true letterboxed movie isn't cut off at the top and bottom, correct?

To the untrained viewer, which do you think looks better? Watching something letterboxed on a 4:3 set just gives it that cinematic look.
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Old April 30th, 2006, 08:53 AM   #4
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Aviv Hallale
Maybe a rephrase, do you like shooting in 4:3 and letterboxing to give that more cinematic appearence, or are you a straight up 4:3er?
Personally, I find composition and movement in 16:9 so much more rewarding than 4:3. When I was studying photography, I was a great medium format fan (shoot square, crop in the darkroom, aka post) and nothing really ended up 4:3 - squarer, yes, but mostly being brave with the cropping.

As an aside, I remember a Silcon Graphics presentation on VR which demonstrated how if one's field of view extended to about 120 degrees horizontally, whilst cropping out the top and bottom bits, the viewer 'falls into' the scene (like sitting closer to the screen at the cinema). Top to bottom doesn't work as well (and and I'd agree having tried the 70mm thing at futuroscope with the glass floor).

At a more mundane, down to earth level (and maybe this reply isn't suitable for a section on the PD170) but as an EX-PD150 user, I simply had to upgrade to the Z1 to shoot HDV at 16:9 to master on.

I tried doing a 16:9 shoot on a PD150 and was horrified at the results. An anamorphic adaptor might have helped, but a good one cost lots. I couldn't shoot 4:3 and letterbox it as that would lose too much resolution, and my client demanded anamorphic masters.

At least now I have the option to ingest 16:9 as side-cropped 4:3. Mainly this is because all my event work (shown at conferences) is 4:3 to match PowerPoint - but I now re-ingest the footage post-event to make a 16:9 version for DVD/Web.

Having said that, it hasn't worked out quite as I expected, because many events are using plasma screens - which are 16:9. So only two of the fourteen jobs since february have been 4:3, and only two of the jobs in the next (busy) three months is 4:3. The rest are 'strictly' 16:9. Hence a PD150 would be more of a liability.

Although I'm in the UK (where 16:9 is now de rigeur) I know the US is a continent that has a huge legacy in 4:3, but it's had its day. Even if HD is slow in coming, SD 16:9 has more of a lifespan than SD4:3.

And it looks cool, which is as much as most want to know.
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Old April 30th, 2006, 09:00 AM   #5
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Thing is, I live in South Africa where barely anyone has a Widescreen TV, so even though all my stuff would be viewed in 4:3, like you said, letterboxed/widescreen just looks cooler and more cinematic.

How noticeable is the difference in quality between using the camera's 4:3 and 16:9? I'm not that used to it, so I can't really notice any difference, but is the picture grainier or what? I like the letterboxing in post idea, because then I can shoot in 4:3 at the best quality and just mask off the top and bottom like the camera does.
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Old April 30th, 2006, 09:00 AM   #6
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I only shoot for UK broadcast, so as Matt says, 16:9 is the norm.
I wouldn't mind if I never shot 4:3 again - I just personally find it kind of stifling for my compositions :-)

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Old April 30th, 2006, 09:04 AM   #7
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When people say the Widescreen of the VX2100 isn't good, is that simply because it cuts off the top and bottom or does any other loss come into play? Is the picture noticeably less quality than
4:3?

For instance, would filming in 16:9 on the VX2100 and watching on a 4:3 set look the same quality wise as filming in 16:9 on the FX and watching on a 4:3 set? They'd both be letter boxed, but does the VX2100 widescreen detract from the actual picture quality? I understand that the FX wont cut off the top and bottom of your picture, but besides that, does the VX lose any actual image clarity?
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Old April 30th, 2006, 09:36 AM   #8
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Quote:
Originally Posted by Aviv Hallale
does the VX lose any actual image clarity?
***YES*** !!!

Any off-horizontal lines will go all boxy and stepped on you. It looks like it was shot on a mobile phone's camera. It may look fine on your 4:3 set, but only because it isn't really 16:9. SHow it on a 16:9 set, and it's awful.

The way 16:9 works is that the pixels are a different shape to those in 4:3 - they are wider. Still the same number in 16:9 and 4:3, just a different shape. If you shoot 4:3 and chop the top and bottom off to black, it's not 16:9 yet - just a 4:3 with electronic mascara.

The next stage to create true anamorphic 16:9 is to crop the centre part and stretch it to fill the top and bottom. That's where the quality gurgles noisily down the plug hole. It's something that the VX and PD150/170 don't do well.

If you want a 16:9 image, shoot it on a camera that does 16:9 first and 4:3 second. Letterboxing has had its day and will haunt anyone who's making video NOW. A few years ago, it may have been acceptable, but not any more.
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Old April 30th, 2006, 09:52 AM   #9
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Aha! Here's a solution...

Quote:
Originally Posted by Aviv Hallale
barely anyone has a Widescreen TV
Okay, got a clearer picture of where you're coming from. Here's the solution, and I apologise in advance for the numeric intensity of it all. Pour a drink and reflect on it...

The BBC were in a similar position to you a few years back. They had to make programmes that will sell around the world for the next decade or so (16:9), but nobody was up for it. Why?

Letterboxing was fine, but there were some grass-roots complaints as, well, pictures didn't fill the frame, and... well... 25% less pictures - do we get a discount? :D The solution for analogue broadcast was to use a new aspect ratio - 14:9.

All 4:3 shows got a brazilian on the top and bottom - not much when you take into consideration the overscan of the TV set, but you got thin black lines top and bottom - deal with it.

All 16:9 shows got their ears chopped off: you lost 'about that much' (holds up two thumbs together) either side of your 16:9 frame. Just don't put anything crucial in that area - treat it as an overly extensive safe action area.

The final results was that 4:3 and 16:9 productions could play nice together, and the broadcaster paid for the incredibly expensive Snell and Wilcox ARC that did the magic - just deliver your 16:9 tape that you had worked so hard to ensure that it fit in a 14:9 hole.

Bottom line, though, is that if you're creating video content now, and hope to be commercially viable, you need to be serious about 16:9.

When I hit this wall on a programme last year, I took a desperate decision to shoot ALL my interviews green-screen 4:3 on my PD-150, then learned how to do DV chromakey (another long painful story). All the B-roll was shot on a hastily purchased PDX-10 - which does 16:9 a lot better so long as you have plenty of light.
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Old April 30th, 2006, 10:21 AM   #10
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Well, at the moment I'm doing small scale event videography just for a bit of income, I'm still a student living at home. I just watched my brother's wedding DVD again which was shot on a Canon XL1, so it's 4:3 and it really doesn't look bad on a 4:3 set. Which of course, it shouldn't.


I mean, technically, if I know that my stuff isn't going to be displayed on widescreen TV, there is no reason at all to letterbox it other than giving that "16:9 on a standard screen TV" look, which come to think of it, I don't really know why anyone would want other than to give that filmlike look. But then again, watching a 16:9 video on a 16:9 TV wont have those black bands...I think it's the actual letterbox that makes me equate 16:9 video with film.

Watching 4:3 on a 16:9 pillarboxes it, but can the zoom function of the TV get rid of the pillar box?

Letterboxing for me is, like I said, purely psychological...I've got that drilled into my head that widescreen = film and letterbox = a film/professional look, even though that's not necassarily true and clients that don't know much about aspect ratios might actually NOT want black bands at the top and bottom of the 4:3 set. So I guess I need to look at my market, 95% of TVs here are 4:3...I don't know anyone with a widescreen set and I think it's just my train of thought that gets me thinking that letterboxed 4:3 just looks more polished than normal 4:3, even though that would fit best on a 4:3 set. And then again, I just watched something I shot on my new VX2100 on my large screen 4:3 TV and was actually amazed at how good it looks...But I still have that nagging thought at the back of my head that says "Not letterboxed. Not widescreen. Home Movie. Home Movie. Home Movie." Someone that doesn't know anything about aspect ratios and watch 90% of their stuff on TV obviously wouldn't think that, as they're used to a 4:3 picture. Ignorance is bliss

I need shock therapy!

What is the actual benefit of shooting DV in widescreen, besides the obvious fact that it will fill a widescreen TV? I can understand how Widescreen helps with DVDs of feature films, so you don't have to worry about pan-and-scan cutting off most of the image, but shooting in widescreen vs 4:3 on a camera doesn't add extra information into the image...You don't see more on the sides in widescreen than you do in 4:3...Does widescreen just look more natural?

Last edited by Aviv Hallale; May 1st, 2006 at 08:17 AM.
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Old May 1st, 2006, 08:47 AM   #11
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Well if you switch a lot of camcorders with 4:3 chips such as the HC1, the PDX10, the GS400 and so on into their 16:9 mode you do indeed see in wider angle. The PDX10 for instance, goes from the equivalent of 49mm to 39mm when switched to 16:9 - not really wide, but a lot better than the 4:3 mode.

I shoot all my stage shows with two (PAL) VX2ks set in the 16:9 mode. In 4:3 I'd end up having lots of silhouetted heads at the bottom of the frame and a big curtain at the top, so the resolution of the actors themselves is unchanged on a 4:3 set, even with letterboxing.

And yes Aviv, I just think the 16:9 (very UN-widescreen in cinema terms) just looks more natural and a lot more modern than 4:3.

tom.
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