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Wedding / Event Videography Techniques
Shooting non-repeatable events: weddings, recitals, plays, performances...

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Old November 24th, 2005, 10:22 AM   #1
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Help a man in crisis!

I'm in a state of confusion. Several months ago I sold my DVCAM Sony PD170 and bought the Sony Z1U (HDV camera). It was a mistake. The Z1U has poor latitude and even worse low light performance. And no one is asking for HD (yet).

My main camera, the DSR250, is 5 years old. So right now I have an old SD camera matched to a new (but unsatisfying) HD camera. They do not match well in multi-camera shooting.

I went to Access AV with the intent on buying the new JVC HD100, but found it a very unsatisfying camera in a lot of ways -- awful viewfinder, worse in low light than the Z1U, etc.

The question is: should I sell the Z1U and go back to an SD camera or keep the Z1U and sell the DSR250 for another HDV camera. Going back to SD will be better for me *now*, but not so good for (whenever) people start asking for HD.

I have no clue what to do. I'm stuck in the $3000 - $5000 per camera range. What the heck should I do? It's a terrible time to buy a camera, IMO, but I need to do something. So it's either stick with HDV and tough it out with the poor latitude and low light performance, or go back to SD and get better performance now and have a harder time selling the cameras later. Guess I could add an AJA SD to HD converter, but how good would that be?
Bill Edmunds is offline   Reply With Quote
Old November 24th, 2005, 11:42 AM   #2
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I'm sympathetic to your plight. Unless you have a client demand for HD NOW, buying an HDV camera is risky. One very prominant camera geek has said that the FX1 is 2.5 to 3 stops worse than the PD-150 (and the 170 is cleaner).

It's makes much more sense to wait until you feel YOUR CLIENT demand is there (or feel you're confident you can MARKET/SALE HD). By the time that demand begins to happen the NEXT GENERATION HD cameras will be out and they'll likely have improved low light performance.

The ideal is a camera that is "scalable."

I'd follow the features/accesories for the Panasonic HVX200. It SUPPOSEDLY has good low light performance. It'll shoot to DV to tape right now and can shoot 16x9 DV with its native 16x9 chips.

It can also shoot to DVCPro50 with 4:2:2 sampling (better for graphics, keys) as well as DVCProHD 720p24, 720p30, 720p60. 1080p24, 1080p30, 1080i, and includes additional variable frame rates I believe.

It's drawback is major expense for short record time on P2 cards, about 18 minutes at highest resolution and then you have to dump off to a hard drive. When the Focus Enhancements Drive comes out for it, it'll store about 100 minutes at highest resolution. The storage issues will definately improve though over the next year.

This all means you can shoot weddings to DV tape (16x9 if you like) with this camera and use the higher formats which don't need long records, for higher end clients, HD cable spots, higher end corporate, Feature work (where they're used to changing 35mm reels at about 10 minutes each).

Doc work might be better served by the long records of HDV and little need for heavy graphics compositing. Again the current crop of HDV cameras aren't very good at low light shooting if that's a factor in one's Doc work (and a wedding video is a form of Doc work).

Your most affordable solution is to buy a GOOD on camera light such as a dimmable Frezzi with good diffusion so as not to blanket/blind the subjects.

HD is in demand in the feature market, the non wedding doc market, TV series market because they need longivity (HD compatibility) for FUTURE Disc and Broadcasts/Cablecast syndication.

HD demand will happen in the CONSUMER market when HDTV penetration improves (price drops) and HD Disc Playback comes out and penetrates the consumer market. That's likely a couple of years away.
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Old November 24th, 2005, 11:59 AM   #3
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Originally Posted by Craig Seeman
One very prominant camera geek has said that the FX1 is 2.5 to 3 stops worse than the PD-150 (and the 170 is cleaner).
Hmm, I hate to question the word of "prominent geeks", but I'm not sure I agree with that. I have a VX-2000, a PDX-10 and an HVR-Z1 and have used them all to shoot very dark performances. The VX-2000 certainly does better in low light, but I suppose your situation will dictate just how much of an issue that is. I did some tests and found the PDX-10 to be 2.5 f-stops slower than the VX-2000. But the PDX-10 has 14-bit DSP so you can boost gain 6 dB very cleanly which would bring it more like 1.5 stops from the VX-2000 and PD-150. Actually a 9 dB boost is also quite clean.

Now I've only shot 4 performances with my Z1, but my gut reaction is that it's a little faster than the PDX-10, and it should be since we're talking 1/3" on the Z1 ccd's vs 1/5" CCD's on the PDX-10. It also has a very clean gain boost. But if you're shooting SD there's another trick which will gain you a full f-stop. Shoot at 1/30 sec shutter. On a camera like the PD-150 that would halve your vertical resolution due to the field doubling, but on the Z1 the field doubling happens at HD resolution, and when down-rezzed to SD you still get full vertical resolution. That should put the Z1 and PD-150 back in the same ballpark. True, the PD-170 added 14 bit DSP which gives it cleaner gain boost. I've never used one, but this might give it a little edge.

This topic comes up so much that I made a "sticky" to cover the Z1 in low light:

Personally, I'd keep the Z1 and explore what you can do by tweaking some of the settings (unless you're confident that you've already done all this). I just feel that it's a much nicer camera, even for SD work, than the VX and PD series. The manual controls are a lot nicer and there are a lot more image adjustment parameters with the picture profiles vs the PD's custom preset. The LCD and viewfinder are also great. And if you want to shoot 16:9 SD then there's just no comparison, the Z1 wins hands down.

With regard to matching the two, I guess that's a tough call. Maybe it's worth looking at the HVR-A1? Or an FX1 (if you don't need the XLR's or PAL capabilities).

Let us know what you decide to do.
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Old November 24th, 2005, 12:15 PM   #4
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I had to work with HD and i woudnt touch it again with a ten foot pole, i'll give it a few more years till its all quirk free. Stay with SD, HD is still a gimmick, wait.
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Old November 24th, 2005, 02:59 PM   #5
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Hi Boyd,

"Prominant geek" is Adam Wilt and I think it's in his free video on cameras recorded at a DV Expo or two (about 3 hours long in 2 parts) and hosted at the DV site.

I don't automatically assume such statements about the low light performance are correct but I looked at the FX1 myself and it was instantly obvious to my eyes. In fact it was only after that experience that I found others thought the same and it was coming from folks who know how to tweak a camera.

I understand Saturnin's sentiments. I don't like the long GOP structure and drop out risks and paying gigs. I don't like the work flow issues - render to create GOP structure, need to buy a Card of some sort to get it out to an NTSC/PAL monitor for color correction. Of course you can downconvert to DV or upconvert to DVCProHD. All this extra work you need to do and your clients likely aren't paying extra and you're still delivering SD. Even if the above remains an issue, I fully believe that the next generation HDV cameras will solve the low light issue. The demand for HD is still very low for most of us right now.

Again HDV is VERY GOOD for years to come for shooting a reasonably light low budget feature or docs where you're not shooting in dark cornors.

When I see a camera in a similar price class coming up which can get me away from 4:1:1 or 4:2:0 and move to 4:2:2 and Supposedly has good low light abilities and shoots at several HD framerates and sizes, I see that as FUTURE viability. Acquisition and archival is expensive but that will drop like a rock IMHO. With few exceptions mentioned there's little demand for HD in most markets "we" deal with. When the demand does grow I'd ask what camera will give you the most flexibility AT THAT TIME.

I'll stick with SD until the demand increases and I suspect HDV cameras will be better and tapeless DVCProHD will be more cost effective. That's when it's time to buy.

It is a horrible time to buy a camera right now. SD will be fading in 18 months (give or take). The current HDV cameras have many issues that will be resolved. Tapeless DVCProHD currently has many acquisition and archival issues. HDDVD and BluRay will be a consumer delivery issue for both the consumer and those delivering. We're at the "dip" in the crossfade so to speak.

Also as a camera buyer you don't need to buy the dominant format. You need to look at best workflow that gets you to best quality deliverable. Think about the clients you have or want to target and what they'll want. It's the deliverable that must be "compatible."

I do think the best answer for Bill is a GOOD camera light. The thing is by the time the clients actually want HD delivery his competitors will be using newer better HDV cameras.

BTW I hear the new XBOX can play WMVHD files burned onto a standard DVDs.
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Old November 24th, 2005, 03:41 PM   #6
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Well I certainly agree that HDV isn't for everyone, and if it isn't for you then don't use it. In fact, I bought my Z1 because I needed to do a project in PAL SD and it seemed like the best way to do this and have HDV as a bonus. Other than a few short tests, I haven't even worked in HDV with my Z1 in the 5 months that I've owned it! I've been so busy that I didn't want to get into all the issues of updating to Tiger and FCP 5 in the middle of a bunch of projects. But just today I completed that upgrade, and am looking forward to working with the HDV performance footage I shot a week ago. But that's really just for "fun" because the end product will be an SD DVD.

I have concerns about dropouts too, but haven't worked enough with HDV to know how much of an issue they are. There are several threads on this topic here, and while the problem is real it doesn't seem to be causing a lot of trouble for people.

But the nice thing about the Z1 is you can just switch it to SD mode and shoot DVCAM to your heart's content if these things trouble you, or if you aren't ready to work in HD. You'll certainly get a lot nicer 16:9 footage than a PD-170 will deliver. See also the much discussed analysis from the BBC who is reportedly replacing their PD-150's with Z1's with the idea of using them in DVCAM mode. They felt the controls and optics were significantly better than the PD-150.

Personally I agree with that, but we all have our own priorities. If you just want to work in 4:3 the PD-170 is certainly a great choice, and you will get better low light response. However if you read the threads in the link I posted above you'll see that there really isn't a clear consensus about the low light issue.

My comments were also slanted towards Bill's situation since he already has a Z1. If you don't own one and you want to shoot in very dark places in 4:3 then it may not be your best choice.
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