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Sony HVR-Z1 / HDR-FX1
Pro and consumer versions of this Sony 3-CCD HDV camcorder.

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Old December 19th, 2004, 12:47 PM   #31
Barry Wan Kenobi
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I too wonder that - why cripple the camera then complain about it's relative lack of sharpness?
Cripple? That's an odd choice of words. You could also say the XL2 and DVX were "crippled" because I didn't artificially introduce more sharpness/detail/edge enhancement into their picture by cranking up the settings, couldn't you?

The attempt was to get a natural-looking picture, not one that was excessively artificially sharpened.
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Old December 19th, 2004, 12:48 PM   #32
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Re: Video files

Barry could you post both raw DV (from DVX100/a) and FX1 m2t files of the same scene (about 5 seconds or whatever suits you), i would like to test the downres for my self thanks Barry!
Yes, I always intended to do that. Only problem is, all the files I captured are way huge, and I have no way of outputting FX1 m2t files. I'll have to re-install Cineform on a system and capture little five-second snippets. I'd love to see some outside testing to verify or disprove what I'm finding.
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Old December 19th, 2004, 12:51 PM   #33
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Film telecined (or scanned) to HD (or 2k -- 10% more than HD) then down res'd to SD also looks great. It is a standard industry workflow.
Yes, it does look great. And downrezzed FX1 looks great too. Just not better than the competing cameras shooting native.

I'd heard some reports that said downrezzed FX1 "blows away" cameras like the DSR500, DVX, XL2, any other camera... all I'm saying is that in all the tests I've run, that's simply not true. It looks, at best, about the same. Maybe a little softer. But not "better" by any way that I can see.
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Old December 19th, 2004, 03:53 PM   #34
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<<<-- Originally posted by Barry Green : Certainly it does. However, keep in mind that I'm comparing all three cameras split-screened into the same frame, so any MPEG artifacting/blurring would be applied to all three images equally. -->>>
I meant that those mpg2 artifacts blur also the original hdv material.
Just trying to find reason why hdv doesn't have more details than dv.

But before somebody takes good objective measurements from fx1/z1's real resolution, this is all just speculation.

Is there anybody professional who has resolution charts, knows how to use them and owns a camera and after all would be interested to know how good is it?

Or is it so that new camera owners are scared to find out that interlaced hdv of fx1/z1 doesn't have better resolution than progressive dv from dvx/xl2?
This is possible if you take out kell factor from hdv's resolution and then think how much details it's heavy mp2 compression removes in dct.
Another thing that might give the impression that hdv has much more resolution might be that hdv is usually watched from hd display.
Dv is usually watched from display of with connections that can't show the full horizontal resolution or progressive picture.
Isn't even analog sd component signal's luma limited to below 5 MHz?
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Old December 19th, 2004, 03:57 PM   #35
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<<<-- Originally posted by Barry Green : I did not. I tried to neutralize the effect of the various settings. I mean, we could have also tested with the DVX at +7 and the FX1 at +15, and the DVX at -7 and the FX1 at 0, and every combination in between, but there's only so much time in the day and so many ways you can test something. So I set 'em at neutral (or what I expect would be neutral). -->>>

Of course nobody has time to test every combination, but testing the min and max settings would tell all of us what the limits are.
After that everybody can imagine what's between.
So now we know what camera give's at default settings, not what camera can give.
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Old December 19th, 2004, 05:13 PM   #36
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I am currently scheduled to do a shoot with the FX1 for Heath McKnight this week. As part of my initial tests, I plan on putting my Putora 7A9 chart in front of both the FX1 and the DVX100A. I will be posting my thoughts on my experience with the camera and my opinion on its performance on this board as soon as I get back to NY. And it's likely that Chris will eventually post my review in article form on the HDV Info page in the Articles section as was done with my reviews of the HD10.

It will be up to Heath and his colleagues to post any footage or still frames for public viewing. Though I'm sure it won't be too much hassle to post some comparitive stills of the FX1 and DVX100A in front of the 7A9 chart.

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Old December 19th, 2004, 05:23 PM   #37
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My understanding of the resolution issue you are observing is as follows:

When downconverting 1080 footage to 480 using low order interpolation methods you are basically passing the footage through a low pass shelf filter. In question you are averaging every 9 pixels to 4 pixels vertically. A frequency plot of such a filter will show that there is a reduction in response some way before the cutoff frequency (which is the 480 scan line frequency in this case) is reached which is the reason for the slight image softening. The cure is to use high order interpolation (fifth and above, not bicubic) which will notch boost the response near the scan line frequency. Rather than go to all that trouble a simple edge sharpener will be just as good. Without such a cure you are comparing unsharpened footage with sharpened footage, since your DV cameras are at default sharpness - which means they are sharpened, and because, any sharpness in the original HDV source is stripped out by the filter action of the downconversion.

One must be careful having sharp footage in that the higher frequencies present which are attributed to sharpness may be close to the scan line frequency which will give rise to an unsightly pnenomenon known as twitter, which can only be cured by softening the footage.

I can list a number of advantages of downconverting HDV>DVD over and above DV>DVD

- reduction of noise by > 50%
- removal of the halo effect
- reduction of artifacts > 50%
- improvement of any slight de-focusing faults
- improved colour space going into the mpeg compression for DVD
- choice of whether to have interlace or progressive DVD
- better framing from cropping if desired

this to my mind is better , not worse or equal

At the risk of repeating myself (not to you specifically) I have a DVD encoded sample clip of Kaku which I can upload to anyone who cares to host it.
John Jay

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Old December 19th, 2004, 06:15 PM   #38
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Just trying to find reason why hdv doesn't have more details than dv.
Whoa -- let's hold up here. HDV has way more detail than DV. Way, way more. If you watch the original HDV source on a 1080i television, the difference is startling.

The subject that we've been discussing is, how does that HDV hold up when it's been downrezzed to DVD. That's where I'm saying it's basically equal, and HDV holds no advantage over comparably-shot DV from a comparable camera.

But to say that HDV doesn't have more detail than DV is to totally miss the point. Either I misunderstood you, or you misunderstood me, so let's be clear about that. In HDV mode the resolution is dramatically superior to any DV camera.

It's just that when you down-rez it down to DVD, the HDV image doesn't retain any advantage over comparably-shot DV.
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Old December 19th, 2004, 06:26 PM   #39
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<< it's likely that Chris will eventually post my review in article form on the HDV Info page in the Articles section >>

I'm hoping to replace that word eventually with very soon. Thanks,

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Old December 19th, 2004, 06:49 PM   #40
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John, I agree in theory with every advantage you just listed for HDV->DVD. Especially about noise, as the downsampled FX1 picture is very clean (although I don't believe it's cleaner than the native XL2 signal).

However, in practice, I'm just not seeing the results.

Chris has stored the pictures on his site, so here's the breakdown of how I arrived at my conclusions:

I've got hours of footage we're trying to compile into a meaningful side-by-side. I'm split-screening XL2/DVX/FX1 footage showing the EXACT SAME SETUPS, EXACT-SAME LIGHTING CONDITIONS, EXACT SAME CAMERA MOVEMENTS, etc... only difference is the cameras themselves.

And I'm giving the FX1 the benefit of the doubt by making the DVD source from the original HDV footage, not a DV down-rez, because by using DV down-rez, you convert the original 4:2:0 MPEG-2 down to 4:1:1 DV, and then again to 4:2:0 MPEG-2 for the DVD authoring. Whereas with what I'm doing, it goes from 4:2:0 MPEG-2 to 4:2:0 MPEG-2, no DV downconversion.

I'll post screen grabs, screen grabs are a nearly pointless way to evaluate video quality -- it's video, not stills, and so much of the experience relates to motion artifacts and motion handling and perceived resolution and blah blah blah. So people can ask for stills, but other than illustrating specific items (such as, see how much brighter this camera is than that one) it's not a good measure of examining video performance at all.

I've put this stuff on DVD and viewed it on a computer screen, on a conventional TV and then also projecting on a 10' screen using component inputs, and standing like 2' away. There is no circumstance that I've found where the FX1 footage looks any sharper than the DVX or XL2 footage, when rendered to DVD. Even in interlaced mode, they look (at best) the same, sharpness-wise, or at least within spitting distance of each other. On CF24 footage vs. progressive, the DVX and XL2 hold quite an advantage, especially when the FX1 had Cinematone gamma on -- all the dark sections get so crushed down on the FX1 that you can't see any shadow detail vs. the DVX, which shows everything.

Yes the signal on the FX1 is cleaner with deeper blacks. And I don't know but I suspect that under a more controlled shooting environment, cranking up coring and lowering the master pedestal, it may be possible to get the DVX to match those attributes of the FX1. Even if not, the DVX is still two stops faster, with what appears to be more latitude, and genuine 24fps movement instead of the fake CF24.

If I'm wrong, I'm glad to be proven wrong -- I don't like to continue being wrong. But I just don't see it. In HDV mode on a high-def monitor, yes the FX1 does a great job (on still shots, a less great job on moving shots, but it's still high-def). But when put on DVD... the tables shift, and the XL2/DVX just look every bit as good and usually better.
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Old December 19th, 2004, 06:50 PM   #41
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Here's the first grab. This was shot in Grand Central Terminal in NYC at about 10:00 a.m. There's daylight streaming through some windows up high and there's some tungsten lighting in there as well. It was overall kind of dark in there.

This shot was in 60i mode, which should give the FX1 the most advantage it can have, and put the DVX and XL2 at the most disadvantage (they are both higher-res in progressive than in interlaced). Furthermore the DVX was hampered by having to be in squeeze mode, vs. the native 16:9 of the other two.

The DVX and FX1 had to be zoomed in a little bit to account for the not-as-wide-angle of the XL2. So the FX1 was wide-open aperture, as wide as we could get it, which at this zoom setting was f/1.8. The XL2 was also at f/1.8 and the DVX was at f/2.8. No gain was used.

This is an interlaced-mode grab so there are interlaced artifacts. This grab is taken from the DVD MPEG-2 file. No post-processing, no color correction, no gamma shift, no sharpening, no anything, not even studio-to-rgb correction. This is all three cameras taken directly from the firewire port (FX1 in full HDV mode), laid on the timeline, an identifying graphic added, and this is the output of the DVD MPEG-2 compression.

Now, from my observation point, I don't see where the FX1 is "blowing away" the other cameras... in fact, you can see much more detail in the shadows, and much more detail overall in the DVX and XL2 shots. And I think that squeeze mode acquits itself rather well as compared to the native 16:9 of the others... although the XL2 does have an advantage in detail as can be read in the words on the sign. The FX1 is dark because it just didn't have the sensitivity to properly render the scene, it was at wide-open aperture, as was the XL2. The DVX had to be stopped down 1.5 stops.

This one is DVX/24P/Anamorphic/CineGamma, vs. FX1/HDV/CF24/CinemaTone Gamma, vs. XL2/24P/16:9/CineGamma.

Unfortunately the framing is not quite as good on the FX1, it's a little more zoomed-in, but still the differences are stark. The DVX is displaying the characteristic soft-contrast look of CineGamma, which could be "punched up" to deliver more contrast by lowering the master pedestal, something we didn't do. The FX1, on the other hand, is displaying the characteristic harsh-contrast/crushed-black look of CinemaTone Gamma. In this shot, for color, the XL2 is much greener and maybe a little sharper. The leaves on the tree were more accurately represented (color-wise) by the other cameras, but the grass and bushes look vibrant and cleaner on the XL2 shot. For detail the FX1 comes in last place. Look at the detail in the tree trunk (even though the FX1's zoomed in more!) Look at the lack of detail in the foreground bushes, the lack of detail in the splotchy grass at the base of the tree as compared to the cleanness of the XL2 or even the anamorphic softness of the DVX. For fine tree branch detail it's pretty close, maybe a slight edge to the XL2, and the FX1 unfortunately doesn't have quite the same framing so it's harder to see and judge. Much of the awfulness of the FX1's picture can be traced to the field-blending effects of CineFrame 24, but ... if you want filmlike footage, you're going to have to do something to it, whether CF24 or post-processing or something... again, for DVD footage, I think the DVX and XL2 are superior here. And if you like the contrast & deeper blacks of the FX1, you can always change that in the menu settings (we didn't have a monitor with us and couldn't a/b the shots).

This time we shot with each camera towards its best advantage, so the DVX is 24P/thin/anamorphic, the FX1 is HDV/60i, and the XL2 is 24P/thin/16:9.

Now, in this shot, I'm not seeing a whole lot of detail difference between them -- other than the harsher contrast of the FX1 vs. the softer contrast of DVX CineGamma, but the actual raw detail looks about the same. The XL2 was unfortunately overexposed by about a half-stop (the DVX was at f/6.8, the other cameras at f/4.0, which puts the DVX a full 1.5 stops faster than the FX1 even when in progressive mode!) The XL2 should probably have been at f/4.8, but without an A/B monitor it's hard to get all that completely accurate in the field.

Here the FX1 acquits itself well, but again, this is a still shot -- you have to keep in mind that while you're watching the DVD, the FX1 looks like a VIDEO camera (because of 60i) whereas the XL2 and FX1 in this shot look like movie cameras. Very different look.

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Old December 19th, 2004, 06:52 PM   #42
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I guess in summary, for DVD they all look fine, and there's certainly no knockout blow for one over the others, but I do think the DVX provides the most information simply from the fact that it's 1.5 to 2.5 stops faster than the FX1 and 1 to 1.5 stops faster than the XL2. It sees more in the dark, and sees deeper into the shadows. And the FX1 loses resolution to get its film look, whereas the DVX and XL2 gain resolution to produce their film look. That's why I say, for DVD production, the DVX is the best with the XL2 very close second, and the FX1 just isn't as suitable (unless your goal is to make 60i DVD's under bright lighting conditions, in which case it'll look about as good as the other two). For HD interlaced production it's no contest, the FX1 delivers the goods. But for DVD release... I'm not seeing any advantage to the FX1 (other than a lower-noise signal), and I'd hate to give up real manual lens control, 7 gamma curves, 4 color matrices, real XLR audio support, true 24P, true SMPTE time code, and all the other things the DVX and XL2 do, just to get... what, a more expensive camera with worse low-light performance and lower latitude? Doesn't make sense for DVD production.

At least, that's my take, until someone proves otherwise.

Now, the one variable to discuss is downrez quality -- if I'm doing a lousy down-rez, then the whole test becomes invalid. To reiterate, I am using Vegas 5.0 for the downrez, for the following reasons:
1) I had it.
2) Douglas Spotted Eagle has said repeatedly that Vegas-downrezzed material looked much better than allowing the FX1 to downrez itself (convert HDV to firewire DV on the fly)
3) Doing the downrez in Vegas, vs. having the camera do it, let us avoid one compression cycle and two color-space conversions, which should benefit the FX1 footage
4) When set to "best" quality, Vegas uses Bicubic resampling, rather than "good" quality's bilinear (think I got that right...) so it should be a solid tool.

Even so, some question the validity of Vegas as the downrezzing tool of choice. So I tested Vegas against PhotoShop, just to see how it would compare. This should let us judge the quality of Vegas' resizing, independent of any other factor, at least in comparison to PhotoShop's resizing.

here's a small extraction blown up to 300% to compare:

To my eyes, Vegas did a pretty good job, way way better than Premiere 6.0 would have done. But the picture is a tiny bit softer with a little less contrast. All the important detail seems to be there though, (can't understand why the contrast would be softer... the black level looks lifted a little.) there's certainly not enough difference that one could point to Vegas and say "that's the problem, use a different re-sizer and the results would be night and day".

Furthermore, let's compare Vegas' resizing next to having the camera do the resizing. Here I have a shot where we shot a scene in HDV mode, and simultaneously captured the firewire output in DV Rack, so I have an HDV source and a camera-downrezzed DV frame. I then downrezzed the HDV source using Vegas, so we can compare how Vegas does vs. the camera itself:

To my eyes they look pretty close, but I'd have to give the nod to Vegas. Look at the gray patch on the soccer ball in the middle of the shot -- Vegas is much more accurate in its representation, the FX1 smeared the detail in its shot (note, I'm looking at the original raw uncompression, whereas you'll be looking at JPG's, but it should be a valid comparison anyway). Overall the detail looks about the same, but there's some more mosquito noise on the FX1-downrez vs. the Vegas downrez, especially around the bells on the monkey's face.

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Old December 19th, 2004, 06:53 PM   #43
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I don't know what to tell ya, it sure looks to me like Vegas is doing a good job of resizing to SD, better than the camera would itself and nearly as good as PhotoShop. I think the results of these tests are are fairly accurate, and downrezzed FX1 footage is, at best, comparable to (if not slightly softer than) native XL2 and DVX footage. There is no sharpness advantage that survives the downrez process.

To understand why the downrez process is not delivering more sharpness from the source, I went to a theoretical extreme to see if I could understand it and explain it.

Let's take a couple of givens: by the time the image is rendered in the frame, a DV image (or DVD image) will be a grid of pixels, 720 x 480. An HDV image will be a grid of pixels 1440 x 1080. For DVD release or for SD broadcast, one would have to down-rez that 1440 x 1080 down to 720 x 480. Some are arguing that the downrezzed image should be superior to the native image, but my testing is showing it not to be the case. Why?

Okay, think about it this way. Let's take the ultimate example of DV resolution. Let's pretend that you shot a checkerboard pattern, and you lined up and framed the shot so exactly perfectly that the frame in the camera ended up being a pixel-for-pixel checkerboard pattern. The frame in the camera would look like this:

(note this represents a blowup of a small extraction of the full 720x480 frame). Every other pixel would be black, every other pixel would be white.

Now, let's assume we shot the identical same frame on the HDV camera. Seeing as the HDV camera has 1440 horizontal, or exactly twice as much horizontal pixels for the same perceived physical measurement in space, you would expect (and indeed get) an alternating series of two black pixels, then two white pixels. It'd look something like this:

(note we're being generous to the HDV camera for the sake of example here: because it has 1440 vs. 720 per line, it would indeed be exactly a 2:1 ratio on the horizontal. But because it's 1080 vertical vs. 480, it would *not* be exactly 2:1 on the vertical. Which means the downrez will be even less accurate in practice than in theory, but for our theory here we'll pretend it's 960 and call it "close enough").

Now, to downrez to standard-def, the HDV frame will have to be sampled and converted, from 1440 x 1080 (or 960 in our example) down to 720 x 480. What does it look like when you downrez 1440x960 down to 720x480?

(That's the results from a PhotoShop downrez.) Looks pretty good, right? But... are the edges softer? Has there been a loss of detail? Let’s zoom in and see how crisp and sharp the edges are:

They're not. There's rounding errors. There's averaging that goes on. There's approximation.

That's the way downrezzing works. You don't get the checkerboard, you get an approximation of pixel averaging, trying to keep all the data from all the pixels and making every pixel "count" towards the end goal. The only way you could get an accurate checkerboard pattern would be if your resize used a simple pixel decimation technique, throwing away 50% of the horizontal and 50% of the vertical pixels (which would only work for a strict checkerboard pattern, and wouldn't work so well on other types of images). Then you have to factor in that decimation wouldn't account for the 1080 to 480 conversion -- you *have* to have some pixel-averaging system going on. And when pixels are averaged together, detail is lost.

Let's put it to another type of test, taking into account the difference between 1080 and 960: I made a 1440x1080 grid, filled with a checkerboard pattern of pixels 2x2. Then downrezzed that to 720x480. Here's a blowup of what PhotoShop actually delivers, taking into account the difference in height that results because 480 is not half of 1080:

Now, the counter-argument goes, why does SDX900 footage look so much better on DVD than DVX footage? Obviously because the SDX, a much superior camera, can do a much more accurate representation to its frame than the DVX can. The real question would be, using the same glass, would a CineAlta do a better job on DVD than an SDX900 would? Would a $100,000 HDCAM camera deliver a better final image on DVD than a $25,000 camera? Using the same glass?

My assertion, based on this study and these theories, is that no, it would not. The SDX would make a better looking final image on DVD than the CineAlta would, because the SDX would use the same glass but would deliver a final 720x480 frame that would be more accurate than a downrezzed 1440x1080 frame from the CineAlta.

A CineAlta would probably make a better-looking DVD image than a DVX would, because the camera head is so much better that it would probably survive the downrez process better than native DVX. But the SDX is such a better camera head than the DVX that I propose that it would deliver a better-looking DVD image than downrezzed CineAlta.

And so it is with the DVX/FX1/XL2. The FX1 appears to be a comparable camera head, comparable lens etc. to the XL2/DVX... certainly in DV mode the FX1 is no better than the XL2 or DVX. So downrezzing FX1 footage does not hold up as well as DVX or XL2 footage.

That's my theory, anyway. Mouth is now wide open, my foot positioned right in front, waiting for to be shoved in by someone proving this theory wrong...

Certainly Vegas isn't the be-all, end-all of downsizing, and maybe some unsharp mask or some other technique would improve the FX1 footage (but couldn't we also do the same to the XL2 and DVX, negating the FX1's newfound advantage?)

For HD production the FX1 is the clear winner, as long as you like the interlaced look. But for making DVD's, I don't see the FX1 as offering any advantage, and in fact it demands sacrifices (in audio quality, in 24P mode, in image controls, in light sensitivity, in many ways).

When I get the FX1 in my hands again, I'd like to re-capture some tiny snippets of footage that I could then post so you guys could use the original raw data and make your own comparisons.
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Old December 19th, 2004, 08:19 PM   #44
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Awesome work Barry.

Still, your checkerboard tests did not take into account in the effect of DV color sampling versus HDV color sampling. Furthermore, your tests with what seems to be 0% and 100% luma don't address the bit depth advantage. Aquiring and editing in higher resolution at a given bit depth should --in theory-- render an image after resampling which could contain more resolution in dynamics. In other words, the result would be that of having --I don't really know but, say --an 18 bit ADC and 16 bit luma sampling instead of a 14 bit ADC and 8 bit luma. This idea would seem confirmed by your tests with the white teddy bear, where you compared the image from the cam's downsampling versus Vega's downsampling.

We do this sort of thing a lot in audio, when for example we use a 16 bit portable DAT to record a mono signal on both tracks, setting different input levels for each. When the two tracks are added back together in post the effective dynamic range of the system is greatly enhanced.

The question then is whether in practice, this enhanced luma dynamic resolution --and enhanced chroma spatial resolution-- play a big role in the quality of the final image. If they do, then, depending on the kind of content, there might be an edge in using the FX1/Z1 over other cams because of that factor. But then again, for that to really work the camera head would have to be very low-noise and have great lattitude. Even though noise seems to be quite low, lattitude does not appear to be until now one of the FX1/Z1's advantages. Then again most tests I have seen on lattitude were low-light shots, so the camera's noise reduction magic might have interfered by gating the shadows. And your tests with the cams in progressive scan and CF24 might have gone better if you could modify the FX1 gamma setting to something more similar to the DVX and XL2. I do not know if such a thing is possible.

It would be great if someone could run a checkerboard-like test similar to yours but with color patterns and gradients, and include DV and HDV compression, so as to be as real-life as possible.

Anyway, let's never forget Marshall Spight's wisdom: "The difference between theory and real life is that in theory, there is no difference between theory and real life, but in real life, there is a difference."
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Old December 19th, 2004, 09:55 PM   #45
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Very nice stuff, gentlemen.

And the pressure's on for me to get footage up. I didn't do so well last year, except for some jpegs.

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