HD camera comparisons with various video formats and with film production
$ 5K to $ 23K
$24K to $ 85K
$40K to $150K and up
Tech info camera formats for acquisition and post
Comparison to Standard definition video
Cost efficiencies with HD production
The prosumer HDV videotape format is a common recording format for a number of new low priced HD cameras. The Panasonic HVX-200 and HVX170 use the better than HDV quality DVCPro HD format on P2 solid state memory. The best camera for the money changes every 4-6 months but currently the frontrunner is the new SonyXDCAM-EX1 recording on SxS compact flash cards.
Previoiusly the HVX-200 had the best feature set for the cost; the Canon XL-H1 had higher res and with 24f that is similar to 24p; the Sony HVR-V1U that has a true 24p frame rate compared to the Sony V1U which did not; and the JVC GY-HD250U camcorderrecords 24p. All have a variety of strengths and disadvantages. Any of these formats are better than shooting in standard def but each has its big weaknesses especially compared to Sony CineAlta and Panasonic Broadcast cameras.
Link for informatvie comparison of sensors, video and data formats, compression: DIGITAL CINEMATOGRAPHY tech info
larger imagers = better quality, more desirable shallow depth of field; good low light sensitivity
...... 2/3" is better than 1/2" better than 1/3", 1/4"
more pixels in the imagers = better quality
1920x1080 (2 Megapixel) is better than 1440x1080 is better than 960x720 or 960x540
Digital recording formats / codecs: in general higher bit rates Mb/s indicate better quality, however the type of compression and sampling are factors.
Sony XDCAM-EX model PVM-EX1
Sony XDCAM-EX model PVM-EX3
1920x1080 three 1/2" CMOS imagers.....[2.1 Megapixel sensor ] a true full 1080p HD sensor
14x Fujinon zoom lens 5.8mm- 81.2mm (equiv to 35mm lens of 31.4-440mm)
Records to SxS Flash Media that plays in all new laptops with Express Card ; Using SxS or P2 usually requires an extra crew person on the set copying P2 cards, unless you have a lot of them and can copy after the days shooting. Typically accomplished with a laptop with an older PCMIA drive then copying the data to firewire drives, then making backup data copies on more drives.
Sony XDCAM EX Best features: highest imager resolution, largest sensor so most control over depth of field of these small cameras, best manual control of focus, SxS Flash Media that is more affordable than P2; variable frame rates up to 30p in 1080, but up to 60p in 720p; slow shutter for low light, interval recording; Imports and Edits easily in Final Cut Pro and Avid.
New MxR adapters for the EX1 and EX3 allow use of very affordable SDHC cards when high frame rates are not required.
Panasonic HVX 200A,
Panasonic HPX 170
960x540 three 1/3" CCDs..... 518K [.5 Mega Pixel sensor ] that use pixel shifting to get a claimed resolution of 1440x810 with uprezzing but in real life testing the resolutioin is significantly less than that 13x zoom range 4.2 - 55mm (equivalent to 35mm lenses 32.5-423mm )
P2 records DVCPro HD data in the 960x720p format and also upconverts to 1440x1080 format, 100 Mbps data rate which is much better than HDV, the same as Varicam and HDX 900, but no HD SDI or HDMI output is available
Using P2 requires an extra crew person on the set copying P2 cards, unless you have a lot of them and can copy after the days shooting. Typically accomplished with a laptop with an older PCMIA drive then copying the data to firewire drives, then making backup data copies on more drives.
Fixed lens is a limitation, and it is also is hard to focus; but it is a good B camera to work with Varicam or HDX 900.Until the Sony XDCAM EX camera shipped this camera was probably the best value for its cost. This has been a very popular camera from its inception, there are a lot of these in use.
Panasonic HVX 200A, best features: recording using the DVCPro HD codec which is 100 Mbs and carries 4:2:2 color information
variable frame rates 12p up to 60p; pre-record mode;
interesting feature: this camera records standard definition to mini -DV tape, but very few people need that these days
Panasonic HVX 200 weaknesses: very low chip resolution - barely HD, the Panasonic HVX200 brochure calls it DVCPro 50 quality; analog HD for monitoring - no HDSDI output, difficult focus mechanism, difficult to see focus with only 235,000 pixel viewfinder and 210,000 pixle LCD
Canon XL H1
1440 x 1080 three 1/3" CCDs... [ 1.5 Mega Pixel imager] uses Canon Divic DVII technology; records 24f which is very similar to 24p
records to HDV at 25 Mbs data rate, but has HD SDI output can record to other tape formats including HDCAM and DVCPro HD portable recorders.
however by the time you rent or purchase a portable HD recorder, or even a Wafian disk recorder for producers with a high risk tolerance, you can afford a Panasonic HDX 900
Canon XLH1 best features: interchangeable lenses, 20x zoom lens available, and can use Canon XL mount still photo lenses.
HD DSI output; records to HDV tape; higher res than HVX200 but not as high as Sony XDCAM EX
Canon XLH1 weaknesses: non-standard 24p HDV record format can not playback in Sony or Panasonic vtrs, must play from Canon camera
HDV quality is not as good as P2,or XDCAM as a record format
the first true 24p prosumer camcorder from Sony.
three 1/4" CMOS sensors 960x1080 pixels ...[ 1 Mega pixel imager ] pixels are layed out in a diamond shape; this camera has an excellent dynamic range
records to HDV at 25 Mbs data rate, but has HDMI output that can convert to HD SDI output can record to other tape formats including HDCAM and DVCPro HD portable recorders.
Sony HVR-V1U best features: true 24p recording on HDV tape if you shoot a lot and want to archive on tape;
The list price for this camera is the lowest of these four cameras.
Sony HVR-V1U weaknesses: Fixed lens a big limitation; very big depth of field because of the small 1/4" sensors so film like shallow focus difficult to achieve; HDV quality is not as good as P2,or XDCAM as a record format
JVC GY-HD 250U
1280x720p three 1/3" CCDs..... 1.1 Mega Pixel imager, frame rates up to 60p but only 720p
JVC HD250U best feature: interchangable lenses: a variety of 1/3" Fujinon zoom lenses,and adapters for 2/3" lenses and 16mm PL mount lenses, much better than those on Panasonic HVX200 or Sony HVR-V1U, shoulder style camera layout.
JVC HD250U weaknesses: records to HDV at 25 Mbs data rate; tapes are not compatible with Sony vtrs, editing up until early 2007 very difficult, clients call us in tears, let's see what happens after NAB April 2007; this camera is hard to find to rent or an owner; some service repair rissues
Cameras: $24,000 -$99,000
Professional HD cameras with full size 2/3" CCD imagers and higher data rate HD recording
Panasonic HDX-900, 27H Varicam, HVX-3000
1280x720p three 2/3" CCDs..... 1.1 Mega Pixel imager, frame rates up to 60p;
records to DVCPro HD tape at 960x720p resolution 100 Mbs but at 24p really is 40 Mbs
interchangeable lenses standard 2/3" B4 mount
Sony HDW-F900/3, F900R, F950
1920x1080p three 2/3" CCDs...2.1 Mega Pixel imager, frame rates up to 60i;
F900 records to HDCAM tape at 1440x1080 resolution 144 Mbs
F950 can record 4:4:4 dual link video to HDCAM SR format at 440 Mbs, but this camera discontinued, replaced by F23
interchangeable lenses standard 2/3" B4 mount
1920x1080p three 2/3" CCDs...2.1 Mega Pixel imager, frame rates up to 60p;
can record 4:4:4 dual link video to HDCAM SR format at 440 Mbs, and 4:2:2 at 880 Mbs for 60p;
Cameras that cost $40,000 - $140,000 and higher
Panavision Genesis camera ...Panavision mount for Panavision lenses; HDCAM SR ...... 4:4:4 videotape 440 Mbs
RED ONE camera PL Mount 35mm lenses Redcode RAW 4K compressed to 216 Mbs (27MBs) with Redcode Raw codec
Sony F35 PL mount for 35mmlenses HDCAM SR ...... 4:4:4 videotape 440 Mbs and 880 Mbs
Arri D21 single CMOS PL Mount 35mm lenses Super 35mmframe size 4:4:4 RGB or HD data record to S-TWO or Arri Mag
Thomson Viper 2/3" B4 mount lenses Filmstream and Videostream data record to S-TWO or
Tech Info camera formats for acquisition and post
HDCAM SR ......4:4:4 and 4:2:2 videotape 440 Mbs and 880 Mbs
HD D5 .....4:4:4 and 4:2:2 videotape 360 Mbs
HDCAM ...3:1:1 videotape 144 Mbs
DVCPro HD 4:2:2 videotape 100 Mbs
data formats for camera aquisition:
RED RAW codec samples the Super 35mm sized 4K sensor on the RED camera records compressed date using the RED Raw codec, creating R3D files that may be resized to a variety of image formats, converted to DPX and Tiff files, and rendered to popular HD codecs like Apple ProRes 422
current videotape or disc digital formats for professional shoulder mount or hand held cameras
HDCAM format 1440 x1080 at144 Mb/s 3:1:1 sampling
DVCPro HD format ( also P2 flash cards) 1280 x 720 at 100 Mb/s (40 Mb/s for 24p) 4:2:2 sampling
XDCAM formats (BluRay and SxS flash cards ) 1920 x 1080 MPEG-2 MP@HL at 35Mb/s vbr and 4:2:0 sampling
HDV format 25 Mb/s for 1080 19.7 Mb/sfor 720
data formats for post-production:
Apple ProRes 4:2:2 codec
Avid DNxHD codec
DVCPro HD codec
uncompressed QT Quicktime codec
Comparison to Standard definition video
High def digital images have a unique look that far exceeds the image quality of standard digital video and at the same timie delivers the cinematic quality of film. The 12 Bit and 14bit processing allows the range of extreme highlights down to detail in the shadows to be handled adroitly. Even when downconverted the resulting video will look noticably better than original video shot even on high end Digibeta camcorders. The key to really appreciating HD is when it is projected on screen 20' or larger. This is where HD blows away BetaSP, Digibeta, and especially DV. When you first view HD on a 9" or 14" monitor you are impressed but it is not as dramatic a difference compared to seeing a comparison on at least a 42" widescreen display. It is really when the image is projected at a theater or film festival where the ultimate payoff for shooting HD is delivered.
Standard Def DV video is dead for feature film, television program and documentaryproduction. The DV format records decent looking pictures and is a digital format, but because the chips are so small, and the image processing not as capable there is a big difference in the resulting video, which often ends up blown out in the highlights to retain any detail and color in the shadows. Since there is high compression there are often motion artifacts from shooting images such as trees blowing in a slight breeze.
DV recorded at 60i interlaced fields looks like video. PAL Betacam is slightly sharper than DV with no motion artifacts, but it is not a digital format. The 25-frame rate of PAL is closer to the standard 24-frame rate of film, but the frame rate is actually 50i interlaced fields so the look is really not close to that of what a 25p progressive image would be. Also it is hard to find wide-screen versions of the PAL camcorders to rent. It is also more expensive and inconvenient to rent PAL vtrs for loading a non-linear edit system for off-line editing.
Digital Betacam has the best looking pictures of any standard def format, and it is digital, and there are wide-screen camcorders in both PAL and NTSC, but it still shoots either 50i or 60i interlaced fields. With all of the above formats, the wide-screen 16:9 images lose resolution when cropped to standard 4:3 screen size.
Cost efficiencies with HD production, a bried mention compared to film
HD Cinema™ rents the new RED cameras, Sony F900 and XDCAM EX HD24p high definition camcorders and HDCAM vtrs, and the Panasonic Varicam, HDX 900 and DVCPro HD vtrs with special pricing for independent filmmakers and television program producers. These prices are very close to what standard pricing has been for wide-screen Digital Betacam camcorders. While Super16mm camera packages still cost less to rent or purchase, the costs of film stock, processing, telecine and audio syncing of over $1000 for 50 minutes of footage far exceed the $35 that a 50 minute HD tape costs, or the $14 or a DVCPro HD cassette that lasts 33minutes.
Finding the right DP/cinematographer is an important task for a director and and his producer. Good lighting, artful framing and smooth camera movements save mega-dollars in post-production. The choice of shooting with a HDV prosumer camera limits the pool of talent who would be willing to work with that camera.
Compared to film production, there can be savings in crew and equipment needed for shooting digital video. The roles and responsibilities of the production crew postitions are in a state of transition as the use of this new technology becomes prevalent. While just as much care needs to be taken when lighting HD as you would for film, smaller wattage lighting packages can be used due to the sensitivity of the digital video cameras. Lower power lighting instruments can preclude the need for an electrician for tying in or the rental cost of generator, truck to pull it and a driver/operator. A HD camera assistant combines the film camera assistant and video assist position that are typical on a film shoot. The on-set playback of HDTV video on a high-res monitor allows much more detail to be seen than with video assist for film.
Double-system audio recording with a separate DAT recorder with time-code is required for film production, and sometimes necessary for DV video production due to the poor quality of the audio with some systems. The Sony HDCAM has the same quality digital audio as the DAT, and it is inherently synchronous with the video. While there are some scenes where recording to a DAT is useful, almost all of the costly hours of post-production to get the audio in sync are eliminated if you record directly to the camera.
HD Cinema™ has the Sony CineAlta F900 HDCAM, Panasonic 27F Varicam and HDX900 24p camcorders and Sony HDW-F500 24p and Panasonic 1200A vtrs to meet the needs of feature film clients who need the very best quality in their video transfers to 35m film. For producers with feature or documentary projects that are destined to be distributed on television and home video only, shooting on HD is required by every major and most smaller networks.