Tuesday, December 22, 2009

P2 Hits Its Stride in 2009

Here's a good article on the advancements of P2 tapeless recording technology and workflow, as well as the new studio quality AVC-Intra 100 format:

P2 Hits Its Stride in 2009

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SSV offers two P2 cameras, the Panasonic HPX170 DVCPRO HD 1/3" P2 camcorder and the HPX2700 DVCPRO HD/AVC-Intra 2/3" P2 Varicam camera. We are always happy to help bring our clients up to speed on the reliability and convenience of P2 file based recording.

Thank you to "Millimeter/Digital Content Producer" and author Helmut Kobler who I enjoyed meeting at Varicamp in November.

Thursday, October 1, 2009

Why Shoot With A Full Size, 2/3" Camera?

These days all the buzz is about new cameras such as the RED ONE or video DSLR 35mm still/video cameras and a myriad of palmcorders, which get better and better. It seems that the old faithful, 2/3" 3-CCD, ENG shoulder mount camera is just not getting much attention anymore.

There is no doubt that some of these new cameras are breaking new ground due to their large CMOS sensors, shallow depth of field, small form factors and low price. We know that no one camera can be the best choice for every kind of shoot, that's why SSV offers 1/3", 1/2" and 2/3" cameras and Letus Ultimate 35mm Cine adapters to go with all of them.

It occurs to us that there are many young filmmakers who may never have shot with 2/3" CCD cameras. With that in mind, here are some reasons why this type of camera can still be advantageous on many productions:

1. 2/3" CCD's are more light sensitive, have lower noise, shallower depth of field, can resolve small detail better, offer more latitude and have more image control parameters than most small sensor cameras.

2. 2/3" ENG form factor cameras are made for hand-held work, balancing properly on the shoulder and the larger mass makes tripod use easier. The viewfinders are usually superior as well.

3. 2/3" cameras have a wide variety of lenses available vs. smaller sensor cameras, typically with longer focal lengths and higher zoom ratios.

4. 2/3" tapeless cameras often have more recording capacity than palmcorders and video DSLR cameras, and no 5-12 minute record limit per take, unlike the latter.

5. 2/3" cameras are very rugged and durable, the technology is proven and the companies that offer them have many years of experience building them, offering parts and professional service infrastructure to support them worldwide.

6. 2/3" cameras feature professional level recording formats, tape or tapeless, they will offer proven work flows, less compression, higher bit rates, often better color space and more post production flexibility for grading and color correction.

7. 2/3" cameras tend to have better ergonomics with controls that are easier to see and get at.

8. 2/3" cameras often have better and more audio features and many have slots that can accept two-channel wireless mic. receivers internally.

9. 2/3" cameras are a lot easier to shoot with when it comes to depth of field and ergonomics vs. large sensor cameras, which have very shallow depth of field whether wanted or not. One ENG zoom lens often covers every shot needed with smooth, internal servo motors for iris and zoom functions.

10. Most professional crews are familiar with 2/3" cameras and they can be rented in most parts of the world.

11. Due to the light sensitivity and contrast handling that the best 2/3" cameras offer(about 10 f-stops), time and money can be saved by not having to control contrast via lighting and grip equipment and more crew vs. a small sensor palmcorder(about 7 f-stops at best).

The large sensor cameras are new to the scene and are not necessarily designed with video production in mind, having compromises and limitations, such as poor ergonomics and monitoring, constant firmware upgrades addressing certain issues while creating new ones, overheating, need for rebooting in the middle of a shoot, complex workflow, lack of in-camera control of the image, lack of internal image processing, short record time, and limited audio features. They aren't conducive to professional hand held work, very difficult to keep moving action in focus, low bit rate, highly compressed recording codecs, CMOS artifacts such as skewing with fast pans or motion, due to rolling shutter, moire, color fringing and aliasing on edges due to filtration of the single sensor, and IR contamination. Typically, multiple lenses are required to do the same thing a single 2/3" ENG zoom lens can.

Things are moving quickly in the realm of HD camera technology, but sometimes the tried and true approach is the best approach--productions are challenging enough without the camera being an additional risk factor.

Monday, September 28, 2009

Panasonic HPX2700 P2 Varicam at SSV

The new Panasonic HPX2700 P2 Varicam HD camera is now renting at SSV! This camera is the true successor of the original, highly popular Varicam. What we noticed is that our HDX900 was renting with FireStore FS-100 on-board hard drives most of the time. So, our clients seemed to prefer tapeless, edit ready, file based recording vs. having to rent an expensive studio VTR or paying by the hour to transfer footage in real time.

We also have seen our Panasonic HPX170 DVCPRO HD P2 Camcorder become very popular since we first brought it to the SF Bay Area in late September of 2008. The P2 memory card format has proven to be a very reliable acquisition format with a proven, convenient work flow.

So, that got us to thinking, "what if we offered a 2/3" high end CCD camera that surpassed the great images of the HDX900, but with in-board, solid state memory, file based recording? What if this camera could record for 6 1/2 hours on five 32Gb P2 cards? What if, in addition to DVCPRO HD, it also offered the option to record on the new AVC-Intra 100 I-Frame, 10-bit, 4:2:2, full raster codec?" This is quality that has never been available previously in a one-piece camcorder, with high ASA 640 sensitivity, low noise and a latitude of 10 f-stops, plus the well known Film-Rec gamma found in the original Varicam, except now at up to 600% dynamic range as well as a three step Dynamic Range Stretch(DRS) feature for very high contrast scenes, and the famous variable frame rates of 1-60 fps in one frame increments for off-speed specialty shots. All this, with the same day rate as our HDX900/FireStore.

The HPX2700, in combination with our Letus Ultimate and B4 Pro 2/3" relay lens using 35mm SLR and PL-mount motion picture lenses, provides a filmic, shallow depth of field when wanted. With AVC Intra 100 being a 10-bit, full sample, low compression codec, you can still apply lots of grading and color correction without worrying about noise and banding that would become evident with 8-bit, low bit rate, Long GOP, 4:2:0 codecs found in low cost cameras, be they prosumer palmcorders or video DSLR 35mm cameras, which record at 18-25Mbps vs. 100Mbps for DVCPRO HD or AVC Intra 100.

Panasonic P2 cameras have been proven by news organizations for years, and this reliability and ease of use has transferred to all types of productions. In-board, long record time, solid state recording, with unsurpassed quality and contrast ratio handling for a one-piece camera, makes for a safe, efficient means of field acquisition that pays dividends to the bottom line for most projects. Given the cost of a typical production, why compromise on the camera and recording format?

Saturday, January 31, 2009

What's In A FIlm Look?

Many of us have been striving to capture a "film look" with digital video cameras. We know that filmic lighting, widescreen framing, 24 frames per second and film gammas help get us there. However, there is one ingredient missing, be it with 1/3"(top image) or even 2/3"(middle image) CCD video cameras, and that's the shallow depth of field that 35mm cine cameras provide(bottom image).

SSV offers an affordable, high quality means to capture the shallow depth of field that video cameras with normal lenses cannot--the Letus Ultimate 35mm Cine adapter. The Letus Ultimate enables 35mm SLR(Nikon, Canon) or Cine(PL mount) lenses to be used with palmcorders or full size 2/3" cameras, yielding the shallow, organic look of 35mm.

The Letus Ultimate 35mm Cine adapter provides the missing link to the elusive film look. Finally, we can utilize shallow depth of field, even in small interior settings, that helps us draw attention to the foreground talent or product while making the background complimentary, instead of a distraction. The Letus Ultimate, when paired with inexpensive 35mm SLR lenses, is a cost effective way to raise the production value of any project, providing for a cinematic look that differentiates your footage from the competiton's typical video imagery.

Going Tapeless

Most of us video types who've been around for awhile are kind of stuck on recording on tape. However, even us oldtimers have to admit that file based recording is upon us. Since 2006, SSV has been offering on-board hard drive recording in parallel with tape.

Our DVCAM cameras have been mated to nNovia Quick Capture on-board hard drive, recording Quicktime .mov files or .avi files. We also offer the FireStore FS-100 DVCPRO 50 or HD hard drives, recording in Quicktime and P2 file modes. We also offer P2 solid state recording, for the ultimate in reliability and convenience. A single 16Gb P2 card can record 43 minutes of 720/24P Native footage.

Our Sony and Panasonic cameras can take advantage of these on-board hard drive file base recording solutions, which yields many advantages, such as; back up recording, long recording capacity(5.5 hours in DVCAM, 6.5 hours in 720/24P Native DVCPRO HD), very fast file transfer to hard drives and non-linear editing systems, thumbnail fast access to multiple clips, no need for an expensive tape deck that requires realtime ingest vs. file transfer in a 1/4 of the time.

These file base recording options yield time and money savings over tape based capture and ingest. Files can be transferred to a client's hard drive in the time it takes to label the days tapes. The clips are easy to log and edit ready.

It is understandable that many of us are most comfortable with tape based acquisition, but after taking advantage of file based acquisition and ingest, it truly is hard to go back to the time consuming, costly workflow of tape ingest. We invite you to try our hard drive or P2 recording solutions on your next project, we think you'll be happy you did.