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class="style8" HD Cameras As Stocks

>Published : 13th April 2004

class="style9">>…best to think of HD cameras as film stocks. Different ones do different >things. Use the right one for the job.

>I think that's one the most intelligent statements I've heard lately around these here parts, and the final answer to the Cine-Alta-vs.-Varicam-vs.-Viper, etc. debate.

>Dan Drasin
Producer/DP
Marin County, CA


>>best to think of HD cameras as film stocks. Different ones do different >things.

>REPLY :

>I have repeatedly worked on large live broadcasts that have upwards of 30 cameras on them, and as a video operator, had to make all of them match as closely as possible. When there are that many cameras on the job, they are not all from the same manufacturer. They can't be!

>There might be Sony, Panasonic, Ikegami, and Phillips mixed up on the same shoot. (Super Slo-mo's, POV cameras, etc.) Yet we are able to get a plausible, and often exact match. That's what all those handles (knee, matrix, gamma, etc.) are for.

>I have yet to be asked to match a Panasonic Varicam to a Sony 900, but I'm sure I will be, and I'm confident it can be done. Hence, I question whether video cameras can be considered unalterable "stocks" like film. They are designed to be able to make them look any way you want them to, and there are those of us who have been making a living doing just that for 20 plus years.

>If I can match Sony's to Ikegami's and Phillips on a broadcast assignment, it stands to reason it can be done on a film style assignment. There is nothing that radical about either the Sony 900 or the Varicam. They are merely 24 frame HD versions of devices that have been around for a long time.

>Lew Comenetz
HD and Broadcast Video Engineer
NY Seattle


>Lew Comenetz writes :

class="style10">>I question whether video cameras can be considered unalterable >"stocks" like film.

>As you've correctly pointed out, Lew, in an SD broadcast environment, within reasonable limits you can match just about anything to anything.

>But for filmout (and presumably for HD broadcast), there *are* unalterable differences between cameras. 720 just isn't as sharp as 1080. Different HD formats use different bit depths. 4:4:4 color sampling is superior to 4:2:2... and so forth.

>I don't think you'd want to mix HD cameras with grossly different specs in a live, multicamera situation anyway. No doubt the format-conversion latencies alone would be a major headache.

>As for film stocks, they aren't exactly "unalterable" -- exposure, development, processing techniques and so forth provide a fair amount of flexibility. But they all have their own distinct personalities. From the DP's and operators' points of view, cameras are like that, too.

>I'll leave it to Art, and others who've had some real experience with different flavours of HD cameras, to comment further.

>Dan Drasin
Producer/DP
Marin County, CA


class="style10">>But for filmout (and presumably for HD broadcast), there *are* >unalterable differences between cameras. 720 just isn't as sharp as >1080.

>REPLY :

>I just read the above more closely. We mix different HD and SD and NTSC cameras all the time on live shows when sharing cameras between TV trucks. Its mostly not a problem.

>NTSC downconverts of HD cameras tend to look not that great. The SD 601 outputs/conversions of the HD feeds tend to have this sort of soft patina that I can't quite describe. I recognize it because I see it every day, but I'd have to show it to you. You'd have to see it.

>I do recall that on the early NTSC share feeds we took from the HD trucks looked positively dreadful, but it turns out the trucks were using ex-cheapo monitor only grade downconverters to save money. That has mostly stopped. We try to take Digital feeds now.

>If you watch a hockey telecast of an "away" feed of the NY Islanders or Jersey Devils the main camera is and HD to SD convert, and the other cameras are either SD or NTSC. I can see some differences in my truck, but I doubt the average viewer, or even yourself, would notice that much.

>Bottom Line : We mix and match HD, SD, & NTSC feeds all the time. You can watch it on TV tonight if you want to. No one seems to notice much. Any "Away" hockey, baseball or sometimes basketball show is done this way out of New York. Next time one of these telecasts goes back to the Bay Area, tune it in, and tell me what you think.

>Lew Comenetz
Broadcast & HD TV Engineer


>Quote :

>If you watch a hockey telecast of an "away" feed of the NY Islanders or Jersey Devils the main camera is and HD to SD convert, and the other cameras are either SD or NTSC. I can see some differences in my truck, but I doubt the average viewer, or even yourself, would notice that much.

>I think that if you are looking at downconverted HD at NTSC broadcast vs SD on NTSC Broadcast you may be right...the limiting factor in that case is the res and color space of SD through a broadcast chain - great equalizers to be sure.

>I think that the issue in question is regarding viewing HD at HD rez and more importantly for theatrical release, viewing film-outs of HD.

>Mark Weingartner
LA based


class="style10">>NTSC downconverts of HD cameras tend to look not that great. The SD >601 outputs/conversions of the HD feeds tend to have this sort of soft >patina that I can't quite describe.

>I saw this today on CBS-HD. The golf pro/am tourney was SD up-fuzzed. It looked detailess and the god awful detail enhancement edges around objects was horrible. When analog SD dies we are in for some terrible up-fuzzed syndicated program pictures. If ever there was an argument for film origination until HD standards settle down that's it.

>Tom McDonnell
DP/Operator
New Orleans, La


>Tom Mc Donnell writes :

class="style10">>When analog SD dies we are in for some terrible up-fuzzed syndicated >program pictures. If ever there was an argument for film origination until >HD standards settle down that's it.

>That is, of course, true -- if you want to eliminate live TV

>Brian Heller
IA 600 DP


class="style10">>Bottom Line: We mix and match HD, SD, & NTSC feeds all the time. >You can watch it on TV tonight if you want to. No one seems to notice >much.

>I can't speak specifically to your productions...But as a viewer, I've found so far that "mix and match" HD/SD/NTSC often stands out like a sore thumb - at least when the final product is viewed in HD. (My SD cable signals are so over-compressed that I wouldn't dream of commenting on picture quality based on what I see at home.)

>A recent example would be last week's Super Bowl, which I watched on HD cable. The SD handheld cameras were very obviously different from their HD cousins - much less resolution and a whole lot of artificial edginess.

>George Hupka
Director/DP
Downstream Pictures
Saskatoon, Canada


class="style10">>I have yet to be asked to match a Panasonic Varicam to a Sony 900, >but I'm sure I will be, and I'm confident it can be done.

>Did a side by side with F 900 and Varicam Courtesy of Mark Belhumeur @ Bexel, NY before shooting a feature. Walter Graff was there at the time and would attest to the fact that both cameras are "plastic" enough in their menus to get them to look very similar in a basic kind of way with out too much difficulty.

>Without getting into which has better highlight detail and all the other minutiae it wasn't that hard to do.

>Mark Smith
Oh Seven Films
143 Grand St
Jersey City, NJ 07302