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the truth about XDCAM

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paulos
the truth about XDCAM
on Dec 4, 2006 at 7:12:09 pm

hey so it's an odd time to be thinking of a new aquisition format as there are many competing technologies out there at the moment, P2, HDV, HDCAM etc... and who knows who will come out the winner.

so for us the thought of HDV sends chills down the spine what with its not widely advertised feature of turning your brand new G5 or Mac Pro into a beige G3 with its horrendous conform and render times.

what I'm wanting to know about XDCAM, is it just a glorified version of HDV? I know it's an Mpeg2 based system but are they doing something that makes it much of a step above HDV?

the cameras look nice and the production workflow is not much differnt from tape based digibeta etc...

what about the post workflow is this still an Mpeg 2 Long GOP situation masquerading behind some snazy PR?

I want to be a beliver - can anyone help me?

G5 DP 2.0 (Power PC)
4.0G RAM
OS 10.4.8
QT 7.1.3
FCP 5.1.2
BMD Decklink Extreme 5.7.2
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Bill Skinner
Re: the truth about XDCAM
on Dec 4, 2006 at 10:02:14 pm

Not the best written article but it may give you some of the information you seek.


http://digitalcontentproducer.com/workflow/xdcam_high_seas_11282006/





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paulos
Re: the truth about XDCAM
on Dec 4, 2006 at 10:11:55 pm

thanks for the link i will check it out


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Yves Chauvel
Re: the truth about XDCAM
on Dec 4, 2006 at 10:20:08 pm

You should get valuable information with this link from UK:
http://www.dvuser.co.uk/content.php?CID=144


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Nate Weaver
Re: the truth about XDCAM
on Dec 5, 2006 at 7:08:36 am

On paper XDCAM is underwhelming. In practice, with the right NLE, it's terrific. 35mbit mode is visually cleaner than 25mbit mode.

Heaving a cleaner camera head feeding the codec helps too.

I've worked with quite a bit of native DVCPRO HD/Varicam footage in FCP, and have native XDCAM HD material from my F350 as well. I'd never have a problem reaching for the XDCAM over the Varicam, any day. It's not like DVCPRO HD at 24fps/40mbits is all that high of a standard to surpass.

New website, new work online:
http://www.nateweaver.net


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Steve Connor
Re: the truth about XDCAM
on Dec 5, 2006 at 8:39:57 am

[paulos] "the cameras look nice and the production workflow is not much differnt from tape based digibeta etc..."

I think you'll find the workflow is VERY different to tape based workflows. Although the 35mb codec is Mpeg2 based it certainly isn't HDV it's a completely different implementation of the codec and it shows in the pictures. As for editing on a Mac well I get pretty much all the RT effects with the 35mb codec I get with DV footage, certainly doesn't slow my fast Mac down to a beige G3!

So there is a conform at the last stage if you want to go back to disc, but that only uses some of the vast amount of time you've saved while using the excellent XDCam HD workflow.

Biggest sales point for me apart from the Picture quality and price is that you can import clips from a disc whilst continuing to edit at the same time!


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Bob Buruchian
Re: the truth about XDCAM
on Dec 5, 2006 at 7:16:54 pm

We purchased 3 330's and put HD lenses on them, we love the cameras and the pictures they make. The workkflow is the best part.... proxy footage for logging, saving days on the capture time. We found the conform and some labeling issues on clips to be the only real issues. Labeling the disc just takes time and needs to be done it's basic housekeeping -- just a bit more high tech. You need the clips to be labeled individually if you ever want to reconnect media. The conform was alot faster with dual 2.7's 4 gigs of ram compared to a dual 2.o with 2 gigs of ram on the same project that we saw right away.

I posted earlier about settings with a Kona 2 card in the Kona forum with no response but I am testing some of the updated driver setting as we speak.

Good luck

Bob


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paulos
Re: the truth about XDCAM
on Dec 5, 2006 at 8:40:05 pm

the conform is only necessary if going back out to XDXAM discs? so if you were going out to tape the conform would be unnecessary - is that correct?

thanks

G5 DP 2.0 (Power PC)
4.0G RAM
OS 10.4.8
QT 7.1.3
FCP 5.1.2
BMD Decklink Extreme 5.7.2
PAL Land


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Bob Buruchian
Re: the truth about XDCAM
on Dec 5, 2006 at 10:11:36 pm

At this time we are finding it necessary to conform when going back out to tape, it seems like its rendering. The timeline & media is native XD cam HD and now with the new drivers from aja for our kona 2 card which gets us out to tape with a SD downconvert seems to have some new settings that we're trying, I'll keep you posted.

There are so many different configurations ours is to deliver an SD version via our Kona 2 card and also a XD cam HD back to our XD cam HD (F30) deck via FAM mode.

Bob


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Nate Weaver
Re: the truth about XDCAM
on Dec 6, 2006 at 3:09:14 am

I've never had to conform laying off to HDCAM or Dbeta. If the timeline is rendered or full preview, it can be done without waiting.

New website, new work online:
http://www.nateweaver.net


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Bob Buruchian
Re: the truth about XDCAM
on Dec 6, 2006 at 3:55:17 am

Hi Nate,

I would like to know how to do that...are using edit to tape? what is your configuration?

Thanks

Bob


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paulos
Re: the truth about XDCAM - post production??
on Dec 6, 2006 at 11:41:05 pm


so after a bit more online research it seems from an asthetic point of view the XDCAM HD cameras take some pretty nice images and the 35mbs recording explains some of the 'pop' behind the pixels.

the questions i still have unanswered have to do with XDCAM in post production.

In several Apple demos, I heard none other than Paul Saconne (FCP product manager), talk about the extra pull that HDV has on the processors as it is a very computational heavy codec resulting in longer render times and final conform.

If XDCAM HD is HDV's older more attractive brother, what magic are Sony doing under the hood to make this a different experience from cutting with HDV apart from the random access and tapeless aspects of the workflow?

thanks for your thoughts



G5 DP 2.0 (Power PC)
4.0G RAM
OS 10.4.8
QT 7.1.3
FCP 5.1.2
BMD Decklink Extreme 5.7.2
PAL Land


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mschirad
Re: the truth about XDCAM - post production??
on Dec 11, 2006 at 4:55:21 am

Though it's been awhile since our HD project, I can say that you DO have to conform to Print to Video. On a Quad G5, our 70 minute show, after rendering all FCP effects, required well over 5 hours of "conforming" time before I could start playback out FireWire into a Miranda "HDV-to-HD-SDI" converter, which led to the HD-SDI inp ut on a Sony XDCam HD F70 deck. (We couldn't get FAM mode to work exporting back to blue ray. Buggy.) If I had made just one edit to the timeline, it would screw up the MPEG GOP structure, and I'd have to wait another 5 hours to conform all over again.

Let me repeat that.

Make one additional edit. Re-Conform the timeline all over again.

Do you have a deadline? Better not.

I do not know if Sony's 18 and 35 megabit recording modes exact a similar time penality or not. 25 megabit is HDV, which is now the bane of my existance, so I recommend you transcode Sony's XDCam HD codec to DVCPro HD (or on Avid, maybe DNxHD) as soon as possible. Or have an AJA Kona LHe or Kona 3 for hardware-processing HDV codecs in real time, hopefully removing the "conforming" process from the mix.

It amazes me how little press coverage this conforming task gets. If you're a news organization you should drop HDV like a plutonium rod. MPEG-2 can look nice, cheap acquisition, but it edits horribly.

mschirad
http://www.wmaeug.net


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Greg Penetrante
Re: the truth about XDCAM - post production??
on Dec 17, 2006 at 4:51:01 am

... mschirad is right.

I've completed a two-hour show in 60i 25Mb CBR and now I've got to wait 10 HOURS for $!@#$ Compressor 2.3 to finish encoding the self-contained QT. Yikes!! Compressor doesn't appear to use all 4 processors. What the hell, Apple?!

In hindsight, it would have been faster for me to drag my HD sequence into an anamorphic uncompressed SD sequence and Export to Compressor from the timeline... prolly would have taken 4 hours ;-)







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Andy Taplin
Re: the truth about XDCAM
on Dec 8, 2006 at 9:48:57 am

Hi

It seems XDCAM is the answer to all our prayers (I think!) here's a really comprehensive article from a tester here in the UK:-

http://www.dvuser.co.uk/content.php?CID=144

At the end of the day I think it comes down to this: P2 is useless for anything but news and is made by Panasonic!; HDCAM is too expensive for most small companies/individuals; HDV is not quite good enough compared to the other HD formats, although probably fine for a lot of non-broadcast work (it would be interesting to see what HDV looks like with a better camera than the Z1); so by a process of elimination that leaves XDCAM which has been approved for full acquisition by Discovery Channel and is cheaper than Digibeta!

Andy


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David Smith
Re: the truth about XDCAM
on Dec 11, 2006 at 5:47:10 am

[Andy Taplin] " here's a really comprehensive article from a tester here in the UK:-

" target="_blank">http://www.dvuser.co.uk/content.php?CID=144"



I must say that while this looks like a very interesting format, the tone of this article is just too full of over the top cheerleading. Some examples:

"Using XDCAM HD during the acquisition stage of a production is pure bliss........ When you first put a blank disc into an XDCAM HD camcorder, there is a short delay whilst the disc is formatted. I found this was over in hardly any time at all; around 15 seconds, it wouldn


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Ron Exalto
Re: the truth about XDCAM
on Dec 12, 2006 at 11:14:09 pm

Hi,

I'm shooting with a 350 and edit in Axio 2.5 which should provide a realtime, lightningfast workflow. Yeah....
When editing with DVCAM SD streams Axio can easily build 10 videolayers realtime with all kind of effects, it's awesome! However when you put in the MXF files from the XDCAM HD recordings your back at 2 videostreams tops and even simple wipes have to be rendered (btw I'm using a HP9300 workstation with 2 Dual Opteron 275 and Axio SD breakoutbox, which can edit in HD). Conforming is not possible on an Axio system yet, since output to MXF XDCAM HD is not implemented yet, and these drivers are 2 days old, so you can wait at least 6 months to get that option up and running (if ever).
So the answer is: yes, in editing the long Gop codec and the fact that you're working with 5x more info compared to an SD stream WILL slow you down.
On the other hand the advantages of the camera while shooting and importing the files are great. Deleting your last shot when you're sure you won't need it ever again can come very in handy in keeping the shotratio of useable shots on a disc down.
The quality of the camera itself is beyond any doubt and worth every penny. Working with a good HD lens is the cream on the pie, although good SD lenses in well lit situations won't disappoint you either! Using the 2/3 to 1/2 inch adapter gives at least the opportunity to use existing 2/3 SD broadcast lenses, albeit losing a 1.38 factor of your wideangle. But gaining this in your zoom. Birdwatchers be happy!

And with the lastest firmware installed in the camera you can also use a buffer memory of up to 12 seconds so when you push the record button the previous 12 secs (max) are recorded to disc too! Very handy when you're not quit shure when the man/woman your shooting is starting his/her talk. Or, if you're in newsgathering, when the jumper decides to changes his position on the roof to that of the pavement below (ouch..)

Anyhow, XDCAM is for me the right path to go and I don't regret it one minute. If you're shooting in DVCAM mode you get ALL the benefits of the workflow and fast editing, when working in HD mode the workflow benefits stay, but the editing slow down. But you DO get that futureproof HDTV picture to amaze your clients with.
The Axio system will get faster with newer processors also so in time even that will speed up. Perhaps users of Vegas or Canopus Edius have different experiences. But I guess most people here are editing on FCP or AVID anyway.





ELVIC DVD PRODUCTIONS & HOMECINEMA
Editing on Axio 2.5
Aquisition with Sony PDW-F350 XDCAM HD


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David Smith
Re: the truth about XDCAM
on Dec 13, 2006 at 4:10:10 pm

Thanks Ron, very informative post.

Regards,
David


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Bob Buruchian
Re: the truth about XDCAM
on Dec 13, 2006 at 10:34:44 pm

We finally figured out our conforming issue....we added more ram to our G5's 2.0's and it changed things significantly. Going from 2 gigs to 4 gigs of ram changed our conform on a half hour show from 2 1/2 hours to 30 minutes and if we need to tweak something it does it even faster maybe 15 minutes, certainly worth the incredible quality and workflow. Now please keep in mind we are printing to tape via an aja Kona 2 card not back to a deck (f30) FAM mode via firewire.

good luck

Bob


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Nigel Cooper
Re: the truth about XDCAM
on Jan 1, 2007 at 11:55:46 am

Paulos, with regard to P2, HDV and HDCAM, they are all different, I don't think this is a competition. P2 is solid state, HDCAM is tape and HDV is the consumer version of HD. XDCAM HD, that's a different format too: Sony's Professional Optical Disc system.

I would not say XDCAM HD is glorified HDV, the only similarity is the MPEG Long GoP; that's it. The HDV format is strictly 25Mbps constant. XDCAM HD runs up to 35Mbps variable and will be 50Mbps variable in 2007; that and a 50GB dual layer disc to record to!!

Then there is the fact that XDCAM HD is full size using professional 1/2 inch lenses and the on-board circuitry is so much better than the likes of those found in cams like the Z1.

Personally I don't think there is anything wrong with the Long GoP; it is your friend, not an enemy.

I can't understand why folk bring HDV or XDCAM HD into programmes such as Final Cut via a Kona and capture into the DVCPROHD codec. The DVCPROHD codec is not only lossey, but it is a different codec to XDCAM or HDV hence all you are doing is transcoding and creating one serious 'generation loss'. Why do this when you can simply work in native XDCAM HD mode?

I have a dual 2.66 intel Mac Pro and working with native XDCAM HD footage from an F350 feels no different to when I used to work with native DVCAM footage from DSR570; just as quick, just as effeciant etc. But I don't stack up 20 layers of video and audio so I can't comment on how that would work. I usually have around 4 layers of video and 4 layers, sometimes 5 of audio and it is fine.

My workflow is to bring in via FAM onto a native XDCAM HD 1080p timeline in FCP, edit natively, then send back master HD version to the F350 onto a Pro Disc.

For my SD DVD I simply create a new sequence in FCP as SD uncompressed 8-bit 16:9, then copy/paste my HD timeline onto it, then render it out and send that to Episode Pro for MPEG encoding for DVDSP. I find re-rendering a 1 hour HD to SD timeline takes about 30 minutes, then the Episode Pro encode of a 1 hour SD timeline is just under real time. No problems here with speed whatsoever. My SD DVDs look pin sharp and any Photoshop graphics suddenly look wonderful again when dropped into a new 8-bit uncompressed timeline. Oh, no raids, just bog-standard internal hard drives.

As for the production workflow not being different to Digibeta. You will find that it is way different, XDCAM HD is in a different production workflow league altogether. For a start you can fit 5 XDCAM discs in your jacket pocket, can't do that with 5 Digi tapes. You can instantly play back clips to clients, who will be impressed by the way the thumbnails work. You can't accidently record over a clip like you can with tape if you back it up too far. You don't have to worry about breaking timecode. Now this one is silly I know, but if you are working near water and drop a disc in, simply dry it off and use it no problem. This is just the tip of the iceberg.

I can't comment on conforming as I've only gone back to XDCAM disc, which needs conforming, but it was fast and I didn't see any point in sitting there watching it, I went for a coffee and when I got back it was done.

David, interesting comments you make on my long and comprehensive feature over on DVuser. I can understand where you are coming from and I agree that parts of it read like I work for Sony. But the reason it reads like that is because the first time I got my hands on an F350 for a week I was totally blown away with it. I agree it is not the best camcorder in the world and it certainly dosn't produce the best images in the world. But for the price there is nothing like it. XDCAM HDs Optical Disc format is brilliant for a huge number of reasons and the image quality is far superior to the following cameras, all of which I either own, or have owned and have done side-by-side tests via HD monitor: JVC GY-HD111, Sony Z1, Panasonic HVX200. XDCAM HD simply wipes the floor with these cameras. The overall image is much cleaner with better bite and colour saturation. When I A/B switched between an F350 hooked up via HD/SDI into a HD monitor with HD/SDI board, and the JVC GY-HD111E via Componant, the image quality was far superior coming from F350. Funny thing, I own the JVC and have just completed a 4 month production on 'how to film wildlife' see http://www.wildlifefilmmaking.com and I always thought the image quality of it was pretty amazing for a camera costing


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Ron Exalto
Re: the truth about XDCAM
on Jan 1, 2007 at 1:00:48 pm

A necessary update to my prior post above:
The Axio (SD) system will handle realtime XDCAM editing thanks to the new 1440x1080 presets now included. My first HD editings were on 1920x1080 presets which slow down realtime processing!
Rendering out from HD timelines to current DVD streams is faster than realtime also.
So the only thing still missing on an Axiosystem is conforming back to MXF format to write that back to XDCAM disc.

BTW I've read Nigel's article some time ago (can't remember if it was prior to or just after buying my F350) but it's really the best, most complete, article I've read while searching for info on the camera. Takes away any doubt one might have!

Have a great 2007!!!

ELVIC DVD PRODUCTIONS & HOMECINEMA
Editing on Axio 2.5
Aquisition with Sony PDW-F350 XDCAM HD


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David Smith
Re: the truth about XDCAM
on Jan 10, 2007 at 10:52:26 pm

[Nigel Cooper] "I think it is impossible to write up an article with such enthusiasm for a product that doesn't raise suspicions. I've only had about 8 weeks total experience with shooting and editing with an F350, but I'm totally hooked and am going to be buying one with a Fujinon lens later this month or early Feb."

Nigel,
Thank you for sharing your experience with us and best of luck with the new camera! I'm also a Fujinon fan when it comes to video lenses. There's no doubt Canon makes some fine glass, but it sure would be a good idea for them to actually talk to people who use their lenses. Their ergonomic designs are decades behind Fuji. A simple example: they STILL put the return button on studio lens zoom controls on top so it's almost impossible to check the return feed while you're zooming. Incredible.

And Nigel, thank you for responding in such a calm and informative manner after my rather snippy post. You're a gentleman and I will try to take a lesson from you.

Best,
David


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Pete Bell
Re: the truth about XDCAM
on Jan 19, 2007 at 5:30:13 pm

This was in response to a question about bringing the F350 to a HD Cinematography workshop.

Just checked in with our tech staff. Here is their response:

"Interesting camera. But it's not really HD - almost, certainly, but not
quite. He should certainly bring his camera, but it will likely not be used
as a 'class' camera. Sony actually markets this camera as a migration path
from SD to HD - admitting in a way, that it's not a true HD camera. The
fact that it's max bit rate is only 35Mbps is the real damning feature,
though. HD is typically 100Mbps, such as for the Varicam, the Sony F900 and
F950 and the HVX-200. Again, he should bring the camera as it would be a
valuable tool for him to have with him, but it will very likely *not* be
used in class."

So, it looks like the camera is not one that would be available for
obtaining the tuition break.


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Ron Exalto
Re: the truth about XDCAM
on Jan 19, 2007 at 11:17:23 pm

There's always something better out there, but as long as it's broadcast legal (Discovery and Animal Planet accept its 35mbp/s signal as such when used with a proper HD lens) it at least performs at an currently unbeatable pricelevel and outperforms any HDV based camera.
But, of course, it can't outperform a BetaHD or HDSR system.
Comes pretty close though :-))
Guess I'll just have to skip that workshop...

Cheers,

Ron

ELVIC DVD PRODUCTIONS & HOMECINEMA
Editing on Axio 2.5
Aquisition with Sony PDW-F350 XDCAM HD


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Nigel Cooper
Re: the truth about XDCAM
on Jan 20, 2007 at 12:18:30 am

Pete

It would appear that there is a lot of snobbery attached to the whole HD debate. Sony have popped in with the mid-priced F330 and F350 and have badged it CineAlta, this has put a few noses out of place.

The HD Cinematography workshop guys are not being 100% truthful and their response does sound a little snobby.

They say that HD typically uses 100Mbps and they even mention the HVX-200 in the same breath. How on earth can they write off XDCAM HD, yet welcome the way inferior HVX-200 with open arms????

Fact is the HVX-200 does NOT record at 100Mbps, those guys have been reading too many brochures I think. This 100Mbps includes audio etc. Fact is in reality is actually runs at around 46Mbps.

If you do a side-by-side comparison with HVX-200 and an F350; it ain't no competition at all. F350 wins by a mile in virtually every respect.

Discovery HD did NOT approve HVX-200, they put it in the same camp as HDV and only allow 15% acquisition of the programme to be shot on it; and no more than 60 seconds in any one go.

Sony's XDCAM HD on the other hand has been given the full stamp of approval for 100% acquisition purposes.

I know who's fastidious testing procedures and advice I'll believe.


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Scott Sniffen
Re: the truth about XDCAM
on Apr 26, 2008 at 4:53:06 pm

I'm a shooter in NYC. I have the 355 now. Former F900 owner. At the end of the day, the picture you are looking at is what counts. I'm right in the middle of a major doc for A&E which includes interviews with people at the highest levels in the motion picture industry. These are big time filmmakers and they are very impressed with the image right on set looking at a 24" monitor. I suppose if you brought in an engineer and pointed out this or that when looking at the monitor 6 inches from the screen, you may find flaws. The pictures coming out of this camera are extrodinary for the investment and the archiving issues are solved. One can fuss over compression and the rest. Most of these issues certainly won't be noticed by the casual viewer and I would argue some professionals. Every time I show this camera to a colleague, they are blown away by the picture. Blow the picture up to a 40' screen and you are going to see some deficiencies in a compressed format. Even with the low investment aside, the camera puts out a great image and people can tell me about GOP or LOP or whatever. The pictures are pretty. The only issue I have had is the depth of field using the 1/2" chips. I can get around that usually with ND. It's a nice format that delivers on many levels.

Scott Sniffen



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North303
Re: the truth about XDCAM
on Jan 27, 2007 at 3:45:40 pm

Interesting discussion. But has anyone compared the 330/350 to Panasonic's HDX900? That is a much more balanced comparison price wise than HDV or the HVX200. The HDX900 has 2/3 inch imagers, records 4 channels of uncompressed audio, uses tape (not P2 cards), can shoot 1080i, 720p with lots of frame rates including 24p. Of course it records in a DVCPRO HD codec which is beautiful and when editing on FCP is rock solid. You can capture clips using firewire but without deck control (capture now). With viewfinder and a pre-packaged Fujinon HD lens (not the greatest) it will cost you about 35K. 10K less without lens. You have the pluses and minuses of tape and the softer, yet gorgeous look of native 720 progressive imagers. I have not been able to do a side by side with the HDX900 and an XDCAM (using the same lens is only possible with the 2/3 inch adapter for the XDCAM) but would love to hear from someone who did.



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FCP Pro Video VAR
Re: the truth about XDCAM
on Feb 17, 2007 at 2:53:31 am

I would suggest similar lens but native 1/2 for the HDXDCAM. There are some real HD lenses with 1/2" mounts now available.

Last I tried to compare the PDWF330 and the Panasonic 900 they would not use that as a comparison as the prices were not close enough. They wanted the F350 against the 900 but the features were not equal for others. I have seen both seperately and like the XD better as the workflow is incredible.


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