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New Firmware Update 1.21

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Guy McLoughlin
New Firmware Update 1.21
on Oct 26, 2010 at 5:36:27 pm

Panasonic has released a new firmware update that significantly reduces the amount of image noise with the HMC-150, so it's definitely worth updating your camera:

Panasonic HMC-150 Firmware 1.21 Download Link


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John Baldino
Re: New Firmware Update 1.21
on Nov 2, 2010 at 1:09:30 pm

Great help. Thanks for sharing.

John Baldino
Director/DP/Editor
GoboMedia, LLC
john@gobomedia.net
http://www.gobomedia.net (under construction)

"Philosophy is questioning without answers; religion is answers without questioning." - Anonymous


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John Baldino
Re: New Firmware Update 1.21
on Nov 2, 2010 at 1:37:55 pm

Follow up --

I did the upgrade but I am having trouble finding any literature from panasonic that verifies the noise reduction. Barry Green's DVXuser forum seems to concur that this was not a posted benefit.

Were you able to do any before/after tests? I'd be curious to see if this is something demonstrable. And if so, curious why Panasonic didn't mention it at all in the pdf...

John Baldino
Director/DP/Editor
GoboMedia, LLC
john@gobomedia.net
http://www.gobomedia.net (under construction)

"Philosophy is questioning without answers; religion is answers without questioning." - Anonymous


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Guy McLoughlin
Re: New Firmware Update 1.21
on Nov 2, 2010 at 7:49:26 pm

The info from Panasonic is kind of obscure, in that they state "improved recoder", and nothing much else. ( I strongly suspect that "improved recoder" is actually "improved encoder" )

Reading Barry's posts on DVXUser, it doesn't appear that Barry has done any testing yet, so he is skeptical of any improvement. But one member of DVXUser posted non-scientific before and after screen grabs that appeared to show a difference with noise in darker areas of the image.

I shot a bunch of interviews last Friday with the new firmware, but haven't had time to look at them yet, and probably won't be able to get to them until next week. ( too much on my plate right now )

I can't imagine Panasonic releasing a new firmware unless there was some obvious benefit to the end users.

I am also going to check audio recording, as audio noise is the one area that I'm not too happy about the HMC-150's performance. ( it's always been about 10 - 15 dB noisier than my other cameras, including some high end consumer video cameras )


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Alf Hanna
Hiss(noise) in HMC150 was: New Firmware Update 1.21
on Nov 9, 2010 at 7:22:06 pm

I have gone to a field mixer to eliminate the audio noise. The Mixpre has helped get it to where it should be, which is almost nil.

It is sad that Panny put such crappy preamps in the 150. Does anyone know how it stacks up to higher end Panny cameras? Or even lower end ones?

Alf


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Guy McLoughlin
Re: Hiss(noise) in HMC150 was: New Firmware Update 1.21
on Nov 9, 2010 at 8:13:53 pm

I also use a Sound Devices MixPre to both power and amplify my condenser mics, which helps a bit, but the real problem is not the HMC-150 pre-amps which are actually pretty good, but rather the noisy audio circuitry of the camera which is about 10-15 dB noiser than the best consumer cameras, and worse compared to other prosumer cameras.

If you want to get real "motion picture" quality sound ( better than the 48 dB that the HMC-150 records ), you need to add a good digital recorder to mix. I use the Olympus LS-10 which records audio from the Tape-Return socket on the MixPre field mixer. The Sony PCM-M10 is another great little digital recorder with a dynamic range of 80+ dB. ( 30 dB MORE than the HMC-150 records )


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Alf Hanna
Re: Hiss(noise) in HMC150 was: New Firmware Update 1.21
on Nov 9, 2010 at 9:32:02 pm

Not sure what you have read that show that the pre-amps are good vs noisy audio circuitry. Is there something that actually tests that, that you have seen? Anyway, I also do occasionally go into a Zoom H4n off the mixpre which has been great.

Neither the Zoom nor the Olympus LS-10 are 'motion picture' quality sound. To get that, you need to spend a lot more money, thousands more. These are prosumer products, low end industrial quality at best. They have their own set of issues, like harshness, compared to top quality gear. But for my client needs, they are fine. There are great reviews out there that clearly demonstrate their limitations, which I read when investigating which ones to buy.

Here's an example of some solid testing between the Zoom and the Edirol, which is considered a "professional" level field recorder.

http://www.martin-doppelbauer.de/fieldrecorder/

and especially read this...a great test..harmonic distortions in recorders...

http://www.martin-doppelbauer.de/fieldrecorder/distortions.html


Zoom, Sony and Olympus which we are discussing are good alternatives to the native sound quality of the HMC-150, which for most situations is fine, but for quiet rooms, and interviews done in quiet rooms is just not up to the task, from my experiences. But these are not 'professional' level tools.

Alf


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Guy McLoughlin
Re: Hiss(noise) in HMC150 was: New Firmware Update 1.21
on Nov 9, 2010 at 10:16:02 pm

Not>>> Sure what you have read that show that the pre-amps are good vs noisy audio circuitry

I say this because I can record pretty much the same noise levels whether I'm using my Sound Devices MixPre or the built-in HMC-150 pre-amps. If the noise was only caused by crappy camera pre-amps, then I should see a big drop in the noise-floor when I switch to the Sound Devices pre-amps, but I don't. Both are noisy compared to the consumer cams I use ( Canon HG21, Canon HV30, Panasonic HS700 ) and my old DVX-100 camera, all show a noise floor about 15+ dB lower than the HMC-150.

>>>Neither the Zoom nor the Olympus LS-10 are 'motion picture' quality sound.

To achieve what I would consider "motion picture" sound ( for lack of a better word ) you still need to use professional mixers and professional mics that are designed for this type of work, and have an expert sound people operating during the shoot.

Provided a good LINE-LEVEL professional audio signal, the Olympus LS-10 or the Sony PCM-M10 can record outstanding audio. 96 KHz @24 bit sampling and a flat frequency range from 20-20KHz, with very low distortion. ( you don't use the built-in mics, you don't use the built-in pre-amps, you only use the DA converters to record the audio signal as HQ audio files )

Without professional mics and mixers then you might as well just record straight in to the HMC-150, as low cost audio gear will never give you this type of sound.

I've seen the Martin Doppelbauer tests and would never by any Zoom product. ( I've owned a few Zoom units briefly, but all of them had problems which I would not put up with )

>>>Zoom, Sony and Olympus which we are discussing are good alternatives to the native sound quality of the HMC-150, which for most situations is fine, but for quiet rooms, and interviews done in quiet rooms is just not up to the task, from my experiences. But these are not 'professional' level tools.

I agree with you when it comes to the Zoom products, but completely disagree when ONLY using the LINE-LEVEL record features of the Olympus and Sony compact recorders. They are great recorders, but you have to use professional mics and professional mixers to feed them a high quality audio signal. ( BTW, the MixPre is a very good mixer, very low noise levels and very good pre-amps, but you won't hear this without a recorder that can properly record it's signal )


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Alf Hanna
Re: Hiss(noise) in HMC150 was: New Firmware Update 1.21
on Nov 9, 2010 at 10:31:45 pm

Great post. Thanks for that feedback. But I did see a drop in noise when I simply added the Mixpre to the chain, taking the mics that I was feeding in to the mixpre first.

I forgot to mention that I also don't use the built in mics of the Zoom H4n. It has worked well for me though, by staying with external high quality mics and feeding it from the MixPre.

Alf


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Guy McLoughlin
Re: Hiss(noise) in HMC150 was: New Firmware Update 1.21
on Nov 9, 2010 at 11:43:26 pm

>>>But I did see a drop in noise when I simply added the Mixpre to the chain, taking the mics that I was feeding in to the mixpre first.

What was the change in dB ?

I used Sony Sound Forge 9 to measure the audio levels, and did not see much difference. ( I'm using AudioTechnica 4053B and 3031 condenser pencil mics along with Sanken COS-11x lav mics and Sound Devices mixers: MixPre and 302 )


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Alf Hanna
Re: Hiss(noise) in HMC150 was: New Firmware Update 1.21
on Nov 10, 2010 at 12:06:06 am

I don't remember, as this was months ago, when I bought the Mixpre. When I get some downtime (December???) I'll see if I can do a thorough measurement. I certainly could have been off somewhere...But I'll check.

Alf


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Guy McLoughlin
Re: Hiss(noise) in HMC150 was: New Firmware Update 1.21
on Nov 11, 2010 at 5:46:35 pm

I did some quick tests of audio noise last night that I will publish next week once I've had a chance to test more cameras and recorders. Here's how I test for audio noise:

1- Connect a Sound Devices mixer to camera/recorder ( I use a BeachTek passive adapter for devices that do not have XLR inputs ) using LINE level outputs.

2- Turn on the 1 Khz tone on the Sound Devices mixer, and adjust the recording level on the device ( camera or recorder ) so that the 1 Khz tone registers at -12 dB. ( -12 or -20 dB recording levels are standard when using digital devices because these devices do not have any headroom beyond 0 dB, so you are creating 12 / 20 dB headroom by recording at -12 or -20 dB )

3- Record the 1 Khz tone for 5 seconds, then turn off the tone while still recording for another 5 seconds.

4- Open the recorded audio file with a sound editor, and measure the sound level when the -12 dB tone is both on and off. You may need to adjust the volume of the audio file to ensure that the recorded tone is playing back at exactly -12 dB. The audio level measured when the tone is off should represent the actual noise-floor of the recording device under theoretically ideal conditions. ( in reality every mic has it's own noise-floor, thus measuring in real-world conditions will vary greatly on how quiet the attached microphone is )

5- To test the mic pre-amps of the device, repeat the same steps but this time set the audio mixer to output a MIC level 1 Khz audio tone ( I use a -50 dB in-line PAD with the Sound Devices MixPre mixer ), and then use the built-in mic pre-amps of the device being tested to set the 1 Khz tone to -12 dB. With high quality mic pre-amps the noise-floor will be the same for both LINE level and MIC level tests.

...With my quick tests last night, both my Olympus LS-10 and HMC-150 showed a noise-floor around -60 dB for a LINE level signal, my Canon HG21 showed a noise-floor around -73 dB for a LINE level signal, and the Panasonic HS700 camera showed a noise-floor around -82 dB ( 22 dB lower than my HMC-150 )

I will publish all the results next week ( along with sample WAV files ) once I've had a chance to test more recorders. ( I want to add both Sony digital recorders and the Sony EX-1 camera )


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