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stay with betacam or go digital?

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brianluce
stay with betacam or go digital?
on Jul 14, 2005 at 4:05:14 am

Hi, we built a TV studio and have about 12k to buy a second camera. our main camera to this point is a sony dxc-d50 BETA CAM. The director wants a second beta cam. I am thinking digital would be better. we did a comparison of the dxc-d50 and a sony PD 150 and trv900 and panasonic dvx100a and they all got their respective clocks cleaned by the D50. 2/3" ccd and precision glass probably made the difference. at any rate, what would be the advantage of going digital? or even hi def? we do lots of green screen and compositing and currently capture with a digisuite LE with premiere 6.0 and a dual processor G5 with a AJA iola analog to digital converter. capturing uncompressed with the digisuite is fine but the G5 is usually capturing in dv ntsc which is not too good for compositing. it can capture uncompressed analog but the file size is huge and after three layers in final cut frame drops occur. so we'll usually use dv but that crimps the compositing stuff we do. any suggestions?

so far someone has recommended using digibeta or dvcpro50 formats. another issue is of course the problem of mathcing digibeta and betacam footage. are there workarounds?


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R. Hewitt
Re: stay with betacam or go digital?
on Jul 14, 2005 at 10:21:20 am

Going digital will greatly reduce the dropouts inherent in BetaCam tape recordings but will require more investment.

I certainly wouldn't go down the DV route as a second camera. Unless you buy in the DSR-390/570/400/450 with a good quality lens. Going to a 1/3" camera would be a backward step.

You could buy a good secondhand BetaCam camera - they're at almost giveaway prices now in the UK.

At the end of the day you need to look at the final output and balance cost with experience of what you already have.


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Dave LaRonde
Re: stay with betacam or go digital?
on Jul 14, 2005 at 2:16:55 pm

I can't speak to the comparative virtues of cameras, but I can compare tape formats. You mentioned you do lots of green screen, and that's a key, so to speak.

Avoid DVCam like the plague! Do not even consider it! You'll get a rude introduction to the concept of artifacting, and it will drive you nuts as you try to get a good chroma key.

DVCPro is better, but in reality, it's an acquisition format for a news operation: robust, good-quality, but not quite up to snuff for high-end production.

Beta SP is next... and you know all about it.

If I were running a production house, DigiBeta is the only standard-def digital format I'd consider. But it's pricey... hey, it's Sony, what did you expect?

HDV... entry-level, prosumer Hi-Def. Again, lots of nasty artifacting. Not good for any kind of serious effects work. But don't tell that to aspiring teenaged George Lucases whose fathers have deep pockets.

Real-live High-Definition: sweet! I love the concept of using hi-def as an acquisition format for standard-def, because the image is so darned big. Its VERTICAL resolution is much greater than DigiBeta's HORIZONTAL resolution. You can shoot things a little looser, then tighten up the shot in post. As you do your chroma-key work in standard-def, think about having a 1920x1080, square-pixel image to manipulate. Think about putting the camera on its side, shooting a fashion model full-frame, then simulating a zoom-in and tilt-up... all as you do your compositing, and you don't lose a bit of resolution. Sound intriguing? But it's even pricier than DigiBeta.

Whatever camera you choose, don't forget that if you take on a new tape format, you're going to need at least one good deck in the house, which makes it even more costly.


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Charlie King
Re: stay with betacam or go digital?
on Jul 14, 2005 at 3:41:26 pm

Making me drool, Dave. Almost makes me want to go back into broadcast.............nah, been there done that. I like my semi-retirement job. (But I'm still drooling.)

Charlie


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Dave LaRonde
Re: stay with betacam or go digital?
on Jul 14, 2005 at 5:23:36 pm

Yeah, I'm drooling too, Charlie, because by the time we see hi-def in my shop, the FCC will have mandated it, and my super-big-picture trick won't work any more. But it IS a neat trick!


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brianluce
Re: stay with betacam or go digital?
on Jul 15, 2005 at 5:21:32 am

PANASONIC and JVC are releasing prosumer hi def cameras in the near future, the units appear to be of superiour quality than the current consumer hi def cameras out there. any word on thier suitability for green screen? perhaps they are an option.


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Dave LaRonde
Re: stay with betacam or go digital?
on Jul 15, 2005 at 2:50:23 pm

Hmmmm.... would Panasonc or JVC consumer hi-def cameras be suitable for green screen?

Well, ask yourself this question:

Do you think George Lucas -- a longtime advocate of digital cinema AND of cost containment in motion picture production -- rush out and get one for green-screen work for his next effects-laden feature?

No? Why not? I think you answered your own question.


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brianluce
Re: stay with betacam or go digital?
on Jul 18, 2005 at 2:52:53 am

Do you think George Lucas -- a longtime advocate of digital cinema AND of cost containment in motion picture production -- rush out and get one for green-screen work for his next effects-laden feature?
/////////////////////////

not sure i get your point, you're saying since lucas does NOT use "prosumer" hi def cams that it's a bad format for greenscreen? or, are you saying that since he shoots in hi dif (pro models) that it is indeed good for green screen?



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Dave LaRonde
Re: stay with betacam or go digital?
on Jul 18, 2005 at 2:54:54 pm

Well, here's what I mean:

I'm sure that you have enough hard-won experience with chroma keying to know that preserving as much picture information as possible gives you a better-looking key. But outside of DigiBeta -- the standard-def digital acquisition medium that throws away the least amount of color information of the bunch -- you're asking for trouble.

Todd from UCSB has a workaround for standard DV : run it through a DVCPro deck and capture at 10-bit uncompressed, and he says he gets satisfactory chroma keys. His DV goes through only one encoding-decoding cycle, and that works for him.

I'm willing to bet that you'd need the same sort of workaround for HDV. I don't think you'd get a really great key -- or you'd have to work long and hard to get a great key -- if you worked in the HDV codec.

My belief is that high-end effects work is already sufficiently expensive, time-consuming and intricate that a less-expensive prosumer hi-def camera would, in the long run, be a false economy.

But perhaps you can live with the effort of making HDV perform like its far-more expensive cousin. Perhaps you're not yet -- and I stress the words "not yet" --under the same high-pressure, tight-schedule, microscopic, nit-picking scrutiny as Lucasfilms or a production house whose work is distributed nationally or internationally. If that's the case, then go for it!



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brianluce
Re: stay with betacam or go digital?
on Jul 19, 2005 at 2:08:06 am

Perhaps you're not yet -- and I stress the words "not yet" --under the same high-pressure, tight-schedule, microscopic, nit-picking scrutiny as Lucasfilms or a production house whose work is distributed nationally or internationally. If that's the case, then go for it!

////////////

I wish this were the case unfortunately our production house is attempting to ramp up production and our ads are, gulp, distributed in 80 countries.

About me, i'm basically a writer with advanced hobby level knowledge of the technical side of video. but for now i'm the de facto guru regarding tech issues. i'm in deep water techies, and these water wings i borrowed from my 3 yearold daughter are barely keeping me afloat.

brian


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Jake Abramson
Re: stay with betacam or go digital?
on Jul 14, 2005 at 4:21:01 pm

If you're still looking, we use a D-35 w/ a DSR-1 Back (DVCAM). I believe this back will work on the D-50. This could off-set your cost by not having to purchase an entire new camera, and you still have all the power and picture you're used to with the D-50. It works for our needs, however we're only DVCAM around here. We rarely do Chroma Key, so we don't have many of those problems. For everything else, the quality is fine, and we only broadcast off our server at 25mbps.


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Todd at UCSB
Re: stay with betacam or go digital?
on Jul 14, 2005 at 5:18:15 pm

The one thing that eveyone glanced over is your post problems. You shouldn't be getting drop frames with 3 layers of video and, yes, the files for uncompress video are going to be huge! Sounds like you already have a workflow for your current gear, you just need to get it to work correctly. If you have 12k left to spend, I would seriously consider investing in a array that's big (1Tb or larger) and fast (so you won't lose frames of video). You'll probably spend around 10k for a good array with Raid 3 protection, but it will be worth every penny. Plus it can grow with you. Also, if you only have 12k to spend, your not going to get anything that people have recommended to you (aside from a use BetaCam)

Don't get me wrong, I'd be loving a new DVCPro camera or a Sony optical. (whatever your choice, go tapeless) DigiBeta is great, a true mastering format, but Sony is shifting away from DigiBeta as an aquisition format. Inotherwords, lots of decisions based on workflow, format, price, etc.

Good luck,



Todd at UCSB
Television Production


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brianluce
Re: stay with betacam or go digital?
on Jul 15, 2005 at 11:24:57 am

Hi Todd,

I've been recommending a tapeless setup to the creative director. is the firestore considered the best choice? I mean, I figure if we're in a studio, we should be able to go straight from the camera head to some form of tapeless digital format.

brian



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R. Hewitt
Re: stay with betacam or go digital?
on Jul 15, 2005 at 12:20:54 pm

Brian,

The FireStore is a good device but as far as I'm aware it is restricted to DV25 format only. You're back to DV at 25Mbits again. You will get no improvement in quality using the FireStore over DV tape other than possibly reducing ingest time. They're also far more expensive than tape!


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Dave LaRonde
Re: stay with betacam or go digital?
on Jul 15, 2005 at 3:01:42 pm

Amen to that!

I agree that tapeless is indeed the wave of the future, but tapeless DVCam is no better than DVCam on tape, dropout issues aside. You're still working in an image storage scheme that throws away more information than it records... and that is NEVER a good thing.

Tapeless will indeed come, but it has not yet reached the bandwidth and bitrate requirements necessary for high-end production. Just wait; your patience will be rewarded.



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Todd at UCSB
Re: stay with betacam or go digital?
on Jul 15, 2005 at 5:44:23 pm

Brian, Brian, Brian,
you're all over the map! shifting from one focus to another. :P

[brianluce] "I've been recommending a tapeless setup to the creative director. is the firestore considered the best choice? I mean, I figure if we're in a studio, we should be able to go straight from the camera head to some form of tapeless digital format. "

As Dave and Hewitt said, your still standard 'DV' So... if you're not going to be switching formats any time soon and you already are using DV in your work flow then Firestore isn't that bad of an idea. We have one, but rarely use it. The thing that you need to get straight before using a Firestore is how well it can intergrate into your post-workflow. Case and point: Firestores only use NTSF formatted drives, so when they first came out, they were primarily for PC edit enviroments. If you wanted to use it on a Mac you had to capture to the Firestore drive, then transfer all the footage to another drive before you could import it into FCP, because Mac's don't like NTSF drives. Mac OS has improved a lot in regards to drives and NTFS, so I don't know if it's still an issue. Also, Firestore uses a couple different codecs, but if you are using a propritery codec (i.e. AJA, Canopus, etc) then even after you capture to the Firestore you still would need to re-encode the footage to your codec. By that point, not much reason to use Firestore. So the Firestore is good-IF you design your workflow to maximize is potietial.

I know everyone here aviods DV and green screen like the plague!! I don't think the DV is as much of any issue in aquisition as it is in post. I've done about a half a dozen green screens on an XL-1 and I have never had an artifacting problems. But I DON'T edit in DV, I edit in 10-bit uncompressed. So the footage isn't using a DV codec to pull a green screen. Although, if I have to do green screens again, I would use our Panasonic SDX900 (DVCPro 50).

FWIW



Todd at UCSB
Television Production


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Charlie King
Re: stay with betacam or go digital?
on Jul 15, 2005 at 7:44:40 pm

[Todd at UCSB] "But I DON'T edit in DV, I edit in 10-bit uncompressed. So the footage isn't using a DV codec to pull a green screen. Although, if I have to do green screens again, I would use our Panasonic SDX900 (DVCPro 50)."

HUH? Edit in 10 bit uncompressed using footage shot with a DV highly compressed video, how did you get into this uncompressed state? Or do you mean you don't compress it any more through transfer? Once compressed, always compressed. Lost signal is never fully regained.

Charlie



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Todd at UCSB
Re: stay with betacam or go digital?
on Jul 15, 2005 at 8:11:22 pm

Hi Charlie,
In other words, I shot on XL-1, then digitize the footage-thru a DVCPro deck's SDI-into a 10 bit uncompressed system. So, yes it's compressed when it's shot. But then the edit system 'converts' the footage to a 4:2:2 colorspace and uncompressed. So then when you pull your chroma key, or add effects, etc. it's using more info than just a DV codec. I don't know how well this works for FCP or systems that can do it thru software? But digitzing thru the hardware conversion seems to hold up well.
Of course all of this is mute if you have a crappy lite chroma key! Which is more often the case in bad green screen footage. :)

Hope that cleared it up?




Todd at UCSB
Television Production


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Charlie King
Re: stay with betacam or go digital?
on Jul 15, 2005 at 9:21:56 pm

Just didn't want anyone to get the wrong idea and think that jsut because it was edited in a 10 bit uncompressed that any video shoot would be ok.

Charlie


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brianluce
Re: stay with betacam or go digital?
on Jul 19, 2005 at 5:59:51 am

hi todd,

as a fellow santa barbaran, i feel less guilty about hitting you up for info. what dvcpro deck are you using? and once upconverted to 4.2.2 where do you export it? media 100? i like your solution because we could get a digital back for out d-50 and then for our second camera get a high end mini dv camera instead of betacam sp.


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Todd at UCSB
Re: stay with betacam or go digital?
on Jul 19, 2005 at 6:56:10 am

Hi Brian,
We use a Panasonic 955(d) or something like that. It's doesn't realy matter about the deck. It's where the deck is going & how it get's there. We have another deck the is a DVCAM deck with an SDI out into a Media 100 HD system. But you could hook up any deck to ANY system as long as the footage was digitized to 4:2:2 color space and uncompressed. (of course the quality and results will depend a lot on the codec that is used) If your only using Component, then there are several choices for both Mac and PC that will do the job.

I have been using our Media 100 844xi for chroma key work, since it has a good keyer and can do it realtime with additional layers. I've also taken some more challenging keys into AE and done a 3 Pass key with Keylight. There is plenty of tricks, workflows, apps, etc to do what you want, it all depends on your equipments, $$, time, edit system, etc.

Also, heed what others have suggested about cameras. I don't think you'd be that happy with a MiniDv camera compared to a betacam.

What Studio in SB? (i've worked for a couple of them :)

You should fill out your bio, that way I'll have a better idea of where you're coming from.

If you want to contact me again, feel free to email me since this thread is getting a little long.

gillespie [at] id [dot] ucsb [dot] edu

Good Luck,


Todd at UCSB
Television Production


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glenn chan
Re: stay with betacam or go digital?
on Jul 26, 2005 at 2:56:14 am

Chroma keying with DV versus betaSP:

From Adam Wilt's DV FAQ http://www.adamwilt.com/DV-FAQ-tech.html

With some care, DV25 keys at least as well as BetaSP; read on... [...]
The single most important factor in good DV chroma-keying is low-pass filtering or interpolating the chroma prior to applying the keyer, so that the


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brianluce
Re: stay with betacam or go digital?
on Jul 27, 2005 at 8:48:25 am

that's what i was thinking too. if it's a studio why bother with tape other than to back up.



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Evolution
Re: stay with betacam or go digital?
on Jul 28, 2005 at 7:37:09 pm

I think that there's alot of good info in all of these threads for your original questions, and here's my breakdown of them.
If you're dropping frames at three layers, then get drives. We have a dual 2gig G5 running FCP5 with 1 terabite of internal SATA drives and works great with uncompressed via an AJA IO.
You say "D50 betacam in a studio" but since that's a two piece camera I'm going to make the assumption that you have an SP back on the camera and are capturing from tape (based on your posts correct me if I'm wrong). That being the case I think the only cameras that I would consider going with are another D50, a BVW series head like the BVW550, or the D50's predecessor the D35. You could even stretch back to the D30, but I've seen it in the studio next to a D35 and a BVW550 and there is a noticable decline.
If you're not already working with all of your footage in an uncompressed workflo then get the drives and start. Unless you're just doing cuts you'll see a huge difference.
Any change in format (firestore aside, and IMHO not really a consideration anyways) would require purchasing another deck and drive the costs right back up.
Someone commented that DigiBeta was the only digital format for consideration, but DVCPro50 is nose to nose from my knowledge and experience. 50meg and 4:2:2 color. I shoot with an SDX900 and love it. We also have a Media100 844x and have had great success with keying and compositing, but once again uncompressed and a 2.5 terabite X-Serve to fit it all.
It isn't cheap to do things right but it is worth it!



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brianluce
Re: stay with betacam or go digital?
on Jul 29, 2005 at 2:11:22 am

thanks evolution and also everyone else. one thing that's puzzling is that no one seems to think much of going to a dv25 deck and then match that with another dv camera (Not a digibeta or dv50). is it the limitations in chroma keying?

adam wilt rates dv as slightly superior to betacam.


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R. Hewitt
Re: stay with betacam or go digital?
on Jul 29, 2005 at 9:24:58 am

Mixing formats is never a good idea.

The compression rate on DV is higher than BetaCam but DV wins on the virtual elimination of visible dropout - something that plagued the format.

DV25 at 4:1:1 is not the best way to start if you want to do good quality chroma keying. However, take a look at Serious Magic's Ultra product and you may be persuaded otherwise.

I'd still go for another camera to match what you already have and start investigating the full costs of going digital later.


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Evolution
Re: stay with betacam or go digital?
on Jul 29, 2005 at 1:27:27 pm

The real problem I see isn't getting away from beta, but rather the idea of getting away from the D50 head. That's an excellent camera, and with the kind of money you're talking it's not a reality to talk about anything better, ie. digibeta,dvcpro50, or HD. Those are all better as far as the camera itself and the format as a whole, but the price shows it. One way to "go digital" might be to change format without changing cameras. The D50 with a DSR1 DVCam back might be a nice way to go. If you got rid of the beta back (I'm guessing a BVV3)you could, money wise, go lateraly to a DSR1, and then get the new camera mated with a DSR1, and have two matching cameras without putting $ into beta. The same lateral $ move could be made into a quality DVCam deck with a component or perhaps SDI card to work in uncompressed. A reluctance to put $ into beta is what helped us make the decision to spend more and get an SDX900 and a 930 deck. Of course if you're working in broadcast you'll still need a beta deck in house. You could even get a DVCPro50 deck to play back your DVCam footage and be able to master to 50. I don't know if that would be worth the extra $ for the deck for you, but it would be nice.



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brianluce
Re: stay with betacam or go digital?
on Jul 30, 2005 at 4:59:50 am

switching the beta cam back on the d50 to a dvcam back is precisely what I am thinking. this way the work flow originates in digital and only goes to analog at the end of the production chain when our commercials are distributed in beta cam. but, i'm just wondering, it sounds nice and efficient but how much of an advantage is it in reality? supposedly there will be fewer artifacts resulting from the initial digitizing of the analog footage. but on the other hand, the beta cam format is allegedly better for greenscreening. so how much real world gain is there going from a betacam to a dvcam format?


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Evolution
Re: stay with betacam or go digital?
on Aug 1, 2005 at 2:37:14 am

I think the only real gain is that you're not putting money into more beta gear.
I don't have any experience specifically with this, but I see no reason why you couldn't go with another D50, but with a DSR1 DVCam back, so long as you don't capture via firewire/to DV codec etc. Having the same head should match well regardless of the format. We're currently working on the graphics/finishing for a fishing show that was shot with PD150's and offlined in FCP with no graphics or transitions and turned over to us. We capture the footage via SDI into our 844X in 10 bit uncompressed, and all graphics and compositing has been very clean. It's not green screen, but it is an example of where it's not the format but how it's handled that makes all the difference.
I think the idea of not putting $ into beta is a good one, but I don't see any real advantage for you to think about DV since to do either right ( a solid 2/3" camera and ability to lossless compression/drives ) will cost the same ( DV more if you already have a beta deck ). If because of budget you can't go to higher end format now like DVCPro50, DigiBeta, or true HD, then perhaps the thing to do is ride out beta until you can.


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tony salgado
Re: stay with betacam or go digital?
on Jul 16, 2005 at 2:50:02 am



If you have any concerns about having matching cameras then you need to get another D50. Mixing and matching different brands and models really sucks and will always result in downgrading the better camera to the one that sucks the most.


Tony Salgado


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Andrew J. Bricker
Re: stay with betacam or go digital?
on Jul 31, 2005 at 11:19:13 am

I do all three - Beta, DigiBeta, and DVCAM. My first choice, for obvious reasons, is DigiBeta. Second is DVCam, with Beta 3rd. I Chroma Key just about every day, and when I have to use the DVCAM, i get around the artifact issue by digitizing at 1;1, 2;1, and yes, even 3:1 - depending on the project, and the quality requirements. The results are quite remarkable! Green screen seems to work better than blue for me. So, my advice is to go DVCAM for $$ reasons, but get a deck with SDI or component output, and digitize into 4:2:2. The DSR-1800 is a nice deck, not too pricey. Good Luck


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