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Broadcast Quality

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John Dorschner
Broadcast Quality
on Dec 20, 2011 at 4:51:57 pm

I'm a longtime professional print journalist, fledgling videographer. I am now looking at upgrading my camcorder. If my dream is to do a documentary for television (say, the history channel or some such), should I get a camcorder that does mpeg2 or h264? should it be in 1920x1080 60i 60 p or something else?
All advice greatly appreciated.
-- John Dorschner, Miami FL

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Andrew Rendell
Re: Broadcast Quality
on Dec 21, 2011 at 10:46:08 am

On this side of the pond the HD broadcasts are in 1080i, so it would make sense to shoot 1080, either i or p.

Several broadcasters have specified that "broadcast quality" is 50Mbps or better, but they don't specify which codecs are acceptable or not.

TBH, I can't really tell the difference between XDCam EX at 35Mbps and a 50Mbps version for most material, and I haven't had an issue with material from an EX3 recently for current affairs docs, so there's a degree of flexibility on the data rate at the moment (although I probably wouldn't take that for granted for a long term project).

You can get technical specs from the bigger broadcasters, this is the brief overview page for Discovery -

It would probably be worthwhile getting hold of full delivery specs for a couple of broadcasters. Google is your friend there.

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John Dorschner
Re: Broadcast Quality
on Dec 21, 2011 at 12:23:39 pm

Thank you ... I'll check it out ...
-- John Dorschner

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Ewan Lim
Re: Broadcast Quality
on Mar 18, 2012 at 8:34:36 pm

Am I a little late to advice on this? Hahaha

I have to say something since I had this problem a few years back and have nughtmare sessions with poor footage from poor cameras.

I normally wouldn't suggest anything Sony nowadays. Although i would prefer a sony to a panasonic camera.

The few things you have to consider when getting a new cam for a docu:
How will it affect your workflow
Are you comfortable with the camera.

Weigh out the data quality, picture quality and ease of use against the price.
Remember that if u want good audio, u might need an external mic which I would suggest going wireless. Ambient sound can be captured with the on-mic camera.
Cameras with manual functions such as WB, exposure and focus are always top choices. I know some docu people who use small cameras such as the canon XA10 or that H10 something something.

Workflow: (correct me if i am wrong)
Panasonic is P2 avc intra. Canon now is h264. mpeg2 gave me nightmares.

Depending on the docu, u might have to do a run and gun.

Aside from that, anything with a bit rate of 50mbps is great. Lowest you should ever go is 25mbps. Ever.

Frame rate wise, if u can get a camera which shoots at full hd 1920x1080 at 60i then go for it. Eitherway, a full HD cam with 30p is fine. They usually offer 1280x720 at 60i if they have a 1080 30p setting.

I would recommend you taking a look at canon. I used to use a sony and had quite abit of problems with it, even with the big ones so forgive me if I seem a little biased.
Panasonic would be good too but if u were to go to post with it, don't expect magic. Also panasonic is bad with low light.

Also, take note of the grain if u are still researching on this.
Red Giant has a new denoiser plug-in which works very well. ;)

Bump me a message if u want me to rec' a few sony or canon models for you. And your budget and needs.

Avid, FCS3, Premiere Pro, After Effects

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Bouke Vahl
Re: Broadcast Quality
on Dec 26, 2011 at 4:57:19 pm

'broadcast quality' is a dead term.
A lot of bad footage is aired as cost is more important than quality nowadays.

So if you want a new cam, get something
- you can afford (or rent if your shooting days are limited)
- you are comfortable with (it makes no sense having a heavy HQ cam that you can't carry onto your location, and if you don't know how to operate it, well...)
- is good for your purpose (you can make beatifull work with a DSLR photo cam, but your productivity / output minutes per day will be limited. Sometimes this sucks, sometimes it does not matter)
- shoots multple formats if you need it. (If you want to target both the european and american audience, it makes sense to shoot 24 or 23.976)

IMHO the Sony EX series is a set of toys. Compared to a 'real' cam they are soft, and very hard to handle. (bad lenses, bad viewfinder, bad ergonomics).
But that does not say that it can't be done. A lot of broadcast content is made with these...

As always in filmmaking, having the tools does not mean you get work.
So the most important thing is to get the work. If you think you can make something and then sell it, think again. First sell it, then make it. By then you have a budget, based on that you can make decisions.

smart tools for video pros

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