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David Bauman
Camera advice
on Aug 12, 2011 at 3:58:38 pm

So I've begun a project filming in HD with two HD cameras, one being the Sony NEX VG10 and the secondary, the Canon 7D. After compressing all the footage, it lost quality of course. Nothing too serious until I put it in full screen mode. Everyone has told me this always happens with HD. Yet when you watch big name movies, all of it looks like it was shot in something greater than standard definition.

This is obviously a very amateur question, but I was wondering how to get the best footage when you have a lot of footage to shoot (ie more than 40 minutes) and you want to put it onto DVD for commercial use? Is there just no point in purchasing HD cameras?

My footage just doesn't look very professional after compression, to my mind. I've read about softening techniques and such, but I feel kind of like I've wasted a lot of time and money on these cameras, which show great footage before compression and then just lose so much resolution later.


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Scott Sheriff
Re: Camera advice
on Aug 12, 2011 at 7:33:18 pm

[David Bauman] "So I've begun a project filming in HD with two HD cameras, one being the Sony NEX VG10 and the secondary, the Canon 7D. After compressing all the footage, it lost quality of course. Nothing too serious until I put it in full screen mode. Everyone has told me this always happens with HD. Yet when you watch big name movies, all of it looks like it was shot in something greater than standard definition.

This is obviously a very amateur question, but I was wondering how to get the best footage when you have a lot of footage to shoot (ie more than 40 minutes) and you want to put it onto DVD for commercial use? Is there just no point in purchasing HD cameras?

My footage just doesn't look very professional after compression, to my mind. I've read about softening techniques and such, but I feel kind of like I've wasted a lot of time and money on these cameras, which show great footage before compression and then just lose so much resolution later."


First off, DVD's are not HD, they are SD. You can make a DVD 16x9, but they are still SD. And if your primary objective is to shoot HD to compress down to SD DVD, anything over 720 is a waste.
40 minutes is not a lot of footage, you can easily get 60 minutes on a SD DVD with good results. Acceptable results can even be had up to 90 minutes, done on s single layer DVD if your source material has decent quality, and your edit workflow is managed carefully. Although keeping under 60 minutes will be give better results, I wonder how many consumers will have a good enough eye to see the difference between properly done compression for 90 minutes vs 60 minutes of material.
Lets talk about your cameras. The Sony NEX VG10, shoots 1080i, which IMO does not look as crisp as the smaller 720p. And the larger 1080 frame is wasted if your delivery target is SD DVD. Unless you need interlaced footage for your delivery, shoot progressive. And then there is the CMOS image sensor, which can introduce numerous artifacts into your footage depending on what type of subject you're shooting. The video is recorded in a highly compressed format, which if mishandled, will give poor results.
The Canon, suffers from the same drawbacks as the Sony, but can at least record full 1080p. But then you run into the fact these two cameras won't look the same in post.
To expect professional results from pro-sumer equipment is asking a lot. And when that equipment is primarily a still camera, with video capabilities, is also asking a lot. In order to get better results the footage would have to have the most pristine post workflow available, and since you didn't mention your post workflow I'm guessing it is not up to speed, and that is where you are loosing a lot.
So are you wasting your money? Perhaps. To produce quality video there is a chain of custody that starts with the lighting, and shooting, post, and then output. Judging by the amount you are spending on cameras, I'm making an assumption that the other parts of your production process is equally underfunded for the desired results. It is real easy to be fooled into thinking you can get cinema quality results just by buying 'camera x', but unfortunately that is all advertising hype that doesn't take into account the users experience, and other parts of the production workflow.

Scott Sheriff
Director
http://www.sstdigitalmedia.com


"If you think it's expensive to hire a professional to do the job, wait until you hire an amateur." ---Red Adair

Where were you on 6/21?


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David Bauman
Re: Camera advice
on Aug 12, 2011 at 9:28:04 pm

Thank you for the tips. I wish someone had told me all of this earlier. I'm using FCP 7 which I know is also fairly prosumer, it took my footage and adapted it to HDV 720p30. Everything looks good for the web, because a copy of all of this will be sent to the web. But when it's full screened on a computer, some of the graphics titles get messed up and the footage looks a little grainy. I don't remember the original settings of the camera, but it certainly wouldn't have been progressive.

All that being said, is there a particular kind of camera you would advise purchasing for future projects?

My superiors also wish there to be four 40 minute videos on one DVD. I am assuming this is not possible, or else not possible without losing tons of quality?


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Scott Sheriff
Re: Camera advice
on Aug 12, 2011 at 10:12:57 pm

[David Bauman] "Thank you for the tips. I wish someone had told me all of this earlier. I'm using FCP 7 which I know is also fairly prosumer, it took my footage and adapted it to HDV 720p30. Everything looks good for the web, because a copy of all of this will be sent to the web. But when it's full screened on a computer, some of the graphics titles get messed up and the footage looks a little grainy. I don't remember the original settings of the camera, but it certainly wouldn't have been progressive.

All that being said, is there a particular kind of camera you would advise purchasing for future projects?

My superiors also wish there to be four 40 minute videos on one DVD. I am assuming this is not possible, or else not possible without losing tons of quality?"


HDV is a compressed format. If your a Final Cut user one of the best low loss codecs you can use is already on your system, Apple ProRes 422.
If your using FCP, you should transcode your source footage to Apple PorRes 422 (standard ProRes, not ProRes HQ), and edit in a ProRes timeline, rendering in ProRes as well. Then output that timeline as a self-contained Quicktime movie without recompressing it. Take that to Compressor and use it to make your mpeg2 files for DVD use, and to output your desired format for the web. For use in DVD Studio Pro you can either use the Compressor presets for Best 90 minute DVD, which will look decent, or you can use the inspector to modify the presets for a little better quality if your familiar with Compressor/DVDSP workflow. There is a limit on how much you can jack up the bit rate on DVD's, and there is some debate Constant bitrates, vs Variable bitrates. You should run your own tests and see what works best for your footage.

You can get 160 minutes on a DVD, but the bitrate will have to be much lower than it would for 60 minutes. When you get to that level of compression, it does drop the quality. And of course keeping the recompression to a minimum, and staying away from lossy editing codecs in your workflow will help preserve quality if you need to cram a lot on one disc. I suppose you have to judge it with your audience, and source material in mind. Even at that level of compression, it would still look better than the best quality VHS.

As for cameras, I wouldn't know whats best for your situation. If you have a lot of motion in what you generally shoot, avoid CMOS image sensors. If the majority of your work is for DVD, and occasionally the web, consider sticking with 720 cameras. Given similar budgets, a better quality 720 format camera might be a better deal, than a lessor quality 1080 camera. That extra frame dimension is meaningless for for DVD, and probably the same for web use.
Some of that saved money could go for other items to make your projects look better like lights, grip and support equipment, quality mics, etc.
Go for progressive, over interlaced unless you have a compelling reason to shoot interlaced. Interlacing is a form of compression and a necessity for some deliveries, but not DVD or web. Shoot 29.97 fps, and avoid the trendy film frame rate of 24fps. Despite what the hipsters are saying, more frames per second equals more quality. Period. 24fps is a form of compression. Don't fall for the hype.
Given a budget, my preference would be to buy one better camera, instead of two mid-line cameras, unless there was a compelling reason to have two cameras. If that is the case, at least get two matching cameras.

Scott Sheriff
Director
http://www.sstdigitalmedia.com


"If you think it's expensive to hire a professional to do the job, wait until you hire an amateur." ---Red Adair

Where were you on 6/21?


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David Jones
Re: Camera advice
on Aug 13, 2011 at 2:15:11 am

Hi David,

I have to 2nd what Scott has already said.

Let me add that, FCP7 IS a professional system that Hollywood movies are edited on. As Scott said, you need to change your settings. I'm currently editing a doc on FPC7 with footage shot on film and transferred to ProRes 442HQ. That's what my timeline is set to as well.

As far as what camera to buy or use, well, this can depend on what your final destination is going to be. This is where larger frame sensors matter. If you're projecting on a movie screen, than you'd benefit from a 35mm sensor. If it's for broadcast TV, than something in the 1/2 to 3/4 chip size would do. For internet, probably a pro-sumer camera with a 1/3 or smaller size imager will suffice. Again, as Scott said, there are a lot of other factors that can determine image quality, including lens quality, compression rate, and resolution.

Dave J


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David Bauman
Re: Camera advice
on Aug 15, 2011 at 3:05:01 pm

Thank you Scott, and thank you Dave for the tips. You've been very helpful.

If your using FCP, you should transcode your source footage to Apple PorRes 422 (standard ProRes, not ProRes HQ), and edit in a ProRes timeline, rendering in ProRes as well. Then output that timeline as a self-contained Quicktime movie without recompressing it

There are a lot of presets for the apple codec 422. I see a bunch of HQ settings, however I'm not sure which one would be the best for the eventual creation of a dvd. I've heard not to use PAL because that's a European sort of broadcast system, does it matter which Prores422 I use, just as long as it's not HQ?

-David


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David Bauman
Re: Camera advice
on Aug 15, 2011 at 3:48:09 pm

Additionally, in settings there is a "Pixel Aspect Ratio" window under settings. Would you advise this be changed? Will it effect file size significantly after a progressive codec has been applied to the source footage?

-David


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Scott Sheriff
Re: Camera advice
on Aug 15, 2011 at 5:19:35 pm

[David Bauman] "Additionally, in settings there is a "Pixel Aspect Ratio" window under settings. Would you advise this be changed? Will it effect file size significantly after a progressive codec has been applied to the source footage?"

David, no offense, but you really need to hit the books and get up to speed on the basics. Everything we have talked about is in the FCP manual, and is really NLE editing 101. A couple of hours spent doing that would really give you a huge payback in time savings by not having to redo your work. Same goes for DVD Studio Pro, and Compressor.
Also there is a forum for FCP, and DVDSP. If you do some searches there you will see that all of this has been covered extensively, and will save you from having to wait for answers to your questions.

Scott Sheriff
Director
http://www.sstdigitalmedia.com


"If you think it's expensive to hire a professional to do the job, wait until you hire an amateur." ---Red Adair

Where were you on 6/21?


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Scott Sheriff
Re: Camera advice
on Aug 15, 2011 at 5:07:02 pm

[David Bauman] "There are a lot of presets for the apple codec 422. I see a bunch of HQ settings, however I'm not sure which one would be the best for the eventual creation of a dvd. I've heard not to use PAL because that's a European sort of broadcast system, does it matter which Prores422 I use, just as long as it's not HQ?

-David"


You should select the version that matches the source footage. So if your footage is 25fps PAL, then use that setting. If you have 29.97fps footage then that is what you want. In FCP the ideal situation is to have the source video and the timeline (sequence) to all be the same codec, and if it's ProRes this will give you the most 'real time' playback/least rendering, and is 'as good as it gets'. Once your done editing if your footage needs to be changed to a different frame rate, that is really the time to deal with it, so you are only conforming footage that is making the final cut and not all your source footage. The exception to that would be if you have a just a few clips that are mismatched from the rest of your project, it might be better to deal with them first.
ProRes HQ is for frame sizes over 2K. If you have anything less than that (ie 1080 or 720) the only thing HQ is doing is making bigger files. No real increase in quality using HQ vs standard ProRes. Take the same short clip and transcode it as both and compare them side by side. You can see for yourself.

Scott Sheriff
Director
http://www.sstdigitalmedia.com


"If you think it's expensive to hire a professional to do the job, wait until you hire an amateur." ---Red Adair

Where were you on 6/21?


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Al Bergstein
Re: Camera advice
on Aug 22, 2011 at 12:49:14 pm

You might try simply outputting your HD quality work in Blu Ray. Then it will look like HD. My work in HD looks substantially better than anything shot in SD, and even when rendered down to DVD quality, looks substantially better than anything shot in SD. So follow Scot's advice. You have professional quality capable cameras (See Philip Bloom's work to see how good a 7D image can end up), but remember that the 7D is not a broadcast quality camera. It is, however, a fabulous camera and can, when in the hands of pro, produce outstanding results, if you know it's limitations.

There is nothing stopping you from producing a world class production in FCP 7. I agree that you should hit the books, as I did a few years ago, and figure out how to output the right quality from your great tools.

You'll get there, just takes some time.

From someone who is still learning...

Alf


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