if it was your money which camera would you buy?
well I'm in the enviable position of recommending a new, mid to high end HD camera purchase, for our organisation. It's great, but it's a lot of money and I really need to get this right.
we mostly do long and short form doco's as well as music videos and so far I have narrowed it down to 3 options, each have pros and cons and I'm just not sure which way to go.
I am primarily an editor, so while I want the camera to produce gorgeous HD images, I also want some love on the post side of the story.
we have been looking at the following cameras
XDCAM HD 350
all have things i love but not one single camera has the complete package.
so if it was your money which would you go for?
with the XDCAM HD I love the "bang for buck" factor with variable frame rates, file based random access, capture and transfer, as well as a logical achive solution. the downside is the 1/2 chips and lenses and the Mpeg Long GOP codec that doesnt thrill me in post.
The Panasonic seems a solid performer, great robust 4:2:2 100mbs codec, 2/3 chips and lenses...the perfect tape based ENG camera perhaps. on the downside it lacks some of the bells and whistles of the XDCAM 350, it's tape based in a world moving towards tapeless aquisition and an expensive DVCPRO HD deck will also need to be purchased.
RED is bucking the trend and "leading the revolution". who can argue with a camera that can shoot whatever format/frame rate you can throw at it. but its unproven, not shipping and probably more aimed at the digital cinema world than our small shop.
the fourth maybe is the Infinity from grass valley but it seems too delayed for our purposes.
so there you go....i invite you to spend my money :-)
G5 DP 2.0 (Power PC)
BMD Decklink Extreme 5.9
To me the decision is quite simple; I'd choose the HDX900! To be realistic only that and the 1/2" XDCAM are real and available for purchase, the other two options are vaporware.
For your closed-loop production environment, the tape based nature of the Panasonic camera does not seem to be that must of a liability, the main advantage of non-linear media comes in fast breaking news environments. Where quality becomes the deciding factor the DVCPRO100 recording format and 2/3" imager size of the HDX900 give it a great advantage.
You're right that the complete purchase will cost more because of the need for a VTR, but I think you'll find that Panasonic will be announcing an economical player only deck at NAB, if you can wait for that part of the package, otherwise the 1400VTR at about $20K is a very capable machine (that includes assemble and inset editing).
The HDX900 compares favorably with the Varicam and even the F900/3 Cine Alta (not it's equal but still a good value when comparing price). I personally still feel that a Varicam (at its reduced price or even used) presents another good choice, as the variable frame rate and dynamic level controls are both great features lacking in it's little brother.
If non-linear is the deal breaker, then you might consider waiting for the "2000" camera which is a P2 version of the HDX. It will also offer the improved AVC codec which either doubles the capacity of the P2 card or for the same bandwidth doubles the quality to nearly D5 specs. The savings in the need for a VTR will allow the purxhase of as many P2 cards as you require. It looks like the 16GB cards will be available soon at the price of the current 8Gb's.
I realize it's hard to figure out what to do, even if you are somewhat knowledgable of the available offerings and technology, and explaining all this to the non-technical people who often get involved in approving the money makes it even more complicated. Furthermore, in order to determine what the real costs are going to be, you should make a complete "wish" list to include all the accessories (don't forget proper monitors)that will makeup the complete end-to-end solution. Dividing this later into phases to accomodate the budget might also be indicated.
When it's all said and done however, the increased capability and quality which will result from the aquisition of a new HD camera package is very significant and the results will be appreciated by everyone involved.
I definately would go with the DVCproHD the HDX900 is a solid one. The P2 DVCProHD ones has a storage to cost issue and right now the card are too expensive, the experts have been saying that the MPEG2 format is going to go away in a matter of a few years (replace by the AVCHD codic) and that is the HDV and the XDCam and I also notice that all MPEG2 base format you have to be carefull in how you shoot if you look on all the footage that all the manafacture have been sending out there is no rapid movement or pan shot because they don't work.
Grass Valley has the Infinity series which is JPEG 2000 format that is also a great camera it use hard drive with out the player/recorder head on the drive, the player/recorder is in the camera, the cost per drive is about fifty dollars and I understaned you can record 60 plus minutes of 1920X1080 HD footage and that camera cost about the same as the HDX900.
I reciently learn that Hitachi who has some great HD cameras but only in the highend market is coming out at NAB with a camera that rival HDcam for around 45K.
So I think if you have to buy now buy a DVCPro HDX900 or a Varicam oops! there will be a new Varicam replacement at NAB Panasonic just anounce that, and the specks of the new Varicam is closer to the HDCam so good luck.
I was in a similar position in March of last year and purchased the ag-hvx200, p2 store, 2 4GB p2 cards, sticks, matte box, ND filter, warming filter, Polarizer, flourescent filter, and a simple arri kit. I received the camera in late June. I've shot a couple of music videos, and a bunch of golf. My workflow does not require tape; in fact, I loathe tape. My next purchase will be a 35mm lens adapter (like redrock). I admit I was apprehensive about the 1/3" CCDs but here I am a year later, and that has never been a concern. Altogether I spent about $20,000
Reality, pipe dream or here today gone tomorrow? Those are the questions you need to ask yourself, clients and the guy who shells out the hard cash to buy the gear.
While your at it start at the end of the chain "post production" and put the puzzle together starting there. What format serves your current post production workflow best not what dream camera might or maybe could fit in?
The biggest mistakes some buyers make in buying gear is not fully understanding the entire chain and workflow process required to deliver an end product not just camera master tapes or discs that no one can deal with effectively.
Thanks guys for all your words of wisdom, it is much appreciated. it feels like it's been a difficult time to buy for the last 2 years with the shifting sands of the transition to HD and all the competing solutions both in aquisition and post. I really hope some clarity begins to emerge at NAB this year.
I think the much rumoured 2/3 XDCAM HD model which hopefully will have its debut at NAB could fit our purposes that linked with the USB disk ingest system Sony were recently showing here in the UK. I really do think that the days of tape are numbered and a file based system would suit my post requirements better (but thats the bias of an editor showing through!!)
I have to admit that like many people, the RED project is very exciting, I just wish there was more to make decisions on than tests and proposed specs.
Its hard when the window of opportunity to purchase something high end comes your way, we all know those widows are often only open for a short time! but then when they open it's not 100% clear which way to jump!
from a current workload perspective we could probably hold off till April, but I'm not totally certain the money will still be there, another dept may have spent it!!!
anyway thanks for all your comments it does help clear the technological fog!
G5 DP 2.0 (Power PC)
BMD Decklink Extreme 5.9
IMO if RED delivers at NAB - the pricing structure on existing and future camera's will change ( prices will drop)... RED might not the best camera for your clients but it will have a affect on all camera's at NAB ( which i think is good for buyers) ...
[paulos] "I have to admit that like many people, the RED project is very exciting, I just wish there was more to make decisions on than tests and proposed specs."
And to echo Tony's very important point...RED's workflow is a little unclear here in the early running, at least from a speed and ease standpoint.
Bottom line, if you need a camera today, you need one you can buy today. Tape is a very well known and understood workflow. I would have to say that if I was buying today, I would probably opt for the HDX myself.
Creative Cow Host,
I'm going through the HD camera hassles at the moment. I have a SDX900 which is a sensational camera, but I want to go full HD to protect my market and future-proof and blah, blah,blah; the usual stuff.
I'm not too fussed about formats but I would like something that could work effectively with my uncompressed Premiere Pro system. If I have to move to FCP (I'm an editor as well) for codec support, then I will.
I've narrowed the camera choices down to;
If I need to buy now;
If I can wait until mid-yea,r other camersa come into view...
Grass Valley Infinity
I already have a 2/3" mega-HD lens, the Canon HJ21x7.5 so I have to go 2/3". I
Yes the Grass Valey Infinity look good and the price 23K listed the Media holds over 60 minute for about $50 but the Panasonic HPX2100 can record at the D5 quality usining AVC-intra format.
I still say there are some of us who have a one project and istead of spending a lot of funds on buying equipment, search out someone with the tools and hire them for your project. I have seen a lot of film maker who has a good project who go out and purchase lots of equipment but not the right equipment and when time come for them to master they have all kind of timecode and audio synk problem and when they take out the project to the big house to conform to HD or Film they have to spend a lot of time and money, so Paulos there is some starving producer with some great equipment and the ability to produce, shoot or edit your documentary suss them out at the Jobs Cows or the Production Hub and hope all work out fine.