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f900 vs new Varicam


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#1 Arni Heimir

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Posted 28 July 2006 - 05:08 PM

Which do you think would render a better image f900 in HDCAM or the new varicam?
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#2 Michael Most

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Posted 28 July 2006 - 05:31 PM

Which do you think would render a better image f900 in HDCAM or the new varicam?


Define "better."
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#3 Arni Heimir

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Posted 28 July 2006 - 06:27 PM

hmm... is it that close?
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#4 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 28 July 2006 - 06:53 PM

hmm... is it that close?


What's the "new" Varicam? Is it another 720P camera?
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#5 Scott Fritzshall

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Posted 28 July 2006 - 08:40 PM

What's the "new" Varicam? Is it another 720P camera?

There's a newer model, I think it's EX or something, that accepts new cassettes with a thinner tape. It's the same cassette, same data format, same capabilities in the camera, but I think it allows longer recording times. Something like that.
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#6 Chris Burke

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Posted 28 July 2006 - 09:34 PM

Which do you think would render a better image f900 in HDCAM or the new varicam?



varicam
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#7 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 28 July 2006 - 10:46 PM

varicam


I'd be worried about 720P not looking sharp enough on the big screen, that's all.
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#8 Scott Lynch

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Posted 29 July 2006 - 01:02 AM

I would really say it depends what your project is. Both the varicam and f900 have their strengths and weaknesses, and depending on what your delivery format is and what your post work flow is, would determine what camera is most appropriate.
Personally, I like the varicam if the project is not going to have a lot of post work done to it. I just like the raw footage look from a varicam better then a f900. I think the varicam is a better workhorse when your project is going to be downconverted to SD for TV broadcast.
But if the project has ample time and budget to afford quality post work, the extra resolution and image quality the f900 gives you just that much more room to work around in. In my opinion, this makes the f900 a better choice for theatrical work, or for projects that include a lot of compositing and special effects work.

-Scott

Edited by Scott Lynch, 29 July 2006 - 01:03 AM.

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#9 Bruce Greene

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Posted 31 July 2006 - 01:02 AM

Which do you think would render a better image f900 in HDCAM or the new varicam?


I've used both cameras and find that overall the quality of the images is similar with both cameras once one learns how to set up the cameras to their best advantage.

The f900 has more pixels in the luminence chanel and on a resolution test chart it will look slightly more detailed.

I have though done an experiment where we brought still frames from each camera into photoshop and enlarged the Varicam frame to the same number of pixels as the f900 frame for comparison. The result, to me, revealed that in real world shooting the two cameras matched resolution for all practical purposes believe it or not. This may be because they each shoot the same number of color pixels or because with real world motion blur or optics limitations it's very hard to see any difference in resolution.

I did notice that the f900 had better looking digital compression artifacts than the Varicam. Panasonic has added an alternate compression setting in updated software and the newest model (H) that is supposed to improve this though I haven't checked it out in such detail. It's called "Compression Mode" in the VTR menu.

The main difference between the two cameras is that the Varicam can shoot at all frame rates from 5-60FPS.

Also the Varicam has an alternate menu that lets one extend the dynamic range of the camera which is a way cool tool. This method to me is superior to using the knee settings on the f900 to try to get the same effect.

And lastly, the Varicam format can be captured in its native format for editing in Final Cut Pro using firewire drives which for some projects can be a real post production advantage.
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#10 Brian Dzyak

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Posted 31 July 2006 - 09:54 AM

In the side by side comparison of the Varicam and F900, the F900 was superior by far. Really no contest. It was uncannily similar to a 16mm vs 35mm comparison. HDCAM was just far sharper and the color "popped" a bit more. I'd use the Varicam in special situations where I'd need to do speed changes, just as if I had to use a Panastar or Arri in a film situation, but I wouldn't want to do an entire project with Varicam. But that's just me.
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#11 Tim J Durham

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Posted 31 July 2006 - 05:08 PM

In the side by side comparison of the Varicam and F900, the F900 was superior by far. Really no contest. It was uncannily similar to a 16mm vs 35mm comparison. HDCAM was just far sharper and the color "popped" a bit more. I'd use the Varicam in special situations where I'd need to do speed changes, just as if I had to use a Panastar or Arri in a film situation, but I wouldn't want to do an entire project with Varicam. But that's just me.

Who did the tests? Sony engineers?
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#12 Brian Dzyak

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Posted 31 July 2006 - 09:45 PM

Who did the tests? Sony engineers?


I saw the side-by-side while attending the Sante Fe Workshop so I can't vouch for settings. But even so, the math tells us what picture will be "better": 1080 vs 720. That's not to say that Varicam is "bad," but the question is which is "better." That's a subjective question I suppose, but from what I've seen in that test and in person, I prefer the Sony. I just wish somebody would come up with a better way to access the menus...say if I could plug my laptop in with a firewire or something so I wouldn't have to sit there with that little wheel. We can put a man on the moon, but.... ;)
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#13 David Cox

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Posted 02 August 2006 - 03:31 AM

In my opinion, this makes the f900 a better choice for theatrical work, or for projects that include a lot of compositing and special effects work.


Our experience for heavy post jobs - i.e. ones that rely heavily on colour processing such as blue / green screen work or very intense colour grading, is that the varicam image is a better technical base than an HDcam image.

I believe this is to do with the balance between luminance and "colour" pixel samples. In HDcam, the colour resolution is 480 x 1080 and a varicam image is 640 x 720 colour pixels. This represents 1/3 and 1/2 colour to luminance ratio respectively. The real-world result is that the edges of items that have been keyed or strongly colour affected seem cleaner on Varicam based footage than HDCam based footage.

However, for most normal shooting its very hard to see a technical difference caused by resolution on small-medium sized screens (TV - big Plasma). There can be a difference for theatrical release though, subject to the shot content, quality of film transfer / bulk prints etc. But then for theatrical release, 3:1:1 HDCam is already technically very compromised.

David Cox
Baraka Post Production
www.baraka.co.uk
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