Jump to content


Photo

Urgent! Varicam cookdown needed.


  • Please log in to reply
9 replies to this topic

#1 Adam Frisch FSF

Adam Frisch FSF
  • Sustaining Members
  • 2009 posts
  • Cinematographer
  • Los Angeles, USA

Posted 29 January 2007 - 05:09 PM

Just to preface - I have shot VariCam before, but the circumstances were so different that the variables aren't applicable. I need to know some basic (un)-biased facts and I'm too lazy/stressed to go through all posts here before I commit to this camera. It's down to this one or the Sony F900.

Background: basically, we are shooting a 17-day commercial for a major brand - it's mainly objects and pack shots. We don't need to sync it with anything, no high speed is required, but we do plan on using the Pro 35mm adapter to get a shallow DOF. We need HD resolution and ease of use. So, on to my questions:

1. I remember that the post house that handled the VariCam job I once did complained they had to rent some box to convert fram rates or something and it was generally a nightmare. Why was this?

2. It has Firewire compatability. Can the director import into his Mac/FCP at all resolutions and all speeds?

3. Can it do 25P, or just 24P?

4. Can it play back 24/25P without rendering/downconverting (since it records in 60)?

5. Is it full 1080P or just 720P HD?

6. Is it as sharp and has roughly the same colour rendition as Sony's F900?

7. Is it well paired with the Pro 35 adapter, or will the image go a bit soft?

And anything else you could think of that would be relevant would be greatly appreciated. Thanks.
  • 0

#2 Phil Rhodes

Phil Rhodes
  • Sustaining Members
  • 11941 posts
  • Other

Posted 29 January 2007 - 05:50 PM

Hi,

My experience is limited, so this is all hearsay and a very little bit of hands on, but I'll answer as best I can.

> 1. I remember that the post house that handled the VariCam job I once did complained they had to rent
> some box to convert fram rates or something and it was generally a nightmare. Why was this?

Because it always records 60p, so if you want to handle it as normal 25p you need a device to read the RP-188 codes in the HD-SDI stream and extract them. If I wasn't typing this message right now, I'd be wrestling with exactly the same issue with a JVC GY-HD251 and a Blackmagic capture board.

> 2. It has Firewire compatability. Can the director import into his Mac/FCP at all resolutions and all speeds?

I believe so - I think Apple worked pretty closely with Panasonic on this. I've never tried it or seen it done, but I've been repeatedly told that FCP is savvy to the flagged-frames thing. Obviously, try it first.

> 3. Can it do 25P, or just 24P?

It can do any rate between - I think - 6 and 60.

> 4. Can it play back 24/25P without rendering/downconverting (since it records in 60)?

The HD-SDI out is always 60 (like the HD251), so your monitoring will always say "60P" when you plug in. Therefore, it just plays back whatever it has on tape, with the duplicate frames in there.

> 5. Is it full 1080P or just 720P HD?

720

> 6. Is it as sharp and has roughly the same colour rendition as Sony's F900?

Very hard to say. HDCAM has pretty feeble colour reproduction, but it's higher res to begin with. My gut feeling is that HDCAM is sharper.

> 7. Is it well paired with the Pro 35 adapter, or will the image go a bit soft?

No idea.

Check your PMs.

Phil
  • 0

#3 Adam Frisch FSF

Adam Frisch FSF
  • Sustaining Members
  • 2009 posts
  • Cinematographer
  • Los Angeles, USA

Posted 29 January 2007 - 06:02 PM

Thanks, Phil. I feel the pendulum swinging towards F900.....
  • 0

#4 Mitch Gross

Mitch Gross
  • Basic Members
  • PipPipPipPip
  • 2873 posts
  • Cinematographer

Posted 29 January 2007 - 06:07 PM

Just to preface - I have shot VariCam before, but the circumstances were so different that the variables aren't applicable. I need to know some basic (un)-biased facts and I'm too lazy/stressed to go through all posts here before I commit to this camera. It's down to this one or the Sony F900.

Background: basically, we are shooting a 17-day commercial for a major brand - it's mainly objects and pack shots. We don't need to sync it with anything, no high speed is required, but we do plan on using the Pro 35mm adapter to get a shallow DOF. We need HD resolution and ease of use. So, on to my questions:

1. I remember that the post house that handled the VariCam job I once did complained they had to rent some box to convert fram rates or something and it was generally a nightmare. Why was this?

Frame Rate Converter. If the post house doesn't have the software solution (it's free inside FCP and a number of others) then they will need this box to do it. It's essentially a big memory which pulls in at one speed and spits out at another.

2. It has Firewire compatability. Can the director import into his Mac/FCP at all resolutions and all speeds?

The camera has no Firewire, but the deck (1200A) does. No problem here.

3. Can it do 25P, or just 24P?

It can do 23.97P, 24P, 25P. No problem. You need to go into the camera options menu to reclock from 59.96 to 60.00 on the master clock. The frame rates are all relative to this.

4. Can it play back 24/25P without rendering/downconverting (since it records in 60)?

Yes.

5. Is it full 1080P or just 720P HD?

720P only.

6. Is it as sharp and has roughly the same colour rendition as Sony's F900?

Resolution is a fun thing, measured both temporally and directly. I would say that it is not as sharp as the F900, but others will argue. The colors are different, and I would say significantly better.

7. Is it well paired with the Pro 35 adapter, or will the image go a bit soft?

I consider it well-paired with the Pro35. It will be as sharp as that device allows.

And anything else you could think of that would be relevant would be greatly appreciated. Thanks.


  • 0

#5 Michael Nash

Michael Nash
  • Sustaining Members
  • 3330 posts
  • Cinematographer
  • Pasadena, CA

Posted 29 January 2007 - 06:25 PM

I'm not as much of a post guy, but Panasonic's DVCPROHD goes very easily into FCP. Sony's HDCAM needs a capture card to get into FCP, or else you offline with a dub/proxy of some sort. The post workflow will be just as important a consideration as the capture capabilities.

The Panasonic system is the most flexible for an individual director/editor with his own system. The tradeoff is that the camera is always Super16-ish in resolution in my opinion, whereas the Sony's 1080P can come much closer to looking like 35mm. This is subjective territory though, but worth considering especially when using a Pro35 adapter which will hit the resolution of both camera systems a bit.
  • 0

#6 Bruce Greene

Bruce Greene
  • Basic Members
  • PipPipPipPip
  • 489 posts
  • Cinematographer
  • Los Angeles

Posted 03 February 2007 - 05:26 PM

Some biased facts :)


1. I remember that the post house that handled the VariCam job I once did complained they had to rent some box to convert frame rates or something and it was generally a nightmare. Why was this?


The frame rate converter is used to create slow or fast motion effects when shooting at high/low frame rates and converting them to 24fps (or 30fps) to integrate with normal speed footage. Final Cut Pro editing software can now do this in post without the need for the box. If you shoot 24p and edit 24p no frame rate conversion is necessary.

2. It has Firewire compatibility. Can the director import into his Mac/FCP at all resolutions and all speeds?


Not from the camera, a Panasonic 1200a or 1400 dvcproHD tape deck is required for firewire output.

3. Can it do 25P, or just 24P?

The Varicam can shoot any frame rate from 6-60. That's how it got it's name.


4. Can it play back 24/25P without rendering/downconverting (since it records in 60)?


Yes.

5. Is it full 1080P or just 720P HD?

This is not as simple a question as it sounds. I'll address it below.

6. Is it as sharp and has roughly the same color rendition as Sony's F900?

From my testing, I would say that in real world shooting, both cameras are of similar sharpness and the color rendition can be customized on both cameras how ever you would like it.

7. Is it well paired with the Pro 35 adapter, or will the image go a bit soft?

I haven't used the Pro 35, but I think I'd rather shoot film before I messed with it as it has an almost 2stop light loss and other time consuming restrictions.

And anything else you could think of that would be relevant would be greatly appreciated. Thanks.

The f-900 has a slight resolution advantage. If the f-900 is a "10" on a scale of 1-10, the Varicam is a "9". It is not an obvious difference.

The f-900 (HDcam) format has fewer compression artifacts, but the Varicam is quite close when the "compression mode - dark" is set in the camera menu.

Where the Varicam comes into it's own is on 4 points:

1. Variable frame rates for slow and fast motion, even speed ramping in camera if you'd like.

2. The Varicam software menu is set up to allow extending the dynamic range of the camera, a lot if you need to. This can make a lot of difference when shooting high contrast scenes such as day exteriors. I love this feature, though I wish I could customize the gamma curve more than is allowed.

3. The menu on the Varicam is a little bit easier to navigate and learn vs. the sony.

4. The Varicam DVCproHD data can be captured via firewire and edited in it's original form on a computer from a firewire drive. This can be a big deal for lower budget post production.

My thoughts on "full 1080 HD" vs. "just 720P"...

I just shot a test this week for a feature film that will shoot digitally in the 2.35:1 aspect ratio. I shot the same subject on a Sony f-900R and a Varicam. The tapes were then cropped to the widescreen aspect ratio and an anamorphic film print was struck by eFilm.

First, the print from eFilm for both cameras was beautiful. On the big screen the quality was better than any 35mm print I've seen at the local cineplex (Not an answer print at the lab though).

The F-900 had just the slightest. And I mean slightest advantage in resolution. Very hard to tell without seeing one right after the other.

And my test subject wasn't moving. Motion blur at 1/48th sec shutter speed (24fps) will create enough blur to make the difference pretty meaningless. After the test, by coincidence, I went to my local theater to see "Pan's Labyrinth". It was a very nice print, but no sharper than my test at eFilm, and maybe less so.

From my experience, on an HDTV monitor, I think it would be near impossible to say which camera was used. If you make a great image with either camera, it will look like a great image. Don't be fooled by the 1080 vs. 720, it's kind of like "11 is one louder than 10" from "This is Spinal Tap".

In conclusion, the F-900 has a small technical edge in image quality, but the Varicam has it's own advantages that, in many cases, I think outweigh the technical differences. I would pick the camera that has the most features that you will use...unless your clients think "11 is really one louder than 10"
  • 0

#7 Adam Frisch FSF

Adam Frisch FSF
  • Sustaining Members
  • 2009 posts
  • Cinematographer
  • Los Angeles, USA

Posted 25 February 2007 - 10:51 AM

Thanks for the info.

I'm now done with the project and we did go with the VariCam. We had a lot of problems with the downconverting and the whole video village playback and stuff. My poor camera technician was constantly on the phone trying to solve problems and the HD monitor an playback never really worked properly. Also, since we recorded in 60fps we didn't have time to convert on set, so they had to get a post house to do that for us at great expense. Bit of a nightmare.

But other than that it performed well and the images looked pretty good. Loved the Black Stretch setting in the camera that made the image a lot lighter and organic. Still is a beast of a camera with the onboard HD monitor, millions of HD SDI cables coming out oif it, Pro 35 adapters, matteboxes and whatnot. Much, much bigger than any 35mm camera. In fact, I don't know how poeple shoot interiors in cars withy these cameras at all.
  • 0

#8 David Mullen ASC

David Mullen ASC
  • Sustaining Members
  • 19761 posts
  • Cinematographer
  • Los Angeles

Posted 25 February 2007 - 11:27 AM

I once used the Pro-35 adaptor on the Varicam -- the main issue for me, besides remembering to make sure that the thing was on and spinning, was that it was like shooting with an UltraCon filter on the camera. Some shots got a little washed-out and low-con and had to be fixed later in final color-correction. No big deal.

I was shooting with a net over the lens, wide-open, so I can't say how much softening was due to that versus the Pro-35.

If I were shooting tight inserts of products, however, I think the drop-off in depth of field would be enough without resorting to the Pro-35 adaptor.
  • 0

#9 John Sprung

John Sprung
  • Sustaining Members
  • 4635 posts
  • Other

Posted 27 February 2007 - 04:11 PM

From my experience, on an HDTV monitor, I think it would be near impossible to say which camera was used.



Ah, there's the rub. You're trying to judge resolution on a CRT monitor.

The dirty little secret is that even the very best of them has only about 900 shadow mask holes and phosphor triads across the screen. That's a bunch less than 1920, and they're randomly aligned with the acutal pixels. So, just like looking at the world thru a screen door, it imposes a new sampling structure on the image, and we're off to the races with Nyquist again (Harry Nyquist, that is).

Bottom line, any HD camera and any HD tape is capable of lots more resolution than you can see on a picture tube.

To really know what you have on tape, you need to see it on a chip based projection system such as DLP or LCD, with the image data mapped one to one to the chip elements, so there's no re-sampling. Do that, and you'll see a big difference between 1080 and 720.

Of course if your project is destined primarily for CRT's, and you don't need to worry about the consumer displays of the future, then the CRT is all you need to look at.

In the next few days, we'll be looking at a test of the F-350, which might give the Varicam a run for its money on the lower budget side. Its chips are 1440 x 1080, which splits the difference, being deficient in horizontal resolution for 1080p, and in vertical resolution used as 1080i. Theoretically, it should beat 1280 x 720, but it's 1/2" chips instead of 2/3", worse on the DOF and diffraction issues. I understand that it does let you see your slow or fast motion on the set, which is a very nice plus.



-- J.S.
  • 0

#10 Stefan Nell

Stefan Nell
  • Basic Members
  • PipPip
  • 11 posts
  • Digital Image Technician
  • South Africa

Posted 01 March 2007 - 04:19 AM

The HDW900 has so much more latitude than the varicam...this alone should make this a no brainer.
  • 0


The Slider

rebotnix Technologies

CineTape

FJS International, LLC

CineLab

Willys Widgets

Tai Audio

Abel Cine

Paralinx LLC

Broadcast Solutions Inc

Visual Products

Aerial Filmworks

Gamma Ray Digital Inc

Ritter Battery

Opal

Rig Wheels Passport

Wooden Camera

Media Blackout - Custom Cables and AKS

Metropolis Post

Technodolly

Glidecam

Paralinx LLC

Technodolly

rebotnix Technologies

Aerial Filmworks

Tai Audio

Opal

Willys Widgets

Metropolis Post

CineLab

FJS International, LLC

Rig Wheels Passport

CineTape

Broadcast Solutions Inc

Wooden Camera

Abel Cine

Ritter Battery

The Slider

Glidecam

Gamma Ray Digital Inc

Media Blackout - Custom Cables and AKS

Visual Products