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#1 Neil Randall

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Posted 21 March 2007 - 06:52 AM

Ok, going to be shooting a short with a SDX in June. First time with the camera (directing) so I'd like to be sure the cam is set to the most appropriate settings for our project. It's a chiller, no vis-FX, CGI or greenscreen. We're a tiny limited company and budget really is beer money, 80% of it going on 4 days cam hire.

The format is 24p, DVCPro50, to be edited in Sony Vegas at home. I expect to use Filmlike 1 and the Portrait scene to ensure I get everything upfront, then spend time in post to achieve the look I want. Are there PAL versions of the scene files available to download?

The output will be DVD but it will depend on people TVs as to whether they support progress or interlaced signals. To this end, I'm not sure if I should set Vertical Resolution to P or I.

Are there any other factors I should consider regarding the set-up of the cam? We're all student level but are undertaking the shoot in as professional a manner as possible. Naturally, I'd like the end product to appear as if shot on film and hopefully it'll help us fund a feature-length S16mm shoot.

I appreciate any suggestions,

NR.
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#2 Delorme Jean-Marie

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Posted 21 March 2007 - 07:33 AM

hi
these questions can be discussed with your operator, unless you don't have one?
your operator will do the reserch and testing needed to give you the look you need.

my opinion, if you want video to look like film take the best dop you can.
good luck

anyway the sdx 900 is a good choice so far :)
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#3 Neil Randall

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Posted 21 March 2007 - 07:43 AM

hi
these questions can be discussed with your operator, unless you don't have one?
your operator will do the reserch and testing needed to give you the look you need.

my opinion, if you want video to look like film take the best dop you can.
good luck

anyway the sdx 900 is a good choice so far :)


We've got a DoP and cam op but I've learned to be as informed as possible before I shoot - I've written the screenplay, am casting, location recce, composer, catering, the bloody lot! This is so I'm aware of everything going on, not to mention so I'm learning, too.

Also, no-one's getting paid, so the more I can glean in pre-production, the better.

Feel free to lecture me - you're all a damn-sight more experienced!

As for the SDX: no matter what I look at for our budget, it remains the best choice. Varicam/Digibeta's too expensive, HD is unnecessary and costly, the DSR-570 doesn't do prog, and film is another world - for now. :D
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#4 Michael Nash

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Posted 21 March 2007 - 06:48 PM

As I understand it the PAL SDX900 only does 25P, not 24. The camera captures 25 progressive frames per second, but lays it down on tape as 50 interlaced frames. This is the same technique as transferring 25fps film to PAL tape.

The Vertical Resolution essentially "filters" or optimizes the output for either progressive display or interlaced display, in order to minimize artifacts like line twitter. If your project will be seen primarily on DVD (and interlaced TV sets), then set Vertical Resolution to "I." If you're going to uprez to HD for any reason prior to conversion to DVD, then "P" will give you the most info to work with. You should test this if at all possible, as I'm not sure how this look differs between PAL and NTSC.

Your DP really needs to be thoroughly familiar with the image manipulations possible if you're trying to make it look as much like film as possible. There's really no such thing as an "all-in-one" setting that will always make the image come out the way you want it to -- you have to make sure everything's looking right and know what to change when it isn't. To that end, a properly set up broadcast field monitor is the arbiter of your final image. What you see is what you get.
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#5 Chad Stockfleth

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Posted 21 March 2007 - 08:33 PM

An understanding of the color-matrix, gamma, pedestal, and detail settings would be a good place to start.

The only panasonic scene file I ever really like to use is the Vivid setting which replicates Fuji Velvia film (which could be a lie for all I know, I've never shot Velvia film) but it has a nice kind of pastel-y flavor that I like sometimes. The rest are much too over the top IMO.
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#6 David Mullen ASC

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Posted 21 March 2007 - 08:52 PM

My experience is limited with it, but the SDX900 seems to me to be best pro standard def video camera out there, much better value for your buck compared to a Digital Betacam.

I also saw one 35mm reel of Paul Reiser's "The Thing About My Folks", co-starring Peter Falk, projected over at the Aero / American Cinematheque (big screen), shot on the SDX900 (24P/480), and it looked pretty good, more like HD-to-35mm except for the widest of shots.

Also saw some film-out tests at Laser Pacific that David Klein shot with that camera for an indie movie called "The Ape" (starring James Franco), which mixed in some DVX100 (I saw that the DVX100 does not hold up side-by-side to the SDX900 on the big screen).

Both movies were released on DVD so perhaps you can check them out.

Without doing my own tests, I would hazard a guess and say that you'd get better quality results using the SDX900 (pro camera, 50 Mb/sec recording, 2/3" CCD's, can use HD lenses) over a Sony 60i HDV prosumer camera if you are shooting for a more cinematic look, even though the SDX900 is only 480P. It's a case where the other factors seem to trump resolution. Not to suggest that a Sony HDV camcorder isn't the right choice for the right job. But I think if you're going to shoot in a traditonal narrative "film style" (cameras on dollies, for example), at least I'd be happier with a pro 2/3" CCD camera over a prosumer handycam design. Can't speak for others.
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#7 Mitch Gross

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Posted 21 March 2007 - 09:03 PM

We have some scene files we created for the SDX900 that we really like. Never tried them on a PAL camera so I don't know if they'd work. Email me privately and I'd be happy to send them to you.

For DVD release you definitely want "i" vertical resolution.
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#8 Neil Randall

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Posted 22 March 2007 - 04:32 AM

Thanks very, very much to everyone who's replied. I can't tell you how nice it is to get the opinion of experienced shooters, some of whom are at the other end of the spectrum to our rural, UK one-man-one-woman unit.

Michael, of course, you're right - it's 25p over here. I'll stick to 'I' for v. res. Also, I understand there's no 'capture-all' setting but was referring more to a 'neutral' setting (much like audio) where one would record a flat, balanced signal that allows the gretest latitude in post, ergo; I would opt for the Panasonic SCOPTUNG scene in order to capture as much detail as possible, leaving things like contrast, crushed blacks, grain until post.

Chad, I will research your suggested topics. Additionally, do you consider the 'flat' Panasonic scenes - specifically the SCOPTUNG - to be 'over-the-top'? As for Velvia, well it's very nice stock but I wonder if may be too rich a place to start for obtaining footage with the greatest flexibility in post? Now, if I was shooting a rom-com... :)

David, I'm glad you recommend the Panny. It's all I needed to hear from a Hollywood DoP from the ASC! When I mentioned HD, I was referring to the Sony F series (how to blow your week's budget on a half-day rental). HDV, as I understand it, is unworthy of being touched by ten-foot barge pole. It's supposedly nigh-on incompatible with most NLEs and weighs in at a lower bit-rate than MiniDV. Correct me if I'm wrong. Also, I'll try to source the films you mention.

Mitch, I'll send you an email. Thanks. There's a post round here for NTSC-to-PAL conversion for scene files.

Thanks again, guys. Keep those suggestions coming. I'm sure to be back as and when the cam arrives.

NR
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#9 Chad Stockfleth

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Posted 22 March 2007 - 08:42 AM

No, I wouldn't consider the Scoptung setting to be over the top, but it's pretty easy to dial in that look and tweak it if you know how to use the settings.

Not sure if you've considered it or have the budget for it, but the HDX900 is a really fine 720p camera that is very similar to the SDX. The additional resolution is worthwile.
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#10 Neil Randall

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Posted 22 March 2007 - 09:24 AM

No, I wouldn't consider the Scoptung setting to be over the top, but it's pretty easy to dial in that look and tweak it if you know how to use the settings.

Not sure if you've considered it or have the budget for it, but the HDX900 is a really fine 720p camera that is very similar to the SDX. The additional resolution is worthwile.


I've got the manual and have passed it to our cam op/DoP so I'll probably start to get suggestions back soon. The scene's a place to start, though.

Yeah, I've seen the HDX but price precludes us from even looking at it. It's a month's salary just to get the SDX for a week! Not seen any rental houses in the UK with HDX anyway. It's a big enough pain in the arse having to travel 3 hours to north London just to get the SDX. Additionally, as I'll be editing at home, I'm conscious of and exponential rise in file size and processing power required to edit HD. Even if we did shoot that way, I'd probably end up down-rezzing it, as SD is still ubiquitous over here.
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#11 T-Spect Le

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Posted 30 March 2007 - 10:08 AM

Did Panasonic recently license Sony Vegas for the native DVCPRO 50 codec over firewire? Last time I check, only 3-4 vendors (Canopus Edius, Avid (PC), and of course - Final Cut Pro for Mac).

If not, you'll have to capture via SDI and can edit on any NLE app?

For color saturation, I usually select the factory default color mastrix A or B. B is the more saturated one and I think it's too strong for scenes that contain red objects. It's too artificial looking to my liking.
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#12 Neil Randall

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Posted 31 March 2007 - 08:27 AM

Did Panasonic recently license Sony Vegas for the native DVCPRO 50 codec over firewire? Last time I check, only 3-4 vendors (Canopus Edius, Avid (PC), and of course - Final Cut Pro for Mac).

If not, you'll have to capture via SDI and can edit on any NLE app?

For color saturation, I usually select the factory default color mastrix A or B. B is the more saturated one and I think it's too strong for scenes that contain red objects. It's too artificial looking to my liking.


I'm not sure, but there's been no mention of compatibility problems from the rental house. The geezer there is lending us an AJ-SD93 to whizz it over to my laptop via FW. He mentioned it'll only support DVCPRO25 but suggested we shoot PRO50 anyway, in case we ever get to o/p to film. All I need is an uncompressed AVI for editing - too much to ask?

I'll have a butcher's at the Matrix A file, too. Thanks for the heads-up, mate,

NR.

Edited by Neil Randall, 31 March 2007 - 08:29 AM.

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#13 T-Spect Le

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Posted 01 April 2007 - 07:09 AM

I have the AJ-SD93 and use it every other day. In the 1394a i/o mode - which is a bit for bit data transfer, I'm certain that you CANNOT change the output bit rate if it's recorded in 50 mbs. In otherwords, if it's recorded in DV50, you are forced to use the 1394@DV 50 mode. If DV25 is desired, then use the AJ-SD93 SDI output (optional card) and to out to another DV25 deck that has SDI i/o (I use the Sony DSR-2000 DVCAM w/ SDI & Firewire i/o). SDI will transcode any format (D1, DigiBeta, DV50, D-9, etc). Either record to tape or do a realtime capture back to Firewire. This will let you edit in all NLE apps. Make sure to run a separate TC out on the SD93 and set the TC on the record deck to ext TC to preserve the original TC. This is very important otherwise you'll have to edit everything all over again if there's ever a need to use the DV50 for filmout.

I'd reconsider your plan to capture DV50 recorded footage if you don't use Canopus Edius, Avid Express (PC/Windows) on your laptop. Plus, it's going to be pretty hard to capture uncompressed AVI on a laptop. For Mac, it's easy and virtually painless. Powerbook and MacBook Pro laptops handle DV50 flawlessly.

Despite the HDX900 & Varicam as the preferred cams in 2007, the venerable 2004 SDX900 w/ a high quality premium broadcast HD lens still look pretty darn good


I'm not sure, but there's been no mention of compatibility problems from the rental house. The geezer there is lending us an AJ-SD93 to whizz it over to my laptop via FW. He mentioned it'll only support DVCPRO25 but suggested we shoot PRO50 anyway, in case we ever get to o/p to film. All I need is an uncompressed AVI for editing - too much to ask?

I'll have a butcher's at the Matrix A file, too. Thanks for the heads-up, mate,

NR.


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#14 Neil Randall

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Posted 02 April 2007 - 05:36 AM

I have the AJ-SD93 and use it every other day. In the 1394a i/o mode - which is a bit for bit data transfer, I'm certain that you CANNOT change the output bit rate if it's recorded in 50 mbs. In otherwords, if it's recorded in DV50, you are forced to use the 1394@DV 50 mode. If DV25 is desired, then use the AJ-SD93 SDI output (optional card) and to out to another DV25 deck that has SDI i/o (I use the Sony DSR-2000 DVCAM w/ SDI & Firewire i/o). SDI will transcode any format (D1, DigiBeta, DV50, D-9, etc). Either record to tape or do a realtime capture back to Firewire. This will let you edit in all NLE apps. Make sure to run a separate TC out on the SD93 and set the TC on the record deck to ext TC to preserve the original TC. This is very important otherwise you'll have to edit everything all over again if there's ever a need to use the DV50 for filmout.

Ok, this all makes sense. However, something tells me we'll be lucky if anyone outside the crew sees this flick.

I'd reconsider your plan to capture DV50 recorded footage if you don't use Canopus Edius, Avid Express (PC/Windows) on your laptop. Plus, it's going to be pretty hard to capture uncompressed AVI on a laptop. For Mac, it's easy and virtually painless. Powerbook and MacBook Pro laptops handle DV50 flawlessly.

Why? I've got an external hard drive with FW connections. What's so special about a Mac compared to a PC? Are you just referring to datarate (PRO50 over MiniDV?) or hardware?

Despite the HDX900 & Varicam as the preferred cams in 2007, the venerable 2004 SDX900 w/ a high quality premium broadcast HD lens still look pretty darn good

We're lucky we're even shooting DVCPRO. It would have been DVCAM, originally. At our end of the 'industry', we'll shoot with whatever lens is supplied. And it ain't no prime!

Thanks for your comments - I learn something every day.
:)


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#15 Neil Randall

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Posted 02 April 2007 - 06:23 AM

I'd reconsider your plan to capture DV50 recorded footage if you don't use Canopus Edius, Avid Express (PC/Windows) on your laptop. Plus, it's going to be pretty hard to capture uncompressed AVI on a laptop. For Mac, it's easy and virtually painless. Powerbook and MacBook Pro laptops handle DV50 flawlessly.


Having just reread your comments, I see it's the software you refer to first . My previous post may not have been plain, so to clarify, are you saying Sony Vegas on a PC is incompatible with DVCPRO50 footage sent over FW? I assumed the data spat out by the SD93 would be captured by Vegas as a Windows-native uncompressed format, say AVI. I want to shoot as high quality as possible (50) but not at the expense of trapping the footage on the tapes forever, cos my NLE is incompatible.

It's a luxury just to have the SDX and post is not an option, so given my setup, what would you do?

Thanks in advance, gov.
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#16 T-Spect Le

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Posted 04 April 2007 - 09:23 PM

Getting to the main issue:

First off, the AJ-SD93 deck only comes with Firewire and analog composite output when buying it bare. If you want component, SDI, & RS-422 deck control, you have to pay about $3K more to get all of the options.
Make sure the deck you're getting has the add-on cards. Don't waste your time capturing composite video. You'll regret seing how bad it's in post.

Just went to Sony Vegas site and it's for sure that Sony doesn't like Panasonic. There's absolutely nothing on DVCPRO 50 & 100 support. Sony Vegas is friendly to all XDCAM formats, which makes sense.

To capture the full fidelity of 4:2:2/8-bit DVCPRO 50 w/ out native support for Firewire, you have to do it via SDI. A Decklink SD card is probably the cheapest route to do this. It has free codec and doesn't require hardware on the editing computer. It's Mac/PC dual format. A desktop is required to capture.

My suggestion is to capture SDI on a Decklink card as an AVI on Windows. Probably do it at the highest setting, no need to do uncompressed. I shot a lot of tests in the past and couldn't discern the difference between uncompressed and DV50's 3.33 to 1 compression tape out. After all capturing are done (hopefully via RS422 so that you have TC info on the clip), you simply peform an export out to regular DV25 MS DV AVI. There you can edit on any system. When you're done w/ all the edit, go back and replace the SDI captured clip with the MS DV AVI lower res clip. This will give you the best quality.

To be even more precise, when you export the clip fr. the raw SDI capture, you may have to update the time code value on the exported clip. The NLE app (Premiere Pro 2) will reset it back to 00:00:00.


>>Why? I've got an external hard drive with FW connections. What's so special about a Mac compared to a PC? Are you just referring to datarate (PRO50 over MiniDV?) or hardware?<<

I was hardcore PC/Windows and viewed the Mac as "rich man's tool". Struggled w/ Windows XP/Premiere Pro reliability and overall support. Tired of the nasty crashes and internet viruses. PC laptop is no better. When I got the Panasonic SDX900 & Varicam, it forced me to migrate to the Mac because of native high-end codec support, efficient workflow, and mobility. The Mac Book Pro 17" (Core 1 & Core 2) has proven that for the past 14 months. The $3.5 K investment paid off on just one project. In retrospect, the extra $1K spent on the Mac laptop over PC is to avoid the downtime and be creative. I can edit full online DVCPRO HD via the Firewire 800 or Express34-> Sata w/ out the need to make proxy files. Being a Cam Op/DP, I don't like to be confined in an area. I'm always on the road. Shooting footage on the P2 (HVX200, SPX800 (DV50), and the upcoming HPX2000 2/3" HD cam, I need immediate preview & can start editing ASAP. My work is 90% broadcast and need very fast turn around time. It's quite a new way of working. After using Final Cut Studio (FCP, Motion, Live Type, & Shake), I'd say it's pretty impressive. This is from a guy migrating from from the Adobe Production Bundle Suite (Premiere, After Effects, Encore, etc.) The only draw back is that you have to be willing to spend a good 3-8 months learning and mastering the apps. At this time, I'd not want to move back to the PC! On a side note, Adobe is smart and they're porting Premiere 3 to the Intel Mac this summer. So my time spent w/ Adobe video software is not at all wasted. It just give me more options to choose.

Edited by T-Spect Le, 04 April 2007 - 09:27 PM.

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#17 Neil Randall

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Posted 10 April 2007 - 05:55 AM

Getting to the main issue:

Thanks for your reply, mate.

First off, the AJ-SD93 deck only comes with Firewire and analog composite output when buying it bare. If you want component, SDI, & RS-422 deck control, you have to pay about $3K more to get all of the options.
Make sure the deck you're getting has the add-on cards. Don't waste your time capturing composite video. You'll regret seing how bad it's in post.

The hire deck has FW and SDI. However, the rental MD knows I'm o/p via FW and just said I could only capture at 25 MB/S. As for composite - it's only one step above RF, so I wouldn't touch that with a ten-foot bargepole!

To capture the full fidelity of 4:2:2/8-bit DVCPRO 50 w/ out native support for Firewire, you have to do it via SDI. A Decklink SD card is probably the cheapest route to do this. It has free codec and doesn't require hardware on the editing computer. It's Mac/PC dual format. A desktop is required to capture.

I had a butcher's for a Decklink card and the cheapest one 250 notes. That's about 475 bucks and we simply don't have the budget.

My suggestion is to capture SDI on a Decklink card as an AVI on Windows. Probably do it at the highest setting, no need to do uncompressed. I shot a lot of tests in the past and couldn't discern the difference between uncompressed and DV50's 3.33 to 1 compression tape out. After all capturing are done (hopefully via RS422 so that you have TC info on the clip), you simply peform an export out to regular DV25 MS DV AVI. There you can edit on any system. When you're done w/ all the edit, go back and replace the SDI captured clip with the MS DV AVI lower res clip. This will give you the best quality.

Okay, this makes sense, but given the Decklink not being an option, is there no way to o/p over FW to windows? You'll have to forgive me if I'm being dense and missing the obvious path, here.

To be even more precise, when you export the clip fr. the raw SDI capture, you may have to update the time code value on the exported clip. The NLE app (Premiere Pro 2) will reset it back to 00:00:00.
>>Why? I've got an external hard drive with FW connections. What's so special about a Mac compared to a PC? Are you just referring to datarate (PRO50 over MiniDV?) or hardware?<<

I was hardcore PC/Windows and viewed the Mac as "rich man's tool". Struggled w/ Windows XP/Premiere Pro reliability and overall support. Tired of the nasty crashes and internet viruses. PC laptop is no better. When I got the Panasonic SDX900 & Varicam, it forced me to migrate to the Mac because of native high-end codec support, efficient workflow, and mobility. The Mac Book Pro 17" (Core 1 & Core 2) has proven that for the past 14 months. The $3.5 K investment paid off on just one project. In retrospect, the extra $1K spent on the Mac laptop over PC is to avoid the downtime and be creative. I can edit full online DVCPRO HD via the Firewire 800 or Express34-> Sata w/ out the need to make proxy files. Being a Cam Op/DP, I don't like to be confined in an area. I'm always on the road. Shooting footage on the P2 (HVX200, SPX800 (DV50), and the upcoming HPX2000 2/3" HD cam, I need immediate preview & can start editing ASAP. My work is 90% broadcast and need very fast turn around time. It's quite a new way of working. After using Final Cut Studio (FCP, Motion, Live Type, & Shake), I'd say it's pretty impressive. This is from a guy migrating from from the Adobe Production Bundle Suite (Premiere, After Effects, Encore, etc.) The only draw back is that you have to be willing to spend a good 3-8 months learning and mastering the apps. At this time, I'd not want to move back to the PC! On a side note, Adobe is smart and they're porting Premiere 3 to the Intel Mac this summer. So my time spent w/ Adobe video software is not at all wasted. It just give me more options to choose.

I don't disagree with any of the above but you must appreciate that you're clearly a pro while we're students/day-jobbers. $3.5K is about £3.5K - believe me - and the cost isn't justified for low-end shorts production. If I had cash, I'd be in post under the watchful eye of an experienced editor. Instead, Ive got to do it at home on a laptop. There's a vast gulf between out two worlds :-)

Overall, I suspect the SDX is not really the right tool for us in terms of post, but for the shoot, it's the dog's. Perhaps the rental house will hire out a Decklink card or similar.

Thanks again for your help, mate.


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#18 T-Spect Le

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Posted 12 April 2007 - 10:50 AM

DV 50 firewire data i/o on PC/Windows is currently only recognized by Avid & Canopus Edius. There are 3rd party DV50 codec for the PC, I recall it's from Main Concept. It's expensive, around $400 and I don't think Premiere Pro will see the DV50 firewire data even if that DV50 codec is installed on the PC. That codec is intended for non-capturing (graphics, compositing...) I suspect the workflow for Premiere 2 is to capture DV50 via SDI, then export it out to MainConcept's DV50 codec. This will save the expensive HD consumption. From there, virtually all Windows native apps will read/write it fine.

Yes, there's a "richness" loss when shooting in 25 mbs on the SDX900. Somehow it's similar to DVCAM. This will save you the headache of post if budget constraint is present. Nevertheless, it's still pretty good over DVCAM for certain scene thanks to the cam's CineGamma & DSP. It'll have a less video look and wider latitude.
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#19 Neil Randall

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Posted 13 April 2007 - 09:55 AM

DV 50 firewire data i/o on PC/Windows is currently only recognized by Avid & Canopus Edius. There are 3rd party DV50 codec for the PC, I recall it's from Main Concept. It's expensive, around $400 and I don't think Premiere Pro will see the DV50 firewire data even if that DV50 codec is installed on the PC. That codec is intended for non-capturing (graphics, compositing...) I suspect the workflow for Premiere 2 is to capture DV50 via SDI, then export it out to MainConcept's DV50 codec. This will save the expensive HD consumption. From there, virtually all Windows native apps will read/write it fine.

Yes, there's a "richness" loss when shooting in 25 mbs on the SDX900. Somehow it's similar to DVCAM. This will save you the headache of post if budget constraint is present. Nevertheless, it's still pretty good over DVCAM for certain scene thanks to the cam's CineGamma & DSP. It'll have a less video look and wider latitude.


I've tried Avid DV Xpress 3.5 but found it impossibly hard to use compared to Vegas or even Premiere.

I've also found a third-party codec that allows Premiere and Vegas to process DVCPRO50 and HD files natively and in real-time. It's called Raylight. Think I'll investigate that.

Thanks again,

NR.
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