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P2 vs. Tape


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#1 Anders Holmstrand

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Posted 22 August 2007 - 05:50 PM

As P2 and other new technologies have emerged, buying a camera package that can be widely used by clients has become a much more difficult proposition than it was during the Beta SP era when a camera paid for itself multiple times over.

Case in point: The HDX-900 vs. the HVX-2000. The former records to tape in wide variety of specs and the latter records to P2 in an even wider variety of specs. Not requiring a $22K deck gives the financial advantage to the HVX-2000. Having a tape backup gives the safety advantage to HDX-900 - at least as far as most producer's perceptions are concerned.

Which way will this break?

Looking forward to feedback.
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#2 Michael Nash

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Posted 22 August 2007 - 06:11 PM

You can go firewire-out of the HDX-900 and record to a firestore drive. And the HDX is a much better, professional camera. The HVX is prosumer.
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#3 Brian Dzyak

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Posted 22 August 2007 - 06:14 PM

I'm going through this debate with myself. I'd order a RED ONE today for a variety of very positive reasons.

However, unlike a feature project which controls its own post workflow, the business model for most freelance video work almost always requires a tape handoff at the end of the day. Choosing a digital acquisition format will require convincing the multitude of clients from around the globe that the image quality (and perhaps slightly lower price) is worth the extra step of taking my harddrive back to their Batcave, downloading the files, then getting the harddrive back to me ASAP.

It's a conundrum that I haven't discovered a viable answer to yet.
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#4 Michael Nash

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Posted 22 August 2007 - 06:49 PM

I was going to edit my post but I'll just add something here:

When investing in a camera you have to ask yourself what kinds of clients and projects will be your bread and butter, and what kind of camera and "asset" do those productions demand. It doesn't matter which camera you like better, it's what they like better.

Broadcast production for the most part wants a professional 2/3" chip camera, either SD or HD depending on the client. Recording format is a little more tricky, since many producers are entrenched in one workflow (like digital betacam) and can't afford to change even if they want to. If you've got a quick way to convert your recording to another format for delivery you may get work out of a mis-matched camera, but not always. Unfortunately there's no one-format-fits-all solution anymore (like there used to be with Betacam SP).

Productions that demand the quality of an F-900 or Varicam will scoff at an HVX, but accept the HDX900. And productions that will accept an HVX likely can't afford to pay for an HDX900.
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#5 Adamo P Cultraro

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Posted 22 August 2007 - 07:33 PM

Except for the fact that the HDX900 is an orphan now. You'd be a fool to buy that cam over an HPX500. Same functionality, no tape.

I have an HVX200 - it's a camera that's used interchangeably on the show 4400 with an F900 - you can't really tell. Plus, it has p2 recording capability and variable frame rates - something the HDX900 doesn't have.

The HDX900 seems like a dinosaur now that the HPX500 is out. I'd take an HPX in a heartbeat. I'd never go back to tape....it's dead.
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#6 jan von krogh

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Posted 22 August 2007 - 09:09 PM

The HDX900 seems like a dinosaur now that the HPX500 is out. I'd take an HPX in a heartbeat. I'd never go back to tape....it's dead.


However - if film and videotape are dead, they sure are two mighty undead zombies.
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#7 Michael Nash

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Posted 22 August 2007 - 09:13 PM

Except for the fact that the HDX900 is an orphan now. You'd be a fool to buy that cam over an HPX500. Same functionality, no tape.


Hardly! The HPX500 is not at all the same camera as the HDX900. The HPX is a glorified HVX200, using 2/3" chips instead of 1/3." It's still up-rezed 540x960, with pretty much the same limited menu options and image controls as the HVX.

The HDX900 is basically a reworking of the Varicam, using the same 720x1280 chips, and with the more advanced image controls similar to the Varicam. The only thing it's basically missing is some of the frame rates, although you can still shoot 24, 25, 30, 50 and 60. And if you really want P2 over tape, the HPX2000 is the P2 variant of the HDX900. But again, the HDX900 allows both tape and file-type recording (via firewire-out to a firestore drive).

You can compare all the different Panasonic cameras here.

Edit: Thanks Mitch, I saw your post just as I sent mine. I originally missed the "2000" vs. "200" cue that the O.P. meant the HPX camera.
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#8 Mitch Gross

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Posted 22 August 2007 - 09:16 PM

First off, the original post was comparing the HDX900 and the HPX2000 (not the HVX200). The HPX2000 is practically the same camera as the HDX900 except that it records to P2 instead of to tape. It also offers the new ACV-1 recording format which is significantly better than the aging DVCPRO codec. The HPX500 is a significantly lesser camera than either of these. It has what is an essentially standard definition sensor that is uprezzed both vertically and horizontally, much like the little HVX200. The 500 is a better camera than the 200, but it is a lot less than the 2000. If you want to get a sense of the relative attributes of the three P2 cameras, try looking at those model numbers! And the HDX900 and HPX2000 use the same sensor as the Varicam, but at a much lower price. If you think the HDX900 is now "a dinosaur" compared to the HPX500 you should really do some research.

As for the original question, I'd say that it's a question of the type of work you do and the clients you serve. With the new P2 Gear available to get your material straight from P2 card to harddrive in the field without need of a laptop on set plus the record time of 16G cards and 32G around the corner, P2 workflow is much easier, reliable and functional on set than ever before. Handing over a cheap harddrive compared to a small stack of tapes these days is about the same price these days anyway, so if your clients are okay with it then it's not a ig problem.

I'm used to working with tape as well guys, but face it -- tape is dying away. There will not be anymore tape cameras from Panasonic, they're going P2. Sony is going with their disk format and both have other hard media in the works. But no one is thinking tape for aquisition anymore. A camera with a tape drive v. a card/disk drive is one thing, but having to pay another $30G for a tape deck v. a few thousand for a card/disk reader is something else. It's the way of the future.
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#9 Adamo P Cultraro

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Posted 22 August 2007 - 10:02 PM

Well I suppose the HPX500 is a better narrative cam for the price compared to an HPX2000 - but it's moot to me since the next cam after my HVX will be a RED.

I think that as the price of the panny cams goes up - there really are diminshing returns on the bigger models, especially as a narrative filmmaker. Who the hell is really going to notice the picture on an HPX2000 being radically better than my HVX. I shot the F900 on many projects and I'd say the pic quality of the HVX is 90-95% of the F900s for a fraction of the money.

The only reason I'm buying a RED is the price per value ratio compared to cameras like the HPX2000.
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#10 Adamo P Cultraro

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Posted 22 August 2007 - 10:04 PM

I actually never said film was dead. I'm not a digital zealot - I've shot on 35 and love it. Tape however............. :P
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#11 Mitch Gross

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Posted 22 August 2007 - 11:29 PM

If you feel that the HVX200 makes 90% of the picture of the F900, then I guess the HPX500 is the camera for you over the HPX2000. But there is a very measureable difference and it is not insignificant. I'm not knocking the lower cost cameras, the HVX200 especially is an amazing little machine for the price. But there is a reason that the HVX200 is around $6K while the HPX500 is $14K without a lens and the HPX2000 is about $28K without a lens. THere's just that much more camera there.
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#12 jan von krogh

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Posted 23 August 2007 - 12:34 PM

I actually never said film was dead. I'm not a digital zealot - I've shot on 35 and love it. Tape however............. :P


as real die-hard film guy it goes:
35 - like
65 - love
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#13 John Sprung

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Posted 23 August 2007 - 02:09 PM

Which way will this break?

Looking forward to feedback.

One realization that hasn't quite started to filter thru the biz is that the delicate and mechanically complex helical scan method of recording on tape was a necessity for analog recording, but not for digital. Professional movie and TV gear is a very small market, and we can benefit from economies of scale by adopting things that are widely used elsewhere. There are much bigger businesses, like banking and insurance, that need to store large amounts of digital data using something that's lossless and long lasting. Their answer is the back-compatible series of LTO tape formats, LTO-4 being the newest. Have a look at S.two -- it's the first step in this direction.



-- J.S.
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#14 Adamo P Cultraro

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Posted 23 August 2007 - 05:13 PM

My point is that whether it's P2 or some other solid state recording system - it's the future. I remember payinga fortune to have HDCAM downconverted, put on a drive so my guy could edit, then paying him for the offline edit, then finally paying to have an online edit made. It was bogus.

Now I just drag and drop the clips right onto the timeline and edit. I can even edit on the P2 card if I wish. I can delete clips I don;t like on set and replay everything instantly. It's really, really neat.

Hard drives I like less. The HDX900 out to a firewire drive has limitations. Cabling.....the vagaries of hard drive failure - you name it. Even with the HVX we had problems with the FS-100 firestore crapping out and deleting clips when the cam was on a jib arm.

Personally I like no moving parts. No drive platters, no tape heads........nothing. Unless you are heavy into a studio system where they must have tape I'd dump it. FOX news is the largest buyer of P2 cards out there right now - switched over.
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#15 John Sprung

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Posted 23 August 2007 - 06:32 PM

Hard drives I like less.

How do you like the XDCam discs? They seem to be quite robust, and cost effective. P2 certainly is convenient initially, but not really cost effective for archival use.



-- J.S.
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#16 Anders Holmstrand

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Posted 23 August 2007 - 07:02 PM

Thank you for the responses. I hope they keep coming...

At the moment, it seems the HDX-900 would be the best way to go for me since it allows my to record to tape as well as Firestore (even given the mechanical issues with the latter). What I don't get is P2 and the new ACV-1 codec Mitch mentioned. How much of a compromise do you feel that is, from a qualitative standpoint?

Also, given the popularity of the SDX-900, are you seeing traction in the marketplace for the HDX-900 or HVX-2000? I get calls for them occasionally but they have not caught on yet comparably. Do any of you think they will? Not the degree that Beta-SP did (we live in a changed world) but to a degree that would make one of the top 5?

Finally, the jury is out on whether RED will be a popular ENG camera. I know they offer an ENG mount option but 1) it's overkill and 2) the camera is not, at the moment, ergonomically suitable for 12 hour off the shoulder shoots. I tried at NAB and would much prefer a traditional design to the RED for shoulder shooting.

Any thoughts would, again, be appreciated.
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#17 Brian Dzyak

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Posted 23 August 2007 - 08:18 PM

Finally, the jury is out on whether RED will be a popular ENG camera. I know they offer an ENG mount option but 1) it's overkill and 2) the camera is not, at the moment, ergonomically suitable for 12 hour off the shoulder shoots. I tried at NAB and would much prefer a traditional design to the RED for shoulder shooting.

Any thoughts would, again, be appreciated.


I've had limited up close viewing of the RED in action. I also had the opportunity to barrage them with questions specifically related to EFP use. (Thank you! guys if you read this :) )

One issue is of course just "usability." For a lot of valid reasons, they seem to be concentrating more on making it "film style" ready rather than spending significant time on the needs of EFP/ENG use. While the camera does seem to be fairly close to ready enough for "video style" shooting in terms of ergonomics, the situation does feel at present to be a case where individual owners will have to figure it out for themselves, sort of like the Frankenstein-like rebuilding of an Arriflex to personal taste. We'll see how that goes.

I think that the bigger issue for EFP/ENG use has to do with the post workflow as I've mentioned before. The standard shooting day ends with the crew simply handing the shot tapes over to the Producer. With digital acquisition, the Producer would have to have a way to dump the files from the CF card during the day or take the harddrive(s) back to his edit bay to dump it all, then get the drives back to the Cameraman the next day. While digital files may be more convenient once they are in the edit bay, physically getting them there from the location is a huge issue and one that could keep RED and the like from truly ever taking hold in that arena.

For a lot of reasons, I really like the RED and have been very close to ordering one. But it is that big question mark looming over delivery that keeps me from pulling the trigger.


I'm also VERY concerned about how the initial owners will handle rentals to Producers. The current "standard" rental on an F900 sits at around $1,500 a day. Individual owner/operators who have their cameras paid off have been "giving them away" for as little as $800 or $900 a day. That's on a $100,000 investment. But with a RED (and everything else you need to really make it work) costing in the range of $30,000, what owner is going to undercut everybody else just to get a job and sink rental prices into the low hundreds? At that point, with the camera costing relatively little, it isn't a stretch to see every production company on the planet just going and buying their own and "requesting" all Cameramen to use their equipment. The pricepoint is a blessing and a curse. There's more to being a DP/Cameraman/Cinematographer/Videographer than making the prettiest pictures we can. It's also a business where the Producers try to keep as much of the budget in their own pockets as possible. An inexpensive camera could be used as another excuse to trim the budget and somebody's income.
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#18 Mitch Gross

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Posted 23 August 2007 - 08:35 PM

Thank you for the responses. I hope they keep coming...

At the moment, it seems the HDX-900 would be the best way to go for me since it allows my to record to tape as well as Firestore (even given the mechanical issues with the latter). What I don't get is P2 and the new ACV-1 codec Mitch mentioned. How much of a compromise do you feel that is, from a qualitative standpoint?

Also, given the popularity of the SDX-900, are you seeing traction in the marketplace for the HDX-900 or HVX-2000? I get calls for them occasionally but they have not caught on yet comparably. Do any of you think they will? Not the degree that Beta-SP did (we live in a changed world) but to a degree that would make one of the top 5?

As far as quality, P2 is just a memory carrier of files. There is no quality loss. DVCPRO-HD recorded to tape or to P2 card is identical. The new AVC-1 codec is supposed to be much better, but I have not tested it enough to really be able to say. There is no tape format that records AVC-1.

We have found incredible popularity in both sales & rentals with the HDX900 in the year that it has been available. The HPX2000 has not been available as long but it is doing quite well. We've done several series that were multiple HDX900 cameras that were out for several months at a time. These are shows that would have rented SDX900 cameras a year ago, but everyone is switching over to HD origination so the HDX900 is the natural camera to transition to.

If I could really measure the horse race that is camera popularity I'd be a very rich man, but I do think that these Panasonic camera are very successful, very popular machines.
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#19 Adamo P Cultraro

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Posted 23 August 2007 - 09:11 PM

Never tried an XDcam disc but I think it would be OK. P2 certainly does have archival issues - as a narrative filmmaker I don't usually keep very much but it could definitely be a problem with loads of important footage. You'd never just buy more P2 cards - they aren't meant to be used in that manner.

I'd think you'd need to offload to a hard disk for archival purposes. A hard disk that's nice and safely tucked away in your office as opposed to on set.
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#20 Anders Holmstrand

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Posted 23 August 2007 - 11:05 PM

For a lot of reasons, I really like the RED and have been very close to ordering one. But it is that big question mark looming over delivery that keeps me from pulling the trigger.
I'm also VERY concerned about how the initial owners will handle rentals to Producers. The current "standard" rental on an F900 sits at around $1,500 a day. Individual owner/operators who have their cameras paid off have been "giving them away" for as little as $800 or $900 a day. That's on a $100,000 investment. But with a RED (and everything else you need to really make it work) costing in the range of $30,000, what owner is going to undercut everybody else just to get a job and sink rental prices into the low hundreds? At that point, with the camera costing relatively little, it isn't a stretch to see every production company on the planet just going and buying their own and "requesting" all Cameramen to use their equipment. The pricepoint is a blessing and a curse. There's more to being a DP/Cameraman/Cinematographer/Videographer than making the prettiest pictures we can. It's also a business where the Producers try to keep as much of the budget in their own pockets as possible. An inexpensive camera could be used as another excuse to trim the budget and somebody's income.



This is a very valid business consideration. Anyone who has been around since the early 90's knows how significantly the landscape has shifted for owner-operators. The low-end cameras chipped away at the corporate market and, now, the RED may very well chip away at those who have invested in higher end cameras. You are correct that it's a mixed blessing. I, for one, look forward to using the RED on narrative projects despite a potentially reduced rate. But don't forget that when markets shift drastically and processes and tools become commoditized, there will always be a narrow niche for talented individuals who use the tools in ways that transcend basic technology. The RED will flood the market with shooters who have supremely high quality cameras but they will not make every one of those shooters a great DP. It takes time to learn the craft, no matter how advanced your tools may be.
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