High Definition content is defined by the amount of pixels per frame, the most commonly used format being 1920 x 1080. This format has 1920 pixels across the screen and 1080 pixels from top to bottom. That however, is not the end of the story regarding quality. Compression and whether the camera shoots in an independent frame codec, separates broadcast spec HD from semi professional systems.
Professional HD cameras capture images at 100mb/s or more, while formats like Canon 5D capture at less than 25mb/s, only slightly better than DVCAM, which makes it suitable for reality TV/insert applications but not for high end content. The effects of 25mb/s processing will become evident when footage is graded in post!
Shooting on 5D is fine if you can’t afford the real thing, but remember that you now have to compromise your shoot around the camera’s weaknesses. You only have control of aperture, shutter speed and white balance – not a good place to be for a professional cinematographer! Manipulating matrix, knee, clip, Gamma curve etc on a professional camera enables the cinematographer to get the very best dynamic range and accurate color. The issues with moire patterning on the 5D in video mode makes it completely unacceptable on a professional shoot. DSLR lenses might be optically acceptable for capturing HD video but the way the focus works and the fact that they don’t zoom-track seriously limits their use in a professional environment. Cinema/HD lenses allows you to zoom in, set focus and maintains that focus wherever the zoom is set.
Cameras like the Blackmagic Cinema camera and the AF101 with it’s 4/3 sensor and menus for manipulating the image has eliminated the need to scrape the bottom of the barrel with a 5D. There is however still a huge difference between images from an AF101 and a camera like the P2 HD Varicam. I own both and have done extensive tests. There is a reason why one costs more than the other! There will always be people who insist on knocking in a nail with a brick though. I will leave the bleeding fingers to them!
Is HDV HD?
The HDV format, although capturing 1920 x 1080 images, makes life easier for the camera’s processor by sampling a keyframe, the first of every15 frames. This is fine for an interview, for example, where the background is static, so only the person’s face, which is moving, is resampled every frame. The problems start when you pan the camera or shoot something like trees, where every frame is different. The processor can’t keep up as every frame is now a keyframe and huge blocky pixilation occurs as the camera compensates by increasing the compression.
Broadcast HD cameras also use 4:2:2 colour sampling vs 4:1:0 in semi pro cameras. This means in layman’s terms, the processor will sample the luminance part of the signal 4 times, then red minus Luminance twice and blue minus Luminance twice. Semi pro cameras sample luminance 4 times, red minus Luminance once and abandons blue. 4:2:2 sampling is essential for getting all the subtle colours reproduced accurately.
What services do I offer?
I am a Panasonic HD specialist with all my own equipment including cameras, lenses, monitors and edit deck to transfer your footage to edit. As I own all the equipment and work with the cameras almost every day, I have a depth of knowledge above most other DP’s that use different cameras on every shoot. My camera menus are set up before I arrive on set and only minor onset menu manipulation is required, saving time.
I have been a Lighting Cameraman/DP for almost 30 years and understand that you want to be free of all the technical issues to concentrate on the creative stuff! I will bring all the camera gear to set, make sure that the engineering side of things is taken care of, and then manage your digitizing process at the edit.
I also offer archiving to tape facility. Projects shot on P2 or other solid state systems can be ingested into my Final Cut Pro edit system and transferred to HD tape.