Comparison test: XL2 v DVX v FX1

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tom hardwick
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http://www.dvxuser.com/articles/shoot3/

Will take you to a pretty comprehensive review of the Canon XL2, the Panasonic DVX100A and the Sony FX1. It's been written from an NTSC perspective and this colours (colors?) the view of 16:9 and obtaining the 'film look', but overall I thought the authors had risen above the mist that says higher definition is all, and they've reviewed what's best for here and now filming in broadcast, TV sets and DVD storage.

Worth a read, and doubly so if you're a DVX fan.

tom.

Alan Roberts
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But bear in mind that what an NTSC user describes as "film-look" isn't what the rest of us regard as "film-look".

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PaulD
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Hi
And there is no information as to whether the better looking 'movie-look' DVDs they refer to are using 60i or 24p MPEG-2 files.

It also makes clear why the camcorder manufacturers have been so apparantly slow to give us any useable 16:9 facilities - as 90% of viewers and 100% of ordinary NTSC TV transmission still (ie for the next few years - their words) will be done 4:3 in the US... :(

tom hardwick
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Well I did enjoy reading the review and can appreciate the huge amount of work that has already gone into the article, so why did they dilute it with small (but oft repeated and easily corrected) errors? They liberally sprinkle apostrophes about when they're not needed, writing the plural of DVD and TV and so on as DVD's and TV's. they presumably wouldn't say one dog, two dog's, so why burden other nouns with this apostrophe?
Now for some chunks from another poster:

Logical errors:
1) circular reasoning: "DVX creates filmlike images b/c 'filmlike' means 24p & the FX1 must drop fields/etc to create 24p". Er, no, nobody
suggests you do that. Instead, you get a 50i camera & do a "slow-PAL" transfer... nothing is dropped. For example, film-out of PAL PD150
footage vs. DVX100 footage on the LAFCPUG site looks almost exactly the same. In fact, that site admitted there was 'very little visible
difference between the 2 cameras, on film-out, in both latitude & filmlike motion'.

2) false association: They mention how DVX-lensed "November" won Sundance Cinematography award, so thus isn't that conclusive? Er, no,
b/c the very two previous Sundance cinematography award-winners were both lensed by the PD150 PAL, an *interlaced* camera.

3) omission of contrary evidence: Better-still, the DP of "November" freely admitted she had to (a) trick-out the DVX with a *lot* of freebies from Century-Optics (like follow-focus, etc.), and (b) she said the DVX was 'very very difficult to focus; absolutely needed the on-set
production monitor, for every shot'. Whereas the PD150P-lensed "Personal Velocity" had an on-screen monitor for focus, they didn't use it in
every shot, & in-fact the 2nd camera didn't use it much at all.

Why am I making a big deal re. the PD150 PAL? Because that viewfinder is vastly superior to the DVX100/A viewfinder... sharper, cleaner, zero barrel-distortion/portholing caused by an over-large magnifier, etc....but that PD150 viewfinder is severely outclassed by the viewfinder and the LCD monitor on the FX1/Z1U. Both the viewfinder -and- the LCD monitor of the FX1/Z1U are so sharp, you think your eyes will bleed. I have never, absolutely never, been tempted by an LCD monitor for critical focus before on cameras of this form-factor... until spending an hour with the FX1. Anyone suggesting they can do critical focus with a PD150 LCD is living dangerously... & with a DVX100, they're just hallucinating. But with a FX1, Sony has managed to create [another] perfectly-balanced lens+viewfinder system.

I agree that the DVX100/A has gobs of in-camera gamma/etc adjustments... but even "November" shot flat, & spent the bulk of their
color-correction efforts in 'post. I'm not convinced that losing flexibility in 'post by affecting the camera image at origination is
smart, in these days of DI.

Next, the Review made a big deal of how bad the FX1 footage was on DVD-output. Well, let's see some screenshots. B/c in the posted screenshots, even in the down-rezzed stills, the FX1 is noticeably sharper. And in my experience, on a large 4:3 screen, it's sharper still. Down-rezzing to DVD should *not* lose sharpness... unless they used the "SD-output" feature on the FX1, which has known issues.

Don't get me wrong-- I have issues with the FX1/Z1U: lack of 24p is annoying, or even 25p for that matter. The big/chunky plastic-y
form-factor is pretty annoying too. But you cannot take-away from that image, that spectacular lens, or that fantastic viewfinder + LCD. This review tries to do all three (mentioning chromatic distortion in the FX1
while omitting similar issues with the DVX, for example, was particularly egregious), but is really begging the question: The DVX has a fragile body, weak viewfinder, futzy/glitchy focus+zoom-motion, -and- 24p.

If in-camera 24p is your need, I"d probably choose the DVX over the XL2... b/c with the $$ you save, you can buy a production-quality
monitor for focusing.

But can you re-create high-quality 24p in 'post from 50i? Yes, absolutely. Both Twixtor & the original Magic Bullet plugins do adaptive
de-interlacing.

----------------------------
tom.

PaulD
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Quote:
Originally posted by PaulD:
And there is no information as to whether the better looking 'movie-look' DVDs they refer to are using 60i or 24p MPEG-2 files.

Actually they answer this on page 9 of their forum replies:
Q from another poster:
"Further you note that the down-rezzed SD-image of the HDR-FX1 is not up to the level of the competitors. Having tried this many times myself by now I absolutely disagree with that statement. My comparisons against Canon's XL2 and GL2 show the HDR-FX1 clearly on par."
A from Barry Green:
"I don't know that I said that the image is not up to the level of the competitors -- I do think it's clearly on par.  It's just not better, as meaning there's no more detail etc. in the downrezzed FX1 as compared to the XL2/DVX.  But the images on DVD are certainly comparable, as far as 60i goes.  In 24p mode the DVX and XL2 exceed the FX1's CF24 mode."
 
And CF24 mode is not available on the PAL FX1E as I understand it.

The same questioner also points out:
"Also have you taken care of the different color space that all HD cameras use (ITU BT.709 versus ITU BT.601 of DV) ? Using the wrong color space will result in somewhat unsaturated, washed out colors which might just have been what you saw. Today only few video-editing programs today take care of that..."
A:
"We made no specific provision, no.  Just put the clips on the Vegas timeline, and used it to output a DVD."
This links to www.sonyhdvinfo.com/forumdisplay.php?f=6 . Plenty to read this weekend!

And links to this www.sonyhdvinfo.com/showthread.php?t=850 about the improvements (in CF24 mode etc) in the Z1.

Alan Roberts
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I agree with all of Tom's comments, but the clarifications yield yet another common problem whe comparing HD and SD - that of 601 versus 709 "colour space".

In fact (and you can look this up in the ITU recommendations, would you believe ITU R.BT-601 and ITU R.BT-709?) the colour spaces are virtually identical because it's only the green primary that's slightly different. The real difference is in the luma coding equation:

601: Y'=0.299R'+0.587G'+0.114B'
709: Y'=0.2126R'+0.7067G'+0.0711B'

(numbers from memory, but I think they're right). So coding using one equation and decoding with the other will give big colour errors. All the electrical hardware does this correctly, in the downconverter, the coding is changed from 709 to 601. The only possibility for error is in the software codecs in NLEs, and they damn well ought to be right.

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Jim Bird
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Hi,

The HDV dropout issue appears to be a bit serious!

As always the price of the expensive tapes always come down with time.

Jim Bird.

Alan Roberts
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Agreed. I think the dropout problem is the single biggest issue with the entire format.

Get my test cards document, and cards for 625, 525, 720 and 1080. Thanks to Gavin Gration for hosting them.
Camera settings documents are held by Daniel Browning and at the EBU
My book, 'Circles of Confusion' is available here.
Also EBU Tech.3335 tells how to test cameras, and R.118 tells how to use the results.

Jim Bird
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Hi,

It would seem solid state and/or hard drive storage is the way forward for HDV, could it be Panasionic are going to lead the way here?

Jim Bird.

infocus
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Being heavily debated alreadyin this thread - http://www.dvdoctor.net/cgi-bin/ultimatebb.cgi?ubb=get_topic;f=8;t=003257;p=1 .

More likely to be solid state and blue laser (with hard drive maybe as an interim step), and the pro market currently seems to be inclining towards just a blue laser solution for the next generation. The current problems with solid state seem more viability than technical. I feel it will come, but not in a big way for a few years.

tom hardwick
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I agree, the case against MPEG2 compression at source is frighteningly put in the review. But doesn't Micro DV use the same compression and is it plagued by such devastating half-second dropouts? I know I'm trained to see every tiny sparkly in Mini DV, so 12 frames of unintentional
still won't look too clever.

tom.

Alan Roberts
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Agreed, Tom, the problem is the same as for MicroMV, and for Beta SX. I haven't enough experience of either to give a view.

(Sorry, slip of the fingers).

Get my test cards document, and cards for 625, 525, 720 and 1080. Thanks to Gavin Gration for hosting them.
Camera settings documents are held by Daniel Browning and at the EBU
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Also EBU Tech.3335 tells how to test cameras, and R.118 tells how to use the results.

infocus
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Quote:
Originally posted by tom hardwick:
.... doesn't Micro DV use the same compression ....

Is it not Micro MV we're talking about? And I believe that is not proving too much of a success?

Alan Roberts
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Yep, sorry.

Sony have stopped developing it and there will be no more products, at least that's what I've been told.

Get my test cards document, and cards for 625, 525, 720 and 1080. Thanks to Gavin Gration for hosting them.
Camera settings documents are held by Daniel Browning and at the EBU
My book, 'Circles of Confusion' is available here.
Also EBU Tech.3335 tells how to test cameras, and R.118 tells how to use the results.

infocus
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Returning to Toms original post and the review he linked to, anybody visiting Video Forum in the next couple of days may like to take a look at one of the first stands you come across as you enter. They've got three identical Sony Hi-Res monitors placed up high, showing side by side a DVX100, and two FX1s. Seeing that alone should be enough to convince anyone of the benefits of HD, HDV and the FX1.

The review Tom linked to seems authoritative, and technically the author seems to have a good grasp. Nice to see matters such as low light performance, lens angle coverage etc being given good prominence. I'm not so sure about much of what he writes about 16:9 or HD, eg " Even if HDTV were to catch on and rapid adoption were to occur, how soon will HD-DVD players become a substantial presence in the marketplace? 5 years (even faster than DVD itself?) 8 years? Standard-def DVD will be with us for quite a while. And for standard-def DVD production, the FX1 is not as capable as the other cameras in this comparison."

If you are enjoying better results than most other people, does it really matter if you're in the minority now? Especially since even he concedes they are likely to come your way in a few years time. He seems to be saying "stick with current technology until it's nearly dead." It's not always good to be an early adopter, but he does seem to be unduly cautious. Since the site is after all called "dvxuser", are we seeing an element of bias?

But I'd be the first to agree with him that in usability terms, especially off the tripod, the FX1 is probably the worst of the three, and it's a shame about the sensitivity, but the HD pictures really put the others in the shade. As the general consensus seems to be none of them is perfect, lets wait for NAB. Lets not forget that at this time last year, the FX1 was an unnamed mere rumour to most people. ;)

Christian Lett
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Quote:
Since the site is after all called "dvxuser", are we seeing an element of bias?

I read through that review and I'd say it was incredibly biased! My favourite part was to do with 16:9 shooting; two of the three cameras (FX1 and XL2) shoot native 16:9, whereas the DVX shoots 4:3 and crops (I think), just like my TRV900.

Early on in the review he was citing the importance of the "movie look," where the DVX comes out top (compared to the extreme video look of the FX1), but when it comes to the 16:9 capabilities, this isn't as important to him ("when it comes to 4:3 the DVX is King!") - most people include widescreen in their idea of the movie look, but as the DVX is the weakest of the three in this regard, the reviewer thinks that 4:3 shooting is better than 16:9. Admittedly he does state that most US homes have 4:3 TVs but he is pushing the movie look somewhat (i.e. not for home videos).

That said, it was a well written review and the reviewer makes some interesting points, especially about the XL2's menus.

Christian

Christian Lett After Effects and Maya Artist www.quarterlightpictures.com

simon ferrigan
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Having seen the pictures of the fx1 in use at the video forum, has anyone now got a more definitive answer on the compression and dropout problems.

First there were artifacts on SD downconversion and now this. One dropout every 90 mins doesn't seem so bad though.

The picture is said to be stunning but is it ruined by this problem? I need to buy a new camera by the end of february and the FX1 seems such a fantastic camera apart from this issue, which puts me of it.

simon ferrigan.

harlequin
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bob crabtree is, i seem to remember , moving the captured footage from a firewire drive to his pc.

i only quickly looked at the stuff after it was 'captured' and i couldn't see dropouts and the compression was not causing any problems while watching the timeline on a 30+" plasma screen.

To my eyes , the quality was very good.

Gary MacKenzie

sepulce@hotmail.com ( an account only used for forum messages )

Thinkserver TS140 , 750ti Graphics card  & LG 27" uws led backlight , Edius 8

Humax Foxsat HD Pvr / Humax Fox T2 dvbt

Alan Roberts
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The jury is definitely out on dropouts, not enough field experience. Only time will tell.

Get my test cards document, and cards for 625, 525, 720 and 1080. Thanks to Gavin Gration for hosting them.
Camera settings documents are held by Daniel Browning and at the EBU
My book, 'Circles of Confusion' is available here.
Also EBU Tech.3335 tells how to test cameras, and R.118 tells how to use the results.

tom hardwick
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With any tape based system there's the problem of hig g forces (big dipper, say) causing the tape to lose intimate contact with the spinning head drum for a fraction of a second. In all 'normal filming' I can't see this being a problem at all, and DVC - who've used the FX1 a good deal - haven't seen any of these 'half-second-freezes' that the dvxuser review was so gleefully going on about.

tom.

Alan Roberts
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Indeed. I've used my old DX100 in some pretty high G environments and had no problems in miniDV. FX1/Z1 tape transport is the same mechanism.

There's no doubt that there could be problems with high G, and with dropouts, but I haven't yet seen any evidence, either personal or reported, to suggest that it's going to be a problem.

Get my test cards document, and cards for 625, 525, 720 and 1080. Thanks to Gavin Gration for hosting them.
Camera settings documents are held by Daniel Browning and at the EBU
My book, 'Circles of Confusion' is available here.
Also EBU Tech.3335 tells how to test cameras, and R.118 tells how to use the results.

PaulD
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Hi
At VideoForum the Panasonic UK Sales manager gave a HD presentation on a hi-res 12foot projected screen with a huge HD projector, which included some Varicam footage shot in the cab of a drag-racing truck with 2 110,000 bhp jet engines (he said), which was racing a low-flying plane (and winning).

The camera was subjected to +2.5g acceleration, and -0.8g deceleration. The loss of tape-head contact was clearly visible as dark band streaking on the video.

With a smile the sales manager "that won't happen with our next generation solid-state cameras"...

infocus
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The same question (how does it stand up to shock) was put to Sony (by me) and I was shown a demo of XDCAM being given some rough treatment in a high speed boat in white water. It was very impressive, but I really don't know what any Health & Safety rep would have made of the cameramans behaviour......

Be interesting to trial P2 and XDCAM side by side.

tom hardwick
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On the high end, Panasonic's P2 is a 4GB flash memory card for data storage. Sony's XDCAM solution uses optical discs instead.
Eventually this will filter down to our cameras.
Just thought I'd add this here for clarification.

tom.

tom hardwick
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Should've added:
Read about P2 and XDCAM here:
http://www.urbanfox.tv/articles/cameras/c27p2andxdcam.htm

Alan Roberts
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P2 cards have a system capacity of 32G, that is, the system can cope with up to 32Gbytes/card. Only 4G cards around at present, but 8G will come out this year and I was told that 16G should be available next year. The problem with cards is the cost, but you need only enough cards to supply the transport between camera and NLE, so it may even out over time.

And look at what's happened to the cost of cards for stills cameras in the past 5 years.

Get my test cards document, and cards for 625, 525, 720 and 1080. Thanks to Gavin Gration for hosting them.
Camera settings documents are held by Daniel Browning and at the EBU
My book, 'Circles of Confusion' is available here.
Also EBU Tech.3335 tells how to test cameras, and R.118 tells how to use the results.

infocus
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Quote:
Originally posted by Alan Roberts:
P2 cards have a system capacity of 32G, that is, the system can cope with up to 32Gbytes/card. Only 4G cards around at present,.....

More than that surely? (See here) Is the 32 figure not EACH SD card, hence the 128GB figure for a P2 card given in the link above?

I think it's time to consider a few actual figures here. In other topics rumours are starting of a Z1 rival from Panasonic emerging soon with solid state technology, possibly even with DVCPRO HD coding (1ooMb) to ease the editing. Before the Z1 and HDV get written off before even being released, lets remember that currently the most that a P2 can record per card is 16 minutes of DVCPRO, 8 minutes of DVCPRO50, or 4 minutes of DVCPRO HD! To do that requires a card costing currently £850. Prices will drop, and a double sized card is due soon, so lets work on a round ball park figure of, say, £1,000 for an 8GB card by this summer.

If this camera DID use 100Mb compression, that card would store 8 minutes of video. I'd say that 2 hours is the minimum that could be considered generally acceptable for recording without a download to clear the cards - though obviously this figure varies hugely depending what's being done. That becomes no less than 15 cards - £15,000!!! - or more if allowance is made for overlaps. In other words, enough to buy about FIVE Z1s and still have the change for several boxes of HDV tapes.

Even if it uses MPEG-2 compression and 25Mb like HDV, we're still talking about 4 cards, or about £4,000 on top of the cost of the camera. Don't get me wrong, the technology's very clever, and in about five years the pricing will probably be such as to make it viable even in the consumer market. But what else will Sony et al have brought out by then, and what sales will have gone to whom in those five years!

Regarding your urbanfox link and story, Tom, it is worth noting that it was written in March 2004. Several industry names are quoted as expressing support for P2, and I believe that in the intervening year at least one of the companies they represent has placed a big order for new equipment. For XDCAM. My understanding is that in the 10 months since it was written, a lot of opinion has firmed up within the industry, and come down much more in favour of XDCAM for short-medium term purchases. For anybody going to NAB, just ask the companies what big broadcasters they have actually made firm sales to. ;)

Regarding points raised a few posts ago about reliability, then to quote from the article, about XDCAM: "It had been claimed that blue lasers wouldn't work at very low temperatures, but tests by Germany's WDR have shown it working successfully at -30 degrees, as well as at 50 degrees. It was also subject to intense vibration, and it worked. "It has a shock absorber, and an electronic buffer, so it gives a fully stable picture," explains Pecot.

It also has ten-second loop record, which allows it continue recording while changing discs (it has enough data throughput to catch up quickly). It has very similar power requirements to tape."

I'm not sure about whats said about power - I understand it consumes MORE power than tape based systems, but the part about the loop record is very significant. It makes it match P2 on what I'd previously understood to be one of P2's biggest undeniable advantages - continuous, seamless recording.

tom hardwick
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Good point you make about the date the web site piece was written, and I should've given more weight to that. Thanks for the wake-up. Just goes to show that a web-based dvdoctor.net magazine is the way ahead - just so that we can keep track of plunging flash memory prices.

tom.

infocus
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Quote:
Originally posted by tom hardwick:
Just goes to show that a web-based dvdoctor.net magazine is the way ahead - just so that we can keep track of plunging flash memory prices.

;) I remember when a 9GB hard drive was £1500, and had to be SCSI. Any feelings about the figures I quote, and assumptions drawn from them? I'm inevitably making a lot of guesses and projections, but what do you make of the "five-year" guess - shorter, longer, about right? Or do you think the economics such that they'll just sell anyway this year? I think the timing may vary for different sectors of the market anyway.

Alan Roberts
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The info I have from Panasonic is that their camera will record MPEG at 25 or 50Mb/s, not 100. My source was unsure about whether the bitstream was compatible with HDV at 25. He said that he'd seen demo pictures from the camera, but had not seen the camera itself. He also said that the pictures at 50 were considerably better than at 25, on a fastish pan. That's what I'd expect. he also said that 4G cards are around now, and that 8 or 16 could be by next year.

Don't speculate too much, wait and see. But the cost of cards will drop just as the cost of cards in stills cameras did, but on a different scale.

P.S.: the first hard drive I ever bought cost £500 and held thwe magnificent total of 20 Megabytes, in about 1990. Now I can get a whole laptop including a 40 Gigabyte drive for about the same price.

Get my test cards document, and cards for 625, 525, 720 and 1080. Thanks to Gavin Gration for hosting them.
Camera settings documents are held by Daniel Browning and at the EBU
My book, 'Circles of Confusion' is available here.
Also EBU Tech.3335 tells how to test cameras, and R.118 tells how to use the results.

PaulD
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Quote:
Originally posted by Alan Roberts:
[The info I have from Panasonic is that their camera will record MPEG at 25 or 50Mb/s, not 100. My source was unsure about whether the bitstream was compatible with HDV at 25.

Hi
Why would they need to go long-GOP MPEG?
quote:
"because at 24fps VariCam’s DVCPRO HD video compression rate drops to 40Mbps"
from
www.panasonic.com/business/provideo/nab_access_hd.asp
As I understand it DVCPRO HD is I-frame only (therefore easily editable), and is only 100Mb/s to accomodate VariCam's 60fps mode.
What proportion of the total cost of a prosumer camera does the tape/head mechanism account for? (Which in a solid-state recorder would be dispensed with).

(My original 1993 Premiere v3.1 2x2.7GB Seagate SCSI RAID cost £5500, and a 16MB simm cost £800...)

drgagx
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The various references in earlier posts
to "MPEG" presumably refer to MPEG2.

What will be the situation when MPEG4 becomes (a) feasible and (b) commonplace? I read somewhere (an EBU paper) that MPEG4 is likely to become a future HDTV transmission standard.

What difference is there in data rates between MPEG2 and MPEG4 for a given HD movie? What difference will this make to the demands on digital camcorders?

Finally, how far away is MPEG4 in the world of digital video?

Alan Roberts
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I thought we were talking about Panasonic's yet-to-be-announced consumer HD palmcorder, and not the well-established Varicam. Varicam puts 100Mb/s to tape in DVCProHD format, with intra-frame DV encoding. The new camera is an unknown beast as yet, although the info I have is that it will be a palmcorder recording MPEG (don't know whether it's 2 or 4, or GoP length) to flash card at 25Mb/s or 50, switchable. DVCProHD is a marginal system, compression ratio is 6.7:1, effectively using ordinary DV compressors in parallel, and, in the Varicam, recording only 960x720p. In the palmcorder, I expect to see a 1080 camera running at 50i, 1440x1080 or better. But, as I said earlier, no firm details yet.

MPEG 4 is already with us, WM9 is MPEG4 and is known as VC-1 in the SMPTE. I don't know of any hardware real-time decoders in kit yet, but it can only be a matter of time.

Get my test cards document, and cards for 625, 525, 720 and 1080. Thanks to Gavin Gration for hosting them.
Camera settings documents are held by Daniel Browning and at the EBU
My book, 'Circles of Confusion' is available here.
Also EBU Tech.3335 tells how to test cameras, and R.118 tells how to use the results.

drgagx
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Thanks for the update on the status of MPEG4 - these are unknown waters for me.

Would it make sense for the new Panasonic to encode to MPEG4, eg so that it could be used without further conversion for HD news broadcasting if that is indeed coming? Presumably encoding to MPEG would also bring with it the editing issues faced by HDV and MPEG2?

Alan Roberts
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Indeed it would, but it's a consumer palmcorder and MPEG4 hardware encoding/decoding is probably well beyond the budget for such a unit at present.

Get my test cards document, and cards for 625, 525, 720 and 1080. Thanks to Gavin Gration for hosting them.
Camera settings documents are held by Daniel Browning and at the EBU
My book, 'Circles of Confusion' is available here.
Also EBU Tech.3335 tells how to test cameras, and R.118 tells how to use the results.

infocus
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Quote:
Originally posted by drgagx:
Would it make sense for the new Panasonic to encode to MPEG4, eg so that it could be used without further conversion for HD news broadcasting if that is indeed coming?

Very unlikely anyway that it would remain as such from camera through the chain to transmission to home. Apart from editing, at some stage it would have to pass through vision mixing, possibly multiple times - news gallery, presentation etc. MPEG4 may make much sense as an eventual means of transmission, but not for general production. In the same way that MPEG2 is now used for SD transmission, but interconnections within a broadcaster are more likely to be SDI.

drgagx
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Thanks for the clarifications.