Make Panasonic Video Look more Like Film

Q: I am an aspiring filmmaker, but I just went through the whole nine yards about the 24p technology and it's the closest to looking like film!

But then you have the whole High Def Craze! I know people told me that HD is more for Broadcast or Documentaries and if you want the Film Look, 24p is the way to go, but can this Panasonic AG-HVX200 look close to film. I see some HD camcorders have a feature where it has 24fps, but not 24p. Is that at least close enough to look like film and does the AG-HVX200 have a feature that can mock or make it look close to film?

Plus, what is your final advice to me if I wanted to buy a camera for filmmaking. What would be the ideal camera to invest my money?


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A: Dear Jomel,

I know it is said all the time but we're going to say it again, "This is a very exciting time to be a videographer," especially if you don't have the amount of money or connections Hollywood insiders have. Over half the films screened at Sundance this year were screened in High-Def and close to a third originated in a digital format. It is not only the existence of HD and 24 frames-per-second (fps) video that is good news for the Videomaker community but the quick price drop in these HDV (and HD) and 24fps cameras that will enable us to make Hollywood/broadcast caliber works.

We have had the pleasure, here at Videomaker, to test many of the high-end prosumer HDV camcorders, such as the Canon XL-H1, the JVC GY-HD100U and the Sony HDR-FX1. We have not had the pleasure to work with the Panasonic AG-HVX200 with its P2 card technology. Initially we deemed it too expensive for the vast majority of our readership but we have recently reconsidered this stance as we see its street price turned out to be much lower than expected.

Okay, to your question: first, high definition video and 24fps are two different technologies. Some camcorders can record 24p but not HD (such as the Panasonic AG-DVX100B). Or it can record HD but not true 24p (such as the Sony HDR-HC1). A camcorder can do neither of course and it can do both such as the Panasonic AG-HVX200 that you mention.

High definition is commonly thought of as anything with a higher horizontal resolution than 576 lines. For our purposes, at least here in the beginning of 2006, this means 720 lines or 1080 lines of resolution. Does hi-def acquisition make one's video look more like film? The short answer is yes. For an easy example, go stick a VHS videotape into a VCR (assuming you still have these things) and ask yourself if Mini DV looks more like film than VHS. The analogy is similar with Mini DV to Hi-Def. Other factors would have a greater effect, such as careful lighting, shallow depth of field, gamma tweaks, etc., but using HD or HDV will make your video look more like film. Oh, almost forgot that Hi-Def is shot in 16:9 aspect ratio (1.78:1) as opposed to televisions 4:3 (1.33:1). When viewers see wide screen images, they usually associate it with film.

Now, on to 24fps. As you know, video in North America, the Caribbean, Central America, Japan, Taiwan and a few other countries run video at 30 frames per second (well, 29.97fps to be exact but let's just say 30fps). Film, at least the film we pay up to $11 to see in the theaters, is usually recorded and played back at 24fps. So, if your video played back at 24fps it would in fact look more like film. Keep in mind that only a few cameras can record true 24fps. Many will have some sort of "film look" which they might call "Movie Mode" or "Cinematic Mode" or something similar. Our advice here would be to read reviews on the various 24fps modes. If film look is very important, consider a true 24fps camcorder.

As for the question about the ideal camcorder, you’re in luck: this issue has our DV-family camcorder buyer's guide. Use it as your starting point in your search for what will work for you.

Our February 2004 issue had an article on making video look more like film which is still quite relevant ("Make your Mini DV Look Like Film"), and we have follow-up articles coming in the very near future-stay tuned!

The Videomaker Editors are dedicated to bringing you the information you need to produce and share better video.