Best true HD camera for my feature?

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    • #43752

      Hey gang. I’m shooting my first feature (producing/directing/writing) and I want a DP with his/her own equipment but I want said equipment to be true HD (I’m looking ahead to the manditory HD changeover as well as possible DVD release).

      We’ll be shooting in Los Angeles as well as beautiful Wisconsin and I really want to capture the Wisconsin scenes. So, please, any suggestions on which true HD camera to use would be appriciated.



    • #183304

      Cameras made by RED I’ve heard are real good for feature film work because their cameras shoot in resolutions higher than HD. 2K and 4K resolutions are available now, but in the beginning of 2009 they will have 3K and 5K as well.

      Check out

    • #183305

      There’s other cameras too though. Panasonic Varicam. Sony CineAlta cameras. I don’t know too much about the really high end stuff though. So I don’t think I’ll be able to tell you much more.

    • #183306

      Rob Can you steer us to some videos done with the red camera? I am interested in a low end HD camera ($3000) used in the making of the videos at labeled creative content.

    • #183307

      RED has some sample videos on their site. I know it was used to make the movie Jumper. RED isn’t a low end HD camera though. I was under the impression you wanted a high end HD camera since you said you were going to shoot a feature. RED is quite cheap for what it does though…

      If you want a camera in the 3000 dollar range, check out some of the Sony cameras like the V1U and Z1. I think they’re a little more than 3000 dollars though.

    • #183308

      I was under the impression that editing footage shot on the RED camera was a problem. That’s what I’ve heard from a few guys I know who have either shot or been on crews who’s shot with the camera.

      Anybody have more clrrification on these problems?


      ps… great info so far, thanks.

    • #183309

      In the tiny bit of research I did, there are no “true HD” camcorders in the $3000 range. They all use some variation of MPG2 to compress the data bit-rate to fit within the maximum available bandwidth. Professional HD camcorders do not record MPG2 comporessed video. The only compression that occurs is within each frame (intraframe compression) and it is stored as a JPG video file. As for the under $3000 camcorders, all the ones I’ve seen can’t possibly record “true HD” because they don’t have the bandwidth in their storage. All the high end hard drive camcorders use AVCHD compression, a method using “long Groups Of Frames,” (long GOP’s) to compress the video.

      So from what I’ve seen, miniDV camcorders can record more quality since they transfer data at 25 MBPS. But since that’s the same bit-rate as SD video, there has to be a reduction of the actual data rate so HD will fit on the miniDV tape. The camcorders that can record full HD to a tape, use different tapes and generally cost what a starter home runs. The moderately lees expensive “true HD” camcorders use some form of huge flash memory (Panasonic P2 cards) or write to BluRay DVD’s (Sony XDCam.) These are the affordable camcorders at only $30,000 or so. And the RED falls into that category.

      I happened to run into a fellow using a RED 4K camcorder to shoot the flooding in downtown Des Moines, Iowa. He was using P2 cards to record his video. But the coolest thing about using a RED is that it takes standard 35mm lenses. So shooting more than full frame HD using 35mm lenses for creative control, the RED is hard to beat for making features. Editing the resulting video requires high end NLE’s that have been souped up to deal with the bit-rate of 4K video. So you are likely going to want to investigate renting an on-line suite to do your final editing (and do a rough cut using an MPG2 dub.) But at the end of it, you will have a product whose technical specs meet requirements for theater playback and can be transferred to 35mm or even 70mm film for distribution.

      Now I hope I’ve told you something interesting.

      But before I close, I must correct your erroneous information concerning the “manditory HD changeover” you mentioned. There is none. There hasn’t been a mandatory change in programming format even suggested. The government issued a mandatory changeover to digital broadcasting. It issued the order to provide broadcasters with a TV signal that could carry HD TV. No one on the planet is being forced by a government to use an HD format. And it seems unlikely to ever occur.

      Some say there is a voluntary transition to the HD format; some say they have to change to HD in order to remain competitive. However they want to describe it, there is definitely a transition towards HD TV. While the change in frequency & digital transition is required by the government, something different is driving the change to HD. I don’t know if you’re old enough to remember the transition to color TV. I can sure remember it, partly because we were among the last to shell out the extra cash a color TV cost. But no one was required to switch to color. In fact, you can still watch TV on a B&W TV set. And using my nifty digital tuner, I can watch HD programs in SD over the air. And several of the local stations use one digital channel to broadcast an HD signal and another digital channel to broadcast the SD signal for those of us without HD TV’s. I expect this will be common practice by stations until HD sets significantly outnumber SD sets. Just like during the transition to color when stations constantly let you know you were missing out without a color set, the transition to mostly HD viewing will be driven by consumer perception of what they are missing. And just like the transition to color, many homes will have an HD set in the family room with various SD sets in the bedrooms, garages, kitchens and campers. So there never will be a complete changeover to HD video. We don’t need one, people will change as they see fit. THERE IS NO “manditory HD changeover” AND NEVER WILL BE.

      I just don’t want people being misled. But for a production you are describing, you really would benefit from high-end HD production. In part, in order to make the life of the video longer, you have to plan on a BluRay & DVD release from the get go. And not shooting the Wisconsin countryside in HD would practically be criminal. But there just aren’t any camcorders in the $3000 range that do not compress the video signal in order to store it. (But I could be wrong, actually, I kinda hope I’m wrong. I could use just such a camcorder.)

      Good luck with your first feature. Just stay flexible, but I’m sure you already have experience with life in the field.

    • #183310

      As far as problems with RED, you might have some problems if you don’t have any experience working with film. Since the resolution is so high, focus is critical. The film lenses that are used are usually, if not always, prime lenses, which don’t zoom or zoom very little. So you can’t simply zoom in, focus, and zoom out like most of us do with our own video cameras. The critical focus also calls for someone to pull focus as well. I feel like you really have to know what you’re doing to use this camera.

      As far as editing RED footage, I know RED makes their cameras to work with Final Cut Pro. So you shouldn’t really have any problems if your using that program.

      I agree with Barefoot’s statements on your idea of thismandatoryswitch to HD. It’s notmandatoryat all. At this point, I don’t even think it’s necessary. I kind of wish it was because I’d like to get an HD camera, but I don’t need one. Personally, I think the best advantage of HD is being able to downconvert and make awesome looking SD.

    • #183311

      Just an observation, butit might be easier to answer the questionif Don Walker defined what he means by “True HD”.

      The definition of HD is any resolution of 700 lines or higher. So 720p, 1080i, and 1080p are all “True HD” HDV is also true HD. For example. The Canon XH-G1 records HD to HDV compression, LGOP(1440×1080, 4.2.0 color space)on miniDV tapes but can also output uncompressed 1920×1080, 4.2.2 color spacethrough the SDI connection. The camera is around $6,000. Panasonics HVX 200a also can record DVCPRO HD at 960x720p and 1280x1080i, both at 4.2.2 color space, Iframe compression to P2 cards. This camera is around $7,000. Both Camera’s are TRUE HD.

      Igather thatthe issue is moreabout how the video is stored and what type of compression, if any, is used as opposed to the resolution.

      By the way, if anyone doubts the quality of HD from these two cameras, just do a search on sites like or

    • #183312

      Very helpful info guys i appreciate it. Yes, I was a bit confused with HD/TRUE HD in particular the resolution. Now I know. So I’ll be looking into a number of cameras, thanks.

      As far as the HD change over, I was refering to the broadcast changover on feb. 9, 2009 when broadcast TV will become completely digital (which explains the great increase in 16×9 HD tv’s being produced.) Your anolog tv will not get an anologsignal after that date and you will need a coverter to covert the digital signal back to analog (which the government is providing vouchers for).

      Sorry that wasn’t clear…but the US in changing it’s tv signal and it is mandatory. No one has to shoot any thing digital/hd…but they will have to broadcast it digiatly.Look it up. Sorry for the confusion.

    • #183313

      Idon’tthinkI saw it mentionedhere,butthe Sony EX1shoots “TrueHD” at 1920×1080.Ithink itcanshoot1920x1080p at 30 fpsand 1920x1080i at60 fps (not sure about that) andIdon’tthinkitcanshoot 24p (personally I only see this as usefull if you plan to transfer to film).

      Ithink itcostsaround $7k,so it’s morethan yourbudgetcalls for, but it’s not quite $30k. πŸ˜›

      BTW, the 2009 digital swichover for US broadcasttelevisionis NOT a switchto HD.Itis onlydigital switchoverso SD will still be broadcast (forusers withan oldertelevisionandaconverterbox).Ididn’tsee ifthis was clarified in apreviouspostsoI just wantedto clarify it.

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