In the tiny bit of researc


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.

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