ROCK (tech) HARD PLACE. Yea.

bigrock.jpgThe proverbial “between a rock and a hard place” is basically a tough place to be.

I was corresponding with a fellow videographer who works for a government video department. He tried to explain the troubles he faces with regard to new gear purchases. It’s beyond trying to decide between P2 or SxS. It’s beyond tape or flash media. It’s, well, let’s just say it basically covers the last 20 years of video production- every single day.

He says:

Well, this is what we’re thrashing out at our shop today: if we shoot stuff in HD, what do we give to our broadcast TV clients at the stations from Chicago down to Cairo, that the majority of them can use?

Option one:
Virtual method- use Pathfire or The NewsMarket or our digital satellite sat.jpgdish to send a 720p feed to them and let each individual station take and store the feed in whatever method and format works for them at THEIR end… But that leaves us the question of archival, and not every client will have the internet delivery option.

Option two:
Some sort of physical media, either tape-based or disc-based. But WHAT!?!?!?

As of today, I’m thinking to archive to Blu-ray since that should work okay with Final Cut workstations, but this damn technology today remains more a lab curiosity than something I can walk over to any TV station and see being used, or look up on the B&H site and order like I could with tape decks. And there is still the question of which HD DVD format is going to win the war that’s going on right now. I can’t afford to gamble dollars on a bum steer, but we need to make a move in *some* direction soon.

This reminds me of when we first moved from beta to DVCPRO25: at the time Sony still was a year from getting it’s act together on DVCAM, vx1000.gifbut DVCPRO25 was ready to go, shipping, and playback-compatible with DVCAM and consumer Mini-DV. If we chose that format, we could deal with all the TV stations in our market as well as prosumer and consumer clients bringing in stuff to be broadcast. The only people we couldn’t handle were those using beta SX, but there was only one possible customer statewide at the time that was on that format and we didn’t consider it likely we’d even see that client more than once a year, if that. They would just have brought their own gear over.hvx200wcards.gif

Now the HD situation is not nearly as easy to figure out.
We’re looking at getting some of the Panasonic P2 HVX500 cameras maybe next year, but will use mostly clip-on Firestore hard drives and not the P2 cards themselves, except for short little projects. The P2 workflow is just not quite a perfect fit for the way we do business, we can’t afford to tie up the cards very long, yet don’t always have time to do a lot of transferring, and we do some long-format work where cards will not cut it. Ergo, the clip-on hard drives. But those drives have to
be offloaded to an archive at some point…

bdhr1000.gifWhat I’d love to see are affordable Blu-ray DVD recorders that can record a live input from an HD source. So far I’m not seeing a lot of choices for that. Our shop NEEDS a combination of live-capable and render-type recording media.

The other thing we’re looking at for in-house archival besides a Blu-ray disk is to use removable drive modules in a RAID array and just store entire projects on a shelf as if that was a tape master. A dollar a gig doesn’t sound too bad, and we could probably get a little under that figure with our buying power… But those shelves could fill up awfully fast.

Switching from Betacam SP to DVCPRO25 gave us back a LOT of shelf space, those tiny tapes are easy to store but that’s SD material. Now, DVCPRO50… I can understand it. It looks and feels and acts like something we are already familiar with. dvcprotape_img.jpgAnd though the storage is half the duration for the same size of tape, it’s still something our shop can handle without much fuss. The decks are even backwards-compatible with our DVCPRO25 and maybe even DVCAM tapes.

Do you consider DVCPRO50 to be honest, “real” HD though?
Boy, I’d be happy if you did, because technically its not, 100 is, and we’re looking at a couple of DVCPRO100 decks as a kind of “belt-and-suspenders” approach for studio work in addition to direct-live capture to FCP :-)

I’m kinda scared about using something like AVCHD-M.O.U.S.E. mini tapes as an archival format for HD material we may need to broadcast or edit with, have heard nothing but complaints about that format. u-matic-tape.gifWe thought about the editors laying off material to DVD DATA discs, but I dunno if that has enough capacity for anything more than 30-second spot work, plus, that seems like it will slow down production a lot to burn those.

On top of all of this, we still have a huge internal customer base that is not likely to want or need more than SD video for at least a decade yet. Can’t stop serving them.

Lots of questions, few answers.


Yes. And today, even the answers are questions.
For instance, how will your VNR be distributed? Online? Broadcast TV? SD? HD? Or maybe end up being seen on someone’s phone, either via Slingbox from Broadcast or directly via mobile TV. How do you properly satisfy all those media requirements with any one production format?

XDCAM to PD (Blu-ray media) seems like a wonderful solution because it is both physical media, archivable, cost effective, and it records both HD and lower resolution proxy media. Maybe, for online or cell phones, that proxy media is good enough?

Or consider the new HDV camcorders from Sony- the HVR-S270 and the HVR-Z7. These can record HD to tape and SD to flash media- at the same time. This advancement in capability makes you wonder why the HVX-200 can only do either HD to flash media, or SD to tape, but never both, never at the same time.

carnac.jpgOr consider consumer AVCHD camcorders that record to hard drive or flash media. Many can be switched between HD and SD. While not able to do both at the same time, these consumer camcorders are under $1000 and offer both SD and HD in one tiny package.

With today’s ever expanding distribution systems and the myriad of formats that have been developed, it is important to try an keep the entire pipeline in view. Don’t acquire in SD if you know HD may be needed down the line. Similarly, if HD is not required, SD may offer additional capabilities and cost effectiveness to get the job done, reach your market, and make your money.

This one government employee shows that a new camcorder, or deck, or whatever cannot exist in a vacuum. Plan for where the media goes and make your decisions accordingly.



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