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Could This Be Our HD Workflow Solution?

By on Dec 1, 2008 in Blog, Video | 2 comments

As I’ve noted in this blog on several occasions, the migration of our workflow away from tape is an important issue, but one that has been complicated due to our requirement for an appropriate archiving mechanism. And, hard drives are out. Blu-Ray or similar discs are, I think, premature. XDCAM discs are also going to evolve over the coming year, so it’s a weird place to be.

I’ve been really excited about the new XDCAM-based EX1 and EX3 cameras from Sony. They represent a fantastic opportunity for certain types of HD production. The SxS memory cards are fast and reliable, and the cameras themselves offer remarkable specifications.

The recording unit on the back of the Z7U uses standard CF memory cards, while also recording to tape. What a concept!

The recording unit on the back of the Z7U uses standard CF memory cards, while also recording to tape. What a concept!

Still, archiving is a problem. In our case, it relates to supporting our clients and volume. If someone is producing a wedding video and shoots four to six hours of footage, even if from multiple cameras, the management of the material is not a problem. If someone is producing a film and that is their only project, the issue of archiving is managable, as there is time to do so. In our case, we’re working on a variety of projects, an in some cases, we’re shooting tens of hours of footage. That’s where the time to manage archiving falls apart for us.

And so, it may be that we end up taking two steps forward and one step, um, sideways, but with, I think, top notch results. Sony has a new HDV camera, actually released before the EX3, called the HVR-Z7U. This is an HDV camera with removable lens capability. It has very similar specs to the EX3, with the exception that it records in an HDV mode rather than the various HD options available in the XDCAM line.

Still, this is a big step up – the Z7U will record and output 1080p true progressive material, albeit using the HDV codec. It also includes the same CMOS technology chips, meaning far greater low-light capability, and no streaking of images. Camera controls and customization is very strong. The ability to add cinema rigs is also terrific. The HDMI connector will output true HD 1980 by 1080 images when recording. And, the glass is the same quality as the EX3 and other high-end HD cameras – a tremendous value when shooting in the wide range of sitautions we’re faced with.

And for us, the real trick is the recording unit on the back of the camera. It uses standard CF cards, although I’m told that the faster the better. Sure enough. And, to make matters even better, the Z7U will record to the memory card and tape simultaneously. And that, sports fans, is where our thumbs move to the up position. By recording on disc for rapid ingesting into our nonlinear editing systems, while simultaneously recording an archive to tape, we solve our backup problems, while also streamlining our workflow. And, should something go wrong with a memory card, the tape is available.

The next step is to rent the camera for a week and see how it performs. If it meets the requirements, this is likely to be the direction of our workflow. With the various types of production we’re involved with, this is a big step forward and we’re excited to be on the journey.