The Format War…or is it !

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what-format-v3

images-7Speaking to a cameraman friend of mine it became apparent there are 2 markets when buying a camcorder. The first is the client that you are doing the whole job for and the second is the client who just wants you to film and hand over the……….!

This is where it becomes interesting, depending what you are filming with depends on what you are shooting on to. This has led to a two tier video market, one to hand over archive and one that doesn’t. The two most common formats in use are Digi Beta and DVCAM both delivered by Sony now why is that not a surprise. Most EX television cameramen who were lucky enough to last the 25 years and get the golden handshake go out and buy the same equipment as they are used to using or their new cliental require.

imagesTelevision broadcasters on the whole have been cleverly indoctrinated by Sony in the early days, that is why we have two levels, Digi Beta for the more demanding customer who needs a tape at the end of a days filming and DVCAM for everything else. Most broadcasters and high end facilities can handle Digi Beta and DVCAM.

If you plan to work for clients who need your footage at the end of the day you have no option other than tape. Camcorder manufacturers do not think about the client when they expect you to pay £250 upwards for solid state media like P2 and SxS formats that least lend themselves to handing over to the client. Sony’s optical XDCAM is a better compromise but do you know anyone who has a Sony XDCAM reader in their edit suite !

The closest you are going to get to “hand over” solid state is SDHC cards, they are relatively cheep at around £30 per 16Gb which will run 59mins in a Sony EX-3 at full 1920-1080 50i with a special MxM adapter. JVC brought out the HM700 camcorder with 2 SDHC card slots and quicktime codec for this very use but sadly at the cost of picture quality using 1/3″ chips. Another card becoming more popular is the tried and trusted compact flash card, both the SDHC and CF cards can be easily read by standard SD/CF card readers which are far more widely available than expensive tape machines at £4K upwards.  

images-13It’s not easy being freelance at the best of times but having to buy kit like Digi Beta which is still expensive and in my opinion a bit long in the tooth just to have the facility to hand over archive is ludicrous simply because camcorder manufacturers don’t take the end user into account when pricing solid state memory. I have a sneaky suspicion that Sony have allowed the integration of the SDHC adapters because it allows the cameraman to hand over cheaper archive, something they never gave thought to themselves.

It’s also the reason P2 has never got off the ground in the 5-10K marketplace even at the cheaper “E” card prices you can’t seriously expect anyone to hand over a £250 card or a client to pay that amount of money for your P2 camera footage. Dare I say it but Sony have almost got it right with their Z5 and Z7 camcorders allowing you to record DVCAM to tape and also to CF card simultaneously (Note the Z5 does not come with the Memory Card unit as standard). So what we need now is “Client Archive Camcorders” a shoulder mount camcorder that also records to both SxS and SDHC/CF in both HD and SD but has a minimum spec of 1/2″ chips.

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