Pro video blog…Produced by Philip Johnston DoP/Editor

This has come from the very top in my opinion, Danielle Nagler, Head of BBC HD has put the lid on this story due to it’s detrimental effect it was having on the BBC as an organisation. HD Magazine has been asked by the BBC to pull a story about the BBC accepting HDSLR’s for broadcast…the plot thickens.

Extract from HD Magazine…
“Following our story on the use of the Canon 5D Mk2 on a BBC drama – transmitted on September 16, 9.00pm BBC 4 – we got a call from the BBC Technology department today asking us to emphasize that DSLRs were not on the approved camera list for the BBC but were being looked at for use on a ‘case by case’ basis.

Ian Potts who is an Executive Producer at the BBC and part of the approval process explained the BBC’s approach to these new cameras: “Cameras like the 5D and the 7D are going through our R&D departments and our simulations but at the moment they are not cleared for use mainly because of their aliasing issues. Moire patterns are also a concern but these aren’t new and cameras like the Arri D20 and D21 also show them. But the fact that the 5D produces a 22 megapixel image then brings that down to 2 for video without the necessary processing and filtering does concern us but the proof of the pudding is in the eating.

“The images are very clean from the programme and it has passed our ‘tech test’. I’m just about to see it and will probably give it my approval as well. But it still has to go through our transmission chain and might not make it on to our HD channel.

“We are very interested in this camera and have taken the view to approach all requests to use the Canon DSLR’s on a case by case basis which means production have to send in camera tests without any grading and post route tests with grading. If we then felt the picture quality met the required HD standards we might agree to allowing the DSLR as the prime camera. This is how we approached ‘Coronation St’ and it was very touch and go as the early tests revealed unacceptable aliasing, but after much bouncing back of SR tapes between Manchester and TVC which ran into the first days of the shoot we found a camera setting that seemed to work. On this basis we gave them approval to use the 5D but reserved the right not to show the film on the HD channel if it fell short of BBC HD’s standards.

“To confirm the show has passed tech review and will tx on the 16th Sept 21.00 BBC 4 & BBC HD”.

There was a screening of the programme at BAFTA in London last night and a Q&A with the production team followed. All were pleased with the look but as the projection was from an uncompressed master judgement will be reserved until the TX date. Interestingly when Ian mentioned to the producer of the show that the camera wasn’t yet approved she was quite shocked.

Ian went on to say that at the moment the BBC is in the process of a massive tendering project to approve new HD cameras for use at the corporation and anything less than 50mb/s data rate is being looked at unfavourably. Results from the tender should be published next month.”


Having been working in the video business since 1988 I have amassed a great amount of knowledge of both the kit and production values over the last 30 years.

3 thoughts on “BBC are now having second thoughts on HDSLRs for broadcast

  1. I don’t think anyone would argue that these are not interesting times! I don’t know when a debate has got people so agitated! People are definitely taking sides at the moment… for and against DSLRs.
    This isn’t the first time something like this has split an industry.. but the TV/Film/Video industry would do well to remember what happened to the audio market a few years ago.. I’ll explain.
    Just as the internet was taking hold in the late 90s, some bright spark invented the first mp3 compression codec and realised that you could squash a 40MB audio file into a 4mb audio file with very little in the way of audible artifacts. About the same time…Sony,EMI and the other major record labels had decided that it was about time to sell their back catalogues again, so they pounced on the “amazing” quality that DVD Audio could provide… basically 96kHz at 24bit. This, they said would in combination with a surround sound system, give listeners the ultimate home audio experience. They started paying engineers and producers lots of money to remix all the classics into this new format. They thought the uptake of home DVD players would ease the way for the audio side of things…
    But, as in ALL of these cases…the public decided. They decided that portability and ease of “swapping” was far more important than “quality”. Most average consumers couldn’t hear the difference between a full bandwidth CD recording and a compressed mp3. My industry wept.. Sound engineers like myself couldn’t believe punters were prepared to listen to such crappy audio…but they were…and they still do. Kids now listen to most of their music on ipods or even mobile phone speakers. No amount of moaning about the dumbing down of our trade will stop them.

    Because the music industry was so slow to realise what was going on…it got totally screwed by piracy. No one was prepared to supply the demand for mp3s until it was too late and we’d all got all our music for free. It affected the production of music too…studios were no longer needed to produce master quality recordings..especially if they end up as mp3s anyway. Studios closed in their hundreds. There are less than 10% of the studios going now that there were in the UK in 1995. Harsh news for sound engineers.

    Now, look at the DSLR debate. It’s the old school pros who are up in arms. Proper camera men and women who have strived for quality for years. Then some newbies with cheap DSLRs turn up and steal their thunder with their lesser specs and reliance on a shallow DoF. I get it…it’s probably driving you all nuts. BUT…dig your heels in and you’ll miss the point. The floor just got opened up to thousands of film-makers… you will need to use your experience to prove your worth with better shots, better edits and better material…don’t rely on “better gear on paper”… or you’ll end up on the scrap heap. Harsh…but true.

    Can we all get back to shooting some great films now?

  2. Sean I like the analogy and you are quite correct the public voted…Apple ran away with the doubloons…almost imploding Sony. This is slightly different in the fact that HDSLRs are to date the only choice if you want “cheap” FilmLike productions and have had 2 good years to take off. We are now seeing an on-slaught of FilmLike camcorders that take photographic lenses and in some cases prime lenses. The NEX-VG10 from Sony at £1900 incl VAT is a far better choice for young film makers because it has been made the right way round…filming first and 14MP photography second. The AG-AF101 no price as yet will allow professional DPs the same advantages as a Canon 5D2 but unlike the Canon it will have XLR inputs, AVCHD, Prime and photographic lenses, Hi Rez swivel LCD, multiple frame rates…need I say more.

  3. Totally agree with the NEX-VG10 and AG-AF101 being much more suited to video… but money is the key here, and even £1900 for the VG10 is enough to get a 550D and a selection of lenses and a tripod. For students and people just dipping their toe into film-making.. the low price is always going to win.. especially with the amount of stunning stuff on vimeo and youtube being shot with them.(everyone assumes getting these great results is easy.)

    It will be really interesting to see what happens with the AG-AF101… i’ll definitely be after one as soon as they come out!

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