HDV and the Z1 in context
What is the Z1E?
The Z1E and the FX1E are new 3 chip camcorders that utilize HDV format recording. Their form factor is based on prosumer DV camcorders, with fixed lens and flip out screen.
The FX1 was launched in late 2004. Z1E has XLR inputs and more camera controls than FX1 and records both 50i and 60i.
What is HDV?
A MPEG 2 recording format allowing recording of 720p and 1080i formats.
1080i format consists of 1440 x1080 pixels, sampled 8 bit 4:2:0 and then compressed 60 to1 to tape. Data rate of 25mbs
720p format consists of 1280 x 720p sampled 8 bit 4:2:0 Data rate of 19mbs
The inter frame compression takes place across 6 frames.
Bear in mind that Z1 and HDV deck output analogue 4:2:2 HD
1920 x1080 signals (YPb Pr) by "upconverting" 1440 x1080 to 1920x1080.
The HDV standard was established by Sony, Canon, Sharp and JVC.
How can 25mbs compete with 185mb of HDCAM?
Pinnical Solutions suggest that a 50mbs MPEG inter frame compression is comes close to 185mb HDCAM (which uses intra frame compression).
It is apparent that inter frame has advantages that are acceptable most of the time.
Also HDCAM records 1440 x1080, not 1920x1080.
Generally the picture becomes softer as you progress down the line of HDCAM SR to HDCAM to DVCPRO HD to HDV. So called I-frame compression is about 2.5 times less efficient than IBP but is easier to encode, decode and process. So an HDV image encoded at 25 Mb/s (IBP) is roughly equivalent to an I-frame image encoding of about 60 Mb/s.
So higher bit rate may not necessarily provide the "better" image quality.
In reality when the Z1 pans on a wideshot the image goes slightly soft. The mpeg processing runs out of bandwidth to record all of the detail from frame to frame. During a pan virtually every part of the picture changes from one frame to the next. When the camera stops panning MPEG builds up the resolution of the picture within a few frames.
The Sony FX1 and Z1 cameras rock!
The camera isn't bad it's the format that is the weakest link…..
The FX1 and Z1 cameras have three 1/3 inch 16x9 ccds with 960 x1080 pixels.
That is 960 pixels across by 1080 lines. Or put another way 960 columns with 1080 pixels stacked in each column.
But the HDV format allows for 1440 x1080 pixels to be recorded. So what's up?
Sony increase the pixel count (apparently) by off-setting the green ccd 1/2 a pixel width to create a 1440 x 1080 Y output.
960 x1.5 equals 1440.
At least that's the most likely story until Sony spill the sushi...
The HDV recording standard of 4:2:0 sampling gives us 1440 x 1080 for Y and 720 x 580 for colours.
However since the colour is uprezzed from the 1080 x 960 ccd the figures of 540 x 430 "native" colour should be considered.
After this 4:2:0 sampling the data is compressed to tape 8 bit with a compression ratio many times greater than DV. This is where the artifacts breed!As a comparison the HDW f900 has three 2/3 inch 1920x1080 pixel ccds, HDCAM recording then sub samples to 1440 x 1080 pixels, colour samples 3:1:1 to create 1440 x 1080 for Y and 480 x1080 for colours then samples 8 bit and compress 4 to1 to tape.
So when testing the Z1 camera it is vital to watch the replay, not just plug it into a monitor. Hooking the Z1 up to external HD recorders will have its place.
Does the Z1 do Progressive scan?
Technically speaking no. But from a viewers perspective yes.
The Z1 has a CF settings of 24 25 and 30.
Sony is guarded as to how it achieves "24 frames per second" and is making a point of not saying it is not "24p".
There is much speculation as to how 24 frames per second is created from a interlace ccd. Including some that say it is created from a 60i scan in MPEG processing.
I can say that at 25CF motion strobing is very similar to f900 at 25psf and I would have no hesitation in using 25CF.
It appears that in 25CF mode each frame is created from the interlace scan by dropping one field and doubling the lines of the remaining field. This technique has been the mainstay in PAL countries to create a filmic look from video for over a decade.
Only now it appears that it can be achieved in camera rather than in post!
The result is a drop in vertical resolution, but less than you might expect.
What about Dynamic range?
The dynamic range is very good and not far off a f900. The Z1 has 14 bit A/Ds that create a very smooth looking picture. There is a choice of two "CineTone"curves that create a flatter response in the highlights. The curves do work but I think that more could be achieved by an even more aggressive approach, that would necessitate grading.
Is the Z1 good in low light?
The Z1 is less sensitive than a f900, by around a stop. I find that gain is less usable on HD cameras than standard def and the Z1 is no exception. Careful attention must be given to low light exposure, this hasn't stopped Sony equipping the Z1 with hyper gain.
Is focus an issue?
Yes. On a dull day the flip out LCD works well, on a sunny day the rear eyepiece would be used more than it currently is now on DV cams. Why? The difference with this camera is that as focus is more critical on HD than SD there will be more of a requirement to use the camera "one eyed" than at arms length to check exposure.
For this reason Focus markings on the lens would be a good idea when using the camera in arms length mode. There is an infinity focus switch but this is tricky to use.
Unfortunatley the focus enhance feature, which enlarges the image does not work when the camera is rolling.
Z1 has record run and time of day free run timecode. It is possible to sync multiple cameras using the IR remote control to simultanouesly start multiple cameras. Like pro cameras an internal battery in theory should keep timecode in synch even if camera battery is detached.
Synching time code to an external recorder is feasible using a pulse from the LANC output to some data recorders.
Does it have a HD lens?
The Zeiss lens 4.5mm to 54mm is adequate. Minimum f stop ranges from 1.6 to 2.8 (The camera I was testing the image went slightly soft at the wide end).
It is very good at close focus.
The zoom lever is not mechanically connected to the lens, so there is a slight delay when zooming. Bear this in mind if you are evaluating a delay in monitoring.
Zeiss and Sony have not gone overboard by creating a long lens that is impossible to hold steady.
When shooting very bright point sources green flare is quite apparent, presenting itself as a rectangular arrangement of green spots across the screen. This is not a lens issue. Sony has eliminated this optical block issue from latest f900 with a redesigned prism. But the green flare effect is far more obtrusive on the Z1 than the early f900s.
Impossible to check but I think the Z1 could benefit from a better lens.
So will the audience notice the difference between HDV and HDCAM or DVCPROHD?
For SD transmission?... probably not.
But for HD transmission they will.
Why? Consider that the image has been upressed, sampled then compressed in camera, uncompressed and re recorded and resampled, for example, to HD 4:2:2 gone through a few generations in 4:2:2 then encoded and transmitted at 18mb to a HD channel.
The chances are that since you are on a budget your control of HD post will be limited, when in fact extreme care has to be taken just to maintain the original quality of the HDV recording.
Imagine the programme that airs before yours is a live football broadcast, the commercials shot on 35mm and the programme after yours is a well shot doc with glass lens, a tripod, lighting, on f900 (the camera most people use in the states for docs)
We get away with this at the moment on SD, perhaps with the viewer realizing that something is not quite right but the audio and content carry the baton.
But commissioning editors of HD programming want top quality pictures on their HD channels, not programmes lead by audio that don't look quite right on a 42 or 46 inch screen.
HDV artifacts aren't bad?
We already know that encoding keeps artifacts at the expense of the rest of the picture.
At the moment I'm testing 19mb 32mb 45mb MPEG 2 stream using HDCAM material. The client would prefer to shoot 4:4:4 or at least 10 bit 4:2:2 to improve quality! even though the distribution is going to be 19 or 32mbit sec!
Why? Because even on a 1k x 1k display he can see a difference between compressed (HDCAM) and uncompresssed 4:2:2, as the encoding keeps the noise.
I can't use +3db on the f900 with this client as the noise becomes more noticeable after encoding!
Another example, a little rain on the lens of some HD aerials, not a distraction on a 24 inch CRT but becomes much more noticeable after encoding and frankly makes the shot virtually unusable. Barely saw the rain when monitoring in the air on the 600 line LCD HD monitor.
So keeping lens clean with 1/3 inch imager on HDV will be crucial.
However, the block shaped pixilated artifacts have been dramatically reduced from earlier HDV cameras. We had to look very hard to find any in our test.
Encoding to Windows Media 9 is a reasonable way of testing how HDV focus issues, camera wobble and compression issues could look via HD transmission.
I can edit HDV "native" and maintain quality
Yes you can edit HDV native in FCP if you don't do a mix or colour grade. But once you do a mix or grade it becomes uncompressed.
But you could do a "cuts only" edit in your office and keep it native.
What effect will MPEG4 have on HDV pictures?
In respect of transmission MPEG 4 has the same if not more artifacts than MPEG 2, as it is designed primarily to reduce bandwidth, so the encoder will keep even more of the artifacts from recording, more of the dust on the lens, flare and softness!
I can use HDV for features!
The jury is out on how pictures from Z1E will transfer to film. Experience has shown that many artifacts that are visible on a HD monitor disappear when transferred to film whilst others become more apparent. On a large screen the picture will look very much softer than an f900 or Varicam.
Standard def programmes use DV so the HD channels will accept HDV
The same rules for use of DV in SD environments do not apply at the moment, as HD channels demand quality product.
A "glorious wide shot" works really well on HD and is often held for 50% longer than SD. It may be Ok on HDV...if you don't pan!
Discovery Channel HD Home Theatre is not accepting HDV at the moment
I can shoot as a one-man band with a Z1 and make wonderful HD programmes!
There will be opportunities, but the more remote and exotic the location the more anticipation the HD home cinema viewer will have.. A tripod is easier on the shoulder and will help the transmission encoder. Hand held is a challenge to watch on a 42 inch screen, the Z1 is not well suited to hours of hand holding. The one man band will need a tripod!
In two years time when HDV2 codec at 50mb is with us and the Kinetta is churning out uncompressed pics will anybody be remotely interested in a HDV stock footage?
The definition in high definition comes from a high quality lens low compression recording and good monitoring. The best camerawork and content suffers more on HD than SD if it has distracting artifacts and is out of focus or wobbles. If you shoot HDV then you are starting out with a softer picture.
If you are going to do a HDV test, shoot your subject then put the rushes through your production route and look at it on a large screen.
HDV! Traps ahead and maybe a few fast bucks to be made, good luck!
Z1E is Euro model number of Z1
60i / 50i switch able
Color Equalizer feature
HDV / DVCAM / DV record capability
Two XLR connectors with switch able 48V phantom power
Independent audio REC levels
Time code w/User Bit function &endash; PRESET, FREE RUN, REC RUN, REGEN, DF, NDF
6 User assignable buttons
B/W & color selectable EVF
Simultaneous use of EVF and LCD
ALL SCAN mode
AE OVERRIDE feature
Selectable SETUP levels
Independent WIND NOISE On/Off
Selectable internal stereo mic sensitivity
Independent channel selection for XLRs
Independent channel AGC On/Off
Independent MIC/LINE selection of XLRs
Independent channel selection o trim levels
4:3 viewfinder marker
Safety Zone display
AF Assist function
External REC control
Outdoor WB level shift
HyperGain (past +18dB & adaptive)
Quick record feature
ALL DISP OFF function
Selectable Zoom display
Selectable peaking level and color
EXPANDED FOCUS OFF feature
Date record capability
Diverse audio monitoring
48kHz / 32kHz audio recording selection (SD)
Audio Lock mode for DV SP
Audio limiter ON/OFF
MIC noise reduction feature
2 CinemaTone settings
SHOT TRANSITION start timer
Skintone level control
480p component output
Selectable audio output level
Selectable audio output mode for i.LINK downconversion (LOCK/UNLOCK)
Two color bar types (SMPTE & Grayscale type)
end of list of main advantages over the consumer FX1 model.
Main spec of Z1U:
Image Device 1/3-inch type x3, 16:9 Super HAD CCDs
Lens High quality 12X Optical Zoom Carl Zeiss Vario-Sonnar T* Lens
F4.5 to 54.0mm, F1.6 at 2.4mm
filter diameter 72mm
Picture Elements Total pixels: approx. 1.12M pixels
Effective pixels: approx. 1.04M pixels
2 Built-in Filters ND1: 1Ú4 and ND2: 1/32
Video Signal System Switchable NTSC / PAL color system
Scanning System 1080/60i, 1080/50i (switchable)
Sync System Internal (HD & SD)
Shutter speed 1Ú4 to 1/10000 sec (50i/60i)
Connectors S-Video, A/V, Component Output (Japanese D4), XLR IN (x2), i.LINK, LANC, Headphone stereo mini.
Minimum Illumination 3 lux @ 18db, F1.6, normal shutter
Exposure Auto, Manual
Viewfinder Hybrid Precision 16:9 Color & B/W Selectable
Audio DV/DVCAM Rec. 48KHz/16 bit, 32KHz 12 bit
HDV Rec.: MPEG-1 Audio Layer II
Provided Microphone Wide Range Stereo Microphone
Speaker Built-in dynamic
LCD panel Hybrid 16:9 3.5" type, 250K pixels (approx.)
Format HDV/DVCAM/DV (SP) recording, HDV/DVCAM/DV (SP) playback
Recording Time Max. 60 min with HDV, 40 minutes in DVCAM, & 60 min. in DV (SP)
Weight 4 lbs., 4 oz.
Dimensions 6" x 7 1Ú8" x 14 3Ú8"
Power consumption (VF/LCD/VF+LCD): 7.4W/8.0W/8.4W
Companies who have expressed support for HDV format as of Jan 2005.
• Adobe Systems Incorporated
• Ahead Software AG
• Avid Technology, Inc
• B.U.G., Inc.
• Canopus Co., Ltd.
• CineForm, Inc.
• Cinegy GmbH.
• CyberLink Corp.
• Datavideo Technologies Co.,Ltd.
• FA SYSTEM ENGINEERING CO.,LTD.
• FOCUS Enhancements, Inc.
• Hamamatsu Photonics K.K.
• IBE, Inc.
• IIGA Ltd.
• KDDI R&D Laboratories
• KEISOKU GIKEN Co.,Ltd.
• Leitch Technology Corporation.
• Lumière HD, LLC
• MacroSystem Digital Video AG
• MAGIX AG
• MainConcept AG
• Manzanita Systems
• Matrox Electronic Systems Ltd.
• Miranda Technologies Inc.
• NewSoft Technology Corp
• NTT Electronics Corporation.
• PC DTV Technologies, LLC
• PEGASYS INC.
• Pinnacle Systems, Inc.
• Pioneer Corporation.
• Pixela Corp
• Pleora Technologies Inc.
• Roland ED Corporation.
• Sigma Designs, Inc.
• Sobey Digital Technology Co., Ltd.
• Sony Pictures Digital Networks
• Ulead Systems, Inc.
• XOS TECHNOLOGIES, INC.
25mb may be fine for transmission but it is very poor for HD capture.