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Real HDTV production world "hack" settings
  • I'd appreciate people's thoughts about what GH2 "hack" settings are reasonable to use for actual productions to be used in HDTV (Discovery, Nat Geo, CBC, etc.) I ask because BBC, for example, suggests "a recording format of 50Mbs long gop or 100Mbs iframe" (see Nat Geo seems to want 50Mbs, too. I'm not sure there's any point in shooting at any higher settings, but perhaps there is. I look forward to the discussion.
  • 27 Replies sorted by
  • This is an interesting topic...but not as as straightforward as you suggest. Different producers/broadcasters have differing criteria as to what constitutes HD for delivery. Some (eg Discovery) have different tiers.

    Also, other parameters such as 4:2:2 vs 4:2:0 and who will be doing post-production (yourself or the broadcaster's team) will influence acquisition/delivery requirements. Some won't accept anything that's not on tape. Given that HDCAM SR can deliver 4:4:4 at 600mbps, there's a lot of variability in the spectrum of available codecs for broadcast.

    The good news is that well shot material out of a hacked GH1 or GH2 is technically more than adequate for HD delivery...and some broadcasters are beginning to acknowledge this and to see the advantage to themselves in doing so. Recently the Panasonic AF100 was accepted by the BBC for HD requirements in the field. Given this fact, it's not so much pushing the hack settings to the limit to gain's how the camera is used and the final quality of acquired material (and an open mind on the part of the producer). If the hacked GH2 can replace the former "minimum" the BBC accepted for documentary work (Sony EX1/3 with Nanoflash) it will be a good start.
  • All well and good, but no-one who commissions programmes, production managers and editors, working cameramen or mates even know what the GH2 even is ! Sorry but true! Hey I have one and big it up daily, but nope, nothing - closest Ive seen is a chum using AF100 on a Redbull freerunning shoot. In the UK, from my humble experience, I see fook all GH2 footage, with no real industry impact. I do constantly ask directors mates and 24/7 jobbing shooters what they use and sadly still haven't even heard of GH2 being used (yet) in anger on a real broadcast job. Hey their loss to be honest, but there is the rub - no-one would hire a hacked GH2, and all the other chaps have 7D 5D :/
  • Incidentally I'm sat on me sofa with a guy who is essentially in charge of several parts of the British Olympic broadcast - I posed the same question to him - answer fook off why would he take a chance on an unknown - same old reliable cameras same old reliable cameramen - his words not mine - he books me you and whoever he likes, he's the man with the wonga :/ I don't agree of course, and have tried on several occasions to divert him, but all these chaps have to do is to deliver - on time on budget and that's really it, they have a role to fulfill also - why change.
  • That's hopeless as the Canon 5D2/7D is (and I wasted a year and a shit-load of cash on L lenses, etc, before the GH1 hack arrived) it is still more widely known. Thanks in part to some prominent self-promoting blogger/DOP's out there who have invested heavily in Canon gear and don't want to know how crappy it really is for quality video acquisition.

    For an independent documentary filmmaker/producer who doesn't give a "fook" about about being hired by someone else, the hacked GH1/2 is a superb camera. Acceptance will simply depend on the quality of the final product delivered.

  • @Skeptical

    I wouldn't really say the Canon's are crappy for acquisition. I'd still shoot on them any day over a tiny-flat EX1 chip... even with the better codec they just don't look that good. The 5D's FF sensor still amazes me every time I do a project with it... nothing else quite like it. Of course, the GH2 amazes me to... the sheer quality coming out of that little body hurts my head.

    The Canon's have a nice softness that is great for certain projects. It's almost like instant make-up for the talent. I like the 5D/7D for drama and the GH2k for comedy/action.
  • @bwhitz

    "The Canon's have a nice softness..."

    Exactly! Built-in...and unalterable. Good if you like it/need that look.

    I guess I'm biased by the sort of work do. When the 5D2 first came out I was blown away by it as well...but the "honeymoon period" is long over for me. I do understand that for some applications it's still a viable camera...if 600 lines resolution/ aliasing and moire is outweighed by good low light sensitivity and "softness". It's also a much better stills camera than the GH1/GH2 so that could also come into the equation for some users.

    As a truly serious HD VidSLR though, particularly for out-of the-studio documentary shooting, it's pretty lame compared to the GH (...and, with relevance to this topic...was not accepted by the BBC as a "HD camera").

    The point I was alluding to was the comment made about the disparity between the GH1/GH2 performance...and how narrow is the "recognition" given it.

    I think there is a deeper/darker aspect to this...a lot of those who don't want to know about it are too lazy and/or dense to learn using Ptool. Many non-users/critics have admitted as much to me.
  • It seems there may be two (maybe more) production streams here. First, if being commissioned and paid upfront by BBC, Discovery, or others, use the tools and crews they demand. Some fights are not worth getting into. Second, if shooting a documentary or narrative independently (i.e. on spec) use the GH2 (or equivalent) hacked to give 50mbs or better. Reasonable strategy? So, if the latter whose settings are the place to start?
  • RE: Settings, I just got back from a scouting/filming trip for a major nature documentary project. I used kae's settings, with the audio bit rate upped to 448 and a sennhessier lav. Very happy with the results, and while most of it will eventually be replaced during the full shoot with A cam footage (sony f800) some of it I'm sure will make the cut, especially some underwater viz I got with the gh2 and a dicapac. If you are trying to put together a documentary on the cheap, and/or using the gh2 as a b-cam, I'd suggest this would work fine.

    RE: Broadcaster compliance, the gh2's lack of 422 colour will mean those broadcasters will not accept it as an A cam. However, I have seen shows with 30 percent or more 5d footage get past, but usually with edls that are "massaged". Bottom line, if you're working on a commissioned / pitched&accepted show, you need a proper 422 A Cam. Even more to the point, as great as the gh2 is, it can't stack up to something like an f3 with gemini recorder and zeiss primes, which all can be rented for a very reasonable rate these days.

    That said, the hacked gh2, in my opinion, is easily the beast camera under $5000 now, and much better than some more expensive camera, like the EX series from sony. So it is the ultimate B-cam, however a range of issues, many highlighted above (but I'd also add some post production skepticism about avchd) may hold up it's wide adoption.
  • My understanding is that the BBC ruled the AF100 acceptable for broadcast productions only when used with an external recorder capable of 4:2:2 color depth.
  • 4:2:0 is the only thing holding DSLRs back right now but it seems more companies are hopping on the AVCHD wagon. It's a great codec to work with compared to the primitive H.264 recording of the 5D, but when are we going to see proper 4:2:2 in a DSLR?
  • Everything said so far is only valid for controlled news gathering and broadcasting.
    I follow BBC and in 2011 have seen so much DSLR footage. 4:2:0 would not stop a good documentary or a news footage from being broadcasted.
    For example PBS had a few DSLR movies that looked awesome.
    Also the cable/satellite STBs are 8 bit 4:2:0
  • Hi, I posted this in another thread and VK suggested me to post it here:

    did anyone ever think about rendering his project shot on 1080p in 4:2:0 - to 720p in a 4:2:2 format, or at least to 480p in 4:2:2?
    This should be possible. Just a thought because I heard on several forums that Broadcast does not so much require Full Hd, but rather 4:2:2, or even 4:4:4 color information, which would then be possible if im not mistaken.

    Is this a viable option?

  • You can listen to the BBC evaluation of the AF101 here:

    The problem, I think, is less about 4:2:2 vs 4:2:0 than about the fact that the BBC still hasn't approved AVCHD. This is a problem of PanaSony's making (Canon is smart enough to offer prosumers 50mbps MPEG2)...since the bit-rate criteria for BBC HD is:

    • Frame based (intra-frame) recording formats above 100Mbs
    • Inter-frame based recording formats above 50Mbs

    The lame bit-rate offered even in AVCHD 2 (28mbps) won't do much to change this situation.

    As far as the hacked GH1/GH2 goes I have no idea if the BBC is even aware of it's existence. Maybe once they are offered material and see how good high bit-rate AVCHD can be (even 4:2:0) it might change some conservative attitudes.


    "... all 720-line equipment is considered non-HD."

  • @JDN "Even more to the point, as great as the gh2 is, it can't stack up to something like an f3 with gemini recorder and zeiss primes, which all can be rented for a very reasonable rate these days."

    I think it can. If you gave me a F3 and a hacked GH2 I could go shoot two videos that nobody could tell apart. The F3 just has that "big-camera" appeal that SUV's and guns have to people that are... well, under-endowed. ;)
  • @bwhitz

    I agree...just shameless marketing "smoke and mirrors".

    This article puts it more eloquently:

    "By releasing the F3 with a 35Mb/s 4:2:0 codec, regardless of how well it performs as a codec, Sony have made a camera that is not suitable, out of the box, for HD acquisition for many broadcasters."

  • @bwhitz

    Try to be more fact based, and less emotional.
    F3 is very good camera.
  • 8-bit, 4:2:0, 28bit avchd codec = a big no no from UK broadcasters, no matter how good the gh2 may look subjectively.
  • Re: F3, a point to also remember is that many documentary productions will prefer to record PCM sound via RF & XLR directly onto camera. Sure, syncing from an external recorder isn't technically hard, but in a more run and gun environment, you're dealing with lots of clips, and the clapper will always be forgotten.

    @Skeptical -- was never saying the f3 out of the box was perfect -- but add a gemini and you get 4:4:4. See below for a test:

    @fat pig -- I import my stuff as 10 bit 175 DNXHD files -- sure, it does help, especially with retaining data during colour grades, and yes, you can to a certain degree fudge EDLs so sneaks stuff by broadcasters, but the only way you can get away with it is if you have an approved A cam also on the EDL.

    @Hazna -- yes, there is lots of dslr footage on tv now, but the broadcasters we were talking about (natgeo, history, discovery, bbc) generally limit it to 10 percent of content (which in practice can often end up being 20 percent) -- but there is a firm upper limit on it. I'm not a fan of it, to be clear, but I've worked with three of the four broadcasters, and I can say that they definitely do not accept something shot entirely on dslr (at least not if it was a show you pitched or they commissioned -- acquisitions are always another matter but they are rare.

    Point is, if I have the budget, I'm shooting 4:4:4 if I can, or at least 4:2:2 XDCAM -- will viewers ultimately notice? I don't know. Will I sleep at night knowing the network isn't going to make me reshoot the entire documentary? Yes.
  • >will viewers ultimately notice

    None of them will notice, as broadcasters do not use 4:2:2 even.
    Mostly some low bitrate 4:2:0 stuff.
    Sometimes very very low bitrate.
  • Most of the video servers that ultimately play this stuff compress the crap out of it anyway. I'm sure 99-100 broadcast engineers out there would look at GH2 footage as being perfectly acceptable.

    Just deliver it in a format they like, and tell the BBC/Discovery guys you shot it on a Red.
  • @Vitally_Kislev

    What's the point? Facts can be just as subjective...

    From a purely numbers/fact based perspective the F3 is not much better than a T2i then. Both can only shoot up to 30fps in 1080p... and 60fps in 720p. Both s35mm sensors. Same color space... and then actually the T2i has a higher bit-rate. So you could actually make a numbers based-argument that the T2i is, natively, a better camera. Not to mention it's smaller and more portable.

    For the price of the F3 to be justified, I really think it needed 4:2:2 10-bit internal recording around 100mb/s (we all know this would be EASILY possible in a $13k camera body) and maybe up to 90fps over-cranking ability. ...and then cut the body in half to about the size of a Red Epic or Scarlet. But then most people wouldn't be interested... because allot of people are just buying the F3 for the emotional aspects of it being big and professional looking. You won't belive how many people I run into that tell me things like "Yea, DSLRs are great and all... but I really just want a big camera!" It's purely an emotional statement. Is the F3 a great camera image-wise? Defiantly. But the spec to price ratio is just terrible.

    ...The specs on the new Sony DSLRs look great though. I think they're on to something big there. Might sell my 7D for the A77 actually. Magnesium alloy body, articulating screen, and 1080p 60fps in a 680g package? Yes please!


    Yea, that video looks great. But it's not anything you couldn't get out of a 5D (when viewed at 720p or lower) or a GH2 (even viewed at 1080p). The GH2 has REALLY good latitude. I really think it's 11-12 stops with the right lenses.
  • bwhitz> "...The specs on the new Sony DSLRs look great though. I think they're on to something big there."

    Don't worry, Sony will no doubt cripple the A77 so it doesn't step on their "high end" camera sales. LOL!

  • @proaudio4

    yea, you're probably right... lol. Can't have those DSLR's performing TOO well now can we...

    haha even right now with 60fps 1080p it's outperforming the F3 in frame-rates! What a joke the markets are right now!
  • Sony always cripple stuff. is their adagio. Right.

    They often have the best technology and innovations but they always find a way to completely make them unusable for serious use. So you always end up paying the lottery price for something like a FS-100 or F3.
  • As far as detail goes my GH2 footage looks A LOT better then HDMI output of my COX STB