Culture Catch selects Sony HD - HVR Z7U

Submitted by richardb on April 10, 2009 - 19:24

On April 8th, we had the pleasure of working with Glenn Tibrook of Squeeze at our Music Salon hosted at Bennet Media Studios, our new home in the West Village of New York. After a brief lunch with a group of 20 of our friends, we went down stairs to the "catacombs" where we set up a stage for Glenn to perform. Recently, Culture Catch made the switch to HD for all our recording. As we shoot over 200 hours of programming a year, the decision to move to HD had to be carefully examined. We could not go down one path, then decided to go another direction. The decision we make for HD will be one in which we will live with for a minimum of 3 years. From the stand point of growing a library, we don't want to have a different format each year for each new format that is introduced. The hot format and trend today is to go tapeless. There are many popular cameras in the tapeless format from all the big camera makers. In fact, we used four Panasonic HVX 200s for our Bob Weir/RatDog documentaries last Fall. The HVX has a 100 mbs image which is very high resolution. However, you need to hire a P2 wrangler just to manage the storage needs at the shoot. Plus the footage need a backup of a backup. We ended up with a bunch of hard drives. However, the image quality is something to consider. It's excellent. The easy of editing is tapeless is faster than log and digitizing tapes. So, we struggle with the idea of going tapeless which require a whole new file storage and backup management system that we'd be inventing. Previously, all our shows had been shot using SD Sony 3 chip cameras on mini-dv. We have a system for file management and tape archiving. If a drive fails, I've still got a backup of the program, plus the tapes for restoring the program. A very safe storage, archiving and management system. We began looking at the DVR Z7U HDV camera from Sony. At 25 mbs, we knew the image quality would be less than the HVX 200. There's 75% less information, thus the image would have to be less quality. However, that's really not the only consideration. The software codec, hardware electronics and lens is important to capturing a great image. Giving this is Sony, we knew we'd be getting high quality in these categories. We can write all day about image quality but until you do a test for yourself, there's no better way to determine the quality of the image. Since we have the Ratdog footage, I shot with the HVR Z7U in a similar stage lighting situation. Bright stage lite performers with dark backgrounds. A very difficult scenario for codecs to handle. The HVR Z7U did have artifacts in the dark areas while the HVX 200 did not. I suspect that might be the case but certainly not the end of the test because we don't deliver our shows with a 100 mbs image quality. In fact, nobody delivers at this quality. Everything on the internet is compressed and so is everything on cable TV. Once we apply an HD codec to the image, like the Apple TV codec, the artifacts in the dark areas disappear. In fact, the image quality of both the HVX 200 and HVR Z7U with HD compression were identical. I could not tell which image I like better. That became the crucial decision for us. We wanted to stay in a tape environment for archival reasons, but wanted the best HD image we could provide. The HVR provide both and has a tapeless option using a universal flash drive. The HVX 200 uses a P2 flash drive which cost 10 times the price as universal flash drives. Another strike against the HVX 200. We now use three Sony HD-HVR Z7U and love it!

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