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Recapturing HDV, Can it be done?

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director, editor, www.davidbattistella.com
Toronto Ontario Canada
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CreativeCOW.net contributing editor and leader, David Battistella, explores the question of recapturing HDV. He'd seen so many posts, so much talk about HDV format and the problems incurred, so David has taken the time to test a couple of workflows. Here's David's report.



CreativeCOW.net contributing editor and leader, David Battistella, explores the question of recapturing HDV. He'd seen so many posts, so much talk about HDV format and the problems incurred, so David has taken the time to test a couple of workflows. Here's David's report.


RECAPTURING HDV- Can it be done?


Well, I was very curious. So many posts ... so much talked about with the HDV format. One of the most common things I heard was that because HDV was in the long GOP format it could not be successfully recaptured when having to online the footage. “This is because there is no TC accuracy”, I would often hear. I actually am guilty of it in many posts here on the COW myself. So I set up a test to prove myself right, or wrong.

While I was at it, I tested a couple of workflows, too.

First off, I want to thank Terry Stein of the DV shop in Toronto for helping me with the tests and providing the deck. We did the test at his store where he has a DeckLink HD card with a Multibridge . I also took the media back to my studio to look at it all through the KONA 2 card.

Here is the disclaimer portion of the article. I did these tests independently on a short project using the following system configuration:


System configuration

Final cut Pro version 5.0.2

Final Cut Pro version 5.0.2

The Sony HDV XXX deck

Sony HDV deck


The opinions about picture quality, etc., are eyeball tests and are strictly opinion on what “looks” better. No multi generational testing was performed.

So, this is the little project we started with and here is the finished movie (a smaller version of it of course). I tried for various shot durations, series of cuts, etc., to emulate what I could for a larger type online. 

Please note that we were just using random shots captured by the camera.  We were not trying to execute any kind of idea with this movie as it was strictly a test. The shots are of various artifacts around Terry's store and he shoots in different lighting conditions to see what the camera can do.

Click here to view Movie


The night shots were good for exposing grain and pixel blocking. All of the footage was shot using the SONY HDRFX1 camera.

SONY HDRFX1 Camera


Once the footage was captured and cut, we went into online mode, using the media manager (believe it or not, it actually does work) I created an offline sequence for recapture.

Media Manager


Now many people have also said that media manager is broken in FCP 5.0, but as fellow grazer Michael Alberts pointed out to me: the media manager does not really work properly when the media is offline . If the media you are trying to create the offline for is offline, then the media manager will not trim properly. So make sure you create your offline with the project online . In this case the media manger worked really well.


So, next was to create the new project:


FCP New Project

and poof!!! Here are the two projects before media manager:


Before


and after:

After


Let's get the deck rolling.

For the first test, we had the deck recapture everything via the firewire stream. This is how HDV was designed so this was also a worst case scenario test, in that if you lost your media and had to recapture it, you could.
I selected the sequence hit batch capture and started feeding FCP the tapes it was asking me for. When we were all done we went to the timelines.

First I played back the original sequence from the original test. Then I played back the recaptured sequence as a comparison. They were SPOT ON! I was a bit taken aback. I had heard so many stories of slippage, dropped frames, on and on. Was it true? Only one way to find out. I started to copy TC from the original sequence and paste it into the new sequence. This is a beautiful way to compare frames in FCP and I do it all the time when I am comparing online and offline footage.

Here's how you do it.

Copy this TC value


Copy TC Value

Switch to the other sequence and paste it in there. Now just by flipping tabs you can see if you are in sync. Not quite as easy in AVID .

Now, I didn't do a frame by frame test but I checked about 20 frames at different sections and on different shots and they all were SPOT ON!! Imagine my shock and amazement.

So the myth was debunked and I had proved myself wrong! That is so satisfying! So the HDV was successfully recaptured via the firewire stream.

What if I wanted to recapture it using the DVCPROHD codec. Maybe that codec is a better color space for this online? Maybe I could do more effects with my KONA card? Maybe I would get more RT if I did that?

Following the same media manager steps, I created an offline sequence for the DVCPROHD codec and I captured that.

Gasp! I know some of you are saying, “how can that be, you can't do that via the firewire stream.” You are all right, you can't. This is where the DeckLink Multibridge comes in.

We took the analog outputs of the HDV deck the Multibridge and used it as out capture device. Then we realized that the HDV deck does not have an RS-422 deck control. At this point we though we were beat because when I selected HDV as the deck control it would not show up. Then I tried to switch to a regular firewire device control.


Capture Settings

Neat trick, eh? This allowed us to capture the HDV source to any codec we wanted WITH DECK CONTROL. So we did two more tests. One with the DVCPRO HD codec and then we captured some 10-BIT uncompressed footage with the same workflow. WOW! An offline online solution for HDV .

There are a few oddities to report. One would assume that the 10-bit uncompressed footage would actually look better on screen than the HDV codec but this was not the case. The footage that we capture to the DVCPRO HD codec and to Uncompressed 10-bit was noticeably, visually “softer” than when viewing the native HDV .


Here are the links to the three images of the same frame for comparison


A NOTE FROM THE
BLACKMAGIC TEAM:
After reading David Battistella's "Recapturing HDV: Can It Be Done?", we found his article to be very useful for HDV customers. Like David, we find that capturing HDV via Firewire leads to sharper images than capturing from the uncompressed analog output of a HDV camera. We have a support note named "How to achieve maximum quality with HDV cameras" which explains this and which you can read here .

The summary of the note is that if you shoot live with a HDV camera -- then capture the uncompressed analog video output via Multibridge -- it will provide a better quality result. However, if the footage has already been captured onto tape, then Firewire will provide a better result. The reason is that footage recorded to tape has already been tightly compressed in the HDV lossy format. If you then capture via the analog output of the camera, there is a decompression cycle (which degrades the image) and the introduction of some analog noise before the video is finally digitized.

Regards,
Luke Maslen
Blackmagic Design
I think the two reasons for this might be: because we captured the footage via analog inputs, so I would call this hardware limitations. The footage also has to get re-sized to both the uncompressed and the DVCPRO HD coded. HDV is 1440x1080i and DVCPRO HD is 1280x1080i and 10bit uncompressed is 1920x1080i. This resizing is having an effect on picture, whether it's blowing it up or making it slightly smaller you are taking a bit of a visual hit.

The HDV codec is what I would describe as a “playback” codec. It looks fine playing back, but once you want to do anything to it -- and let's face it, nothing leaves a post facility without being manipulated or trans-coded or rendered in some way -- then it starts to fall apart and reveal its weakness.

The DVCPRO HD and Uncompressed 10-bit codec's respond better to multi generational processing, so in the long run, finished shows will look much better. This is not just opinion but has been factually proven by color conversion experts.

I am sure by now there are many of you out there recapturing HDV footage on a daily basis.  What remains to be seen is whether this format will be an acceptable Broadcast HD format. The biggest question is whether people will just accept it as a new standard.   Right now it seems that it is kind of in "no man's land", it's not quite HD but it looks great in SD.  While it is being widely adopted and looks great in SD, it remains to be seen if it is a true HD solution.  I guess it is the same way people did not accept DV as a viable format on it's release.  Then, of course there will be Panasonic's latest HD offereing sometime in the new year.  

I may output this test to HDCAM and have the tape Quality Controlled by a QC house to see if this format will be accepted by the various HD broadcasters. Many specify that only a percentage HDV material can be included in the finished show.  Of course, many of us will do what we can to find new solutions. 


One thing is for sure. I proved myself wrong and discovered that all is not lost if the HDV needs to be recaptured. Since I did these tests a product has been introduced to get machine control out of the Sony Deck. Many users are now using the Addenda RS-4/L to give RS422 control to the Sony HDV VTR. You can view the adapter here,
http://www.addenda-elect.com/controll.htm . It costs about 150.00 USD .

Ciao!


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Comments

Recapturing HDV, Can it be done?
by Helmer Mussell
That's right. You can't put your sequence offline first. You have to online it with your SD clips still online at the time of reconnecting. That's why all of the in and outs are off
Recapturing HDV, Can it be done?
by Michael
We shot in HDV, down converted into FCP (6.01) output the SD version, then went offline with Media Manager and recaptured in HDV. The timecode was all over the place. About 50% of the clips were off.

Mike


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