Thursday, September 21, 2023
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Voice Of The Crew - Since 2002

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Trend Spotting

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Since it first appeared on the market a little over three years ago, the HDV format has seen enormous growth. Almost immediately, people saw the promise of a simple, cheap, high-definition format, loaded with high-end features, and based on the familiar mini-DV workflow.It broke a major price-performance barrier, and independent producers drooled. Others pooh-poohed it as a low-end format with too many trade-offs. But with the sheer volume of cameras out there, it certainly seems to be delivering on the old promise that the conversion to digital would lead to a “democratization of tools.”“When we introduced this camera [the GY-HD100U] no one had ever imagined a camera that had this much going for it at this price range,” said Dave Walton, general manager, marketing communications, JVC Professional Products. “But now it’s changed. We now have some competition. Sony’s got their HVR-Z1. Panasonic came out with the HVX200 and Canon introduced their H1 camera. So now we’ve got four cameras out there that are competing in this space, in many cases for the same customers. So it’s going to get more aggressive as far as manufacturers are concerned. The consumers are really in a good position now.“The reviewers are out there having a heyday doing the side-by-side comparisons of the cameras,” he added. “And there are differences, because each one is designed with a different set of parameters in mind.”He explained that JVC doesn’t release actual sales figures, “but our observation of the market is, it’s now eclipsed standard definition in terms of production equipment being sold. I don’t know if that’s just us, or if all the manufacturers are in that same situation, but in that price category, we’re selling more HD than SD.”Could it be the first signs of the obsolescence of SD?“Right now what we’re looking at, I believe, is the first wave of a major transition of production over into the world of widescreen and high definition,” said Walton.Independent producers have been shooting in SD and blowing it to 35mm for festival pieces for years. Suddenly many of them find themselves in a position where they can afford to buy an HDV camera for about as much as it would cost to rent an SD camera. And while there are several trade-offs inherent to the HDV format, the key “workaround” for all of them is to just decompress the signal and work in uncompressed HD.“You’re shooting in an 8-bit space. If you want to bring it in uncompressed and you want to color correct in a 10-bit system, for example, you can do that. Some people are doing that, if they feel that there’s that much need to color correct,” Walton explained. “But you can color correct in the native format as well.”While the idea of 8-bit color might make some professionals cringe, for those facing budget constraints, especially in the documentary world—where some would argue that 8-bit color gives it an authentic feel—the economics of HDV make it an equitable trade off.JVC will host a free screening designed to show the film community what HDV looks like when it’s blown up to 35mm (see page 5), with GY-HD100U footage shot by Oscar-nominated Andy Young of Archipelago Films. “He’s not the only one who’s done a 35mm blow up. But I would say he’s probably the only one that’s dropped the camera in a river, then dried it out over an open fire and was able to continue shooting,” said Walton.

Written by Scott Lehane

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