Best way to capture h.264 directly from a camera

Discussion in 'Digital Video' started by jpine, May 31, 2013.

  1. jpine macrumors 6502

    Jun 15, 2007
    I'm putting together a proposal to upgrade our department's video recording capabilities. The setting is a small room that is used by graduate counseling students to record their counseling sessions with clients for later review by the supervising faculty member. Right now, our equipment is badly outdated, consisting of a CCTV SD camera, an ancient Radio Shack audio mixer with even worse quality mics, and a stand alone DVD-R recorder.

    I'd like to have a setup that consists of a very good camera/camcorder feeding a Mac via a HDMI cable. I've looked into the two h.264 solutions from Blackmagic Design and even the consumer PVR from Hauppauge. Everything I've looked into has audio sync problems with video over 30 minutes.

    The recording process needs to be dummy proof. Some students will be comfortable with tech, some not so much.

    We have a budget of about $10,000 USD, but some of that goes into a camera, Mac, acoustic panels, 4 HDTVs for classrooms, etc.


  2. Menneisyys2 macrumors 603

    Jun 7, 2011
    Any requirement of the camera's required chroma subsampling? Is the standard 4:2:0 sufficient (you don't want to do, say, chromakeying work), or, is 4:2:2 or even 4:4:4 a requirement? The second, and particularly the third is, of course, much-much more expensive. The first will easily fit into the $10k (and there will be a lot of non-spent money left).

    If 4:4:4 is a requirement, then, you'll end up having to pay around 10k for the camera itself; for example, the Sony F35. The Sony PMW-F3 is twice as much; the PMW-F3L is around $13k.

    With them, you'll need 4:4:4 recorders as well, which used to cost around $10k too (see e.g. the Cinedeck recorder). Some lower-priced recorders have also been announced:

    4:2:2 is much cheaper: for $4500, you can get, say, the Canon XF105. You'll need higher-end (still non-consumer) HDMI recorders for this; for example, the $700 Ninja-2.

    If 8bit 4:2:0 (the worst-quality alternative not sufficient for chroma keying) is sufficient, then, you have a lot to choose from: say, the Pana GH3 at the upper end (apart from the somewhat lacking HDMI out, it's the best stills camera for video). If e.g. aliasing isn't that big a problem, the Canon T3i is a much-much cheaper alternative. Also, consumer (read: cheap, around $200) HDMI recorders will record their footage just fine.


    Thanks, I'll check this with my Elgato Game Capture HD and report back.
  3. Menneisyys2 macrumors 603

    Jun 7, 2011
    Made a recording with its client app (the latest version) in 1080p30 mode, driven from an iPad 3 using DisplayOut to be able to capture an Apple DRM'ed movie (here, "Men in Black") with the Elgato unit. I used the first-gen 30-pin HDMI adapter (see for more info on why it's preferable to the second-gen one if interested) and a scale ratio of 4/3 to stretch the originally mirrored image to fullscreen.

    I used maximal quality (30 Mbps), OS X 10.8 running on a late 2009 17" MBP (2.8 GHz C2D and 8 GB RAM) I haven't touched while capturing. I used the latest-and-greatest (consumer) SSD (Vertex 4 256GB) to record to. I disabled the CPU-hog Live view in the Elgato capturer app (but connected an external monitor to the unit's HDMI passthru to see what's happening).

    The resulting file of the 1:35:22 captured file was 21.26 Gbytes.

    There have been absolutely no lipsynch problems in the recorded footage anywhere.

    That is, if you can put up with consumer-grade (read: 4:2:0), comparatively cheap equipment, you could consider the Elgato Game Capture HD. It will definitely not cause lipsynch problems, not even on 95-minute-highest-quality recordings.
  4. jpine thread starter macrumors 6502

    Jun 15, 2007
    Wow! Thanks Menneisyys2!!!! I did not expect someone to go to that much trouble. Your efforts are very much appreciated. I will check out the Elgato recorder. 4:2:0 is not a problems since there will be no keying, color correcting or even basic editing. The students will record, transfer the recorded video to a thumb drive, and then move the recorded video to the trash and empty the trash for security purposes.

    Matrox is releasing a new product "soon" that looks great on paper for my purposes, but it's still vaporware. What I like is that it can record directly to a USB flash drive. That is the perfect solution for my purposes, but like I said, it's still vaporware. I've even considered a consumer Blu ray recorder hooked directly to the camera.

    As far as cameras go, I'm looking seriously at the Nikon D600 (with a Rode shotgun mic and a basic prime lens) because of it's full HDMI output and standard HDMI connector (type A?). Many of the $2500 USD camcorders are great rigs but have the mini HDMI out connectors which I don't trust because of their size. I just need to get on the Nikon forums and look into potential overheating issues.

    Again, thanks so much for your effects.

  5. Menneisyys2 macrumors 603

    Jun 7, 2011
    Note that it was only in late March that the, by default, enabled overscan become disable-able with the new firmware (C: 1.01; see ). Many (pretty much trashing) user reports are still referring to the previous firmware versions (an example:

    (See my dedicated article (here at MR) on overscan in general if interested; it's written to discuss iOS-related issues but can also be applied to video recording in general: )
  6. martinX macrumors 6502a


    Aug 11, 2009
    That's important. I take it you want people to walk into a room, hit a button to record and go about their business without tech getting in the way and at the end have a single recording of their session that they can take away, all without intervention from you or another operator. Situations like this make me look at VCRs wistfully...

    1. Camera. Wall mounted or ceiling mounted is fine because it gets it out of the way. You say a "CCTV" camera is being used now, what I suggest would look similar. I'd suggest Sony or Panasonic.

    2. Audio. If it's two people at a small table, I'd suggest a boundary mic. Not as discreet as ceiling mounted mics, but closer to the people speaking. Run it in to a pre-amp which will give you control over the signal and some level indicators.

    3. Recording ... the big problem. If you have a computer-based solution, you will have problems if people unfamiliar with the system need to use it. All software looks intimidating the first, second, third time you use it and more, and this doesn't get better if people only use it occasionally. If this is your situation, I'd suggest sticking to the DVD-R hooked up to a monitor that can be turned out of view of the participants. Then when the recording is over, the student can finalise the disc and away they go (Panasonic DVD recorders display a "do you want to finalise this disc" dialogue when you hit eject after doing a recording). The alternative is to get a network-based recording system, and they are pricey. I can't find a Blu-Ray recorder that takes a high def input and records straight to a BR disc.

    Spend some money on decent room lighting.
  7. Menneisyys2 macrumors 603

    Jun 7, 2011
    If he's going the computer way (instead of a totally autonomous one - say, the Ninja-2) to save costs, the recorder apps are really easy to learn and use. For example, the Elgato Game Capture HD's recorder app is really-really easy to learn and operate. Basically, even the tech illiterate can reliably record his or her footage - all he needs to click is one click button at start / end and nothing else. (Assuming it's the supervisor that, then, finds the recorded video file / sets the recording parameters when needed.)

    Now that the OP has explained his needs, I, personally, would go for the Ninja-2 as a recorder instead of anything computer-based. It isn't particularly expensive ($695; computer-based recorders are between $170-200), offers 10-bit 4:2:2 (unlike ANY consumer-priced computer-based recorders), has native ProRes 422 support and is easy to operate and his students ar emuch more likely to run into a Ninja-based rig than one connected to a consumer, computer-based capture unit.

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