Cheapest Camcorder to offer HD-SDI or HDMI out so as to bypass compression

Discussion in 'Digital Video' started by nickane, Jan 14, 2010.

  1. nickane macrumors 6502

    Feb 24, 2005
    I work in post-production and I have lately been thinking of buying a cheap camcorder that I can mess about with at home. I have been looking at what I can get for £300-odd but will stretch to £600 for one of the better models depending on how much I can achieve with a 3 sensor model and what the other advantages are. As a Shake artist, I am mostly concerned with the possibility of getting decent keyable footage for cheap. I have read numerous threads on the subject and it seems that in order to get decent 4:4:4, you need to tether to a laptop and encode prores or MJPEG on the fly by use of an HD-SDI out or HDMI with an I/O interface. What I can't seem to discover is what sort of standard of camera is capable of this, since all the consumer reviews of camcorder only speak of the HDMI as a way of playing footage out to HDTVs. There is obviously no way of knowing for sure, which ones allow you to bypass the internal compression, if any.

    1) Is it only semi-professional cameras that have this functionality? These seem to be a lot cheaper than the last time I looked (£2000 rather than £3500) but I am loathe to buy one since we have a Z1 I can borrow at work without too much hassle and I am thinking of buying a scarlet eventually if I get enough done with the camcorder.

    2) If not, which camcorders do and are worth recommending? I have been looking at these:

    a) JVC Everio GZ-HM200
    b) Canon VIXIA HF S100
    c) Canon Vixia HF20
    d) Canon FS200
    e) Panasonic HDC-TM300 (bit too expensive tho)

    ...but if none of them can do what I want, I might just settle for a single sensor £250-ish one, so that at least I have a camera.

    The only upcoming project I have in mind is a promo that will require some cityscape cutaways, otherwise I would be heavily drawn to the 7D stills camera since that seems to be the preferred Scarlet holdover and I just worked on some 1080 footage from it that was particularly impressive.
  2. P-Worm macrumors 68020


    Jul 16, 2002
    Salt Lake City, UT
    Live HDMI out isn't going to necessarily get you what you're looking for. First of all, while the footage isn't compressed to tape, it's very possible that it's compressed in-camera before reaching the HDMI port. You'll have to look into that (and in all honesty, that information is really hard to find).

    Also, having 4:4:4 video doesn't mean squat if the sensors in the camera that record the images are noisy. Lower end camcorders tend to have a single small size CCD chip instead of 3 CCD's of medium to large size. This means that you will get a lot of noise in the color part of your video that will mean that all the work you would go to to record as 4:4:4 was for nothing.

    What kind of price range are you looking at? You're not going to get a good compositing cam for a small price even with the "capture over HDMI" trick. But if you give us a price range, we can help point you to a camera that will best for your money.

    Hope this helps.

  3. nickane thread starter macrumors 6502

    Feb 24, 2005
    That's very illuminating, cheers.

    I guess if the £500-800 cameras I mentioned don't offer many significant advantages (and seem like more of a waste of money than ever with the 3 ccd cameras now starting at £1500; the sony hvr-a1u probably outdoes the z1 we have at work by some way), my budget is more in the region of £300. I'm only interested in really having something that I can mess around with cos I haven't touched a camera since renting a canon xl1s for student films i made ages ago. I guess my biggest priorities in order of importance would be:

    (i) Tons of manual settings that I can play with, so that I'm not completely out of my depth when I use the z1
    (ii) Low light performance
    (iii) I would lean towards a data-based model rather than tape, particularly flash rather than HD since its more durable, but I'm less bothered about all that than my first two priorities

    Thanks again for your help. I think I understand my options much better now.

    I should say that I would easily consider stretching my budget. I'm far more interested in value for money than how much I actually spend but I know what I would buy if I was spending closer to £1500 because there's less options at that end of the market and I'm more familiar with them.
  4. KeithPratt macrumors 6502a

    Mar 6, 2007
    You're on a wild goose chase if you're looking for 4:4:4 output from a "camcorder". HD-SDI is also some way out of your price range. Not sure how many HDMI-equipped camcorders offer full-raster 4:2:2 live output. It'd be sensible for any manufacturer to output before any compression as it would avoid any potential lag, but these manufacturers do some puzzling things at times.

    Sorry I can't be more specific...
  5. LethalWolfe macrumors G3


    Jan 11, 2002
    Los Angeles
    1 and 2 aren't present in consumer cameras. A big weakness is going to be the quality of the glass and imagers in lower end cameras as well.

    If you want to capture the signal off of the camera into a high quality codec onto a laptop the cost of storage and an the video interface to connect the camera to the laptop will cost more than what you want to spend on the camera.

    Long story short, what you want for the budget you've stated isn't going to happen w/todays technology.

  6. nickane thread starter macrumors 6502

    Feb 24, 2005
    Cheers, yeah, its not the sort of info the market they're aiming at would be interested in. Who knows how they generate an HDMI feed on the fly? Its pretty likely they just use the internal compression anyways.

    It sounds like you're saying HDMI is only capable of 4:2:2. I didn't realize that. Thanks again.

    1 & 2 may not be extensively available in consumer characters, but they're surely not uniformly absent? Most reviews tend to concentrate on these factors so its obvious that some models are better regarded than others.

    Aside from the fact that I had already given up that avenue when you posted,

    (i) I have tons of data storage since I have to accommodate 100's of gigs of dpx's already
    (ii) I wasn't planning on shooting a feature length film, just doing some short tests to get back into the filming spirit
    (iii) I would sell the I/O box on if/when I bought the scarlet (assuming it wasn't of any use to me anymore). I'm not concerned with spending too much money, just wasted money (ie buying a top-of-the-range camcorder only to sell it at a huge loss to buy a prosumer model).

    Thanks for all your responses. I didn't think I could do what I wanted, but I wanted to be sure because when I googled "cheapest camera for chromakey" I found that I needed a camera with an HD/SDI or HDMI out and I thought it was too good to be true that the latter could be had for £300. I think I will still get a cheap camera to mess about with between borrowing the Z1, but I will keep trawling through reviews in order to find one.

    If semi-pros/pros have any recommendations for cheap camcorders that perform well in their price range and have more manual settings than most, I'd love to hear them.
  7. mstrze macrumors 68000

    Nov 6, 2009
    The only thing I can offer, is the the Flip Mino ( video camcorders do have HDMI out, but they are, of course, very limited in 'knobs and gadgets' to mess with but resolution is very, very good...even without 3CCDs.

    Kodak now has a similar camcorder (Zi8)and offers higher resolution recording. In the US, Flip does 720p while the Kodak camcorder is 1080p...unsure of the European equivalents...if they are different at all. I do not know if the Kodak offers HDMI, but I assume it would. Here's a review:

    Both of these cameras come in under or at your £300 budget though.
  8. LethalWolfe macrumors G3


    Jan 11, 2002
    Los Angeles
    Obviously some consumer cameras will have better manual control options than others but compared to prosumer and professional cameras all consumer models have limited and cumbersome manual control options. Same thing applies to low light performance. The cheap glass and tiny sensors jam-packed w/photo sites on consumer cameras means low light performance is varying degrees of unimpressive.

    I wasn't really worried about how much storage you have but how fast. 720p60 and 1080i60/p30 ProRes 4444, for example, are in the range of 330Mb/s or 148gigs/hr. I'm not even sure if any of the mobile I/O solutions out there support ProRes 4444 let alone if any of Apple's laptops can even capture it.

    Check out Canon's line of VIXIA cameras as they seem to have a firm lead in the consumer market.

  9. KeithPratt macrumors 6502a

    Mar 6, 2007
    HDMI can do RGB/4:4:4 too, but I know of no camcorder that outputs genuine full-RGB detail. Cheapest video camera I know of that outputs bona fide RGB is the Panasonic HPX3700. And it's not just down to connections and what the manufacturer allows out of them — you'd need a 3-chip or 8+ megapixel Bayer to even get the red, green and blue sites you need for each pixel.
  10. tri3limited macrumors 6502

    Jun 5, 2008
    As a Shake artist you might be best off hiring a decent DOP... Who will in turn get your producer to arrange to hire the camera, of the DOP's choice, for the shoot on the right budget.

    These people are specialists in their areas for good reasons. You wouldn't let them touch your Shake stuff would you?

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