Sony Intros HVR-V1U HDV Pro Camcorder, Filmmakers Ogle Its 24p-ness

This image was lost some time after publication, but you can still view it here.
This image was lost some time after publication, but you can still view it here.

Sony's HVR-V1U HDV camcorder was on display at a special touchy-feely roll-out event in New York this afternoon, and Gizmodo was there for a quick hands-on. Sony presented a refined HDV camcorder that mid-level video production pros and filmmakers will snap right up. This is the higher-end, also-CMOS-totin' big brother to Sony's HDR-FX7 we mentioned a couple of weeks ago, and yes, this V1U is the more-professional version we were hinting at then.

The big news is 24p, that frame rate that sounds slower than the garden-variety 30fps, but is coveted by filmmakers because it's the same rate that film has used for decades. It gives footage a highly sought-after, special look, and now it's available in a 1080p resolution.

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More details and pics after the jump.

The 24p footage coming out of this camera is at a higher rez than other cameras deliver in this price range, where the vertical resolution is a full 1080 lines. In a somewhat convoluted process, the horizontal resolution is captured by the CMOS chips at 920, though, not the full-raster 1920, and interpolated in the camera to 1920/60p, and ends up being recorded at 1440 to comply with the HDV format.

This image was lost some time after publication, but you can still view it here.
This image was lost some time after publication, but you can still view it here.

But don't let all the trickery scare you. After playing with this camera for a few hours and looking at lots of its footage, I must say the 24p look of this camera is remarkable. It's the closest to full HDTV I've seen this 25mbit/s HDV format get. That's helped along tremendously by its CMOS sensors, instead of the CCDs of previous HDV camcorders from Sony and others. These refined CMOS sensors give the camera better interpolation, higher dynamic range and increased perceived resolution, too. It's all good.

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This image was lost some time after publication, but you can still view it here.
This image was lost some time after publication, but you can still view it here.

Even though the implications of the camcorder's 24p-ness were large, size isn't everything: The camera feels compact in the hand. Another big story is its tiny (and optional) hard disk that you can attach to its top where the shotgun mic usually resides. I especially like the hard drive's recording parameters showing up in the pro camera's viewfinder. Plus, shooters will like the backup aspect of it, where they can shoot to both HDV tape and disk with that extra assurance of redundancy. Sony calls this a "hybrid recording system," where you can shoot your master and archive at the same time.

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This image was lost some time after publication, but you can still view it here.
This image was lost some time after publication, but you can still view it here.

Overall, this is a strong release from Sony, and I think pro shooters will all stand up and cheer that there's finally a 24p camcorder in this price range that handles HDTV so well and has XLR audio inputs. Oh yeah, it even has an HDMI port, too. Sony says the camcorder will be released in early December for $4800, the hard disk recorder will be $1800. Insiders are saying this pro gear might be on the market even sooner than that. We can't wait to take this baby out in the field.

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This image was lost some time after publication, but you can still view it here.
This image was lost some time after publication, but you can still view it here.

Extended report, more pics [Digital Video Editing]

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DISCUSSION

davidphillips-old
DavidPhillips

The 24 fps myth has struck again. The "film look" and frame rates are separate. Film is shot and released in theatres at 24 fps because in the 1930's it was the minimum speed required by optical sound tracks. Since then, every film projector in the U.S. only runs at 24 fps even though filmmakers have dreamed of boosting it higher. However, conversion to higher speeds means changing every projector in America and 25% higher lab production costs. Time and time again there have been attempts to convert, but none have stuck. The biggest attempt to switch to a higher standard using 30 fps came in 1956 with the release of "Around the World in 80 Days." Meanwhile, film tests at higher speeds bear a remarkable resemblance to wide formats like 70mm, and 70mm at higher speeds looks even better. Cinematographers love the faster rates because they have more "information" that can be manipulated any way they want, but the problem has always been the final release in theatres. Nowadays, cinematographers only covet video at 24 fps because the transfer from tape to film (30 fps to 24 fps for theatrical release) involves dropping random video frames and consequently creating a slightly uneven feel to moving objects, pans, etc. There is nothing about 24 fps that creates a "film look," (although there are plenty of other things that do). It is the simple fact that the 24 fps video conversion to film is 1:1. In other words, if you are not shooting for theatrical release, don't use it.