Thursday, October 25, 2007

The inaugural post . . . The Italian Job - Panasonic HVX200 noise levels

I had an recent enquiry re: the HVX200 from a gentleman in Italy:

Daniel Arvizu writes:

Hello Chris,
first of all I'd like to thank you for sharing your knowledge.
I read your article on the HVX and would like to ask you a couple questions...
I'm about to start shooting my first feature next monday and it will be a black and white movie shot with the HVX assambled on a mini35 P+S technik with Zeiss planar T1.3 lenses.

There will be plenty of different locations and the ones that are taking my sleep away are the nigh exteriors. We don't have much lighting equipment for those (only a couple of 200w battery Arrisuns for the characters and a 3Kw generator to light up at least a little thing in the background), and to rely on city lighting worries me (considering the loss of almost 2 stops that the P+S technik implies). Unfortunately i won't be able to run tests on that till the very last minute, so I wanted to know if you think mixing footage shot with and without the mini35 system will be too evident to be acceptable, considering that only the night extiriors would be shot with the "naked" camera, and that I have some experience doing color timing and postproduction in AfterEffects.

CO: There is no question that in your situation I would shoot clean (no Mini35) on the night exteriors to gain back those two stops. In this case it is critical that you will have the chance to colour correct and 'match grain', with a tool like After F/X, to the footage shot 'with' the Mini35.

Besides, I've heard the camera is more noisy when shooting 1080p instead of 720p in very low light situations, do you agree on that?

CO: I think that the noise level in the blacks of the HVX200 is roughly equal in both 720 and 1080. Generally, the HVX needs a lot of light to perform at its best. This is true in many HD formats even the Sony F900. Of the 2/3" CCD cameras, some would argue that the Viper gives the cleanest image when shooting a predominantly black frame. D.P. Dave Warner (Eureka-2nd Unit, Dead Zone-2nd-Unit) is of this firm belief.

If it's true that the difference in noise is so drammatic between the two formats, would it be better to shoot the whole thing in 720p instead of mixing the footages? 'cause I'm also thinking about the rendering problems that might come out of having an important percentage of the footage shot in a different format (I also have a couple of slow-motion shots that can only be shot in 720p, but those are not such a concern in terms of mixing them...).

CO: 'Consistency' from shot to shot and scene to scene is the key to successfully capturing a film over the arc of its story. I am of the opinion that 720 24PN gives you the most flexibility of all the formats that the HVX200 offers. The main motivation to shoot 1080 is to be able to best intercut with footage captured on bigger, better cameras - i.e. the F900 or Viper. In your case I would opt to shoot 720 24PN for everything.

My last question is this: do you agree that even if I won't be able to balance between tungsten and HMIs, so I'll have mixed up temperatures, is better to do the shooting in color and then make it b/w in postproduction? or do you think I might get any advantage by doing the shooting in b/w?

CO: Even though the HVX can desaturate, I don't think there is anyway to completely remove colour within the camera

(see DVXUser:

In any case - you will have better control later with all three channels present while you shoot. Having said that, it would be worth experimenting with filters on the camera to achieve looks not possible in post alone. I know you have very little time to prep but this could give you a signature look . . .

I live and work in Milan, Italy. And even from here I had the chance to appreciate your work with the 4400 series. If you would by any chance find interest in seeing some of my work you can check my showreel at this link: (even if it's not really updated since it's more than a year since I edited it). I would be honored to read your opinion.

I really, really appreciate the time you are giving me by reading this and would be enormously greatful if you can find time to answer me.

I hope I'll read from you soon, and send my best regards.


CO: Daniel - thank you for your enquiry - it is my pleasure to share as much as I can. Please feel free to contact me in future.

I think I will wear my Cinecitta
Studios t-shirt tomorrow in celebration of this, the first post of the Digital Dayz Blog . . . ;)

Chris Oben

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