Resolution vs. Quality vs. (specific) Camera


All over the net the 'boards are flaming with "HDV is / isn't real HD", "24p is / isn't as good as film", "pixel-shift is / isn't 'real resolution'", & (my favorite) "who needs HD / HDV anyway since Joe Customer can't play it". While amusing, sometimes cooler heads prevail & start talking about "technical resolution" & "objective quality" of the footage... which seems like a good idea, but usually quickly circles-back to a discussion of the originating format's amount of horizontal lines, etc. And so eventually we're right back to whether "DV is / isn't as good as film", an emotional screed at best.


Behind all the bluster, I think the whole incessant 'resolution/quality' argument really all comes down to people wanting to know "Is my camera any good?" (let's leave-aside, for the moment, operator skill at making a camera look its best).


So how is 'good' measured, anyway? Traditionally, it has been originating format, which has been closely tied to price:


BetaSP = $30k camera,

DigiBeta = $45k camera,

HD = $60-100k camera,

35mm Film = $100k+ camera

Thus, Producers ask their 2 favorite questions: "have you sold it", & "what was it shot on". Now that "HD" is being recognized as a valid 'theatrical' production format, all the manufacturers want to label their stuff "HD".


At the 'Broadcast' end of things, it used to be very easy: you're either on DigiBeta (high-end), or not. But now HD is rapidly replacing filmed shows, so all the [broadcast] camera manufacturers want to label their stuff "HD" as well. And so HD is being balkanized into "HDV", "Pro-HDV", and/or the new Panasonic HVX200 DVCPro100 "Real HD"... at a much lower price-point.


And so down to the 'cable' or 'wedding' end of things, there's huge gobs of troll-like noise re. HDV and/or FX1 "sucks" or is "not true HD" or even "who needs HD / how will we deliver it" etc. This doesn't make sense to me-- isn't the potential for [much] higher quality, at a much lower price, simply fantastic?

I suspect this [complaining] is mostly from people who have a lot invested in 'last years' technology, & are bummed out.


Until "November" comes out (DVX100A film-out), & then whatever film-out happens for FX1/Z1U, all questions of 'quality' for these 2 cameras are moot, theatrically. For broadcast, both of these cameras already have shows in production, & no one's complaining, so that question is answered already. And for weddings, if you can sell it, & your MOB ("Mother-of-Bride") digs it, then more power to you.



So back to "originating format equals camera 'quality'". Originally, you couldn't buy a DigiBeta or HD camera, without a fantastic lens on the front, very good viewfinder, & excellent 2/3" 16:9 chips. But now Panny has started to undercut the Digi format with their DVCPRO50 format (and HDCAM with DVCPRO100), & releasing those formats on lower & lower-end cameras. But do those lower-end cameras have the fantastic lens, great viewfinder, or excellent chips? NO.


So since 'format' doesn't equal 'camera-quality' anymore, I think the question of 'quality' viz. 'format' should be limited to specific cameras.

DV from a $300 WalFart special will never equal DV from a PD150, nor PD150 to a DSR-570WSL. Similarly, HD/DVCPro100 from a HVX200 won't replace an HDW-950. Sure a skilled DP can make some shots from the low-end camera look fantastic, but there will always be that limit of the lower-end lens, crappier viewfinder, & tinier chips.


We've already seen that the FX1/Z1U is limited measurably by its lens... but the viewfinder still is pretty great, not-to-mention its 1080i footage. The DVX100A is limited both by the lens & the viewfinder... but its 24p is pretty great.

And I'm betting that the Panny HVX200 will be limited by some combination of crappy lens, low-resolution viewfinder, and/or tiny chips... b/c there's just no way in Heck that Panny will issue a $6k replacement for their $60k VariCam, no matter how many $2k P2 cards they think they'll sell.



"Resolution", "Quality", etc. is a misnomer if you leave-out referring to the specific camera's implementation of format + lens + viewfinder + chips, etc. Even if you're just talking about recording-format, at some point (ie. quickly) the originating camera which created the footage becomes a deciding factor. Well-shot film dubbed onto DV looks fantastic, for instance... much better than a DSR-570WSL (the best DV camera).


In the end, I could really care less what the 'format' is... just show me what the footage looks like. Then I'll see if I can afford the camera (& Operator) who shot it


Copyright: Dave A. Anselmi, 2005