Looking at a New HD Workflow

The issue of workflow is becoming more important with every passing project. I’ve been shooting video for more than 25 years, and in all of that time, the use of tape has been as basic a requirement as power to operate the camera. Today, however, I’m learning to rethink how tape does or does not fit into the modern video workflow.

When Panasonic introduced their P2 cameras a few years back, I thought the concept of recording to a memory card was very trick, but not for five grand every time you planned on capturing 15 minutes of footage. Today, not only are P2 cards less expensive, but there are other memory devices, including CF cards and SxS (Sony) cards. Some of these will record more than an hour for less than $700. That’s pretty neat.

The Sony PMW EX1 HD Camera sets a new standard for recording - all without tape!
The Sony PMW EX1 HD Camera sets a new standard for recording - all without tape!

Sony has just introduced a fantastic camera – the PMW EX1 XDCAM camera. It really has our team excited about the potential for quality, low-cost production improvements. Recording onto SxS memory cards in full HD resolution, this little camera has some tremendous capabilities. I am not in love with the shape, but the images generated are all EXDCAM all the time. Very nice.

But there are issues on both sides of the fence…

On the one hand, I love the idea of being able to shoot footage and to then ingest that material into a nonlinear post environment in only a few minutes. Ingesting tape is a nightmare. Take, for example, our project in Australia late last year. We shot more than 100 hours of tape. That means, almost literally, that we needed to invest 100 hours to review and ingest the material we wanted. In reality, the total time invested was closer to 140 hours, as reviewing, watching, writing notes, etc. all take time.

With a memory card, each shot is cataloged. Shoot what you want, transfer, and kill those shots that don’t work. Then, invest the time to create a proper log and you’re ready to edit. So, while it isn’t really an hour or two to transfer 100 hours of footage, it is closer to perhaps 35 hours or so, after you’ve reviewed and made the log notes that are required. That’s a big savings in time and money.

On the other hand, archiving is a big deal. I don’t want to save material in a different format. Nor do I like the idea of storing archived material on hard drives. They fail. So, what is the answer?

I have been thinking of the idea of archiving to either BluRay disc or perhaps to HD video tape. The problem with tape is that unless the material can be recorded to tape at the same time as a memory card, you’re still creating a nightmare of transfer activity. No intern will want to be saddled with that task.

The result is the last thing a manufacturer wants to hear: no action at all. Our HD equipment works well for our purposes. Our work doesn’t suffer for lack of quality or timing, while we recognize the benefits at the same time. There are issues that remain unanswered, so more research is required. This is important as it will benefit our clients as well as our internal team. The only thing I know is that tape is no longer the best method of recording images. It’s time has passed.

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