Could This Be Our HD Workflow Solution?

As I’ve noted in this blog on several occasions, the migration of our workflow away from tape is an important issue, but one that has been complicated due to our requirement for an appropriate archiving mechanism. And, hard drives are out. Blu-Ray or similar discs are, I think, premature. XDCAM discs are also going to evolve over the coming year, so it’s a weird place to be.

I’ve been really excited about the new XDCAM-based EX1 and EX3 cameras from Sony. They represent a fantastic opportunity for certain types of HD production. The SxS memory cards are fast and reliable, and the cameras themselves offer remarkable specifications.

The recording unit on the back of the Z7U uses standard CF memory cards, while also recording to tape. What a concept!
The recording unit on the back of the Z7U uses standard CF memory cards, while also recording to tape. What a concept!

Still, archiving is a problem. In our case, it relates to supporting our clients and volume. If someone is producing a wedding video and shoots four to six hours of footage, even if from multiple cameras, the management of the material is not a problem. If someone is producing a film and that is their only project, the issue of archiving is managable, as there is time to do so. In our case, we’re working on a variety of projects, an in some cases, we’re shooting tens of hours of footage. That’s where the time to manage archiving falls apart for us.

And so, it may be that we end up taking two steps forward and one step, um, sideways, but with, I think, top notch results. Sony has a new HDV camera, actually released before the EX3, called the HVR-Z7U. This is an HDV camera with removable lens capability. It has very similar specs to the EX3, with the exception that it records in an HDV mode rather than the various HD options available in the XDCAM line.

Still, this is a big step up – the Z7U will record and output 1080p true progressive material, albeit using the HDV codec. It also includes the same CMOS technology chips, meaning far greater low-light capability, and no streaking of images. Camera controls and customization is very strong. The ability to add cinema rigs is also terrific. The HDMI connector will output true HD 1980 by 1080 images when recording. And, the glass is the same quality as the EX3 and other high-end HD cameras – a tremendous value when shooting in the wide range of sitautions we’re faced with.

And for us, the real trick is the recording unit on the back of the camera. It uses standard CF cards, although I’m told that the faster the better. Sure enough. And, to make matters even better, the Z7U will record to the memory card and tape simultaneously. And that, sports fans, is where our thumbs move to the up position. By recording on disc for rapid ingesting into our nonlinear editing systems, while simultaneously recording an archive to tape, we solve our backup problems, while also streamlining our workflow. And, should something go wrong with a memory card, the tape is available.

The next step is to rent the camera for a week and see how it performs. If it meets the requirements, this is likely to be the direction of our workflow. With the various types of production we’re involved with, this is a big step forward and we’re excited to be on the journey.


  1. greg

    IT has been almost a year.
    Did you shoot with the Z7u?
    I am a P2, CF and EX shooter, thinking about the good ol days of archiving on tape- when no time was needed after a long day for ingesting footage.
    I miss tape as an archival solution…
    does the Z7u Measure up? that is my question……

    • David B

      The Z7U is a very nice camera. One of the problems when dealing with cameras relates to their function. Everyone wants to have a “Great” camera – and many of them are ideal for one purpose or another. As noted DP Philip Bloom writes, “I have a lot of cameras and they’re all good,” and he’s right. Most manufacturers are pretty good about creating something they feel will be in demand and will also deliver a quality result.

      The issue is what is best for you? In our case, the Z7is not the camera we really want to use on a daily basis. As such, we could rent one, when required. For our purposes, we’re moving totally away from tape.

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