June 3


In recent weeks, I sent my Sony PMW-EX1 in for a second time to Sony Electronics service department in San Josť, CA, this time to have the new update that fixes a battery drain-down issue. The original version of this video camera contained a curious design anomaly in which the OFF position on the power switch was not truly "off" but some sort of power-draining standby state. Leaving the battery on the camera and powered "off" for a couple of days would result in a depleted battery.

Anyway, while the camera was away for this update, I got a surprise call, requesting me to shoot a video for a horse clinic. I was a bit regretful of sending the XDCam in for the update, but forged ahead with the Sony V1Us.

The shoot, which was intended to be a 1-2-hour shoot for a 25-minute video, turned into a 6-1/2-hour day of waiting for horses to be made ready, and for a nationally-renowned trainer to finish up a class he was teaching at the ranch.

I was at the mercy of the V1U audio, but considering the nature of the video being informational, didn't consider that to be a show-stopper. I used a wired lavaliere mic on the instructor and fed it into one channel of the V1U, with the shotgun mic feeding the other. The audio was functional and "okay" but not hi-fi.

All of the shoot was outdoors, so the V1Us didn't suffer their usual handicap of not having adequate illumination.

The shoot went well enough, and the headaches came at ingest and edit time. First there was the rewinding of tapes, something I have not had to deal with since the XDCam arrived. Then there was the all-night capture sessions, ditto about the XDCam again. Just returning to tape workflow reminded me of how good I had it with the XDCam. I spent my entire editing time on tape capture alone!

If that wasn't enough, the tapes had dropouts. Also, there was one section where it appears that I may have backed up over a portion of tape and recorded a postcript message from the trainer, possibly erasing some prior training footage. Accidental erasure due to reviewing tape is something that doesn't happen with Tapeless workflow. With tape, there is no protection, as the drive mechanism doesn't know the difference between material you want to keep and material to be discarded.

The dropouts caused their own information loss and problems with capture, resulting in portions of the tapes needing to be captured again (you could hear me gritting my teeth with frustration at this point.)

Another issue is that the HDV format is in fact an interlaced format. In Adobe Premiere Pro CS3, the Multi-Camera Editor produces a very pixellated video image on it's four monitors as a result. Editing multicam HDV is just a bear to watch. By contrast, editing multicam with XDCam footage results in crisp, high resolution monitor images--a pleasure to work with. Premiere just doesn't handle interlaced footage all that well. It prefers the progressive footage and the square (native) pixel aspect ratio of XDCam.

That said, editing is going along well on the project. Ironically, when I returned to the studio after the shoot, my wife brings out a box: it is the XDCam back from Sony. That was quick--four days door-to-door this time!

As for the XDCam updates, Sony put in a new PCB that fixes the battery drain down problem when the camera is turned off. It seems to be working, because after leaving the battery installed overnight, instead of losing over an hour's capacity, it lost about 4-5 minutes, which could be natural decay of Lithium Ion battery charge. I'll do more testing with the battery off the camera to find out if it looses that much by itself. So far, looks promising. At least one can travel with the XDCam and not worry about arriving at destination with a depleted battery.