18 Aug 2013

In future, there may only be uncompressed video

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In future, there may only be uncompressed video In future, there may only be uncompressed video RedShark


Phil Rhodes reckons that the time to go uncompressed may be sooner than you think

Recently, I've been encountering more and more material that isn't compressed. Whether it's material from an older 2/3” camera such as the Sony HDW-F900, given a new lease of life with a high performance SSD flash recorder, or from a modified Canon DSLR, or something like Blackmagic's cinema camera, it's more possible than ever to get material from the sensor to your screen without knocking the hell out of it with some clever mathematics

The Debate

Few would argue that the option to do this is a good thing. In the strictest sense, we've had the option to do it for quite some time – perhaps a decade or more – if we were willing to tolerate some fairly significant impositions on camera equipment. The first uncompressed recorders, built to go with things like Dalsa's Origin camera and the Thompson Viper, were initially fridge-sized racks full of hard disks which had to be wheeled around. Fairly quickly, companies like Codex made it more and more practical, moving down through briefcase-sized devices to the sort of pocket-sized recorders we enjoy today. It should not escape our notice that this has been made practical largely due to the explosion in flash storage capacity, which is driven by markets which have next to nothing to do with film-making, but that's the technological singularity for you.

Equally, we shouldn't become hardliners. In the sort of circumstances in which independent film-makers tend to work, data management is still somewhat hard work. A production might fill two 256GB SSDs per day shooting many of the uncompressed options that are currently available; that's three terabytes per six day week, all of which has to be transferred from the shooting media, duplicated, insurably backed up, probably transcoded and stored somewhere. I have every sympathy for people who reach for HDCAM as a known quantity. It works. It is convenient. But it is very heavily compressed, and there's no avoiding the fact that this affects the pictures.

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Phil Rhodes

Phil Rhodes is a Cinematographer, Technologist, Writer and above all Communicator. Never afraid to speak his mind, and always worth listening to, he's a frequent contributor to RedShark.

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