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DigiBeta vs. BetaSP


Austin Schmidt
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A director/producer and I just recently finished a commerical spot together. We transfered to Digibeta and BetaSP. Our original intentions were to edit on BetaSP and then conform back to DigiBeta. As the budget has run tight, the director/producer has expressed concerns as to whether the quality is that much different and worth conforming in comparison to the additional cost. This commercial will be viewed on small screens (where I don't think there will be much difference between the formats) however I do believe there will be a good chance that the piece will be viewed on bigger screens as it's final intention is to be projected in theatres after completing a DI. With that in mind, do many of you have an opinion as to the image quality when viewed on a bigger screen in BetaSP vs. Digibeta? and is conforming worth the extra money on a 50 sec commercial? Technically Digi is better but have any of you seen side by side comparisons?

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For the big screen - absolutely. DigiBeta blows up fairly well.

 

BetaSP is also an old analog format. It still has the "air" of professionalism and master

quality around it, but the simple thruth is that it looks no better or worse than mastering to MiniDV. BetaSP player prices have plummeted in the last years because people have realised this. All except transfer houses, of course. The still happily charge $150-200 and hour for tape time when you transfer on a ratty, rickety old SP.

 

I can't help agree with fellow poster Rob Belics - let's hope all tape based systems die real f***ing soon.

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Guest Frank Gossimier

There is no comparing SP and D-Beta. All SP tapes can go into the fire where they belong.

 

I can't believe how many times I got "hits" on SP tapes, while I've never seen one on a D-Beta.

 

SP had its day, but D-Beta is so superior.

 

I do a lot of D-Beta to MiniDV and DVCam dubs. D-Beta to Mini DV or DVCam looks far better than D-Beta to SP. To me any way.

 

SP is just too unstable, stay away from it.

 

Frank.

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If your commercial is going to sit in an ad break next to other commercials, yours will look ill-defined and just a bit horrible next to other commercials that have been post produced digitally.

 

I am surprised there is a big price issue for a 50" conform. Unless you have zillions of tapes, I wouldn't have thought a conform should take more than 15 minutes - 30 minutes if you have a few tapes. However, you may have already added titles and effects in your beta SP session and that of course would have to be redone.

 

There is a big clarity difference though, even on the small screen.

 

David Cox

Managing Director

Baraka Post Production Ltd

www.baraka.co.uk

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If you can't afford to own what the big boys use, don't diss the format.

 

BetaCam SP recording decks HAVE NOT plummeted in value. 8 year old BetaCam SP decks still can be sold for HALF of what one paid for them new, making their MONTHLY cost of ownership at $50.00 dollars!

 

BetaCam SP is the most cost-effective format ever created because it not only is a more durable tape than mini-dv, it uses less compression AND one can actually edit EITHER into a computer or edit tape to tape, or make straight dubs to Digital BetaCam by putting BetaCam SP masters in a DigiBeta Deck and then making direct digital component copies to another Digtal BetaCam deck.

 

If you have experienced "problems" related to BetaCam SP I assure you they are either operator error or simply not enough knowledge on how to use the format or the machines.

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A director/producer and I just recently finished a commerical spot together.  We transfered to Digibeta and BetaSP.  Our original intentions were to edit on BetaSP and then conform back to DigiBeta.

 

Were you talking about doing a tape to tape edit?

 

There is a very simple rule to follow. If you edit BetaCamSP to BetaCam Sp and the Edit master looks acceptable to you, then you CAN bump that to DigiBeta.

 

However, I recommend you use a DigiBeta playback deck and a DigiBeta Record deck to do the transfer. While I have heard that it doesn't matter whether the playback machine is either a Digibeta deck with a BetaCam SP card installed or a straight Betacam Sp Deck, my opinion is that the internal transcoding on the Digital BetaCam playback deck which then turns it into Serial Digital is probably slightly better than using a BetaCam SP source machine.

 

I'm a big fan of BetaCam SP edit mastering and then making a Digital BetaCam master from that.

It's an excellent low cost alternative to editing in a straight Digital BetaCam Suite and for simple projects is superior to dealing with low cost NLE systems.

 

However, most Broadcast projects nowadays REQUIRE layering, compositing, and cool looking graphics so I don't understand what kind of project you are doing that you can do tape to tape, unless you are going for the home video market?

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I find it strange that all of the compression artifacts of digital tape are so invisible to so many people. Especially in low-light situations, I find the look of these formats almost unbearable, even on an SD TV set. If I were to shoot tape for the project I am working on I would go with analog beta. I will probably use it for mastering purposes on my film project once I am done. There is no compression artifacting because it is analog. I can understand making copies onto digibeta because of better editing and graphics insertion and minimizing generation loss, but straight beta handles very well. And how can you possibly compare it to Mini-DV??? Mini-DV is a consumer format, with far fewer lines of resolution than beta. Beta is professional, versatile format with a long successful history. If you degauss the heads and make sure that your equipment is cleaned off before you use it, you should be absolutely fine with beta. Also, what's with the word "superior" and everything digital? Anything from a 1.2 MP digital camera to a F900 get branded with "superior" just by virtue of them being digital? It's almost like a form of peer pressure. I will be forever skeptical of this word because of the way the digital crowd misuses it.

 

Regards.

~Karl Borowski

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Actually I think DV25 can have more luminence resolution than BetacamSP.

 

BetaSP is not as bad a format as suggested here - plenty of machines still in use, in broadcast; but especially if the goal here is to go to some sort of DI, then Digibeta is really the better choice.

 

-Sam

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I remember once I spent weeks editing some of my super16 footage digitized for an offline from BetaSP. After becoming very familiar with the look of the film, I then had to make a DVCAM dub (DVCAM being superior in specs to MiniDV) and was incredibly disappointed with what the DVCAM did to the footage. The compression did some horrible things to the film.

 

Mini-DV is a HIGHLY compressed format. Also, be aware that Digital Betacam is a 2:1 format, while SP is analog, therefore not compressed. 9 times out of 10, however, the much greater resolution of Digital Betacam makes it preferred to Analog.

 

I have found Beta SP to be very stable, extremely reliable, with very little loss from a component dub. Telecined film footage looks GREAT on SP.

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I remember once I spent weeks editing some of my super16 footage digitized for an offline from BetaSP.  After becoming very familiar with the look of the film, I then had to make a DVCAM dub (DVCAM being superior in specs to MiniDV) and was incredibly disappointed with what the DVCAM did to the footage.  The compression did some horrible things to the film.

 

Mini-DV is a HIGHLY compressed format.  Also, be aware that Digital Betacam is a 2:1 format, while SP is analog, therefore not compressed.  9 times out of 10, however, the much greater resolution of Digital Betacam makes it preferred to Analog.

 

I have found Beta SP to be very stable, extremely reliable, with very little loss from a component dub.  Telecined film footage looks GREAT on SP.

Beta SP is a great format. I have been shooting with it for 11 years and have never had a problem with it. Yes, Digital Betacam is a better format, but first generation Beta SP can look really great. The challenge is keeping the first generation quality.

 

Mini DV can have all kinds of drop outs and audio problems that you never see on Beta SP. The quality of Beta SP depends on the deck you play it back with and how you input it into your editing system. If you play back a Beta SP tape with a Digital Betacam deck and input it into a discreet smoke system via SDI umcompressed at 10 bits it will look fantastic. It you play it back from a UVW deck and put it into some compressed editing system via composite input at 8 bit, it will look like crap.

 

You cannot have any weak links in your shooting or editing systems. :)

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Hi,

 

> Mini-DV is a consumer format, with far fewer lines of resolution than beta.

 

DVCAM and DVCPRO aren't consumer formats, and they have identical imaging performance. As if something being a consumer format intrinsically makes it bad...

 

It's difficult to precisely asses the lines-resolution figures for something like DVSD because it depends on the picture content in other parts of the frame. In the main I find it to be comparable to SP, especially if you consider the horizontal jitter inherent to SP.

 

Yes, if you want to be able to see DV compression, turn down the contrast on the display and look in the shadows.

 

Phil

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I use PVW player only BetaCam SP decks and UVW-1800 for edit mastering.

 

The PVW decks are actually very good quality and they offer Y/C outputs which the BVW's do not offer. So unless you are doing component out of the BVW, the Y/C output on a PVW is probably equal to or better than composite output on a BVW.

 

One of the MOST OVERLOOKED aspects of analog video is setting the tracking! The PVW-2600 has a tracking setting and if you don't set it perfectly you are compromising the quality of the picture by a great deal, generation loss PALES in comparison to not optimizing the tracking setting!

 

When I had my UVW's serviced I also brought in my PVW-2600 and had the technician do a test record on the UVW. That tape was then put into the PVW-2600 to see if the tape's natural optimal tracking point was 12:00.

 

It was not! (it was closer to 11:00) and the technician had to make a tracking adjustment on the UVW.

 

A couple of years ago Sony changed the spec on PVW head replacments and if technician's are not careful the PVW RF output will be lower than spec. When the head was replaced on my PVW I noted to the technician that the RF needle had dropped when I played back a BetaCam SP tape. The technician then found a sony repair bulletin that showed the voltage setting had to be raised to keep the RF at the proper level because the UVW's and PVW's were using a similar playback head. The technician told me I was the first person to mention this and that he had done half a dozen head replacements on units like mine since the service bulletin had come out and I was the first one to say anything about the dropped RF.

 

I'm on top of this BetaCam stuff and my reward is I have a very reliable output quality from BetaCam SP.

 

I have noticed that the component analog output on my Sony DSR-40 DV-CAM SHIFTS video levels simply by rewinding and playing back the tape. I don't know how common an occurence this is on other DSR-40 recorders but pay attention when using these decks in non-firewire mode.

 

DV-Cam is not better quality than mini-dv, However the DV-CAM signal moves the tape faster which allows the digital information to be spread out over more tape which should result in a more reliable picture.

 

DVC-Pro 50 is supposed to be better quality than DV-CAM, DV-CAM and DVC-Pro 25 I think are supposed to be of equal quality.

 

I personally like Digital-8 versus mini-dv, (although the quality is identical) I don't think I ever gotten any drop-outs, probably because the tape is larger.

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Hi,

 

I think that says it all - BetaSP can look great if you really keep on top of alignment, setup and maintenance. DV formats tend to either work or not. Walking up to a randomly-selected deck, I'd prefer it to be digital - at least you know what you're getting.

 

Maybe I'm just prejudiced against most of the Beta SP decks in London because it's considered very much a second-line format and probably doens't get the attention it deserves.

 

> the component analog output on my Sony DSR-40 DV-CAM SHIFTS video levels simply by rewinding

> and playing back the tape

 

Eh? That's very odd, and as far as I was aware more or less impossible given how the format works - it's all the same DACs, right? I suggest you should have this looked at. I've only really used DSR-45 via 1394, so I could have overlooked it, but it definitely sounds like a fauly. In a Beta world you're probably using the 40 as a 1394 to component convertor, yes?

 

Phil

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Hi Phil,

 

I have some BetaCam SP projects that are over 93 minutes in length and as a result, reside on two tapes instead of one. So it seemed wise to make a DV-CAM duplication master from the (2) BetaCam SP masters so that I can run copies without having to deal with a tape change in the middle of the copying.

 

To my horror, when I reviewed the DV-CAM "slam" edit, I saw a distinct color shift. What was really bad was the slam edit is followed by 50 minutes of show material so I have to wait until the second BetaCam SP tape is completely laid down onto the DV-CAM tape before going back and viewing the actual slam edit on the DV-CAM.

 

I spent SIX HOURS AND FIVE trys getting the DV-CAM record deck to not shift. I was told by someone who does engineering that digital tape tension problems can cause some digital decks to color and hue shift how they reproduce an analog signal.

 

I strongly recommend whenever you are viewing a DV-Cam tape in the analog world that you check the signal out on a waveform and vectorscope.

 

-----------------------

 

Even though I go through extra effort on my BetaCam SP decks during the maintenance and repair cycle, once they are right, they stay right for two years at least so the effort is worth it to me for the extended reliability I then get.

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