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I'm going to be shooting a documentary soon and want to shoot it on tape-- I've always loved the look and, especially now where everything looks so homogenously Alexa'd, think it's a great way to give the film a distinctive feel. I'm wondering though: should I go with the DVX or the SDX? I like the portability of the DVX (I bought one a few months ago and it's a blast to shoot with) but I suppose my main question is whether the lower compression rate on the SDX would eliminate jaggies/aliasing (the only thing I dislike about DVX footage). Or is that just a problem with SD footage in general?

Thinking I would have to upscale the footage to HD, as well, for either right?



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SD looks pretty grungy these days. 

The DVX is only 4:3 - so you have to shoot in that format or crop to 16:9 which will make it more jaggies. Mini DV isn't a great tape format, its difficult to grade.

The SDX would be a lot better, 16:9 vs 4:3, a proper 4:2:2 50mbs record format vs 4:1:1 25mbs - card vs tape. But its still SD, the jaggies come from the limits of 720 x 480 images not the compression. The main difference between the 25mbs to 50mbs DVCpro format was better colour sampling, 25mbs DV is only slighty softer then DV 50mbs due to compression

If you want the gritty CCD panasonic looK - I would look at a DVCPro HD camera (still very cheap). Most of the early ones were 720p (an upconverted to 1080p internally) so you get a bit of that rougher texture but its sharper and more workable then SD.

So maybe look at:

HVX200 (its small) - basically the HD version of the DVX100 and shares a similar look. This would probably be a good doco option, its small, HD - but has the Panasonic DV type look.

AJ-HDC27 (the first Varicam) - classic tape based 720p Hd camera

HPX500 - cheaper 720p P2 card based 2/3" Camera

Theres no quality different between tape and p2 cards. These days p2 is probably easier to work with then trying to keep a dvcpro tape deck working.

Modern cameras of course will blow these guys away,  but there is something about look of Panasonic CCD cameras if you crank the gain and embrace the look. 

Digi-Beta can give you that look as well. The DVW-970 progressive scan Digi-beta was impressive in its day and can now be found on ebay for pennies on the pound

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Thanks so much for the detailed reply Phil.


Don't know why I skipped the HVX200-- seemed to read somewhere it was less reliable than the DVX but now doing research it seems it's actually just as excellent. Will definitely take a look.


My main goal is to try and get a 16mm look, which I've been able to somewhat approximate with the DVX (with the exception of those dreaded jaggies and, of course, the limited latitude)-- I'm worried that the HVX would be too sharp? Or is it just a matter of, as you say, cranking the grain? And would it be best to up the gain in camera or to use something in post for the grain, like FilmConvert?

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Its a long time since I've shot with the HVX200 - but I remember it got pretty soft and grainy once your at +6db of gain.

The main issue with earlier DV/HD cameras approximating the look of 16mm is the limited latitude - they would clip to white quickly and that gives away the digital source. A more modern digital camera would have a more graceful clip and look less digital in the highlights.

The digital camera that mostly closely emulates 16mm that I've used is the hard to find Ikonoskop DCam - similar to the digi-bolex. The texture and resolution is very similar. A frame from a short I directed on the format:



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Wow, that looks stellar.

Yeah, I've been coveting the Digital Bolex pretty much since it was released— that camera produces some gorgeous images (and no rolling shutter!) Unfortunately, it seems like both the DB and the Ikonoskop are going for around 5k-7k these days, which is considerably out of my budget. One day!

Did you ever shoot on the F900R? Its going for around $1000, and I really dig the 2/3 look– it seems to get pretty good latitude as well ( better than the HVX, at least) I remember Jonathan Demme shot on it for Rachel Getting Married and I really enjoyed that gritty, verite look.

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The Iknoskop is the same kodak CCD as the D bolex - its a great look. The cameras a bit clunky though, you can only shoot uncompressed raw and backup was over USB, so it would take 2 hours to back up a 15min card. I think the options to use larger SSD's on the DBolex bypasses the problem.  Terrible in low light as well, your limited to 200ISO basically 

Both pretty rare but I was super impressed with the Iknoskop's look. Its not like anything else and pretty much everyone assumed we'd shot on film. There is something really nice about global shutters. 

I've shot on the HWP-750p which is almost the same just limited to 25p not 24p (which isn't an issue in Europe). Its a nice camera, latitude and colour was decent. If you want that global shutter look with a similar DOF to 16mm a 2/3" CCD camera from 10-12 years ago is good option and of course quite affordable. Ton's of lenses available if you don't mind zooms and the prices the Zeiss Digi-primes go for is a steal compared to their original list prices. 

Also worth looking out for F23's and Thompson Vipers.  Finchers Zodiac was (I think) the pinnacle of what can be achieved on a 2/3" camera. Collateral (f900 mostly) had a good look as well.

I'd like a DBolex as well - but its less practical for day to day shooting, especially as its not great in low light. But for the right project its a really unique look. I do think one of the issues with digital cameras is everything looks very similar - Alexa, Red, Venice, F65 etc... are all fairly similar in looks and all look very clean. Its harder to find the Digital equivalent of Super 16 or super 8 when you want a more textured look. 

Couple more Ikonoskop quick screen shots:



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