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The New Sony HVR-V1U

By Douglas Spotted Eagle

So, it's a new time for camcorders; the Sony HVR-V1U is truly revolutionary, being the first full 1080 24p camcorder on the market, using progressive sensors, and offering a full 1920 x 1080 resolution at the imager. The imager is a bit unique; it follows the Fuji diagonal pixel placement, but offers much more to the technology than merely putting pixels in a diagonal placement.

More to come on this technology later on, but for the moment, realize that a pixel can do more in a CMOS device, simply because the pixel has an address that may be specifically communicated with, whereas a CCD cannot provide this benefit.

CMOS by nature, tends to be a bit noisier than CCD does, yet Sony has addressed this very well, in my opinion. We shot this camcorder in the middle of the night, virtually no light, using the timelapse feature of the camcorder. While there is indeed noise, it's much more clean than I'd expected.

The quarter-inch sensors were an initial concern when I first was told of the size, however this has proven to be a false issue. Under identical light, this camcorder with its 1/4 chips equal or outperform virtually every other HDV camcorder I shot it with. Because of the unique DSP, diagonal pixels, interpolation, and ClearVid technology, CMOS has demonstrated that it absolutely can create great pictures, even in less than ideal lighting situations.

24 and 30p! True 24 and 30p in this camcorder, with no split resolution, no upsampled pixels or other electronic voodoo, it's a true progressive image with a 1920 x 1080 resolution at the imager. The physical imager is 960 x 1080, but by reading the pixels diagonally and combining pixel information (not upsampling/downsampling, but re-addressing pixels) the resolution on ingest is 1920 x 1080. The camera processes 1920 x 1080 in the 4:2:2 color sample scheme before processing for tape storage at 4:2:0, 1440 x 1080


I very much appreciate the button placement. Autofocus, temp focus, Iris wheel, and Expanded focus are all within a thumb's reach at all times. Expanded Focus may even be assigned to both right and left sides of the camcorder, depending on user prefs. You'll love the infinite focus and zoom rings as well. The lens is a 62mm size, so you'll need to get your hands on a new set of filters and wide angle adapters if you're using threaded filters; I prefer a mattebox, which will be available when the camcorder begins shipping. On the subject of the lens, wait'll you see the 30X zoom. The optics are only 20X, but using technology and the additional information, you can enable an Digital Expansion mode that adds another 10X to the image without degrading the quality that you'll normally see with electronically enhanced zoom.

What don't I like? I don't like the power button. It flips up instead of down for Camcorder-On functionality. If anything, you're likely to accidentally bump a switch downwards rather than upwards. I don't care for the lack of assignable buttons. I'm very comfortable with my HVRZ1U having Shot Transitions and six assignable buttons. With this camcorder, if I want shot transitions I only get three assignables, because the Shot Transitions are assigned to buttons 1-3 if you want them. If you choose not to use Shot Transitions, you still have six assignable buttons.

There are loads of assignable features that may be put on buttons ranging from exposure and white balance adjustments to backlight and spotlight compensation. I wish the Super Slo Record mode was available as a button assignment, but that's one feature you'll definitely want to check out if high resolution, super smooth slo-mo is important to you. Picture Profiles also have some serious tweaks available; if you want to match a specific film look, it's not very hard, as the camcorder uses a 3D color Look Up Table (LUT).

Audio is not forgotten in this package either; but there is no built-in microphone. I am delighted to see this, but depending on your workflow, you may or may not appreciate this feature. The US version of the camcorder ships with a reasonably good quality short shotgun which is better than any built in mic I've ever come across. Dual XLR inputs with Phantom power, line/mic switching, discreet or combined channel switching, and auto/manual gain are also available. The camcorder additionally offers Automatic Gain Control as well.

The V1U is slightly larger than the Sony HVR A1U, and slightly smaller than the HVR-Z1U, so it fits perfectly in the middle of the size scheme.

Aside from my short overview, you can download footage below.

These clips are 24p, processed as 60i, and output as 24p. In the process, some information was lost; no NLE currently supports 3:2 pulldown in HD resolution for HDV, so there was no option but to recompress these files and process as they are managed in order to watermark them.

If you would like to download a video clip from the Sundance Media Group site and view it on your system, click here . (warning - this is a large file, approx. 20 MB!)

View framegrabs from the V1U at full resolution

These images are captured directly from the Sony Vegas timeline, project set to HDV 1080 60i template, with interlacing disabled in the project. The images are shot at 24p with the HVR V1U camcorder, which inserts pulldown flags in the stream so that the 24p is wrapped in a 60i stream much like the Panasonic DVX 100 camcorder. Currently, no NLE properly reads and removes the pulldown flags for 24p in HDV. As a result, a couple of these frame grabs display ghosting. This is a result of the NLE, not the camcorder.

The following images can be seen fullsize at 1920 x 1080 resolution by clicking on the images. The JPEG images displayed were made from PNG files and saved at the highest quality JPEG setting in Adobe Photoshop 7.0.  If you would like to see the original PNG images click here .

Above, you see the zoom fully extended to it's optical focal length equivalent of approximately 750mm

Here is the zoom extended using the Digital Extender (30x) for a focal length of approximately 1100mm. The cam is set to "Stabilize/Soft." The ghost on the foot is a result of the manner in which the NLE handles the 24p footage, as there is no pulldown removal available for HDV at this time.

Here is an interlaced capture from the cam set to auto/60i.

This is the cam in auto mode, just an average screengrab.


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DOUGLAS SPOTTED EAGLE, Managing Producer Douglas Spotted Eagle is an audio and video pro. He is a Grammy recipient with DuPont, Peabody, and Telly awards lining his studio; he is also a participant/producer in multiple Emmy Award winning productions.

Douglas is the Managing Producer for Sundance Media Group, Inc. and VASST, authoring several books and DVDs and serving as a trainer and consultant for videographers, software manufacturers and broadcasters. He is the author or co-author of several digital media titles including Digital Video Basics (VASST), The FullHD (VASST), and Vegas Editing Workshop (Focal Press) among many others.

Douglas is an accomplished aerial photographer who thrives in the adrenaline-filled world of fast-action videography. He remains active as a multimedia producer, trainer, and presenter, utilizing the latest technology as part of his workflow.

Related Keywords:Sony HVR-V1U, HDV, 24p, 1080, professional camcorder, hdv camcorder

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