Thursday, 3 June 2010

Tip #34: Have a tapeless HD workflow

By Dan Parkes (Director)

In addition to the 35mm lens revolution that is sweeping indie productions, more films are now being shot to 'solid-state', doing away with tape. There are many advantages –the instant playback and also the speed at which material can be edited afterwards are two major points.

However there are also some disadvantages that must be considered: there is the possibility of corrupt files and errors, plus archival storage of the resulting files can be an issue due to the size of the files, even if they are compressed. Our answer was to shoot both to harddrive AND tape! The harddrive files are what were used primarily for editing, the tapes we used for archival. This meant that we had instant playback on set when we needed it, but then we also had to remember to keep changing tapes! But overall we found this to be the ideal workflow.

The only issue is that many new cameras are now only solid-state, being without a tape drive. We made the conscious decision to purchase a camera (JVC GYHD201) that could do both and seriously recommend this option if available.

The next issue is how to process the files. We decided to use Cineform as an HD intermediate codec which created lossless, uncompressed files that were easy to edit. More about this in a future blog…!

But it was important for us to shoot in HD. We shot in 1280 x 720 HD, which is known as HD1, as it is a slightly lower resolution version of HD. However it was more than enough for what we needed. It was also shot at 25p. Cinema frame rates are 24, so we were only one frame different. The ‘p’ refers to progressive –which means ‘full frames’ rather than the now being phased out interlaced frames which has alternating fields for faster action being played on a TV (e.g. 50i). So if you are looking for the filmic look make sure you are shooting progressive rather than interlaced.


  1. thanks for the info. what hard drive setup did you use?

  2. Hello Cynthia. We used a Focus DR-HD100 Portable DTE Recorder which has 100GB of harddrive space, saving to M2T files at 720/25p, which as mentioned we then converted to Cineform files. Hope that helps!


  3. Hi,great info here!
    When you say cineform as a lossless codec,what exactly does that mean?
    if I live capture via firewire or later by tape to a laptop with FCP 7 ,does there codec degrade the image more than cineform?
    Sorry if that sound confusing,I just want to know if I need cineform because I already have FCP

  4. Hi Danny

    Thanks for the comment. HDV, due to compression, can loose quality over 'generations' (especially colour) so Cineform, by uncompressing it to a lossless file, ensures it retains colour information etc even over generations (ie copies)..well that is what I have been told! However, Cineform is not the only answer. We have also recently been using Matrox hardware solutions and found that to be just as good for editing HDV.