STAYING AHEAD OF THE BBCS QUALITY CURVE


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At True Vision TV, our tagline is “Films that make a difference” – and it’s been our guiding ethos since the company was founded in 1995. We strive to make television that engages viewers with issues that matter, and we produce character-led documentaries that entertain, but also inform and educate. As such, we’ve built a particular reputation for human rights-related filmmaking, and for making films that look at issues through the eyes and stories of children. The two most recent examples are Poor Kids, a view of the impact of extreme poverty on children in the U.K. as told by four engaging youngsters, and the film’s counterpart in the U.S., Poor Kids USA.
As director and filmmaker for Poor Kids and Poor Kids USA, I faced some specific technical challenges. Both films were commissioned by the BBC, which only accepts high-definition footage shot in data rates of 50 mb/s or higher. Since we would be going into the children’s houses and other low-light situations, we wanted a small camera, with a -inch sensor, so we decided the Sony™ EX1 camcorder would be our best choice – but the EX1’s maximum internal record speed is only 35 mb/s. We would have to bridge the gap with an external recording system of some type, and ideally one that could record in native ProRes format since True Vision’s post production is a Final Cut Pro® based. After surveying the choices on the market, we settled on the sideKick HD, a camera-mountable digital video recorder (DVR) from Fast Forward Video. The sideKick HD is relatively new to the industry, but its release coincided perfectly with our shooting schedule for the two documentaries – and it met our requirements to a “t.”
Not only does the sideKick HD capture full HD video at speeds up to 220 mb/s, far surpassing the BBC’s minimum standards, but it does so directly into the ProRes codec. In fact, this “straight-to-edit” capability for file distribution is one of the most important features of the sideKick HD, and something that truly sets it apart from the rest of the field. By recording video in native ProRes, we’re able to completely skip the time-consuming “log and capture” process that Final Cut Pro® would require in order to read Sony’s native camera files. Instead, we merely remove the 2.5-inch SATA drive from the sideKick and pop it into the computer, where we can simply copy and paste the original video files, along with their metadata, directly into the editing system. This is a real advantage in the field, because it means we can quickly bring new footage into DI systems and do basic editing on the spot, without having to spend excessive time at a computer at the end of a long day’s shoot.
Plus, although the sideKick HD is slightly larger than some other camera-mounted solutions, it is extremely lightweight – a feature we especially appreciate after carrying a fully-loaded camcorder around for a full day of shooting. The sideKick HD can be powered off the camera’s battery, which lightens the load even further. When you consider that the camera is already weighted down from glass filters, radio mikes, and other gear, the addition of a camera-mounted DVR can really be a factor; in fact, it can spell the difference between holding the camera steady for five minutes vs. two hours.
Because the sideKick HD is able to record high-quality HD video at such a high data rate, it truly changes the economics of equipment management for a smaller production company or independent videographer. For instance, the older Sony Z5 and Z7 are fine HD cameras, but they are only capable of shooting in HDV. With the sideKick HD, we can breathe new life into those cameras by recording their output directly in HDMI 2 (an easy task since the sidekick HD provides both HDMI and HD-SDI inputs and outputs). Whereas the purchase of a new high-definition camera represents a significant investment when you add in camera, batteries, and other accessories, a much smaller outlay for a sideKick HD and a hard drive means you can future-proof your existing camera inventory. And, because the sideKick HD’s record speed far surpasses the BBC’s most stringent requirements, we’re assured that the system will be able to meet our needs well into the future -- even if the BBC raises its standards down the road.
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Jezza Neumann is a multi British Academy Award-winning producer and videographer with True Vision TV, a television production company with headquarters in London.

Tags: iss064 | fast forward video | ffv | sidekick | true vision tv | bbc | final cut pro | fcp | prores | N/A
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