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Video quality, a differentiator

altThe independent production company True Vision TV, uses the sideKick HD digital video recorder to maintain the high quality standards demanded by television networks and viewers.

By Jezza Neumann

In our business, a perfect image is a fundamental differentiating factor, not only to meet the requirements of television networks, but also to refine our ability to tell a powerful and engaging story.

A perfect example of this is True Vision TV's recent project, Poor Kids, a documentary exploring the impact extreme poverty has on UK children, narrated by four poignant young people, as well as its American counterpart, Poor Kids USA.

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As director and director of Poor Kids and Poor Kids USA I had to face some specific challenges in terms of quality. Both films were commissioned by the BBC, which only accepts high-definition material shot at data rates of 50 mb/s or more.

Because we would go to the children's homes and we would be in other situations with low light, we wanted a small camera with a 1.5-inch sensor. We decided that the Sony EX1 camera would be our best choice. However, the maximum recording speed of the EX1 is only 35 mb/s. We would have to make up the difference with an external recording system of some kind, ideally one that could record in ProResnative format, since true Vision's post-production process is done with Final Cut Pro.

After analyzing the options available in the market, we decided on the sideKick HD, a digital video recorder from Fast Forward Video, which can be mounted to the camera. The sideKick HD is relatively new to the industry, but its release perfectly matched our shooting plan for the two documentaries and perfectly suited our requirements.

The sideKick HD not only captures high-definition video at speeds of up to 220 mb/s, far exceeding the BBC's minimum standards, but also captures directly in the ProRes codec. In fact, this "ready to edit" functionality, for file distribution, is one of the most important features of the drive, and something that really differentiates it from the rest of the options.

By recording video in native ProRes, we can completely bypass the delayed log and capture process that Final Cut Pro would require to read Sony's native camera files. Instead, we simply extract the 2.5-inch SATA hard drive from the sideKick and insert it into the computer, where we simply copy and paste the original video files, along with their metadata, directly into the editing system.

This is a real advantage when working on location, because it means that we can quickly incorporate new video material into DI systems and perform basic editing where the shots are made, without having to invest too much time in a computer, at the end of a long day of filming.

The sideKick HD is extremely lightweight, a feature we especially value after charging a fully equipped camera for an entire day of shooting. The unit can be connected to the camera's battery, which further lightens its weight. Considering that the camera is already heavy̶ due to glass filters, wireless microphones and other equipment, the addition of a digital video recorder that can be mounted to the camera can really be a factor to consider; in fact, it can make the difference between holding the camera for five minutes and doing it for two hours.

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One aspect that really involves a change in the equipment management finances of a small production company or an independent video producer is the ability of the sideKick to record high-quality video at such a high data rate. For example, the old Sony Z5 and Z7 cameras are good high-resolution cameras, but they only have the ability to shoot in HDV.

With the sideKick HD, we can give a renewed breath to these cameras by recording their outputs directly in HDMI 2 (the unit has inputs and the outputs HDMI and HD-SDI). While the acquisition of a new high-definition camera represents a significant investment (if we add up the cost of the camera, batteries and other accessories), a much smaller investment in an HD sideKick and a hard drive will give you peace of mind that your cameras won't expire in the future.

As the recording speed far exceeds the BBC's most rigorous requirements, we can be confident that the system will meet our needs adequately in the long term, even if the BBC raises its standards later.

At True Vision TV, our motto is "movies that make a difference." This has been our guiding principle since the company was founded in 1995. We strive to make television that engages viewers on really important topics, and we produce documentaries of characters that entertain, but also inform and educate.

Thanks to this philosophy we have acquired a reputation as filmmakers of films about human rights and films that show problems through the eyes and stories of children. By ensuring that we can maintain the quality standards that our television networks and our viewers expect, sideKick HD is a key element in our ongoing pursuit of excellence in film production.

* Jezza Neumann is a video producer and filmmaker who has won several British Academy awards with True Vision TV, a London-based television production company.

Richard Santa, RAVT
Author: Richard Santa, RAVT
Periodista de la Universidad de Antioquia (2010), con experiencia en temas sobre tecnología y economía. Editor de las revistas TVyVideo+Radio y AVI Latinoamérica. Coordinador académico de TecnoTelevisión&Radio.

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