Codecs and Confusion

It seems like every month manufacturers roll out new video cameras along with more new “proprietary” codecs.  With over 18 standard formats and hundreds of variations it has made “workflow” for digital video very complicated. We’ve got everything from DV, HDV, DVCPRO HD, XDCAM EX , Cinealta to The RED.  It makes multi camera shoots – a potential nightmare with different cameras shooting different codecs. And on top of that each camera offers a variety of frame sizes and rates to shoot in.  Ultimately, there are no guaranteed workflows anymore.

Here’s an interesting round table discussion of various experts in the field  – Ken Stone, Michael Horton, Philip Hodgetts and Andrew Balis – discussing codecs and standards.

So how can we take some of the confusion out of all this and determine the proper camera and workflow for ourselves?  To answer this question it’s best to determine “where you want to go” and “then you’ll know where to start”.  What do you need to deliver?  Is it a video for the web,broadcast or the big screen?

Many times choice of camera and workflow is driven by budget.  A lower end camera producing a codec with less resolution will be “good enough” for a web video. Will the “good enough” attitude being driven by budgets lower our expectations for quality?  Some feel that it’s changing our aesthetic judgment. I don’t think the high end will go away.  In fact advances in technology has enabled more people to make a living doing what they love because there are more choices within their budget.

One thing’s for sure – technology is a double-edged sword and it will continue to change our lives.  I just wish that soon there would be a coordinated effort amongst the camera manufacturers to standardize for the sake of workflow.

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