The Sony ZV-1 camera/camcorder/streamcorder is quite intriguing and has been covered in many reviews by many tech journalists. However, so far, I have seen zero coverage of the ZV-1’s framerate shyness and outgoing modes via HDMI and USB as of firmware version 2.00. Since I currently don’t have any contacts at this Sony division, I actually rented the ZV-1 for a week in order to research these details. Camera framerate shyness is a critical detail to understand —and often to resolve— in order to have and retain the desired native framerate when using the ZV-1 as a camera or streamcorder (not as a camcorder), in order to avoid one of the two major downsides of camera shyness: undesired de-interlacing (which is damaging to picture quality and often adds latency) or a tremendous waste of bandwidth, which ends up compressing each frame excessively and without justification. Ahead you’ll see a refresher of the three types of camera shyness, and then cover each one with the Sony ZV-1. Then I’ll offer workarounds for users and requests for Sony for future firmware updates and share my two favorite ZV-1 reviews so far from colleagues.
In this article
- Refresher regarding desired framerates
- Refresher about the three types of “shy” camera situations over HDMI
- The reality of streaming in 2021: Why not stream 4K live…
- Shy/outgoing modes in the Sony ZV-1, via HDMI 1080p
- Shy/outgoing modes in the Sony ZV-1, via USB
- Recommended ZV-1 workarounds as of firmware 2.00
- Six requests for Sony for future firmware updates in the ZV-1
- My favorite ZV-1 reviews so far
Refresher regarding desired framerates
As I have covered before, the only justification for higher framerates in final delivery is if you are if you are covering fast action like sports or gaming. There is when it is justifiable to use high framerates like 50p or ≈59.94p in final delivery. If you are only covering talking head heads, it is a tremendous waste of bandwidth to use such high framerates. Given a limited bandwidth budget, each frame will need to compressed more to achieve the extra frames per second. That’s why, if you are covering only talking heads for web streaming, you are better off with a lower framerate like:
- ≈29.97p (available with the ZV-1, but sadly rounded to “30” in the menus and subject to shyness in many cases)
- 25p (available with the ZV-1 even in the United States, but subject to shyness in some cases)
- 24p exact (not available with the ZV-1 as of firmware 2.0)
- ≈23.976p (available with the ZV-1 but sadly rounded to “24” and subject to intermittent shyness in some cases)
Of course, even higher framerates are available with the ZV-1 for super slow motion, but that goes beyond the scope of this particular article. This article is focused on live or live-to-drive production at lower framerates between ≈23.976p and ≈29.97p (including 25p).
Refresher about the three types of “shy” camera situations over HDMI
There are three types of 1080p shyness in cameras over HDMI, in order of importance: PsF, Telecine and Doubling. (Later in this article, I’ll introduce the newer concept of camera framerate shyness over USB.)
Type 1: PsF (progressive segmented frame)
I am separating PsF (progressive segmented frame) into three subcategories:
- When the shy camera is set to image (and sometimes also to record internally) with a common progressive framerate (in ex NTSC regions) like ≈29.97p, it sadly outputs the signal as PsF (progressive segmented frame), in other words, disguised as ≈59.94i. To be more specific, it takes each progressive frame and segments it into two artificial fields, each with half of the original pixel resolution and each with 540 intertwining lines to add up to the original 1080. Unlike true 1080i —where each field can potentially have different temporal (time) information when there is movement, with PsF the temporal information of each artificial field is always identical.
- Similarly, when the shy camera is set to image (and record internally) with a common progressive framerate (in ex PAL regions) like 25p, it sadly outputs it the signal as PsF (progressive segmented frame), in other words, disguised as 50i.
- The third PsF case is very rare nowadays and never happens with HDMI, but only with some SDI and with very expensive cameras, where with the ≈23.976p (aka ≈23.98p) rate the camera sadly outputs the signal as PsF (progressive segmented frame), in other words, disguised as 47.952. (In the case of HDMI, shy 1080p cameras in ≈23.976p use a telecine method with a 2:3 (aka 3:2) pulldown explained ahead.) This rare case is outside the scope of this article.
Type 2: Telecine with pulldown
To make the ≈23.976 fit in a more standard ≈59.94i television rate, telecine performs a complex assignment to make pieces of the original frames “fit” into ≈59.94 fields, some of which contain the same temporal information and others don’t.
This is illustrated in the above graphic, which I created in 2008 to illustrate my very first article in ProVideo Coalition magazine. The instructions for the pulldown (i.e. “Put the first progressive frame in both fields of the first interlaced video frame. Now, put the second progressive frame in both fields of the second video frame in the first field of the third video frame, then…”) seem as twisted as the Twister game which dates back to 1966.
Type 3: Doubling of progressive frames per second
When set to image and record ≈29.97p, some shy 1080p cameras double the number of frames per second to ≈59.94 progressive frames per second on the HDMI or SDI output. Similarly, when set to image and record 25p, they duplicate the output framerate to 50p (50 progressive frames per second) over HDMI or SDI. As long as your hardware can accept high progressive framerates like 1080/50p and 1080/≈59.94p (i.e. more recent models like the UltraStudio Recorder 3G, ATEM Mini, ATEM Mini Pro, ATEM Mini Pro ISO), this is the easiest type of shyness to solve, and doesn’t require the video mixer (“switcher”) developers/manufacturers to do anything special, as several already have at my request to properly resolve PsF and telecine while retaining all of the original image quality. To solve type 3 shyness, the user/operator should simply set the camera menu and the session in the video mixer for the desired delivery framerate (1080/25p or 1080/≈29.97p) and the mixer or software will simply skip half of the repeated progressive frames per second. This solution is not perfect (and does not help with type 1 or type 2 shyness), but has been the best way to solve type 3 shyness when your camera suffers from it over HDMI, until the other solution proposed ahead in this article, which can also solve all types: 1, 2 and 3 via HDMI.
The reality of streaming in 2021: Why not stream 4K live…
Even though many available cameras offer 4K UHD, in most cases in 2021, it’s not feasible to live stream 4K UHD yet (even if you really wanted to do that). This is both because of bandwidth issues (your Internet upload speed) and platform capabilities. I’ll cover some popular services in alphabetical order:
- Facebook Live now supports 1080p (after only supporting 720p before) according to this official page. In fact, Facebook now prefers we send 1080p, not 720p.
- Google Hangouts is currently limited to 720p according to my research.
- Google Meet is currently limited to 720p according to my research.
- Google’s YouTube Live supports up to 4K UHD according to this official page if your equipment and your upload speed allow it. It also accepts 1080p and lower.
- Skype supports 1080p, at least Skype for Business does.
- Vimeo Pro live and Vimeo Enterprise live support up to 1080p.
- Zoom.us supports 1080p with Business, Education or Enterprise accounts but must be enabled by Zoom Support. Zoom.us also supports 720p for Pro, Business or Enterprise account without requesting it from Zoom Support. This is per this official site.
Often in 2021, we simply want to stream at 1080p or 720p, without any local recording or ISO recording. Other times, we want to record 4K UHD locally but live stream at 1080p or 720p. In either cases, it is often too demanding on a single computer to receive and then downscale from 4K UHD to 1080p (or lower) while also performing other tasks (i.e. switching cameras, connecting remote video guests, picture-in-picture, adding lower thirds, chroma key) so it would be better to send the signal to the computer already downscaled to 1080p by performing that task externally of the computer.
Although many 4K UHD capable cameras can indeed supply a pre-downscaled 1080p signal, sadly many of them are still shy with the 1080p signal (including the ZV-1 in most framerates), as explained earlier in this article. In other words, they almost never output the original native framerate as we really need it, but instead complicate things by either doubling it (type 3 shyness) or as a quasi-interlaced 1080i over ≈59.94i or 50i (type 1 or 2 shyness). In fact, that is the case with most 1080p framerates with the ZV-1, as we’’ll see ahead.
Shy/outgoing modes in the Sony ZV-1, via HDMI 1080p
Below are the shy/outgoing modes of the Sony ZV-1 vía HDMI in 1080p:
- Put the Sony in 1080p≈29.97 (illustrated above, sadly called “30p” in the menu and onscreen display), and it sadly outputs ≈59.94p over HDMI or ≈59.94i over HDMI depending upon one of the HDMI settings.
- Put the Sony in 1080p25, and it sadly outputs 50p over HDMI (shown below) or 50i over HDMI depending upon one of the HDMI settings.
- Put the Sony in 1080p≈23.976 (sadly called “24p” in the menu and onscreen display), and it often outputs ≈59.94p or ≈59.94i depending upon one of the HDMI settings.: In my tests, I discovered that even though the ZV-1 can be set in the menu to output the native ≈23.976p in the HDMI menu of the camera, although this is unreliable even when set that way, as illustrated below.
Outgoing modes in the Sony ZV-1, via HDMI 4K UHD
Fortunately, everything is outgoing when the camera is in 4K UHD. This follows the expected behavior, since fortunately there is no interlacing in 4K UHD.
- Put the Sony in 4K UHD @ ≈29.97p (shown above, sadly called “30p” in the ZV-1 menu and onscreen display but read properly by a proper external device), and it thankfully outputs ≈29.97p over HDMI
- Put the Sony in 4K UHD @ 25p, and it thankfully outputs 25p over HDMI (see below)
- Put the Sony in 4k UHD @ ≈23.976p (sadly called “24p” in the ZV-1 menu and onscreen display), and it thankfully outputs ≈23.976p over HDMI (see below) although rounded to 23.98 by the device.
Shy/outgoing modes in the Sony ZV-1, via USB
No matter whether the camera is set for 1080p or 4K UHD or what resolution you set at ≈29.97p or ≈23.976p, the ZV-1 camera sadly outputs exactly 30 fps, but not the television-friendly ≈29.97 fps used in the United States since 1953, but exact 30, so we can feel like we’ve time traveled to 1952 (and I was born in 1964). Although this non-standard 30 fps will indeed work for web streaming, it is not ideal to combine with ≈29.97p footage shot the the ZV-1 or any other camera, nor is it appropriate for over the air broadcast on a traditional TV station without retiming it. Who knows what the Sony engineers were thinking when they did this.
The only thankful exception is with the camera set to 4K UHD 25p, where the camera is outgoing and outputs proper 25p via HDMI.
Note that as of firmware version 2.00, the signal sent via USB is 720p HD (1280×720), not 1080p or 4K UHD. However, if you are using Zoom.us, the only HD you get is 720p at 25P anyway, unless you have a commercial or enterprise account and have previously requested 1080p from tech support. Also, please remember that although the spatial resolution of 720p is lower than 1080p or 4K UHD, for many years, 720p has been enough spatial resolution for TV networks like ABC, AT&T SportsNet, beIN Sports, Big Ten Network, Daystar, Disney Channel, Disney Junior, Disney XD, ESPN, ESPN2, ESPNews, ESPN Deportes, Fox, Fox Business Network, Fox Deportes, Fox News Channel, FS1, FS2, Fox Soccer Plus, Fox Sports Network, Freeform, FX, FXM, FXX, FYI, Ion, MLB Network, MLB StrikeZone, MyNetworkTV, Nat Geo Wild, National Geographic, Reelz and SEC Network. In Europe, Arte HD, Das Erste HD, ZDF HD, and the HD channels of ORF and SRF use 720p according to this source. Even at 720p, the ZV-1 still has the advantages of its 1-inch type sensor, great optics, great autofocus and even its unique product showcase mode.
Nonetheless, I am very surprised that Sony has limited the USB output to 720p. Further, I am also very surprised that the USB output (as over firmware 2.00) is limited to 25 fps and a version of 30 fps not used in television broadcasting since before 1953. Sony, why did you exclude ≈23.976 and ≈29.97 from the USB streaming?
CAUTION: When USB streaming (as of firmware 2.00) you cannot record within the camcorder, so it is no longer a camcorder when USB streaming. It instantly goes from camcorder to streamcorder only when USB streaming. Also, while streaming, you cannot use the menu, use PC remote or control from a smartphone.
Recommended ZV-1 workarounds as of firmware 2.00
If you are only streaming via Zoom.us and have not been blessed with special 1080p permission from Zoom.us tech support (and do not need to make a local recording at a higher resolution than 720p), you may as well use USB streaming at the 720p @ 25p (the Zoom.us worldwide standard, as covered here). This also applies if you are using any other streaming platform that is limited to 720p or if you simply find 720p at 25p is perfect for your live streaming needs.
If you must stream at a higher resolution than 720p and/or make a local recording at a higher local resolution recording while streaming or otherwise being connected to a video mixer (“switcher”), consider one of the following:
- Use an external HDMI-to-USB converter sticks like the ones I reviewed here to connect to your computer. Many of them will downscale from 4K UHD to 1080p while curing the ZV-1 shyness, although all of those so far work exclusively at 25p.
- If you need 1080p streaming and/or at least 1080p local recording @ ≈29.97p, you can use the ZV-1 at 1080/≈29.97p knowing that it’s going to double it over HDMI to ≈59.94p. So use a a capture device that doesn’t offer downscaling. Set the camera to image at 1080p at ≈29.97p, accept the doubled rate at ≈59.94p and set your streaming software (i.e. Ecamm Live, covered in many articles… or vMix) to stream at ≈29.97p. Then the software will skip every other incoming frame.
- Similarly, if you need 1080p streaming and/or at least 1080p local recording @ 25p, you can use the ZV-1 at 1080/25p knowing that it’s going to double it over HDMI to 50p. So use a a capture device that doesn’t offer downscaling, like the ElGato CamLink. Set the camera to image at 1080p at 25p, accept the doubled rate at 50p and set your streaming software (i.e. Ecamm Live, covered in many articles… or vMix) to stream at 25p. Then the software will skip every other incoming frame.
- Use an external standalone streaming encoder or a video mixer (“switcher”) with built-in or external recording/streaming. If your streaming encoder or video mixer is limited to 1080p input (not 4K UHD input) and you want lower framerates, follow the same instructions in the prior two.
Six requests for Sony for future firmware updates in the ZV-1
- Please change the current HDMI 24p/60p menu (shown above) to offer HDMI Progressive Rate with the options of Native and Doubled and make it work reliably with all possible framerates over HDMI even in 1080p modes, at any selected in the camera rate. This already works perfectly with 4K UHD.
- Please stop rounding framerates in camera menus, Sony. If you are limited in space onscreen, please express all non-integer framerates to two decimal places like 23.98, 29.97 and 59.94. Rounding numbers to the closest integer is confusing to users.
- Please change the USB streaming framerate to match the ZV-1’s current framerate setting, including ≈23.98, 25.00 and ≈29.97 at least. If the hardware permits, also make it match 50p and ≈59.94p. If the hardware does not permit high framerates over USB, then let it be 50% of the selected rate.
- Please offer a menu Shutter Option to offer Shutter Angle in degrees as opposed to a Shutter Speeds in fractions of a second.
- Please offer a menu option for audio called Bias Voltage/Plugin Power to disable it when connecting dynamic microphones. Dynamic microphones should not receive bias voltage (plugin power) and are the most common microphones used with ENG (Electronic News Gathering).
- Please fix the Language menu (shown below) to display the proper name of the Castilian language: castellano. There are currently six (6) official languages in Spain, and all of them are Spanish languages (in plural). These six (6) Spanish languages are protected by Article 3 of the Spanish Constitution of 1978. By inaccurately naming the language as “Español”, Sony is acting as an accessory after the fact to the linguicide (linguistic genocide) crimes attempted in the 20th century, and is even breaking the law in at least seven (7) countries where the Castilian language is protected by local legislation. For more details, please see my book The Castilian Conspiracy, which is the English adaptation. The original is available in Castilian as La conspiración del castellano.
My favorite ZV-1 reviews so far
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