Both formats are supported but you should think about more ram.
Good advice. I'm also noticing that there are several cameras in the $3-$4500 price range that shoot only AVCHD and MPG2. My understanding is that AVCHD is a highly compressed format that isn't particularly friendly for editing. Is the H.264 file that these cameras produce that much better than the one my Vixia cranks out? Should I consider these cameras, or would I simply be gaining more camera features as opposed to better video quality?
Get more RAM. A good old rule of thumb is to get 2-4 GB of RAM per core of processor.
AVCHD actually edits fairly smoothly for me with the Mercury Playback Engine in Premiere. If you have the appropriate GPU, you can do a lot more than you used to in the past.
Is the file better than the one your old one produced? Possibly. Data rates, compression algorithms, etc. all make a difference. However, don't forget that a quality image to start with also makes a difference. Take note of sensor size, quality of glass in the lens, etc.
Thanks for the input. Right now, I'm finding that of the 9 contenders I've identified in my price range, only one shoots XDCAM and only one shoots DVCPRO. The others all shoot AVCHD, DV or something called MPEG-2 Long GOP, which I haven't heard of before.
Is $5000 just not enough to get me from AVCHD to the next level, or am I misunderstanding the"next level"? I've been assuming that AVCHD looks largely the same from one camera to another, the difference between $1000 and $5000 being the lens and camera features. To really make a substantial difference in the quality of my source video, I thought I'd need to get to a less compressed and more data rich capture format. Am I right, or will a more expensive ACVHD cam look considerably better and get me sharper chroma keys??
And now, after a lot of posting and digging, I'm starting to think that DVCPRO HD or XDCAM might be a bad investment anyway. It seems like AVC-Intra is a better format than either and may eventually replace DVCPRO. Is that an outlandish claim, or am I getting on the right track? Looks like I can get into AVC-I for just under $6K, which is more than I wanted to spend but not out of the question if I can justify it.
The camera is becoming less important than the lens and sensor size. Black Magic Design has a camera that will record very high bit rates directly to an SSD drive using a large sensor. You can get started for less than 6K. I don't own gear any more because the demands of the job change so fast that high end gear isn't a good investment for me when I can pick it up for a few hundred a day. I do own some low end gear (a DSLR and a GoPro3 Black) and they are amazing for picking up a shot or two here and there.
All of the majors are researching and changing things every day. Unless you have very deep pockets or a bunch of work coming in you can't afford to keep up, but you can make amazing movies for much less than you ever could before. The best advice I could give you would be to carefully examine what you want to do with your filmmaking and avoid like the plague the temptation to buy the latest and best. It's been about 20 years since having the latest piece of gear on the market would guarantee you a successful production business.
To answer your question "what's the best format?" The answer is uncompressed or lossless from the best lens you can put in front of the best sensor. HDMI directly to any of the affordable SSD recorders will give you more quality image information to work with than you can possibly pull from a $6K camera and lens. Now, more than ever, it's all about the lenses and the sensor.
From an After Effects point of view, AVC Intra is better. The compression happens within individual frames and not across groups of frames. AE likes that MUCH more for some of the newer features like Warp Stabilizer and Rotobrush, plus effects that involve any manipulation or examination across frames.
But as Rick points out, why get a new camera if you don't really need one? Only you can answer that.
Well, the deal is that I work for a State agency where I produce videos for public consumption via our YouTube channel as well as training DVDs and some other applications. It took me about seven years to get any money to work with (used my own personal cameras until then), and even then was given only $3000 to buy a video camera, DSLR, lighting, and teleprompter. After a three more years of whining, they've finally decided to "resource" our production effort.
I suspect I can wrangle about a $10,000 budget, but I'm hoping I might be able to get as much as $15-20,000. This has to buy a camera, accessories, and anything else I may need for the foreseeable future. Renting isn't really an option and whatever I get now is probably what I'll be working with for the next 6-10 years (if I don't get a better job or hang myself before then), so I want to invest in technologies or formats that have staying power.
That's why I'm asking whether I need faster machines to handle these pro and prosumer formats. If I need to factor new workstations or other hardware into my calculations, I'll need to plan for that now. From what I'm reading, it seems that it'll actually take less processing power to work with intraframe compression, but this may be offset by the much larger file sizes.
By the way, I really appreciate everyone's responses. This community has unquestionably been my most reliable resource for over fifteen years now.
If you're a big After Effects user, I avdise AVC Intra cameras, because the codec works fine in AE.
If you're NOT a big After Effects user, you can always transcode your clips to a lossless codec for use in AE. It's slower, but it works, AE will maintain good rendering speeds across all its features, and your AE work won't mysteriously come to a grinding halt at the worst time. It always seems to happen at the worst time.