Hello fellow sound designers,

I was wondering if any of you could give me guidance on how to prep an audio mix for HDCAM Transfer. Have you worked with the HDCAM format before? What technical specs should i be aware of, and how will they shape my mix?

I'm working on my first feature length documentary as the sound designer, and the team is going to be submitting it to festivals soon, showing it on HDCAM.

Any help would be excellent! Thank you much!


3 Answers 3


There really aren't any specs you need to be aware of as far as the tape goes. You should be more concerned with the specs for the mix itself. As long as the mix is behaving, you shouldn't really have any issues. That being said, I suggest you route to the deck via AES and get the digital transfer, rather than using an analog chain.

This is all assuming your going to the deck with a stereo program. If you plan to encode a surround format, things get a little trickier of course. ;)

  • Wow you guys are amazing. I feel so lucky to have such knowledgeable folks ready and willing to help out a stranger! Thank you all. Nov 19, 2010 at 19:23

I agree with Shaun. It's more about the delivery specs than the tape itself. Definitely goes AES/EBU if you can.

If you are delivering surround it is possible to record the separate channels directly. For example...

Channel 1 - L Channel 2 - C Channel 3 - R Channel 4 - Ls Channel 5 - Lr Channel 6 - LFE Channel 7 - Mix Lt Channel 8 - Mix Rt Channel 9 - M&E Lt Channel 10 - M&E Rt

This is how we deliver a particular show for TV broadcast.


Not to contradict Ian, but HDCAM is only FOUR tracks... HDCAM SR (which is a different beast altogether) has the possibility of up to 12 tracks. Given that SR decks costs more than some folks houses, they aren't terribly common at festivals, the more affordable HDCAM is, so double check which one.

Other than that, both Ian and Shaun are correct about watching the specs more than anything (especially if you have a distributor).

Also two technical things to be aware of. First, if it IS surround and HDCAM (not SR), SOME festivals will want Dolby E (although not too many) so that may become an issue as either separate encoding hardware or software is necessary and it's still kind of finicky, plus there are multiple specs as to how to deal with the delay it causes. If it's stereo or LtRt (probably safer at most festivals) then don't worry about it.

Second many of the Sony HDCAM decks have a four frame offset issue when laying back via LTC so be aware of this. Do a quick Google search for your deck name and LTC offset to see if it has the issue - although it will be pretty obvious when you layback! :)

  • Of course you are right. I rarely use HDCAM (99% of my work is put to HDCAMSR) and just use it as a blanket name for both. My apologies if I have yet again caused confusion in the world.
    – ianjpalmer
    Nov 19, 2010 at 18:16
  • @ianpalmer... Well I knew what you meant, and most post folks would know what you meant, but since the OP seemed to be new to the whole HDCAM thing I thought I should clarify ...I wish it had been called something else. If I had a nickel for every Producer who asked for an HDCAM layback and then sent me the specs calling for an HDCAM SR layback (which we do out of house) - well I could probably afford the SR Deck!
    – Sonsey
    Nov 19, 2010 at 18:35

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