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Old May 26th, 2006, 01:35 PM   #1
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Join Date: May 2006
Location: Massachusetts, United States
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A Cheap way to monitor HDV on HDTV in real time using FCP

Hi Everyone,
I thought I would post something that I think will be of help to many of you attempting to edit HDV with Final Cut Pro and come up with a cost effective monitoring solution.

I have the distinct misfortune of having purchased one of the few G5 computers that was equipped with the slow PCI slots, rather than the faster PCI-X or PCI-e slots, so I cannot use an AJA or black Magic Design video card in order to playpack real-time video to an HDTV during editing.

As you all know by now, you cannot use the DV technique of running video via firewire to a camera or deck and then hooking the deck to a TV, since the MPEG stream must be "conformed" first.

Besides that, the AJA card is over $1,000. What is a cheapskate like me to do? Well, read on....

You go and buy an 8x AGP slot graphics card that support HDTV output. (I bought an ATi 9600 card with 128 MB of video RAM on eBay for $50). The video card I got can drive two monitors, and had two connectors. (An ADC and a DVI connector.) Then I bought an HDTV with an HDMI input, and a DVI to HDMI adapter cable. I hooked the HDTV to the computer with that cable, and my older cinema display to the computer via ADC. Now I have two monitors, but one of them is an HDTV. (HDMI and DVI use the same data format, except that HDMI is designed to carry audio as well, so the adapter is just a cable with different ends on it, very cheap. I think I paid about $20 on eBay as well.)

When you boot up the machine, the card will "find" the HDTV and give you resolution options up to and including 1920x1080i INTERLACE. Now all you have to do is turn on digital cinema desktop and assign that monitor as the playback device. Ta da! You are watching HD on an HDTV in real time as you edit. The only issue I had was that either my computer or that particular graphics card was not really fast enough to give studder-free playback at 1080i. I found that if I set the monitor resolution in the system settings to 1280x720p it plays back very smoothly. There is only a very small decrease in perceived sharpness in doing this, but it makes the machine operate so much better because computers can digest progressive scan so much better. Given that HDV only captures at 1440 anyway, you aren't losing much horizontal resolution setting the monitor at 1280.

When the HDTV is not being used to monitor video, it happens to work as a widescreen computer monitor.

Now, if you are like me, you want two computer monitors PLUS the HD monitor for video, so what you really need is one more monitor. No big deal. Now go to eBay and get yourself a cheap PCI video card such as an ATi Radeon 7000. I bought one for $20. Pop that puppy in an open PCI slot and it gives you another monitor and an RGB connector. Now you have three monitors, and one is an HDTV.

Please bear in mind that the HDTV cannot be driven from a video card in the PCI slot because the slots are not fast enough, and FCP will not even allow you to select a PCI-driven monitor for desktop preview. So for the grand total of $90 in cards and a cable from eBay, I am editing HDV on a dual 1.8 GHz G5 with slow PCI slots and watching it in real time on a 30" Philips HDTV.

Hope this helps.

Jonathan Bird is offline   Reply With Quote
Old May 26th, 2006, 07:37 PM   #2
Join Date: Dec 2002
Location: Mays Landing, NJ
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That's a good idea, but how would it be better than using an hd-capable monitor on the second port of the stock graphics card (which is what I do)? Not sure which computer you have, but I have a dual G5/2.5ghz. The real problem is that digital cinema desktop is not all that great. I see lots of noise and artifacts when using it, but they aren't really there when I view the same footage from my Z1 connected to an HD monitor via component. The frame rate also seems to vary during playback.

Like you, I don't want to buy an expensive HD card for the limited amount of HDV editing that I do. So Digital Cinema Desktop is a handy feature, but I don't trust it for any real quality judgements.
Boyd Ostroff is offline   Reply With Quote
Old June 10th, 2006, 05:23 PM   #3
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In my particular case with an older G5, the stock graphics card could not drive an HD monitor. Using a graphics card to drive a true HDTV via HDMI allows you to see the image with underscan and TV color gamut rather than computer display. My solution was aimed at the guy like me who has an older G5 with the slow PCI slots and can't use the HD PCI cards.

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