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Old October 6th, 2004, 04:22 AM   #1
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HDV, what's the point at the moment?

With all this talk of HDV at the moment with Sony's HDR-FX1 camera etc, I have been left wondering exactly what the point of High def on a consumer level is at the moment.

In fact I have also been wondering what the point is even for corporate video in many cases.

Firstly, the consumer level. You might have friends and family who have a Hi def TV set (though not in the UK where we will be lucky to see HD as standard within the next 20 years), but how are they going to watch it? DVD? VHS?

Why haven't the powers that be given users a final delivery format for their new cameras? Can one buy a high def DVD burner for their PC or Mac?

Secondly, it's MPEG2 compression. How can anyone who wants to do serious video work even consider using MPEG2 at the data rates that HDV uses? IMX Mpeg is a different matter. It can run at 50mb/s and under technical analysis can barely be seperated from Digibeta. But MPEG2 for HDV strikes me as being a bit like giving with one arm and taking with the other.

What's this compression like during fast movement?

Not only that, but MiniDV is a horrible little format to begin with. The tapes are unreliable and susceptable to even the most microscopic piece of dust or condensation.

Then there is the audio spec. Compressed 16-bit audio at 384kb/s MPEG!

If they were going to develop a new format they really should have taken things to the next level. Perhaps they should have worked more on putting the format on a high density disc and working on recording uncompressed (or lossless compression) 24-bit sound. After all, if you are going to have a hi def picture you might as well have ultra high def sound too.

It seems to me that HDV hasn't truly been thought out before it's implication. Trying to keep Mini-DV tape compatibility is always going to result in a halfway measure, probably only to be succeeded yet again a bit further down the line annoying lots of consumers in the process.
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Old October 6th, 2004, 04:48 AM   #2
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I read that “the BBC have announced that by 2010, their entire production will migrate to the high definition format. There is however no mention of the Corporation transmitting HD now or even in 2011 because of the cost implications to license holders.
BSkyB however has already announced their transmission date for HD in 2006. “
(info from “High Definition” magazine, September 2004)

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Old October 6th, 2004, 06:05 AM   #3
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Exactly. The production houses may well move over as they need to sell their product overseas.

However most people in the UK have only just been pursuaded that widescreen TV is the way to go. It's taking long enough just for them, DVD, and digital television to become standard in homes, let alone asking people to fork out for yet another format of TV and DVD.

The BBC made a critical mistake by not putting HDTV into their original digital spec. If digital boxes were hi def ready from the very beginning then the transition would be eased a hell of a lot.

As it is however HD-DVD is in a format war, and even then nothing is really readily available. Think about it from the consumers point of view. Look at how long it has taken for DVD to take over shops like HMV etc. Even now there are still loads of VHS for sale. In fact, my sister who lives in Osaka in Japan says she was amazed to find that HMV's over there are still 90% VHS!!

Now with High Def on a consumer level imagine all the trouble of getting people to adopt the idea of yet another format, but on top of that having to choose again between different versions of it such as Blu-ray etc. Forgetting writable DVD for the moment, at least when DVD was finally released for consumers to purchase films on there was only one version. You bought a DVD and it worked in all DVD players. There were no awkward decisions to make.

So imagine how long it will take HD-DVD to become the normal format.

I know things have to develop, and I like new technology, but looking at it from a realistic consumer point of view I can't see it becoming anything other than a minority format for quite a few years to come. Especially in the UK.

But back to HDV. If I shoot something on a HDV camera (assuming a decent prosumer one ever comes out) where can I have it distributed? If I make something feature length, what are my archive options? How can I even make a nice high def DVD for myself let alone to give to other people?

Also if the HDV format is set in stone, then that's it. Rubbishy compression all round for years to come, and the only way people are ever going to truly be able to make a decent independent high def digital movie would be for them to shell out for the hire of professional HD equipment.

Further, has there been any exhaustive tests on the format? What's it like over multiple generations of compression? Pretty awful I would imagine. What's it like in shadowed areas (even with the new Sony 3 chip camera)?

So, basically I am all for high def. I would love to shoot footage at extremely high res to close the gap between my capabilities and those of people who shoot on crisp film. However I think the whole High Def revolution is all a bit of a mess as far as the consumer end of things are concerned.
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Old October 6th, 2004, 07:05 AM   #4
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Simon,

I spoke to a JVC rep last week at the Photokina in Cologne. I asked him which way to go if you wanted to invest into new equipment: DV or HDV.

He said: "If you want to make money within the next three or four years then go for DV, not HDV". I found that quite interesting. However, this may be true only for Europe and other parts of the world where HD TVs are almost unknown at the moment.

Having said that, they showed a HDV demo reel downconverted and burned to DVD on a HD monitor. It looked just great to the unaided eye. However, there was very little movement in the scenes and practically no pans or tilts.

I think at least over here in Europe most people will be quite happy with (SD) DV equipment for some time to come.
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Old October 6th, 2004, 07:54 AM   #5
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I never understood the whole Hi Definition label either. How can it be considered higher definition than native DV? Mpeg is a lossy format, isn't it? But it's "WIDESCREEN!" Big deal.

Until I can afford $3,000 for a TV, I'll stick with regular video.
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Old October 6th, 2004, 08:56 AM   #6
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DV is a compressed format and lossy as well. HDV has indeed a much higher resolution than DV but because it uses (almost) the same low bit rate as DV, it has to be compressed much more than DV. That's why they use MPEG2.

I agree that MPEG2 is not the best choice qualitywise, but I guess the engineers had some good reasons for MPEG2. Anyway, I will stick with SD for another couple of years too.
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Old October 6th, 2004, 09:27 AM   #7
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Simon,

I have a HiDef TV. I bought it just over 2 yrs. ago. All my local TV stations broadcast in digital. They broadcast using an MPEG2 type of compression and data rates around 19.2mbs. The TV is able to display the current video format and data rate if the station chooses to include it.

As for the HDV camera, there is no consumer distribution format currently available. However, my tv includes a 1394 firewire port which will recognize an mpeg2 stream and will output an mgeg2 stream. So, I could presumably buy the new Sony cam and play my 'home videos' by hooking directly to the tv via firewire. The camera could then double as a hi-def vcr for recording off the air broadcasts.

If you do get the chance to visit the U.S., please go to an electonics store chain and see HDTV. It's nothing short of breathtaking IMHO compared to NTSC.

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Old October 6th, 2004, 09:41 AM   #8
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Rainer- Wouldn't definition be initially defined by the image chips of the camera? I mean, a SD camera with three 2/3" or even 1/2" chips, would have a better image than a 1/3" chip HD cam, right?
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Old October 6th, 2004, 10:06 AM   #9
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My only experience with HD tv is at Best Buy (where I seem to spend way to much time just standing around gawking), and I'm of mixed feelings about the whole thing. On the one hand, static images look fantastic, but I can see definite problems with fast movement. One of the sample pieces of footage is an underwater shot of brightly colored fish. Every time they change directions the whole image shimmers with horrible compression artifacts. It looks frankly terrible. Why they would choose that particular footage as an example is beyond me. No question though, the overall effect blows NTSC away. While I'm having doubts about how well it would blow up for a theatrical release, there's no question the gap is getting narrower.
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Old October 6th, 2004, 10:33 AM   #10
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Keith,

it's not just a question of chip size but (if we talk about resolution) the number of pixels you have on the chip. A 1/3" chip of a HDV cam has more active pixels than a 2/3" chip of a Digibeta cam and therefore the image can hold more details.

Of course, the number of pixels doesn't tell you anything about overal image quality, it's only an indication of the image resolution and the level of detail. A larger chip with a lower number of pixels is usually more light sensitive and a larger chip size (no matter how many pixels it has) gives a more shallow depth of field.

Hope that helps.
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Old October 6th, 2004, 10:54 AM   #11
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Some good stuff coming through here.

I would love to see a side by side direct screen grab of something like, say the Sony PDW-510P or 530P equipped with a broadcast lens next to the same shot taken on one of the new consumer HD cameras. I wonder if the superior optics of the pro Sony cameras would even out the playing field.

But despite the problems of the picture of HDV, there is then the sound. DV has uncompressed sound. If HDV tries to compress a high def picture into the same space taken up by a standard DV picture, then surely they could have used uncompressed audio for HDV too?

Over multiple generations by the time special effects might be done, or colour grading and correction, as well as titles, I think the MPEG2 compression of HDV will look very bad. The sound might be even worse.
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Old October 6th, 2004, 04:18 PM   #12
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HD might look better than NTSC, but NTSC looks awful compared to analogue PAL broadcasts in the UK. I'm in Canada now, and see HDTV in the big box stores, and find the picture quite nice on stills, or slow test footage, but, for instance, on the olympics it was dreadful with ghastly motion artifacting. What's the point of having a higher resolution, if the overall quality is lower. I think they're even looking at MPEG4 based solutions for HDTV in europe to get better quality out of it, than outdated MPEG2.

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Old October 6th, 2004, 08:46 PM   #13
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Wouldn't Hd mpeg downrezzed to SD look awesome once you got the right technique? Any artifacts would dissappear no? And could you not up the color rez also?
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Old October 7th, 2004, 03:32 AM   #14
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No. You can't ditch the MPEG artefacts nor can you change the colour resolution either. Well, you can save it to a better colour resolution format, but it won't make any difference whatsoever since what has been captured is what has been captured by the camera and that's that.

MPEG is a fantastic format for DVD especially with two pass, or in the case of the really pro systems I believe, triple pass encoding. Plus of course on manufactured DVDs somebody is employed to go through the film manually to help decide on particular bit-rates for particular parts of the film.

So the problem with a camera using straight MPEG2 is that of course because it is real time it cannot do multiple passes. Instead the bitrate is set.

With normal DV there is lossy compression for sure. But it doesn't have to compress anywhere near as much as HDV has to do to fit a high def picture onto a standard DV tape.

God only knows what kind of horrible artefacts HDV produces if you shot against a graduated plain blue sky for example.

My nightmare scenario is when manufacturers start making mostly HDV cameras and there are no other new SD Mini-DV cameras being made for the professional market and we are forced to use this horrible new format.
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Old October 7th, 2004, 05:49 AM   #15
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About 2 weeks ago, Sony, (if I remember correctly), announced that they had developed a system that will remove the artifacts and the "traveling" in HD. By traveling, I mean circular objects appear jagged when in motion, such as tires on a vehicle.

I don't remember just when they will release it, but, I seem to recall late next year.

First products will be flat screens.

Next time I will save and post the article.
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