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Old January 17th, 2005, 12:00 PM   #1
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A technologists view of HDV

I have been learning about HDV (and video in general). My background is really in watching the computer field for 30 years, thru all the generations from the IBM360 to the latest. I watched many technologies come and go, and understand that the best one is not always the winner. Having said all of that, I see major clues that HDV will be a flash in the pan.

Caveat: We have two manufacturers offering HDV. When we have three, some of these opinions may change as marketing and critical mass become more important than technology.

1. Both mfrs have completely different specs. Almost nothing is compatitble except the tape inside, and even that is marginal since SOny is pushing their new formulation at $18 each.

2. 720 vs 1080
3. progressive vs interlaced
4. 15 COB vs 6 COB (BIG difference)
5. square pixels vs non-square pixels
6. 19MBps vs 25 MBps


From a pure technology perspective, they are both very different and both have made compromises. Presumably they have made different choices based upon their concept of what is important. Sony chose absolute resolution at 1080, JVC chose better motion handling with 60p and a smaller COB.

These compromises were made in the name of using an existing (miniDV) tape format. yet even at that, Sony had to pull away by pushing a more reliable formulation to reduce dropouts and the potentially serious impact of a dropout on a 15COB compression format.

They have made other compromises too. MPEG 1 layer 2 audio is less robust than PCM, making audio input levels much more critical. MPEG1/L2 audio is also more difficult to post-process. The interlaced compression format of MPEG-2 TS adds yet another layer if codec complexity. All in the name of using a mini-DV tape.

Yet many of these compromises make it less likely that HDV will be widely adopted as a consumer format, which is what will dirve costs down and accessory choices up (from NLEs to HD-DVD burners). To get good HDV, you need more audio knowledge and need to not zoom or pan fast or tape fast moving objects. SO training becomes MORE important, which is not the way to sell new consumer technologies. Plug & Play is the way to go.

When I look at all of this as a technologist, what I see is too many conflicting choices being made. The correct solution to this techno-babel is usually to re-evaluate your basic assumptions, and the basic assumption here was to use DV tape as the recording medium. Change that to require less compression, and all other choices become easier and better.

So unless a third mfr comes along to prove that marketing dollars will overwhelm a poor technology, I will remain an observer. When someone comes out with a non-miniDV solution better suited to HD requirements, I will watch with interest. It could be a new tape format, it could be hard disk, it oculd be built in wireless to a separate capture device. But 18 months from now, I expect both current HDV incarnations to be sitting on the shelf next to the 8-track tapes.

I can't wait to see the responses. :)
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Old January 17th, 2005, 02:21 PM   #2
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I just hope we do not collectively pay the price for this bastard format. I am going to sit this on out; no-one can make me use MPEG-2 on miniDV.
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Old January 17th, 2005, 03:15 PM   #3
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Erme, nobody is forced into any format. SD will continue to be around for quite a long time, and there are several other high-definition formats to choose from.
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Old January 17th, 2005, 04:02 PM   #4
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I wouldn't call it a bastard format; I would strongly recommend each person who is basing their judgments on the gear to actually use it before passing said judgment.

Also, the Sony F900 is 1080i and the Panasonic 27F is 720p. Both are HD.

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Old January 17th, 2005, 04:53 PM   #5
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The Sony F900 and the Pannasonic 27f do not record on MiniDV, which, if I understood the original posters intent correctly, is why he called it a "bastard format". Admitedly, an unfortunate term. Still, I am inclined to wait and watch for two or three more years.

Some film festivals still require your submission to be on VHS, and some clients still want copies available. Hell, people are still buying and spinning vinyl.
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Old January 17th, 2005, 04:58 PM   #6
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Re: A technologists view of HDV

<<<-- Originally posted by John Galt: When I look at all of this as a technologist, what I see is too many conflicting choices being made. The correct solution to this techno-babel is usually to re-evaluate your basic assumptions, and the basic assumption here was to use DV tape as the recording medium. Change that to require less compression, and all other choices become easier and better. -->>>

And all that they should have done is to let that minidv tape roll at double speed (50Mbps).
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Old January 17th, 2005, 07:25 PM   #7
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I agree with most of what you're saying. BUT! lol :-)

Both HDV specs are compatible with each other, I don't see why you say the only thing compatible is the tape. I believe the FX-1 and/or the Z1 will playback the 720p HDV format as well as the 1080i format. I know the Sony deck does. I agree that the HDV spec won't be long lived, but neither will 720p and 1080i if you see the industry is becoming more 1080p. I don't think ANY tape based format will be with us much longer. Going to solid state or HDD or optical formats will also allow us to use less compression- or no compression.

Have you shot with the FX-1? I only ask because I'm wondering where this comment came from:
> "To get good HDV, you need more audio knowledge and need to not zoom or pan fast or tape fast moving objects. SO training becomes MORE important, which is not the way to sell new consumer technologies. Plug & Play is the way to go."

When you put the camera in full auto mode (plug and play), it takes FANTASTIC pictures and captures great audio, especially for a consumer camera. I've had friends of mine use this camera in full auto, who have zero professional knowledge and they make "good HDV". Every friend and family member has commented on how great the picture looks and how great the audio sounds- comparing it to their home movies.

I've also shot hours of "fast moving ojects" while panning fast and it's also "good HDV" - I'd say GREAT HDV!

If you're talking about compatability, my HDV footage is more compatible for the future than DV.
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Old January 17th, 2005, 07:49 PM   #8
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Plug and play is a "slang" term meaning editing, plug in the firewire and start capturing, editing and print back to tape.

I've used the FX1 on two short films, including this one. I will be putting new jpegs soon, as these are a little stretched out horizontally and I didn't get a chance to re-import the clips and then fix the stretch (happens when I make a digital still of the footage--it doesn't reflect the camera).

Read Jon Fordham's review of the FX1.

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Old January 17th, 2005, 09:42 PM   #9
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Yes, I'll admit there is much speculation abroad, and if I were allowed to speculate I'd say prosumer HiDef is going to flame HDV before it's of the ground.
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Old January 17th, 2005, 10:47 PM   #10
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> JVC chose better motion handling with 60p and a smaller COB.

The HD1's 60p mode is SD, not HD, and with a single small sensor, thus low sensitivity and high chroma noise, according to reports. The Sony FX1/Z1 is something completely different, even considering it's still a prosumer cam and not intended for broadcast work.

> I'd say prosumer HiDef is going to flame HDV
> before it's of the ground.

But... but... I don't get it. Isn't HDV sopposed to be the consumer HD? Just as MiniDV was supposed to be for consumers and it was adopted by the pro's, if HDV is good enough, it will be adopted also. Of course Sony has pre-empted this by releasing the Z1, with a some "pro" features, but's it is still a consumerish small sensor, no interchangeable lens... it's made for the indies, for us, not for ENG, not for studio HD work and so on. Sony has too much too lose, they made it as good as they can. Don't expect Panasonic, who also have a pro line to protect, to be able to do much better, not because they can't but because they won't.

JVC on the other hand has no such problems. After the initial HD1 experiment, they have had years to improve on it and are probably just waiting for the EBU to make it's choice about 1080i or 720p before they release a shoulder-mount HDV camera with a large sensor and pro optics. Canon is in an interesting position also, if they can make an HDV camera that uses their own high-end lenses they can make some interesting waves without cannibalizing themseslves.
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Old January 17th, 2005, 11:08 PM   #11
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As far as there being a divide in the HDV format I would have to say this is a little premature. There are essentially only two cam offerings one prgressive and one interlaced. Is this a problem? The editing sytems for each don't differ. All of the major NLE's support both at this time, and both are considered HDV. No problem. As far as the PC power required, it is in a far better and affordable state than when SD DV was introduced. Firewire and NLE support was slow and expensive when the first DV cams surfaced. HDV is already miles ahead of where DV was in its beginings. As far as using DV25 tape as some sort of negative it is not. DV25 is by far the most common, affordable tape stock of all time. The next great move in this regard will be to tapeless recoding. So if you think that affordable, widely available tape stock was a bad choice, what would you suggest?
As far as sound is concerned there is nothing wrong with HDV audio when used in a prosummer level. If your doing serious work you record externally anyway. Whats the beef?
HDV cams will evolve as did their DV versions befor. The compressors will get more efficient, tweaks will be made. DV unfortunately will continue to be a blurry low definition format. HDV will not go the way of an 8-track as you can edit and use HDV now and in the far for seeable future. NLE's aren't going to just stop working. Editing native mpeg2 will be standard issue from here on in, as well there are many other editing options for the professional one of which will be intergrated into Adobe Premiere from here on in, with Sony's Vegas right behind.
Also to clarify: JVC 6 frame GOP at 720p30, 12 frame GOP at 480p60
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Old January 17th, 2005, 11:26 PM   #12
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Ignacio, HDV is a flavor of consumer "Hi Def" but is highly compressed. When I speculated I meant true HIDef aquisition in a prosumer style camera. Panasonic is already making noises about a 100 MBps fixed lens
tapeless aquisition model, and if this pans out I can't see there being a middle ground for HDV, particularly if you also consider being able to capture all of that gorgeous true HD info over firewire. But it has to yet happen, we'll see, soon enough. Canon is also a sleeper, and they do not have a Hi def legacy to protect and potentially could provide us with the ultimate; a HD
prosumer with interchangable lenses. But I'm not going to hold my breath for that.
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Old January 17th, 2005, 11:30 PM   #13
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There seems to be one important piece of information lacking in this discussion.

John-- you say that there are only two manufacturers in the HDV world and that there are two differing opinions/standards as to what this means...

What you're not mentioning is that two other manufacturers (Canon and Sharp) originally formed the HDV consortium or whatnot with Sony and JVC. Also, they set the standards for HDV (which closely follow some of the standards for HD--at least as far as resolution and frame rate) which are the 1080i (at 25Mbs) and 720p (at 19Mbs) that we currently see. Add to that nearly 40 software/hardware/camera accessory manufacturers that have announced support and/or products...and there is a much different picture than that which you paint.

HDV ain't perfect, but it's already positioned itself to be more than just a flash in the pan.
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Old January 18th, 2005, 02:56 AM   #14
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<<<-- Originally posted by Emre Safak : I just hope we do not collectively pay the price for this bastard format. I am going to sit this on out; no-one can make me use MPEG-2 on miniDV. -->>>

You must be a very happy person with many friends. It is not bastard format. It is cost effective format allowing peoples to use HD video on standard DV tape. How can you say that when it possible to record 1 hour HD video for only $10? You can try HDCAM, see how much you spending. Please, if you never try HDV before, don't make aspersions of the format, then you look foolish, and not to be listened to.
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Old January 18th, 2005, 07:08 AM   #15
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Bill,

You keep speculating, and I feel that's what's killing your argument. Go out and grab and FX1, because you'll be impressed!

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