B&H Photo Video Pro Audio-When are you going High-Def?
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When are you going High-Def?

By Jack Fettman and Ron Seifried

"Just amazing" and "breathtaking" are only some of the dramatic descriptions viewers express of their experience after viewing high-definition video footage. They perceive so many various shades of color, with sizzling subtle details, that they feel they are live at the scene experiencing the footage first hand. High-definition image capture and delivery is exploding into the world market with increasing momentum.

At home, consumers adamantly expect the best-quality imagery attainable from their cable, satellite, and over-the-air TV service providers. Simply stated, HD colors are vibrant and vivid, and the image detail retains sharpness and accuracy on the screen, corner to corner. You can read the names on the football jerseys; the type is extremely sharp and clear.

In the past, HD image capture was only attainable to real high-end, premier shooters on location for film, sports, and HD video broadcast studios. A little over three years ago, the notion of buying a high-definition camcorder was inconceivable for the general public. Today we can buy a full high-definition camcorder which fits in our jacket pocket. without breaking the bank.

In addition to features such as compact size, camcorder manufacturers offer consumers a choice of methods with which to record their high-definition video. We can capture HD onto flash media cards, compact 3" (8-cm) DVD's, hard disk drives, and MiniDV tapes. Any HD camcorder with an HDMI output (High-Definition Multimedia Interface, which carries the video and audio signals through one cable) can be connected easily to your HDTV plasma or LCD monitor's HDMI input to display your high-resolution footage instantly. To process HD imagery on a computer requires a closer look, with greater understanding of the high-definition formats HDV (MPEG2 compression), AVC HD (AVC /H.264 MPEG4 compression), and their implementation within your work flow. HDV records HD onto MiniDV tapes, while the AVCHD records HD onto consumer DVD, hard disk drive, and flash memory card camcorders. Their performance and software support will be discussed below.

To cherry-pick the expanded line of impressive, high-definition consumer camcorders, let's start with a few notable models within their class.

Flash Media

Sanyo VPC-HD1000 Xacti
Sanyo VPC-HD1000 Xacti

The Sanyo VPC-HD1000 Xacti high-definition flash media camcorder offers recording either in 1920 x 1080i or 1280 x 720p full HD resolution onto SD/SDHC (high-capacity) memory cards. If you no longer want to worry about changing or transferring tapes, solid state recording onto flash memory cards is your ticket. Every time you start and stop the camcorder for recording, you create a thumbnail clip marking the start of the scene. This facilitates navigation through scenes' files for access to any section of your recorded footage quickly. The HD1000 incorporates a large 1/2.5" CMOS image sensor with 4-megapixel still resolution and encompasses the MPEG4 AVC/H.264 compression scheme for high-definition. It has a 10x optical HD zoom lens, and a fast 2-second startup-to-recording time. The VPC-HD1000 has an HDMI and component video output, built-in flash and light, as well as an external microphone input.

Hard Disk Drive

Hard disk drive (HDD) camcorders are part of another rapidly-growing medium for capturing video. They offer the videographer the capability of recording for extended periods without the concern or worry of changing a tape. A high-definition HDD camcorder with an internal 40GB hard drive can record up to 5 1/2 hours of HD footage. Similar to the characteristics of flash media, the HDD's also create thumbnail clips referencing the start of each scene, every time the start and stop button on the camcorder is pressed.

Sony HDR-SR7
Sony HDR-SR7

Sony HDR-SR7 is an AVCHD high-definition HDD Handycam camcorder with an internal 60GB hard drive. It is capable of recording and playing back both high-definition 1080i resolution and standard-definition video resolutions. Its professional-quality Carl Zeiss Vario-Sonnar T* Lens incorporates advanced glass composition with anti-reflective coatings to ensure the capture of brilliant images with life-like color and tones. Its 1/2.9" CMOS sensor provides astonishing detail and clarity, and its x.v.Color technology facilitates the capture and display of nearly twice as many (1.8x) viewable colors than is currently possible, resulting in imagery that is richer in color. This camcorder incorporates Super SteadyShot optical image stabilization so that your footage has a smooth, steady look. The camcorder can capture an unbelievable 6.1 Megapixel still image, with excellent definition and sharpness, onto Memory Stick PRO Duo media. It has a bright 2.7" wide (16:9) LCD screen, built-in flash, active interface shoe, and an external microphone input.

Canon HG10 40GB
Canon HG10

Canon optics and image capture devices are consistently synonymous with performance and image brilliance. Their exclusive DIGIC DV II, newly-enhanced image processing for high-definition imagery ensures optimal image quality on both video and still footage. The Canon HG10 40GB internal hard disk drive camcorder captures up to 5 1/2 hours of 1920 x 1080 high-definition resolution video without the need to change tapes, cards, or DVD's. It implements a Canon HD-quality10x zoom lens, a large 1/2.7" CMOS image sensor, and RGB primary color filter. Together they facilitate the capture of consistent vibrant imagery with deep, rich, accurate colors, and natural-looking tones, similar to what you would obtain from a traditional 3CCD camcorder in its class. Canon outfits the camera with SuperRange optical image stabilization to alleviate and correct for shaky motion and vibration brought to the camcorder's image sensor. Another significant feature onboard is its Instant AF focusing system. Its objective is to focus the lens automatically with speed and accuracy, even in low-light conditions, to assure that your HD video will be crisp, sharp, with increased resolution, and with true-to-life colors. If you want to achieve a "film look," the 24p Cinema mode provides the appearance of the same frame rate as movie film to your videos.

JVC GZ-HD7
JVC GZ-HD7

Another popular hard drive 1080i HD camcorder is the JVC GZ-HD7. It features a 60GB internal hard drive, and to ensure you capture full 1920 x 1080 high-definition video and stills, JVC incorporates three 1/5" progressive-scan CCD sensors and a professional-quality FUJINON optical zoom lens. The lens is comprised of three aspherical elements and light-reflecting coatings which allow for the delivery of greater light transmission, with reduced lens flare and ghosting. All this results in exceptional HD video and stills. In addition, the camera has a manual focusing ring; to ensure that your video capture is smooth and precise, the camera's optical image stabilization compensates for vibration and shakiness without any quality loss to your HD recordings. The GZ-HD7 accepts SD/SDHC memory cards for still-image capture, and image files can be moved between the HDD and the SD card. It has an external microphone input, 2.8" LCD monitor, and color viewfinder.

HDV Tape-Based Camcorders

HDV inaugurated Mini DV tapes into high-definition, raising the bar of recording for Mini DV tapes. The HDV format became many semi-professional filmmakers' highly-regarded choice of format. It has the greatest support and compatibility with computer editing software, on both Mac and PC. Essentially, there are two particular consumer HDV compact camcorders that offer high-definition 1080i resolution recording with a host of features that serious videographers desire for their productions.

Canon HV20
Canon HV20

When the Canon HV20 was first released, it quickly became a hit. It maintains Canon's legacy of optical excellence and advanced image processing. The HV20 incorporates Canon's own full HD 1/2.7" CMOS image sensor (1920 x 1080), RGB primary color filter, and advanced DIGIC DV II advanced HD image processor. The HD imagery that the camcorder captures is remarkably stunning. It has a plethora of features to help you create dazzling HD video. To start, it features a genuine Canon HD video lens with three pre-set zoom speeds to allow you to achieve smooth, steady, professional-looking zoom shots. It has advanced optical image stabilization to keep your shots steady with no loss in image quality, and its revolutionary Instant AF focusing system achieves crisp focus instantaneously in your HD footage. You can choose to see Grid Markers in your viewfinder to assist you in composing your shot accurately and level, and the 24p Cinema mode achieves a "film look" to your footage. The HV20 has an external microphone and headphone input, accessory shoe, and an HDMI output terminal.

Sony HDR-HC7
Sony HDR-HC7

Another great camcorder for aspiring movie makers is the Sony HDR-HC7. Over the years, Sony has earned customers' confidence the world over as a trusted leader in the manufacture of exceptional video camcorders. Its easy-to-use HDR-HC7 high-definition Handycam camcorder is a winner. It captures 1080i HD resolution video that renders vivid colors with accurate detail. To assure that your HD capture has the detail, clarity, and wide range of brilliant colors, Sony incorporates a 1/2.9" ClearVid 3.2 Mp CMOS image sensor and their x.v.Color processing technology. This technology captures nearly twice as many viewable colors than is currently possible. Your imagery will look more natural, with tonal qualities that let you relive your awe-inspiring experiences as if you had returned to the places where you shot the footage. The HC7 has a professional-quality Carl Zeiss Vario-Sonnar T* lens and Sony's advanced Super SteadyShot optical image stabilization system to ensure that your footage will be unwavering. You can capture 6 megapixel stills directly onto Memory Stick Duo media, shoot video in total darkness up to 10 feet away, and generate a "film look" for your footage through the HDR-HC7 Cinematic mode. It's a great little HD camcorder.

Editing with HD

When it comes to editing in HD, there are several approaches to cutting your project on a Mac or PC. One of the major issues to understand is the difference between HDV and AVCHD, the two predominant HD recording formats available in today's consumer video camcorders. As AVCHD becomes more popular with home video aficionados because of its ability to record HD-quality video onto solid state media such as flash memory and DVD, more editing applications are being upgraded to support the future of ingesting video in a true non-linear fashion.

Final Cut Express 4
Final Cut Express 4

The recently-released Final Cut Express 4 supports AVCHD, so you can shoot, ingest, edit, and output video in just a fraction of the time it took previous tape-friendly applications. By taking the basic advanced interface of the full version of Final Cut Pro and customizing for intermediate video editors who have outgrown iMovie, Final Cut Express 4 offers LiveType for title creation and multiple video layers for advanced video compositing. Hundreds of real-time effects, filters, transitions, and 99 audio tracks round out the intuitive software.

Blackmagic Intensity Pro
Blackmagic Intensity Pro

But how do you import video into your Mac or PC with HD video? Most computers today come with USB or Firewire ports, but they don't take advantage of uploading true HD video. The Blackmagic Intensity Pro is a true HDMI (High-Definition Multimedia Interface) that is able to accept uncompressed HD video without any of the loss inherent with other ports. Compatible with both Mac and Windows, Intensity Pro supports 4:2:2 color space for superior titling and chromakeying. This capture card also allows you to down-convert your HD footage for mastering to SD at broadcast quality.

G-Tech G-RAID 2
G-Tech G-RAID 2

Finally, you will need extra storage space to keep all of this high-definition footage. The G-Tech G-RAID 2 comes in several sizes (2TB, 1.5TB, 1TB, and 500GB) and has three interfaces (USB 2.0, Firewire 400 and 800). G-Tech uses only SATA II drives with 16MB buffers for quick response time on HD playback from the timeline. Up to seven DV25 streams can be played back simultaneously, including four HDV, three DVCPRO HD, two 8-bit SD or one 10-bit SD streams. These RAID 0 drives are the perfect, reliable addition for anyone thinking about using their system for editing high-definition video footage.

Whether you've already upgraded to HD or not, standard video technology today is springing in leaps and bounds toward high-definition. Video camcorder sensors are becoming more and more sensitive, and their image processors are incredibly more efficient and accurate. And best of all, while this great quality is constantly rising, prices continue to tumble.

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