Thursday, December 20, 2007

Cool Technology of the Week

Over the past year, High Definition Television (HDTV) has gained market momentum and many households are eliminating the last generation of video technologies. The combination of LCD HDTV, digital camcorders, and computer-based video editing software is truly a cool technology.

Figuring out what to buy is challenging. My household has a Sharp Aquos 46" LCD television (2006), a Sony DCR-HC40 MiniDV Camcorder (2005), and an iMac 20" running iMovie (2007)

If you are buying a suite of tools today, here are my recommendations:

HDTV - you want well-defined blacks, a wide viewing angle, and 1080p resolution. I recommend the Sharp Aquos or Sony Bravia that fits your wall and your budget.

Camcorder - you want one that can work easily with computer-based editing tools such as Apple's iMovie or Final Cut Pro. Camcorder options include standard definition (SD) verses high definition (HD) video, recording to tape using MiniDV, recording to hard disk, and recording to DVD. In the under $1000 category, I recommend:

Standard definition
Panasonic PV-GS500 3-CCD Mini DV Camcorder
- $699.
This camera is the smallest form-factor 3-CCD camera that I've seen. With 3 CCDs, you will get a comparable image to that of a pro-sumer camera at the cost, size, and ease-of-use of a consumer model. Just like photography, you can have the highest megapixel camera available, but if the optics are sub-standard you're just getting a hi-res capture of a poor image.

High definition
Canon HV20 HDV Camcorder
- $749.
This looks like the best tape-based HD camcorder on the market. I personally prefer digital tape for the reliability of the footage. The HV20 can shoot in 4:3 or 16:9 mode (4:3 is a slightly higher resolution) and captures in full 1080p (1920 x 1080). iMovie can import and edit high definition video and still output to standard video DVD, making the technology future and backward compatible. There is no additional overhead to high definition other than slightly larger files during the editing stage.

Both of these cameras use the IEEE1394 cable standard so iMovie can control them without issue. The baseline requirements for utilizing iMovie for video capture is that video compression needs to be DV for standard definition format and HDV for high definition format, and use IEEE1394/iLink (Firewire Protocols) for capture.

Computer - the latest iMac's with OS X Leopard are amazing multimedia machines, equipped with all the tools you need to create professionally edited movies. My 14 year old daughter just completed a movie for school using our Sony camcorder, an IEEE1394 cable, and iMovie. The results were stunning. Here is a great page from Apple with the details about using Camcorders with Macs.

Thanks to David Bozzi at Harvard Medical School for help with this research.