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Revisiting HDV’s Virtues

Some videographers would "rather fight than switch" from tape

By Allan Tépper | December 31, 2008


Among my clients and friends who are video professionals, many of those who produce commercials, corporate, and music videos have already embraced tapeless acquisition with such cameras as JVC's high definition Everio, Panasonic's AG-HMC150/151, and Sony's EX1 & EX3. However, those who shoot events (Bar Mitzvahs, Quinces/Sixteen Parties, Weddings) -and some of those who shoot documentaries- are relentless in defending their need to shoot on tape. They cite the following HDV advantages over tapeless acquisition:

  • There is always an original tape for future use.

  • The original HDV tape is the permanent archive.

  • The original HDV tape is very inexpensive.

  • Although they have to capture in real time before editing, they don't have to worry about the time or expense of other types of long-term archival methods required with tapeless acquisition.

Although they also know that there are ways to "have your cake and eat it too", by shooting on HDV and simultaneously on hard drive or chip (which is now possible with HDV cameras, either "standard" or with optional accessories), very few HDV producers I know have taken advantage of that so far. They also know that tapeless acquisition can offer other benefits, but some of them would rather "fight than switch" away from tape!

You may know that the HDV format was embraced by Canon, JVC, Sharp, and Sony in 2003 (although Sharp is the only one yet to release an HDV camcorder). Since the original HDV camcorders from JVC, the format has matured quite a bit. JVC now shoots and records progressive HD up to 59.94p ("60p") at full-raster 720p. All of Sony's latest HDV professional models now support progressive HD shooting at full-raster 1080, with progressive recording up to 29.97p ("30p") at subsampled 1080. Canon's consumer division shoots progressive and records progressive up to 29.97p ("30p") at subsampled 1080 with the HV30, although Canon's professional division continues to use interlaced imagers, while offering progressive processing and recording up to "30f" subsampled 1080.

As we revisit HDV's virtues, stay tuned for the following articles:

You will also discover a few ways to derive full-raster 720p (50p or 59.94p) realtime from a 1080 HDV playback during capture, if you prefer it that way!

This article originally appeared in the Lights Camera Action channel. Click here to see the original comments on it.
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Gazelle: | December, 31, 2008

Ran across this today, The perfect solution is not in place BUT I think Sony is on the right track, NOT cheap but this is a good start.

thinkingdiver: | January, 01, 2009

Talking about HDV tapes…has it been established that DV tapes shouldn’t be used to shoot HDV ? The price difference is so high, are we paying for nothing ?

Allan T: | January, 03, 2009

Hello ThinkingDiver:

Thanks for your question.

Most HDV shooters I know are using standard mini DV tapes to record HDV, not mini HDV tapes, and they are very satisfied. The tape manufacturers of HDV tapes state that you will get lower dropouts from HDV tapes, and more potential recordings. However, the users I know are not having issues with issues with dropouts when recording HDV on standard mini DV tapes, and they do not generally re-use the tapes. They store them as the archive. On the mini DV tape, what is recorded is a 25 megabit stream of data. The blank tape doesn’t really care if the 25 megabit stream of data is DV25-encoded video, HDV (MPEG2-TS)-encoded video, or any other type of data. Although it no longer makes financial sense, there was at one time a software application that allowed you to backup your computer data on any mini DV recorder.

leeberger: | January, 03, 2009

The difference between 25 Mb DV and HDV is the long GOP structure used in HDV.  Since only every 15th frame is an I frame you run a risk of loosing half a second or more if you have a significant dropout.  I have actually seen few unrecoverable HDV dropouts from Panasonic AY-DVM63MQ Mini DV Master tapes used by a client.  I’ve seen no dropouts using the Sony Digital Master, DVCam PDVM40N, and the less expensive Sony HDM-63VG. We shot 26 of the Sony Digital Master series for a documentary in hot and humid conditions with no dropouts.  Just my experience.

thinkingdiver: | January, 03, 2009

Thanks a lot guys, very informative !

Ben De Rydt: | January, 04, 2009

I’ve seen lots of dropouts with a JVC GY-HD200 and JVC ProHD tapes and no dropouts with my Sony FX1 and Sony DV Premium tapes (cheap). So it depends on the camera. I wouldn’t shoot the JVC without a hard disc recorder (DR-100) for a long performance.

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