Video Cameras forum

General discussion

how much quality is lost going from dv tape to HDD

by aenv / December 12, 2007 11:47 AM PST

I have read a lot about how you loose quality with the compression used in HDD camcorders. Please help me understand what this really means. I have used a 8mm camcorder for 13 years and the quality seems fairly good. I also got a HDTV a year ago and can see the difference between a HD broadcast and a SD broadcast.

So help me understand where on the continuim these different recording technologies fit. If dv tape is at the high end, and 8 mm is a fair bit lower (but has been pretty acceptable for all these years) where does the quality of a HDD fit it? Is it really only noticable to those who really know what they are looking for? I guess my best analogy would be a 10 megapixel still camera is better than a 5 megapixel, but on 4x6 or 8x10 prints, there really is no difference right?

Please help me understand.

Thanks

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Be sure to take advantage of prior discussions.
by R. Proffitt Forum moderator / December 12, 2007 11:56 AM PST
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It's for home use
by aenv / December 12, 2007 12:29 PM PST

I have read lots of discussions, they all say there is a lot of quality loss but I can't quantify that. I just want to do home video the kids concerts, going to Mexico in February, that kind of stuff. Am I going to notice the difference?

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Do you want to find out the hard way
by boya84 / December 12, 2007 1:40 PM PST
In reply to: It's for home use

or do you want to not worry about it?

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that's why I asked here
by aenv / December 12, 2007 9:56 PM PST

If I wanted to find out the hard way I wouldn't do any research or ask on a forum where there might be someone who knows and could answer the question. I would prefer the ease of operation and the convience of a hard drive model but not if it means a big difference in quality!

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welll...
by boya84 / December 12, 2007 10:23 PM PST

Hard drive camcorder MiniDV camcorder
---------------------------- -----------------------------
Capture video. Capture video.
Potential to run out of hard drive space. Potential to not have spare blank tapes.
Need to transfer to computer via USB Need to get more tapes. Carry spares.
or delete footage you may want to keep. Tape change = ~9 seconds.
Get home; transfer video via USB. File transfer Get home; import video via Firewire. Import of standard
is faster than miniDV tape import. definition video is real time. High def import depends
on computer CPU.

Standard definition video = ~13 gig per hour of video
High Definition video = ~45 gig per hour of video
Single Layer DVD = 4.7 gig; Double layer DVD = 8.5 gig

Archive video to optical disc. Tape is the archive - nothing to do.

Edit video, burn DVD, save data file

Honestly, I don't see the "easier" piece. It might be marginally faster, but that does not make the quality trade-off to me. If this seems easier to you, then by all means, go for HDD. Is it a big quality difference? To me, yes. But we are both being subjective. For the most part, the high-end rigs and pros use miniDV tape for two reasons: best video quality available and cheapest storage media. I may not be a pro, but if it is good enough for them, then it is good enough for me.

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try that agian - it took the spacing out...
by boya84 / December 13, 2007 12:10 AM PST
In reply to: welll...

Hard drive camcorder............MiniDV tape camcorder
----------------------------....-----------------------------
Capture video...................Capture video.
Potential to run out of hard....Potential to not have spare blank
drive space.......................tapes.
Need to transfer to computer....Need to get more tapes. Carry spares.
via USB or delete footage you
may want to keep................Tape change = ~9 seconds.
Get home; transfer video via....Get home; import video via Firewire.
File transfer is faster than......Import of standard definition
miniDV tape.......................is real time. High def video import
...................................speed depends on computer CPU.

Both: Standard definition video = ~13 gig per hour of video
Both: High Definition video = ~45 gig per hour of video
Both: Single Layer DVD = 4.7 gig; Double layer DVD = 8.5 gig

Archive video to optical disc....Original tape is the archive.

Both: Edit video, burn DVD of finished project, save data file.

Honestly, I don't see the "easier" piece. It might be marginally faster, but that does not make the quality trade-off to me. If this seems easier to you, then by all means, go for HDD. Is it a big quality difference? To me, yes. But we are both being subjective. For the most part, the high-end rigs and pros use miniDV tape for two reasons: best video quality available and cheapest storage media. I may not be a pro, but if it is good enough for them, then it is good enough for me.

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HD or SD
by aenv / December 13, 2007 12:12 AM PST
In reply to: welll...

thanks boya84, so do you recommend skipping HD and just going for SD since it is about 1/4 the size?

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That's another "it is up to your requirements".
by boya84 / December 13, 2007 2:00 AM PST
In reply to: HD or SD

I shot/edited high definition video (miniDV tape) for almost 2 years before I bought a HDTV. I don't have a HD-DVD or BluRay burner...

When the final project is rendered to a "normal" DVD (single layer or double layer) it will be rendered as standard definition - REALLY clear/crisp standard definition. This is suitable for sharing with family/friends.

Since I save the final project as an appropriately formatted MPEG4 data file, I can connect my computer to my HDTV (with a DB9 video cable - not all HDTVs have this port) and watch the video as HD on the HDTV.

Note that I also export the video project from computer back to the camcorder (I don't think you can do this with a HDD cam). This is also as high definition when it gets back into the camcorder. If it is THAT important, I can connect the camcorder (with the component cables for video and stereo audio cables - some camcorders now provide HDMI connection) and use the camcorder as the playback device and watch in HD. OR, if I decide to get a HD-DVD or BluRay burner it would be simple enough to re-import that project and burn HD-DVD or BluRay DVDs...

As I do all my editing on an Apple Macintosh and I have DVD Studio Pro, there is a method to burn high def video to "normal" DVDs - it was recently posted in this forum - I have not tried it yet.

To accommodate the hard drive space used by video, an external drive resolves that issue. 250 gig minimum whether you do standard definition or high definition.

Since high def camcorders can do high def and standard def, I think the flexibility to pick the format is handy and can better match your needs... In a few years, if you decide you want to capture HD (but got a SD camcorder today), would you be happy or irritated?

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You can record in HD, and let the camera change it
by Kiddpeat / December 13, 2007 2:01 AM PST
In reply to: HD or SD

to SD during the computer capture. Why do that? If it's a tape based camera, the HD source remains available if you eventually reach the point where you want use it to produce high def video.

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"For HOME USE"
by R. Proffitt Forum moderator / December 13, 2007 2:24 AM PST
In reply to: It's for home use

HDD camcorders are going to be favored by home users that "just want to get it to the PC or Mac without much fuss."

Yes there will be some artifacting due to compression but 98% of the home users will never notice. Only those that make "films" will care.

I've wrestled with the issue for quite some time and I'm going to answer it in 2 ways. For home use, you want the easiest path to computer or DVD. For anyone that is editing content, making "film", company media then we are back to miniDV and external microphones.

Hope this clears it up.

Bob

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Don't be fooled by the apparent "sexiness" of HDD camcorders
by Considerate_Guy / December 19, 2007 7:05 AM PST
In reply to: "For HOME USE"

On the surface an HDD camcorder seems like a good idea. They have room for about 4-5 hours of SD video and you can get to different spots on the hard disk without having to rewind or fast-forward a tape. People already have this natural aversion to tape because it reminds us of audio tape or VHS tape. Why wouldn't we want a fancy HDD-based camcorder?

Well, first of all, there is the issue of compression. MiniDV tapes use a DV-AVI format with little to no compression. A single tape will hold about 1 hour to 1.5 hours of video on a single tape (depending on settings). This means the quality is higher. HDD camcorders use MPEG-2 or MPEG-4 compression so that they can fit more video on to a relatively small hard disk. This compression leaves artifacts around the edges of things and in the spaces between.

The other advantage to DV-AVI format is that most editing software can directly handle DV-AVI video via a Firewire download. Connect the firewire cable and the camcorder is immediately recognized by the computer. Tell the computer to start capturing and it will automatically rewind the tape, capture the footage and then stop playback. Since the format is uncompressed, there is no additional decompression step to complicate the editing. Windows Movie Maker, for example, likes DV-AVI but has all sorts of problems editing MPEG-2 or MPEG-4 video. Editing MPEG video often requires an extra step to convert the video which leads to additional loss of quality. For the other posters that have said it it is easier to download footage from an HDD camcorder they probably haven't tried downloading, converting, editing and burning a DVD from an HDD camcorder.

Then there is the storage issue. HDD camcorders have no place to store the video separate from the camcorder. You have to download the video and save it on a computer hard disk. It would be equivalent to having a digital camera with internal memory only. You can't swap the internal hard disk with another one to keep going. Once it is full, all you can do is download. This might be fine if you are filming around the house, but what if you are on vacation, or at a once-in-a-lifetime event? Do you frantically scramble and try and find footage on the HD you can delete? What if you need all 4-5 hours and don't want to delete anything? Where do you go?

And what above archiving? Do you just leave everything on the computer? What happens when your 250GB drive fills up, or your external 300GB? Imagine what happens when you decide to upgrade your computer; how are you going to back up that video and move it to the new computer? Or even worse, what if the hard disk crashes?

With a tape-based camcorder, the tapes become your archive. You can load a copy on to the computer for editing then offload it back to tape or on to DVD. As long as you keep up with editing, you shouldn't fill up your hard disk. Or if you run out of space, just delete something you captured but haven't edited yet. You can always pull it back off the original tape.

Playback is also an issue. Say you are going to your family for Christmas and they want to see the video from last year. It might be okay if you have just filmed something on an HDD camcorder because it will still be on the drive, but more likely it was offloaded and replaced by new video. If it were a miniDV camcorder this would not be an issue. Just find the tape, pop it in the camcorder, connect the AV cables to the TV and press play. Perhaps there is a way to upload footage back to an HDD camcorder, but it certainly takes longer than switching tapes.

Summary:
Quality -- miniDV camcorders have the advantage

On camera storage -- HDD camcorders have the advantage of 4-5 hours, but this is a disadvantage if you have filled up the disk.

Swapping media to immediately continue filming -- miniDV has the advantage obviously

Compatibility with editing programs -- miniDV has the advantage with no extra conversion required.

Storage of the original footage -- miniDV tapes *are* the storage. HDD camcorders require a computer to archive the footage and there is no inherent backup if the computer crashes.

If you have any doubts, read a similar question that was asked on Engadget not too long ago. You'll see that the thread of responses mostly favored the mini-DV camcorder.

http://ask.engadget.com/2006/03/09/ask-engadget-standards-based-camcorders-with-hard-drives/

-------------
To add to the mix, there are now high-definition camcorders. The same choice of HDV (tape) and HDD (disk) exists there. Again tape-based camcorders win on compatibility with miniDV, ease of capturing from the camcorder, compatibility with editing programs and inherent storage and archive on the original tapes or copies.

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