This year's CES (Consumer Electronics Show) in Las Vegas is set to be an exciting show for aspiring filmmakers and camcorder enthusiasts. We're expecting to see major new high-definition offerings from manufacturers such as Panasonic and Sony. The latter's FX1 and Z1 camcorders have become staples for indie filmmakers over the past year.
The improved resolution of the new batch of 1080i HDV camcorders has stirred a deep longing in the community of filmmakers eager to replicate the look and feel of traditional celluloid. The resolution is there, now we're just looking for film-like colours and frame rates.
For the low-budget indie filmmaker, we'll be keeping an eye on the burgeoning market of 35mm adaptors, which allow you to use film camera lenses on prosumer camcorders like the Z1 (pictured). These give a narrower, more film-like DOF (depth of field), something that camcorders have traditionally lacked. We'll also be taking a look at some of the newer hard-disk-based HDV camcorders.
Hard-disk camcorders are an interesting technology that has so far failed to impress. The problem has been over-compression of the video source and the fact that almost every consumer model has coupled the hard disk with an average lens and a terrible transfer system, making it next to impossible to edit your footage using a mainstream editing package.
Hopefully all this will change this year. We're particularly interested in HDV camcorders that write video to hard disk at a bitrate that matches or surpasses that of a tape-based MiniDV model. So far we've not seen anything like that.
At the moment, if you want to use a hard-disk camcorder, you have to deal with a big drop in image quality compared to tape-based camcorders. With any luck, this year manufacturers will demonstrate that they care about advancing the abilities of camcorders, rather than just sticking pretty badges on the side that boast about specs that benefit no-one outside marketing departments. -CS