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DVD camcorders


Ari
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Been looking at camcorders a bit, and noticed some recently that take a recordable DVD instead of a digital tape to record onto. You can then just take the DVD out and pop it straight into your DVD player to play or computer DVD slot to edit I suppose.

Use rewritables and you can record, download, and record again.

What do we think? confused.gif

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Very nice idea for ease-of-use. Direct DVD recording is genrally quite reliable, and I see no reason why a laser positioning servo would be any less reliable than a tape head servo ina handheld unit.

However, as is true with all direct DVD recording (except with very expensive realtime encoder hardware), the quality will never be as good as a DV or Digital8 (which actually apes DV format on 8mm tape) because DVD MPEG video compression is lossy, and DV format is uncompressed.

For quick point-and-shoot stuff to play back with no hassle, DVD camcorders look great. For making "proper" productions with editing performed on a PC and high-quality MPEG rendering overnight (the longer you spend encoding, the better your results are), DV is still king.

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Presumably though, if you used DV or Digital8, then downloaded it to a PC, edited it then recorded it onto a DVD as the end product you'd end up with the quality similar to using a DVD recording camera because you've got the loss of quality issue of recording to DVD but just later in the process?

And would I be right in saying that if you recorded onto a DVD camera, you'd have that loss in quality up front as it were, but from then on you could put the DVD in your computer, download the video, edit it, and rerecord the edited version back not a DVD with no further loss of quality as it's all digital?

In other words either way if you want to end up with the finished product recorded onto a DVD then you are going to suffer the quality loss that recording onto DVD brings regardless?

Hope that makes sense and isn't too stupid a question!

Also, how would a DVD recording camera compare in terms of time able to record onto a DVD versus a tape? In other words, no point going for a DVD recording camera if evey hour you're going to have to replace a used up DVD if a tape would last much longer?

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Yeah I sort of understand that recording in Super8 digital is higher quality than recording onto DVD, I guess I'm just trying to figure whether if you then take your Super8 tape and subsiquently record it to DVD you end up with the lower quality anyway, in which case you've not really lost anything if thats the medium you want to end up with (as I do for sheer ease of being able to pop them into the DVD player to view, and the convenience of menu search etc like a conventional DVD).

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At a guess I would suggest if you take them in super 8 or DV then you end up with footage that is not encoded in any way so is higher quality, and so if you come to burn it to DVD you can encode it at leisure at veryhigh quality and get high quality DVDs, where if you have it straight on DVD it is lower quality to start. SO in theory you could get better quality DVDs the first way.

I am not sure if normal people would notice the difference.

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DVD uses MPEG2 for video. The way MPEG video is compressed means the playback quality is almost entirely dependant upon the quality of the encoding. To get vaguely technical, MPEG video compression uses I frames (an entire image), P frames (which are basically differences from the previous frame) and the very clever B frames (which are changes from the previous reference frame, the next upcoming reference frame or both!). In this way, the current image output may be dependant upon frames that are "in the future". Decoders buffer uncompressed frames in memory, so referring to frames further along the stream isn't a problem. Encoding MPEG is a much more CPU expensive operation than decoding, by a vast order of magnitude.

So, what does this mean in the real world? Well, in a nutshell, the more CPU time you spend encoding your MPEG, the better the end result can be. Cheap realtime encoders like the MPEG function of Sony's still and newer video cameras just use more I and P frames and result in large files that are low resolution, jerky and still don't have particularly good image quality. Realtime encoding of a full-screen 25 frames-per-second video stream requires quite a lot of processor power, and again I guess the current crop of consumer DVD recorders and camcorders just carefully balance data rate against quality by using more or less I, P and B frames.

DV video is compressed differently (sorry I lied earlier about it being uncomrepssed - the output from the codec on the PC is often uncompressed AVI) to MPEG - each frame is encoded individually with no reference to past or future frames. This is partly why the quality is better, but the minimum data rate for full-screen is something like 25Mb/s against 2Mb/s for MPEG-2.

Absolutely right that a nice slow encoding can produce better results. If I'm MPEG rendering some edited video I don't use the video editing tools MPEG conversion because they usually don't have very good compression settings. You can get far better results with a custom encoder that gives you better control over the gubbins like the IPB frame ordering, quant matrix and so on. It's just slow (overnight or over weekend!).

Uploading MPEG, editing and re-MPEG encoding will reduce the visual quality, especially if you do something like wipes, fades etc. as the 16x16 blocks won't always line up and you'll get re-encoding of a block that was previously encoded. Subsequent editing of the edited stream would make it worse on each "pass" obviously.

A lot of people might not notice the difference, but if you can notice the "blockiness" on digital cable or Sky, then you might well notice it on an MPEG stream as well. Personally, I can see the blockiness in a lot of commercial DVDs as well without realyl trying - I must have an eye for these things.

The point is illustrated quite well with re-encoding DVD discs. Playing with the software, I ran off the 3hr+ LOTR special edition from 2 discs to one. The difference in quality is quite noticable to me & makes it quite unwatchable, but other people I've shown it to think it's OK.

I think the current DVD camcorders do 30 minutes in "standard" quality and 60 in "long play" (reduced quality) mode. Digital8 does 60 SP and 90 LP, as do a lot of Mini DV camcorders. IIRC, Micro DV only does 60 mins to a tape.

One last consideration in DVDs favour - it's more robust than tape (no stretching, tangling etc), but don't belive its permanent - it's not unless you plan to keep it in a darkened room chilled to about 5C...

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[ QUOTE ]

Presumably though it'd still be better than recording down to VHS tapes? (which is the old way of viewing them on your TV easily). confused.gif

[/ QUOTE ]

Yes, I'd say a DVD camcorder will produce better results than transferring to VHS, and there's all the benefits of it not wearing out the more you play it (as VHS will).

If ease of use outweighs the reduction in quality for you, then there's nothing wrong with going with a DVDcam. All these things are a trade-off between time, money and quality - I could have excellent HDTV quality home videos if I spent a few thousand on a Pro-quality digital Beta camera, tens of thousands on a hardware MPEG-2 encoder and a few thousand of a killer PC to edit it with. Or I could have acceptable enough quality with a thousand quid's worth (or whatever they cost) of camcorder that records direct to DVD.

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Crikey I always assumed that a DVD was for ever! EEK2.GIF

Thanks for all the info, I'm a bit of a luddite with all this stuff, but it kind of makes sense. beerchug.gif

So on balance, if you wanted a camcorder to record your holidays, looning around on boats or with cars, birthdays, and all the other general domestic camcorder dross (Lisa Reilly look out!) with a view to downloading it onto a home PC for editing and then saving to DVD either to keep or to send out to people (family and stuff) would you go for a digital tape camcorder or a DVD camcorder? Also would you average (reasonably high spec) PC be able to cope with this and are there easy to use programs available?

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He he, sorry for putting the scare on ya there. CD & DVD recordables are usually robust enough for most needs, although there were doubts at one time about long-term storage (enough for Kodak to do a study of it) - the problem was the dyes used to darken the "pits" were not light-stable and would degrade if exposed to light for too long, then there was the rumour of the fungus that eat the metallic substrate layer... One intersting thing though is that I've read that the stick-on labels are alledged to damage recordable CDs, so I'd assume that recordable DVDs might suffer from the same problem. As with most things in life, pay for quality gear and look after it properly & you'll be just fine.

BTW, I archive to CD-R and both DVD+R and DVD-R and RW variants of, and I've only rarely lost data - usually when I've let the top of the disc get damaged. So no putting your recordables down "shiny side up" like you can with pre-pressed discs!

DVD or tape 'corder? That really is a "horses for courses" call. If the convinience of being able to bung the disc straight in and play with unedited or lightly edited footage is enough of a draw, then go for it. If you think you might end up editing on the PC to play with titles, fades etc then you will get slightly better results with digital tape. One nice feature of DVD will be instant access - no rewinding/seeking.

I have a 3 year old Sony Digital 8 and a newer Mini DV one, and a Sony dual format DVD writer, although before I got the writer I used to put short vids onto Super Video CD. I might have considered a DVD camcorder if they'd been around when I bought my DV, but if I were you I'd try to get a demo of one to check out the quality - as I said before, if you can see the jaggies on digital TV, you'll probably notice them this as well.

For software I use MGI Videowave and a freebie Ulead one that came with something, but I plan on picking up Pinnacle Studio as well. I also have a big bag of (mostly) freeware tools from all over the place - the Tools link page at VCDHelp.com lists the best ones.

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Chris,

Thats really helpful, thanks. beerchug.gif

So basically to sum up.

DVD Camcorder.

For: Convenience, simple to use, easy to remove media and play instantly.

Against: Slightly lower quality recordings, larger camera (to accomodate DVD), less recording time per media insertion. Cost.

Digita tape Camcorder:

For: Better quality recording, more compact, longer recording time, cheaper.

Against: More hassle to play media onto home TV or get onto a DVD. Potentially less reliable as tape has more moving parts.

Thats my understanding, sound about right?

Last question if I may? If I go with a digital tape camcorder, how do I then get that recording onto my PC to edit and save to DVD? Presumably there is a method of "plugging in" the camcorder to the computer?

Thanks once again for this, it's been massively helpful. notworthy.gif

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Yeah, your summary is about right. Playing onto a TV isn't much hassle if you've got front AV ports (my Philips has them on a little pop-out panel on the front), but rewinding is slow & a bit of a pain.

[ QUOTE ]

Last question if I may? If I go with a digital tape camcorder, how do I then get that recording onto my PC to edit and save to DVD? Presumably there is a method of "plugging in" the camcorder to the computer?

[/ QUOTE ]

All modern digital camcorders (and I assume the DVD ones will be the same) should have either a Firewire (or IEEE1394) or USB2 port. You need the relevant kind of port on your PC to be able to stream video onto it. Firewire is more common as it's been around longer and it's come down in price recently due to USB2 (USB was no match for speed). OHCI interfaces to drop into a PCI slot in your PC can be had for £35 if you look around (Try PC World, Staples and online with Amazon & ebuyer.co.uk).

One word about editing on the PC - you need a powerful machine & a lot of disc space. I have a P3 2.53Ghz with 1GB of RAM and 3 fast 80GB hard drives, two running on a RAID controller as one 160GB volume. I have edited video on my old P4 1.7Ghz with 256Mb RAM and a single 70GB disk - it worked, but rendering up 22 minutes was an overnight job!

One last thought - what price premium is on those DVD camcorders? New technology always attracts a premium price, and they may be much cheaper by next Spring, where DV and Digital8 have already lost their "new" premium.

You might even find that you can buy a mid-range camcorder and a consumer DVD recorder for around the same price as a DVD camcorder, then you get the best of both worlds - small (DV more so than Digital8), affordable and tried and tested technology camcorder, ability to upload to PC at good quality and by plugging the camcorder into the DVD recorder you can easily transfer to full-size DVD-R and get up to 3 hours of footage onto a single disc, the encoder might be a bit beefier on a standalone recorder (for better quality) and you can use it in place of a video recorder to record the great ( ha.gif ) TV over Christmas...

Just make sure if you go for that option that you have Firewire on both camcorder and DVD recorder, then you get digital transfer for a cleaner picture.

Personally, I'm into Sony cameras and either Sony or Philips for DVD recorders. I don't have a DVD-R under the TV yet, but I'll probably go for a Philips or Sony one when I do, as they're both big on the DVD+R/RW format, which I prefer for technical reasons. If you want some opinions on any products in particular, I'm happy to chip in what I know.

Sorry if I've rambled a bit! ROLLEY~14.GIF

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Chris, once again massively helpful advice, I thank you. notworthy.gif

As it happens an IT friend of mine is building me a new computer (hopefully) and we'd discussed this whole video editing thing, he not being conversent with this application, so I've forwarded your comments on this to him.

I am erring back toward the tape type camera now, mainly for the compactness and the recording length. I think your idea of buying a DVD recorder as well for instant transferral to give best of both worlds is excellent.

I think I'll wait till the new year and see what crops up in the sales. As you say, DVD camcorders will almost certainly drop in price too, and this might sway me back that way.

Thanks again, this couldn't have been more useful! beerchug.gif

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