Thursday, June 12, 2008

HD Camcorder

I picked up a Canon VIXIA HF100 HD Camcorder recently. I wanted one for our trip to Hawaii and for doing some video from the PPG. I’m coming from an 8mm Digital camcorder so this thing is way ahead of that in terms of video quality, size, and weight. The HF100 uses SD cards for storage and records at full 1920x1080 resolution using the AVCHD storage format. The small amount of test video I have shot looks great even on the small LCD but looks fantastic connected directly to an HDTV. An 8 GB SD card can hold one hour worth of video at the highest quality. The highest quality (FXP) is the only one that records at 1920x1080. The others record at 1440x1080 which is anamorphic wide screen versus true 16:9 wide.

The confusion starts when you want to take the video from the SD card and publish it someplace like Vimeo or display on an HDTV through AppleTV. With all the various resolutions and frame rates to deal with it takes some time figuring out the right combinations. The HF100 not only records at 1920x1080 resolution but can also record at 60i, 30p, and 24p frame rates. Personally 60i has the smoothest playback but it is Interlaced. Everything computer related likes Progressive video. I did a lot of searching on the Net and there are good pieces of information out there as well as contradicting information. Since I’m using iMovie 08 to import, edit, and export video I found this guide, DVC Guide to iMovie 08 Editing. It explains all the differences between resolutions, frame rates, storage formats and also shows how to edit in iMovie. It gives steps on how to export video for various destinations; Vimeo, AppleTV, YouTube, etc. It also shows you how to save the original AVCHD files off of the SD card for backup.

iMovie can import Full 1920x1080 video but it takes a lot of hard drive space. In the testing I did a 2 minute video at highest quality was 250 MB on the SD card. When imported into iMovie at 1920x1080 it was just under 2 GB on the hard disk. Basically, if you aren’t uploading the video to Vimeo for 720p HD display then use the Large 960x540 import option in iMovie. Even the AppleTV only uses 960x540 when displaying on an HDTV.

Here are some test videos I shot with notes on recording, import, and export settings. I think test video #2 is the best workflow for Vimeo. Although Vimeo converts its videos to 24p and this was shot at 30p. This causes the video to be not as smooth as it would be at 30p. The camera will do 24p but I’m not crazy about the ‘film look’ for all my video.

I have noticed some jitters (jidders) in the video when recording at FXP. I’m not sure if this is due to the speed of the SD card or the OIS system on the camera. It seems to happen when panning and when the camera stops it kind of stutters the image. My testing was done with a 2 GB Class 4 card but I have 8 GB Class 6 cards now. I’ll do some more testing to see if it still happens. It may have just been amplified hand shake. You can see it on test video #3. I’ll post my findings if I figure it out.

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